Category Archives: March

Mar 19 – St Joseph “dream, service, fidelity”


-by Giovanni Gasparro, “Chaste Heart of St. Joseph”, 2013, Basilica of St. Joseph the craftsman (Ex San Biagio d’Amiternum, XIII century), L’Aquila, Italy

“He did not do astonishing things, he had no unique charisms, nor did he appear special in the eyes of those who met him. He was not famous or even noteworthy: the Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God.

God looks on the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines.  Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of “the saints next door”. At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey.

Saint Joseph suggests to us three key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream. Everyone dreams of finding fulfillment in life. We rightly nurture great hopes, lofty aspirations that ephemeral goals – like success, money and entertainment – cannot satisfy. If we were to ask people to express in one word their life’s dream, it would not be difficult to imagine the answer: “to be loved”. It is love that gives meaning to life, because it reveals life’s mystery. Indeed, we only have life if we give it; we truly possess it only if we generously give it away. Saint Joseph has much to tell us in this regard, because, through the dreams that God inspired in him, he made of his life a gift.

The Gospels tell us of four dreams (cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13.19.22). They were calls from God, but they were not easy to accept. After each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely. We may ask ourselves, “Why put so much trust in a dream in the night?” Although a dream was considered very important in ancient times, it was still a small thing in the face of the concrete reality of life. Yet Saint Joseph let himself be guided by his dreams without hesitation. Why? Because his heart was directed to God; it was already inclined towards him. A small indication was enough for his watchful “inner ear” to recognize God’s voice. This applies also to our calling: God does not like to reveal himself in a spectacular way, pressuring our freedom. He conveys his plans to us with gentleness. He does not overwhelm us with dazzling visions but quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings. In this way, as he did with Saint Joseph, he sets before us profound and unexpected horizons.

Indeed, Joseph’s dreams led him into experiences he would never have imagined. The first of these upended his betrothal, but made him the father of the Messiah; the second caused him to flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the third, which foretold his return to his native land, a fourth dream made him change plans once again, bringing him to Nazareth, the place where Jesus would begin his preaching of the Kingdom of God. Amid all these upheavals, he found the courage to follow God’s will. So too in a vocation: God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to grace, setting aside our own programmes and comforts, can we truly say “yes” to God. And every “yes” bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece. In this regard, Saint Joseph is an outstanding example of acceptance of God’s plans. Yet his was an active acceptance: never reluctant or resigned. Joseph was “certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive” (Patris Corde, 4). May he help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true. May he inspire in them the courage to say “yes” to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.

A second word marks the journey of Saint Joseph and that of vocation: service. The Gospels show how Joseph lived entirely for others and never for himself. The holy people of God invoke him as the most chaste spouse, based on his ability to love unreservedly. By freeing love from all possessiveness, he became open to an even more fruitful service. His loving care has spanned generations; his attentive guardianship has made him patron of the Church. As one who knew how to embody the meaning of self-giving in life, Joseph is also the patron of a happy death. His service and sacrifices were only possible, however, because they were sustained by a greater love: “Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration” (ibid., 7).

For Saint Joseph, service – as a concrete expression of the gift of self – did not remain simply a high ideal, but became a rule for daily life. He strove to find and prepare a place where Jesus could be born; he did his utmost to protect him from Herod’s wrath by arranging a hasty journey into Egypt; he immediately returned to Jerusalem when Jesus was lost; he supported his family by his work, even in a foreign land. In short, he adapted to different circumstances with the attitude of those who do not grow discouraged when life does not turn out as they wished; he showed the willingness typical of those who live to serve. In this way, Joseph welcomed life’s frequent and often unexpected journeys: from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, then to Egypt and again to Nazareth, and every year to Jerusalem. Each time he was willing to face new circumstances without complaining, ever ready to give a hand to help resolve situations. We could say that this was the outstretched hand of our heavenly Father reaching out to his Son on earth. Joseph cannot fail to be a model for all vocations, called to be the ever-active hands of the Father, outstretched to his children.

I like to think, then, of Saint Joseph, the protector of Jesus and of the Church.  In fact, from his willingness to serve comes his concern to protect. The Gospel tells us that “Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night” (Mt 2:14), thus revealing his prompt concern for the good of his family. He wasted no time fretting over things he could not control, in order to give full attention to those entrusted to his care. Such thoughtful concern is the sign of a true vocation, the testimony of a life touched by the love of God. What a beautiful example of Christian life we give when we refuse to pursue our ambitions or indulge in our illusions, but instead care for what the Lord has entrusted to us through the Church! God then pours out his Spirit and creativity upon us; he works wonders in us, as he did in Joseph.

Together with God’s call, which makes our greatest dreams come true, and our response, which is made up of generous service and attentive care, there is a third characteristic of Saint Joseph’s daily life and our Christian vocation, namely fidelity. Joseph is the “righteous man” (Mt 1:19) who daily perseveres in quietly serving God and his plans. At a particularly difficult moment in his life, he thoughtfully considered what to do (cf. v. 20). He did not let himself be hastily pressured. He did not yield to the temptation to act rashly, simply following his instincts or living for the moment. Instead, he pondered things patiently. He knew that success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions. This was reflected in his perseverance in plying the trade of a humble carpenter (cf. Mt 13:55), a quiet perseverance that made no news in his own time, yet has inspired the daily lives of countless fathers, labourers and Christians ever since. For a vocation – like life itself – matures only through daily fidelity.

How is such fidelity nurtured? In the light of God’s own faithfulness. The first words that Saint Joseph heard in a dream were an invitation not to be afraid, because God remains ever faithful to his promises: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid” (Mt 1:20). Do not be afraid: these words the Lord also addresses to you, dear sister, and to you, dear brother, whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to him. He repeats these words when, perhaps amid trials and misunderstandings, you seek to follow his will every day, wherever you find yourself. They are words you will hear anew, at every step of your vocation, as you return to your first love. They are a refrain accompanying all those who – like Saint Joseph – say yes to God with their lives, through their fidelity each day.

This fidelity is the secret of joy. A hymn in the liturgy speaks of the “transparent joy” present in the home of Nazareth. It the joy of simplicity, the joy experienced daily by those who care for what truly matters: faithful closeness to God and to our neighbour.”

Rome, from Saint John Lateran, 19 March 2021, Feast of Saint Joseph

Francis

Patris corde

“…In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.

We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage.

In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed.  Christian realism, which rejects nothing that exists.

Reality, in its mysterious and irreducible complexity, is the bearer of existential meaning, with all its lights and shadows.”

The pope warned that we should not think of believing as “finding facile and comforting solutions. The faith Christ taught us is what we see in Saint Joseph. He did not look for shortcuts, but confronted reality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.

Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception, and to show special concern for the weak, for God chooses what is weak (cf. 1 Cor 1:27).

The Lord is the “Father of orphans and protector of widows” (Ps 68:6), Who commands us to love the stranger in our midst.

APOSTOLIC LETTER
PATRIS CORDE
OF THE HOLY FATHER 
FRANCIS
ON THE 150th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE PROCLAMATION OF SAINT JOSEPH
 AS PATRON OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH

Given in Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on 8 December, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 2020, the eighth of my Pontificate.”

Prayer for the Sorrows of St Joseph

I can’t help but notice the scars on your heart, how you suffered with love. You suffered darkness and confusion when Mary was found with child. You suffered the sacrifice of your flesh as you lovingly offered up the absence of bodily intimacy in marriage. You suffered a sword in your heart, with Mary, when Simeon foretold the Passion of your Son. You suffered stress and uncertainty when you had to escape with your family to Egypt and live as an immigrant. You suffered crushing anxiety when your 12-year-old Son was lost for three days. You daily suffered fatigue and bodily aches from your manual labor. Worst of all, your fatherly heart grieved at knowing that you could not be there for Jesus and Mary when their darkest hour would one day come.

St. Joseph, thank you for what you suffered in God’s service, in union with your Son, for my salvation. I love you, St. Joseph. Thank you for your yes. Now, please help me to suffer with love as you did. When I suffer, help me not to complain. Help me not to forget love. Help me not to forget others. Dear St. Joseph, through my suffering, watch over my poor heart: May it not harden but rather become more merciful. Help me to remember all God’s children who are suffering in the world, and help me to offer my suffering for them and for the good of the Church. I am counting on you, St. Joseph. I know you will be with me, helping me to suffer with love.

St. Joseph, who suffered with love,
 please help me also to suffer with a love like yours.”

Love,
Matthew

Palm Sunday, 3/31/1146 – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluous, preaches the Second Crusade


-“St. Bernard Preaching the Second Crusade in Vezelay”, 1840 (oil on canvas), Signol, Emile (1804-1892)

Now is a time for holiness and saints within the Church. Would that we had a Bernard now to preach a Crusade of Holiness. It has often been the case, when the Church has faced its greatest crises, its greatest saints have arisen.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.” -Joel 2:13

-by Hugh O’Reilly

“Born in 1091, died in 1153, made Abbot of Clairvaux in 1115, St. Bernard exercised strong influence on 12th century Europe. When the Crusader State of Edessa fell in 1144, Pope Eugene III, who himself had been a monk in Clairvaux, called on his spiritual father to preach a Second Crusade to bring succor for the distressed condition of the Holy Land.

Abbot Bernard girded on the sword of the Divine Word and inspired many for the overseas Crusade.

This is one of his most famous speeches, preached at Vezelay, a little city of Burgundy, on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1146. The orator of the Crusade preached on a large tribune on the side of a hill outside the gates of the city. With King Louis VII of France in his royal robes present, St. Bernard first read the letters of the Sovereign Pontiff calling for a Crusade, then made this plea to arms to the large crowd that had gathered there to hear his words:

“How can you not know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin? The enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. Neither the laws of men nor the laws of religion have sufficient power to check the depravity of customs and the triumph of the wicked. The demon of heresy has taken possession of the chair of truth, and God has sent forth His malediction upon His sanctuary.

“Oh, ye who listen to me, hasten then to appease the anger of Heaven. But no longer implore His goodness by vain complaints; clothe not yourselves in sackcloth, but cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers. The din of arms, the dangers, the labors, the fatigues of war are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the infidels, and let the deliverance of holy places be the reward of your repentance.

“If it were announced to you that the enemy had invaded your cities, your castles, your lands; had ravished your wives and your daughters and profaned your temples – who among you would not fly to arms? Well, then, all these calamities, and calamities still greater, have fallen upon your brethren, upon the family of Jesus Christ, which is yours. Why do you hesitate to repair so many evils; to revenge so many outrages? Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people?

“Remember that their triumph will be a subject for grief to all ages and an eternal opprobrium upon the generation that has endured it. Yes, the living God has charged me to announce to you that He will punish them who shall not have defended Him against His enemies.

“Fly then to arms! Let a holy ire animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, ‘Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!’ “If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve Legions of Angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.

“Christian warriors, He Who gave His life for you, today demands yours in return. These are combats worthy of you, combats in which it is glorious to conquer and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, generous defenders of the Cross, remember the example of your fathers, who conquered Jerusalem, and whose names are inscribed in Heaven. Abandon then the things that perish, to gather unfading palms and conquer a Kingdom that has no end.”

All the barons and knights applauded the eloquence of St. Bernard and were persuaded that he uttered the will of God. Louis VII, deeply moved by the words he had heard, cast himself at the feet of St. Bernard and demanded the Cross. Then, clothed with this sign, he exhorted all those present to follow his example.

The hill upon which this vast multitude was assembled resounded for a long period of time with the cries of Deus vult! Deus vult! (God wills it). Then, many counts and a crowd of barons and knights followed the example of the King. Several Bishops threw themselves at the feet of St. Bernard, taking the oath to fight against the infidels.

The crosses that the Abbot of Clairvaux had brought were not sufficient for the great number who asked for them. He tore his vestments to make more.

To preserve the memory of this day, Pons, abbot of Vèzelay, founded upon the hill where the knights and barons had assembled a Church that he dedicated to the Holy Cross. The tribune upon which St. Bernard had preached the Crusade remained there a long time, the object of the veneration of the faithful.”

Today, a cross marks the spot on the hill in Vèzelay where Bernard preached.

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people.

For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” -Psalm 117

Love,
Matthew

Mar 19 – Solemnity of St Joseph, Sermon by St Bernadine of Siena & Litany


-Heiliger “Joseph mit Jesusknabe” (Holy Joseph with the Boy Jesus), Caspar Jele, 1848

Saint Bernardine of Siena, priest (Sermo 2, de S. Joseph: Opera 7, 16, 27-30), Second Reading, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours, for this March 19.

“There is a general rule concerning all special graces granted to any human being. Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace, or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.

This general rule is especially verified in the case of Saint Joseph, the foster father of our Lord and the husband of the Queen of our world, enthroned above the angels. He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasure, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him saying: Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord [cf Matthew 25:23].

What then is Joseph’s position in the whole Church of Christ? Is he not a man chosen and set apart? Through him and, yes, under him, Christ was fittingly and honorably introduced into the world. Holy Church in its entirety is indebted to the Virgin Mother because through her it was judged worthy to receive Christ. But after her we undoubtedly owe special gratitude and reverence to Saint Joseph.

In him the Old Testament finds its fitting close. He brought the noble line of patriarchs and prophets to its promised fulfillment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms.

Obviously, Christ does not now deny to Joseph that intimacy, reverence and very high honor which he gave him on earth, as a son to his father. Rather we must say that in heaven Christ completes and perfects all that he gave at Nazareth.

Now we can see how the last summoning words of the Lord appropriately apply to Saint Joseph: Enter into the joy of your Lord. In fact, although the joy of eternal happiness enters into the soul of a man, the Lord preferred to say to Joseph: Enter into joy. His intention was that the words should have a hidden spiritual meaning for us. They convey not only that this holy man possesses an inward joy, but also that it surrounds him and engulfs him like an infinite abyss.

Remember us, Saint Joseph, and plead for us to your foster-child. Ask your most holy bride, the Virgin Mary to look kindly upon us, since she is the mother of him who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns eternally. Amen.”

Litany of Saint Joseph

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.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Illustrious son of David, pray for us.
Light of the patriarchs, pray for us.
Spouse of the Mother of God, pray for us.
Chaste guardian of the Virgin, pray for us.
Foster father of the Son of God, pray for us.
Watchful defender of Christ, pray for us.
Head of the Holy Family, pray for us.
Joseph most just, pray for us.
Joseph most chaste, pray for us.
Joseph most prudent, pray for us.
Joseph most valiant, pray for us.
Joseph most obedient, pray for us.
Joseph most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of Patience, pray for us.
Lover of poverty, pray for us.
Model of workmen, pray for us.
Glory of domestic life, pray for us.
Guardian of virgins, pray for us.
Solace of the afflicted, pray for us.
Hope of the sick, pray for us.
Patron of the dying, pray for us.
Terror of demons, pray for us.
Protector of Holy Church, pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

“He made him the lord of His household, And prince of all His possessions.” -Ps 105:21

Let Us Pray

O God, in your ineffable providence you were pleased to choose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most Holy Mother, grant, we beg you, that we may be worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom, on earth, we venerate as our protector: You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Saint Joseph, Pray for Us!”

St Joseph, my special patron, pray for me!!!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – Patrick, bishop, missionary, evangelist, catechist


-by Dan Burke

“We have no difficulty in realizing the moral grandeur of St. Patrick’s character, because it is revealed to us in all its features not only in his active life and labours, but even still more strikingly in his Confession. In the Confession, we see his character reflected as in a mirror, so that we can have no doubt as to what manner of man he was. It was written, he tells us, for that very purpose, to enable all his brethren and friends to know his ‘quality’—scire qualitatem meam—and clearly see the workings of his heart. Hence it is not, and never was, designed to be in any sense a biographical memoir of the Saint. It does not deal with the external facts of his life (except incidentally), but with ‘the fixed purpose of his soul’—votum animæ meæ. From this point of view, in spite of its rugged language and rude Latinity, it is a most beautiful revelation of Patrick’s lofty character and exalted virtues.

“Hence it is that, apart from other considerations, and judging it by intrinsic evidence alone, all competent critics have recognised its authenticity. The language might be the work of a forger; but the spirit that breathes in every line is the manifest outpouring of a heart filled with the Holy Ghost, and inspired with one great purpose to live, and, if need be, to die, for the conversion of the tribes of Erin. We will not here enlarge on the critical proofs, both intrinsic and extrinsic, in favour of the authenticity of the Confession, because, as we have said, it has not been questioned, so far as we know, by any competent critic.
We said the Confession is a mirror which, consciously or unconsciously, reveals all the characteristic virtues of Patrick’s noble character.

