-St John of Colombino, please click on the image for greater detail
Great saints were made through the reading of spiritual books! In the 1300s, an Italian merchant named John Colombino was rich, short-tempered, unhappily married, led a worldly, covetuous, and an irreligious life. He went home one day from the warehouse more hungry than usual; and because his dinner was a little delayed, he lost his temper and abused both his wife and servant, saying he was in a hurry to go back to his counting-house. He began to rage at her, but she responded by saying, “You have too much money and spend too little, John, why are you putting yourself out in this way? While I get things ready, take this book and read a little;” so saying, she gave him a volume containing the Lives of the Saints.
John, somewhat nettled, threw the book on the floor, saying, “All this is just fairy tales!” and went to sulk in the corner. But as dinner was delayed even longer, out of boredom he picked up the book and began to read the life of a saint. He was immediately drawn in, and in a couple minutes when dinner was ready, his wife called him but he responded, “No, no, let me finish reading.”
-Russian icon of St. Mary of Egypt, 18th century, Kuopio Orthodox Church Museum, please click on the image for greater detail
St Mary of Egypt
Saint Mary of Egypt (344-421 AD) was born in the Province of Egypt, and at the age of twelve she ran away from her parents to the city of Alexandria. Here she lived an extremely dissolute life. She often refused the money offered for her sexual favors, as she was driven “by an insatiable and an irrepressible passion”, and that she mainly lived by begging, supplemented by spinning flax.
After seventeen years of this lifestyle, she traveled to Jerusalem for the Great Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. She undertook the journey as a sort of “anti-pilgrimage”, stating that she hoped to find in the pilgrim crowds at Jerusalem even more partners in her lust. She paid for her passage by offering sexual favors to other pilgrims, and she continued her habitual lifestyle for a short time in Jerusalem. When she tried to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the celebration, she was barred from doing so by an unseen force. Realizing that this was because of her impurity, she was struck with remorse, and upon seeing an icon of the Virgin Mary outside the church, she prayed for forgiveness and promised to give up the world. Then she attempted again to enter the church, and this time was permitted in. After venerating the relic of the true cross, she returned to the icon to give thanks, and heard a voice telling her, “If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.” She immediately went to the monastery of Saint John the Baptist on the bank of the River Jordan, where she received absolution and afterwards Holy Communion. The next morning, she crossed the Jordan and retired to the desert to live the rest of her life as a hermit in penitence. She took with her only three loaves of bread, and once they were gone, lived only on what she could find in the wilderness.
-The Temple of Portunus, Rome, was preserved by being rededicated to Santa Maria Egiziaca in 872.
There are a number of churches or chapels dedicated to Saint Mary of Egypt, among them:
”You think of nothing but legends; I have the warehouse to go to.” Presently however his conscience began to prick him; he took the book from the ground, and opening it, lighted upon the life of St. Mary of Egypt. Shortly afterwards his wife called him to dinner: “wait awhile,” replied John, forgetting his hunger; and on he went. The legend was long, but, as his biographer observes, there was a celestial melody in it: time sped, his wife looked at him; John was still reading, and what was more, grace was working. There was conversion in the legend of the penitent of Egypt; the story softened his heart; it was his thought by day, and his dream by night; the churlish Giovanni began to give alms, and always just double of what was asked of him; and to that reading was owing the outburst of the love of God which the Blessed Giovanni spread with his “Poor Sheep of Jesus,” the Gesuati, from one end of Italy to the other, from the Pope at Viterbo down to the swine-herd of Sienna. He visited hospitals, tended the sick, and made large donations to the poor. After illness, he made his house the refuge of the needy and the suffering, washing their feet with his own hands. The name Jesuati was given to Colombini and his disciples from the habit of calling loudly on the name of Jesus at the beginning and end of their ecstatic sermons. The senate banished Colombini from Siena for “imparting foolish ideas to the young men of the city”, and he continued his mission in Arezzo and other places, only to be honourably recalled home on the outbreak of the bubonic plague. He was then dedicated to nursing and burying the victims of the rampant bubonic plague.
St John of Colombino, pray for us, that we may be changed in the way you were!!
-linen jacket (~1640), woman’s bodice, in which remains were found at Holywell, please click on the image for greater detail
It’s a mystery that has puzzled researchers for almost 150 years. In 1878, a wooden box was discovered in an attic in the Welsh town of Holywell. It contained two skulls and a cluster of other bones, wrapped in a linen jacket.
Jan Graffius is the curator of the Stonyhurst Collections, an eye-popping assembly of Catholic martyrs’ relics at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, northwest England. She believes that she has finally solved the conundrum.
“The starting point is you look at the evidence in front of you,” she told Catholic News Agency in an interview. “So you have two skulls. One has a hole in the cranium, and many of the bones that are associated with the two skulls show evidence of having been cut with a sharp knife.”
“The immediate premise that you draw from that is that at least one of these two was dismembered after death and that one of the heads was stuck on a spike.”
Acknowledging that the details were “quite graphic,” she continued: “I examined the skull to see whether the hole in the top had been inflicted from the outside in or from the inside out. And the way the bone had been damaged indicated that the force had come from within the skull, within the cranium itself. It had also been pierced by something from inside, like a spike.”
“The clinching argument was that the coccyx [pictured above] — the bone at the base of the spine — had been severed very cleanly. And when you’re hanging, drawing, and quartering, the quartering is literal: you cut the body into pieces. And that indicates to me where you would normally expect the cuts to come from severing the legs from the body.”
A second identifying factor, Graffius said, was where the bones were found. They were uncovered in a house connected to the Jesuit order, where relics of English martyrs were previously discovered.
“So there was an association with an English martyr, or a Welsh martyr, and somebody with a Jesuit association,” she explained.
(Holywell is, in addition, home to St Winefride’s Well, the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Britain.)
Graffius said that another clue was that the two skulls were found together, suggesting that the two figures were closely associated.
She consulted Maurice Whitehead and Hannah Thomas, academic experts on the Welsh martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries. That led to the breakthrough.
Philip Evans was playing tennis on July 21, 1679, when he heard that he would be executed the following day. He reportedly received the news in good spirits and asked permission to finish the game in the grounds of the prison where he was being held. Not permitted to do so, he took up a harp back in his prison cell and sang praise to God for calling him to be a martyr.
Evans was born around 34 years earlier in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales. He studied at the English Jesuit College at St Omer in Flanders, entering the Jesuits at the age of 20. In 1675, he returned to his homeland to serve as a missionary: a perilous enterprise following the Welsh Reformation.
Priest hunters tracked Evans down on Dec. 2, 1678. After weeks of solitary confinement at Cardiff Gaol, he was allowed to share a cell with another condemned man, John Lloyd.
Lloyd was older than Evans. Born in Brecon, mid-Wales, he trained for the Catholic priesthood in Valladolid, Spain. He came back to Wales in 1654, knowing that he risked his life by doing so.
Evans and Lloyd were condemned to death at the Spring Assizes in 1679. A jailer allowed them considerable freedom in their final months, with Evans playing the harp as well as engaging in racket sports.
On the evening before his execution, Evans wrote to his younger sister, a nun in Paris.
“Dear Sister,” he said. “I know that you are so well versed in the principles of Christian courage as not to be at all startled when you understand that your loving brother writes this as his last letter unto you, being in a few hours hence to suffer as a priest and consequently for God’s sake. What greater happiness can befall a Christian man?”
Evans was the first to be hanged, drawn, and quartered the next day. Witnesses noted that his executioners showed unusual aggression. At executions of groups of Catholic priests, the first killing was often especially savage, in an attempt to persuade those waiting to recant. But Lloyd held fast to the faith to the end.
Graffius said that the experts she consulted suggested that the bones possibly belonged to the two Welsh priests.
