Category Archives: Christology

Mar 7 – St Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart, OCD, (1747-1770) – Saint of the Hidden Life, “Deus Caritas Est!”

StTeresaMargaret

This Tuesday, Kelly will register Mara, in person, for Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary School, Sun Prairie, WI, 4K.  (feigned sobbing) They grow up SOOOO fast!  I know I will ponder that truth melancholically in my own heart, sincerely, soon enough. 🙁

We were asked, also, to send in a deposit if we intend Mara to continue at Sacred Hearts (aka, Little Hearts on the Prairie, cute! 🙂 beyond 4K, and we do, so we did.  Both my fathers, the one of blood and the one of marriage, were wise and witty men and both faithful Catholics.  My father-in-law, the late Richard B. Whitney, said of being Catholic, “It’s expensive!”  How true.  One of my favorite lines I’ll always remember and cherish.  Tell you my own father’s favorite line regarding the Church and money some other time!  🙂

Also, we are in the midst of “Potty Wars”.  My money is on the baby.  Who knew?  The only sound I have yet to hear coming from the bathroom is gun fire.  And, Kelly, just this week, celebrated one of those “can’t say thirty-something anymore” birthdays.  This is a particularly delicate time for me, I must say.  I just follow directions and don’t interfere, which is difficult, as men and engineers are wont to solve problems!  No?  🙂  But, men who want to remain married know their place.  Right, guys?  🙂

The McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart.  Grace always ended, growing up, with “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”  I am becoming more adept, through experience, interpreting those “knowing” looks my parents would always throw at each other when praying that prayer.

Born Anna Maria Redi into a large devout family in Arezzo, Italy in 1747.  From the earliest days of her childhood, Anna Maria was filled with a deep love of God questioning the adults around her as to “Who is God”?  Already she was dissatisfied with answers given her.   Her entire life was driven by the desire to “return love for love”.  She entered the Carmelite convent in Florence at the age of seventeen, advanced rapidly in holiness and died an extraordinary death at twenty-two.  Her spiritual director reflecting on her death remarked “she could not have lived very much longer so great was the strength of the love of God in her”.

She was a beautiful child with clear blue eyes, golden hair and delicate features which might have caused one anticipate for her a future as the lady of a manor and a life of leisure.

Her father Ignatius and her mother Camille were of the lower Tuscan nobility but were not overly wealthy. Anna Maria was the second of thirteen children. Her mother bore twelve children in fourteen years. The last two were twins who lived only a few weeks. Three other children also died in infancy. After a gap of six years the last child, Teresa was born. This child was given Anna Maria’s name in Carmel.  Anna Maria (St. Teresa Margaret) had died six years before little Teresa’s birth.

Camille did not have a strong constitution and the strain of childbirth left her a semi-invalid. As the oldest girl, Anna Maria was entrusted with the supervision of the older of her little siblings while her mother was busy in the nursery. Her father said of Anna Maria that she had a fiery temperament and she was not above getting physical to maintain control over her little charges.

Her father testified that he could clearly see that from the age of five, Anna Maria had given her heart completely to God and she used all her facilities to know and to love Him. In later years she told her confessor simply that “from infancy I have never longed for anything other than to become a saint.”

“Who is God?” she asked her mother, her father, her aunt… The answers she received from the adults around her never fully satisfied her. People told her about God, what God is, not who God is. When her mother told her one day that God is love, Anna Maria lit up with joy. This answer at last gave her some satisfaction. But then she wondered, “What can I do to please Him?” From this moment her inexhaustible quest to love God as He loved her had begun. It is touching to note that when this childhood zeal was brought up to her, she replied in innocence “But everyone does that”.

Anna Maria’s parents were serious and pious. The family circle was warm and loving. Family prayer and daily Mass were an integral part of their lives. It appears that Camilla would have liked more social life in the villa but Ignatius would have seen that as a waste of resources and time.

The Redi villa was an ideal home for a child with a religious disposition and it is probably not an accident that all but one of the eight surviving children entered religious life or the priesthood. The large comfortable house had inspiring murals of the crusades on the walls of the entrance hall. The bedrooms contained religious art. A striking fresco of the Assumption was on the ceiling of Camilla’s room. Anna Maria’s bedroom had its own altar where she spent hours in prayer, after bribing the young ones with holy cards if they would leave her in peace. Sometimes they would creep back to observe her absorbed in prayer. Her brother Cecchino recorded that he thought she looked like a little Madonna.

The villa contained beautiful gardens and orchards. Anna Maria could be found in the corner of the gardens looking toward heaven and “thinking”. Close to the house was a chapel. It was decorated simply with frescos from episodes in the life St. Francis of Assisi. Anna Maria took St. Francis as her patron and was inspired by him with a love of poverty.

Although it was a peaceful and prosperous home, the children were not permitted to be idle. They were expected to spend their leisure time constructively. Anna Maria learned sewing and knitting and she was sometimes found knitting a simple object while completely absorbed in prayer.

