-“The Crucifixion” is a panel in the central part of the predella of a large altarpiece painted by Andrea Mantegna between 1457 and 1459 for the high altar of San Zeno, Verona (Italy). It was commissioned by Gregorio Correr, the abbot of that monastery. Tempera on panel, 67 cm × 93 cm (26 in × 37 in), The Louvre, Paris. Please click on the image for greater detail.
“What do the martyrs teach us? Today we celebrate the English Martyrs, those heroic men and women who gave their life for the faith in this country in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is stating the obvious to note how different their circumstances were to our own. Why then do we celebrate them today, and what do they teach us?
St John of the Cross once wrote: “in the evening of life, we will be judged by love alone.” The fact that we are celebrating this feast means that these martyrs now enjoy their eternal reward. Judged by love alone, they passed the test with flying colours. So if they teach us about love, how are we to love?
Christ summarises the teaching of the Old Testament on love as the following: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
This tells us who we are to love, but it doesn’t tell us the how.
Christ’s teaching on love is not reducible to a summary of the Old Law. His teaching takes on a far more radical shape: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you”. As I have loved you. This is to give up life itself, for this is what Christ Himself did. That point is made very clear when Jesus goes to say “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Christ laid down His life for each one of us, and that is how He calls each one of us to love too.
A love that imitates Christ until death is exactly what we read about St Stephen in the first reading. The story even echoes the events of the cross. Stephen, like Christ, was taken outside of the city to be killed. He too, like Christ, forgave his oppressors, and he too cried out to God with the same words: “receive my spirit”.
A death that echoes that of Christ on the cross can also be seen with many of the English Martyrs that we celebrate today. John Kemple, a secular priest, said to his executioner, who happened to be a friend of his, “My good Anthony, do what you have to do. I forgive you with all my heart…”. Margaret Clitherowe accepted her burden with the same words as Christ prayed in the garden. She said, before she was crushed to death, “I will accept willingly everything that God wills”.
This is why we celebrate the martyrs: they fix our gaze on the cross. It is there we learn how to love.
Christ’s instruction to imitate Him is of course not just reserved for the moment of our death. His instruction to “love one another even as I have loved you” ought to direct our every action. We cannot wait until the possibility of a heroic martyr’s death to begin loving as we ought to love. For the vast majority of us that moment will likely never come. But the opportunity to love as Christ has loved us is already here.
The whole of Jesus’ earthly mission looked forward to the cross. The love He displayed there was the perfection and completion of His ministry of teaching and healing. The cross is the final lesson: by His wounds, we are healed. (cf -Is 53:5-6)
So too in the lives of the martyrs their death was not an isolated incident, of Christ-like, cruciform love. St Stephen was a man ‘full of faith and the Holy Spirit’, who proclaimed words of truth in the midst of a hostile Council. Margaret Clitherowe hid priests and continued to do so even after it was made illegal. She decided not to plead in her trial, thereby hastening her execution, so as to save her children from testifying and likely torture. Her imitation of the cross began long before she breathed her last. How appropriate that she died on 25th March 1586, Good Friday that year.
This is what the martyrs teach us: our imitation of the cross begins now. Every single moment, every single decision, is an opportunity to love as Jesus loved us.
To love like Jesus on the cross is to prefer nothing but the good of our neighbour. (cf – St Thomas Aquinas, OP) It is to forgive those who have most deeply wronged us. It is to speaks words of comfort from a place of hurt. (Ed.’s emphasis) It is to gather together those who are lost. It is to seek to do the Father’s will above all things.
For a very few the imitation of Christ’s love on the cross is literal, for most the circumstances are less dramatic, but for all the demand is the same: love one another as I have loved you. A cruciform-shaped love ought to structure our whole life, from its broadest shape to its most insignificant detail – now, and at the hour of our death.”
Love, Lord, let me love those who have wronged me, caused me to suffer, deprived me in this life,
“Euripides said, “Those whom the gods destroy, they first make mad.” That ancient wisdom is playing out before our eyes in the modern world. No one can ignore the unhappiness shackling society, but most pretend to, as a maniac might.
Yesterday, May 15, was the feast day of a girl who resisted an insane, uncouth attack in the name of sanity and decency, at the cost of her home, family, and life. Catholics in the United States especially, as we hopefully anticipate the overturning of a national injustice, should remember this little Irish saint named Dymphna, for we, too, are pressured by the dictates of diseased minds and a culture of madness. Dymphna knows of our plight, as a hero who lost her head to a man who had lost his mind.
St. Dymphna lived in Ireland during the seventh century, the daughter of a minor king named Damon. At age fourteen, she consecrated herself to Christ, following the faith of her pious mother. But Dymphna’s mother died, and left Damon devastated.
The king’s sorrow over the loss of his wife led to a complete mental collapse. His counselors, terrified by the rantings and ravings of their master, perversely suggested he wed his daughter, Dymphna, who bore a striking resemblance to the woman Damon had loved.
In his madness, Damon pursued his daughter, who fled with her guardian, Fr. Gerebran, to what is today Belgium. There she used the money she had brought with her to build a hospital for the poor.
Using her currency, however, put her father on her track. He appeared in a rage, sword in hand, and slew Gerebran. Dymphna, bereft of her only guardian and standing on the threshold of death, still held fast—so Damon slashed off his daughter’s head.
Today, Dymphna is the patron saint of people who suffer from mental disorders, sexual assault, and anxiety. There are many in our time of perversity who suffer from such things. But today’s perversities are not considered perversities at all: pornography; abortion; transgenderism; homosexuality; and clear corruption in media and politics, and even in the Catholic Church.
The agenda of permissiveness sprawls and spreads, removing objective boundaries. At the same time, the free world has also launched several successful systems of restriction and subservience. When contradiction reigns, insanity prevails, for without common sense, there is no natural way to view the world.
Damon’s deranged quest to marry his daughter, in a horror of contradiction, shows how contradiction both makes men mad and marks them as mad—for madmen live by contradiction, in one way or another. This is precisely the sickness saluted in America. Whereas we should fly from it all, as Dymphna did, we learn to live with it. Skepticism, cynicism, and liberalism soon set in, as they must to assuage the soul in such a world. But the culture of contradiction still hangs over us, and people can’t help but be driven out of their minds.
If liberalism gradually dilutes traditional civilization unto destruction, it is not liberating. It is enslaving. It is mental paralysis, locked away in a padded cell with nothing but itself, as G.K. Chesterton famously described in Orthodoxy. The land of the free is becoming a prison, and until identity is loved over ideology, the craziness will continue. Patriotism is impossible when regional character is destroyed, and a people who have no true, meaningful love for their country have lost touch with a basic tenet of human piety and human sanity.
Dymphna showed, together with the holy Gerebran, as all the saints do in some fashion, that men and women can’t be their own saviors. That is a contradiction. Those who surrender to the insanity of contradiction only perpetuate the illusion and the contagion in themselves and in others. They strive to justify their sins and sanctions and redeem those who would live without the Redeemer.