“They both said, ‘Look, this must be Evans and Lloyd because they were very closely associated in life.’ They spent their last six months or so together in prison. They were executed at the same time. They were buried, or disposed of, at the same time, and they are always spoken of as a pair, if you like, because of the close friendship they had during life.”
“So it makes perfect logical and historical sense for these two bones of these very closely associated men to have been rescued together, and secreted together.”
The story of the bones’ identification is told in an online exhibition, “‘How bleedeth burning love’: British Jesuit Province’s Relics of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales,” inspired by the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
The exhibition was originally planned as a physical event marking the anniversary of the canonization by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 25, 1970. But the coronavirus crisis forced the organizers to change their plans, offering instead an audio and visual experience to internet users around the world.
It also features relics of the celebrated Jesuit martyrs St. Edmund Campion, St. Robert Southwell, and Blessed Edward Oldcorne, as well as two hats, a crucifix, and part of a hair shirt belonging to St. Thomas More.
Graffius said that she was “just thrilled” when she drew the evidence together and connected the Holywell bones to Evans and Lloyd.
“To be able to say with a good degree of confidence, ‘this is who they are,’ is very exciting,” she said.
-St Philip Evans, SJ
-St Philip Evans, SJ
-17th century chalice believed to have belonged to St Philip Evans, SJ
-carving of St Philip Evans, SJ with his harp
Philip Evans was born in Monmouth in 1645, was educated at Jesuit College of St. Omer (now in France), joined the Society of Jesus in Watten on 7 September 1665, and was ordained at Liège (now in Belgium) and sent to South Wales as a missionary in 1675.
He worked in Wales for four years, and despite the official anti-Catholic policy no action was taken against him. When the Oates’ scare swept the country both Lloyd and Evans were caught up in the aftermath. In November 1678 John Arnold, of Llanvihangel Court near Abergavenny, a justice of the peace and a staunch Calvinist and hunter of priests, offered a reward of an additional £200 (equivalent to £30,000 in 2019) for his arrest. The normal price for a Jesuit was £50.
Despite the manifest dangers Father Evans steadfastly refused to leave his flock. He was arrested at the home of a Mr Christopher Turberville at Sker, Glamorgan, on 4 December 1678. Ironically the posse which arrested him is said to have been led by Turberville’s brother, the notorious priest-taker Edward Turberville.
Father John Lloyd, a Welshman and a secular priest (a priest not associated with any religious order), was a Breconshire man. He was educated in Ghent (now in Belgium), and from 1649 at the English College, Valladolid, Spain. He took the ‘missionary oath’ on 16 October 1649 to participate in the English Mission. Sent to Wales in 1654 to minister to covert Catholics, he lived his vocation while constantly on the run for 24 years. He was arrested at Mr Turberville’s house at Penlline, Glamorgan, on 20 November 1678, and imprisoned in Cardiff Gaol. There he was joined by the Jesuit, Philip Evans.
They waited five months before going to trial because the prosecution could not find witnesses to testify that they were indeed priests. Eventually a woman and her daughter said that they had received the sacraments from the Jesuit, which was true. Both priests were brought to trial in Cardiff on Monday, 5 May 1679. Neither was charged with being associated with the plot concocted by Oates. Nonetheless, they were tried for being priests and coming to England and Wales contrary to the provisions of Jesuits, etc. Act 1584, and were declared guilty of treason for exercising their priesthood.
The executions took so long to be scheduled that it began to appear that they might not take place. The priests were allowed a good deal of liberty, even to leaving the prison for recreation. The executions took place in Pwllhalog, near Cardiff, on 22 July 1679. Two plaques mark the site at what is now the junction of Crwys Road and Richmond Road in Roath, Cardiff, still known as “Death Junction”.
Philip Evans was the first to die. When Evans mounted the ladder at the gallows, he said, “This is the best pulpit a man can have to preach in, therefore, I can not forbear to tell you again that I die for God and religion’s sake. “He addressed the gathering in both Welsh and English saying, ‘Adieu, Father Lloyd! Though only for a little time, for we shall soon meet again’. John Lloyd spoke very briefly saying, “My fellow sufferer has declared the cause of our death, therefore I need not repeat it. Besides, I never was a good speaker in my life. I shall only say that I die in the true Catholic and apostolic faith, according to these words in the Creed, I believe in the holy Catholic Church; and with those three virtues: faith, hope and charity”.
-plaque at Death Junction
“Archbishop George Stack marked the 50th anniversary of the Canonisation of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI by holding Mass in the stark and grim bare stone cell at Cardiff Castle where two of these Martyrs were held before their execution on 22 July 1679.
The Archbishop and pilgrims then carried statues of Saint Phillip Evans and Saint John Lloyd to the site of their execution, then called the Gallows Field, and situated outside the Cardiff walls. It is now a busy road junction but the spot is marked by a plaque on the wall of the NatWest bank.
Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs
Saint Philip Evans and Saint John Lloyd
triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:
Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,
to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,
that we may receive with them the crown of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova (Russian: Анна Ивановна Абрикосова; 23 January 1882 – 23 July 1936), later known as Mother Catherine of Siena, O.P. (Russian: Екатери́на Сие́нская or Ekaterina Sienskaya), was a Russian Greek-Catholic religious sister, literary translator, and victim of Joseph Stalin’s concentration camps. She was also the foundress of a Byzantine Catholic community of the Third Order of St. Dominic. She has gained wide attention, even among secular historians of Soviet repression. In an anthology of women’s memoirs from the GULAG, historian Veronica Shapovalova describes Anna Abrikosova as, “a woman of remarkable erudition and strength of will”, who, “managed to organize the sisters in such a way that even after their arrest they continued their work.” She is also mentioned by name in the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The Russian Greek Catholic Church (Russian: Российская греко-католическая церковь, Rossiyskaya greko-katolicheskaya tserkov; Latin: Ecclesiae Graecae Catholico Russica), Russian Byzantine Catholic Church or simply Russian Catholic Church, is a sui iuris Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church. Historically, it represents the first reunion of members of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church. It is now in full communion with and subject to the authority of the Pope of Rome as defined by Eastern canon law.
Russian Catholics historically had their own episcopal hierarchy in the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Russia and the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Harbin, China. However, these offices are currently vacant. Their few parishes are served by priests ordained in other the Eastern Catholic Churches, former Eastern Orthodox priests, and Roman Catholic priests with bi-ritual faculties. The Russian Greek Catholic Church is currently led by Bishop Joseph Werth as Ordinary.
Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova was born on 23 January 1882 in Kitaigorod, Moscow, Russian Empire, into a wealthy family of factory owners and philanthropists, who were the official suppliers of chocolate confections to the Russian Imperial Court. Her grandfather was the industrialist Aleksei Ivanovich Abrikosov. Her father, Ivan Alekseievich Abrikosov, was expected to take over the family firm until his premature death from tuberculosis. Her brothers included Tsarist diplomat Dmitrii Abrikosov and Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov, the doctor who embalmed Vladimir Lenin.
Although the younger members of the family rarely attended Divine Liturgy, the Abrikosovs regarded themselves as pillars of the Russian Orthodox Church. Anna’s parents died early: her mother while giving birth to her, and her father ten days later, of tuberculosis. Anna and her four brothers were raised in the house and provincial estate of her uncle, Nikolai Alekseevich Abrikosov.
The memoirs of her brother Dmitrii “describes their childhood as carefree and joyous” and writes that their British governess “was quite shocked at the close relationship between parents and children.” She used to say that in England, “children were seen and not heard.”
Desiring to be a teacher, Anna graduated with Gold Medal Grade from the First Women’s Lyceum in Moscow in 1899. She then entered a teacher’s college, where the student body ostracized and bullied her for being from a wealthy family.