Humility

“First of all, as might be expected in the case of so great a saint, we note his wonderful humility. In his early youth he says he knew not the true God, with thousands of others he was carried into captivity

‘as we deserved, because we did not keep God’s commandments, and were disobedient to our priests, who admonished us about our salvation.’

It was in captivity that God opened the understanding of his unbelief so as to recall his sins to mind, and turn his whole heart to God. He was a stone sunk in the mire when God, in his mercy, raised him up and placed him in the topmost wall. At the end of the Confession, too, after recounting his labours in the cause of God, he emphatically declares that ‘whatever little thing in his ignorance he had accomplished no one should think or believe it to be aught else than the gift of God.’

Prayer

“Then, again, Patrick is revealed to us in the Confession as a man who maintained at all times an intimate union with God by unceasing prayer. We can almost listen to the ‘unspeakable groanings’ of the Spirit of God communing with his soul. That wondrous spirit of prayer he first acquired in the woods on the slopes of Slemish, where a hundred times a day, and as many times at night, he bent his knees to pray in the midst of the frost and snow and rain; yet felt his spirit all aglow with divine fervour. In every crisis and in every danger his heart turned to God in prayer. During his long journeys from church to church he communed with God in silent prayer. It is said he read the whole psaltery every day with his religious family; and we know that he spent one whole Lent on the windy summit of Croaghpatrick, and another in a lonely island in Lough Derg, like our Saviour in the desert, wholly given to fasting and prayer. At Armagh he spent entire nights in prayerful vigils until his wearied body sought repose for a time before the dawn. ‘His conversation was in heaven’; and it is no wonder at all that God’s Angels spoke to him in familiar converse.

Zeal for the Salvation of Souls

“Another characteristic virtue of Patrick, exhibited in his whole life and labours and in the very striking language of his Confession, was his burning zeal for the salvation of souls, and his passionate love for the flock committed to his charge by God. In this respect there is a very striking resemblance between the Irish Apostle and the Doctor of the Gentiles [St. Paul]. Though most anxious to revisit his native country and friends in Britain, and to see once more the faces of his brethren, the saints of God in Gaul, he felt himself constrained by the Holy Spirit to remain in Ireland, lest he should lose any part of the fruit of his labours during his absence. He declares that for the sake of his flock he was ready to shed his blood and let his body be cast out, unburied, to be torn by wild beasts and birds of prey, and to drink to the dregs the chalice of Christ, his Lord, rather than he should lose any of the flock which he had gained for God at the ends of the earth. In the Epistle to Coroticus we find him animated with the same passionate love for his flock—“My brothers and my children, most beautiful and most loving”—he cries out in grief and bitterness of heart, “whom I have begotten for Christ, what can I do for you? am I unworthy in the sight of God and men to be able to help you?”

Detachment

“For their sake, too, lest the infidels should have any grounds for defaming his ministry, or impeding the progress of the Gospel and the salvation of souls, he declares that he gave his ministry to all without fee or reward, except what he hoped to obtain in heaven. “Though I have baptised so many thousands of men did I ever hope to get from them so much as half a scruple? Tell me when, and I will restore it. Though God ordained so many clerics throughout the land through my poor ministry, did I ever ask from any of them the price of my sandals?—tell me and I will restore it.” Disinterestedness like this is quite equal to that of St. Paul, and conveys a no less striking lesson for all Patrick’s successors in the ministry of the Irish Church. Is it any wonder that the people of Ireland, with the knowledge of these facts in their minds from the beginning, should love their great Apostle with a deep and passionate love which is certainly not excelled in the case of any other saint in the Calendar, except the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

*from Healy, J. (1905). The Life and Writings of St. Patrick with Appendices, Etc. (pp. 544–546). Dublin; New York: M. H. Gill & Son; Sealy, Bryers & Walker; Benziger Brothers.

-from https://theconversation-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/theconversation.com/amp/10-things-to-know-about-the-real-st-patrick-92253

Patrick heard voices

While chasing sheep on the hills, Patrick prayed a hundred times a day, in all kinds of weather. It paid off. One night a mysterious voice called to him, saying, “Look, your ship is ready!” Patrick knew he wasn’t hearing sheep. The time was right for his escape.

Patrick refused to ‘suck a man’s breasts’

St. Patrick Catholic Church, Ohio. Nheyob (Own work).
Patrick made his way to Ireland’s east coast and sought passage on a ship bound for Britain. The captain, a pagan, didn’t like the look of him and demanded that Patrick “suck his breasts,” a ritual gesture symbolizing acceptance of the captain’s authority. Patrick refused – instead he tried to convert the crew.

For some reason, the captain still took him aboard.

Patrick had visions

One night Patrick dreamed that Satan tested his faith by dropping an enormous rock on him. He lay crushed by its weight until dawn broke, when he called out, “Helias! Helias!” – the name of the Greek sun god. The rock disappeared. Patrick took it as a kind of epiphany. He later wrote:

“I believe that I was helped by Christ the Lord.”

Patrick had other peculiar visions, too. Back home at Bannavem Taburniae, he was visited by an angel with a message from the Irish: “We beg you, Holy Boy, to come and walk again among us.” He trained as a bishop and went back to Ireland.

Patrick did something unmentionable

Years into his mission, someone, it seems, told a dirty secret about Patrick to his fellow bishops. “They brought up against me after thirty years something I had already confessed … some things I had done one day – rather, in one hour, when I was young,” he wrote.

Patrick did not tell us what he did – worship idols? Engage in a forbidden sexual practice? Take gifts from converts?

Whatever it was, Patrick retrospectively understood his zealous Irish mission to be penance for his youthful sins. While he spread Christianity around Ireland, he was often beaten, put in chains or extorted. “Every day there is the chance that I will be killed, or surrounded, or taken into slavery,” he complained.

Patrick duelled with druids

Two centuries after his death, Irish believers wanted more exciting stories of Patrick’s life than the saint’s own account.

One legend (written 700 A.D.) described Patrick’s contest with native religious leaders, the druids. The druids insulted Patrick, tried to poison him and engaged him in magical duels – much like students of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts – in which they competed to manipulate the weather, destroy each other’s sacred books and survive raging fires.

When one druid dared to blaspheme the Christian God, however, Patrick sent the druid flying into air – the man dropped to the ground and broke his skull.

Patrick made God promise

Another legend from around the same time tells how Patrick fasted for 40 days atop a mountain, weeping, throwing things, and refusing to descend until an angel came on God’s behalf to grant the saint’s outrageous demands. These included the following: Patrick would redeem more souls from hell than any other saint; Patrick, rather than God, would judge Irish sinners at the end of time; and the English would never rule Ireland.

We know how that last one worked out. Perhaps God will keep the other two promises.

Love & begorrah!!!!
Matthew

Mar 25 – Handmaid of the Lord


-“Annunciation” by El Greco, c. 1590–1603, Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Japan

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

Presence of God – O Mary, you who called yourself the handmaid of the Lord, teach me how to consecrate all my strength and life to His service.

MEDITATION

All the splendors—divine filiation, participation in divine life, intimate relations with the Trinity—which grace produces in our souls are realized in Mary with a prominence, a force, a realism, wholly singular. If, for example, every soul in the state of grace is an adopted child of God and a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Virgin is so, par excellence and in the most complete manner, because the Triune God communicated Himself to her in the highest degree possible for a simple creature, to such a degree that Mary’s dignity, according to St. Thomas, touches “the threshold of the infinite” (cf. Summa Theologica Ia, q. 25, a. 6, ad 4). This can easily be understood when we think that, from all eternity, Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of His Son. As the Incarnation of the Word was the first work of the mind of God, in view of which everything was created, so also Mary, who was to have such a great part in this work, was foreseen and chosen by God before all other creatures. It is fitting that the words of Sacred Scripture are applied to her: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His ways, before He made anything from the beginning” (Proverbs 8:22).

When Adam, deprived of the state of grace, was driven out of Paradise, only one ray of hope illumined the darkness of fallen humanity: “I will put enmities between thee and the woman,” God said to the serpent, “and … she shall crush thy head” (Genesis 3:15). Here Mary appears on the horizon as the beloved Daughter of God, as she who will never be, for a single moment, a slave of the devil; as she who will always be spotless and immaculate, belonging wholly to God: as the Daughter whom the Most High will always look upon with sovereign complacency, and whom He will introduce into the circle of His divine Family by bonds of the closest intimacy with each of the three divine Persons: Daughter of the Father, Mother of the Incarnate Word, and Spouse of the Holy Spirit.

COLLOQUY

O Mary, all pure and all holy, Paradise of God, His beloved Daughter, chosen by Him from all eternity to be the Mother of His only Son, preserved by Him from every shadow of sin, enriched by Him with all graces … how great and how beautiful you are, O Mary! “You are all beautiful, O Mary, and there is no stain of sin in you. You are the glory of Jerusalem, the joy of Israel, the honor of our people” (Tota Pulchra).

The Most High has always looked upon you with complacency and He willed to give Himself to you in a unique way. “The Lord is with you, O Mary! God the Father is with you, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, the Triune and One God. God the Father, whose noble Daughter you are; God the Son, whose most worthy Mother you are; God the Holy Spirit, whose gracious Spouse you are. You are truly the Daughter of the sovereign, eternal God, the Mother of sovereign Truth, the Spouse of sovereign Goodness, the handmaid of the sovereign Trinity” (cf. Conrad of Saxony). But from all these titles, you choose the last, the humblest, and the lowest, and call yourself the handmaid of the Lord.

“Oh! how sublime is your humility, which never yields to the seductions of glory, and in glory knows no pride. You were chosen to become the Mother of God, and you call yourself servant! O Blessed Lady, how were you able to unite in your heart such a humble idea of yourself, with so much purity and innocence, and especially such plenitude of grace? O Blessed Lady, whence comes such humility? Truly, because of this virtue, you have merited to be looked upon by God with extraordinary love; and you have merited to charm the King with your beauty, and to draw the eternal Son from the bosom of the Father” (cf. St. Bernard).

O Mary, you proclaimed yourself to be the handmaid of the Lord, and you have truly lived as such, always humbly submissive to His will, always ready to respond to His call and invitation. Who more than you could say with Jesus: “My meat is to do the will of My Father” (cf. John 4:34)? O Mary, sweet Daughter of the heavenly Father, impress upon my heart a little of your docility, a little of your love for God’s holy will, in order that I may serve Him less unworthily.”

Love,
Matthew

Mar 19 – Prayer to St Joseph

“Would that I could persuade all men to be devout to this glorious saint,” wrote St. Teresa of Avila in her autobiography, “for I know by long experience what blessings he can obtain for us from God.”

“Men of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph,” especially fathers of families, Pope Leo XIII wrote in his encyclical on devotion to St. Joseph, Quamquam pluries.

Pope Benedict XVI especially encouraged married couples and parents to turn to St. Joseph, saying: “God alone could grant Joseph the strength to trust the Angel. God alone will give you, dear married couples, the strength to raise your family as He wants. Ask it of Him! God loves to be asked for what He wishes to give. Ask Him for the grace of a true and ever more faithful love patterned after His own. As the Psalm magnificently puts it: His ‘love is established for ever, His loyalty will stand as long as the heavens’ (Ps 88:3).

“Ever blessed and glorious Joseph, kind and loving father, and helpful friend of all in sorrow! You are the good father and protector of orphans, the defender of the defenseless, the patron of those in need and sorrow.

Look kindly on my request. My sins have drawn down on me the just displeasure of my God, and so I am surrounded with unhappiness. To you, loving guardian of the Family of Nazareth, do I go for help and protection. Listen, then, I beg you, with fatherly concern, to my earnest prayers, and obtain for me the favors I ask.

I ask it by the infinite mercy of the eternal Son of God, which moved Him to take our nature and to be born into this world of sorrow.

I ask it by the weariness and suffering you endured when you found no shelter at the inn of Bethlehem for the Holy Virgin, nor a house where the Son of God could be born. Then, being everywhere refused, you had to allow the Queen of Heaven to give birth to the world’s Redeemer in a cave.

I ask it by the loveliness and power of that sacred Name, Jesus, which you conferred on the adorable Infant.

I ask it by the painful torture you felt at the prophecy of holy Simeon, which declared the Child Jesus and His holy Mother future victims of our sins and of their great love for us.

I ask it through your sorrow and pain of soul when the angel declared to you that the life of the Child Jesus was sought by His enemies. From their evil plan, you had to flee with Him and His Blessed Mother to Egypt.

I ask it by all the suffering, weariness, and labors of that long and dangerous journey.

I ask it by all your care to protect the Sacred Child and His Immaculate Mother during your second journey, when you were ordered to return to your own country.

I ask it by your peaceful life in Nazareth where you met with so many joys and sorrows. I ask it by your great distress when the adorable Child was lost to you and His mother for three days.

I ask it by your joy at finding Him in the temple, and by the comfort you found at Nazareth, while living in the company of the Child Jesus.

I ask it by the wonderful submission He showed in His obedience to you.

I ask it by the perfect love and conformity you showed in accepting the Divine order to depart from this life, and from the company of Jesus and Mary.

I ask it by the joy which filled your soul, when the Redeemer of the world, triumphant over death and hell, entered into the possession of His kingdom and led you into it with special honors.

I ask it through Mary’s glorious Assumption, and through that endless happiness you have with her in the presence of God. O good father! I beg you, by all your sufferings, sorrows, and joys, to hear me and obtain for me what I ask.

(Here name your petitions or think of them.)

Obtain for all those who have asked my prayers everything that is useful to them in the plan of God. Finally, my dear patron and father, be with me and all who are dear to me in our last moments, that we may eternally sing the praises of: JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH. “A blameless life, St. Joseph, may we lead, by your kind patronage from danger freed.”

My special patron, hear me!!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – St Patrick’s Slavery (5th century AD), from slavery to slavery


-by Br Irenaeus Dunlevy, OP

Similar to the Irish people, St. Patrick moved from slavery to slavery. Looking at the life of today’s celebrated saint, we see three modes of slavery which are emblematic of the people he helped save. St. Patrick and his flock have been slaves to humans, sin, and Christ. The life of Patrick shows us the healing and freeing power of grace which removed the yoke of man and sin and replaced them with the sweet yoke of Christ.

The opening words of St. Patrick’s most famous work, Confessio, read:

“I, Patrick, a sinner, very rustic, and the least of all the faithful, and very contemptible in the estimation of most men, had as father a certain man called Calpornius…who was in the town Bannaventa Berniae…where I conceded capture.”

St. Patrick was the son of a deacon and grandson of a priest—priestly celibacy wasn’t unanimous in the 4th century. Despite his family’s religion, Patrick accused himself of ignorance of God and of committing some grave sin which he never named. He blamed himself for his eventual capture and enslavement as he was shipped off to Ireland. As a slave, Patrick became a figure of solidarity for the Irish people, because the Irish have often suffered human oppression.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, many Irish entered into indentured servitude in order to find passage to America. One should not equate or conflate this type of slavery with the chattel slavery coming from Africa; St. Patrick escaped the latter. In lieu of their status as indentured servants, many Irish (among other poor Europeans) labored under the yoke of another human. Similarly, Irish immigrants during the Industrial Revolution met inhospitable conditions in their apartments and factories. While laboring under harsh demands, many Irish prayed to St. Patrick—a man who spent six years in slavery.

Patrick learned to pray to the Father in secret while he endured injustice. The Father gradually freed him from his sin and ignorance while he endured “hunger and nakedness daily.” Those six years of slavery helped him mature from his rambunctious youth. Patrick grew in love and fear of the Lord while learning Christian humility:

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” (Mt 20:26–27)

After learning humility in the midst of oppression, St. Patrick confessed the mercy God showed him:

“The Lord turned His gaze round on my lowliness and took pity on my adolescence and ignorance and kept watch over me before I knew Him…He fortified me and consoled me as a father consoles a son.”

Eventually, the Lord visited Patrick in a mystical way and guided him out of captivity and Ireland. Patrick’s emancipation from slavery and sin encapsulates St. Paul’s words, “So through God you are no longer a slave but a son” (Gal 4:7). He rejoiced in the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rm 8:21). The saint praised the Lord for his liberation from man, but he praised God more for the grace that freed him from ignorance and sin. St. Paul’s words describe well Patrick’s conversion:

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Rm 6:17–18)

Patrick was freed from two forms of slavery in order to become a slave of righteousness. Yet, this slavery is different, because it is tied to sonship and friendship. “No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15). It is a paradox that one can be the son of God and a friend of Christ, and find freedom in obedience. Patrick’s life testifies to that truth, as he obeyed the Lord’s call and returned to the land of his captivity.

Patrick records a locution of the Irish people calling to him, “We call you, holy boy, that you come and walk farther among us.” Whereas before the Irish forced Patrick to the yoke of human slavery, here they beckon him to take on the yoke of Christ. The impassioned call helped create one of the greatest evangelizers in Church history and helped produce an emerald isle of the faith.

Today, merrymaking and lamentation seem a fitting response to Ireland’s patronal feast day. It’s a day of Masses, prayers, dancing, and, unfortunately, riotous drinking. The latter debauchery flies in the face of St. Patrick’s sanctity; indeed, the green-clad souls pounding green Guinness manifest the pagan world the saint brazenly entered. St. Patrick, a man freed from a twofold slavery, took on the yoke of Christ to liberate such as these still captive to sin. We can even now learn from his words:

“I had come to Irish gentiles to proclaim the Gospel, and to endure indignities from unbelievers…so that I might give up my freeborn status for the advantage of others…for His name.”

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig dhuit,
Matthew

Mar 30 – Bl Maria Restituta Kafka, SFCC, (1894-1943), Martyr of the Nazis, “No one can take the faith from us!”

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– This article was published in “The Crusader” issue June 2013.

WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN (ACTS 5:29)

“A strong and courageous woman, Ward Sister and Head Nurse in an Austrian hospital, she firmly opposed the anti-religious measures of the Nazi regime and defended the rights of the weak and the sick, speaking of peace and democracy. She was denounced by the SS, was imprisoned, condemned to death and then beheaded in Vienna on the 30th March 1943, at the age of 49. She was killed together with some communist workmen whom she managed to comfort on the eve of their death.

THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF CHRISTIAN CHARITY

The sacrifice of Blessed Maria Restituta (Helene Kafka) – the only nun to be condemned to death under the National-Socialist regime and judged after a court hearing – was recently commemorated in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna, celebrated a Mass at which the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity gave to the Basilica a small cross which Maria Restituta carried on the belt of her habit. The relic was placed in the altar – which commemorates the martyrs of National-Socialism – by a woman who was born in 1941 in the very hospital where the religious served in those years. Immediately following the great jubilee of 2000, John Paul II decided that the Roman Basilica of St Bartholomew on Tiber Island was to become a memorial of the ‘new martyrs’ and witnesses of the faith from the 20th and 21st centuries.

ENERGETIC CHARACTER

Born on 1 May 1894 [at Hussowitz bei Bruenn in the Austria-Hungary Empire, today] Brno-Husovice, in modern day Czech Republic, of humble background, Helene Kafka grew up in the Austrian capital where she worked in the Lainz hospital with the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. In 1914 she entered the convent and received the name Maria Restituta. From 1919 until 1942 she served in the hospital in Moedling, Vienna, where she became a surgical nurse and an anaesthetist, esteemed for her professional competence, beloved for her sensitivity and respected for her energetic character, so much that she soon earned the nickname ‘Sister Resoluta’.

restituta-kafka-to-fs

THE CROSS OF CHRIST

After Germany annexed Austria, the religious worked for justice and the dignity of every human being. Faced with the anti-religious suppression of the Nazis, she responded by reaffirming religious freedom and by refusing to remove the crucifixes in the hospital. She also countered Hitler’s swastika with the Cross of Christ. She also spread ‘A soldier’s song’ that spoke of democracy, peace, and a free Austria. Spied on by two ladies, she was denounced by a doctor close to the SS, who for some time sought an opportunity to distance her from the hospital.

Restituta_Kafka1
-mug shot after arrest

‘SHE WAS A SAINT’

After her arrest by the Gestapo on Ash Wednesday, 18 February 1942, she was condemned to death on 29th October 1942 (the day chosen for her liturgical memorial). The sentence was carried out on 30th March 1943. Before her death she asked the chaplain to make the sign of the cross on her forehead. ‘She was a saint because in that situation she encouraged everyone, she transmitted a power, a positive spirit and one of confidence’, a fellow prisoner later recalled.

Bl. Restituta spent her remaining days ministering to other prisoners. As she approached the guillotine wearing a paper shirt and weighing just half her previous weight, her last words were, “I have lived for Christ; I want to die for Christ.”

Fearing that Catholic Christians would promote her as a martyr, the Nazis did not hand over her body. Rather they buried it in a mass grave.

In the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber in Rome is a chapel dedicated to 20th century martyrs. The crucifix that hung from Bl. Restituta’s belt is kept there as a relic.

On 21 June 1998 Restituta Kafka was beatified in Vienna, together with the servants of God, Jakob Kern and Anton Maria Schwartz, by John Paul II, who said: ‘Looking at Blessed Sister Restituta, we can see to what heights of inner maturity a person can be led by the divine hand.’

She risked her life for her witness to the Cross. And she kept the Cross in her heart, bearing witness to it once again before being led to execution, when she asked the prison chaplain to ‘make the Sign of the Cross on my forehead’. John Paul II continued: ‘Many things can be taken from us Christians but the Cross as the sign of salvation will not be taken from us. We will not let it be removed from public life! We will listen to the voice of our conscience, which says: ‘We must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5:29).

‘NO ONE CAN TAKE FROM US THE FAITH’

Blessed Maria Restituta Helene Kafka was a lady who, with a power for renewal, was able to give an example of freedom of expression and of responsibility of the individual conscience – even in difficult circumstances, animated by a virtue that is at times inconvenient: courage. ‘No matter how far we are from everything we are, no matter what is taken from us,’ the religious wrote in a letter from prison, ‘no one can take from us the faith we have in our heart. In this way we can build an altar in our own heart.’”

Love & blessing,
Matthew

Mar 30 – St John Climacus (aka of the Ladder, Scholasticus, Sinaites), (579-649 AD) – The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The_Ladder_of_Divine_Ascent_Monastery_of_St_Catherine_Sinai_12th_century
-John Climacus is shown at the top of the The Ladder of Divine Ascent, with other monks following him, 12th century icon (Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt). Please click on the image for greater detail.

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-by Fr. Stephen Freeman

“St. John Climacus is the author of the ancient work, The Ladder of Divine Ascent. It is a classic work describing “steps” within the life of the struggling ascetic. There is an icon associated with this work, picturing monastics climbing the rungs of a ladder to heaven, battling demons who are trying to pull them off. However, ladders are dangerous things to put in the hands of a modern Christian.

Modernity likes ladders. We like the idea of upward mobility, of continuing improvement, of moral progress. We speak of “career ladders” and the “ladder of success.” It is the myth of personal power. Modernity is a cultural phenomenon created by the theology of the Reformation and the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Freed from the constraints of inherited tradition (such as the Catholic Church) and the royal state (hurrah for democracy?), modernity is a story told to individuals that they can now become whatever they want. Freedom and personal industry are the twin rails supporting the rungs of progress. As a philosophy, this idea and its associated notions are the bedrock of free-market capitalism. As theology, it is the foundation for self-help Christianity and the positive, motivational preaching of contemporary religion. “Be all that you can be, and Jesus can help!”

Nurtured in this culture, contemporary believers are not immune to its allure, particularly if the images appear in the guise of desert monasticism and striving. More than once I have heard the sad confession, “I don’t feel like I’m a very good Christian.” Implied in this statement is that some Christians should, somehow, be better than other Christians. Some foolish people even call us the “marines” of the spiritual life.

Of course, all of this, particularly when applied to writings such as St. John’s Ladder, is pure distortion and delusion. Its most subtle and seductive version is that of moral progress. I wrote a series of articles last year denouncing the concept of moral progress, identifying it as largely a modern notion and not consistent with the mind of the fathers. Here, I reaffirm that without equivocation.

We simply are not saved by getting better. It is a false image and a false goal. Of course, critics will charge that I’m being defeatist and suggesting a path devoid of moral effort. I am doing nothing of the sort. Everyone should, at all times, struggle against sin. But measuring, even watching for improvement can be not only self-defeating but sinful in itself. The Ladder points to a very different path:

“You cannot escape shame except by shame,” St. John says (4.62).

We do not gradually improve and thereby leave our shame behind us. The way down is the way up. The ladder of divine ascent is actually a ladder of divine descent. The path to union with God is only found in making the descent with Him. “Lo, if I descend into hell, Thou art there” (Ps 139:8). St. Gregory the Theologian says, “If He descends into hell, go with Him” (Oration 45).

The path of modernity carries no humility. It breeds pride, and frequently contempt. Failure is its nemesis. We blame ourselves for laziness and sloth, certain that a little more effort will make the difference. Like a child given a bad grade, we plead that we’ll try harder. Confession is seen as the Second Chance, the opportunity to pull up our grades. “Loser!” is the taunt of the modern world (a word spawned in the pit of hell).

your-a-loser

But St. John points us towards our shame. He does not describe a path of moral improvement. His path follows the Cross, which is the descent into Hades. My failure, not sought for its own sake (we do not sin in order to gain grace), is always and immediately the gate of Hades and the gate of Paradise. When I acknowledge my failure and refuse to hide from its shame, we can call out for Christ to comfort us. “I did not turn my face from the shame and the spitting” (Is. 50:6). He will meet us in our shame, and takes it upon Himself. My failure becomes the failure of God (2 Cor. 5:21). It does not separate me from Christ, but, ironically, unites me to Him in the paradox that is at the very heart of our salvation. God became what we are, that we might become what He is. God does not meet us in the middle. He meets us at the bottom and asks us to meet Him there as well.

It is within that place that true humility is born. Judgment ceases. If I accept my shame in union with Christ, how can I judge another? Indeed, it is largely my efforts to avoid my shame that makes me judge my brother. We can only avoid judging if we “see our own transgressions” (as we are taught in the Prayer of St. Ephrem).

Modernity loves excellence. The moral improvement pitches of the motivational preachers love the drive for excellence. Our bosses and the owners demand that we strive for excellence. God is not our boss, nor does He place us in His debt (“freely you have received”). The constant nagging voice demanding improvement and excellence is not the voice of God. It is often nothing more than the neurotic echo of modernity sounding in our brains. It drives us with the threat of shame. However, Christ has trampled down shame by shame and invites us to do the same thing. “You cannot escape shame except by shame.”

Become a Christian who follows Christ. We do not seek to please Him with our excellence. We seek to imitate Him by going where He has gone.”

St. John Climacus says that the ancient Fathers, even those who were most perfect, exercised themselves in many kinds of mortification and contempt. For they said that if they should give up training themselves because men thought them already consummate in virtue, they would come, in time, to abandon and lose that modesty and patience which they possessed; just as a field, though rich and fertile, if it be no longer cultivated, becomes unsightly and ends in producing only thorns and thistles.

Love,
Matthew