Dymphna is a saint for us all, being brave and unyielding against unreasonable and violent oppression. Following her example, we can face the mental disease caused by a culture of contradiction. Millions of Americans are forgoing their common sense, carried along the stream of insanity like dead things, afraid to take a stand or make a stir. Much of our fear and frustration is rooted in a feeling of helplessness.
We are not helpless, though. We can follow common sense. And if that means being martyrs for truth, in whatever form that may take, then so be it.
Some things, Dymphna teaches us by her life and death, are unendurable and must be steadfastly resisted. Through her intercession, may we all break free from the straitjackets of virtual reality, soft totalitarianism, and the culture of death. That will mean facing the uncomfortable facts of uncommon sense, secular preoccupation, and ecclesial ineptitude. But the truth will set us free—and in that freedom, we will be happy.”
Prayer to St. Dymphna
Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer from nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.
-“St Victor of Siena” by the Master of the Palazzo Venezia Madonna (b. 1340), in the National Gallery of Denmark. Please click on the image for greater detail. -“St Corona” by the Master of the Palazzo Venezia Madonna (b. 1340), in the National Gallery of Denmark. Please click on the image for greater detail.
In the earliest version of St. Corona’s story, written by a fourth-century deacon in Antioch, Victor was a Roman soldier of Italian ancestry, serving in the city of Damascus in Roman Syria during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, or Antoninus Pius, or Diocletian. Accused of being a Christian, he was sentenced by the Roman judge Sebastian. He was tortured, including having his eyes gouged out. Victor was beheaded in Damascus in ca.160-170s AD.
Sebastian, wanting to make an example out of Victor, ordered him to be bound to a pillar and whipped until his skin fell from his body. After the whipping, Sebastian ordered Victor’s eyes to be gouged out. No matter the amount of pain Victor endured, Victor never denied the Lord.
-illuminated miniature of the martyrdom of Saints Victor and Corona, on a full leaf from a Book of Hours, France (Paris), ca. 1480.
While he was suffering from the tortures, news about Victor’s cruel treatment reached a young girl named Corona. The sixteen-year-old wife of another soldier, or perhaps even Victor’s own wife, named Corona or Stephanie (or Stefania or Stephana (from Greek στέφᾰνος, stéphanos, “crown”, the Greek version of her Latin name, which also means “crown”) comforted and encouraged him to hold fast to his faith despite his suffering. For this, she was arrested and interrogated. When she, too, would not renounce Christ, she was tied between two palm trees bent down towards each other and the ground. They were released, ripping her in half.
-statuary of Saint Corona on the altar of St. Corona am Wechsel parish church, Lower Austria. Please click on the image for greater detail.
Relics, believed to be of St. Victor and Corona’s, have been in a basilica in the city of Anzů, Italy since the 9th century.
-SARS CoV-2 the virus that causes COVID-19, please click on the images for greater detail.
Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Corona means “crown” in Latin.
-German holy card for St Corona, please click on the image for greater detail
The Roman Martyrology records under 14th May:
“In Syria, the holy martyrs Victor and Corona, under Emperor Antoninus [Marcus Aurelius]. Victor was subjected to diverse and horrible torments by the judge Sebastian. Just then, as Corona, the the wife of a certain soldier, proclaimed him blessed for his constancy in his sufferings, she saw two crowns falling from heaven, one for Victor, the other for herself. She related this to all present, and was torn to pieces between two trees, while Victor was beheaded”.
These saints were recorded in the martyrologies of “Jerome”, Bede, Florus, Adon and Usuard.
They were apparently ‘adopted’ at Ocriculum, as evidenced by two inscriptions (6th century) from San Vittore, Ocriculum. Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below) has him born in Otricoli. He dated the martyrdom to 14th May 168, and had the relics of both saints returned to Italy three years later by Italian soldiers who had served in Syria. The body of St Corona and parts of that of St Victor (including his head) were sent to Otricoli.
-please click on the image for greater detail
The first inscription, which surrounds a relief of a Cross and two lambs, records that St Fulgentius discovered the relics of St Victor and erected an altar over his grave:
IVBANTE DEO FVLGENTIVS EPISCOPVS INVENTO CORPORE
MARTYRIS VICTORIS IN XR(IST)I NOMINE SVPER ALTARE CONSTRVXIT
According to Gianfranco Binazzi (referenced below, at p. 6):
“The dedicatory inscription is sculpted on the altar (of which only the edge survives) erected by bishop Fulgentius above the tomb of the martyr Victor, which he had discovered in the middle of the 6th century” (translation).
Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below, at p. 762) recorded that:
“This inscription and image an be seen at the foot of the first step of the high altar at [Santa Maria Assunta], having been taken there in 1351 on the occasion of the translation to this church of the relics of St Victor” (translation).
The inscription is set into the wall of the presbytery, to the left of the high altar.
Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below, at p. 500) recorded that, on the 5th November, 1351:
“… Bishop Agostino [Tinacci] of Narni translated the the relics of St Victor, which reposed in the subterranean church dedicated to him beside the Tiber, to [Santa Maria Assunta] and placed them under the high altar, together with the remains of the martyrs SS Eufredius, Januarius and Victoria and two other martyred companions, all of which had been with his at San Vittore” (my translation).
✴The reliquary of SS Victor, Eufredius, Januarius and Victoria in the crypt is visible from the window under the high altar.
An inscription in Santa Maria Assunta (on the left wall of the presbytery, above the door to the sacristy) once identified the presumed relics of St Corona, together with those of St Fulgentius and other martyrs:
Hic requiescunt S(an)cti Fulgentius
Lozimus Nectarius Leopardus et Corona
It is inscribed in a single line on what was probably originally an architrave. Gianfranco Binazzi (referenced below, at p. 7) observed that:
“As far as chronology is concerned, both the characters and the formula [used in the inscription] point to a date after the 6th century, but it is otherwise difficult to establish it with precision” (translation).
Ludovico Jacobili (referenced below, at p. 500) recorded that:
“In 1316, Bishop Peter of Narni translated from San Vittore …. to [Santa Maria Assunta] the remains of the martyrs SS Fulgentius, Lozimus Nectarius Leopardus and Corona and placed them under the altar dedicated to St Fulgentius [now the Cappella di Sant’ Antonio Abate, to the left of the presbytery]. ” (translation).
He gave the precise date at p. 764: 7th May 1316. Ludovico also recorded (at p. 500) two inscriptions that were placed nearby at this time, one of which was in marble and was almost certainly the inscription transcribed above. It seems likely that this inscription originally belonged to the portal of a room (presumably a crypt) at San Vittore that housed the relics, and that it was moved to Santa Maria Assunta at the time that the relics were translated.
The relics of St Fulgentius were translated to the new chapel of San Fulgenzio in 1672 and are still preserved in the urn under its altar. Those of St Corona and the other martyrs were placed in a small Roman sarcophagus (2nd century AD) in 1675 and placed under an altar in this new chapel in 1675. They were translated to their present location, under the altar of the
Cappella della Madonna del Rosario, in 1730.