She later recalled, “Every day as I went into the room the girls would divide up the passage and stand aside not to brush me as I passed because they hated me as one of the privileged class.”
After graduating, she briefly taught at a Russian Orthodox parochial school but was forced to leave after the priest threatened to denounce her to the Okhrana for teaching the students that Hell does not exist. Although heartbroken Anna then decided to pursue an old dream of attending Girton College, the all-girls adjunct to Cambridge University. While studying history from 1901-1903, Anna befriended Lady Dorothy Georgiana Howard, the daughter of the 9th Earl and “Radical Countess” of Carlisle. Lady Dorothy’s letters to her mother remain the best source for Anna’s college days. She ultimately returned to Russia without a degree and married her first cousin, Vladimir Abrikosov.
The Abrikosovs spent the next decade traveling in the Kingdom of Italy, Switzerland and France.
According to Father Cyril Korolevsky:
“While traveling, she studied a great deal. She… read a number of Catholic books. She particularly liked the Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena and began to doubt official Orthodoxy more and more. Finally, she approached the parish priest of the large, aristocratic Church of the Madeleine in Paris, Abbé Maurice Rivière, who later became Bishop of Périgueux. He instructed and received her into the Catholic Church on 20 December 1908. Amazingly, especially at that time, he informed her that even though she had been received with the Latin Ritual, she would always canonically belong to the Greek-Catholic Church. She went on reading and came to prefer the Dominican spirituality and to enjoy Lacordaire’s biography of Saint Dominic… She never stopped thinking of Russia, but like many other people, she thought that only the Roman Catholic priests were able to work with Russian souls. Little by little, she won her husband over to her religious convictions. On 21 December 1909, Vladimir was also received into the Catholic Church. They both thought they would stay abroad, where they had full freedom of religion and… a vague plan to join some monastery or semi-monastic community. Since they knew that according to the canons they were Greek-Catholics, they petitioned Pius X through a Roman prelate for permission to become Roman Catholics — they considered this a mere formality. To their great surprise the Pope refused outright… and reminded them of the provisions of Orientalium dignitas. They had just received this answer when a telegram summoned them to Moscow for family reasons.”
The couple returned to Russia in 1910. Upon their return, the Abrikosovs found a group of Dominican tertiaries which had been established earlier by one Natalia Rozanova. They were received into the Third Order of St. Dominic by Friar Albert Libercier, O.P., of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Louis in Moscow. On 19 May 1917, Vladimir was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. With her husband now a priest, according to Catholic custom, Anna was free to take monastic vows. She took vows as a Dominican Sister, assuming her religious name at that time, and founded a Greek-Catholic religious congregation of the Order there in Moscow. Several of the women among the secular tertiaries joined her in this commitment. Thus was a community of the Dominican Third Order Regular established in Soviet Russia.
During the aftermath of the October Revolution, the convent was put under surveillance by the Soviet secret police.
In 1922, Father Vladimir Abrikosov was exiled to the West aboard the Philosopher’s Ship. Soon after, Mother Catherine wrote him a letter from Moscow, “I am, in the fullest sense of the word, alone with half naked children, with sisters who are wearing themselves out, with a youthful, wonderful, saintly but terribly young priest, Father Nikolai Alexandrov, who himself needs support, and with parishioners dismayed and bewildered, while I myself am waiting to be arrested, because when they searched here, they took away our Constitution and our rules.”
Due to her work with the Papal Aid Mission to Russia, Mother Catherine was arrested by the OGPU. Shortly before the Supreme Collegium of the OGPU handed down sentences, Mother Catherine told the sisters of her community, “Probably every one of you, having given your love to God and following in His way, has in your heart more than once asked Christ to grant you the opportunity to share in His sufferings. And so it is; the moment has now arrived. Your desire to suffer for His sake is now being fulfilled.”
Mother Catherine was sentenced to ten years of solitary confinement and imprisoned at Yaroslavl from 1924 to 1932. After being was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was transferred to Butyrka Prison infirmary for an operation in May 1932. The operation removed her left breast, part of the muscles on her back and side. She was left unable to use her left arm, but was deemed cancer free.
Meanwhile, Ekaterina Peshkova, the wife of author Maxim Gorky and head of the Political Red Cross, had interceded with Stalin to secure her release and grounds of her illness and that her sentence was almost complete.
On August 13, 1932, Mother Catherine petitioned to be returned to Yaroslavl. Instead, she was told that she could leave any time she wanted. On August 14, she walked free from Butyrka and went directly to the Church of St. Louis des Français.
Bishop Pie Neveu, who had been secretly consecrated as an underground Bishop in 1926, wrote to Rome after meeting her, “This woman is a genuine preacher of the Faith and very courageous. One feels insignificant beside someone of this moral stature. She still cannot see well, and she can only use her right hand, since the left is paralyzed.”
Despite warnings that it could lead to another arrest, Mother Catherine also reestablished ties to the surviving Sisters. She later told interrogators, “After my release from the isolator and happening to be in Moscow, I renewed my links with a group of people whom an OGPU Collegium had condemned in 1923. In reestablishing contact with them, my purpose was to assess their political and spiritual condition after their arrest, administrative exile and the expiration of their residence restriction. Following my meetings with them, I became convinced that they retained their earlier world outlook.”
After immediately entering communication with the surviving Sisters of the congregation, Mother Catherine was arrested, along with 24 other Catholics, in August 1933. In what the NKVD called “The Case of the Counterrevolutionary Terrorist-Monarchist Organization”, Mother Catherine stood accused of plotting to assassinate Joseph Stalin, overthrow the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and restore the House of Romanov as a constitutional monarchy in concert with “international fascism” and “Papal theocracy”. It was further alleged that the organization planned for the restoration of Capitalism and for collective farms to be broken up and returned to their former owners among the Russian nobility and the kulaks. The NKVD alleged that the organization was directed by Pope Pius XI, Bishop Pie Neveu, and the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches. After being declared guilty as charged, Mother Catherine was returned to the Political Isolator Prison at Yaroslavl.
Abrikosova died of bone cancer at Butyrka Prison infirmary on July 23, 1936, at the age of 54 years. After being autopsied, her body was secretly cremated at the Donskoy Cemetery and her ashes were buried in a mass grave at the same location.
“I wish to lead a uniquely supernatural life and to accomplish to the end my vow of immolation for the priests and for Russia.”
“Soviet youth cannot talk about its world outlook; it is blinkered. It is developing too one-sidedly, because it knows only the jargon of Marxist-Leninism.”
“A political and spiritual outlook should develop only on the basis of a free critical exploration of all the facets of philosophical and political thought.”
Prayer for the beatification of the Servant of God Mother Catherine (Abrikosova)
O God Almighty, Your Son suffered on the Cross and died for the salvation of people.
Imitating Him, Your Servant Mother Catherine (Abrikosova) loved You from the bottom of her heart, served You faithfully during the persecutions and devoted her life to the Church. Make her famous in the assembly of Your blessed, so that the example of her faithfulness and love would shine before the whole world. I pray to You through her intercession, hear my request………………………………..through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The prayer has to be used in private, as well as in public, out of the Holy Mass.
+ Archbishop Thaddeus Kondrusiewich, St. Petersburg 05.04.2004
Postulator asks to inform about the graces received through the mediation of the Servant of God.
Address: Fr. Bronislav Chaplicki, 1st Krasnoarmyskaya, D. 11, 198005, St. Petersburg, Russia
“All who die in God’s grace, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven (CCC 1030).”
“Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, pray for the souls of priests and religious brothers and sisters.”
“Eternal Father, we offer you the most Precious Blood of Jesus, for the souls of priests who in purgatory suffer the most and are the most abandoned.”
