Category Archives: January

Jan 23 – Bl Henry Suso, OP (1295-1366), priest, mystic, poet, bundle of contradictions

(Source : Dorcy, Marie Jean. St. Dominic’s Family. Tan Books and Publishers, 1983)

“Henry Suso is a bundle of contradictions, and a person, moreover, who has gathered legends about him like a snowball rolling downhill. He was a poet, which is not always a key to happiness in this world; a mystic of the highest order; a hard working Dominican; and a man with a positive genius for getting into embarrassing situations. He has suffered at the hands of chroniclers who dislike his followers, or his tactics, or his poetry; he is all but canonized by those who see in him the Dominican mystic. It will require many years of exhaustive research to sort out the diverse elements in his personality, if, indeed, it can ever be accomplished. Poets are not easy to analyze, and Henry, before all else, was a poet.

Henry was born in Switzerland, in 1290, the son of a warlike family of counts and crusaders. His father said more than once that he wished Henry had been a girl and some of his spirited daughters had been boys; for Henry was not a type to carry a sword. Henry was a gentle, dreamy lad, who liked to accompany his mother on pilgrimages and read about heroic deeds. He had taken his mother’s name of Suso, perhaps out of sheer inability to live up to the warlike title of the Count von Berg.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts to make a soldier out of Henry, his father abandoned the task and sent him, when he was barely thirteen years old, to the Dominican convent near Lake Constance. At the convent, Henry found a happy life, one that he did not know existed. Like a starved child who has had no happiness before, he revelled in the companionship of friendly people and the beauty of community prayers. For five years it did not occur to him that there was anything more to religious life than the gay and irresponsible way he lived. This brief paradise came to an abrupt end when he was eighteen. He sat one day in chapel, restless and worried, because suddenly it had dawned upon him that he was not really getting anywhere, and without warning he fell into an ecstasy that lasted more than an hour. Arousing from the ecstasy, he was a different person, and a whole new life began.

First of all Henry looked with wide opened eyes on the lukewarm life he had been living. Considering his age, we would be inclined to suspect that it was not so much lukewarm as adolescent, but it appeared to him that he was a great sinner and should do great penance. The penance he performed for the next sixteen years became notorious, even in that age of extremes; an iron chain, and an undershirt studded with nails, were the most mentionable of the methods he used. At night, he tied his hands so that he could not slap at the mosquitoes that infested his room. Out of determination to overcome his natural taste for cleanliness, he bent over backwards in the opposite direction to torture himself into submission and to make himself ready for the grace of God, which he felt that he so little deserved. At the end of sixteen years, he was favored with another vision, telling him that the physical phase of his suffering was over, but to be prepared for mental torments.

While all this interior purification was being accomplished in his soul, Henry was busy about the ordinary work of a priest. He preached and taught and heard confessions, never absenting himself from apostolic work under the impression that pure contemplation would be better. Some of his travels got him into weird situations, and legends began building up around the strange young priest whose penances had already earned him the name of eccentric. Things happened to him that just never happened to other people.

One time ha was on a journey with a lay brother who was not very bright. While Henry was looking for lodgings in a strange village, the lay brother went into a tavern, and, with the help of some of its customers, rapidly got out of hand. In order to direct attention away from himself, he told the men they should go after the priest who was with him; he said that the Jews had hired Henry to poison their wells, and that he was now out investigating how it could be done. It was possibly only the lay brother’s heavy humor, but the townspeople did not think it was funny, and they went in pursuit of Henry. Seeing himself chased by men with clubs, Henry did what most people do he ran. He hid all night in a hedge, and the next day he had to get the lay brother out of jail.

He fell into rivers and almost drowned. He became innocently involved in family feuds and was nearly killed for interfering. People tried to poison him. As prior, he ran the house finances into such a snarl that no one could untangle them. As if he did not have enough trouble, one of his penitents at least he thought she was penitent decided to blackmail him, and told all over town that he was the father of her child. To clean up the ensuing scandal, he stood formal trial with his superiors, and was, of course, proved innocent but no one could stop the scandal which had by this time gone to the four winds.

As a last terrible trial, his own sister, who had gone into religion against her will, fell into serious sin and ran away from the monastery. The convent from which she had escaped was a relaxed and worldly place, but she was legally a fugitive. Henry got permission to go and look for her, and, after a long search, he found her repentant, penniless, and terrified in a tavern. He brought her to another monastery, where a strict rule was observed, and he stayed until she was firmly settled and living a good religious life. How any man could write poetry while trying to keep up with such events is hard to say, but some of the finest poetry in medieval German poured from the pen of this gifted man during the years when life was most difficult for him. His prose, too, was almost poetry perhaps this is why his writings have always been so popular with women.

We are indebted to the sisters whose consciences Henry directed for all that we know of his writing. They kept careful track of all of it and made copies to circulate among a discreet circle of friends. In fact, it is from this circumstance that the unhappy charges against Suso stem. Some of the sisters, making their personal copies, took down notes indiscriminately from Suso, Tauler, and Master Eckhart and it was practically impossible to untangle them. Only the persistent scholarship of Father Denifle, in the past century, has identified the writings of each of these men, and exonerated both Tauler and Suso of the charges that caused Eckhart to be censured.

The best known work of Henry Suso is his Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, which is a classic of spiritual writing. He also composed many other short treatises on the mystical union of the soul with God, all written with the same poetic language and the same intensity of feeling. The man who had carved “the lovely name of Jesus” into the flesh over his heart was just as intense in his spiritual life. He had an outstanding devotion to the Mother of God, which he expressed very beautifully.

Henry died in 1365, in Ulm, and was buried there in the convent of St. Paul. However, in spite of the fact that his body was found intact and giving forth a sweet odor two hundred and fifty years later, the beatification was delayed until 1831. The relics, meantime, had disappeared entirely and have never been recovered.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 14 – Venerable Anne de Guigné (1911-1922) – Toddler Tyrant, Willpower & Prayer

My father had willpower and grace I will never understand, had six children, sold cars, sold real estate after interest rates during the Carter administration killed his automobile dealership,  56 yrs of marriage, put five boys through college, functional alcoholic, quit smoking and drinking by sheer will power and grace after forty years, drove himself to the hospital after the last, of many we believe, infarction strokes.  “Young man, get your ass to Mass!!!” at the beginning of the first year of college for me when such temptations due to freedom and its indiscipline cause 18-year-olds to flirt with disaster.

When St. Thomas Aquinas’s sister asked him how to become a Saint, he told her to just “will it.” Venerable Anne de Guigné was a child with an iron will and from the moment of her conversion, she willed only one thing…to be a Saint. “To become a Saint is to persist,” she said.

Anne de Guigné was born April 25, 1911 at Annecy-le-Vieux, Savoy, France, to a very happy family who named her Jeanne Marie Josephine Anne; she was Baptized the next day and came to be called Nenette. One day when there was company, Mother told Nenette to pass around a box of chocolates. After the children had all had their share, Mother placed the box high above Nenette’s reach and then went on visiting. But Nenette loved sweets and she wanted more candy. She quietly pulled her little table right below the chocolates and then just as quietly placed her little arm chair on the table. Without any noise she climbed up on the table and then on the chair. Just as she was reaching for the longed-for box, her chair scratched the table and all the grown-ups looked around. Mother made Nenette climb down quicker than she had climbed up, while she said to her, “Do you think little Jesus would have done that?”


-left front is Marie-Antoinette and next to her is Magdeleine. Back is Jacques and Anne, who is eight years old.

On Christmas the family always went to Grandfather’s house for the day. All the cousins came, too. Grandfather enjoyed giving each one of his grandchildren a beautiful gift. This year he had a pretty little arm chair for Nenette, a table for Renee, and many pretty toys for the others. When Nenette came into the room she saw the table at once. She did not care for the arm chair, but she wanted the table. Each little one was happy to receive his gift and thanked Grandfather, all except Nenette. She did not even look at the arm chair Grandfather handed her, but grabbed the table and started to pull it away from Renee. She pulled and Renee pulled. Mother had to come and tell her little Nenette how ashamed she was of her. Of course, Nenette had to give in again, but she pouted all day. When her little brother Jojo [Jacques] was born Nenette was jealous but eventually became ashamed that she was.


-Anne aged two and a half, 1913. “When very small, before the age of four, obedience was very difficult for her. She used to resist violently. From the time of her conversion, however, she started to control herself and achieved unquestioning obedience which cost her a great deal,” Madame de Guigné.

Venerable Anne de Guigné’s body remains incorrupt. She has been declared Venerable, her life recognized as exemplifying heroic virtue. In 1911, Anne de Guigné came into this world, followed within four years by a brother, JoJo, and two sisters, Lelaine and Marinette. Her army complete, Anne in charge, was indeed a demanding sergeant. A perfect example of this is seen in an incident with an older cousin when Anne was three. The two children came upon a high mound of sand, not to be climbed, which Anne took as a challenge. Her cousin, older and bigger than Anne, expressed his decision not to attempt it. Anne took charge: “I say you MUST. I’ll make you!” And with that, the tug of war commenced. The outcome remains unknown as an adult intervened and the little sergeant was vanquished.


-Anne with her father, Jacques


-Anne’s father, Jacques de Guigne’

Her parents were wealthy and prominent. Anne’s father was Count Jacques de Guigné, second lieutenant in the 13th Battalion, Chambéry of Chasseurs Alpins, a graduate of St. Cyr Military Academy and a second-lieutenant in the 13th Battalion of Alpine Chasseurs: family matters had caused him to leave the army, although he did return to his unit in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War. A devout Catholic with the zeal of an apostle, he studied Church history in view of his children’s education, and legal matters to better serve the causes he loved, managing this without depriving his family of his affection. A learned man, he was a lecturer, and a journalist as well as a husband and father; he founded and directed a Catholic youth group in his parish.

When Anne was 3 ½ the war broke out between France and Germany and her father, though retired, was sent to the front lines. A month later he returned home, severely injured. Anne, who loved her father immensely, took upon herself to look after him, fetching books and even arranging his cushions. Recovering from his wounds, Lieutenant de Guigné left again for the front lines only to return a few days later wounded worse than before. Despite not being healed sufficiently, Lieutenant de Guigné insisted upon returning to his men. In February, being seriously wounded, he was sent to a hospital in Lyons for an operation. Taking Anne with her, Madame de Guigné went to Lyons and pointed out the suffering soldiers to Anne, who was moved at the sight.

Anne’s mother was born Antoinette de Charette on September 19, 1886, the great-niece of François de Charette, the well-known general who led the soldiers of France in the Battle of Patay, beneath the banner of the Sacred Heart. Anne’s maternal grandmother Francoise Eulalie Marie Madeleine de Bourbon-Busset was a direct descendant of the sixth son of King Louis IX of France, Robert, Count of Clermont.

Born with a terrible temper and selfishness, Venerable Anne would often throw tantrums if she didn’t get her way, and would not share anything with others. But at the young age of four, she experienced a powerful grace. Her father, who was fighting in World War I, died on the front lines, and when the officer came to inform her mother of the death, Anne’s mother collapsed in tears. Anne asked how she could make it better, and the mother replied, “Your father is in heaven, but if you wish to comfort me, you must be good.”

Gazing long and thoughtfully into her Mother’s eyes, she realized that in order to please God she must be good and Anne resolved to be good and please her Mother. Her father’s death was the beginning of Anne’s conversion. All day long, Anne was thoughtful, trying to make the other children behave. “You must be good Jojo, because Mother is sad.” From this time on there was no more tempers, nor selfishness. This huge change did not come easy for Anne; though no one would have guessed the daily battle within herself she fought.


-Jacques, Magdeleine on the cushion, Anne, and Marie-Antoinette on Madame de Guigné’s lap, May 3rd, 1915. “From the age of four until her death, her striving for perfection never faltered. There was nothing spectacular, no amazing facts but everything she did was inspired by the Holy Ghost and she put all her love into it,” Madame de Guigné.

Her life was changed at that moment. As her mother later testified, “She changed through two things: willpower and prayer.” Anne’s conversion was immediate. She became the comfort of her mother, the apostle of the nursery, a model of obedience. At five, she was permitted to join the older children in the retreat to prepare for and receive First Communion, showing knowledge, understanding and great faith in the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist.

A month before her father was killed, Anne talked about preparing for her First Holy Communion, so in the autumn of 1915, Madame de Guigné enrolled Anne in the catechism class taught by Mother St. Raymond at the Auxiliatrice Convent. Mother St. Raymond perceived that Anne, though only 5 years old, was far advance than all the rest. “I soon saw that Anne was a very gifted child; but what struck me most was this: the others were never jealous of her, though she was cleverer than any of them and the youngest. Every one of them loved and admired her. I think it was because she never tried to ‘show off’ or get the better of anyone. Her manner was so sweet too. She was as nice with some rather spoiled children as with those who behaved well. Not only did I never hear her say an unkind word, but she never even teased the other children, and this must have meant considerable self-control, for she was naturally so quick and sharp. At first she had a little difficulty in learning by heart, so I told her to repeat in her own words all she had understood of the day’s lesson. It was about the Church, a difficult subject for a small child, and I did not expect much; but to my great surprise she had understood it all and repeated the whole lesson in astonishingly clear and precise words. It often seemed as if God must have taught her.”

Mother St. Raymond began to prepare Anne for her First Confession and was surprised that not only did Anne know her faults, but she had also carefully analyzed them, with gravity and precision. When asked if she was afraid of her First Confession, “Afraid of the priest! Why should I be? You said he would be acting as Our Lord!” Anne’s Confessor, Mother St. Raymond, and Madame de Guigné requested from the Bishop that Anne be allowed to make her First Holy Communion, but the Bishop, seeing that Anne was only 5, refused the request. After arguing the matter over, the Bishop finally agreed but only on the condition that she be put through a rigorous examination by the Superior of the Jesuits, who viewed the examination as a waste of his time. Everyone was apprehensive and nervous about the interview, except Anne, who want to receive Our Lord and was determined to change the Superior’s mind.

The learned Jesuit questioned Anne with a series of random questions and quickly became convinced that she was perfectly prepared. He became so interested in her that he prolonged the interview for some time, questioning her on all sorts of subjects and even probing Anne’s conscience.

“What is your chief fault?” he asked.

“Pride,” Anne promptly answered, “and disobedience too.”

Humility there, thought the priest, but he pretended to be very stern and told her that a little girl who wanted to receive Our Lord must obey at once. Then he quickly asked her: “When does Jesus obey?”

“At Mass,” Anne quickly responded.

“What words does He obey?”

“He obeys the priest when he says: ‘This is My Body, this is My Blood.’”

Finally the interview was over and both the Superior and Anne emerged, smiling, much to everyone’s great relief. “I wish you and I were as well prepared to receive Our Lord as this little girl is,” the Superior said. All obstacles being now removed, Anne joined the First Communicants’ retreat at the Convent. The theme being, “Obedience is the sanctity of children” which Anne took to heart and for her to know was to act, so it was done. From that time forth, she was practically perfect in obedience. “You must offer everything to our good Jesus. I want my heart to be as pure as a lily for Jesus,” Anne said.

When Anne made her First Holy Communion, it was March 26, 1917, a Monday in Passion Week and the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, which had been transferred to the 26th since the 25th fell on Passion Sunday. Her First Communion resolution was: “I will give my sacrifices to Mary, so that She may give them to Jesus.” She was never known to refuse a sacrifice. That day, Anne wrote: “My Jesus, I love You and to please You, I resolve to obey You always.” Anne had a great devotion to Our Lady and Our Lady of Sorrows for her was “Our Lady of Consolation,” and this was the title she gave to a little statue in the garden, near where the children played. Here she would go to beg for help when the struggle for self-control became very hard.


-the statue in the garden in Le Réray that Anne called “Our Lady of Consolation.”


-Anne, almost nine. “I asked her ‘Do you love God?’ She answered me with such intensity in her eyes and her whole body: ‘Father, I love Him with all my heart and soul!’ I have never forgotten the ardour of the love that she radiated,” -Father Jacquemont.

One time when Anne was 4 years old, she was walking with her grandfather and they passed by a store of wheat. Her grandfather asked her: “Anne, do you know what is done with wheat?” Anne answered, “Tell me, Grandpa.”

“The farmer gathers the wheat and then grinds it and then makes flour for us. We use this flour to make bread and also to make the Hosts that the priest gives us at Mass. Do you know what the Hosts become?”

Anne responded, “Little Jesus comes and hides Himself in the white Hosts, which become Jesus.”

A priest asked Anne where the Holy Ghost dwelt specially. “In the souls of the just,” came the quick response. No one remembered teaching her that. “She listened eagerly to all I said,” Mother St. Raymond continues, “but she never tried to answer out of her turn, or in fact until she was questioned; but very often all heads would turn in her direction when nobody knew the lesson ― and they were not mistaken


-Anne, aged about six, with Magdeleine, Jacques and Rajah, the family dog


-Anne & Rajah

When Madeleine Bassett (Demoise as the children called her), the governess came in January 1916, she was surprised to hear how difficult Anne had been for the past 4 ½ years. Anne fussed over Demoise, so as to make her feel at home, even pointing to the flowers in the garden, telling Demoise that she can send a bouquet to her family back home in Cannes. One thing that the governess noticed was that Anne seemed wise beyond her years. “I was really charmed by the easy grace of her manner. One could not help loving her even then that inspired respect. She was very sensible too, and she had such a kind little heart.”


-Jacques, Magdeleine, the Governess Mlle Madeleine Basset, Anne and Marinette who must have moved. “It was she [Anne] who taught me what loving God meant. The secrets of her spiritual growth were prayer and willpower.” (Mademoiselle Basset)

Shortly before Anne’s conversion, Madeleine Bassett found Anne standing on a chair surveying her reflection in the mirror with some satisfaction. “I’m rather pretty, don’t you think so,” said the four-year-old. The governess replied that it was a waste of time to admire yourself since beauty is a gift of God and we should not be vain about it. Anne jumped down from the chair and never praised herself again.


-September, 1919


-Autumn, 1921

The next years of her young life, she gave all of her energy into controlling her temper and making sacrifices, two things that did not come naturally to her! But she could only do so because she began a rich relationship with Jesus. Everything she would suffer, she offered to the Lord with joy. Every action of hers, she sought to unite it with Jesus. She eventually conquered herself; or rather, God won the victory in her. When she died of meningitis at the age of 11, her cause for canonization was opened.


-last photo of Anne, a few weeks before her death

Anne’s apostolate didn’t stop with her three siblings, though they were the primary recipients. She was continually praying for the conversion of sinners, asking the Sisters to give her the name of a sinner to pray and sacrifice for, and she took this responsibility to heart. Her sacrifices were many ranging from the sacrifice of treats, (carefully done so as to avoid attention), extra prayers, accepting whatever came her way, whether it was agreeable or not and enduring the agonizing headaches from which she suffered for some time due to spinal pain, but still did her work in school.

On December 30th, Anne received Last Rites, as her condition became steadily worse. On New Year’s Day, she seemed to be feeling much better and Madame de Guigné had a Mass of Thanksgiving said. Gathering all her energy, Anne wished everyone a happy new year, but two days later the doctor told Madame de Guigné the terrible news. Anne’s chest muscles were paralyzed and for several days Anne would have attacks of suffocation that lasted for hours. For two weeks she suffered in this manner and on the night of January 13, Anne asked her Aunt, who was a nun, “Sister, may I go with the Angels?” “Yes, my dearest little child.” “Thank you, Sister. Oh thank you.” Soon Anne slipped into a coma and at 5:25 am, Saturday, January 14, 1922, Anne died peacefully, obediently, one last time looking at her mother.

In 1932, the Bishop of Annecy, opened the canonical investigation into Anne’s life. On October 30, 1933, the family vault was opened and the examination of the remains of Anne took place at de Guigné home. Her body was found to be perfectly preserved, with no signs of decay by the two doctors present. Two nuns decorated a new casket and Anne’s body was placed back in. Meanwhile 300 people had been waiting outside in the cold rain and icy wind for over an hour. All were finally allowed to come and file past Anne’s body, giving to two priests any article that they wished to have touched to Anne. The casket was placed inside another casket and locked again in the family vault. On March 3, 1990, Anne de Guigné was declared Venerable by Pope St John Paul II.

Though Anne wanted to become a Carmelite, her death from meningitis at the age of 10, cut short her time on earth, but she continues to answer prayers for the conversion of those who had turned away from God and she has also won many souls for her dear Jesus from heaven. Venerable Anne de Guigné, pray for us!

“My Jesus, I love You, and to please You, I resolve to obey You always.” -Venerable Anne de Guigné

Love,
Matthew

Jan 8 – Bl Titus Zeman, SDB, (1915-1969), Priest, Martyr, Victim of Slovakian Communists, Martyr for Vocations, Witness for Hope


-please click on the image for greater detail

Following His Vocation

The story of Fr. Titus Zeman is an excellent example of faithfulness to Don Bosco’s cause, especially through the zeal and love that he showed to save the vocations of young Salesians under the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia.

Fr. Titus was born into a Catholic family on January 4, 1915, at Vajnory, near Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. As early as age 10 he had wanted to become a priest. After completing his secondary studies with the Salesians, in 1931 he entered the novitiate. He professed vows in 1932, and on March 7, 1938, made his perpetual profession at Sacred Heart in Rome.

He did his theology at the Gregorian University in Rome and then went to Chieri, where he spent his free time at the oratory. In Turin on June 23, 1940, he achieved the goal of priestly ordination. On August 4, 1940, he celebrated his first Mass at Vajnory, his birthplace.

After his ordination, he was assigned briefly to the Salesian youth center in Bratislava, but then the provincial sent him to university to take a degree in chemistry and natural sciences, which he did. He was then sent to teach in the diocesan high school at Trnava in 1943. There he was loved and respected by the students because of his cheerful, calm, but no-nonsense yet fatherly disposition. Always ready to assist people, he made many friends. On at least one occasion he gave hiding to a Jewish youth.

After the war, the high school was nationalized and the government ordered that crucifixes be removed from the classrooms. Fr. Titus and two other teachers procured and put up new ones, to the displeasure of the principal, who fired him.

Fr. Titus moved to the Salesian school in Trnava and was prefect of studies in 1946-1947, then catechist in 1947-1949 while also helping in several parishes.

A Salesian student of theology remarked on how he helped clean up their school after the Russians left it full of excrement and stinking like a sewer.


-young Fr. Zeman greeted by girls in traditional dress, please click on the image for greater detail

Saving Vocations with Clandestine Escapes

In mid-April 1950, when the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia banned religious orders and congregations and suddenly arrested and began to intern religious in concentration camps on the night of April 13-14—“the night of the barbarians”—the Slovak provincial believed it was necessary to organize clandestine trips to Turin so that young religious (both clerics and coadjutors) could complete their studies, and he asked Fr. Titus to undertake the risky activity of smuggling them across the border to Austria. He carried out two such expeditions for more than 60 young Salesians, giving the credit for their success to Mary Help of Christians and winning the admiration of Fr. Peter Ricaldone and the other superiors in Turin.

During a third expedition in April 1951, he and the other fugitives were caught and arrested. He then underwent a difficult trial, during which he was accused of being a traitor to his country and a Vatican spy, and he risked the death penalty. On February 22, 1952, in consideration of attenuating circumstances, he was instead condemned to 25 years in prison.

Slow Martyrdom

Fr. Titus was released from prison after 12 years on March 10, 1964. He was suffering obviously from the long ordeal in prison, Titus died of heart failure due to torture and radiation poisoning after forced labor in Czechoslovakia’s uranium mines, and survived only five years, dying on January 8, 1969 (dry martyr).

Titus, in his imprisonment, was forced to work in the notorious Jachymov mine as a prisoner destined for “physical liquidation, like an insect” while also enduring the cold and exhaustion.  Upon his release from prison, Titus was barred from ministering and kept under tight police surveillance, dying during the short-lived Prague Spring reform movement.


-procession of clergy entering the cemetery for Fr. Zeman’s burial

He was very much known for his holiness and, indeed, his martyrdom. He lived his life of suffering with a great spirit of sacrifice and as an offering: “Even if I lose my life, I do not consider it a waste, knowing that at least one of those whom I have saved has become a priest to take my place.” He thus encouraged many others to “not let their hope be robbed”.

In the years immediately following Titus’ death, more than 100 vocations flourished in secret prayer groups near Bratislava. Even the communist regime’s spies present at Titus’ funeral attested to his martyrdom and suffering “for the faith and the Slovak people”. The very conversion of Judge Pavol Korbuly, responsible for the condemnation of Zeman but who later became a Christian, and ready to ask forgiveness together with his family for having condemned “about twenty innocent Salesians”, is a fruit of the martyrial life of Blessed Zeman. The Communist director who had fired him in 1946 also converted, like others he met during Titus’ years in prison. On the day of his funeral, there was also the testimony of a Lutheran pastor, a sign that the very blood of the martyrs “creates” an ecumenism that breaks down barriers and generates brotherhood.

As Pope Francis said: “This fidelity to the style of Jesus — which is style of hope — even to death, would be called by a most beautiful name by the early Christians: “martyrdom,” which means “witness” … a name fragrant with discipleship. Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to affirm their own ideas, and they accept having to die only out of fidelity to the Gospel.” (Audience of 28 June 2017).

His cause for beatification and, hopefully, canonization was taken up with ascertaining whether Zeman had died “in odium fidei” (in hatred of the faith).  Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes, himself a Salesian, said Titus’ Mass of Beatification.


-Bl Titus Zeman’s remains are presented in a specially designed casket at the beatification Mass.

Cardinal Amato added that the priest had “ignored the evil suffering,” refusing later to divulge the names of “informants and spies” who, by their own admission, had harmed him.

The beatification Bl Titus Zeman, SBD, brings to more than 80 the number of communist-era Catholic martyrs honored in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.


-please click on the image for greater detail


-please click on the image for greater detail

Prayer for the canonization of Fr Titus Zeman

Almighty God,
you called Fr Titus Zeman to follow St John Bosco’s charism.
Under the protection of Mary Help of Christians
he became a priest and an educator of the young.
He lived in accordance with your commandments,
and was known and respected among the people
for his friendly character and availability to everyone.
When the Church’s enemies suppressed human rights and freedom for the Faith,
Fr Titus did not lose courage and persevered in the way of truth.
Because of his fidelity to his Salesian vocation
and because of his generous service to the Church, he was incarcerated and tortured.
He bravely resisted his torturers and was mocked and humiliated because of this.
He suffered it all out of love and with love.
We ask you, almighty Father, to grant that Blessed Titus
be enrolled among your saints
and through his intercession grant us the grace that we now ask you.
Through Christ Our Lord,

Amen! Christus vincit, Christus regnat, christus imperat!!!

Love & endurance unto the end, pray for me for the grace final perseverance,
Matthew

Jan 7 – law is the condition of love

“Love is the fulfillment of the law.” – Rm 13:10


-by Br Hyacinth Grubb, OP

“You should also learn to understand and—dare I say it—to love canon law, appreciating how necessary it is and valuing its practical applications: a society without law would be a society without rights. Law is the condition of love.”
-Benedict XVI, Letter to Seminarians on October 18, 2010

You don’t often hear an exhortation to “love canon law.” Like civil law, it can seem to matter only when something has gone wrong, or when it’s preventing us from doing what we want when we want. But today is the feast of St. Raymond of Peñafort, patron saint of canon lawyers, and a good day to ask: “Why canon law?”

Law is necessary to govern societies, and the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is truly a society. She is not merely a community organization, nor is she merely a collection of individuals who share the same personal commitments, nor is she an invisible and purely spiritual reality. The Church is the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, the ecclesial presence of that Kingdom. It’s an imperfect presence, insofar as it’s composed of imperfect members and awaiting fulfillment in the Second Coming, but it is truly a kingdom, a society. Thus, the Church needs law, she needs legislation and judges and lawyers—and their presence reminds us of the concrete social and governmental character of Christ’s Church.

We could also recall that those in communion with the Church are unified in faith, sacraments, and governance (see Lumen Gentium 14). Moreover, “communion … is not understood as some kind of vague disposition, but as an organic reality which requires a juridical form and is animated by charity” (Nota Praevia to LG). Communion in the Church is found under the headship of the Holy Father and is given structure and order by the Church’s law. The Church has, in a real sense, a government.

Of course, the governance of the Church is unlike any other. Her essential structures, like the role of the Pope and bishops, were created not by man but by God. The ends of the Church’s governance are supernatural, and thus the concrete effects of Christian faith are often beautifully expressed in Canon Law. Take a look at a few random examples:

Can. 208: From their rebirth in Christ, there exists among all the Christian faithful a true equality regarding dignity and action by which they all cooperate in the building up of the Body of Christ according to each one’s own condition and function.
Can. 663: The first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer.
Can. 1752: The salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes. [This is the last sentence of the Code of Canon Law.]

We might not often think about canon law, or about the means of governing the concrete reality of the Church’s life here on earth. But today, say a prayer for canon lawyers, and give thanks to God that He has deigned to welcome us into a society as true as the Catholic Church. Saint Raymond of Peñafort, pray for us.”

Love, the condition of which is the law,
Matthew

Epiphany of the Lord

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – I recognize in You, O little Jesus, the King of heaven and earth; grant that I may adore You with the faith and love of the Magi.

MEDITATION

“He whom the Virgin bore is acknowledged today by the whole world…. Today is the glorious Feast of His Manifestation” (Roman Breviary). Today Jesus shows Himself to the world as God.

The Introit of the Mass brings us at once into this spirit, presenting Jesus to us in the full majesty of His divinity. “Behold the sovereign Lord is come; in His hands He holds the kingdom, the power, and the empire.” The Epistle (Isaiah 60:1-6) breaks forth in a hymn of joy, announcing the vocation of the Gentiles to the faith; they too will acknowledge and adore Jesus as their God: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem: for thy light is come…. And the Gentiles shall walk in thy light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising…. All they from [Sheba] shall come, bringing gold and frankincense, and showing forth praise to the Lord.” We no longer gaze upon the lowly picture of the shepherds at the manger; passing before us now is the resplendent procession of the Wise Men from the East, representing the pagan nations and all the kings of the earth, who come to pay homage to the Child-God.

Epiphany, or Theophany, means the Manifestation of God; today it is realized in Jesus who manifests Himself as God and Lord of the world. Already a prodigy has revealed His divinity—the extraordinary star which appeared in the East. To the commemoration of this miracle, which holds the primary place in the day’s liturgy, the Church [formerly added] two others [which She now celebrates separately]: the changing of water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana, and the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, when a voice from heaven announced, “This is My beloved Son.” The Magnificat Antiphon [still] says, “Three miracles adorn this holy day”—three miracles which should lead us to recognize the Child Jesus as our God and King, and to adore Him with lively faith.”

COLLOQUY

“O Jesus, I adore You, for You are the Lord my God. “For You, my Lord, are a great God, and a great King above all kings. For in Your hand are all the ends of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are Yours. For the sea is Yours, and You made it; and, Your hands formed the dry land…. We are the people of Your pasture and the sheep of Your hand” [cf Psalm 95]. Yes, O Jesus, I am one of Your lambs, one of Your creatures; and I am happy to acknowledge my nothingness in Your presence, and still happier to adore You, O lovely Infant, as my God and my Redeemer. O that all nations would acknowledge You for what You are, that all might prostrate before You, adoring You as their Lord and God!

O Lord, You can do this. Reveal Your divinity to all mankind, and just as once You drew the Magi from the East to You, now in like manner unite all peoples and all nations around Your manger.

You have shown me that You want my poor cooperation in order to bring about the coming of Your Kingdom. You wish me to pray, suffer, and work for the conversion of those who are near and of those who are far away. You wish that I, too, place before the manger the gifts of the Wise Men: the incense of prayer, the myrrh of mortification and of suffering borne with generosity out of love for You, and finally, the gold of charity, charity which will make my heart wholly and exclusively Yours, charity which will spur me on to work, to spend myself for the conversion of sinners and infidels, and for the greater sanctification of Your elect.

O my loving King, create in me the heart of an apostle. If only I could lay at Your feet today the praise and adoration of everyone on earth!

O my Jesus, while I beg You to reveal Yourself to the world, I also beseech You to reveal Yourself more and more to my poor soul. Let Your star shine for me today, and point out to me the road which leads directly to You! May this day be a real Epiphany for me, a new manifestation to my mind and heart of Your great Majesty. He who knows You more, loves You more, O Lord; and I want to know You solely in order to love You, to give myself to You with ever greater generosity.”

Love & epiphany of Him,
Matthew

Jan 4(7 US) – St Angela of Foligno, TOSF, (1248-1309), Mystic, Mistress/Teacher of Theologians, Patroness of Good Confession & Against Sexual Temptation


-by Br. Maximilian Maria Jaskowak, OP

“The boys in the nave raised their short, scrawny necks above the congregation, gazing ruefully in the direction of the sanctuary. Before the altar, the priest joined his hands and bowed his head, saying: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth. Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua: Hosanna in excelsis. Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini: Hosanna in excelsis. The boys’ attention, however, did not follow the sacred action of the aged Friar of Foligno, no matter how pious he seemed.

The others—both Italian villagers and pilgrims—observed the liturgical proceedings of the Friar with due attentiveness, but their concerns, too, were elsewhere. The coarse whisper of the Friar was just loud enough for the people to discern occasional phrases or syllables of the ancient prayers, and those pious few who knelt near the sanctuary strained to hear the hallowed words of the Canon, though they knew little Latin. Their devotion, perhaps true, gave way to their curious anticipation of the miraculous. For one among them was a mystic, who had received divine favors such as visions, locutions, and the stigmata. The Holy Mass had thus become an ongoing manifestation of grace in the person of their celebrated saint.

The priest approached the words of consecration: …benedixit, fregit, deditque discipulis suis, dicens: Accipite, et manducate ex hoc omnes. At this moment, the boys’ parents—and many others—peered through the candlelit cathedral toward the left of the nave with mounting anticipation. Huddled there, cloaked in worn, earthen-colored mantles, were the “tertiaries” of the village, who devoted themselves to works of charity throughout the communities of Foligno and Assisi. Soon enough, their foundress (the mystic) would fall into ecstasy; a most grandiose sight, indeed.

HOC EST ENIM CORPUS MEUM.

The people, surely aware of the miraculous, supersubstantial bread raised high for veneration, nonetheless looked to another place. In the left of the nave, they witnessed another miracle, far less magnificent than what had occurred upon the altar, but no less astonishing and exceptional, especially to the medieval imagination. For God had chosen the Italian Beata, Angela of Foligno, a most unconventional woman, to manifest His glory as a penitent woman and mystic of the late thirteenth century. The people gawked at the extraordinary display of divine intimacy, the Beata, rapt in ecstasy before the Blessed Sacrament. Like the consecrated host, Angela rose in the air—by power unseen, lost in adoration of the Ineffable before them.

It was the feast of St. Felician of Foligno, the patron of the city, but it could have been any other day, after the Beata had embarked on a life of prayer and penance.

Only declared a saint in 2013 by Pope Francis, she has, all the same, received notable attention by historians and theologians alike since her death on January 4, 1309. Called by St. John Paul II the “Teacher of Theologians,” interest in St. Angela of Foligno often focuses on her profound experience of union with God and her equally impressive writings on the divine illuminations she received during prayer. Pope Benedict XVI, in a 2010 general audience concerning her life and writings, said as much:

People are usually fascinated by the consummate experience of union with God that she reached, but perhaps they give too little consideration to her first steps, her conversion and the long journey that led from her starting point, the “great fear of hell,” to her goal, total union with the Trinity. The first part of Angela’s life was certainly not that of a fervent disciple of the Lord.

Certain events, such as the violent earthquake in 1279, a hurricane, the endless war against Perugia and its harsh consequences, affected the life of Angela who little by little became aware of her sins, until she took a decisive step. In 1285, she called upon St. Francis, who appeared to her in a vision, and asked his advice on making a good general Confession. She then went to Confession with a Friar in San Feliciano.

As we begin this new year of 2018, let us call upon our patron saints with confidence, asking help—as did St. Angela—in living the life of grace. Let us also pray, especially this day, to St. Angela of Foligno, that we, too, may take that decisive step toward our final end: eternal life with God.

St. Angela of Foligno, pray for us.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 3 – Most Holy Name of Jesus, “Every knee shall bend!” -Phil 2:10

The Irish are particular with the name of Mary, too. Traditionally, no Irish girl-child would be named Mary. However, this custom loosened and variations, in Gaelic, such as Moire’, which means “star of the sea”, meaning, similar to the North Star, by which sailors are ever guided at night, Mary guides to Jesus. Or, Maire’, yet still, Muire’, even today, traditionally reserved ONLY for the Blessed Mother, in Gaelic.

Ave Maris Stella
Dei Mater alma
Atque semper Virgo
Felix coeli porta.

Sumens illud Ave
Gabrielis ore,
Funda nos in pacem,
Mutans Hevae nomen.

Solve vincla reis,
Profer lumen coecis,
Mala nostra pelle,
Bona cuncta posce.

Monstra te esse matrem
Sumat per te presces
Qui pro nobis natus
Tulit esse tuus.

Virgo singularis,
Inter omnes mitis,
Nos culpis solutos,
Mites fac et castos.

Vitam praesta puram
Iter para tutum,
Ut videntes Iesum
Semper collaetemur.

Sit laus Deo Patri,
Summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto,
Tribus honor unus.

Amen.

Hail, o star of the ocean,
God’s own Mother blest,
ever sinless Virgin,
gate of heav’nly rest.

Taking that sweet Ave,
which from Gabriel came,
peace confirm within us,
changing Eve’s name.

Break the sinners’ fetters,
make our blindness day,
Chase all evils from us,
for all blessings pray.

Show thyself a Mother,
may the Word divine
born for us thine Infant
hear our prayers through thine.

Virgin all excelling,
mildest of the mild,
free from guilt preserve us
meek and undefiled.

Keep our life all spotless,
make our way secure
till we find in Jesus,
joy for evermore.

Praise to God the Father,
honor to the Son,
in the Holy Spirit,
be the glory one. Amen.


-by Br Josemaria Guzman-Dominguez, OP

“…Many Anglophone Christians find (the) Latino custom (of naming boy infants Jesus) peculiar and are even discomfited by it. They might ask, “How is it that faithful Christians would name their son with the Name above every other name? Wouldn’t this open the floodgates to pronouncing the Holy Name in vain? And isn’t it too great a burden, too high an expectation, for a small boy to bear the name by which we are to be saved?” These are fair questions. Indeed, we should revere the Lord’s Name, and we should be careful not to misuse it. And certainly, we would not want any ordinary person to be led to think that he needs to save the world, or that all our sins rest on him, or much less that he is the Only-Begotten Son of God!

Does that mean some Latino parents are mistaken in naming their son Jesús? I don’t think so. Look at this sentence again and reflect on it: “When he was baptized, he was named Jesús.”

When we ponder these words, we can see that, in a way, they apply to any Christian. As St. Paul puts it, “through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Through the grace given in baptism, each Christian is brought into Christ; each receives the Spirit of adoption, becoming a son or daughter of God; each is named Jesús.

In baptism, a soul is transformed into the image of Jesus. Beyond the day of baptism, God calls every Christian to become ever more intensely an image of Jesus, the perfect Image of the Father. But this imitation of Christ is not one that keeps Jesus as a model in the distance. No, it is a most intimate movement of conversion, which if left unimpeded by sin, changes every aspect of one’s being. By grace, a Christian can reach union with Jesus and say with St. Paul, “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ lives in me.”

Why do we desire to be called by the Lord’s name, to be baptized into his mystery? The words of Richard Rolle give some incentives. “The name of Jesus,” he says, “purges your sin and kindles your heart; it clarifies your soul, it removes anger and does away with slowness. It wounds in love and fulfills charity. It chases the devil and puts out dread. It opens heaven, and makes you a contemplative.”

In this life, only some of us, perhaps oddly, will actually be called Jesús. However, the fact that there are such men can remind us of our common Christian vocation. If by grace we live the life of Jesus, in the end our true name will be known. We will all be named Jesús because we will be perfectly one with him. For “we shall see his face, and his name shall be on our foreheads. And night shall be no more; we will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be our light, and we shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 22:4-5).”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 22 – Bl William Joseph Chaminade, SM, (1761-1850) – Founder of the Marianists, A Man of Faith

chaminade-conti

To the south of Bordeaux a road leads down across the Pyrenees into Spain. This was the road Father William Joseph Chaminade followed into exile in September of 1797. He was a French priest in disguise, escaping the enemies of the Church in his native land. Close by lay the danger of arrest. Other priests had already died as martyrs. But Father Chaminade was at peace. He was a man of faith.

The night before his journey into exile Father Chaminade wrote: “What is a faithful man to do in the chaos of events which seem to swallow him up? He must sustain himself calmly by Faith. Faith will make him adore the eternal plan of God. Faith will assure him that to those who love God all things work together for good.”

The Vision
In Saragossa, Spain, near the Shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar, Father Chaminade settled down to wait out his exile. Here he prayed and planned for his future work. And here he received from Our Lady a special message. He was to be Mary’s missionary. He was to found a society of religious who would work with her to restore the Faith in France.

So vivid and detailed was the inspiration given to Father Chaminade, that years later he could say to his first religious, “As I see you now before me, I saw you in spirit at Saragossa, long before the foundation of the Society. It was Mary who conceived the plan of the Society. It was she who laid its foundations, and she will continue to preserve it.”

Two of Father Chaminade’s favorite prayers reveal the intensity of his love of God and of Mary:
“The most just, most high, and most amiable will of God be done, praised, and eternally exalted in all things!”
“May the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit be glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary.”

The beginning work . . .
Father Chaminade returned to Bordeaux in 1800. There he established Sodalities of OurLady which spread their influence throughout France. He considered himself a missionary of Mary. Strong in his love for Our Blessed Mother, he gathered men and women around him who dedicated their lives to her service.

Working together, these men and women of Faith began to rebuild the Church which had been destroyed. The Society of Mary and the Daughters of Mary sprang from the sodalities of Father Chaminade. These groups continue to do Mary’s work in countries all over the world. Because Chaminade’s work was the work of Mary, it remains. And the words of this man of Faith still speak to us today.

From the Chapel of the Madeleine as from a fountain, grace poured throughout the entire city of Bordeaux and southern France. To this day the Madeleine, in the old down-town section of Bordeaux, is a center of Christian life. There Marianist priests and brothers, members of the religious congregation Father Chaminade founded, minister to the people. Many come to pray, to receive the Sacraments, or to seek spiritual refreshment.

All kinds of people involved . . .
From the beginning Father Chaminade invited people from varied backgrounds to work with him. There were husbands and wives, teachers, business men, young men and women, seminarians, priests, and representatives of every class.

-Together they worked to rebuild the shattered Faith in France.
-Together they found a deepening of their own Faith in the imitation of Jesus.
-Together they responded to the words of Mary at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Father Chaminade called this group the Family of Mary. Their outstanding characteristic was a deep spirit of Faith. For Chaminade, Faith expresses itself most perfectly in the imitation of Christ:

“A true Christian cannot live any life but the life of Our Savior Jesus. When we try to imitate Him the divine plan is carried out in our lives. The Blessed Virgin is our Model. She is a very exact copy of her Son Jesus. When we are devoted to Mary we will imitate Jesus.” “YOU MUST TASTE WHAT YOU BELIEVE.”- Father Chaminade

The importance of Mary
Father Chaminade never tired of speaking about the strong, victorious Virgin Mother of Christ:
“Jesus made Mary the companion of His labors, of His joy, of His preaching, of His death. Mary had a part in all the glorious, joyous, and sorrowful mysteries of Jesus. The deposit of the Faith is entirely in Mary. At the foot of the Cross she held the place of the Church. The mysteries which were announced to Mary were accomplished because she believed.”

History of the beatification cause
Chaminade died January 22, 1850. He was buried in the Carthusian cemetery in Bordeaux. In 1871 his remains were removed from the priest’s vault to a large square plot where a monument was erected to his memory. Father John Lalanne, the first Marianist, spoke on the occasion. He said, “We were witnesses during our younger days of his life and words. We affirm that we never saw him spend a day, not even a single hour at anything which did not relate directly to God and to the welfare of souls.”

Before long people began to come to his tomb. Some of them remembered him as a saintly old priest. Others knew only that a holy man was buried there.

In 1973 Pope Paul VI proclaimed that Father Chaminade had practiced virtue in a heroic degree. This proclamation of the Church is an official step toward the beatification and canonization of Father Chaminade.

Prayer +
O God, light of the faithful and shepherd of souls,
who set blessed William Joseph Chaminade in the Church
to feed your sheep by his words and form them by his example,
grant that through his intercession
we may keep the faith he taught by his words
and follow the way he showed by his example.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Pastors—For One Pastor)

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Epiphany – wise people still seek Him…

Adoration_of_the_Magi_Tapestry
The Adoration of the Magi, tapestry, wool and silk on cotton warp, 101 1/8 x 151 1/4 inches (258 x 384 cm.), Manchester Metropolitan University, designed 1888, woven 1894, designed by Edward Burne Jones with details by William Morris and John Henry Dearle, please click on the image for greater detail.

While we may not all possess gold, frankincense and myrrh to give the newborn King this Epiphanytide, Pope Francis says we can all nevertheless offer him three precious gifts.

In his homily on the Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord, which the Vatican celebrates on January 6, Pope Francis said that the Magi represent “the men and women throughout the world who are welcomed into the house of God.”

“Countless people in our own day have a ‘restless heart,’ (St Augustine, Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee!”) which continues to seek without finding sure answers,” he said. “They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.”

He noted that the Magi saw many stars in the sky, but one shone more brightly than the others, and forever changed their lives.

In a similar way, it is up to the Church, whose nature it is to receive God’s light and reflect it in the lives of individuals and peoples, “to draw out the desire for God present in every heart.”

“How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they need Christ,” he said. “They need to know the face of the Father.”

The Pope continued: “Let us follow the light which God offers us, the light which streams from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity. And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our understanding and our love.”

For when we open these most precious gifts to the newborn King, Pope Francis said, he fills them with grace, enabling us “to rise and go forth, to leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, to go out from ourselves and to recognize the splendor of the light which illumines our lives: ‘Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you’” (Isaiah 60:1).

Here below we publish the official English translation of the pope’s homily:

“The words of the Prophet Isaiah — addressed to the Holy City of Jerusalem — are also meant for us. They call us to rise and go forth, to leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, to go out from ourselves and to recognize the splendor of the light that illumines our lives: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1). That “light” is the glory of the Lord. The Church cannot illude herself into thinking that she shines with her own light. St. Ambrose expresses this nicely by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the Church: “The moon is in fact the Church … [she] shines not with her own light but with the light of Christ. She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32). Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the Church remains anchored in him, to the extent that she lets herself be illumined by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples. For this reason the Fathers of the Church saw in her the mysterium lunae.

We need this light from on high if we are to respond in a way worthy of the vocation we have received. To proclaim the Gospel of Christ is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession. For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytize: for the Church to be missionary means to give expression to her very nature, which is to receive God’s light and then to reflect it. This is her service. There is no other way. Mission is her vocation; to shine Christ’s light is her service. How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they need Christ. They need to know the face of the Father.

The Magi mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew are a living witness to the fact that the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the Creator, who calls all people to acknowledge him as good and faithful Father. The Magi represent the men and woman throughout the world who are welcomed into the house of God. Before Jesus, all divisions of race, language and culture disappear: in that Child, all humanity discovers its unity. The Church has the task of seeing and showing ever more clearly the desire for God which is present in the heart of every man and woman. This is the service of the Church, with the light that she reflects: to draw out the desire for God present in every heart.

Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a “restless heart,” which continues to seek without finding sure answers — it is the restlessness of the Holy Spirit that stirs in hearts. They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.

How many stars there are in the sky! And yet the Magi followed a new and different star, which for them shone all the more brightly. They had long peered into the great book of the heavens, seeking an answer to their questions — they had restless hearts — and at long last the light appeared. That star changed them. It made them leave their daily concerns behind and set out immediately on a journey. They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light. It was the voice of the Holy Spirit, who works in all people. The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.

All this has something to say to us today. We do well to repeat the question asked by the Magi: “Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Matt. 2:2). We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will. We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother. Let us follow the light which God offers us — that tiny light. The hymn in the breviary poetically tells us that the Magi lumen requirunt lumine [following a light, they were searching for the Light] — that tiny light. The light which streams from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity. And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our understanding and our love. True wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up. For here is the wellspring of that light that draws to itself every individual in the world and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.”

Love, and praying for Epiphany, constantly, in my life,
Matthew

Jan 23 – Bl Henry Suso, OP, (1295-1366), Priest, Mystic, Poet, “Servant of the Eternal Wisdom”

TRIVIA CHALLENGE!!!! QUICK!!!! Who wrote the lyrics to “Good Christian Men, Rejoice!/In dulci jubilo“?  ….Answer = Bl Henry Suso, OP!!!  Now you know.

One night in 1328, the German mystic and Dominican monk Henrich Suso (or Seuse or Suson) had a vision in which he joined angels dancing as the angels sang to him Nun singet und seid froh or In Dulci Jubilo.

“Now this same angel came up to the Servant [Suso] brightly, and said that God had sent him down to him, to bring him heavenly joys amid his sufferings; adding that he must cast off all his sorrows from his mind and bear them company, and that he must also dance with them in heavenly fashion. Then they drew the Servant by the hand into the dance, and the youth began a joyous song about the infant Jesus, which runs thus: ‘In dulci jubilo…'(-from Bl Suso’s auto/biography)

Famed German Dominican mystic whose work, The Book of Eternal Wisdom, is considered a classic. Born Heinrich von Berg in Constance, Swabia, he entered the Order of Preachers, the Dominicans, at an early age.

Undergoing a conversion, he developed an abiding spiritual life and studied under Meister Eckhart in Cologne from 1322-1325. He then returned to Constance to teach, subsequently authoring numerous books on spirituality: Das Buchlein der Wahrheit (The Little Book of Truth, 1327) and Das Buchlein der Ewigen Weisheit (The Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, 1328), a book of practical meditations that became the most popular work on mysticism until the Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis; Horologium Sapientiae (Clock of Wisdom); sermons; and a life of the Dominican nun Elsbeth Stägel (d. 1360).

As he supported Meister Eckhart — who was then the source of some controversy and had been condemned by Pope John XXII (r. 1316-1334) in 1329 — Henry was censured by his superiors and stripped of his teaching position. He subsequently became a preacher in Switzerland and the Upper Rhine and was a brilliant spiritual adviser among the Dominicans and the spiritual community of the Gottesfreunde. He endured persecution right up until his death at Ulm. Pope Gregory XVI (r. 1831-1846) beatified him in 1831.

Konstanz_Bodensee_Inselhotel
-Konstanz Bodensee Inselhotel, click image for larger image, Dominican Island on the left, with Steigenberger island hotel; the Old Rhine Bridge is visible in the centre of the image


-by Francisco de Zurbarán 1638/1640, Museum of Fine Art, Seville, Spain
aka Henry Suso, Heinrich Seuse, Enrique Suson


— by Fr. Ezra Sullivan, OP

“Once a Dominican friar in Konstanz, Germany would have been a familiar sight. Now, however, the habit garners side-long glances and blatant stares as visitors and residents try to grasp the meaning of the uncommon clothing. In this way, the habit is somewhat like an island.

An island is a land of adventure, a little world of its own surrounded by watery boundary that separates it from the mainland. To cross that boundary, whether by boat or by bridge, and to fathom its significance is to enter a frontier of exploration. It can even be a portal to the past.

Archeological evidence shows that since the Stone Age humans have inhabited what is now called “Dominican Island” in Lake Bodensee, just off the shore from Constance (Konstanz), Germany. The left bank of the Rhine river and the lake make it a beautiful location. It was occupied by the Romans and enjoyed by Charlemagne. It became sacred ground soon after the Dominicans were given the land in 1220. Within fourteen years, the Friars Preachers had erected a sizeable convent there with the aid of the local prince bishop. Additionally, in 1257 the friars helped Dominican contemplative nuns establish a convent in Konstanz known as Kloster Zoffingen.

Bl. Henry Suso is likely the most celebrated Dominican to have lived in the island-convent. There, around the year 1324, he was clothed with the habit. For some time, his literal separation from the mainland made little difference to his spiritual life, for he was still chained to the world in his heart. Through grace, however, he underwent a conversion and afterwards devoted himself entirely to the Eternal Wisdom of God. Along with the Dominicans Meister Eckhart and John Tauler, Suso became known as a “Rhineland Mystic” whose spiritual writings bore enormous fruit in the late medieval Church.

Dominican Island was also the sometime residence of more controversial characters. Jan Hus, for example, was imprisoned there during the Council of Constance in 1414. Condemned by political enemies during the Council, Hus was burnt at the stake in the city. Protestants claim Hus as their own, a John the Baptist who prefigured the coming of Martin Luther. However, not all Catholics burnt at the stake were heretics, as St. Joan of Arc well knows. A more careful analysis suggests that Jan Hus was “a Catholic by his personal profession of faith, but he was of Protestant significance in the fabric of history.”

Life was generally more tranquil on Dominican Island for the next hundred years or so, until 1528. At that time, Protestant governmental forces expelled the friars and converted the convent into a “temporary” hospital. It lasted for twenty one years. When the Catholic Hapsburgs regained control of the town 1549, the Dominicans were finally able to return to their home.

Over two hundred years later, just as a new union of States was being formed across the Atlantic, the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II, made his mark on the island. Though baptized a Catholic and trained in part by a Jesuit, the Hapsburg Emperor embraced what came to be called “Josephinism.” His was a practical doctrine that subordinated the Church to the State and aimed at eliminating contemplative life, musical litanies, novenas, processions, vespers, and other devotions. The Catholic ruler achieved what Protestants could not: about five hundred monasteries were closed, their property was stolen, and an ecclesiastical order of services was mandated. Under this regime, too, the Dominicans were once again driven from the island that had been their home for five hundred years. This time their departure was permanent. On July 26, 1785, the last mass was celebrated in the Dominican chapel. The convent closed the following day.

With the definitive departure of the friars from the island, the property entered the hands of various businessmen. For over a century it housed a dye manufacturing plant. When political turmoil disturbed Switzerland, some bankers fled to the former Dominican grounds. They changed the name of their new home to “Geneva Island.” A census in 1868 counted Geneva Island as an autonomous district with a population of eighteen.

After a railway was built in Konstanz, a hotel entrepreneur gained control of the island. His name was Eberhard von Zeppelin, the brother of the better-known Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin, inventor of the infamously flammable air vehicle. Soon the former Dominican chapel was adapted into a ballroom and concert hall, the cells of the friars expanded into guest rooms, and the entire building was renovated.

Biblical frescoes once illuminated the cloister walls of the original Dominican convent, but centuries of change had gradually damaged them. Therefore, to commemorate the wonderful history of that little world, the artist Carl von Häberlin was commissioned to create a series of murals. He worked from 1878 to 1894, producing a series of twenty six extraordinary images that display in chronological order the island’s entire known history. It is considered to be an artistic masterpiece.

Many visitors to the island now hurry past the murals, on their way to comfy rooms with mini-bars, but Häberlin’s murals elegantly testify that the Dominican influence there may still be felt. The friars preachers lived, prayed, studied, and preached on that small piece of land surrounded by water for half of a millennium, making it their own for longer than any other individual or institution in known history. Although it requires effort to grasp the significance of a man in a white habit, much may still be learned in that place that is once again called “Dominican Island.”

Bl Henry Suso, OP
-Bibliothèque Nationale et Universitaire de Strasbourg, Inkunabel K. 7


-by Br Henry Stephan, OP, a graduate of Princeton, where he studied Politics.

“If I were on the sun-kissed beaches of Italy today rather than in the frigid swamps of Washington, then I would be enjoying the Italian celebration of my onomastico, or name-day in honor of one’s patron saint. Today the Dominican Order celebrates Blessed Henry Suso, O.P., the great Rhineland mystic and poet, who also does duty as my heavenly patron. Truth be told, if I weren’t confident that Henry presently enjoys the fullness of the beatific vision and communion with the Trinity, then I would wonder if he might not be entirely pleased to have me as a namesake.

After all, we don’t have very much in common aside from our common profession as Dominicans. He was a sensitive man of great interiority who endured the most fearsome of medieval penances for the sake of his love for God, which poured out in lyrical verses and mystical spiritual writings. I am a garrulous spiritual dilettante who finds the ‘fresh catch of the day’ on Fridays about as much penance as I can bear. If Bl. Henry and I had somehow met on this side of paradise, then I likely would have exhorted him to shower more frequently and keep away from sharp objects. (Editor’s note: A mystic that practiced extreme asceticism, Henry wore a tight-fitting undergarment as a nightshirt. This shirt was outfitted with 150 brass nails fitted facing into his skin. He was also inspired to carve Christ’s name into his chest. After 16 years, an angel appeared to him, asking that he end these severe practices. He listened.) I rather shudder to think what he might have told me.

I didn’t know much about Bl. Henry when he became my patron. When I was in the process of applying to the Province, an older friar mentioned that he received his middle name as a religious name, as it coincided with the name of an under-appreciated Dominican blessed. The idea stuck with me, and when the time came to discuss potential religious names with the novice master (in the process outlined by Br. Innocent in his post last month), we settled on Henry without much debate. The novice master maintains to this day that I asked for the name in order to keep my monogrammed bath towels (which don’t exist except in his literary imagination).

In some respects, Henry Suso remains enigmatic to us moderns—his incredible penances and mortifications seem so distantly medieval that we lose sight of the man. He is, in the words of another great Dominican Henry—Henri-Dominique Lacordaire—“that lovable man from Swabia.” Even in its more bizarre episodes, his biography depicts an eminently human fellow, prone to misunderstandings with unintentionally tragic-comic results—whether in the form of a confused mob of pitchforked peasants, a murderous stalker, or his runaway sister. Still, Henry kept on praying and preaching, even when angry townspeople put a price on his head. Many of the particulars might belong to another age, but the love that drove Henry transcends time and place, and draws us to him even today. Henry Suso was a man entirely swept up by the ineffable mystery of God’s mercy, and he put his whole life at the service of that Eternal Wisdom.

Having Bl. Henry as a patron has forced me to expand my horizons of what it means to be a Dominican. All the great Dominican saints and blesseds are, in one way or another, in the image of St. Dominic himself. They reflect some particular extension of his charism. Having a mystical eccentric like Bl. Henry for a namesake works against the tendency to redefine the Order in one’s own image at the expense of the expansive vision of our holy founder. It is sometimes heard in the Order that, when you meet a Dominican, you’ve met exactly one Dominican, rather than them all. Considering what a varied lot must be huddled together under Mary’s mantle in heaven, this seems about right.

So on this feast of Henry Suso, I thank God for this eccentric patron who challenges me to draw ever closer to Christ, not by slavishly imitating his example, but by following the path the Lord has laid out for this modern, very different Henry. Blessed Henry Suso, pray for us!”

Bl Henry Suso t-shirt

Suso

“Lord, I can see plainly that you are the only and the true source of wisdom, since you alone can restore faith and hope to a doubting and despairing soul. In your Son, Jesus, you have shown me that even the most terrible suffering can be beautiful, if it is in obedience to Your will. And so the knowledge of your Son has enabled me to find joy in my own suffering.

Lord, my dear Father, I kneel before You this day, and praise You fervently for my present sufferings, and give thanks for the measureless sufferings of the past. I now realize that all these sufferings are part of Your paternal love, in which You chastise and purify me. And through that discipline I now look at You without shame and terror, because I know that you are preparing me for your eternal kingdom.” -Bl Henry Suso, OP

“I look everywhere for Your divinity, but you show me Your humanity; I desire your sweetness, but You offer me bitterness; I want to suckle, but you teach me to fight” (Little Book of Eternal Wisdom)

“Nowhere does Jesus hear
our prayers more readily than
in the Blessed Sacrament.”
—Blessed Henry Suson

“Study yourself to see what God wants of you. Attend to that, and put all else aside.”
-Blessed Henry Suso

“Remember that your principal aim, and indeed only business, is to give your thoughts to the desire of Jesus, and to strengthen this desire by daily prayer and other spiritual works.“ – –Bl. Henry Suso

“If your enemies see that you grow courageous, and that you will neither be seduced by flatteries nor disheartened by the pains and trials of your journey, but rather are contented with them, they will grow afraid of you.”
-Blessed Henry Suso

“He who perseveres with constancy and fervor will, without fail, raise himself to a high degree of perfection.”
-Blessed Henry Suso

“In the first day of my youth I tried to find it in the creatures, as I saw others do: but the more I sought, the less I found it, and the nearer I went to it, the further off it was. For of every image that appeared to me, before I had fully tested it, or abandoned myself to peace in it, an inner voice said to me: ‘This is not what thou seekest.'”
-Blessed Henry Suso

“The world is deceitful and inconstant. When fortune forsakes us, friendships take flight.”
-Blessed Henry Suso


-Dominican Church of Rottweil, Germany

“The confession that is motivated by love is nobler than one motivated by necessity.”
-Blessed Henry Suso

“Always give a good example: teach virtue by word and deed. Example is more powerful than discourse.”
-Blessed Henry Suso


https://harvardartmuseums.org/collections/object/348911


-unidentified engraver, The Blessed Henry Suso Kneeling before a Crucifix

Love,
Matthew