Legend of SS Victor and Corona of Otricoli
A later legend (BHL 8583 b-d) used the legend of the Syrian martyrs (probably from the version BHL 8559b) in order to ‘flesh out’ the epigraphical evidence from Ocriculum. Victor and Corona were now martyred at Ocriculum, “intra civitatem, in loco qui dicitur Lico” (in the city, in a place called ‘Lico’), under the auspices of the ‘dux’ Sebastian.
The version BHL 8583d relates to the translation of the relics to the palatine chapel at Aachen by Otto III, who was Holy Roman Emperor in 996- 1002. The first part of the legend is a version In the version of BHL 8583b that oddly concentrates on St Corona, with hardly a mention of St Victor. The persecutor is now ‘Cirinus’ rather than Sebastian, and Corona was buried next to St Leopardus in a crypt in Ocriculum. It ends with an account of Otto’s discovery of the relics under the guidance of an angel. In fact, it seems that the relics that he took to Aachen were those [or, at least some of those] of St Corona: see for example this interesting extract from a paper by Alexandru Stefan (referenced below, at p. 204):
“On 27 October 997, Emperor Otto III announced his intention of erecting a Benedictine abbey on the Lousberg, a hill near Aachen, which would be dedicated to ‘Jesus, Saviour of the World, and St Corona’. In order to do this, he acquired some of Corona’s relics from Otricoli and deposited them into a lead reliquary … at Aachen Cathedral until the completion of the monastery and the consecration of a Coronian chapel. However, he died in 1002 and the Coronian co-patronage over the monastery was not carried out in the end. Nevertheless, the relics of St Corona remained in Aachen Cathedral where, immediately after the death of [Otto III], an altar was dedicated to her. In 1691 the episcopal chapter decided to remove her altar and to relocate the relics in the cathedral crypt”.
Binazzi, “Inscriptiones Christianae Italiae: Regio VI; Umbria”, (1989) Bari
D’Angelo, “Otricoli e i Suoi Santi: Storia, Liturgia, Epigrafia, Agiografia”, (2012) Spoleto (pp. 33-41)
Jacobili, L. “Vite de’ Santi e Beati dell’ Umbria”, (1647-61, republished in 2008) Sala Bolognese:
-the material on SS Victor and Corona is in Volume I, pp. 494 – 501; and
-the material on St Fulgenius is in Volume I, pp. 760-5
Stefan, “Saint Corona – the First Patron Saint of Medieval Brasov?”, Studia Historia, 58:1 (2013) 201-26
-restorer Luke Jonathan Koeppe and the director of the cathedral treasury Birgitta Falk present shrine with the relics of Saint Corona, please click on the image for greater detail.
–by John Bowden – 03/25/20 04:07 PM EDT
“A German cathedral is digging out its collection of relics related to “St. Corona,” the little-known patron saint of surviving epidemics, amid the global coronavirus outbreak.
Reuters reported that the Aachen Cathedral in Germany had already been planning to showcase relics and a shrine of St. Corona as part of an exhibition of gold craftsmanship, but has now accelerated those plans after the coincidentally-named outbreak began.
“We have brought the shrine out a bit earlier than planned and now we expect more interest due to the virus,” said a cathedral spokeswoman.
“Like many other saints, Saint Corona may be a source of hope in these difficult times,” added the head of the cathedral’s relics trove in a statement to Reuters.
It is unclear when the exhibition will go on display due to the ongoing epidemic and related restrictions on public gatherings.
Germany has confirmed more than 35,000 cases of coronavirus, though it lags behind other European countries such as Italy and Spain which have become the hardest-hit worldwide by the virus.
The Aachen Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in Europe, and was built in the 9th century. The relics of St. Corona have reportedly rested there since the year 997 A.D.”
Corona’s relics, brought to Aachen by King Otto III in 997, were kept in a tomb underneath a slab in the cathedral – which can still be seen – until 1911-12 when they were placed in the shrine, which is 93 centimeters tall and weighs 98 kilograms.
The Roman Catholic cathedral at Aachen, built by Emperor Charlemagne in the ninth century, is one of Europe’s oldest. Charlemagne was buried there in 814 AD and it was used for the coronation of German kings and queens.”
Love & perseverance. Offer it ALL to His Glory!!!! He is our hope and our joy!!!
St. John of Avila is a little-known Spanish saint who helped or influenced many more saints we know much better.
He was born either in 1499 or 1500 in a small town south of Toledo, Spain. The only son of a wealthy family, he was sent off to study law. He left school after a deep conversion and was insistent on becoming a priest. He was ordained in 1526.
With the discovery of the New World still on the minds of many and the rise of new ideas and new technologies changing many lives, young Father John chose to leave his homeland and serve as a missionary priest to the people of New Spain (Mexico). He gave all his inheritance to the poor and, with the permission of his bishop, traveled to Seville, Spain, to await his transport ship to the Americas.
While he waited he preached in the town and caught the eye and ear of the holy Fernando de Contreras. Fernando and the Archbishop of Seville convinced Father John to stay and serve the people of Andalusia, which he did for a number of years. Father John was later brought to Córdoba and eventually to Granada where he finished his university studies.
A scholar of some prowess, Father John was recognized as an intellectually insightful man. He was an inventor, the author of a catechism for adults and children and the founder of several colleges and a university. But it was his love for God, for bringing souls to the Lord, and his deep spiritual insights that brought him wider acclaim.
His preaching was marked by a message of God’s deep and abiding love for us. This caught the attention of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, who sought out Father John hoping he would become one of those first Jesuits. Though he didn’t join, he sent 30 of his best spiritual mentees to the new order. In fact, it was Father John who helped convert St. Francis Borgia, SJ, who succeeded St. Ignatius as head of the Jesuits.
St. John of God, founder of the Hospitilars, was converted to a life of piety by the preaching of Father John. St. Peter Alcántara, reformer of the Franciscan Order, was a friend, as was St. John de Ribera. St. Thomas of Villanova distributed Father John’s catechism throughout his diocese. Finally, both St. Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross, reformers of the Carmelite Order, actively sought out Father John for his spiritual wisdom.
His work “Audi, Filia” or “Listen, Daughter” is considered his spiritual masterpiece. He also corresponded with many lay people and priests to whom he gave spiritual direction. He wrote in one letter, “Open your little heart to that breadth of love by which the Father gave us his Son, and with him gave us himself, and the Holy Spirit, and all things besides.”
After some illness and exhaustion led him to retire from preaching, Father John died on May 10, 1569. He was canonized in 1970 by Pope Paul VI and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 for his tremendous insight and influence on Catholic spirituality during a critical time in church history.
Through St. John of Ávila we are reminded of God’s infinite love for us, to which we need only surrender, for it is that love which transforms us and makes saints of us all.