“Oh Lord Jesus Christ, Eternal Priest, Who during Your earthly life generously cared for every poor person who was afflicted and abandoned, I beg You, look with favor on the souls of priests in purgatory who suffer most atrociously and who are abandoned and forgotten by everyone. Look at how these Holy Souls, tormented by the voracity of the flames and with an agonizing voice plead for pity and help.
Oh most merciful heart of Jesus, Who in the Garden of Olives, in the midst of bitter solitude, victim of most cruel spiritual torments and bloody agony, begged: “Father, if it is possible take this chalice away from Me! Yet let not Mine, but Your will be done.” By this, Your submission and painful passion and agony, I beg you to have pity on the Holy Souls for whom I am praying to You and to relieve their suffering and to console them in the midst of their abandonment, as Your Celestial Father consoled You by sending you an angel. Amen.
Our Lady of Suffrage, Mother of Mercy, we favorably invoke you for our own sake and for the sake of the souls in purgatory. I would like to escape from that tremendous prison, by living a just life, avoiding sin, and doing everything with the fervor of a holy soul. But what can I do, without the help of heaven?
Dear Mother, cast your glance upon me and obtain for me the grace that the last day of my mortal life may be the first day that I will begin to enjoy the glories of heaven. Hope and Mother of the afflicted, run to the aid of those in purgatory. Be merciful towards my relatives, my friends, my benefactors, the souls who love Jesus and who love you and toward the abandoned souls.
Oh Mary, by the Cross on which Jesus died, by the Most Precious Blood with which He redeemed us, by the chalice which every day is offered up to the Eternal Father during the Mass, obtain grace and liberation for all of the souls in purgatory. Listen to the sighs of your sons & daughters in purgatory and opening the doors of this painful prison, let them all ascend into Heaven with you today. Amen.
– Our Lady of Suffrage, pray for us and the souls in purgatory. Eternal Rest grant unto them, oh Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. Amen.”
“I will first, dearest daughter, speak to thee of the dignity of priests, having placed them where they are through My goodness, over and above the general love which I have had to My creatures, creating you in My image and likeness and re-creating you all to the life of grace in the Blood of My Only-begotten Son, whence you have arrived at such excellence, through the union which I made of My Deity with human nature; so that in this you have greater dignity and excellence than the angels, for I took your human nature and not that of the angels. Wherefore, as I have said to you, I, God, have become man, and man has become God by the union of My Divine Nature with your human nature. This greatness is given in general to all rational creatures, but, among these I have especially chosen My ministers for the sake of your salvation, so that, through them, the Blood of the humble and immaculate Lamb, My Only-begotten Son, may be administered to you.” —St. Catherine Of Siena
Love & prayers for our professed and ordained, certainly God will grant the grace you seek to do His will on earth,
“St. Mark Ji Tianxiang couldn’t stay sober, but he could keep showing up.
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang was an opium addict. Not only had he been an opium addict. He was an opium addict at the time of his death.
For years, Ji was a respectable Christian, raised in a Christian family in 19th-century China. He was a leader in the Christian community, a well-off doctor who served the poor for free. But he became ill with a violent stomach ailment and treated himself with opium. It was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but Ji soon became addicted to the drug, an addiction that was considered shameful and gravely scandalous.
As his circumstances deteriorated, Ji continued to fight his addiction. He went frequently to confession, refusing to embrace this affliction that had taken control of him. Unfortunately, the priest to whom he confessed (along with nearly everybody in the 19th century) didn’t understand addiction as a disease. Since Ji kept confessing the same sin, the priest thought, that was evidence that he had no firm purpose of amendment, no desire to do better.
Without resolve to repent, sincere remorse, and resolve to sin no more, confession is invalid, and absolution, required for receiving the Eucharist, is denied.
After a few years, Ji’s confessor told him to stop coming back until he could fulfill the requirements for confession. For some, this might have been an invitation to leave the Church in anger or shame, but for all his fallenness, Ji knew himself to be loved by the Father and by the Church. He knew that the Lord wanted his heart, even if he couldn’t manage to give over his life. He couldn’t stay sober, but he could keep showing up.
And show up he did, for 30 years. For 30 years, he was unable to receive the sacraments. And for 30 years he prayed that he would die a martyr. It seemed to Ji that the only way he could be saved was through a martyr’s crown.
In 1900, when the Boxer Rebels began to turn against foreigners and Christians, Ji got his chance. He was rounded up with dozens of other Christians, including his son, six grandchildren, and two daughters-in-law. Many of those imprisoned with him were likely disgusted by his presence there among them, this man who couldn’t go a day without a hit. Surely he would be the first to deny the Lord.
But while Ji was never able to beat his addiction, he was, in the end, flooded with the grace of final perseverance. No threat could shake him, no torture make him waver. He was determined to follow the Lord Who had never abandoned him.
As Ji and his family were dragged to prison to await their execution, his grandson looked fearfully at him. “Grandpa, where are we going?” he asked. “We’re going home,” came the answer.
Ji begged his captors to kill him last so that none of his family would have to die alone. He stood beside all nine of them as they were beheaded. In the end, he went to his death singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And though he had been away from the sacraments for decades, he is a canonized saint.
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang is a beautiful witness to the grace of God constantly at work in the most hidden ways, to God’s ability to make great saints of the most unlikely among us, and to the grace poured out on those who remain faithful when it seems even the Church herself is driving them away.
On July 9, the feast of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, let’s ask his intercession for all addicts and for all those who are unable to receive the sacraments, that they may have the courage to be faithful to the Church and that they may always grow in their love for and trust in the Lord. St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, pray for us!”
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ hear us
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, Pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, Pray for us.
Mother of Christ, Pray for us.
Mother of the Church, Pray for us.
Mother of Divine Grace, Pray for us.
Mother most pure, Pray for us.
Mother most chaste, Pray for us.
Mother inviolate, Pray for us.
Mother undefiled, Pray for us.
Mother most amiable, Pray for us.
Mother most admirable, Pray for us.
Mother of Good Counsel, Pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, Pray for us.
Mother of our Savior, Pray for us.
Mother of mercy, Pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, Pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, Pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, Pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, Pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, Pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, Pray for us.
Mirror of justice, Pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, Pray for us.
Cause of our joy, Pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, Pray for us.
Vessel of honor, Pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, Pray for us.
Mystical Rose, Pray for us.
Tower of David, Pray for us.
Tower of ivory, Pray for us.
House of gold, Pray for us.
Ark of the Covenant, Pray for us.
Gate of Heaven, Pray for us.
Morning star, Pray for us.
Health of the Sick, Pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, Pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, Pray for us.
Help of christians, Pray for us.
Queen of angels, Pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs, Pray for us.
Queen of prophets, Pray for us.
Queen of apostles, Pray for us.
Queen of martyrs, Pray for us.
Queen of confessors, Pray for us.
Queen of virgins, Pray for us.
Queen of all saints, Pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, Pray for us.
Queen assumed into Heaven, Pray for us.
Queen of the Holy Rosary, Pray for us.
Queen of families, Pray for us.
Queen of peace, Pray for us.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray- Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we Thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enjoy everlasting happiness. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen
“The opium pipe rests in the half-open hands of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, who looks up to heaven, as if to plead, “Please, take this away from me.”
“He holds it out in a sort of way like, ‘I don’t want this thing,’” said Erik Durant, a Massachusetts-based artist who designed a striking sculpture of the 19th-century Chinese layman who died as a martyr in 1900.
Durant told Our Sunday Visitor that he created the sculpture a few years ago after a local parish priest reached out to him. Biographical details were scarce.
“Basically all I got was the timeframe when he lived, that he was a known opium user for over 30 years and that because of the drug usage, he never received Communion yet continued to regularly go to church,” Durant said.
Father David Deston, a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, saw in St. Mark Ji a symbol of hope for people struggling with drug addiction.
