Category Archives: August

Aug 2 – Bl Peter Faber, SJ, (1506-1546) – The Renewal of the Church, Ecclesia Semper Reformanda Est

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Peter’s last name, in addition to Faber, can be rendered Favre, Fevre, or LeFevre.  My first-year…Wahoos (UVA) don’t say freshman, sophomore, …, etc.  We are not one of those rah-rah institutions.    Nonetheless, my first-year dorm at UVA was LeFevre dorm.  Le Few, Le Proud, LeFevre!

Peter Faber was born in 1506 in Villaret, Savoy in the south of France. As a boy, he looked after his father’s sheep in the French Alps. While tending sheep during the week, he taught cathechism to children on Sundays. Aware of his call to be a priest, he longed to study. At first, he was entrusted to the care of a priest at Thones and later to a neighbouring school at La Roche-sur-Foron. With the consent of his parents, in 1525 he went to the University of Paris.  It was here that he discovered his real vocation. He was admitted to the College of Sainte-Barbe where he shared lodgings with a student from Navarre named Francis Xavier, and Iñigo of Loyola, a soldier twice their age.  They became close friends and graduated on the same day in 1530 with a master of arts degree.  Both Peter and Francis came under the influence of Igantius. While Peter taught Ignatius the philosophy of Aristotle, Ignatius directed him in the spiritual life.  Ignatius helped Peter understand his soul.  Peter made the Spiritual Exercises under Ignatius in 1534.

Peter Faber had a gentle spirit and a tendency to be very hard on himself. Ignatius proved to be the perfect mentor for him, and Faber eventually became the master of the Spiritual Exercises. While hard on himself, Faber was gentle with others and became a gifted pastor of souls, winning others for Jesus.  Rather than preaching, Peter was most effective in spiritual companionship and friendship of others.

Peter was ordained priest in 1534, the first priest in Ignatius’ group, and was celebrant of the Mass on 15 August of the same year at which Ignatius and his companions made their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, which, as a priest, Peter could receive. All had the intention of going to the Holy Land.  Soon three more became members of the group. After Ignatius, Peter Faber was the one for whom the companions had the deepest respect because of his knowledge, his holiness and his influence on people.

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Leaving Paris on 15 November 1536, Peter and the companions met up with Ignatius in Venice in January 1537.  They planned to evangelize in the Holy Land but the instability of the region made it impossible.  So they now decided to form a religious congregation and went to Rome where the Society of Jesus was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540. After some time preaching and teaching in Rome, the pope sent Peter to Parma and Piacenza in Italy where he preached the Gospel with success.   He was then sent to Germany to defend the Catholic faith against the Reformers at the Diet of Worms in 1540. From Worms, Peter was called to another Diet at Ratisbon in the following year.  He was disturbed by the unrest caused by Protestantism but even more by the decadence of Catholic life.  He saw that what was needed was not discussion with the Protestants but the reform of the Catholic Church, in particular, the clergy.  He spent a successful 10 months at Speyer, Ratisbon and Mainz.  He influenced princes, prelates, and priests who opened themselves to him and amazed people by the effectiveness of his outreach.  In Germany, he found the state of the Church in such disarray that it left his heart “tormented by a steady and intolerable pain.” He worked for the renewal of the Church a person at a time, leading many in the Spiritual Exercises. Princes, prelates, and priests would especially find Peter Faber a gentle source of instruction and guidance leading to renewal.

Recalled to Spain by St. Ignatius, Faber left the field where he had been so successful and on his way won over his native region of Savoy, which never ceased to venerate him as a saint. He had hardly been in Spain six months when the pope ordered him back to Germany. He spent the next 19 months working for reform in Speyer, Mainz, and Cologne.  Gradually he won over the clergy and discovered many vocations among the young.  Among these was a young Dutchman, Peter Canisius who, as a Jesuit, would earn the title of Apostle of Germany.  After spending some time in Leuven (Louvain) in 1543, he was called in the following year to go to Portugal and then to Spain.  He was instrumental in establishing the Jesuits in Portugal.

He was called to the principal cities of Spain where he did much good.  Among the vocations he nurtured was that of Francis Borgia, Duke of Gandia, who, following the death of his wife, would become a Jesuit and later the third General of the Jesuits. Faber, still only 40 years old, was now worn out by his constant labours and long journeys, always made on foot. Pope Paul III wanted to send him to the coming Council of Trent as peritus, theologian of the Holy See, and King John III of Portugal wanted to make him Patriarch of Ethiopia.  However, he only got as far as Rome on his way to the Council.  Suffering from exhaustion, he always traveled on foot as a sign of evangelical poverty and humility, he developed a fever after his journey.  He died in the arms of Ignatius in Rome on 1 August 1546. Peter Faber was beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1872. He is remembered for his travels through Europe promoting Catholic renewal and his great skill in directing the Spiritual Exercises.

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Faber exhibited a deep love for the Communion of Saints. As a lone Jesuit often on the move, Faber never felt alone because he walked in a world that bridged time and eternity, whose denizens included saints and angels. He would ask the saint of the day and all the saints “to obtain for us not only virtues and salvation for our spirits but in particular whatever can strengthen, heal, and preserve the body and each of its parts”. His guardian angel, above all, became his chief ally. He sought support from the saints and angels both for his personal sanctification and in his evangelization of communities. Whenever he entered a new town or region, Faber implored the aid of the particular angels and saints associated with that place. Through the intercession of his allies, Faber could enter even a potentially hostile region assured of a spiritual army at his side. Finally, Faber found support for his efforts with individuals through the assistance of the blessed. As he desired to bring each person he met to a closer relationship through spiritual friendship and conversation, he would invoke the intercession of the person’s guardian angel.  Sounds like my kind of guy.

On July 17th 2013, Pope Francis issued a motu proprio to canonize Blessed Peter Faber, SJ,, the first companion of St. Ignatius of Loyola. When in 1622, Ignatius and Francis Xavier were canonized at the same ceremony, Peter was not included.

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Prayer for Detachment

I beg of you, my Lord
to remove anything which separates
me from you, and you from me.

Remove anything that makes me unworthy
of your sight, your control, your reprehension;
of your speech and conversation,
of your benevolence and love.

Cast from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence
and, as far as may be, enjoying you.

This is what I ask for myself
and earnestly desire from you. Amen

-Blessed Peter Faber, SJ

Love,
Matthew

Aug 2 – St Peter Julian Eymard, SSS, (1811-1868) – Founder, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, “Apostle of the Eucharist”

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I must confess, though fear not, TMI is not looming! 🙂 I must confess the Mystery of the Real Presence is one I wrestle, I struggle with.  An engineer looks for engineering answers.  Divine mysteries certainly do not lend themselves typically to engineering answers.  Neither must one ever be naively lulled into thinking God will not be direct.  He has, on occasion, been very direct in my life. 🙂

The best answer I have come up with, proof if you like, at least one I am satisfied with, is to spend a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament in silence.  Doesn’t matter, I believe, believer or non, young or old, male or female, saint or sinner, sit for one hour before the Blessed Sacrament, in silence, and then I will come to you, or lean towards you, quietly, and ask, “Now tell me it’s just a piece of bread.”  That’s the best I’ve got.  That’s it.  That’s where I get my answer from. Believers would say not a bad place for an answer.  If you come to the conclusion I believe you will, it certainly was the most well invested hour of your life?  No? 🙂 Try it, if you dare.  Be open to the possibility, I beg you.  I implore you!  🙂

I also like:

“If it’s just a symbol, then the hell with it.”
-Flannery O’Connor

“God in his omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist.” – Saint Augustine

I’ve also attached the audio file of a talk by Fr. Mike Schmitz, pastor of University of Minnesota-Duluth, Newman Center.  Enjoy!

(Historical note:  it is also interesting to note, however permissive ancient Romans were, they drew a hard line at cannibalism; also, Jewish prohibitions against blood-drinking, etc.  The Lord was blowing it up socially with every word.  KABOOM!!!  And, then of course, He concluded with “just kid…”  No, He didn’t.)
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Today the Church marks the memorial of St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868), whose name may not be familiar to you, but whose influence certainly is.  If you have ever seen the work of the great French artist Auguste Rodin, such as his iconic sculptures “The Kiss” or “The Thinker”, then you have his friend St. Peter Eymard to thank for such work having been made at all. The relationship between Fr. Eymard and Rodin is further proof, if needed, that God can work through even the most hardened sinner, and why we must never give up on those who seem to be out of step with Christ.

French priest St. Peter Eymard founded the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament in 1856, to help promote the 40 Hours devotion to the Holy Eucharist.  In 1862 the young Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) joined the Congregation as a novice, following the death of his sister Maria – an event which hit him very hard.  Rodin gave up his career as a budding artist to seek spiritual comfort and direction, and probably would have remained in some sort of limbo and anguish, searching for meaning in his life, had it not been for Eymard’s counsel.

Fr. Eymard embraced, and in fact openly encouraged the creation of painting, sculpture, and architecture to honor the Blessed Sacrament. “For the Eucharist, nothing is too beautiful,” he once wrote to a friend.  Yet he was also an experienced enough religious to know when someone was not suited to the consecrated life.  While the Congregation might have benefited from having its own Fra Angelico, as did the Dominicans in early Renaissance Florence, it became clear to Fr. Eymard that Auguste Rodin was not going to be that person.

Following the counsel of Fr. Eymard, Rodin eventually left the Congregation and re-entered secular life, around the time he completed a bust of his friend and spiritual advisor.  Fr. Eymard himself did not care for its overly showy, wavy hair, but it eventually came to be recognized as an early masterwork by the young artist.  As the reader is well-aware, Rodin subsequently went on to become probably the greatest sculptor of the later 19th and early 20th centuries.  And Fr. Eymard himself was later canonized, interestingly enough, on the 100th anniversary of Maria Rodin’s death.

Like all of us, Peter Julian Eymard [pronounced A-mard] was conditioned by his cultural background as well as by the sociopolitical milieu of his time. Life in France during the first half of the nineteenth century forms the backdrop against which to view the gradual unfolding of Peter Julian’s life story.

Years earlier, the French Revolution of 1789 had radically altered the political, legal, social and religious structures of the country. As a teenager, the industrial revolution was changing the face of Europe. As a young man Eymard witnessed the dawning of the Age of Romanticism in art, music, and literature.Peter Julian Eymard’s road to the priesthood, as well as his life as a priest,was marked by the cross. In French society, there was a strong anticlericalism. In addition, the Eymard family was poor and Peter Julian’s father was reluctant to give his blessing to his son’s choice of career. His first attempt toattain priesthood ended because of serious illness. He tried again. OnJuly 20, 1834, at 23 years of age, Eymard was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Grenoble.

In Eymard’s day there was a religious movement called Jansenism. This movement focused on the gravity of human sinfulness and as consequence stressed our unworthiness in the presence of a transcendent and perfect Divinity. In his early years as a seminarian and priest, Fr. Eymard was influenced by this reparation spirituality and he would struggle his whole life long to seek that inner perfection that would enable him to offer to God the gift of his entire self.  Perhaps it was the intensification of this growing spiritual struggle along with Fr. Eymard’s desire to accomplish great things for God that led him  to enter religious life. On August 20, 1839, Fr. Eymard became a member of the Marist Congregation by professing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

His Eucharistic spirituality did not spring full grown from some mystical experience, but progressively. Eymard became familiar with the practice of sustained eucharistic worship during a visit to Paris in 1849, when he met with members of the Association of Nocturnal Adorers who had established exposition and perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories.

After praying at the shrine of Our Lady of Fourviere on 21 January 1851, Eymard moved to establish a Marist community dedicated to Eucharistic adoration. However, his desire to establish a separate fraternity promoting adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not seen as part of the charism of the Marists. His superiors disapproved, transferring him to the Marist College at La Seyne-sur-Mer. Eventually, Eymard resolved to leave the Society of Mary to begin his new religious congregation with the diocesan priest Raymond de Cuers.

On 13 May 1856, the Paris bishops consented to Eymard’s plans for a ‘Society of the Blessed Sacrament’. After many trials, Eymard and de Cuers established public exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in Paris on 6 January 1857 in a run-down building at 114 rue d’Enfer (which literally meant ‘street of hell’).  With the encouragement of the Cure of Ars, St John Vianney, (Aug 4) the nucleus of two communities of men and women were started in March 1858 in Paris.

The Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament began working with children in Paris to prepare them to receive their First Communion. It also reached out to non-practicing Catholics, inviting them to repent and begin receiving Communion again. Father Eymard established a common rule for the members of the society and worked toward papal approval, obtained in 1858 from Pope Pius IX. Eymard was a tireless proponent of frequent Holy Communion, an idea given more authoritative backing by Pope Pius X in 1905.

There is hope for me!!!!!  🙂  St Peter Julian Eymard, SSS, pray for us!

Saint Peter Julian Emyard
-bust of St Julian Eymard, by his dear friend Rodin

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“We believe in the love of God for us. To believe in love is everything. It is not enough to believe in the Truth. We must believe in Love and Love is our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That is the faith that makes our Lord loved. Ask for this pure and simple faith in the Eucharist. Men will teach you; but only Jesus will give you the grace to believe in Him. You have the Eucharist. What more do you want?” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“If the love of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament does not win our hearts, Jesus is vanquished! Our ingratitude is greater than His Goodness our malice is more powerful than His Charity.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“Every time we come into the presence of the Eucharist we may say: This precious Testament cost Jesus Christ His life. For the Eucharist is a testament, a legacy which becomes valid only at the death of the testator. Our Lord thereby shows us His boundless love, for He Himself said there is no greater proof of love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“The Holy Eucharist is the perfect expression of the love of Jesus Christ for man, since It is the quintessence of all the mysteries of His Life.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“He loves, He hopes, He waits. If He came down on our altars on certain days only, some sinner, on being moved to repentance, might have to look for Him, and not finding Him, might have to wait. Our Lord prefers to wait Himself for the sinner for years rather than keep him waiting one instant.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“How kind is our Sacramental Jesus! He welcomes you at any hour of the day or night. His Love never knows rest. He is always most gentle towards you. When you visit Him, He forgets your sins and speaks only of His joy, His tenderness, and His Love. By the reception He gives to you, one would think He has need of you to make Him happy.” – Saint Peter Julian Eymard

“Love cannot triumph unless it becomes the one passion of our life. Without such passion we may produce isolated acts of love; but our life is not really won over or consecrated to an ideal. Until we have a passionate love for our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament we shall accomplish nothing.”– St Peter Julian Eymard

“The Eucharist is the work of a measureless love that has at its service an infinite power, the omnipotence of God.”  – St Peter Julian Eymard

“He loved us personally … centuries before we were born.” -St. Peter Julian Eymard

“Have a great love for Jesus in his divine Sacrament of Love; that is the divine oasis of the desert. It is the heavenly manna of the traveller. It is the Holy Ark. It is the life and Paradise of love on earth.” -St Peter Julian Eymard

“Hear Mass daily; it will prosper the whole day. All your duties will be performed the better for it, and your soul will be stronger to bear its daily cross. The Mass is the most holy act of religion; you can do nothing that can give greater glory to God or be more profitable for your soul than to hear Mass both frequently and devoutly. It is the favorite devotion of the saints.” -St Peter Julian Eymard

Gracious God of our ancestors,
you led Peter Julian Eymard,
like Jacob in times past,
on a journey of faith.
Under the guidance of your gentle Spirit,
Peter Julian discovered the gift of love in the Eucharist
which Your Son Jesus offered for the hungers of humanity.
Grant that we may celebrate this mystery worthily,
adore Him profoundly, and proclaim it prophetically for Your greater glory. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Augustine, (354-430 AD), Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Gratiae, Doctor of Grace, “Tolle, Lege!”

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– Sts Augustine & Monica, by Ary Scheffer, 1846, please click on the image for greater detail.

“This very moment I may, if I desire, become the friend of God.” -St Augustine

Bishops have had a tough decade, as have all the ordained.  Some would say, of the guilty, deservedly so, by their or their predecessors own action/inaction.  We are ALL sinners, most especially, yours truly!  Sins of commission and omission.  The Catholic understanding of sin is that it is never a private affair.  All sin, even unknown sin, is a social offense.

The first tragedy, the victims of clergy sexual abuse, and, a second, I dare suggest, are the innocent ordained, who have dedicated their lives in service and love, try as they may with the aid of grace, in service to the Lord and His People.  God bless them!  Their reward will surely be great in Heaven for having lived, and served, and loved in this time.  Bless them!  And, thank you!  How much harder it must be to live out the life of service and love in these days!  Rejoice!  I say again, rejoice!  You shine as examples of Christian fortitude, fidelity, the power of grace and commitment!  True servants of the Lord!  I know I am inspired by your example!  Thank you!  God bless you!  Thank you for your service and your love, for your fidelity and example which inspires us all in, of, and for Love!

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.

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Accepted by most scholars to be the most important figure in the ancient Western church, St. Augustine was born in Tagaste, Numidia in North Africa. His mother, St Monica, was a Christian, but his father remained a pagan until late in life. After a rather unremarkable childhood, marred only by a case of stealing pears, Augustine drifted through several philosophical systems before converting to Christianity at the age of thirty-one. At the age of nineteen, Augustine read Cicero’s Hortensius (now lost), an experience that led him into the fascination with philosophical questions and methods that would remain with him throughout his life. After a few years as a Manichean, he became attracted to the more skeptical positions of the Academic philosophers. Although tempted in the direction of Christianity upon his arrival at Milan in 383, he turned first to neoplatonism. During this time, Augustine fathered a child by a mistress. This period of exploration, including its youthful excesses (perhaps somewhat exaggerated) are recorded in Augustine’s most widely read work, the Confessions.

This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. At age 17, through the generosity of fellow citizen Romanianus, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to the despair of his mother, Monica.  As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits with women and urged the inexperienced boys, like Augustine, to seek out experiences or to make up stories about experiences in order to gain acceptance and avoid ridicule.  It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet!” – “da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.” At a young age, he began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. She was his lover for over thirteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus, who was said to have been extremely intelligent.

Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible, ashamed of himself. “What are we doing?” he cried to his friend Alipius. “Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”

Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, “How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?” Just then he heard a child singing, “Tolle, lege! = Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. “Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts'”[Rom 13:13-15]. “I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.” — The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book VIII, Paragraph 29.

During his youth, Augustine had studied rhetoric at Carthage, a discipline that he used to gain employment teaching in Carthage and then in Rome and Milan, where he met Ambrose who is credited with effecting Augustine’s conversion and who baptized Augustine in 387. Returning to his homeland soon after his conversion, he was ordained a presbyter in 391, taking the position as bishop of Hippo in 396, a position which he held until his death.

Besides the Confessions, Augustine’s most celebrated work is his De Civitate Dei (On the City of God), a study of the relationship between Christianity and secular society, which was inspired by the fall of Rome to the Visigoths in 410. Among his other works, many are polemical attacks on various heresies: Against Faustus, the Manichean; On Baptism; Against the Donatists;and many attacks on Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Other works include treatises On the Trinity; On Faith, Hope, and Love; On Christian Doctrine; and some early dialogues.

St. Augustine stands as a powerful advocate for orthodoxy and of the episcopacy as the sole means for the dispensing of saving grace. In the light of later scholarship, Augustine can be seen to serve as a bridge between the ancient and medieval worlds. A review of his life and work, however, shows him as an active mind engaging the practical concerns of the churches he served.

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“The honors of this world, what are they but puff, and emptiness and peril of falling?” – Saint Augustine

“In my deepest wound I saw Your glory and it astounded me.”-St. Augustine 

“One loving heart sets another on fire.” -St. Augustine

“What is more fragrant, more delightful, than the gentle breath of truth?” -St. Augustine

“Daily advance, then, in this love, both by praying and by well doing, that through the help of Him who enjoined it on you, and whose gift it is, it may be nourished and increased, until, being perfected, it render you perfect.”– Saint Augustine

“What do you possess if you possess not God?” – Saint Augustine

“The Holy Spirit has come to abide in you; do not make Him withdraw; do not exclude Him from your heart in any way.” -St. Augustine

“Unhappy is the soul enslaved by the love of anything that is mortal.” -Saint Augustine

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” -St. Augustine

“The world is a book and he who does not travel reads only one page.” -St Augustine

“Love, and He will draw near; love, and He will dwell within you. The Lord is at hand; have no anxiety. Are you puzzled to know how it is that He will be with you if you love? God is love.” -St. Augustine

“You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones.” -St. Augustine

“If a vessel is to be filled, it must first be empty. So cast all evil away from you, that you may be filled to the brim.” -St. Augustine

“He willed not that any one should glory in the exalted position of any city of earth. He, too, Whose are all things and by Whom all things were created, was made poor, in order that no one, while believing in Him, might venture to boast himself in earthly riches. He refused to be made by men a king, because He displayed the pathway of humility to those unhappy ones whom pride had separated from Him; and yet universal creation attests the fact of His everlasting kingdom.” -St Augustine

“I will suggest a means whereby you can praise God all day long, if you wish. Whatever you do, do it well, and you have praised God.” – Saint Augustine

“Love has hands to help others. It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.” -St. Augustine 

“This is the business of our life. By labor and prayer to advance in the grace of God, till we come to that height of perfection in which, with clean hearts, we may behold God.” -Saint Augustine

“God in his omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist.” – Saint Augustine

“God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes you do what you can and to pray for what you cannot, and aids you that you may be able.” – Saint Augustine

“Conquer yourself and the world lies at your feet.” – Saint Augustine

“God himself will be the goal of our desires; we shall contemplate him without end, love him without surfeit, praise him without weariness.”-St Augustine (on St Paul writing: “So that God may be all in all.”)

“O eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you. But I did not find it until I embraced “the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who is above all, God blessed for ever.” He was calling me and saying: “I am the way of truth, I am the life.” Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with You. Created things kept me from You; yet if they had not been in You they would have not been at all. You called, You shouted, and You broke through my deafness. You flashed, You shone, and You dispelled my blindness. You breathed Your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for You. I have tasted You, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.” – from the Confessions of Saint Augustine

Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. – from The City of God by Saint Augustine

A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers. – from Against Faustus the Manichean, by Saint Augustine

There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended. – from Sermons by Saint Augustine

“At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps.” – from Homilies on John by Saint Augustine

“Let us understand that God is a physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, not a punishment for damnation.” – Saint Augustine

“O Sacrament of Love! O sign of Unity! O bond of Charity! He who would have Life finds here indeed a Life to live in and a Life to live by. – Saint Augustine

“And He departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.” -St. Augustine

If you see that you have not yet suffered tribulations, consider it certain that you have not begun to be a true servant of God; for Saint Paul says plainly that all who chose to live piously in Christ, shall suffer persecutions – Saint Augustine

I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown. It is the words of the Apostle that I address to you: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires, so that you may be clothed with the life of Him whom you have put on in this sacrament. You have all been clothed with Christ by your baptism in Him. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus. Such is the power of this sacrament: it is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life. You are walking now by faith, still on pilgrimage in a mortal body away from the Lord; but He to Whom your steps are directed is Himself the sure and certain way for you: Jesus Christ, who for our sake became man. For all who fear Him He has stored up abundant happiness, which He will reveal to those who hope in Him, bringing it to completion when we have attained the reality which even now we possess in hope. This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, He put off the mortality of the flesh; His risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By His resurrection He consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week. And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realized, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit. If, then, you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. – from a sermon by Saint Augustine

Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_Champaigne-Saint Augustin, by Phillippe de Champaigne, (1602-1674), completed 1645-1650, oil on canvas, 78.7 × 62.2 cm (31 × 24.5 in), Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Jaume_Huguet_-_Consecration_of_Saint_Augustine_-_Google_Art_Project-The Consecration of St Augustine, by Jaume Huguet, (1412-1492), completed 1466~1475, tempera on panel, H: 272 cm (107.1 in). W: 200 cm (78.7 in), Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy. Amen.
-St Augustine’s prayer to the Holy Spirit

Give me yourself, O my God, give yourself to me.
Behold I love you, and if my love is too weak a thing,
grant me to love you more strongly.
I cannot measure my love
to know how much it falls short of being sufficient,
but let my soul hasten to your embrace
and never be turned away until it is hidden
in the secret shelter of your presence.
This only do I know,
that it is not good for me when you are not with me,
when you are only outside me.
I want you in my very self.
the plenty in the world
which is not my God is utter want. Amen.
– St Augustine

Holy Spirit, powerful Consoler,
sacred Bond of the Father and the Son,
Hope of the afflicted,
descend into my heart
and establish in it
your loving dominion.
Enkindle in my tepid soul
the fire of your Love
so that I may be wholly subject to you.
We believe that when you dwell in us,
you also prepare a dwelling for the Father and the Son.
Deign, therefore, to come to me,
Consoler of abandoned souls,
and Protector of the needy.
Help the afflicted,
strengthen the weak,
and support the wavering.
Come and purify me.
Let no evil desire take possession of me.
You love the humble and resist the proud.
Come to me, glory of the living, and hope of the dying.
Lead me by your grace
that I may always be pleasing to you. Amen.
-St Augustine

Love,
Matthew

Aug 27 – St Monica, (322?-387 AD) – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do…”

I personally hold the two most powerful and awesome forces in the universe are:  1)  God, and 2) a mother’s love.

I often, from experience, have to question my ordering of these two dramatic forces.  Something happens when a woman, even modern day women, have children.

I don’t know if it’s chemical or nature or what, but something so subtle, yet so powerful emerges.  If you haven’t witnessed as an adult, as a husband, it is difficult to explain.

Please don’t even try and tell me men and women are the same.  I’ll try not to laugh in your face.  I have benefited from it as a child, as a youth, as an adult, as a father, tremendously.  I fear it.  I respect it, wholly/holy?  I stay out of it’s way.  I watch my tongue.  I obey its commands.  I cooperate with it, and hopefully, grace.  I do as I am told.  “I came to serve, and not to be served.” -Mt 20:28/Mk 10:45, I repeat to myself when my marital and parental obligations become, rarely, inconvenient.  If the Son of the Living God can do this, I certainly, and all of us, can.

Given these two forces, Augustine and his father, Patricius, were finished from the beginning.  So much for male dominance, as if even one would wish for such a thing.  Women make, have always made, my world infinitely better.  Thank you.  My practical advice to Augustine & Patricius, and to all men?  Surrender, quickly, and get on with it.

The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Our knowledge of Monica comes almost entirely from the writings of her much-loved son, the great Doctor of the Church, St. Augustine of Hippo. His relationship with his mother was a close one, especially during Monica’s last years. In Book IX of St. Augustine’s “Confessions”, he gives us many details of her life, and expresses his gratitude for her devotion in moving terms. She was born of a well-off Christian family in Tagaste in Nortern Africa, also known as the Numidian city of Thagaste, on whose ruins modern Souk Ahras, along the Mediterranean in the modern day northeastern corner of Algeria, exist.  Souk is an Arabic word meaning “marketplace”.  I have visited souks in the Middle East.  Much fun.

We are given one episode of her childhood which suggests a possible origin for her firmness of will. She was sometimes sent down to the cellar to draw wine for the family, and fell into the habit of taking secret sips. She developed such a passion for wine that before long she was drinking great draughts of it whenever opportunity offered. One day a family slave who had been spying on the little girl denounced her as a wine-bibber, and Monica, covered with shame, gave up the habit. Soon afterwards she was baptized, and thenceforth seems to have led a life of irreproachable virtue.  She is patroness of alcoholics, among other causes.

Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism.

Monica and Patricius had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine, is the most famous. Navigius, who seems to have been an exemplary son, Augustine, and Perpetua, a daughter, who became a religious. Augustine, the more brilliant of the sons, was sent to Carthage, so that he might develop his talents and become a man of culture. He took to learning naturally but he also spent time in youthful carousing. This caused his mother great anguish, and when he returned to Tagaste, she disapproved so strongly both of his loose living and of his espousal of the popular heresy of Manichaeism that she refused at first to allow him to live at home. She relented only after having seen a vision. One day as she was weeping over his behavior, a figure appeared and asked her the cause of her grief. She answered, and a voice issued from the mysterious figure, telling her to dry her tears; then she heard the words, “Your son is with you.” Monica related this story to Augustine, and he replied that they might easily be together if she gave up her faith, for that was the main obstacle keeping them apart. Quickly she retorted, “He did not say I was with you: he said that you were with me.” Augustine was impressed by the quick answer and never forgot it. Although his conversion was not to take place for nine long years, Monica did not lose faith. She continually fasted, prayed, and wept on his behalf. She implored the local bishop for help in winning him over, and he counseled her to be patient, saying, “God’s time will come.” Monica persisted in importuning him, and the bishop uttered the words which have often been quoted: “Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”

When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric, and bring along his mistress and their son, Adeodatus. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan.

In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her. Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end.

“The day was now approaching when my mother Monica would depart from this life; you know that day, Lord, though we did not. She and I happened to be standing by ourselves at a window that overlooked the garden in the courtyard of the house. At the time we were in Ostia on the Tiber. And so the two of us, all alone, were enjoying a very pleasant conversation, “forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead..” We were asking one another in the presence of the Truth – for you are the Truth – what it would be like to share the eternal life enjoyed by the saints, which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, which has not even entered into the heart of man.” We desired with all our hearts to drink from the streams of your heavenly fountain, the fountain of life. That was the substance of our talk, though not the exact words. But you know, O Lord, that in the course of our conversation that day, the world and its pleasures lost all their attraction for us. My mother said, “Son, as far as I am concerned, nothing in this life now gives me any pleasure. I do not know why I am still here, since I have no further hopes in this world. I did have one reason for wanting to live a little longer: to see you become a Catholic Christian before I died. God has lavished his gifts on me in that respect, for I know that you have even renounced earthly happiness to be His servant. So what am I doing here?” I do not really remember how I answered her. Shortly, within five days or thereabouts, she fell sick with a fever. Then one day during the course of her illness she became unconscious and for a while she was unaware of her surroundings. My brother and I rushed to her side, but she regained consciousness quickly. She looked at us as we stood there and asked in a puzzled voice: “Where was I?” We were overwhelmed with grief, but she held her gaze steadily upon us, and spoke further: “Here you shall bury your mother.” I remained silent as I held back my tears. However, my brother haltingly expressed his hope that she might not die in a strange country but in her own land, since her end would be happier there. When she heard this, her face was filled with anxiety, and she reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts. Then she looked at me and spoke: “Look what he is saying.” Thereupon she said to both of us, “Bury my body wherever you will; let not care of it cause you any concern. One thing only I ask you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you may be.” Once our mother had expressed this desire as best she could, she fell silent as the pain of her illness increased.” – from the Confessions of Saint Augustine

———————————-

Today, with Internet searches, e-mail shopping and instant credit, we have little patience for things that take time. Likewise, we want instant answers to our prayers. Monica is a model of patience. Her long years of prayer, coupled with a strong, well-disciplined character, finally led to the conversion of her hot-tempered husband, her cantankerous mother-in-law and her brilliant but wayward son, Augustine.

When Monica moved from North Africa to Milan, she found religious practices new to her and also that some of her former customs, such as a Saturday fast, were not common there. She asked St. Ambrose which customs she should follow. His classic reply was: “When I am here, I do not fast on Saturday, but I fast when I am in Rome; do the same and always follow the custom and discipline of the Church as it is observed in the particular locality in which you find yourself.”

“Nothing is far from God.” – Saint Monica

Exemplary Mother of the great Augustine,
you perseveringly pursued your wayward son
not with wild threats but with prayerful cries to heaven.
Intercede for all mothers
in our day so that they may learn
to draw their children to God.
Teach them how to remain close
to their children,
even the prodigal sons and daughters
who have sadly gone astray. Amen.

Dear St. Monica,
troubled wife and mother,
many sorrows pierced your heart during your lifetime.
Yet, you never despaired or lost faith.
With confidence, persistence, and profound faith,
you prayed daily for the conversion
of your beloved husband, Patricius,
and your beloved son, Augustine;
your prayers were answered.
Grant me that same fortitude, patience,
and trust in the Lord.
Intercede for me, dear St. Monica,
that God may favorably hear my plea for

(Mention your intention here.)

and grant me the grace to accept His Will in all things,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 18 – St Jane Frances de Chantal, VHM, (1572-1641), Wife, Mother, Foundress of the Daughters of the Visitation

jane_chantal

Jane Frances was wife, mother, nun and founder of a religious community. Her mother died when Jane was 18 months old, and her father, head of parliament at Dijon, France, became the main influence on her education. He allowed his children to discuss any matter, even the most serious and adult topics of the day, including religious matters.  He made erudite discussion fun, and instilled in Jane a deep devotion.  A friend said of her, “Even stupid jokes were funny when she told them!”

Jane developed into a woman of beauty and refinement, lively and cheerful in temperament. At 21 she married Christophe, Baron de Chantal, by whom she had six children, three of whom died in infancy. The Baron also had enormous debts.  At her castle she restored the custom of daily Mass, and was seriously engaged in various charitable works.  Jane took charge of the estate; personally organizing and supervising every detail of the estate, a method which not only brought the finances under control but won her employees’ hearts as well.

Despite the early financial worries, she and her husband shared “one heart and one soul.” They were devoted to each other and to their children. When reproached for her extremely sober manner of dressing, her reply was: “The eyes which I must please are a hundred miles from here”, referring to Christophe when he was at court or with the army.

One way Jane shared her blessings was by giving bread and soup personally to the poor who came to her door. Often people who had just received food from her would pretend to leave, go around the house and get back in line for more. When asked why she let these people get away with this, Jane said, “What if God turned me away when I came back to him again and again with the same request?”

Christophe was killed in a hunting accident after seven years of marriage; he died in Jane’s arms when she was 28.  Jane sank into deep dejection for four months at her family home.  Before he died, her husband forgave the man who shot him, saying to the man, “Don’t commit the sin of hating yourself when you have done nothing wrong.”  Heartbroken, Jane, however, had to struggle with forgiveness for a long time. At first she tried just greeting him on the street. When she was able to do that, she invited him to her house. Finally she was able to forgive the man so completely that she even became godmother to his child. Jane’s father-in-law, however, threatened to disinherit her children if she did not return to his home. He was then 75, vain, fierce and extravagant. Jane Frances managed to remain cheerful in spite of him and his insolent housekeeper.

When she was 32, she met St. Francis de Sales (October 24), who became her spiritual director, softening some of the severities imposed by her former director. She wanted to become a nun but he persuaded her to defer this decision. She took a vow to remain unmarried and to obey her director.  St Francis said of Jane:  “In Madame de Chantal, I have found the perfect woman, whom Solomon had difficulty finding in Jerusalem”.

After three years Francis told her of his plan to found an institute of women which would be a haven for those whose health, age or other considerations barred them from entering the already established communities. There would be no cloister, and they would be free to undertake spiritual and corporal works of mercy. They were primarily intended to exemplify the virtues of Mary at the Visitation (hence their name, the Visitation nuns): humility and meekness.

The usual opposition to women in active ministry arose and Francis de Sales was obliged to make it a cloistered community following the Rule of St. Augustine. Francis wrote his famous Treatise on the Love of God for them. The congregation (three women, Jane and here two daughters) began when Jane Frances was 38 in 1610.

After she had secured the future for her still living minor children, she intended to fulfill her spiritual director’s intentions.  Her fourteen year old son, Celse-Bénigne, whom she put in the care of her father and brother, tried to block her way and her new mission, literally, by lying across the threshold through which she would need to pass.  Mme de Chantal stopped, overcome: “Can the tears of a child shake her resolution?” said a holy and learned priest, the tutor of Celse-Bénigne. “Oh! no”, replied the saint, “but after all I am a mother!” And she stepped over the child’s body.

She underwent great sufferings: Francis de Sales died; her son was killed; a plague ravaged France; her daughter-in-law and son-in-law died. She encouraged the local authorities to make great efforts for the victims of the plague and she put all her convent’s resources at the disposal of the sick.  When people criticized her, she said, “What do you want me to do? I like sick people myself; I’m on their side.”

Still a devoted mother, she was constantly concerned about the materialistic ways of one of her daughters. Her daughter finally asked her for spiritual direction as did many others, including an ambassador and her brother, an archbishop. Her advice always reflected her very gentle and loving approach to spirituality:

“Should you fall even fifty times a day, never on any account should that surprise or worry you. Instead, ever so gently set your heart back in the right direction and practice the opposite virtue, all the time speaking words of love and trust to our Lord after you have committed a thousand faults, as much as if you had committed only one. Once we have humbled ourselves for the faults God allows us to become aware of in ourselves, we must forget them and go forward.”

During a part of her religious life, she had to undergo great trials of the spirit:  interior anguish, darkness and spiritual dryness. She died while on a visitation of convents of the community.

It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.

We have been told the secret of happiness is finding: finding yourself, finding love, finding the right job. Jane believed the secret of happiness was in “losing,” that we should “throw ourselves into God as a little drop of water into the sea, and lose ourselves indeed in the Ocean of the divine goodness.” She advised a man who wrote to her about all the afflictions he suffered “to lose all these things in God. These words produced such an effect in the soul, that he wrote me that he was wholly astonished, and ravished with joy.”  There is no past, no future, no here or there. There is only the infinite ocean of God.

St. Jane de Chantal

St. Vincent de Paul (September 27) said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself…But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth”.

jane-frances-de-chantal-585412

“Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.” – Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

One day Saint Jane spoke the following eloquent words, which listeners took down exactly as spoken: “My dear daughters, many of our holy fathers in the faith, men who were pillars of the Church, did not die martyrs. Why do you think this was? Each one present offered an answer; then their mother continued. “Well, I myself think it was because there is another martyrdom: the martyrdom of love. Here God keeps His servants and handmaids in this present life to that they may labor for Him, and He makes of them both martyrs and confessors. I know,” she added, “that the Daughters of the Visitation are meant to be martyrs of this kind and that,by the favor of God, some of them, more fortunate than others in that their desire has been granted, will actually suffer such a martyrdom.” One sister asked what form this martyrdom took. The saint answered: “Yield yourself fully to God, and you will find out! Divine love takes its sword to the hidden recesses of our inmost soul and divides us from ourselves. I know one person whom love cut off from all that was dearest to her, just as completely and effectively as if a tyrant’s blade had severed spirit from body.” We realized that she was speaking of herself. When another sister asked how long the martyrdom would continue, the saint replied: “From the moment when we commit ourselves unreservedly to God, until our last breath. I am speaking, of course, of great-souled individuals who keep nothing back for themselves, but instead are faithful in love. Our Lord does not intend this martyrdom for those who are weak in love and perseverance. Such people He lets continue on their mediocre way, so that they will not be lost to Him; He never does violence to our free will.” Finally, the saint was asked whether this martyrdom of love could be put on the same level as martyrdom of the body. She answered: “We should not worry about equality. I do think, however, that the martyrdom of love cannot be relegated to a second place, for ‘love is as strong as death.’ For the martyrs of love suffer infinitely more in remaining in this life so as to serve God, than if they died a thousand times over in testimony to their faith and love and fidelity.” – from the memoirs of the secretary of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal.  Love is more than a feeling.  Love is more powerful than sin and death.

“Fidelity toward God consists in being perfectly resigned to His holy will, in enduring everything that His goodness allows in our lives, and in carrying out all our duties, especially that of prayer, with love and for love. In prayer we must converse very familiarly with our Lord, concerning our little needs, telling Him what they are, and remaining submissive to anything He may wish to do with us.  We should go to prayer with deep humility and an awareness of our nothingness. We must invoke the help of the Holy Spirit and that of our good angel, and then remain still in God‘s presence, full of faith that He is more in us than we are in ourselves. There is no danger if our prayer is without words or reflection because the good success of prayer depends neither on words nor on study. It depends upon the simple raising of our minds to God, and the more simple and stripped of feeling it is, the surer it is. We must never dwell on our sins during prayer. Regarding our offenses, a simple humbling of our soul before God, without a thought of this offense or that, is enough…such thoughts act as distractions. – Saint Jeanne de Chantal, from Wings to the Lord.

An Act of Abandonment:
-by Saint Jane Frances De Chantal

O sovereign goodness of the sovereign Providence of my God!
I abandon myself forever to Thy arms.
Whether gentle or severe,
lead me henceforth whither Thou wilt;
I will not regard the way through which Thou wilt have me pass,
but keep my eyes fixed upon Thee,
my God, who guidest me.
My soul finds no rest without the arms
and the bosom of this heavenly Providence,
my true Mother, my strength and my rampart.

Therefore I resolve with Thy Divine assistance,
O my Saviour,
to follow Thy desires and Thy ordinances,
without regarding or examining why Thou dost this rather than that;
but I will blindly follow Thee
according to Thy Divine will,
without seeking my own inclinations.

Hence I am determined to leave all to Thee,
taking no part therein save by keeping myself in peace in Thy arms,
desiring nothing except as Thou incitest me to desire,
to will, to wish.

I offer Thee this desire, O my God,
beseeching Thee to bless it;
I undertake all it includes,
relying on Thy goodness,
liberality, and mercy,
with entire confidence in Thee,
distrust of myself,
and knowledge of my infinite misery and infirmity.
Amen!

Lord, you chose Saint Jane Frances to serve You
in marriage, family and in religious life.
By her prayers, help us to be faithful
in our vocation,
and always to be the light of the world.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ,
your Son, who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Novena Prayer to St Jane Frances de Chantal

0 glorious saint, blessed Jane Frances,
by fervent prayer, attention to the Divine Presence,
and purity of intention,
you attained on earth an intimate union with God.

Be now our advocate, our mother,
our guide in the path of virtue and perfection.

Plead our cause near Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
to whom you were so tenderly devoted,
and whose holy virtues you so closely imitated.

Obtain for us, O amiable and compassionate Saint,
the virtues you deem most necessary for us;
an ardent love of Jesus in the most holy Sacrament,
a tender and filial confidence in His Blessed Mother,
and like you, a constant remembrance
of His sacred Passion and death.

Obtain also, we pray,
that our particular intention in this novena
may be granted.

V.Pray for us, O holy St. Jane Frances,
R. That we may be made worthy
of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray:

0 almighty and merciful God,
who granted to blessed St. Jane Frances,
so inflamed with love of You,
a wonderful degree of fortitude
through all the paths of life,
and through her, were pleased to adorn Your church
with a new religious Order,
grant by her merits and prayers that we,
who sensible of our weakness
confide in Your strength,
may overcome all adversity with the help
of Your heavenly grace,
through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

PRAYERGRAPHIC_JaneFrancesdeChantal

“The best method of prayer is not to have one.” – St. Jane Frances de Chantal. I concur, whole heartedly. Those unfamiliar w/God benefit most from methods/specific directions. Those more familiar are just in the constant presence. There is no “tele”, Greek for ‘at a distance’, in their communication with God. He is immediate, always present. Or, as in adoration, “I look at Him. He looks at me.” Or, when they set up young Dominican student brothers to give direction on prayer to more senior, male or female, religious, and the senior religious simply say, “I sit on the bench outside in nature, and listen. He speaks to my heart.” Whom is really giving direction to whom? Exactly. The heart is always the correct organ to use when listening to God. I have always found what God has to say is infinitely more interesting than anything I might add. So, I shut up. And, listen.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 2 – Blessed Ceferino Gimenez Malla, (1861-1936), Martyr

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength…Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.” -1 Cor 1:25, 27-29.

Often, in church, I see old men in the back of church or some nondescript pew clinging to their Rosary and constantly praying in silence.  Constantly.  Wisdom in action.  I want to grow up to be like them.  Ps 84:11a

Ceferino Giménez Malla was born into a gypsy family of the Romani (a nomadic people in Spain). Born at Benevent de Lérida. The family moved consistently throughout his childhood, generally supporting themselves through selling baskets they weaved. While he never received formal education, and was possibly illiterate, Ceferino’s intelligence, wisdom, and sound judgment was obvious to all he encountered. He was valued by his community as a peacemaker and wise arbiter, settling disputes and disagreements. He also demonstrated a consistent faith, practicing charitable works, modeling the love and patience of Christ.  His nickname was “El Pele” = “strong/brave one”.  He loved nature.

In accordance with custom and tradition, Ceferino married at a young age in a “gypsy” ceremony.  In order to normalize his marriage in the eyes of the Church, he was baptized as an adult, in 1912 married Teresa Jimenez Castro in a Catholic ceremony at age 51, and together with his wife continued the nomadic life. He worked as a horse trader, and was recognized by all for his honesty and fair practices and was financially quite successful at this business. The couple never had children, but took in a niece and assumed responsibility for raising her. Ceferino attended Mass every day, and received the Holy Eucharist as frequently as possible. On many days, Ceferino would gather the local children he encountered—gypsy and non-gypsy together—and teach them the Bible through stories and basic prayers – a catechist.

Ceferino’s wife died in 1922, and his niece married, leaving him in solitude. At this time, Ceferino grew in his contemplation and love of the Lord, and entered the Franciscan Order as a tertiary. He spent most evenings in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and eventually became a member of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, there was much anti-Catholic sentiment, and many were being persecuted. Ceferino defended a priest who was being taken to prison and was being dragged through the streets of Barbastro,  He was arrested and imprisoned alongside him. Asked by the soldiers if he had any weapons, he said, “Yes.  Here it is.”  And showed them his Rosary.  While in prison, Ceferino clung to his Rosary, praying constantly. Offered freedom if he would renounce his faith and give up his Rosary, he declined and was eventually taken to a cemetery and executed by firing squad with other believers and priests. Even in death, he maintained his prayer, holding his Rosary aloft and proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”). His body was buried in a common, unmarked grave. His body has never been found.

ceferino2b

O God our Father, great and good,
through the light and power of Your Spirit
the gypsy Ceferino,
the proto-martyr of his people,
was united to the sufferings of Jesus.

We thank You that You have thus in Your love
honored all the traveling people of the world.

We pray that You will raise up holy missionaries
among these people and in the whole Church.

Help us to follow the example of this true believer
who loved You intensely and was a good Samaritan to others.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 8 – St Dominic, OP, (1170-1221) – Priest, Preacher of Grace, Light of the Church, Doctor of Truth, “Zeal must be met with zeal…”

The_Perugia_Altarpiece,_Side_Panel_Depicting_St._Dominic

-side panel, the Perugia altarpiece, depicting Dominic, by Fra Angelico, 1436.

“Zeal must be met by zeal, humility by humility, false sanctity by real sanctity, preaching falsehood by preaching Truth.” – St Dominic

Good thinking leads to good action; bad to calamity/catastrophe.  One to life, the other to death.  There is such a thing as objective moral truth.  A basic premise of philosophy, even outside of theology, is “truth cannot contradict truth”.  Ask the victims of the Nazis, etc.  An American heresy is that all thought is merely innocuous and is equally good and valuable.  Really?  Really?  🙁

Dominic, founder of the great order of preaching friars which bears his name, was born in the year 1170 at Calaruega, Castile, Spain, of a noble family with illustrious connections. His father, Don Felix de Guzman, held the post of royal warden of the village; his mother, a woman of unusual sanctity, was to become Blessed Joan of Aza. Very early it was decided that Dominic should have a career in the Church. His call was so evident that while he was still a student, Martin de Bazan, bishop of Osma, appointed him canon of the cathedral, and the stipend he received helped him to continue his studies. Dominic’s love of learning and his charity are both exemplified in a story of his student days. He had gathered a collection of religious books inscribed on parchment; these he greatly treasured, but one day he sold the whole lot that he might give the money thus obtained to some poor people. “I could not bear to prize dead skins,” he said, “when living skins were starving and in need.”

At the age of twenty-five he was ordained and took up his duties. The chapter lived under the rule of St. Augustine, and the strict observance gave the young priest the discipline that he was to practice and teach to others all his life. Someone who knew Dominic at this time wrote that he was first of all the monks in holiness frequenting the church day and night, and scarcely venturing beyond the walls of the cloister. He was soon made subprior, and when the prior, Diego d’Azevado, became bishop of Osma. about 1201, Dominic succeeded to his office. He had then been leading the contemplative life for six or seven years.

When, two years later, the bishop was appointed by the King to go on an embassy to negotiate a marriage for the King’s son, he chose Dominic to accompany him. On the way, they passed through Languedoc, in southern France, where the Albigensian heresy was winning many adherents.  Albigensianism, Manicheaism, Catharism are all names for basically the same heresy:  namely, that there are two gods, a good god who created the spiritual realm, and an evil god who created the physical.  This type of thinking leads married couples to stop having children and the “perfecti”, the elect, the most spiritually pure to starve themselves to death.  This type of thinking leads to the destruction of society.  Inspired in part by the Persian prophet Mani (216-276 AD), it is a major form of Gnosticism, another heresy, for another time.   The host at an inn where they stopped was an Albigensian, and Dominic spent a whole night in discussion with Dominic. By morning he had convinced the man of his error. From that day, it appears, Dominic knew with certainty that the work God required of him was an active life of teaching in the world.

The ambassadors returned to Castile after their mission was accomplished, then were sent back to escort the young woman to her future home, but they arrived only to assist at her funeral. Their retinue returned to Castile, while they went to Rome to ask leave of Pope Innocent III to preach the Gospel to the infidels in the East. The Pope urged them to stay and fight against the heresy which was threatening the Church in France. Bishop Diego begged to be allowed to resign his episcopal see, but to this the Pope would not consent, though he gave him permission to stay two years in Languedoc. They paid a visit to St. Bernard’s monastery at Citeaux, whose monks had been appointed to go on a mission to convert the Albigensians. Don Diego put on the Cistercian habit and almost at once set out with Dominic and a band of preachers.

Albigensian doctrine was based on a dualism of two eternally opposing principles, good and evil, all matter being regarded as evil and the creator of the material world as a devil. Hence the doctrine of the Incarnation was denied, and the Old Testament and the Sacrament rejected. To be perfect or “pure” a person must refrain from sexual relations and be extremely abstemious in eating and drinking. Suicide by starvation was by some regarded as a noble act. In its more extreme form Albigensianism thus threatened the very existence of human society. The rank and file did not attempt such austerity, of course, but the leaders maintained high standards of asceticism, in contrast with which the easy-going observance of the Cistercian preachers away from home looked far from saintly. Dominic and Diego now advised those who had been in charge of the mission to give up their horses, retinues, and servants. Also, as soon as they won a hearing, they were to use the method of peaceful persuasion instead of threats. The way of life Dominic enjoined on others he was the first to follow himself. He rarely ate anything but bread and soup; if he drank wine it was two thirds water; his bed was the floor, unless-as sometimes happened-he was so exhausted that he lay down at the side of the road to sleep.

The missionaries’ first meeting with the heretics took place at Servian in 1206, where they made several conversions; afterwards they preached at Carcassone and neighboring towns, but nowhere did they meet with unusual success. At one public debate the judges submitted Dominic’s statement of the Catholic faith to the ordeal by fire, and three times, it is recorded, the parchment was left unharmed by the flames. The heresy, supported as it was by the great spiritual and temporal lords of the country, had a strong hold on the populace, who seemed unmoved either by preaching or miracles. Diego, disappointed with the results, returned to Osma, leaving Dominic in France.

Women exerted great influence in the Middle Ages, as now, and Dominic was struck by their share, perhaps most, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world!”, in the propagation of Albigensianism. He also observed that many Catholic girls of good family were exposed to wrong examples in their own homes or else were sent to Albigensian convents to be educated. On the feast of St. Mary Magdalen in 1206 he had a vision which led him to found a convent at Prouille, in the diocese of Toulouse, to shelter nine nuns, who had been converted from heresy. He wrote for them a rule of strict enclosure, penance, and contemplation, with the spinning of wool for their manual occupation. A house was founded a little later, in the same locality, for his preaching friars, whom he placed under a strict rule of poverty, study, and prayer.

In 1208, after the murder of a papal legate, Pope Innocent called on the Christian princes to suppress the heresy by force of arms. The Catholic forces were led by Simon de Montfort, the Albigensian by the Count of Toulouse. Everywhere Montfort was victorious, but he left behind him destruction and death. Dominic had no part in this terrible civil war. Courageously he continued to preach, going wherever he was called, seeking only the good of those who hated him. Many attempts were made on his life, and when he was asked what he would do if caught by his enemies, he answered, “I would tell them to kill me slowly and painfully, a little at a time, so that I might have a more glorious crown in Heaven.” When Montfort’s armies approached where he was preaching, he did all he could to save human life. Among the crusaders themselves, many of whom had joined the Catholic side for the sake of plunder, he discovered disorder, vice, and ignorance. Dominic labored among them with as much diligence and compassion as among the heretics. The Albigensian military forces were finally crushed in the battle of Muret, in 1213, a victory which Montfort attributed to Dominic’s prayers. The victor was not satisfied, however, and, to Dominic’s great distress, kept up for five years longer a campaign of devastation, until at last he was killed in battle.

Dominic had no illusions as to the righteousness or efficacy of establishing orthodoxy by armed force, nor had he himself anything to do with the episcopal courts of the Inquisition which were set up in southern France to work with the civil power. He never appears to have approved of the execution of those unfortunate persons whom the courts condemned as obdurate. His biographers say that he saved the life of a young man on his way to the stake, by assuring the judges that, if released, the man would die a good Catholic. The prophecy was fulfilled some years later, when the man entered the Dominican Order. Dominic rebuked the bishop of Toulouse for traveling with soldiers, servants, and pack-mules. “The enemies of the faith cannot be overcome like that,” he said. “Arm yourself with prayer instead of a sword; be clothed with humility instead of fine raiment.” Offered a bishopric three times, Dominic each time declined, knowing well that his work lay elsewhere.

He thus spent nearly ten years in Languedoc, with headquarters at Prouille, leading the mission and directing the work of his special band of preachers. His great desire was to revive a true apostolic spirit in the ministers of the altar, for too many of the Catholic clergy lived for their own pleasure, without scruple. He dreamed of a new religious order, not like the older ones, whose members led lives of contemplation and prayer in isolated groups, and who were not necessarily priests. His men would join to their prayers and meditation a thorough training in theology and the duties of a popular pastor and preacher; like the earlier monks, they would practice perpetual abstinence from meat and live in poverty, depending on alms for subsistence. They would be directed from a central authority, so that they could be moved about according to the need of the time. Dominic hoped thus to provide the Church with expert and zealous preachers, whose spirit and example would spread the light. In 1214 Bishop Foulques conferred on him a benefice at Fanjeaux, and gave his episcopal approval to the new order. A few months later he took Dominic with him to Rome to attend the Fourth Lateran Council, as his theologian.

Pope Innocent III approved the convent at Prouille. He also issued a decree, which was counted as the tenth canon of the council, reminding all parish clergy of their obligation to preach, and stressing the need of choosing pastors who were powerful in both words and works. The current neglect of preaching, said the Pope, was one cause of the ignorance, disorders, and heresies then rampant. Yet Dominic did not find it easy to get formal approval for his preaching order; it contained too many innovations for sanction to be granted hastily; moreover, the council had already voted against the multiplication of religious orders. It is said that Innocent had decided to withhold his consent, but on the next night dreamed he saw the Lateran Church tottering as if on the verge of collapse; Dominic stepped forward to support it. Be that as it may, the Pope finally gave oral approval to Dominic’s plan, bidding him return to his brothers and select one of the rules already approved.

The little company which met at Prouille in August, 1216, consisted of eight Frenchmen, eight Spaniards, and one Englishman. After some discussion, they chose the rule of St. Augustine, the oldest and least detailed of the existing rules, which had been written for priests by a priest who was himself an eminent preacher. He added certain special provisions, some borrowed from the more austere order of Premontre. Meanwhile Pope Innocent died, in July of 1216, and Honorius III was elected in his place. In October of that year, after Dominic had set up a friary in Toulouse, he went to Rome. Honorius formally confirmed his order and its constitutions in December. The brothers were to be, in the words of the Pope’s bull, “the champions of the faith and the true lights of the world.”

Instead of returning at once to France, Dominic stayed in Rome until the following Easter in order to preach. He suggested to the Pope that since many of the clerics attached to his court could not attend lectures and courses outside, a master of sacred studies in residence would be very useful. Honorius then created the office of Master of the Sacred Palace, who ex-officio serves as the Pope’s personal canonist and theologian, nominates his preachers, and assists at consistories. He ordered Dominic to assume the office temporarily, and ever since it has been held by a member of the Order of Preachers. While at Rome, too, Dominic composed a commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, much commended in his day, but, like his sermons and letters, it has not survived.

During this time Dominic formed friendships with Cardinal Ugolino and Francis of Assisi. The story goes that in a dream Dominic saw the sinful world threatened by the divine anger but saved by the intercession of the Virgin, who pointed out to her Son two figures, one of whom Dominic recognized as himself, while the other was a stranger. The next day in church he saw a poorly dressed fellow whom he recognized at once as the man in his dream. It was Francis of Assisi. He went up to him and embraced him, exclaiming, “You are my companion and must walk with me. For if we hold together no earthly power can withstand us.” This meeting of the founders of the two great orders of friars, whose special mission was to go out into the world to save it, is still commemorated twice a year, when on their respective feast days the brothers of both orders sing Mass together, and afterwards sit at the same table. Dominic’s character was in marked contrast to that of Francis, but they stood united on the common ground of faith and charity.

On August 13, 1217, the Friars Preachers, popularly known in later times as the Dominicans, first met as an order at Prouille. Dominic spoke to them on methods of preaching and urged them to unremitting study and training. He reminded them too that their primary duty was their own sanctification, for they were to be successors of the Apostles. They must be humble, putting their whole confidence in God alone; only thus might they be invincible against evil. Two days later, Dominic abruptly broke up his little band, dispersing them in different directions. Four he sent to Spain, seven to Paris, two returned to Toulouse, and two stayed at Prouille. Dominic himself went back to Rome. He had hopes that he might resign his post and set off to preach to the Tartars, but Pope Honorius would not give his consent.

The four remaining years of Dominic’s life were spent in developing the order. Honorius gave him the church of St. Sixtus in Rome as a center for his activities. He preached in many of the city’s churches, including St. Peter’s. An old chronicle tells us that a woman named Gutadona, on coming home one day from hearing him preach, found her little child dead. In her grief she lifted him out of the cradle, and carried him to the church of St. Sixtus to lay him at Dominic’s feet. He uttered a few words of fervent prayer, made the sign of the cross, and the child was straightway restored to life. The Pope would have had this miracle proclaimed from the pulpit, but the entreaties of Dominic checked him.

Large numbers of nuns were living in Rome at this time, uncloistered and almost unregulated, some scattered about in small convents, others staying in the houses of parents or friends Honorius now asked Dominic to assemble these nuns into one enclosed house. Dominic gave to the nuns his own monastery of St. Sixtus, which was then completed. For his friars he was given a house on the Aventine Hill, with the adjacent church of St. Sabina.

A house of the order had been founded at the University of Paris, and Dominic had sent a contingent to the University of Bologna, there to set up one of the most famous of his establishments. In 1218 he journeyed through Languedoc to his native Spain, and founded a friary at Segovia, another at Madrid, and a convent of nuns, directed by his brother. In April, 1219, he returned to Toulouse, and from there went to Paris, the first and only visit he paid to the city. On his way back he stopped to found houses at Avignon, Asti and at Bergamo in Lombardy. Towards the end of the summer Dominic reached Bologna, there to live until his death. In 1220 Pope Honorius confirmed his title as Master General of the Order of Brothers Preachers, and the first general chapter was held at Bologna. The final constitutions were then drawn up which made the order what it has since been called, “the most perfect of all the monastic organizations produced by the Middle Ages.” That same year the Pope charged them, along with the monks of other orders, to undertake a preaching crusade in Lombardy. Under Dominic’s leadership, a hundred thousand heretics are said to have been brought back to the Church.

Although Dominic had hoped to journey to barbarous lands to preach and eventually to achieve martyrdom, this was denied him. The ministry of the Word, however, was to be the chief aim of his great order. Those members who had a talent for preaching were never to rest, except during the intervals assigned to them for retirement. They must prepare for their high calling by prayer, self-denial, and obedience. Dominic frequently quoted the saying: “A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either rule them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.” He taught his friars the art of reaching the hearts of their hearers by animating them with a love of men. Once, after delivering a stirring sermon, he was asked in what book he had studied it. “In none,” he answered, “but that of love.”

Dominic never altered the severe discipline he had established at the start. When he came back to Bologna in 1220, he was shocked to find a stately monastery being built for his friars; he would not allow it to be completed. This strong discipline helped the rapid spread of the order. By the time of the second general chapter at Bologna in 1221, it numbered some sixty houses, divided into eight provinces. Already there were black- robed brothers in Poland, Scandinavia, and Palestine, and Brother Gilbert, with twelve to aid him, had set up monasteries in Canterbury, London, and Oxford. The Order of Preachers is world-wide and noted especially for its intellectual achievement; it has become the mouthpiece of scholastic theology and philosophy today. There are Dominican establishments adjacent to almost all the chief seats of learning, and the founder has sometimes been called “the first minister of public instruction in Europe.” The Dominicans are cloistered, but there is also a Third Order for active workers in the world, religious and lay.  In contrast to most other orders within the Church, the Dominican Order, in its 800 year history has never needed to be reformed.  Due to a play on the Italian “Dominicanes”, the Order of Preachers has been given the nickname “The Hounds of God”, get it?  Domini-canes?!  A popular symbol of the Order of Preachers is a dog with a burning torch clutched in its mouth running, setting the world ablaze for Christ.

At the close of the second general chapter, Dominic visited Cardinal Ugolino in Venice. Afterwards he fell ill and was taken to the country. He knew the end was near, and made his last testament in a few simple, loving words: “These, my much loved ones, are the bequests which I leave to you as my sons; have charity among yourselves; hold fast to humility; keep a willing poverty.” He asked to be carried back to Bologna, that he might be buried “under the feet of his brethren.” To this day, Dominicans gather in the hallways of their priories and sing the De Profundis in memory of their confreres buried under the hallway floor.  I remember doing this as a novice.  My most favorite time of a Dominican day.  Gathered about him on an August evening, they said the prayers for the dying; at the Subvenite, he repeated the words and died; he was only fifty-six years old. The saint died “in Brother Moneta’s bed, because he had none of his own, in Brother Moneta’s habit, because he had not another to replace the one he had long been wearing.”“Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.”

Jordan of Saxony, Dominic’s successor as master-general of the order, wrote of him: “Nothing disturbed the even temper of his soul except his quick sympathy with every sort of suffering. And as a man’s face shows whether he is happy or not, it was easy to see from his friendly and joyous countenance that he was at peace inwardly.” When in 1234 Pope Gregory IX, formerly Cardinal Ugolino, signed the decree of canonization, he remarked that he no more doubted the sanctity of Dominic than he doubted that of St. Peter or St. Paul.

SaintDominic

-“St Dominic of Guzman”, by Claudio Coello, 1685, Museo Nacional del Prado, Spain.

“Wonderful, saintly founder of the eloquent Order of Preachers,
friend of St Francis of Assisi, you were a fiery defender of the Faith,
a fighter against the darkness of heresy.  You resembled a great
star, that shone close to the world and pointed to the Light of
Christ.

O Holy Priest of God and glorious Patriarch, St. Dominic,
thou who wast the friend, the well-beloved son and confidant of the Queen of Heaven, and didst work so many miracles by the power of the Holy Rosary, have regard for my intercessions.

On earth you opened your heart to the miseries of your fellow man,
and your hands were strong to help them; now in heaven your charity has not grown less nor has your power waned.

Pray for me to the Mother of the Rosary and to her divine Son,
for I have great confidence that through your assistance
I shall obtain the favor I so much desire: (mention your intentions). Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 1 – St Alphonsus Mary de Liguori, CSsR, (1696-1787), Bishop & Doctor of the Church, “Doctor Zelantissimus”, Doctor Most Zealous

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Born to the nobility, Alphonsus Liguori was a child prodigy, was extremely well-educated, and received his doctorate in law from the University of Naples at age 16. He had his own practice by age 21, and was soon one of the leading lawyers in Naples, though he never attended court without having attended Mass first.

He loved music, could play the harpsichord, and often attended the opera, though he frequently listened without bothering to watch the over-done staging. As he matured and learned more and more of the world, he liked it less and less, and finally felt a call to religious life.

As a Neapolitan lawyer, he lost a court case in a spectacular fashion, when it turned out that a key document in his case had been misinterpreted by him and in fact proved his opponent’s case instead.

He declined an arranged marriage, studied theology, and was ordained at age 29. Preacher and home missioner around Naples. Noted for his simple, clear, direct style of preaching, and his gentle, understanding way in the confessional. Writer on asceticism, theology, and history; master theologian, he was often opposed by Church officials for a perceived laxity toward sinners, and by government officials who opposed anything religious.

He founded the Redemptoristines women’s order in Scala in 1730, and founded the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Liguorians; Redemptorists) at Scala, Italy in 1732. The Redemptorists proved to be a quarrelsome congregation: their formal establishment had been delayed by more than a decade because of internal dissension.

Appointed bishop of Saint Agata dei Gotti by Pope Clement XIII in 1762, Liguori worked to reform the clergy and revitalize the faithful in a diocese with a bad reputation. He was afflicted with severe rheumatism, and often could barely move or raise his chin from his chest. In 1775 he resigned his see due to his health, and went into what he thought was a prayerful retirement.

In 1777 the royal government threatened to disband his Redemptorists, claiming that they were covertly carrying on the work of the Jesuits, who had been suppressed in 1773.

Calling on his knowledge of the Congregation, his background in thelogy, and his skills as a lawyer, Alphonsus defended the Redemptorists so well that they obtained the king’s approval. However, by this point Alphonsus was nearly blind, and was tricked into giving his approval to a revised Rule for the Congregation, one that suited the king and the anti-clerical government.

When Pope Pius VI saw the changes, he condemned it, and removed Alphonsus from his position as leader of the Order. The Redemptorists split into two congregations, both of whom rejected him. This caused Alphonsus a crisis in confidence and faith that took years to overcome. However, by the time of his death he had returned to faith and peace.

Alphonsus vowed early to never to waste a moment of his life, and lived that way for over 90 years. Declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1871.

When he was bishop, one of Alphonsus’s priests led a worldly life, and resisted all attempts to change. He was summoned to Alphonsus, and at the entrance to the bishop’s study he found a large crucifix laid on the threshold. When the priest hesitated to step in, Alphonsus quietly said, “Come along, and be sure to trample it underfoot. It would not be the first time you have placed Our Lord beneath your feet.”

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“When an evil thought is presented to the mind, we must immediately endeavor to turn our thoughts to God, or to something which is indifferent. But the first rule is, instantly to invoke the names of Jesus and Mary and to continue to invoke them until the temptation ceases. He who trusts in himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.”
— St. Alphonsus Liguori

Novena Prayer to Saint Alphonsus Liguori

GLORIOUS Saint Alphonsus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, devoted servant of our Lord and loving child of Mary, I invoke you as a Saint in heaven. I give myself to your protection that you may always be my father, my protector, and my guide in the way of holiness and salvation. Aid me in observing the duties of my state of life. Obtain for me great purity of heart and a fervent love of the interior life after your own example.  Great lover of the Blessed Sacrament and the Passion of Jesus Christ, teach me to love Holy Mass and Holy Communion as the source of grace and holiness.  Give me a tender devotion to the Passion of my Redeemer.

Promoter of the truth of Christ in your preaching and writing, give me a greater knowledge and appreciation of the Divine truths.

Gentle father of the poor and sinners, help me to imitate your charity toward others in word and deed.

Consoler of the suffering, help me to bear my daily cross patiently in imitation of your own patience in your long and painful illness and to resign myself to the Will of God.

Good Shepherd of the flock of Christ, obtain for me the grace of being a true child of Holy Mother Church.

Saint Alphonsus, I humbly implore your powerful intercession for obtaining from the Heart of Jesus all the graces necessary for my spiritual and temporal welfare. I recommend to you in particular this favor: (Mention your request).

I have great confidence in your prayers. I earnestly trust that if it is God’s holy Will, my petition will be granted through your intercession for me at the throne of God.

Saint Alphonsus, pray for me and for those I love. I beg of you, by your love for Jesus and Mary, do not abandon us in our needs. May we experience the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.

Prayer

HEAVENLY Father, You continually build up Your Church by the lives of Your Saints. Give us grace to follow Saint Alphonsus in his loving concern for the salvation of people and so come to share his reward in heaven. Walking in the footsteps of this devoted servant of Yours, may we be consumed with zeal for souls and attain the reward he enjoys in Your Kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Prayer of Saint Alphonsus Liguori to the Blessed Virgin

Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin! O my Mother! Thou who art the Mother of my Lord, the Queen of the world, the advocate, hope, and refuge of sinners! I, the most wretched among them, now come to thee. I worship thee, great Queen, and give thee thanks for the many favors thou hast bestowed on me in the past; most of all do I thank thee for having saved me from hell, which I had so often deserved. I love thee, Lady most worthy of all love, and, by the love which I bear thee, I promise ever in the future to serve thee, and to do what in me lies to win others to thy love. In thee I put all my trust, all my hope of salvation. Receive me as thy servant, and cover me with the mantle of thy protection, thou who art the Mother of mercy! And since thou hast so much power with God, deliver me from all temptations, or at least obtain for me the grace ever to overcome them. From thee I ask a true love of Jesus Christ, and the grace of a happy death. O my Mother! By thy love for God I beseech thee to be at all times my helper, but above all at the last moment of my life. Leave me not until thou seest me safe in heaven, there for endless ages to bless thee and sing thy praises. Such is my hope. Amen.  -Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

“When the devil wishes to make himself master of a soul, he seeks to make it give up devotion to Mary.” -St Alphonsus Maria de Liguouri

“Let us will always and ever only what God wills; for in so doing, He will press us to His heart.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

“Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

“My beloved Jesus, Your face was beautiful before You began this journey; but, now, it no longer appears beautiful and is disfigured with wounds and blood. Alas, my soul also was once beautiful when it received Your grace in Baptism; but I have since disfigured it with my sins. You alone, My Redeemer, can restore it to its former beauty. Do this by the merits of Your Passion; and then do with me as You will.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori 

“He who trusts himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

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Love,
Matthew

Aug 7 – Pope St Sixtus II, d. 258 AD, Martyr


-Pope Sixte II, Sandro Botticelli, ~1480, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Vatican

Adult convert to Catholic Christianity and Pope from Aug 30, 257 to Aug 6, 258, Sixtus, who was Greek by birth, is shared with you primarily because he points to another saint, Lawrence, whom, much to your dismay :), I am sure, I will share with you in three days time.

Sixtus dealt with the controversy concerning Baptism by heretics. He believed that anyone who was baptized with a desire to be a Christian, even if the Baptism was performed by a heretic, was truly baptized into the Faith, and that the validity of that faith was based on the person’s own desire and actions to be a Christian, not the errors of the person who performed the sacrament.

While celebrating Mass at the tomb of Saint Callistus, he was arrested as part of the persecutions of Valerian. He was beheaded with six deacons and sub-deacons, and was buried in the same catacomb where he had been celebrating Mass when he was arrested.

“Where are you going, my dear father, without your son? Where are you hurrying off to, holy priest, without your deacon? Before you never mounted the altar of sacrifice without your servant, and now you wish to do it without me?”

St Lawrence, Archdeacon of Rome, to Pope St Sixtus II, 258A D, calling out to the soon to be martyred Successor of St Peter, as the Pope was being led to his execution.

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The tomb of Sixtus was enscribed thus, by Pope St Damasus I, whom we shall also hear about again later this month:

“At the time when the sword pierced the bowels of the Mother, I, buried here, taught as Pastor the Word of God; when suddenly the soldiers rushed in and dragged me from the chair. The faithful offered their necks to the sword, but as soon as the Pastor saw the ones who wished to rob him of the palm (of martyrdom) he was the first to offer himself and his own head, not tolerating that the (pagan) frenzy should harm the others. Christ, who gives recompense, made manifest the Pastor’s merit, preserving unharmed the flock.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 10 – St Lawrence of Rome, (225-258 AD), Deacon & Martyr

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We know very little about his life. He is one of those whose martyrdom made a deep and lasting impression on the early Church. Celebration of his feast day spread rapidly.

He was a Roman deacon under Pope St. Sixtus II, whose demise we learned about a few days ago (Aug 7). Three days after this pope was put to death, Lawrence and four more clerics also suffered martyrdom, during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian.

A well-known legend has persisted from earliest times. As a deacon in Rome, and as you may recall from Sts Timothy & Maura, deacons, in addition to their liturgical role, also typically each were assigned some practical matter to attend to:  the discipline of the assembled congregation, keeping of books/scriptures (Timothy), or acting as treasurer for the local Church, etc..

Lawrence was charged with the responsibility for the material goods of the Church in Rome, and the distribution of alms to the poor. When Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, and that the Emperor sought to extort, most likely by means of torture, the wealth of the Church.  While he still had time, Lawrence gathered the wealth, liquidated it and then he sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the Church money he could get his hands on, selling even the sacred vessels with which the Mass is said to increase the sum.

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The prefect of Rome imagined that the Christians must have considerable treasure. He sent for Lawrence and said, “You Christians say we are cruel to you, but that is not what I have in mind. I am told that your priests offer in gold, that the sacred blood is received in silver cups, that you have golden candlesticks at your evening services. Now, your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his. Bring these treasures—the emperor needs them to maintain his forces. God does not cause money to be counted: He brought none of it into the world with him—only words. Give me the money, therefore, and be rich in words.”

Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. “I will show you a great treasure. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory.” After three days Lawrence gathered a great number of blind, lame, maimed, leprous, orphaned and widowed persons and put them in rows. When the prefect of Rome arrived, Lawrence simply said, “These are the treasure of the Church.”

The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die—but it would be by inches. He had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered in agony for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, “I am well done on this side. Turn me over!”

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-Lawrence before Valerianus, fresco, 1447-1450, Fra Angelico, (1395-1455), Pinacoteca Vaticana

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-The shrine in Rome containing the gridiron said to have been used to grill Saint Lawrence to death

Lawrence’s remains were buried in the cemetery of Saint Cyriaca on the road to Tivoli, Italy; tomb was opened by Pelagius to inter the body of Saint Stephen the Martyr; his mummified head removed to the Quirinal Chapel; the gridiron believed to have been his deathbed is in San Lorenzo in Lucina; garments in Our Lady’s Chapel in the Lateran Palace.

According to Christian legend, the Holy Grail is a relic that was sent by St. Lawrence to his parents in Spain as part of his dispersal of the Church’s treasure. While the Holy Chalice’s exact journey through the centuries is disputed, it is generally accepted by Catholics that the Chalice was sent by his family to a monastery for preservation and veneration. Historical records indicate that this chalice has been venerated and preserved by a number of monks and monasteries through the ages. Today the Holy Grail is venerated in a special chapel in the Catholic Cathedral of Valencia, Spain, in the region of St. Lawrence’s birth and early life.

With the robe of joyfulness, alleluia,
Our Lord has this day clothed His soldier, Lawrence.
May Your faithfuls’ joyous assembly clap their hands
More cheerfully than they have before.
Today the noble martyr offered pleasing sacrifice to God,
Today he, being cruelly tested,
Endured unto the end the torment of fire;
And shrank not from offering his limbs to punishments most cruel.
Before the ruler he is summoned,
And settlement is made upon the Church’s hidden holdings.
But he is unmoved by enticing words, and is unshaken
By the torments of the ruler’s avarice.
Valerian is laughed to scorn,
And the deacon’s liberal hand,
When he is asked for payments,
Gave the gathered poor.
For he was their minister of charity,
Giving them abundance from his means.
Therefore the prefect is enraged,
And a glowing bed made ready.
The torment-bearing instrument,
The gridiron of his suffering,
Roasted his very flesh,
But he laughed it to scorn.
The martyr sweats in his agony,
In hopes of crown and recompense
Which is allotted those with faith,
Who struggle for the sake of Christ.
The court of heaven rejoices
For his warfare-waging,
For he has prevailed this day
Against the lackeys of wickedness.
That we, then, may attain the gift of life,
By this our patron, be glad, O our choir,
Singing in the church upon his feast-day
A joyful alleluia.

from the Mass of Saint Lawrence, Old Sarum Rite Missal, 1998, Saint Hilarion Press

The fire that burned outside was less keen than that which blazed within.” – Pope St Leo the Great

Love,
Matthew