At the age of seven Anna Maria made her first Confession. At that time first Confession preceded first Communion by several years. She was very attracted to the sacrament and prepared for it carefully and received it often. A conversation which took place while returning from Church and recorded by her father gives an idea of her attitude towards the sacrament.

“I have been thinking about the text that was preached on Sunday, the unforgiving servant. We come to the great King of Heaven with empty hands, in debt to Him for everything: life itself, and grace, and all the gifts He lavishes on us. Yet all we can say is, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all I owe,’ while all the time we could never pay anything towards the remission of our own debts, if God did not put into our hands the means to do so. And then, how often do we go away and refuse pardon for some slight fault in our neighbors, withholding our love, remaining aloof, or even nursing a grievance against them, and building up grudges that cool charity.”

After this conversation, Ignatius, who already appreciated the piety of this child, felt certain that God was calling Anna Maria in a special way. From that point on he began to provide her with true spiritual direction appropriate to her understanding. It was Ignatius who introduced Anna Maria to the devotion to the Sacred Heart, a devotion which became one of the central focuses of her spiritual life. The love of this father and daughter grew deeper as their profound spiritual confidences expanded the already deep familial affection. As an adult, Sr. Teresa Margaret would say “So great was the good my father has done to my soul that I can truly claim that he has been my father twice over”. It is a tender irony that in aiding the rapid spiritual growth of this most beloved daughter Ignatius was preparing the path that would take her away from him forever.

St. Apollonia’s Boarding School

At the age of nine, Anna Maria was sent to the boarding school of the Benedictine nuns of St. Apollonia’s in Florence. While other families of their status thought educating their daughters was a waste of money, the Redi family was determined to do so. His decision to provide the best of educations for Anna Maria and her three sisters as well as for his four sons forced Ignatius to tighten the family budget. One of their sacrifices was to give up the family coach. This was not only a sacrifice in convenience but also in status. A coach was a mark of a family’s situation but Ignatius was not moved by such considerations. Young Anna Maria was deeply impressed by this sacrifice and urged her older brother to be very diligent in his studies in response to this generosity.

There were two reasons Anna Maria wanted to keep her interior life hidden. First, she understood from an early age that “the merits of a good action can diminish when exposed to the eyes of others who, by their praise or approval, give us satisfaction or at least flatter our self-love and pride too much; and that therefore it is necessary to be content to have God alone.” The second reason was in order to imitate the hidden life of the Holy Family. This singular family appeared to the folk of the little village of Nazareth to be no different from any other. This was Anna Maria’s goal.

She continually experienced movements of love which impelled her to try to live a more holy life. Yet she feared others would notice if she intensified her devotional exercises and this went against her determination to remain hidden.  In her need, she turned to the one she called twice her father; and so started an extraordinary correspondence with Ignatius Redi. He remained her spiritual director for the next five years. It is a great loss for us that Ignatius, obedient to her wishes, burned each of Anna Maria’s letters after reading it.

It is a mark of Anna Maria’s intelligence that she succeeded in her almost contradictory goals, extraordinary growth in holiness while appearing to be just like all the rest. At the age of sixteen as her time at St. Apollonia was coming to an end, Anna Maria was finding it difficult to make a decision regarding her future. She felt drawn to the religious life and loved the Benedictine nuns at St. Apollonia yet there was something missing. A very strange and singular incident put Anna Maria on the path to Carmel.

One day a distant acquaintance of Anna Maria, Cecilia Albergotti, who was about to enter Carmel, paid a farewell visit to St. Apollonia. She told Anna Maria she wished to speak to her but the time passed and there was no opportunity to do so. However, as she was leaving Cecilia took Anna Maria’s hand and looked at her intently, saying nothing. Anna Maria walked back to her room with a strange feeling inside. Suddenly she heard the words “I am Teresa of Jesus, and I want you among my daughters.” Confused and a bit frightened, she went to the chapel and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament. She heard the words again.

Now convinced of the authenticity of the locution, she determined at that moment to enter Carmel and started immediately making plans to leave the school. She was only home for a few months when preparations were made for her application to the Carmel in Florence. She entered on September 1, 1764 a few weeks after her seventeenth birthday taking the name Teresa Margaret of the Heart of Jesus.

Entrance into Carmel

The community she entered contained thirteen professed nuns and two novices. The religious observance in the convent was excellent and Teresa Margaret always had high regard for the nuns there whom she called angels or great saints. She always, to her last day, felt unworthy to be among them.

From her first days in Carmel it was obvious to her superiors that she was an unusually mature and capable young woman. Because of her spiritual maturity she was treated severely by the novice mistress, Mother Teresa Maria, for the purposes of aiding her growth. Although Teresa Margaret exercised complete control over her actions and attitudes, her fair complexion which blushed bright red often gave away the interior battle she waged to maintain this control.