“His story is amazing, just absolutely amazing,” Father Deston said. “It’s one that I think should be out there more.”
St. Anne Church and Shrine
St. Anne Shrine at 818 Middle Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, houses the statue of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang. The main church was closed in May 2015 when a large piece of plaster fell off the wall during a Mass. The church ceased to be a diocesan parish when it closed Nov. 25, 2018. The St. Anne Preservation Society is raising funds to stabilize the building and restore the building as a shrine. The Diocese of Fall River and the St. Anne’s Preservation Society entered into an agreement on July 1, 2019, through which the shrine will be under the care and oversight of the society. The basement shrine reopened July 4. Masses will be celebrated a minimum of twice per year. The shrine is open Monday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the recitation of the Rosary, Bible study and special programs.
Denied the Eucharist
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang struggled with opium addiction for almost half of his 66 years of life. A committed Catholic, he continually confessed to smoking opium, but the graces of the sacrament were not enough to deliver him from his addiction.
“He was definitely hooked. He was hooked on what was essentially a pure form of heroin for decades,” said Michael Rayes, a Catholic counselor in Phoenix.
St. Mark Ji’s confessor — without the benefit of modern science that has revealed drug addiction to be a disease that changes brain chemistry — eventually withheld absolution because he did not believe that St. Mark Ji had a firm purpose of amendment to stay away from the opium pipe.
For the last 30 years of his life, St. Mark Ji was denied the reception of the Eucharist, but he still grew in holiness.
“He never gave up, even when he couldn’t really have a full sacramental experience,” Rayes said. “I’m sure he made plenty of spiritual communions, and that must have hurt his heart.”
Believing that martyrdom was his only way to heaven, St. Mark Ji prayed for and received the martyr’s crown when he was killed during the anti-Christian persecutions of the Boxer Rebellion.
“Here, you have St. Mark Ji, who stops receiving the Eucharist, and yet he’s still a saint who was growing spiritually,” said Dr. Gregory Bottaro, executive director of the Catholic Psych Institute, a Catholic psychology practice based in Connecticut.
Bottaro told Our Sunday Visitor that St. Mark Ji’s complicated life challenges modern Catholics to think deeper and “outside the box” about the Communion of Saints, life, holiness, the sacraments and the Catholic faith itself.
“It’s stories like his that help to recalibrate our sense of humanity and our relationship with God,” Bottaro said.
Gripped by addiction
The short official biographies indicate that St. Mark Ji Tianxiang was born in 1834 in the apostolic vicariate of Southeastern Zhili, China. He was raised in a Christian family and grew up to become a physician and a respected member of his community.
As a doctor, St. Mark Ji served the poor for free. However, in his mid-30s, he became ill with a serious stomach ailment and treated himself with opium, which was a common pain medicine, but it was but highly addictive.
St. Mark Ji soon was gripped by opium addiction, which in 19th-century China was considered to be shameful and a grave scandal. Similar to how heroin addicts today often are reviled and called junkies, opium addicts then in China were scorned.
Black-and-white photos of Chinese opium addicts from the late 1800s show they were often gaunt, with hollowed-out eyes, sunken cheekbones and the outlines of their rib cages clearly visible through the skin.
“They’re all emaciated and almost skeletal looking,” said Durant, who studied 19th-century photographs of Chinese opium addicts to get an idea of how St. Mark Ji may have looked after 30 years of smoking opium.
“I basically came up with an amalgamation,” Durant said. “I used my knowledge of anatomy and had a model pose for a general gesture. I basically stripped the muscle off that person in order to come up with an image.”
St. Mark Ji prayed for deliverance, but the chains of addiction were never removed from him. Still, he fought it, frequently going to confession. But after a few years, the priest to whom St. Mark Ji confessed told him to stop coming back until he was serious about stopping his sin.
“One of the elements that struck me about his story was his support system did not understand his addiction, and essentially they rejected him,” said Rayes, who chose St. Mark Ji as the patron for his counseling practice, Intercessory Counseling & Wellness in Phoenix.
Today, priest-confessors have the benefit of modern science and psychology when it comes to understanding that drug addiction is a disease. In light of that understanding, Bottaro said the Church is “constantly developing” in its application of eternal truth.
“Obviously, truth doesn’t change, but the depth of understanding matures,” Bottaro said. “And here you have a perfect example where we didn’t have the sort of human understanding of science, from brain science studies and social psychology, of understanding the effect of drugs and understanding what’s happening in the brain.”
Being denied access to the sacraments and shunned by one’s community would arguably be enough to discourage most people from wanting to be involved with the Church. But St. Mark Ji remained a practicing Catholic, even if he could not beat his addiction.
“The Church, his confessors, didn’t understand the nature of addiction, and yet he persevered in his faith,” Rayes said. “So that, I think, is a really strong example for those today who are struggling with addiction, because you can feel so alone.”
“He did what he thought was the right thing to do,” Father Deston added. “He struggled to live a good life. He attended Mass regularly. He never stopped believing in God’s mercy. I think his martyrdom just grew out of his own faith. It wasn’t a means to an end for him.”
Between 1899 and 1901, toward the end of the Qing dynasty, the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China as Chinese nationalists cracked down against foreigners and Christians. During the two-year uprising, more than 32,000 Chinese Christians and 200 foreign missionaries were massacred.
In 1900, the Boxers arrested St. Mark Ji, rounding him up with dozens of other Christians, including his son, six grandchildren and two daughters-in-law. At trial, St. Mark Ji was given the opportunity to apostatize, but he refused.
He was led to his execution with the other members of his family on July 7, 1900. He begged his captors to kill him last so that none of his relatives would die alone. As he awaited his own death, he sang the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“When we have this story of St. Mark, it’s so out there that that’s it’s almost impossible to tidy it up and make it neat and pretty for a little prayer card,” Bottaro said. “His story is so central on the messiness of his life that you can’t avoid that aspect of it.”
Pope Pius XII beatified St. Mark Ji along with 120 other Chinese martyrs on Nov. 24, 1946. St. Pope John Paul II canonized him on Oct. 1, 2000. His feast day is July 9.
In more recent years, St. Mark Ji’s life story has resonated with many who have been affected by the national opioid crisis. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 130 people in the United States die each day after overdosing on opioids.
For many today who suffer from drug addiction, and people who see their loved ones struggling with the disease, St. Mark Ji has become a patron.
“People would leave notes by his statue. Occasionally, I would straighten them up and read them. Many of them were just heartbreaking, where people were talking about their own struggles or asking for prayers for their loved ones,” said Father Deston, who had the statue of St. Mark Ji placed in his former parish’s basement shrine.
Durant said a priest in Pittsburgh called him and asked for a copy of the sculpture. Employees from an addiction center in New Hampshire traveled to St. Anne Shrine in Fall River, Massachusetts, to see the statue.
“I think he’s a fascinating and important character,” Durant said.
“Drug addiction, then or now, is one of the issues of our time,” Durant said. “It’s so big, affecting so many people. It affects all ages, races, socioeconomic status. It affects all of us. It’s important, whether you’re Catholic or not.”
I am a member of Al-anon, attending weekly meetings for over a year now, when not pandemic bound. The Catholic Church views substance abuse as a sin, even though a disease of the mind and body. There are many kinds of addictions. They are in conflict with the freedom of God’s children, the gift of life and the goodness of life, all created from and by the goodness of God Himself. Addicts today are not excluded from the sacraments because they are addicts. However, a sincere Act of Contrition, immediately, and the sacrament of reconciliation should be sought quickly, to remain as much in the state of grace as possible considering mortality.
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”-1 Cor 12:7-10
-please click on the image for greater detail
St Mark Li Tianxiang is called the ‘trier’ because he never gave up trying to overcome his addiction and be able to receive the sacraments again.