Dominican breviary: “In accordance with his wishes, St Dominic was buried ‘beneath the feet of his brethren’ in the church of St Nicholas of the Vineyards, Bologna. (Keeping with this, Dominicans have been traditionally been buried under main, ground floor hallways of Dominican priories, and those living lined the hallways of their priories after Evening Prayer to sing the DeProfundis.). Many of the sick avowed that they had been healed of their infirmities at his tomb; the brethren however were loath to recognise these miracles and accept votive offerings.”
On May 24, the Dominican Order celebrates the translation of the relics of St. Dominic. That is, we remember the day in 1233 when, during a General Chapter of the Order in Bologna, the interred body of St. Dominic was moved in order to allow the faithful to honor him more easily. More than 300 friars were present to celebrate this important day. In one of his letters, Bl. Jordan of Saxony, describes the event:
“But then the wonderful day came for the translation of the relics of one who was an illustrious doctor in his lifetime. Present were the venerable Archbishop of Ravenna, surrounded by bishops and a large number of prelates, as well as by a vast multitude of people of different languages who gave remarkable witness to their devotion. Present also was the Bolognese militia, which would not let this holy body, that they considered to be in their safekeeping, be snatched from them. As for the brethren, they were anxious: although they had nothing to fear, they were seized with misgivings lest the body of Saint Dominic, which had lain in a mean tomb exposed to water and heat for such a long period of time, should be found eaten with worms and giving off a foul odor in the same way that might be expected with other corpses, thus destroying the devotion of the people for so great a man. Nonetheless the bishops approached devoutly. The stone that was firmly cemented to the sepulcher was removed with instruments of iron. Within the tomb was a wooden coffin, just as it had been placed there by the venerable Pope Gregory when he was bishop of Ostia. The body had been buried there, and a small hole remained in the top of the coffin.
The upper part of the coffin was moved a little bit. As soon as the stone was taken away, the body gave forth a wonderful odor through the opening; its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts. We ourselves also smelled the sweetness of this perfume, and we bear witness to what we have seen and smelt. Eager with love, we remained devotedly near the body of Dominic for a long time, and we were unable to sate ourselves with this great sweetness. If one touched the body with a hand or a belt or some other object, the odor immediately attached itself to it for a long period of time.
The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it would rest—it and the perfume that it poured forth. This marvelous aroma which the holy body emitted was evidence to all how much the saint had truly been the good odor of Christ”.
It’s a natural instinct to keep meaningful tokens. Anyone who has lost loved ones knows the impact of an old photo, a handwritten letter, or a crackling recorded message. In a way, the ones we have lost become present. Emotion rises along with memories and love’s affection. An old book, jewelry, an article of clothing … we keep these things as mementos. With the saints, however, we not only keep things of the person, but we also keep the body of the person.
The 25th session of Trent’s second decree teaches us why the bodies of saints are different. Relics of bone, hair, and even blood once belonged to bodies possessing a two-fold dignity: (1) being living members of the Body of Christ and (2) being temples of the Holy Spirit. The council states that, through venerating these relics, God bestows gifts on men. Additionally, those who oppose this teaching, “the Church has already long since condemned.”
This condemnation is not found among Dominicans. Today the Order of Preachers celebrates the Translation of Holy Father Dominic. ‘Translation’ is an unfortunate translation. The Latin, elevatio corporis, brings forth the transcendent quality of this feast. We don’t celebrate a horizontal change of word for word moving from tongue to tongue. Rather, we celebrate the vertical change of the profane to the holy. On this day in 1233, St. Dominic’s remains were elevated, celebrated, and laid to rest in the Arca di San Domenico—the exquisite sarcophagus complete in 1267.
Though the brethren lifted St. Dominic from the tomb, it was God who elevated the body of St. Dominic. Our Father in heaven honored our Holy Father Dominic by a miracle (ST III.6). The moment the stone slab covering the coffin was split, the broken seal emitted an indescribable, sweet fragrance. So potent was the smell that those who touched its source, St. Dominic’s bones, themselves began to emit the aroma. Martha feared the stench of Lazarus’ four days in the tomb (Jn 11:38–44), but the friars rejoiced in the sweet-smelling oblation of St. Dominic’s 11 years in the tomb.
The relics of St. Dominic, like all other relics, remind us of not only the saint but the One the saint served. By this miracle, through his lowly servant St. Dominic, God makes real the words of St. Paul:
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. (2 Cor 2:15–16)
Smells, like a mother’s perfume, conjure the deepest memories we have of a person. The smell of St. Dominic works in an analogous way, but with an important difference. The brothers would not have been reminded of the old smell of the perspiring friar. They would have been reminded of the Resurrection. Christ by dying and rising has transformed the decay of death into the fragrance of eternal life. Relics do not just remind us of a life lived, but a life living.“
“Thou didst breath fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and now do I sigh for Thee.” -St Augustine
-The Charity of St. Anthony, Lorenzo Lotto, 1542; Italy – High Renaissance, oil on panel, 235 x 332 cm, Basilica dei San Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, Italy, please click on the image for greater detail
My sister, although we did not know it then, only the symptoms of several car accidents in short succession, was suffering the effects of PSP in 2005, the year Kelly and I happened to want to be married.
Since my parents had passed eight weeks apart towards the end of 2001, my eldest sibling, my sister, my second mother, was very important to me to have in attendance. She could not travel, and so, at the risk of my soul and marriage, I asked Kelly if we could delay until Spring of 2006 to see if my sister’s condition would improve. It never did. She passed in 2008.
Tearfully and most generously, Kelly agreed to wait. In so doing, we had to give up the HOTTEST ticket for a wedding ceremony in Chicago, Old St Patrick’s Church. There is a waiting list of years. So, desperate for a church building, and Chicago Catholic churches scarce (understatement) on short notice for wedding Saturdays, and the Catholic Church insisting on weddings in Catholic Church churches, you have to get a dispensation otherwise, and who wants to do that, and, it may not be granted, we went begging. The gloriously beautiful Holy Family Church, now in a depressed part of the near west side of Chicago, and so with few congregants and fewer weddings, welcomed us and we became parishioners at the invitation of the pastor, who also witnessed our wedding.
He was the lone priest in this big, sadly underused, gem of a church where Mrs O’Leary, of infamy, used to be a parishioner. This pastor later quipped to us when we blurted out later, as Catholics are wont to do upon some small sacrifice, “But, our reward will be great in Heaven!!” And, he said, to this day we’re not sure if he was serious or not, “Don’t kid yourself.” This pastor, regrettably, turned out to be not one of the better priests either of us have ever met. It happens.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” -Lk 6:32-36
– St Antoninus, from Saint Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C., please click on the image for greater detail
-bust outside the family home of St. Antoninus Torre dei Pierozzi, Florence, Italy, please click on the image for greater detail
To mitigate the wide-spread misery caused by the taxes of the Medici, St Antoninus established a lay society, known as the ‘Good Men of St Martin’, who systematically sought out the poor and gave assistance to them.
The plague hit Florence in 1448 and 1449. Then an earthquake shook it in 1453, followed by a cyclone in 1456, and then a famine! St Antoninus was frequently seen with his mule loaded with emergency supplies, going through the streets of the city to help those in both material and spiritual need, bringing relief supplies and the succour of the sacraments.
St Antoninus is “…a model in this thankless charity. Saint Antoninus, a Dominican friar who lived in the early 15th century, was well known both for his contributions to moral theology and for his love of the poor. As Archbishop of Florence, he focused his attention and resources on the poor. He instructed those who established homes for the care of the suffering, whether it be from malady, poverty, or abandonment, to persevere in their care, even if those they served were ungrateful.
A prime example of the types of organizations that St. Antoninus founded was the association known as the Good Men of St. Martin. This group of laymen dispersed funds entrusted to it wherever the need was found. The primary purpose of this association, however, may seem strange to us. The first recipients of its charity were to be the shamefaced poor, a title given in 15th century Florence to those who, because of having fallen from a higher stratum of society, were too ashamed to beg and so starved in silence. Such poor only accepted charity reluctantly, and scant gratitude could be expected from them for it. Saint Antoninus’ charity, however, was too broad to be limited to only those who came seeking it.
Saint Antoninus chose to trade in, by means of charity toward the grateful and ungrateful alike, the riches he had on earth to receive a reward in heaven. In imitation of him, may we also show ourselves to be children of God through unselfish mercy and kindness to all of our neighbors.”
“Eternal God, you wonderfully blessed Saint Antoninus with the gift of wisdom. Pour out upon us, Your servants, the same spirit of understanding, truth, and peace. May we know in our hearts what pleases You and pursue it with all our strength. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen”. – Collect for the feast of St Antoninus (10th May).
His body remains incorrupt.
Looks good for 560, not a day over 100. San Marco, Florence, Italy.
-Filippo Dolciati (1443 – 1519), “Execution of Girolamo Savonarola”. 1498, Florence, Museo di San Marco, please click on the image for greater detail.
He called the Church of his day a “harlot” and a “monster of abomination”. Protestants see him as a forerunner of the Reformation. St Ignatius of Loyola had his works burned and called him an enemy of the papacy. He is mentioned in Chapter 6 of Machiavelli’s The Prince. He is immortalized in the computer game “Assasin’s Creed II” (2009).
-Savonarola character in “Assassin’s Creed 2”.
His execution is memorialized in the Showtime TV series “The Borgias” (2011-2013). Caution: The show took some HUGE dramatic liberties particularly in regards to the Bonfire of the Vanities, the trial by fire and Savonarola’s execution. You can see in the below photo Savonarola’s character has not been hanged, is still alive, and Pope Alexander VI was in Rome at the time of the execution.
Savonarola captured hearts as a preacher. His powerful apocalyptic visions warned that God would soon scour the world and that Florence, God’s chosen city, had better be ready. Contemporaries speak of the spellbinding power of these sermons; Savonarola’s followers were called piagnoni, or weepers, because he so often moved them to tears. As evidence of his powerful charisma, Savonarola managed to convince the highly humanistic Florentines to surrender their mirrors, dice, cards, cosmetics and nude paintings and burn them all in the Piazza di Signoria in a towering bonfire of the vanities. He also demanded repression of homosexuals. He created a temporary republic in Florence.
He was also a friend to the poor. Under Savonarola, the city created a building society that offered loans at rates well below what was demanded by Florence’s private bankers — 5 to 7 percent, as opposed to the 32.5 percent that had been standard practice under the de Medicis. One of the charges that led to Savonarola’s downfall was that he impoverished the city by refusing to ever turn away a beggar.
He also patronized the famous painters of his day. Michelangelo would later say that when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, it was the sermons of Savonarola he heard in his mind.
-a plaque commemorates the site of Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria, Florence. Please click on the image for greater detail.
-painting (1650) of Savonarola’s execution in the Piazza della Signoria, please click on the image for greater detail.
Savonarola was hanged and burned in Florence on 23 May 1498 for heresy and schism. Simone Filipepi, the brother of Botticelli, has left a detailed description of the execution of Savonarola. On 12 May 1497, Pope Alexander VI excommunicated Savonarola and threatened the Florentines with an interdict if they persisted in harboring him.
Interdict is still an existing censure under Canon, or Church, law, and a most serious one in the Catholic Church. It means the prohibition of all sacraments and the invalidity of any attempted to be performed by the persons so placed under ecclesiastical interdict. Sacraments to the Catholic are the primary channels of grace. No grace, no heaven. Children cannot be baptized, and are therefore excluded from the Church, and hope of salvation. Mass cannot be celebrated validly and so no real center of communal liturgical life. No Mass, no point to being Catholic; the loss thereof, bringing one so condemned a step closer to Hell. No marriage, only fornication, and bastard/illegitimate children. No holy orders, no priesthood, another defining/central aspect of Catholic life. No last rites, no viaticum, or last Eucharist, before death. You can see, to a Catholic community, even in early 21st century America, this is most serious. It literally dissolves the fabric of the community. It is meant to be corrective. Even today, in Church disputes with hierarchs, interdict is frequently threatened.
-Iain Glenn, of Game of Thrones, Resident Evil, & Downton Abbey fame, as Savonarola, in “Borgia: Faith & Fear”
On 18 March 1498, after much debate and steady pressure from a worried government, he withdrew from public preaching. Under the stress of excommunication, Savonarola composed his spiritual masterpiece, the Triumph of the Cross, a celebration of the victory of the Cross over sin and death and an exploration of what it means to be a Christian. This he summed up in the theological virtue of caritas, or love. In loving their neighbour, Christians return the love which they have received from their Creator and Savior.
Savonarola hinted at performing miracles to prove his divine mission, but when a rival Franciscan preacher proposed to test that mission by walking through fire, he lost control of the public discourse. Without consulting him, his confidant Fra Domenico da Pescia offered himself as his surrogate and Savonarola felt he could not afford to refuse. The first trial by fire in Florence for over four hundred years was set for April 7. A crowd filled the central square, eager to see if God would intervene and if so, on which side. The nervous contestants and their delegations delayed the start of the contest for hours. A sudden rain drenched the spectators and government officials cancelled the proceedings. The crowd disbanded angrily; the burden of proof had been on Savonarola and he was blamed for the fiasco. A mob assaulted the convent of San Marco.
Fra Girolamo, Fra Domenico, and Fra Silvestro Maruffi were arrested and imprisoned. Under torture Savonarola confessed to having invented his prophecies and visions, then recanted, then confessed again. In his prison cell in the tower of the government palace he composed meditations on Psalms 51 and 31. On the morning of 23 May 1498, the three friars were led out into the main square where, before a tribunal of high clerics and government officials, they were condemned as heretics and schismatics, and sentenced to die forthwith. Stripped of their Dominican garments in ritual degradation, they mounted the scaffold in their thin white shirts. Each on a separate gallows, they were hanged, while fires were ignited below them to consume their bodies. To prevent devotees from searching for relics, their ashes were carted away and scattered in the Arno
Savanarola was a fierce critic of ecclesiastical corruption, and this is perhaps the most contested aspect of his legacy for those proposing to canonize him. He referred to Pope Alexander VI as a “broken tool,” accusing the pope of practicing simony and of dubious personal morality. He defied the pope by aligning Florence with the French king, Charles, rather than the “Holy Alliance” of Italian city-states championed by Alexander. Toward the end, Savonarola called for a church council that would depose Alexander.
There was never serious question about Savonarola’s doctrine — his chief theological work, The Triumph of the Cross, is widely viewed as orthodox. In 1558, Pope Paul IV — who had served in the court of Alexander VI — said that Savonarola was not a heretic. The question for examiners today is not doctrinal but disciplinary: whether Savonarola defied the authority of the pope in impermissible fashion. Dominicans and Jesuits still feud within the last twenty years as to the sanctity of the man. Although, the Jesuit view has largely been attributed to contemporary hearsay, and not a critical study of his works.
In English the name of Savonarola may be synonymous with religious fanaticism, but many Italians, and Florentines in particular, have a different image. In an age of corruption, Savonarola represented honest government, making him something of a patron for the current Italian drive to break the grip of cronyism and political patronage that has long dominated their politics.
As an ecclesial dissenter, Savonarola is popular among today’s Catholics who believe the church could stand some reform.
There are even those who argue that had the Renaissance papacy been a bit more open to Savonarola’s critique, the church might have been spared the agony of the Protestant Reformation.
Whatever the case, Savonarola’s most ardent supporters seem unlikely to be discouraged by anything historical research might uncover. He was a “man of faith who loved Jesus Christ,” according to Dominican Fr. Armando Verde in the International Herald Tribune. Savonarola may have made compromises in the rough-and-tumble of Florentine politics, Verde said, “but on the ethical and spiritual level, absolutely never.”
The Piagnoni kept his cause of republican freedom and religious reform alive well into the following century, although the Medici—restored to power in 1512 with the help of the papacy—eventually broke the movement.
“Girolamo Savonarola was born in Northern Italy in 1452 to a well-to-do merchant family. Growing up, he was taught a love for the moral life and a hatred for decadence by his fervently religious grandfather. At the age of twenty-three, he abandoned all the vanities of the world to give himself to God alone, leaving home to become a Dominican friar. He was known to be fervently observant in his religious life, and from this personal holiness flowed a preaching that captivated all hearers.
He was soon brought to the great city of Florence at the request of the ruling Medicis. All were amazed by his gift of prophecy. In particular, he prophesied disaster in the republic of Florence. Though Florence was one of the more prominent cities of Europe at the time, when Charles VIII of France was making his way toward the republic, the citizens began to take Savonarola’s prophecy seriously. One might attempt to credit his prophecies (and there were many) to political savvy, but there was always something too vivid and concrete about them; at the very least, his contemporaries learned to trust him.
Savonarola was sent as an ambassador to make an agreement with Charles VIII to prevent the otherwise almost certain sack of Florence. After this success, trust in Savonarola was so great that he was able more or less at his will to write up the new constitution for a democratic republic. He even was able to go so far as to plea, successfully, for peace toward the friends of the old Medici government. The few years of his influence are something of an eloquent testimony to the power of the word of God to create and sustain peace in a troubled world.
Unfortunately, he had powerful enemies. The allegiance of Florence with Charles VIII was disadvantageous for much of Italy, but this was not Savonarola’s greatest obstacle. He preached against moral depravity in an emerging decadent renaissance society. He feared no man in his call for the pursuit of the Christian ideal. This made him enemies, both at home and abroad. Because of his popular appeal, it was difficult to have him removed. At the same time, for every moral reform he successfully enacted in society, his enemies became increasingly infuriated. But the friar feared no man, giving himself entirely to preaching the Truth.
As the threat of invasion subsided, Savonarola’s influence waned and politics became increasingly turbulent. Elections occurred every few months, and power passed rapidly between his friends and enemies. All the while, his Florentine enemies plotted against him in secret, detesting his moral reforms, which made difficult the life to which they once were accustomed. When his authority to preach publicly was finally revoked and he was unable to defend himself, it was only a matter of time.
On Palm Sunday in 1498, Savonarola’s enemies went to work. They stirred up the mob and readied to besiege the convent of San Marco. In his last homily, he proclaimed, “Lord, I thank thee for desiring now to make me in Thy own image.” The convent was attacked and he was captured. There followed weeks of imprisonment, torture, and forged confessions. He was condemned to die on May 23, 1498.
Savonarola’s last act before his death was to bow his head in acceptance of the plenary indulgence granted to him by the pope. His last words were those of the creed. After he and his two closest companions were hanged and burned, his ashes were thrown in the river to prevent anyone from collecting his relics. Since then, history has long attempted to bury his legacy, just as his executioners did; he was long regarded as a backwards hack who scared Florence away from renaissance progress. But recent scholarship has brought him into the light. Two of his foremost biographers, Josef Schnitzer (Savonarola) and Roberto Ridolfi (The Life of Girolamo Savonarola), have even predicted his eventual canonization as a saint, although this has not yet come to be. He died a faithful son of the Church, giving his life for the Bride of Christ, and never giving up on the word of God, even when it cost him his life. Though his ashes were scattered, his legacy lived on.”
“Self-Pity is a wonderful companion. She understands you. She comforts you. She fixes you a stiff drink and reassures you that you’ve been wronged. After all, you have been wronged, haven’t you? She knows the real story. To her, you are perfect.
When we pity ourselves, we think we are responding rightly to an injustice. We become sad and dwell on that sadness, a kind of emotional signal that matches our judgment that we’ve been “dealt a bad hand.” But, if it is so noble that we feel the correct response to injustice, then why does self-pity leave us unsatisfied? That lady, Self-Pity, isn’t there to give you an aspirin when the drink leaves you sick.
St. Thomas reminds us that that “self” we append to our term is our first mistake, distorting the whole line of reasoning: “Since pity is sympathy for another’s distress, it is directed, properly speaking, towards another, and not to oneself” (ST II-II q. 30, a. 1, ad 2). We envy when we feel sorrow at the good we see in another. This is a vice. On the flipside, we pity when we feel sorrow for the evil (or lack of good) we see in our neighbor. This is a virtue.
And yet, is it so wrong to pity ourselves for the absence of good we observe in our own lives, whether it’s being fired from a job, facing the derision of a close friend, or other painful experiences? These are all legitimate things to lament. In reality, however, how often do we stop at this? We cast off Lady Lament, pious and prudent as she is, and seek out Self-Pity. She echoes back to us our estimation—usually our overestimation—of what we deserve from bosses, from friends, from God. And she is not without her brood of stepchildren: Hatred, Resentment, Indignation. Before we know it, we have taken into the home of our hearts a whole family of vices that pull us down into a spiral of cold, violent bitterness.
Instead of self-pitying, let us be sorrowful and contrite. In sorrowful contrition—wherein we may still lament to our heart’s content—we express our sadness for the evil in the world, both done to us and done by us, without losing sight of our fallenness. Christ came to redeem us, sorrowful and fallen, and, like us, he felt immense sorrow; the Gospel’s shortest verse recounts the Lord’s response to the sad news of Lazarus’ death: “And Jesus wept” (John 11:35). When his own hour came, the Son of God did not lay the blame on us or pity his own Passion. He did not wallow in self-absorbed gloom. He instead removed our guilt and gave himself up to death freely. He was sorrowful, even despite his innocence.
Girolamo Savonarola, whose memory is holy to the brothers and sisters of the Dominican Order, was burned at the stake on this day in 1498. In imitation of the Master, this holy Dominican wept, too. Near his death, he penned a sorrowful meditation on Psalm 51. Perhaps this excerpt from it can be a model for our prayer, teaching us not to turn in on ourselves in self-pity, but to rely on the Lord in a spirit of contrition and hope:
An unhappy man am I, bereft of all help, for I have sinned against heaven and earth. Whither to go I know not, nor which way to turn. To whom shall I fly? Who will take pity upon me? I dare not lift up my eyes to heaven, for I have sinned grievously in the sight of God; I find no refuge on earth, because I have given scandal to men. What then shall I do? Shall I despair? Far be it from me! God is merciful; my Savior is gracious. God alone, therefore, is my refuge, He will not despise His own handiwork, nor cast away what is made in His own image. To Thee, then, most gracious God, do I turn in my grief and sorrow; for Thou alone art my hope, Thou alone art my refuge. (Savonarola, Infelix Ego trans. Wilberforce)”
Peter Wright was born in Slipton, Northamptonshire, one of twelve children, in a Protestant family. While young, he converted to Catholicism. Peter was still young when his father died. He had to work in a country solicitor’s office at Thrapston in his home area. After spending ten years with the solicitor he enlisted in the English army in the Low Countries, but finding that he did not care for military life, he deserted after a month and went to Brabant.
Having drifted away from his faith in his youth, he visited the English Jesuits in Liège and asked to be reconciled to the Church. He then visited Ghent and for two years attended the college of the Jesuits. In 1629 he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Watten. After studying philosophy and then theology at Liège, he was ordained a priest there in 1636 and after a further period at Liège was sent to serve at the English College of St. Omer. From 1638-1644 he served as chaplain to Colonel Sir Henry Gage’s English regiment in the service of Spain, based near Ghent.
When Gage returned to England in the spring of 1644 to aid King Charles I, Wright went with him, first to Oxford and then to the relief of Basing House, the seat of John Paulet, 5th Marquess of Winchester. He administered the sacraments to the dying Gage on January 11, 1645. After this Wright became the marquess’s chaplain, first in Hampshire and later in the London house. Wright was seized there by a band of pursuivants who burst in on Candlemas day, 2 February 1651.
Committed to Newgate, he was brought to trial before Henry Rolle, Lord Chief Justice, sitting with justices Philip Jermyn and Richard Aske and others, at the Old Bailey 14–16 May. Something of the atmosphere of the times should be clear when it is recalled that Charles I had been put on trial and subsequently been executed on January 30, 1649. The evidence at Wright’s trial was provided by the informer Thomas Gage, apostate brother of the late Sir Henry and a renegade Dominican priest. Thomas Gage had met Wright in the years when he was a military chaplain and testified against him. The whole scene, about which numerous details have survived, was little like a modern court of law and bizarre moments included the Parliamentarian Lord Chief Justice rebuking the half-deranged informer for speaking disrespectfully of his Royalist soldier brother.
Wright was condemned under the statute 27 Eliz., c. 2. for being a Catholic priest in England, and sentenced on Saturday May 17 to being hanged, drawn and quartered. His execution at Tyburn, London on a hot Whit Monday, 19 May 1651, took place before over twenty thousand spectators. In the period of the trial and the days after his execution, Wright was if not popular, at least a respected figure in public opinion. The sheriff’s officers also seem to have been relatively well disposed to him and he was allowed to hang until he was dead, being thus spared the agonies of being eviscerated alive.
Protestant Bishop Challoner records: “Having celebrated Mass with great devotion, the time drew near when he was to go down in order for execution. Hearing the knocking at the iron grate, he took it as a summons from Heaven, and cried out:
“I come, sweet Jesus, I come.”
When Fr Wright was called out to the hurdle, he went with so much alacrity and speed that the officers could scarce keep pace with him; then being placed on the hurdle he made a short act of contrition; and in the midst of mutual embraces was absolved by Fr Cheney, and then drawn away to Tyburn through the streets crowded with an innumerable multitude of people. He was drawn on the hurdle more like one sitting than lying down; his head was covered, his countenance smiling, a certain air of majesty, and a courage and cheerfulness in his comportment, which was both surprising and edifying, not only to the Catholics who crowded to ask his benediction, but to the Protestants themselves, as many publicly declared.
Thirteen malefactors were appointed to die with him, to whom the father endeavoured to give seasonable advice for the welfare of their souls, but was continually interrupted by the minister, and therefore desisted, betaking himself to silent prayer, in which he employed about an hour, standing with his eyes shut, his hands joined before his breast, his countenance sweet and amiable, and his whole body without motion as one in deep contemplation. When the minister took occasion to tell him it was not yet too late, and that he might save his life if he would renounce the errors of Popery:
“If I had a thousand lives I would most willingly give them all up in defence of the Catholic religion.” The hangman having fitted the rope to his neck, the confessor made a short speech to the spectators: “Gentlemen, this is a short passage to eternity; my time is now short, and I have not much to speak. I was brought hither charged with no other crime but being a priest. I willingly confess I am a priest; I confess I am a Catholic; I confess I am a religious man of the Society of Jesus, or as you call it, a Jesuit.
This is the cause for which I die; for this alone was I condemned, and for propagating the Catholic faith, which is spread through the whole world, taught through all ages from Christ’s time, and will be taught for all ages to come.
For this cause I most willingly sacrifice my life, and would die a thousand times for the same if it were necessary; and I look upon it my greatest happiness, that my most good God has chosen me most unworthy to this blessed lot, the lot of the saints. This is a grace which so unworthy a sinner could scarce have wished, much less hoped for.
And now I beg of the goodness of my God with all the fervour I am able, and most humbly entreat Him that He would drive from you that are Protestants the darkness of error, and enlighten your minds with the rays of truth. And as for you Catholics, my fellow soldiers and comrades, as many of you as are here I earnestly beseech you to join in prayer for me and with me till my last moment; and when I shall come to Heaven I will do as much for you. God bless you all; I forgive all men. From my heart I bid you all farewell till we meet in a happy eternity.”
Having spoken to this effect, he again recollected himself a while in prayer, and then the cart was drawn away, and he was suffered to hang till he quietly expired. His dead body was cut down, beheaded, bowelled, and quartered. His friends were permitted to carry off his head and quarters which were translated to Liege, and there honourably deposited in the college of the English Jesuits. He suffered aged 48, and after 22 years of religious life.”
Magnificat anima mea Dominum;
Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo,
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae;
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est, et sanctum nomen ejus,
Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam brachio suo;
Dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis, et divites dimisit inanes.
Sucepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae,
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semeni ejus in saecula.
“Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” -Lk 1:43
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is His Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of His servant Israel
for He remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever. (-Lk 1:46-55)
-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964
Presence of God – O my Mother, most holy Virgin Mary, be always my model, my support, and my guide.
“And Mary, rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Judah.”
These words are from today’s Gospel (Luke 1:39-47).
Mary, in the exquisite delicacy of her charity, has such a profound sense of the needs of others, that as soon as she hears of them, she acts spontaneously and decisively to bring help. Having learned from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin was about to become a mother, she goes immediately to offer her humble services.
If we consider the difficulty of traveling in those days, when the poor, such as Mary, had to go on foot over difficult roads, or at best, by means of some rude conveyance, and also the fact that Mary remained three months with Elizabeth, we can readily understand that she had to face many hardships in performing this act of charity. However, she was in no way disturbed: charity urged her, making her wholly forgetful of herself, for as St. Paul says: “Charity seeketh not her own” (1 Corinthians 13:5). How many times, perhaps, have you omitted an act of kindness, not to spare yourself a hard journey, but only to avoid a little trouble. Think how uncharitable you are and how slow to help others. Look at Mary, and see how much you can learn from her!
Charity makes Mary forget not only her hardships but also her own dignity, which was greater than that given to any other creature. Elizabeth is advanced in years, but Mary is the Mother of God; Elizabeth is about to give birth to a man, but Mary will give birth to the Son of God. Nevertheless, before her cousin as before the Angel, Mary continues to look upon herself as the humble handmaid of the Lord, and nothing more. Precisely because she considers herself a handmaid, she comports herself as such, even in respect to her neighbor. In your case, perhaps, although you know how to humble yourself before God and recognize your lack of perfection in the secrecy of your heart, it displeases you to appear imperfect before your neighbor, and you quickly resent being treated as such. Are you not anxious to have your dignity, education, and ability recognized, as well as the more or less honorable offices or charges which have been entrusted to you? Your dignity is a mere nothing, and yet you are so jealous of it. Mary’s dignity approaches the infinite, yet she considers herself and behaves as if she were the least of all creatures.
“O Mary, how great is your humility when you hasten to serve others! If it is true that he who humbles himself will be exalted, who will be more exalted than you who have humbled yourself so much?
When Elizabeth caught sight of you she was astonished and exclaimed: ‘Whence is this to me that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?’ But I am still more astonished to see that you, as well as your Son, came not to be served, but to serve…. It was for this purpose that you went to Elizabeth, you the Queen, to the servant, the Mother of God to the mother of the Precursor, you who would give birth to the Son of God, to her who would bring forth a mere man.
But your profound humility in no way lessened your magnanimity; the greatness of your soul was not opposed to your humility. You, so small in your own eyes, were so magnanimous in your faith, in your hope in the Most High, that you never doubted His promises, and firmly believed that you would become the Mother of the Son of God. Humility did not make you fainthearted; magnanimity did not make you proud, but these two virtues were perfectly combined in you!
O Mary, you cannot give me a share in your great privileges as Mother of God; these belong to you alone! But you want me to share in your virtues, giving me examples of them in yourself. If, then, sincere humility, magnanimous faith, and delicate, sympathetic charity are lacking in me, how can I excuse myself? O Mary, O Mother of mercy, you who are full of grace, nourish us, your poor little ones, with your virtues!” (cf. St. Bernard).”
-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964
Presence of God – Under your protection I take refuge, O Mary; be the guide and model of my interior life.
Month of May, month of Mary! The heart of every Christian turns spontaneously toward his heavenly Mother, with a desire to live in closer intimacy with her and to strengthen the sweet ties which bind him to her. It is a great comfort on our spiritual way, which is often fatiguing and bristling with difficulties, to meet the gentle presence of a mother. One is so at ease near one’s mother. With her, everything becomes easier; the weary, discouraged heart, disturbed by storms, finds new hope and strength, and continues the journey with fresh courage.
“If the winds of temptation arise,” sings St. Bernard, “if you run into the reefs of trials, look to the star, call upon Mary. In danger, sorrow, or perplexity, think of Mary, call upon Mary.”
There are times when the hard road of the “nothing” frightens us, miserable as we are; and then, more than ever, we need her help, the help of our Mother. The Blessed Virgin Mary has, before us, trodden the straight and narrow path which leads to sanctity; before us she has carried the cross, before us she has known the ascents of the spirit through suffering. Sometimes, perhaps, we do not dare to look at Jesus the God-Man, Who because of His divinity seems too far above us; but near Him is Mary, His Mother and our Mother, a privileged creature surely, yet a creature like ourselves, and therefore a model more accessible for our weakness.
Mary comes to meet us during this month, to take us by the hand, to initiate us into the secret of her interior life, which must become the model and norm of our own.
“O my soul, do you fear to approach God? He has given you Jesus as Mediator. Is there anything that such a Son could not obtain from His Father? The Father who loves Him will answer Him, because of the love He bears Him. But do you yet hesitate to approach Him? He made Himself your brother, your companion, and in everything, sin excepted, He willed to undergo all the humiliations of human nature, just to compassionate your miseries. Mary has given you this brother. But His divine Majesty still awes you, perhaps; for, although He is man, He does not cease to be God. Do you want an advocate with Him? Have recourse to Mary. Mary is a pure creature, pure not only because she is free from sin, but also because of her unique human nature. I am sure, O Mary, that your prayers will be heard because of the respect you deserve; your Son will certainly hear you because you are His Mother, and the Father will hear His Son. This is why my confidence is unshakable; this is the reason for all my hope! O Blessed Virgin, the Angel declared that ‘you have found grace before God.’ You will always find grace, and I need only grace; I ask for nothing else” (cf. St. Bernard).
“Draw me after you, O Virgin Mary, that I may run in the odor of your ointments. Draw me, for I am held back by the weight of my sins and the malice of your enemies. Since no one comes to your Son unless he is drawn by the Father, I dare to say that no one, so to speak, comes to Him if you do not draw him by your prayers. You teach true wisdom, you beg grace for sinners, you are their advocate, you promise glory to those who honor you, because you are the treasury of grace. You have found grace with God, O most sweet Virgin, you who have been preserved from original sin, filled with the Holy Spirit, and have conceived the Son of God. You have been given all these graces, O most humble Mary, not only for yourself, but also for us, so that you may be able to help us in all our necessities” (cf. Ven. Raymond Jourdain).”
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