The period of postulancy was usually three months but it was extended one month because she developed an abscess on her knee. The ailment required surgery to scrape the infection away from the bone. This was done without anesthesia and the nuns marveled at her courage. Teresa Margaret however chided herself when a small whimper escaped her during the cutting. She feared that this ailment might cause the nuns not to accept her into the novitiate but there was no cause to worry. The nuns had found her spiritually mature, obedient, with a sweet and gentle nature. They considered her a gift and a true daughter of St. Teresa. She was accepted by a unanimous vote.

It was the custom at the time for the candidate to make a brief return to the world to consider once more the life she was leaving behind. Teresa Margaret visited again with members of her family and spent precious time with her father. There was no doubt now that their next parting would be forever. If anything could have kept Teresa Margaret from retuning to the Carmel, it would have been the pain she was causing her father. When Ignatius brought her back to the convent those around her were alarmed at her pallor. That evening she confided in her superior, Mother Anna Maria “I do not think that it is possible for me ever to suffer greater pain than that which I experienced in leaving my father.” She wept copious tears that night to the point of alarming Mother Anna Maria and causing her to wonder how Teresa Margaret had kept her composure through the day.

The next day Teresa Margaret was composed and radiant. Her father however was overcome and moved to a back corner of the church unable to watch the clothing ceremony. Later in the afternoon he was able to visit with her in the parlor. He could see her flooded with the peace the world cannot give and a joy no earthly pleasure can produce. He left her with an emptiness his other children could never fill yet he was at peace and thankful to God for the gift of this sacrifice.

The duties of the novices were general housekeeping and various small tasks needed by the community. But even as a novice, Teresa Margaret started the work that would take most of her time and energy for the rest of her years in Carmel; that of caring for the sick. Of the thirteen professed nuns, nine were elderly and often ill. Teresa Margaret started by assisting the aged novice mistress prepare for bed each night. She then took on the care of an ailing novice. More and more she spent any free time assisting the infirmarian in caring for one or the other of the seriously ill nuns. Some times she would move into the room of a sick sister to provide care during the night. Aside from the required periods of prayer Teresa Margaret gave her self to physical labor. Her work went far beyond what was required or expected.

A year after her clothing Teresa Margaret was scheduled to be professed. The abscess on her knee reappeared. She wondered if this might be a sign that she was mistaken, that she did not have a vocation after all. She brought her doubts before God with simplicity and humility desiring only the will of God whatever it might be. The abscess disappeared. When the time came for her profession, with honest feelings of unworthiness she asked to be professed as a simple lay Sister. This was not allowed but she kept this humble attitude all through her life in Carmel and often helped the lay sisters at their tasks. No duty was too lowly for her.

Theresa Margaret lived only four years after her Profession. For two years she served as assistant sacristan but never gave up her work among the sick. She was finally named assistant infirmarian though she had been doing the job all along.

She loved this job and the constant charity it demanded for she stated “love of neighbor consists in service.” Although “assistant” she soon was in fact exercising full responsibility for the infirmary. She was young and strong and seemed to thrive on the hard work. During her years of service, in spite of her continued determination to keep hidden her gifts and graces, remarkable incidences occurred: the miraculous healing which occurred after Teresa Margaret, filled with compassion, kissed a sister weeping in pain; her ability to converse with a deaf nun with whom no one else could communicate; various cures which, though not miraculous were at the least unusual; and her uncanny ability to know when a patient needed her no matter where in the monastery she might be.

Her Interior Life

Teresa Margaret had a rich, active interior life. The first tenant, as has been mentioned, was to remain hidden, to keep her gifts and graces hidden from all but her Lord while appearing quite ordinary to the world.

In her desire to prove her love to God, she practiced severe penances; sleeping on the floor, using a hairshirt, leaving windows open in the winter and closed in the summer, taking the discipline, etc. There was nothing masochistic in these practices. She wanted to discipline her body and unite herself to the suffering Christ. For her, suffering was a way of repaying love for love. As she grew she modified these practices and took as her motto “Always receive with equal contentment from God’s hand either consolations or sufferings, peace or distress, health or illness. Ask nothing, refuse nothing, but always be ready to do and to suffer anything that comes from His Providence.”

Her daily spiritual exercises were simple. She determined to present a smiling and serene exterior no matter how severe her interior and exterior trials. She practiced the art of never doing her own will for she believed that “she who does not know how to conform her will to that of others will never be perfect.” She would never offer an excuse for a fault or defend herself when falsely accused. She wrote that “everything can be reduced to interior movements, where the constant exercise of abnegation is essential.” She believed that God would be found when God alone is sought. To that end she made the following resolution: “I propose to have no other purpose in all my activities, either interior or exterior, than the motive of love alone, by constantly asking myself: ‘Now what am I doing in this action? Do I love God?’ If I should notice any obstacle to pure love, I shall take myself in hand and recall that I must seek to return my love for His love.” As for love of neighbor, she determined to “sympathize with their troubles, excuse their faults, always speak well of them, and never willingly fail in charity in thought, word or deed”.

All these little practices seem to be no more than what any good Christian should be doing. How simple and un-heroic they are. Yet to spend even one day in the minute by minute application of them would be more than most could hope to accomplish.

One Sunday in choir, Teresa Margaret was given a particular grace to understand the deep meaning of the love of God. While the community was reciting Terce, the words “Deus caritus est” (God is Love, I John 4:8) were read and it seemed to her she heard them for the first time. She was flooded with an elevated understanding of these words that seemed to be a new revelation. Despite the fact that she tried carefully to hide this sudden grace, all around her were aware something out of the ordinary had happened. These words occasioned a mystical experience which transformed her knowledge of God.

For the next few days the words “God Is Love” were constantly on her lips as she went about her duties. She appeared so out of herself that the Carmelite Provincial was brought in to examine her to see if she were suffering from “melancholy”. After examining her he responded: “I would indeed very happily see every sister in this community afflicted with such ‘melancholy’ as that of Sister Teresa Margaret!” It was only later that the community came to attribute her “faraway look” to her habitual awareness of the presence of God and His continual operations in her.

Night of the Spirit

This grace was however to start a great spiritual trial for Teresa Margaret. She had always found it impossible to return to God “love for love” as she desired. Now that she had a mystical experience of the love of God the abyss between God’s love for her and her ability to return that love sufficiently became a source of increasing torment to her.

In a series of letters to her spiritual director, Fr. Ildephonse, she wrote: “I am telling you in strict confidence, sure of your discretion that I find myself in pain because I am not doing anything to correspond to the demands of love. I feel that I am continually being reproached by my Sovereign Good and yet, I am very sensitive to the slightest movement contrary to the love and knowledge of Him. I do not see, I do not feel, I do not understand anything interiorly or exteriorly which could impel me to love … no one can imagine how terrible it is to live without any love when one is actually burning with the desire for it.”

“This is a torture to me, let alone the fact that it requires such an effort to apply myself to the things of God,” she confessed later. “I fear that God is very displeased with my Communions; it seems that I have no desire to ask His help because of the great coldness which I experience … It is the same with prayer and, of course, in all the other spiritual exercises. I am continually making good resolutions but I never succeed in attaining some way of successfully overcoming these obstacles which stand in my way and prevent me from throwing myself at His feet.”

“The tempest has become extremely violent and I feel myself being so knocked about that I scarcely know what to do if this continues. Everywhere there is darkness and danger. My soul is so dark that the very things which used to afford me some spiritual consolation are only a source of torture to me … I must do violence to myself in order to perform each interior and exterior spiritual exercise … Finding myself in this state of supreme weariness I commit many failings at each step … My mind is in such turmoil that it is open to temptations of every sort, especially to those of despair … I have a great fear of offending God grievously … I see that I do wrong and at the same time try to follow the inspiration to do good and then I feel remorse for my infidelity; and to top it all, I am not succeeding in conquering myself because my repugnance is so great …”

“The cruelest torturer of her soul,” wrote Fr. Ildephonse, “was her love which, in the very same measure that it increased – hid itself from the eyes of her spirit. She loved, yet believed she did not; in the measure love grew in her soul, in the same measure augmented the desire of loving and the pain of thinking that she did not love.” He was convinced that she was at the stage of Spiritual Marriage. When he later heard of her sudden and unexpected death he remarked “she could not have lived very much longer so great was the strength of the love of God in her.”

Her Death

It is suspected that Teresa Margaret had a premonition of her death. After obtaining permission from Fr. Ildephonse, she made a pact with Sr. Adelaide, an elderly nun she was caring for. The pact was that when she died, Sr. Adelaide would ask God “to permit Sister Teresa Margaret to join her quickly in order that she may love Him without hindrance for all eternity and be fully united with the fount of divine charity.” Shortly after the death of Sr. Adelaide, Teresa Margaret was indeed with God. It is likely that the cause of Teresa Margaret’s death was a strangulated hernia. It is probable that it was in lifting the heavy, inert body of Sister Adelaide that she strained herself causing the hernia. If so, it was a delightful seal to their pact.

In mid-February, 1770, Teresa Margaret wrote her last letter to her father, in which she begged that he begin a novena to the Sacred Heart at once for a most pressing intention of hers.

On March 4th she asked Father Ildefonse to allow her to make a general confession, as though it were to be the last of her life, and to receive Communion the following morning in the same dispositions. Whether or not she had any presentiment that this was indeed to be her Viaticum one cannot know; but in fact it was. She was only twenty-two years old and in excellent health, yet it appears she was making preparations for her death.

On the evening of March 6th Teresa Margaret arrived late to dinner from her work in the infirmary. She ate the light Lenten meal alone. As she was returning to her room, she collapsed from violent abdominal spasms. She was put to bed and the doctor was called. He diagnosed a bout of colic, painful but not serious. Teresa Margaret did not sleep at all during the night, and she tried to lie still so as not to disturb those in the adjoining cells. The following morning she seemed to have taken a slight turn for the better

But when the doctor returned he recognized that her internal organs were paralyzed and ordered a surgeon for a bleeding. Her foot was cut and a bit of congealed blood oozed out. The doctor was alarmed and recommended that she should receive the Last Sacraments right away. The infirmarian however, felt that this was not necessary, and was reluctant to send for a priest because of the patient’s continued vomiting. In addition, Sister Teresa Margaret’s pain appeared to have lessened. The priest was not called.

Teresa Margaret offered no comment, nor did she ask for the Last Sacraments. She seemed to have had a premonition of this when making her last Communion “as Viaticum”. She held her crucifix in her hands, from time to time pressing her lips to the five wounds, and invoking the names of Jesus and Mary, otherwise she continued to pray and suffer, as always, in silence.

By 3 p.m. her strength was almost exhausted, and her face had assumed an alarmingly livid hue. Finally a priest was called. He had time only to anoint her before she took her flight to God. She remained silent and uncomplaining to the end, with her crucifix pressed to her lips and her head slightly turned towards the Blessed Sacrament. The community was stunned. Less than twenty-four hours earlier she had been full of life and smiling serenely as she went about her usual duties.

Glory Revealed

Teresa Margaret had attempted all her life to remain hidden. In many ways she succeeded. But upon her death, the veil over her exalted sanctity was lifted by God Himself.

The condition of Teresa Margaret’s body was such that the nuns feared it would decay before proper funeral rites could be accomplished. Her face was discolored, her extremities were black, the body already bloated and stiff. When her body was prepared and laid out in the choir later in the day, it was almost unrecognizable to the sisters who had lived with her for the last five years.

Her funeral was held the following day and plans were made for her immediate burial. When she was moved into the vault however, everyone noticed that a change had taken place in the body. The blue-black discoloration of her face was much less noticeable. The community decided to postpone the burial. A few hours later a second examination showed that the entire body had regained its natural color. The nuns were consoled to see the lovely face of Teresa Margaret looking just as they had known her.

They begged the Provincial’s permission to leave her unburied until the next day, a request which he, dumbfounded at this astonishing reversal of natural processes, readily granted. The final burial of the body was arranged for the evening of the 9th of March, fifty-two hours after her death. By that time her skin tint was as natural as when alive and in full health, and the limbs, which had been so rigid that dressing her in the habit had been a difficult task, were flexible and could now be moved with ease.

This was all so unprecedented that the coffin was permitted to remain open. The nuns, the Provincial, several priests and doctors all saw and testified to the fact that the body was as lifelike as if she were sleeping, and there was not the least visible evidence of corruption or decay. Her face regained its healthy appearance; there was color in her cheeks. Mother Victoria, who had received the profession of this young nun, suggested that a portrait should be painted before the eventual burial. This was unanimously agreed to, and Anna Piattoli, a portrait painter of Florence, was taken down to the crypt to capture forever the features that now in death looked totally life-like.

The Carmel burial vault was a scene of much coming and going during these days, and had assumed anything but a mournful atmosphere. By the time the painting was completed, a strange fragrance was detected about the crypt. The flowers that still remained near the bier had withered. But the fragrance persisted, and grew in strength, pervading the whole chamber. And then, miles away in Arezzo her mother Camilla also became aware of an elusive perfume which noticeably clung to certain parts of the house.

During the next two weeks several doctors and ecclesial authorities came to the crypt to examine the body. As the days continued to pass the body regained more and more the characteristics of a living being. The Archbishop of Florence came on March 21 to make his own examination. The body was now totally subtle. Her bright blue eyes could be seen under lids slightly opened. Finally a little moisture collected on her upper lip. It was wiped off with a piece of cloth and rendered a “heavenly fragrance”. The Archbishop declared: “Extraordinary! Indeed, it is a miracle to see a body completely flexible after death, the eyes those of a living person, the complexion that of one in the best of health. Why, even the soles of her feet appear so lifelike that she might have been walking about a few minutes ago. She appears to be asleep. There is no odor of decay, but on the contrary a most delightful fragrance. Indeed, it is the odor of sanctity.”

Teresa Margaret was finally buried eighteen days after her death. The report of miracles attributed to her intercession began immediately. Thirty-five years later, on June 21, 1805, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, the incorrupt body of St. Teresa Margaret was transferred to the nuns’ choir in the Carmel of Florence where it remains to this day.

st-teresa-margaret-of-the-sacred-heart

IMG_2921 St TM REDI web

“… my God, I do not want anything else other than to become a perfect image of You and, because Your life was a hidden life of humiliation, love, and sacrifice, I desire the same for myself. I wish, therefore, to enclose myself in Your loving Heart as in a desert in order to live in You, with You, and for You this hidden life of love and sacrifice.  You know indeed that I desire to be a victim of Your Sacred Heart, completely consumed as a holocaust by the fire of Your holy love.  And thus Your Heart will be the altar upon which I must be consumed, my dearest Spouse; You will Yourself be the priest Who must consume this victim by the fire of Your holy love.” -from the Act of Oblation of St Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart.

St Teresa Margaret Redi of the Sacred Heart, OCD, was the subject of Chapter 2 of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OCD, (Edith Stein)’s (1891-1942), who was killed at Auschwitz, book, “The Hidden Life”, written in 1939.

Love,
Matthew
It was long, mea culpa, but it’s Lent.  It’s good for us! 🙂

Nov 18 – St Rose Phillipine Duchesne, RSCJ, (1769-1852), Foundress of the American branch of the Society of the Sacred Heart

(c) Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Patroness of, and included among those opposed by Church authorities, including: St Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Joan of Arc, and St Teresa of Avila.  Known as “The Lady of Mercy”.  Named  “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad” = “Woman-who-prays-always” by the Potawatomi, St Rose Phillipine Duchesne is a model of Christian love, faith, and perseverance.

Born in Grenoble, France, of a family that was among the newly rich, Philippine learned political skills from her father and a love of the poor from her mother. The dominant feature of her temperament was a strong and dauntless will, which became the material—and the battlefield—of her holiness.

She entered the convent at 19 without telling her parents and remained despite their opposition. As the French Revolution broke, the convent was closed, and she began taking care of the poor and sick, opened a school for street urchins and risked her life helping priests in the underground.

When the situation cooled, she personally rented her old convent, now a shambles, and tried to revive its religious life. The spirit was gone, and soon there were only four nuns left. They joined the infant Society of the Sacred Heart, whose young superior, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, would be her lifelong friend.

In a short time Philippine was a superior and supervisor of the novitiate and a school. But her ambition, since hearing tales of missionary work in Louisiana as a little girl, from a Jesuit missionary, was to go to America and work among the Indians. At 49, she thought this would be her work. With four nuns, she spent 11 weeks at sea en route to New Orleans during which time disease nearly killed her, and seven weeks more on the Mississippi to St. Louis, which also nearly killed her.

She then met another of the many disappointments of her life. The bishop had no place for them to live and work among Native Americans. Instead, he sent her to what she sadly called “the remotest village in the U.S.,” St. Charles, Missouri. With characteristic drive and courage, she founded the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi.  St Rose Phillipine Duchesne went on to found six other Sacred Heart houses including schools and orphanages.  She struggled since her teaching methods were based on French models and her English was terrible, but everyone could see the purity of her intentions.

Though she was as hardy as any of the pioneer women in the wagons rolling west, cold and hunger drove her and her fellow sisters out of St Charles to Florissant, Missouri, where she founded the first Catholic Indian school, adding others in the territory. “In her first decade in America Mother Duchesne suffered practically every hardship the frontier had to offer, except the threat of Indian massacre—poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings and with only the slightest training in courtesy” (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., Philippine Duchesne).  “Poverty and Christian heroism are here”, Rose Phillipine wrote, “and trials are the riches of priests in this land.”

Finally, at 72, in poor health and retired, she got her lifelong wish. A mission was founded at Sugar Creek, Kansas, among the Potawatomi. She was taken along. Though she could not learn their language, they soon named her “Woman-Who-Prays-Always.” While others taught, she prayed. Legend has it that Native American children sneaked behind her as she knelt and sprinkled bits of paper on her habit, and came back hours later to find them undisturbed. She died in 1852 at the age of 83.  She spent her last ten years in retirement in a tiny shack at the convent in Saint Charles, Missouri where she lived austerely and in constant prayer.

Divine grace channeled her iron will and determination into humility and selflessness, and to a desire not to be made superior. Still, even saints can get involved in silly situations. In an argument with her over a minor change in the sanctuary, a priest threatened to remove her tabernacle. She patiently let herself be criticized by younger nuns for not being progressive enough. Through it all, 31 years, she hewed to the line of a dauntless love and an unshakable observance of her religious vows.

Setback after setback after setback, even into old age! This woman of bronze—St. Rose Philippine Duchesne—let nothing stop her, nothing discourage her, nothing slow her down. We can do almost anything for God if we refuse to be discouraged and are willing to pay the price: the price is something called holiness.

“We cultivate a very small field for Christ, but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements but a heart that holds back nothing for self.”
-Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

“I live now in solitude and am able to use my time reflecting on the past and preparing for death. I cannot put away the thought of the Indians and in my ambition I fly to the Rockies. “
-Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne

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Prayer
Gracious God, you filled the heart of Philippine Duchesne with charity and missionary zeal, and gave her the desire to make you known among all peoples. Fill us who honor her memory today, with that same love and zeal to extend your kingdom to the ends of the earth. 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.

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Epiphany: Why did God become a man?

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-by Br. Charles Shonk, OP

“Would God have become man if man had never sinned? An odd question, perhaps, but one which St. Thomas [Aquinas, O.P.] takes the trouble to answer with characteristic intellectual humility:

“Such things as spring from God’s will, and are beyond the creature’s due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in Sacred Scripture, in which the Divine Will is manifested to us. Hence, since everywhere in Sacred Scripture the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason of the Incarnation, it is more in accordance with this to say that the work of the Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin; so that, had sin not existed, the Incarnation would not have been. And yet the power of God is not limited to this; even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate.”

God’s omnipotence, on the one hand, and the testimony of Scripture, on the other, lead us to believe that, although God could have become incarnate in a sinless world, He would not have done so. Still, we may ask, if He had done so, why would He have done so? St. Thomas does not answer this question directly, but, when considering the Incarnation in a more general way, he does say that it was fitting, not only as a remedy for sin, but also simply as an expression of God’s goodness: “It belongs to the essence of goodness to communicate itself to others… [and] it belongs to the essence of the highest good to communicate itself in the highest manner to the creature.”

It is stupefying, really, to think of God becoming incarnate merely to communicate his goodness to unfallen mankind – even more stupefying, in a certain sense, than God becoming incarnate to redeem us from our sins. It may also seem a rather fruitless piece of speculation. I would suggest, however, that this hypothetical scenario can help us better appreciate at least one aspect of the mystery of Christ’s birth, namely, the humble circumstances in which it occurred.

If Christ had been born into a world without sin, it follows – we might almost say it follows “by definition” – that the whole of creation would have welcomed him as jubilantly as the angels did on Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest!” There would have been no search for hospitality, no rude feeding-trough for a bed, no flight from murderous Herod. The King of kings would have come into a world that recognized him as such, a world that worshiped and adored His ineffable love and majesty; He would not have silently slipped into a world that had become enemy territory. Indeed, although it is fitting that we now see the stable and the manger through the “rose-colored glasses” of our Savior’s love for us, we must also see them as what they were: the contemptuous rebuff of a sinful and fallen world.

Yet God, by submitting to the indignity of such poverty and obscurity, blesses it. In effect, He tells us that a poor and obscure life is the appropriate, natural, and beneficial condition of mankind after the Fall, the fitting exterior sign of our interior wretchedness, a salutary obstacle to our pride and self-sufficiency. Accordingly, the angels announce tidings of peace, not to the wise and powerful, but to the poor and simple shepherds, because, to the shepherds, who know their own need so well, the coming of God’s kingdom does, in fact, mean peace. Herod, on the other hand, and, with him, all who are persuaded by their power or prosperity that they are not wretched and poor, can only see the coming of God’s kingdom as unsettling, inconvenient, or irrelevant.

We moderns have our own pride and blindness, even if it is less obvious than Herod’s. In this egalitarian, scientific, “information” age, we habitually approach the mysteries of the Faith as so many mere facts, as items to be reviewed in a more or less casual way, analyzed from a critical distance, even evaluated on a strictly evidential basis. We respect, but do not reverence. We are interested, but not ravished. We read, but do not meditate. We experiment, but do not commit. These are signs of a spiritual and moral disease, and, if we would overcome that disease – if we would hear the Christmas Gospel afresh – we must learn from the shepherds, who teach us that the mysteries of God are revealed, not to the proud and the subtle, not to the “well-informed” and sophisticated, but to the humble and to those who suffer, to the innocent and to those who know their own sinfulness, to the teachable, and to those whose hearts are prepared.”

Merry Christmas,
Matthew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer for the intercession of St John Eudes

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

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus #2

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This unique iconographic presentation of a beloved theme combines the classic pose of “Christ the Teacher” with devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Heart of Christ is burning with love for mankind, most vividly manifest in His suffering and sacrifice on the Cross.

Devotion to the loving heart of Christ first appeared in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and has been credited to several saints, including Saints Margaret Mary Alacoque, Bonaventure, Gertrude and Bernard. The devotion became popularized in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially through the Society of Jesus and the Visitation Order, and widespread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus continues to this day.

One of my favorite prayers of devotion to the Sacred Heart…

“O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus,
I adore You,
I love You,
I praise You,
I cry to You for mercy,
I return You thanks,
I invoke You,
And confide myself entirely to You.

O most holy Heart of my Lord and Savior,
Who for the salvation of us all
Accepted a birth into poverty,
Endured sorrow and contempt here on earth,
Lived a life of labor and contradictions,
Suffered a shameful death,
But Who remain
In the most Blessed Sacrament of the altar
Until the end of time;
Accomplish, O Most Sacred Heart,
Your will in my heart,
Which I now dedicate and consecrate to You forever.
Amen.”

“O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee.”
-Robert L. & Mary D. McCormick

“The family, just like the Church, must always be regarded as a center to which the Gospel must be brought and from which it must be proclaimed.  Therefore in a family which is conscious of this role all the members of the family are evangelists and are themselves evangelized.”
-Evangelii Nuntiandi, (Evangelization in the Modern World), #71, Pope Paul VI, 1975, as cited in the US Catholic Catechism for Adults, p. 404, July, 2006, USCCB.

“To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; to seek Him, the greatest adventure, to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
-St. Augustine

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus #1

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The McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Prayer of Trust in the Sacred Heart

In all my temptations, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my weaknesses, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my difficulties, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my trials, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my sorrows, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In all my work, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In every failure, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In every discouragement, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In life and in death, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In time and in eternity, I place my trust in you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Prayer for Perseverance

O, Sacred Heart of Jesus, living and life-giving fountain of eternal life, infinite treasure of the Divinity, and glowing furnace of love, You are my refuge and my sanctuary.

O adorable and glorious Savior, consume my heart with that burning fire that ever inflames Your Heart. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love.

Let my heart be so united with Yours that our wills may be one, and mine may in all things be conformed to Yours. May Your Will be the rule both of my desires and my actions.
-St. Alphonsus Liguori

“At the end of this life, only love will matter.”
-St. Sharbel

Love,
Matthew

Feb 15 – St Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, (1641-1682), Apostle of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Claude de la Colombiere, S.J and St. Margaret Mary

Many of you know of the McCormick family’s, and, therefore, especially my, special devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.  At dinner, after Grace, we say “O, Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”

Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, descended of French nobility, third child of the notary Bertrand La Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St. Symphorien d’Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne, Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.

It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he “had a terrible aversion for the life embraced”. This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments.

At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.

In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV’s Minister of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert.

Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.

On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors’ knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of His Heart, but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise and send her “my faithful servant and perfect friend” to help her realize the mission for which He had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of His love.

After Father Colombière’s arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard, and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude’s spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve.

After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London, remaining in contact with St Margaret Mary by letter. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York – a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.

In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: “I could write a book about the mercy of God I’ve seen Him exercise since I arrived here!

The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.

Suddenly, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates “papist plot”. After two days he was transferred to the severe King’s Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree.  It was only by the intervention of Louis XIV that Claude was not martyred.  This suffering further weakened Claude’s health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.  On 15 February 1682, Claude began coughing up blood and died.

St John Wall, OFM, knew Saint Claude. After having spent a night in spiritual conversation with him, the soon–to–be martyr said, “When I was in his presence I thought that I was dealing with Saint John returned to earth to rekindle that fire of love in the Heart of Christ.”

Saint Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, is considered a “dry” martyr, having suffered every abuse for the Faith, except death.  His major shrine and relics/remains are in the Jesuit church directly next to the Monastery of the Visitation in Paray-le-Monial, France.

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St Claude de la Colombiere
-tomb of St Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, Chapelle la Colombiere, Rue Pasteur, 71600 Paray le Monial, France

“The past three centuries allow us to evaluate the importance of the message which was entrusted to Claude. In a period of contrasts between the fervor of some and the indifference or impiety of many, here is a devotion centered on the humility of Christ, on His presence, on His love of mercy and on forgiveness. Devotion to the Heart of Christ would be a source of balance and spiritual strengthening for Christian communities so often faced with increasing unbelief over the coming centuries.” – Pope John Paul II, during the canonization of Saint Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, May 31, 1992.

“My Jesus, you are my true friend,
my only friend,
you take part in all my misfortunes;
you know how to change them into blessings.
You listen to me
With the greatest kindness
When I tell you all my troubles
And you always have something
With which to heal my wounds.
I find you at any time of the day or night
For I find you wherever I happen to be
You never leave me;
If I change my dwelling place
I find you wherever I go
You never weary of listening to me;
You are never tired of doing me good.
I am certain of being loved by you,
If I but love you.
My worldly goods are of no value to you
But by bestowing yours on me
You never grow poorer.
However miserable I may be,
No one more noble or cleverer or even holier
Can come between you and me
And deprive me of your friendship;
And death,
Which tears us away from all other friends,
Will unite me forever to you.
All the humiliations attached to old age
Or the loss of honour
Will never detach you from me;
On the contrary
I shall never enjoy you more fully
And you will never be closer to me,
Than when everything seems to conspire
Against me to overwhelm me,
And cast me down.
You bear with all my faults
With extreme patience,
And even my want of fidelity
And my ingratitude
Do not wound you to such a degree
As to make you unwilling to receive me back
When I return to you.
O Jesus,
Grant that I may die loving you,
That I may die for the love of you.”
-Prayer of Friendship to Jesus, St Claude de la Colombiere, SJ

“Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others. Other people will glorify You by making visible the power of Your grace by their fidelity and constancy to You. For my part I will glorify You by making known how good You are to sinners, that Your mercy is boundless and that no sinner no matter how great his offences should have reason to despair of pardon. If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer, let me not offend You even more by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon me. Amen. “
-Saint Claude de la Colombiere, SJ

Love,
Matthew