Nonetheless, Mark always attended Mass and lived a truly committed and devout Catholic life. It is said that he helped the sick and dying free of charge or only ever accepted what his patients were able to give him for his service.
St Mark Li Tianxiang, pray for us!!! Intercede with God on our behalf for whatever obstacles prevent us from being good servants of the Lord, particularly those sins to which we are truly addicted (pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, sloth, substance abuse, timidity, tepidity, lukewarmness in Your service, fear, etc.) or cannot rid ourselves of through His most generous and powerful grace; such is our too, too strong attachment to our sins. Jesus, help us!!! Jesus, save us!!!
Her father arranged for her to marry but her fiancé died before the wedding. After having been betrothed to her fiancé, Macrina did not believe it was appropriate to marry another man, but saw Christ as her eternal bridegroom. Instead, she devoted herself to her religion, becoming a nun.
When all her siblings had grown, including Sts Basil the Great & St Gregory Nazianzus, and left the parental home, Saint Macrina convinced her mother, Saint Emilia, to leave the world, to set their slaves free, and to settle in a women’s monastery. Several of their servants followed their example. Having taken monastic vows, they lived together as one family, they prayed together, they worked together, they possessed everything in common, and in this manner of life nothing distinguished one from another.
After the death of her mother, Saint Macrina guided the sisters of the monastery. She enjoyed the deep respect of all who knew her. Strictness towards herself and temperance in everything were characteristic of the saint all her life. She slept on boards and had no possessions. Saint Macrina was granted the gift of wonderworking. There was an instance (told by the sisters of the monastery to Saint Gregory of Nyssa after the death of Saint Macrina), when she healed a girl of an eye-affliction. Through the prayers of the saint, there was no shortage of wheat at her monastery in times of famine.
Macrina had a profound influence upon her brothers and her mother with her adherence to an ascetic ideal. Her brother Gregory of Nyssa wrote a work entitled Life of Macrina in which he describes her sanctity throughout her life. Macrina lived a chaste and humble life, devoting her time to prayer and the spiritual education of her younger brother, Peter. Gregory presents her as one who consciously rejected all Classical education, choosing instead devoted study of Scripture and other sacred writings.
In 379, Macrina died at her family’s estate in Pontus, which with the help of her younger brother Peter she had turned into a monastery and convent. Gregory of Nyssa composed a “Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection” (peri psyches kai anastaseos), entitled ta Makrinia (P.G. XLVI, 12 sq.), to commemorate Macrina, in which Gregory purports to describe the conversation he had with Macrina on her deathbed, in a literary form modelled on Plato’s Phaedo. Even on her deathbed, Macrina continued to live a life of sanctity, as she refused a bed, and instead chose to lie on the ground.
Saint Macrina is significant in that her brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, was able to set standards for being a holy Early Christian woman. He believed that virginity reflected the “radiant purity of God.”
Universalists, including Hosea Ballou and J. W. Hanson, claim Macrina as a Universalist in her teachings, citing works which they believe demonstrate Macrina’s belief that the wicked would all eventually confess Christ.
Troparion — Tone 8
The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother, / For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. / By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away, / But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. / Therefore your spirit, O Holy Mother Macrina, rejoices with the Angels!
His demeanor was uncharacteristic of a man to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. An eye-witness to Robert Nutter’s execution wrote that he went “to the gallows, with as much cheerfulness and joy as if he had been going to a feast, to the astonishment of the spectators” (Modern British Martyrology, 197).
Cheerfulness and joy? In the face of death? Did he not know that in a few moments he was to have his beating heart torn out of his chest? Surely he had gone mad! The execution of this subversive and treasonous Englishman was supposed to extinguish his hope, not cause it to burst forth in euphoric praise of God!
“Blessed are you when men hate you … Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven.” (Lk 6:22-23)
Blessed Robert Nutter is counted among the Douai martyrs, a group of English Catholic priests martyred in 16th and 17th century England. Each of these men was trained at a single English seminary in Douai, a city in northern France. It briefly relocated to Rheims for about 15 years, at which time Nutter received his theological formation. Why France? In an effort to eradicate Catholicism from the country, the English crown had forcibly closed and repurposed all churches, schools, and seminaries. In effect, they attempted to abolish the Catholic Church in England—no small feat.
The Douai seminary was established for the purpose of training Englishmen to be diocesan priests so that they could return as missionaries to their homeland, where the Church was enduring severe persecution. Indeed, during this time, agents of the British crown systematically hunted down, arrested, tortured, and executed Catholic priests, charging them with high treason. Before being put to death, these priests could spend years in prison; interestingly enough, it was during this time that Nutter professed vows as a Dominican friar.
Of the 300 priests ordained at the Douai seminary during this period, 158 were put to death for bringing the sacraments back to their fellow countrymen. One could be so bold as to say that Robert Nutter and the Douai martyrs were not only ordained to be priests, but martyrs as well: they knew that their priesthood would likely culminate in the shedding of their blood. In perfect conformity to Jesus Christ—the Eternal High Priest—priests like Robert Nutter knew the stakes, but counted them as nothing compared to possessing the heart of Christ and bringing the sacraments to souls.
It is difficult to imagine the mindset of men like Nutter. In the depths of his heart, he desired to be a priest of Jesus Christ. He knew that he would be despised by his own government. He knew that while living out his priesthood, he would do so secretly, always aware that someone—anyone—could betray him. He realized that this could very well mean his own death, a death that would come only after gruesome periods of torture. If he survived, there would be no recognition or thanks from those he served.
Therein lies the aim of priesthood: to forget yourself, to become another Christ, and to mount the cross for the salvation of souls—so as to make present once again the saving mysteries of God. Nutter knew that the ultimate reason for his priesthood and martyrdom was the salvation of the Englishmen he served.
What can the priest of today learn from a man like Nutter?
Without hesitation, he ought to learn that as a priest, his life and his heart are no longer his own. Instead, his life and his heart belong to Christ alone. Conversely, in an abundantly generous grace, Christ offers his own Sacred Heart to his priest, so that he may live and love as another Christ. The priest who does not have the heart of Christ approaches “in sheep’s clothing, but underneath is a ravenous wolf” (Jn 7:15). Pray and fast often that our priests’ hearts would be conformed to the crucified heart of Christ!
Given the nature of being hanged, drawn, and quartered, it is quite plausible that Nutter would have actually seen the hands of his executors reaching into his chest to cut out his heart. Every priest, martyr or not, should cry out the words: “I give you everything Jesus! I give you my very own heart! You may have all!”
Bl. Robert Nutter, pray to the good Lord for us, and ask him to send holy priests who, by an interior martyrdom of the heart, are willing to make as their only desire the salvation of souls.”
“Today, people live busy lives. We are surrounded by noise and distractions as we hustle off to work or school…and then back to home…only to rush off in the evening for another meeting or another social event. We like to be busy. We continue this rhythm of life because being busy often makes us feel important. If we are successful in this busyness, the world tells us to keep going and to do more things. The feeling of accomplishment is rewarding, but it can also distract us from seeing how God is acting in our lives. If all our actions are directed toward self-gratification, aren’t we somehow missing the mark?
At the end of the day, are you able to look to the Lord and say I did it all for you, or were your actions today directed toward your own interests? If you are endlessly busy with the latter, you will eventually fatigue and find yourself looking for God. A good habit to develop is finding a way to withdraw from the busyness of everyday life and focus on God through prayer. Thankfully, we have many saints who can help us combat the endless busyness of life.
Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and a man of perseverance in the spiritual life. St. Ignatius was a soldier who converted to the Faith, and thus became a soldier for Christ. As a soldier charges into battle to fight for the good of society, St. Ignatius charged into the battle of the spiritual life. In that same vein, the spiritual battle cry of the Jesuit Order is Ad majorem Dei gloriam, which means “for the greater glory of God.” Many of St. Ignatius’s writings aimed to give all glory to God. As a result, they have been used by many to direct their lives in the knowledge and love of God. The Spiritual Exercises, his most notable work, is one such work that has helped people advance in the spiritual life.
In the opening line of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius writes that “Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of this to save their souls.” This line from St. Ignatius expresses the importance of turning toward Christ in all our actions. One particular prayer that comes from the Spiritual Exercises and helps one to pull away from the busyness of life is the daily examination of conscience, otherwise known as the Daily Examen.
The Daily Examen is a recollective prayer where one recalls the events that happened throughout his or her day. It is easy to develop a habit of praying the Daily Examen by practicing it through a few short steps. The first step is to acknowledge the presence of God and to give thanks to him. The second step is to acknowledge where one fell short in giving God glory through our actions or inactions. The last step is to resolve to do better with the help of God’s grace the next day. The prayer is simple in its application and yet effective in keeping one grounded in the spiritual life. Developing the habit of praying the Daily Examen can help one stay accountable to God in the spiritual life. This accountability bears fruit in the form of a friendship with God.
The Examen and other meditative prayers (when done well and consistently) allow us to pull away from all the busy distractions of life, and turn our attention to God and His loving providence. Fidelity to daily prayer leads to a deeper friendship with God and the closer we are with God, the better we can offer our daily lives to Him as a spiritual soldier (like St. Ignatius) and friend.”
“Stunned by the rapid advance of the Protestant Revolution, the Church began its much-needed reform with the ecumenical council at Trent (1545-1563). The council that would lay the foundation for the Catholic Reformation followed another important development, when in 1540 Pope Paul III approved the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits, as they would be called, began their work several years prior in Paris, when Ignatius Loyola and several companions (including Francis Xavier) pledged to live the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience) and to go to Rome and place themselves at the service of the pope.
Ignatius envisioned his new order would participate in the reform of the Church by focusing on education (catechesis) and encouraging the laity to participate frequently in the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist. This focus led to a multitude of Jesuit teachers and missionaries serving in heavily Protestant territories and in far-flung places of the world that had never heard the Gospel, all to win souls for Christ.
Although the Jesuit formation process was long and life in the Society was difficult, men joined by the thousands. The Society established universities throughout Christendom in order to form both members of the order and Catholic laity to participate fully in the Catholic Reformation. The small group began by St. Ignatius and his companions became a powerful and influential element within the Church and Christendom within a century of the founder’s death in 1556. By the eighteenth century, there were over 20,000 Jesuits running nearly seven hundred universities, colleges, and seminaries. The Society contributed to the prestige of secular rulers and the papacy but its influence was not universally appreciated. Anti-religious intellectuals and absolutist-minded monarchs became wary, envious, and ultimately opposed to the Jesuits.
René Decartes’s (1596-1650) philosophical writings, likely without his intent, sparked a movement opposed to the Church and its understanding of philosophy. By the eighteenth century, the “age of reason” and “enlightenment” produced a crop of thinkers, writers, and politicians radically opposed to the Church and its influence in the world. François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), known by his pen name Voltaire, was one such individual. Although educated by Jesuits, Voltaire embraced anti-Catholic beliefs and worked tirelessly to destroy the “infamous thing,” his moniker for the Church. Voltaire recognized the only way to limit the Church’s influence and bring about a secular society was to take control of the institutions of higher learning in Europe, which required the destruction of the Jesuits. He boasted that with the Jesuits defeated, “there will be nothing left of the Church.” In order to further their agenda, Enlightenment thinkers began a concerted campaign against the Society of Jesus.
Many secular rulers were wary of the Jesuits due to their outsized influence and their independence. Jesuits were fiercely loyal to the pope, whom many kings saw as a foreign prince intent on meddling in their internal affairs. As these monarchs focused on creating a centralized state, they increasingly saw the Jesuits as an obstacle to their plans. Frustrated and irritated by the Jesuits, several secular rulers in the eighteenth century placed intense political pressure on the Roman pontiffs to do something about the meddlesome Society. However, these rulers did not wait for papal activity, as many began their own campaigns of suppression and expulsion.
King Joseph I (r. 1750 – 1777) desired to reform Portugal so that it could be a leading power in Western Europe. He placed great power and authority in the hands of Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, known as the Marquis de Pombal, in order to accomplish this task. Believing the Jesuits to be a threat, Pombal began a concerted propaganda campaign directed at creating a negative image of the Jesuits in the minds of the king and the Portuguese people. In 1759, Pombal convinced the king to sign a decree denouncing the Society and ordering their expulsion from Portugal and its overseas territories.
The next attack on the Society came from France, the “Eldest Daughter of the Church.” The Paris Parlement, the most important of thirteen provincial appellate courts charged with registering and approving royal decrees, initially restricted French subjects from entering the Society and banned Jesuits from teaching theology, then prohibited citizens from attending Jesuit schools. The Parlement’s anti-Jesuit declarations culminated in 1764, when King Louis XV (r. 1715-1774) signed a decree expelling the Jesuits from France and its dominions.
Recognizing the serious threat to the Society and the Church as a whole posed by such attacks, Pope Clement XIII (r. 1758-769) defended the Society its role and mission in the Church in the bull Apostolicum pascendi in 1765. Despite the papal defense, the attack on the Society from European secular rulers continued. In Spain, Ignatius’s nation of origin, the Jesuits came under fire from Bernardo Tanucci, a chief minister and advisor in Naples to King Charles III (r. 1759-1788). Tanucci despised the Jesuits and the Church and continually sought to limit the power and influence of both. He convinced the king to order the expulsion of all Jesuits from Spain and its colonies in 1767.
In only twelve years, the Society was ruthlessly persecuted in three countries where it had been highly effective and influential. The Jesuits, once the champions of the Catholic Reformation and a powerful and prominent group within the Church and Europe, were dazed and weakened, but their greatest defeat was yet to come.
Giovanni Vincenzo Antonio Ganganelli was educated by the Jesuits as a young man and discerned a religious vocation. He entered the Conventual Franciscans in 1723, taking the religious name Lorenzo. He was ordained to the priesthood and pursued advanced academic studies, earning a doctorate, and teaching at a university. Pope Clement XIII, who had befriended Fr. Ganganelli, made him a cardinal at a time when the Jesuit controversy dominated the pontificate. The conclave to elect Clement’s successor met in the face of a formal request from the rulers of Portugal, France, Spain, and Naples to suppress the order.
-St Ignatius of Loyola, SJ, by Peter Paul Reubens, please click on the image for greater detail
Several cardinals believed suppression was the only viable alternative to bring peace between the Church and those kingdoms. There was much debate within the conclave but eventually the cardinals elected Ganganelli, who took the name Clement XIV (r. 1769-774). Clement XIV hoped to resolve the Jesuit question peacefully but was under intense political pressure throughout his pontificate. After a failed attempt to placate the anti-Jesuit secular powers through harsh measures against the Society, he issued the brief Dominus ac Redemptor on July 21, 1773, which formally suppressed the Society of Jesus.
It was, as historian Eamon Duffy wrote, “the papacy’s most shameful hour.” Clement partially blamed his action on the Society itself for sowing seeds of dissension and discord among secular rulers and other religious orders. Sadly, the pope ordered the arrest and imprisonment of the Superior General of the Society, Lorenzo Ricci, in Castel Sant’Angelo, where he later died. Clement XIV’s action against the Society left such a significant blot on the history of the papacy that no pope since has taken the name Clement.
Although the suppression was universal, there were areas where the Jesuits continued to operate unimpeded (especially in areas with non-Catholic monarchs). The monarchical world was turned upside down by the creation of the United States and the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century. Desperate to revive Catholic higher education and reigning during a time when the Church no longer faced opposition from the same secular authorities that clamored for the Society’s suppression, Pope Pius VII (r. 1800-1823) re-established the Jesuits on August 7, 1814. Once more, the sons of Ignatius were allowed to operate universities, colleges, and undertake missionary adventures.
The forty-one years of suppression were a dark time in the history of the Society, but the vision of St. Ignatius and his companions could not be forever dimmed.”
The Popish Plot was a conspiracy alleged and purported by Titus Oates, “Titus the Liar”, that between 1678 and 1681 gripped the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in anti-Catholic hysteria. Oates alleged that there was an extensive Catholic conspiracy to assassinate Charles II, accusations that led to the executions of at least 22 men and precipitated the Exclusion Bill Crisis. Eventually Oates’s intricate web of accusations fell apart, leading to his arrest and conviction for perjury.
Blessed Richard Langhorne (c. 1624 – 14 July 1679) was a lawyer executed as part of the Popish Plot. “The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple”, commonly known as Inner Temple, is one of the four Inns of Court (professional associations for barristers/lawyers and judges) in London. To be called to the Bar and practice as a lawyer in England and Wales, a person must belong to one of these Inns. Bl Richard Langhorne was admitted to the Inner Temple in May 1647 and called to the bar in November 1654. He provided legal and financial advice for the Jesuits. Blessed Richard followed his father into the practice of law.
Blessed Richard married Dorothy Legatt of Havering, Essex, England, a Protestant; they lived on Shire Lane in London, had two sons, Charles and Francis, both of whom became priests. Part of Richard’s work was to advise the local Jesuits on legal and financial matters, which would come back to haunt him. His sons, due to the Reformation, had to pursue their seminary training outside of England. They attended the English College (for English students) at St Omer run by the Jesuits.
Oates, at first, attended Cambridge. There he gained a reputation for being fanatically hypocritical and sanctimonious, and homosexual. Not a good student, Oates was called “a great dunce” by his tutor.
By falsely claiming to have a degree, Oates gained a license to preach from the Bishop of London. On 29 May 1670 he was ordained as a priest of the Church of England. During this time Oates accused a schoolmaster in Hastings of sodomy with one of his pupils, hoping to get the schoolmaster’s post. However, the charge was shown to be false, and Oates himself was soon facing charges of perjury, but he escaped jail and fled to London. In 1675 Oates became a chaplain in the Royal Navy. Oates was soon accused of buggery, which was a capital offense, and spared only because of his clerical status. He was dismissed from the navy in 1676.
In August 1676, Oates was arrested in London and returned to Hastings to face trial for his outstanding perjury charges, but he escaped a second time and returned to London. With the help of the actor Matthew Medburne, he joined the household of the Catholic Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk, as an Anglican chaplain to those members of Howard’s household who were Protestants. He soon lost this position.
On Ash Wednesday in 1677 Oates was received into the Catholic Church. Oates was involved with the Jesuit houses of St Omer in France and the Royal English College at Valladolid in Spain. Oates was admitted to a course in Valladolid through the support of Richard Strange, SJ, head of the English Province, despite a lack of basic competence in Latin. He later claimed, falsely, that he had become a Catholic Doctor of Divinity. His ignorance of Latin was quickly exposed, and his frequently blasphemous conversation and attacks on the monarchy shocked both his teachers and the other students. Thomas Whitbread, SJ, the new Provincial, took a much firmer line with Oates than had Strange and, in June 1678, expelled him from St Omer. Oddly, at the same time, Oates agreed to co-author a series of anti-Catholic pamphlets with Israel Tonge, whom he had met through Oates’ father. When he returned to London, he rekindled his friendship with Tonge. Oates explained that he had pretended to become a Catholic to learn about the secrets of the Jesuits.
In October 1677, Charles Langhorne entrusted Oates with a letter to his father. Oates returned to St Omer with a letter from Richard thanking the Jesuits for all they had done for his sons.
Being Catholic, Richard was arrested on 15 June 1667, suspected of involvement in the great fire of London in September 1666, but was released. He was arrested again on 7 October 1678 and lodged in solitary confinement in Newgate Prison for eight months on suspicion of involvement in the Popish Plot of Titus Oates. Oates claimed, corroborated by William Bedloe, that Langhorne’s earlier correspondence dealt with treason. Though Richard denied knowledge of any such thing, on 14 June 1679 he was found guilty of conspiring with the Jesuits to burn London, and sentenced to death.
As the result of a petition by his wife, a ‘true Protestant’, he received a month’s reprieve to tidy the affairs of his clients. He was executed at Tyburn, London, on 14 July 1679. According to the Benedictines at Tyburn Convent, “He declared on the scaffold at Tyburn, that not only a pardon, but many preferments and estates had been offered to him if he would forsake his religion. As the hangman was placing the rope round his neck, he took it into his hands and kissed it.”
This notice from The Tablet archives has this additional detail about his execution from a contemporary account:
“He then said, ‘Pray God bless his Majesty and this kingdom, and defend him from all his enemies ‘; and then prayed that there might be no more blood shed, and that God would forgive them that designed or rejoyced in his death, and suddenly added, ‘I shall say no more in publick.’ And presently applyed himself to his private devotions, and by some words which he spake lowder than ordinary it appeared that some of his prayers were in Latin and some in English. One near him saying, the Lord have mercy on his soul,’ he, turning to him, said, I thank you for your charity.’ Having continued about a quarter of an hour in his private ejaculations (prayers) (though the sheriff told him he might take half an hour if he pleased), he asked whether the rope were right. A while after he said, You need stay no longer for me.’ Upon which the cart was immediately drawn away, and the hangman, having struck him on the breast and pull’d his legs to dispatch him, he was stripp’d, and being quite dead, was cut down and the sentence executed upon him. . . .
“After his bowels were burnt and his body quartered according to his sentence, his corps was, by his Majesty’s most gracious order, delivered to his friends, who put it into a hearse, with escutcheons about it, and was afterwards interred in the Temple church, in which place he was once a student of the laws.”
“I am desirous to be with my Jesus. I am ready and you need stay no longer for me.” – Blessed Richard’s last words to his executioner
O Blessed News!!
-Bl Richard Langhorne
It is told me I must die.
O blessed news!
I must quit
Earth for Heaven.
My earthly prison for a liberty of joy,
My banishment for my true country.
I must pass
From time to eternity,
From misery to felicity,
From change to immutability.
I must go to fill
My spirit with a plenitude of light,
My will with a fullness of peace,
My memory with a collection of all goods,
My senses with a satiety of pleasures.
I go where I shall find
All things which I can desire,
Nothing which I can fear.
I shall no more want any good,
God shall be unto me all in all,
And my all for all eternity.
I shall see and I shall live,
I shall praise and I shall bless,
And this I shall forever do.
It is told me I must die,
Oh, what happiness!
I am going
To the place of my rest,
To the land of the living,
To the haven of security,
To the kingdom of peace,
To the palace of my God,
To the nuptials of the Lamb,
To sit at the table of my King,
To feed on His blessed sight,
To see what no eye hath seen,
To hear what no ear hath heard,
To enjoy what no mortal can conceive.
Blessed Richard Langhorne, pray for us!!!!
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "And above all, be on your guard not to want to get anything done by force, because God has given free will to everyone and wants to force no one, but only proposes, invites and counsels." –St. Angela Merici, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "We cannot always have access to a spiritual Father for counsel in our actions and in our doubts, but reading will abundantly supply his place by giving us directions to escape the illusions of the devil and of our own self-love, and at the same time to submit to the divine will.” —St. Alphonsus Ligouri, "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom