Category Archives: October

Oct 27 – St Bartholomew of Vicenza, OP, (1200-1271)

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Receiving the habit from St. Dominic himself, Bartholomew gave himself over to his formation so that he might grow faithful in religion. Immediately after his ordination, he was sent to Lombardy to preach against the heretics (Albigensians) who were leading others away from the true faith. He was so effective in this, that the Holy Father, Pope Gregory IX called him to Rome and appointed him Master of the Sacred Palace (the Papal Theologian), which is an office traditionally held by Dominicans, even to this day.

Albignesians/Cathars/Manicheans are heretics who believed wrongly in an evil dualism that all matter is evil and all spirit good.  Their ultimate spiritual expression, by their religious “enlightened” leaders, is to starve oneself to death.  They viewed the birth of children as an evil, capturing a pure “spirit” in an incarnate body.  They despised marriage.  Ultimately, they despised the Incarnation, The Real Presence, The Sacraments, in general, since this is God saying Creation is good, not evil.

However, it was their asceticism and dedication to their wrong principles that moved people to accept their heresy.  Their poverty was held in contrast to the extravagant caravans of high Roman Church officials, as they traveled.  Dominic knew in order to combat their wrong thinking in hearts and minds, Catholic preachers of the truth must be as ascetical and dedicated.  Dominic is known by the quote, “Meet zeal with zeal!”

Even modern cases of this delusional, evil, and dangerous thinking can be found in the First World…

4/28/12, GENEVA — Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reports that a woman starved to death after embarking on a spiritual diet that required her to stop eating or drinking and live off sunlight alone.

The Zurich newspaper reported Wednesday that the unnamed Swiss woman in her fifties decided to follow the radical fast in 2010 after viewing an Austrian documentary about an Indian guru who claims to have lived this way for 70 years.

Tages-Anzeiger says there have been similar cases of self-starvation in Germany, Britain and Australia.

The prosecutors’ office in the Swiss canton (state) of Aargau confirmed Wednesday that the woman died in January 2011 in the town of Wolfhalden in eastern Switzerland.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/25/woman-starved-to-death-on-light-diet/

Because of the differing needs of the Church, the following Pope, Innocent IV, appointed him to become a bishop on the Island of Cyprus. Already having become a friend of St. Louis the King of France, Bl. Bartholomew renewed this friendship as St. Louis went through Cyprus on his way to Egypt during the Seventh Crusade (1248). This friendship led to St. Louis giving relics of the True Cross and a thorn from the Crown of Thorns to Bl. Bartholomew.

After his transfer to his native Vicenza, Bl. Bartholomew built the Church of the Crown to house these relics. Here he not only continued to preach the truths of the faith and free the local Church from the errors of the Manicheans, but he also established such a sense of peace that the people asked him to become their temporal ruler as well. He rightfully declined, but this shows the great virtue that he not only had but also that he instilled in his people.

May we turn to him for intercession when there is unrest and discord, and may he help us in times of need.  His fratres still preach the truth today, and seek out heresy wherever it may exist.

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O God, who madest Blessed Bartholomew, Thy Confessor and Bishop, wonderful in leading the enemies of the faith from the darkness of error to the light of truth, and in bringing back multitudes to peace and concord, grant, through his intercession, that Thy peace, which passeth all understanding, may keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee for ever and ever.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 23 – The Eleven Ursuline Martyrs of Valenciennes, France d. 1794

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A group of eleven nuns of the Ursuline Order who were arrested by authorities of the French revolutionary government and guillotined between October 17 and 23, 1794, at Valenciennes. Their crime: they reopened a school in contravention to the government decree prohibiting unapproved educational institutions from functioning. The nuns were: Sr Clotilde Paillot, OSU, superior; Sr Marie Louise Ducret, OSU; Sr Marie Magdalen Desjardin, OSU; Sr Marie Louise Vanot, OSU; Sr Françoise Lacroix, OSU; Sr Margaret Leroux, OSU; Sr Anne Marie Erraux, OSU; Sr Anne Joseph Leroux, OSU; Sr Gabrielle Bourla, OSU; Sr Jane Louis Barré, OSU; and Sr Jane Rievie Prin, OSU. The prioress, Sr Clotilde Paillot, OSU, tried to take the entire blame on herself for any illegal actions but the tribunal refused to agree and all were condemned to the guillotine. Sr Marie Erraux, OSU was utterly terrified and Sr Clotilde comforted and supported her, promising to stay close beside her.

Valenciennes is within the boundary of France but very close to the border of the Austrian Netherlands (present day Belgium). The Revolutionary government closed a larger number of religious houses and schools, including that of the Ursulines. Their property seized and confiscated, evicted, the Ursulines moved across the border to Mons in the Netherlands, where another Ursuline monastery gave them shelter.

In 1793 Austria invaded northern France to vindicate its sovereignty over the Austrian Netherlands. In doing so it also seized a strip of French territory that included Valenciennes. The evicted nuns therefore returned to Valenciennes, now Austrian, and reopened their school. But the French retaliated and recaptured Valenciennes. What were the poor nuns to do now? They decided to continue with their school in their old home.

Shortly thereafter, the French government arrested and jailed the Ursulines of Valenciennes. On what charge? That they were emigrees who had returned to France without permission and were illegally conducting a religious school! Five of them were brought to trial on October 17, 1794. They stated frankly that they had returned to teach the Catholic religion. For this crime they were condemned to death by the anti-Christian French authorities.

One of the sisters, Sr Marie Augustine Dejardin, OSU, said to the mother superior (who had not yet been sentenced), “Mother, you taught us to be valiant, and now that we are going to be crowned, you weep!”

Five days later the same superior, Sr Marie Clotilde Paillot, OSU, and the other five nuns were condemned to die in the same manner. Mother Paillot made the public declaration, “We die for the faith of the Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church!” This time the victims were transported to the guillotine in a tumbril or dump-cart.

Now, the commissioners had overlooked a lay sister of the community, Cordule Barre. Cordule would not be separated from her sisters. Hurrying over to the cart, she climbed in of her own accord, and was executed with the rest. As they moved on to the scaffold, all six sang the Litany of Our Lady. What do Catholic martyrs do facing their immanent death? They sing!


-“Les onze Ursulines de Valciennes” the execution of eleven Ursuline nuns on 17.and 23.10.1794, by commissar Jean-Baptiste Lacoste following Robespierre’s Reign of Terror, wood engraving, 1921, from: Almanac du Pelerin de 1921 Maison de la bonne Press, Paris. No. 3997.

Litany of Our Lady

Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the word, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.
Mother of Christ, pray for us.
Mother of the Church, pray for us.
Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us.
Mother most pure, pray for us.
Mother most chaste, pray for us.
Mother inviolate, pray for us.
Mother undefiled, pray for us.
Mother most amiable, pray for us.
Mother most admirable, pray for us.
Mother of good counsel, pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, pray for us.
Mother of our Savior, pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, pray for us.
Mirror of justice, pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, pray for us.
Cause of our joy, pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, pray for us.
Mystical rose, pray for us.
Tower of David, pray for us.
Tower of ivory, pray for us.
House of gold, pray for us.
Ark of the Covenant, pray for us.
Gate of heaven, pray for us.
Morning star, pray for us.
Health of the sick, pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, pray for us.
Help of Christians, pray for us.
Queen of angels, pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs, pray for us.
Queen of prophets, pray for us.
Queen of apostles, pray for us.
Queen of martyrs, pray for us.
Queen of confessors, pray for us.
Queen of virgins, pray for us.
Queen of all Saints, pray for us.
Queen conceived without Original Sin, pray for us.
Queen assumed into Heaven, pray for us.
Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us.
Queen of Peace, pray for us.
Queen of the Church, pray for us.

Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; spare us O Lord!
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; graciously hear us, O Lord!
Lamb of God, You take away the sins of the world; have mercy on us.
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 Let us pray. Grant, we ask You, Lord, that we, your servants, may enjoy lasting health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enter into the joy of eternal happiness. Through Christ our Lord. R/ Amen

At these killings the crowd was usually out for entertainment jeering and shouting insults and making a great noise. But as the sisters were led to the guillotine the crowd fell utterly silent and still. Sr Clotilde thanked the soldiers, calling it the most beautiful day of their lives. They were not allowed any religious symbols, but she had hidden a crucifix on her person, and when she reached the guillotine, she threw it out into the crowd.

Two hundred years later, at a service commemorating the bicentenary of their death, the family of Sr Clotilde brought this crucifix to the Ursulines and asked them to keep it in the convent chapel at Valenciennes in memory of the martyred sisters.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 17 – The Heresy of Gnosticism

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-St Ignatius of Antioch (35-108 AD)

Even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves.” ~2 Peter 2:1

The Catholic Church makes a distinction between ‘material’ (Ed: “in reality, as a ‘matter’ of real fact”) and ‘formal’ heresy. Material heresy means in effect “holding erroneous doctrines through no fault of one´s own” as occurs with people brought up in non-Catholic communities, i.e. through ignorance, or accident of birth, and “is neither a crime nor a sin”.

The material heretic is ready and willing to be corrected, and assent, were the truth made plain to them.  BIG EXAMPLE:  ignorant, or less than perfectly trained, catechists, i.e. yours truly.  There are many scholarly types on the distribution for this blog for just this reason!  🙂 I rely on them to keep me, a) humble, and b) on the straight and narrow! We ignorants mean well, but we just don’t know better when the Internet is feeding us nonsense.  🙂  Thank goodness for copy/paste, or is it the work of the devil?  🙂  Thank you, auditors!!!!

Formal (Ed: knowing the truth, that it is held to be the truth by the Church, as a formal matter of dogma, and willfully rejecting it) heresy is “the willful and persistent adherence to an error in matters of faith”.   The formal heretic refuses to be corrected.  One must be baptized in order to be a heretic.  Those unbaptized are under the category “other”.

The Church holds that since God created Creation and deemed it “good” (Gen 1:31), it cannot, intrinsically, be evil, as some heresies have held.  For Catholics, the “glass is half-full”.  Heresies go by many names, through many ages.  They persist even into our modern world under guise.  It is said, “there are no new heresies”.  Bad thinking leads to bad action.  Some have suggested  modern forms of Gnosticism are Scientology and Freemasonry.


-by Br Isaac Augustine Morales, OP (Br Isaac received a doctorate in New Testament from Duke University and taught in the Department of Theology at Marquette University for four years before joining the Order.)

“From the earliest days, the Church has faced the perennial temptation to deny the goodness of material creation in general and of the human body in particular. The Platonic notion of the body as a “prison” from which the soul must escape has cropped up repeatedly throughout the Church’s history, only to be condemned every time someone proposed it.

We see one particular form of this error, the denial that Jesus really took on flesh and blood, reflected in the New Testament, and it is condemned in no uncertain terms: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn 7). What is it that drives this temptation? And what makes the idea derived from it so pernicious that St. John calls those who embrace it “antichrist”?

The answer to the first question stems from two factors: the majesty of God and the messiness of creation. In the early centuries, God was seen as totally other than creation, in the words of 1 Timothy, “immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17). God transcends the world and, unlike us, is not subject to change, to corruption, to pain and suffering, to anything that belongs to this world. Contrast this picture of an ineffable God with creation, particularly after the fall: we are born, we grow old, we suffer, we die. To many it seemed unfitting for God to experience birth and to have His diapers changed, much less to endure the shame and torture of one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised by men. This is one aspect of the scandal of the Incarnation: that the God who transcends creation has joined Himself so fully to it that he knows first-hand our challenges and our trials.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, whom the Church commemorates today, meditated on this mystery as he was being led to Rome for his own execution, and he condemns the denial of Christ’s real flesh and blood as forcefully as the Second Letter of John. In one of his letters Ignatius explains the importance of Christ’s actual flesh and blood:

But if, as some that are without God, that is, the unbelieving, say, that He only seemed to suffer (they themselves only seeming to exist), then why am I in bonds? Why do I long to be exposed to the wild beasts? Do I therefore die in vain? Am I not then guilty of falsehood against [the cross of] the Lord?

There are at least two dangers in this denial of Christ’s real humanity and suffering: it empties Christian suffering of its purpose, and it implies deception on God’s part. To take the latter point first, if Jesus only appeared to be human and to suffer – if his looks are deceiving – then the Gospels lie to us. Jesus has nothing in common with us, and His life was a mere show – and a fraudulent One at that.

Closer to home for Ignatius, Jesus’ actual suffering in the flesh was closely bound up with his own impending martyrdom. In some mysterious way, Christ’s suffering takes up and incorporates the suffering of the members of his body:

By [the cross] He calls you through His passion, as being His members. The head, therefore, cannot be born by itself, without its members; God, who is [the Savior] Himself, having promised their union.

In His suffering and death, Christ manifests His solidarity with the human race, showing Himself to be a God who knows our trials not in some distant, indifferent way, but personally and experientially.

If the sole purpose of the Incarnation were Christ’s solidarity with us in our suffering, then Christianity would be little more than divinely sanctioned masochism. But for Ignatius, suffering – both Christ’s and ours – is not an end in itself, but rather a bridge to eternal life. It is by our suffering that we participate in Christ’s own sacrifice and through it come to the glory of His Resurrection. This is why one can rightly call a death at the jaws of lions a happy and peaceful one. The peace comes from the sure hope that death does not have the final victory – Christ has conquered it through the Resurrection.

Most of us are probably not ready to offer our bodies to the lions as Ignatius did, but we must remember that it was not on the basis of his own strength that he faced his death. He drew strength from feeding on Christ’s own Eucharistic flesh and blood, which he called the “medicine of immortality.” By feeding on this medicine we too can be strengthened to face our own trials and, God willing, pass through a happy death to the glory of the Resurrection.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 17 – St Ignatius of Antioch, (35-107 AD), Bishop, Martyr, Father of the Church

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-painting of the martyrdom of St Ignatius of Antioch from the Menologion of Basil II (c. 1000 AD).  In 637 AD, his relics were transferred to the Basilica di San Clemente in Rome.

My parents had friends who “made”, very Catholic, no democracy here, no popular opinion sought, each of their several children take the Confirmation name “Polycarp”!  Funny!  🙂

I can just imagine going down the line of the Confirmation class of eighth graders, every year or so, to the offspring of this family, and the next “victim” mumbling, as softly as possible, “polycarp”, and then the ensuing snorts and guffaws of their immature peers.  Awesome!  Growing up Catholic!  You can see/hear the character building in the crimson face!  Intentional, loving humiliation toughens us up for life!  We’ll need it!  We are unsure to this day whether my parents’ friends were cruel or had an unusual sense of humor?  St Polycarp was a friend of St Ignatius of Antioch.  Both are understood to have been disciples of The Apostle St John.  The writings of Ignatius of Antioch attest to the sacramental and hierarchical nature of the Church.

In a 2007 general audience on St. Ignatius of Antioch, Pope Benedict XVI observed that “no Church Father has expressed the longing for union with Christ and for life in him with the intensity of Ignatius.” In his letters, the Pope said, “one feels the freshness of the faith of the generation which had still known the Apostles. In these letters, the ardent love of a saint can also be felt.”

Born in Syria in the middle of the first century A.D., Ignatius is said to have been personally instructed – along with another future martyr, Saint Polycarp – by the Apostle Saint John. When Ignatius became the Bishop of Antioch around the year 70, he assumed leadership of a local church that was, according to tradition, first led by Saint Peter before his move to Rome.

Although St. Peter transmitted his Papal primacy to the bishops of Rome rather than Antioch, the city played an important role in the life of the early Church. Located in present-day Turkey, it was a chief city of the Roman Empire, and was also the location where the believers in Jesus’ teachings and his resurrection were first called “Christians.”

Ignatius led the Christians of Antioch during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the first of the emperors to proclaim his divinity by adopting the title “Lord and God.” Subjects who would not give worship to the emperor under this title could be punished with death. As the leader of a major Catholic diocese during this period, Ignatius showed courage and worked to inspire it in others.

After Domitian’s murder in the year 96, his successor Nerva reigned only briefly, and was soon followed by the Emperor Trajan. Under his rule, Christians were once again liable to death for denying the pagan state religion and refusing to participate in its rites. It was during his reign that Ignatius was convicted for his Christian testimony and sent from Syria to Rome to be put to death.

Escorted by a team of military guards, Ignatius nonetheless managed to compose seven letters: six to various local churches throughout the empire (including the Church of Rome), and one to his fellow bishop Polycarp who would give his own life for Christ several decades later.

Ignatius’ letters passionately stressed the importance of Church unity, the dangers of heresy, and the surpassing importance of the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality.” These writings contain the first surviving written description of the Church as “Catholic,” from the Greek word indicating both universality and fullness.

One of the most striking features of Ignatius’ letters, is his enthusiastic embrace of martyrdom as a means to union with God and eternal life. “All the pleasures of the world, and all the kingdoms of this earth, shall profit me nothing,” he wrote to the Church of Rome. “It is better for me to die in behalf of Jesus Christ, than to reign over all the ends of the earth.”

“Now I begin to be a disciple,” the bishop declared. “Let fire and the cross; let the crowds of wild beasts; let tearings, breakings, and dislocations of bones; let cutting off of members; let shatterings of the whole body; and let all the dreadful torments of the devil come upon me: only let me attain to Jesus Christ.”

St. Ignatius of Antioch bore witness to Christ publicly for the last time in Rome’s Flavian Amphitheater, where he was mauled to death by lions. “I am the wheat of the Lord,” he had declared, before facing them. “I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ.” His memory was honored, and his bones venerated, soon after his death around the year 107.

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“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest.” — Letter to the Magnesians 2, 6:1

“There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassible, even Jesus Christ our Lord.” —Letter to the Ephesians, ch. 7, shorter version, Roberts-Donaldson translation

He stressed the value of the Eucharist, calling it a “medicine of immortality” (Ignatius to the Ephesians 20:2). The very strong desire for bloody martyrdom in the arena, which Ignatius expresses rather graphically in places, may seem quite odd to the modern reader. An examination of his theology of soteriology shows that he regarded salvation as one being free from the powerful fear of death and thus to bravely face martyrdom.

“Be not seduced by strange doctrines nor by antiquated fables, which are profitless. For if even unto this day we live after the manner of Judaism, we avow that we have not received grace … If then those who had walked in ancient practices attained unto newness of hope, no longer observing Sabbaths but fashioning their lives after the Lord’s day, on which our life also arose through Him and through His death which some men deny … how shall we be able to live apart from Him? … It is monstrous to talk of Jesus Christ and to practise Judaism. For Christianity did not believe in Judaism, but Judaism in Christianity.” — Ignatius to the Magnesians 8:1, 9:1-2, 10:3, Lightfoot translation.

He is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning “universal”, “complete” and “whole” to describe the church, writing:

“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful to baptize or give communion without the consent of the bishop. On the other hand, whatever has his approval is pleasing to God. Thus, whatever is done will be safe and valid.” — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 8, J.R. Willis translation.

It is from the word katholikos (“according to the whole”) that the word catholic comes. When Ignatius wrote the Letter to the Smyrnaeans in about the year 107 and used the word catholic, he used it as if it were a word already in use to describe the Church. This has led many scholars to conclude that the appellation Catholic Church with its ecclesial connotation may have been in use as early as the last quarter of the 1st century. On the Eucharist, he wrote in his letter to the Smyrnaeans:

“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God … They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes.” — Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1

Saint Ignatius’s most famous quotation, however, comes from his letter to the Romans:

“I am writing to all the Churches and I enjoin all, that I am dying willingly for God’s sake, if only you do not prevent it. I beg you, do not do me an untimely kindness. Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, which are my way of reaching to God. I am God’s wheat, and I am to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts, so that I may become the pure bread of Christ.” — Letter to the Romans

“I greet you in the blood of Jesus Christ, which is eternal and abiding joy.” -St. Ignatius of Antioch

“No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.” –St. Ignatius of Antioch

Prayer for the Deceased

“Receive in tranquility and peace, O Lord, the souls of your servants who have departed this present life to come to You. Grant them rest and place them in the habitations of light, the abodes of blessed spirits. Give them the life that will not age, good things that will not pass away, delights that have no end, through Jesus.  Amen.                      –St Ignatius of Antioch

Love,
Matthew

Oct 16 – St Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM, (1647-1690), Visionary of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

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My parents had a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart as I was growing up.  Mara attends Sacred Hearts of Jesus & Mary School.  We attend the parish in Sun Prairie, WI as well.  My hope is that Mara will attend Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart here in Madison, WI.  Each night, at grace, my parents and I would add to the grace, “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”: fifty-six years of marriage and six children.

Roman Catholics celebrate the life of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM, the French nun whose visions of Christ helped to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart throughout the Western Church.

Margaret Mary Alacoque was born in July of 1647. Her parents Claude and Philiberte lived modest but virtuous lives, while Margaret proved to be a serious child with a great focus on God. Claude died when Margaret was eight, and from age 9-13 she suffered a paralyzing illness. In addition to her father’s death as well as her illenss, a struggle over her family’s property made life difficult for Margaret and her mother for several years.

During her illness, Margaret made a vow to enter religious life. During adolescence, however, she changed her mind. For a period of time she lived a relatively ordinary life, enjoying the ordinary social functions of her day and considering the possibility of marriage.

However, her life changed in response to a vision she saw one night while returning from a dance, in which she saw Christ being scourged. Margaret believed she had betrayed Jesus, by pursuing the pleasures of the world rather than her religious vocation, and a the at the age of 22, she decided to enter a convent.

Two days after Christmas of 1673, Margaret experienced Christ’s presence in an extraordinary way while in prayer. She heard Christ explain that he desired to show his love for the human race in a special way, by encouraging devotion to “the Heart that so loved mankind.”

She experienced a subsequent series of private revelations regarding the gratitude due to Jesus on the part of humanity, and the means of responding through public and private devotion, but the superior of the convent dismissed this as a delusion.

This dismissal was a crushing disappointment, affecting the nun’s health so seriously that she nearly died. In 1674, however, the Jesuit priest Father Claude de la Colombiere, SJ, became Margaret’s spiritual director. He believed her testimony, and chronicled it in writing.

Fr. de la Colombiere, SJ, – later canonized as a saint – left the monastery to serve as a missionary in England. By the time he returned and died in 1681, Margaret had made peace with the apparent rejection of her experiences. Through St. Claude’s direction, she had reached a point of inner peace, no longer concerned with the hostility of others in her community.

In time, however, many who doubted her would become convinced as they pondered what St. Claude had written about the Sacred Heart. Eventually, her own writings and the accounts of her would face a rigorous examination by Church officials.

By the time that occurred, however, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had already gained what she desired: “To lose myself in the heart of Jesus.” She faced her last illness with courage, frequently praying the words of Psalm 73: “What have I in heaven, and what do I desire on earth, but Thee alone, O my God?”

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-tomb of St Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM.  Her remains were disinterred after burial for 140 years.  What you see above is a waxified skeleton for veneration.

“Our Lord frequently told me that I should keep a secluded place for Him in my heart… where He would teach me to love Him” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“It seems to me that the happiness of a soul consists entirely in conforming to the most adorable will of God; for in so doing the heart finds peace and the spirit joy and repose.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque 

“My greatest happiness is to be before the Blessed Sacrament, where my heart is, as it were, in its center.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque 

“But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure.” -St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

“Love keeps Him there [in the Blessed Sacrament] as a victim completely and perpetually delivered over to sacrifice for the glory of the Father and for our salvation. Unite yourself with Him, then, in all that you do. Refer everything to His glory. Set up your abode in this loving Heart of Jesus and you will there find lasting peace and the strength both to bring to fruition all the good desires He inspires in you, and to avoid every deliberate fault. Place in this Heart all your sufferings and difficulties. Everything that comes from the Sacred Heart is sweet. He changes everything into love.”
-St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, VHM

Love,
Matthew

Oct 15 – Logical Ecstasy


-“The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1647-1652, Santa Maria della Vittoria

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-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“I saw in [the angel’s] hands a large golden dart and at the end of the iron tip there appeared to be a little fire. [The] angel plunged the dart several times into my heart . . . . When he drew it out, I thought he was carrying off with him the deepest part of me; and he left me all on fire with great love of God. The pain was so great that it made me moan, and the sweetness this greatest pain caused me was so superabundant that there is no desire capable of taking it away” -Teresa of Ávila, Autobiography

In 1976, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate (’87-’88) Richard Wilbur published a short poem entitled “Teresa.” The first stanza describes the famous mystical encounter between St. Teresa and an angel with a spear:

After the sun’s eclipse,
The brighter angel and the spear which drew
A bridal outcry from her open lips,
She could not prove it true,
Nor think at first of any means to test
By what she had been wedded or possessed.

Though now we can see that Teresa was “wedded” to God, at the time even she who enjoyed such divine intimacy did not rule out the possibility that she had been “possessed” by some lower power. In case of supposed mystical experiences, St. Teresa writes, “The safest thing, as the Lord told me, is to make known to my confessor the whole state of my soul and the favors God grants me, that he be learned, and that I obey him. The Lord has often told me this.”

The second stanza of Wilbur’s poem contrasts the ecstasy of St. Teresa with the experience of Odysseus’ comrades on the island of Aeaea. In Homer’s Odyssey, the witch-goddess Circe gave the men a drugged draft and changed them into swine: “She struck with her wand, drove them into her pigsties . . . with grunts, snouts . . . off they went to their pens, sobbing, squealing . . . (X, 260-70).” The first line of the stanza understates the contrast with Teresa’s “outcry”:

Not all cries were the same;
There was an island in mythology
Called by the very vowels of her name
Where vagrants of the sea,
Changed by a wand, were made to squeal and cry
As heavy captives in a witch’s sty.

So the poem distinguishes two kinds of ecstasy. The swine in Circe’s sty symbolize the irrational fits and shouts of human animality in revolt. When reason loses control to the emotions and sensuality, the rational animal turns wild. Man becomes a pig.

The second kind of ecstasy results from a knowledge of God. Catholics use the phrase “faith and reason,” but it would be a mistake to infer that some things are reasonable and that faith is not one of them. By faith, we transcend human reason and come to share in the knowledge of God, who is Wisdom Itself. When St. John calls Jesus the Word, the Greek word is Logos (from which we derive “logic” and all those names of knowledge ending in “-ology”). If faith is experienced as darkness, it is not because faith is irrational but because it is supra-rational. What Teresa saw was beyond her, but still her encounter with the Word was a real illumination.

A consummate wordsmith, Wilbur develops the theme by noting the similarity between “Teresa” and “Aeaea” (“the very vowels of her name”: e-e-a). Aristotle once remarked that among the animals only man possesses speech (logos), while the others have only the mere voice (phonē). Think of the cow’s “moooo” or the sheep’s “baaaahh,” or even the less reflective of human utterances: “ooooh,” “aaaah,” or “uuuuh.” By using consonants to shape the voice in numerous and various ways, the logical animal (the human being) turns a handful of vowels into a language of hundreds of thousands of words (to say nothing of poems). Likewise, inspired by the Logos, Teresa went on to write profound and detailed books on prayer. The Grecian vagrants, struck by the witch, could only grunt and squeal.

In fact, the wisdom of her teaching and the greatness of her deeds give eloquent witness to the authenticity of her visions. The last stanza of Wilbur’s poem gives voice to that witness.

The proof came soon and plain:
Visions were true which quickened her to run
God’s barefoot errands in the rocks of Spain
Beneath its beating sun,
And lock the O of ecstasy within
The tempered consonants of discipline.

The bulk of those “barefoot errands in the rocks of Spain” went toward the reform of the Carmelites—work that called for extraordinary discipline and uncommon vision. For Teresa, there was ultimately no contradiction between mysticism and intense concentration on the business of daily life, between the delights of prayer and the labors of reviving a late-medieval religious order. In fact, it was her mysticism, or better, her deep friendship with Jesus the Logos, that sharpened her mind and inspired her self-possession.

Nor did Teresa make “spirituality” a pretense for despising “organized religion.” She knew that the Logos had become flesh and established a visible, tangible Church, and that he had wedded the Church to Himself and so become one flesh with her. Teresa understood herself as both organized in that body and commissioned to organize the religion of a part of that body, the Carmelite Order. And it is in and through that organized body that the Logos recommends her sanctity to us today.”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 10 – St Francis Borgia, SJ, (1510-1572), Husband, Father, 4th Duke of Gandia, 3rd General of the Society of Jesus, Confessor

“Go, sell all that you have. Come follow Me.” -cf Mt 19:21

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San Francisco de Borja, 1624, by Alonzo Cano, 189 × 123 cm (74.4 × 48.4 in), oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Art Seville, Spain

By all accounts, Francis Borgia was handsome.  Of course, he was rich.  He possessed all this life could offer:  family, rank, wealth, health, preferments few could rival.  While true, he did consider religious life, so many rich and splendid appointments in the court of Emperor Charles V came his way, this was put aside.

A Spanish nobleman of remarkably high rank: grandson of a king (and a Pope – don´t be scandalized; not every Pope was a saint) and cousin to the Emperor Charles V.

He married well, had eight children, and bounced around royal society taking various positions (viceroy, duke, protector, etc.) for the first half of his life.

When his wife died (their youngest child was eight) it was a heavy blow to him; it sorely tested his faith.   As he escorted the funeral bier to its tomb, it was necessary he identify the remains, as was custom, as the person intended to be buried was actually his wife.  Not long after her death, but long enough for decomposition to begin, Francis was taken aback by what he saw in the coffin and by how quickly she had gone from life to what remained.  Shaken, disturbed, he began to consider more seriously the eternal, and the brevity and vanity of life.  He swore never again to serve a sovereign who could be corrupted in body in such a way.

St Ignatius had recently founded the Jesuits, and Francis was deeply attracted by their zeal and their particular mission of combining the contemplative life and the active life.  He made a secret, private vow to enter the order, and St Ignatius himself advised him to set all his affairs in order (especially providing for his children) before making the news public.

He did so, and eventually his desire was granted.  When he was forty years old, he went to Rome and entered the Society of Jesus.  The “duke turned Jesuit,” as he was called, learned humility and prayer through the rigors of religious life, where his superiors made sure that he spent plenty of time washing dishes and cleaning floors, to purify him from any left-over arrogance or pride, but throughout the years preceding his ordination he demonstrated exemplary virtue.

Once he was ordained a priest, he began preaching extensively, and was put in charge of all the Jesuits in Portugal and Spain.  Soon thereafter he was called back to Rome, where he became the most popular preacher to the Pope and Cardinals, and was named General of the Jesuit Order.

He put his vast experience of government and diplomacy (and his many personal connections with European nobility) to work and gave much needed structure and stability to the flourishing order, such that he is often referred to as the “second founder” of the Jesuits.

His seven years of brilliant and energetic leadership included starting Jesuit missions to the Americas, establishing the Roman College (now known as the Gregorian University), building churches and seminaries, and numorous other endeavors.  By the time he died, he was already acclaimed as a saint from one end of Europe to the other.

In 1572, the Turks were once again threatening Christendom.  St Pius V chose St Francis Borgia to accompany him on an embassy, due to his political skills and connections, to assemble a league of princes for defense.  The saint at once agreed, exhausted as he was from his life’s labors, St Francis died two days after his return to Rome.

What was the secret of this paean of Christian virtue?  The more renown and attention he received, the more self-effacing he became.  When one of his companions asked him why, he remarked that for six years he had meditated on the life of Christ, and in those meditations he always put himself at the feet of Judas.  Why?  Because St Francis Borgia recognized the potential Judas in himself, and that kept him humble.  We are all Judas.  We all deny him every day.  “I do not know Him!” -Lk 22:57.  “Do you love Me?” -Jn 21:17

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-deathmask of St Francis Borgia, SJ

Lord, be my strength when I am tempted to deny You, when I am remiss in speaking Your name lovingly to another, of telling them what You mean to me.  Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 9 – St Louis Bertrand, OP, (1526-1581), Apostle of South America

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-Saint Louis Bertrand, OP, 1636-1638, by Francisco de Zurbaran, 209 x 154 cm, oil on canvas, Spanish baroque style, Museum of Fine Art Seville, Spain.

Louis Bertrand was born in Valencia to Juan Bertrand and Juana Angela Exarch. Through his father he was related to St. Vincent Ferrer, a thaumaturgus of the Dominican Order. At an early age he conceived the idea of becoming a Dominican Friar, and despite the efforts of his father to dissuade him, was clothed with the Dominican habit in the Convent of St. Dominic, Valencia on 26 August 1539. After the usual period of probation, he pronounced the evangelical vows.

In demeanour he was grave and apparently without any sense of humour, yet withal possessed of a gentle and sweet disposition that greatly endeared him to those with whom he came in contact. While he could lay no claim to the great intellectual gifts and ripe scholarship that have distinguished so many of the saints of the Dominican order, he applied himself assiduously to study, and stored his mind with the sacred truths expounded in the pages of the Summa. In 1547 he was ordained to the priesthood by the Archbishop of Valencia, Saint Thomas of Villanova.

He was appointed to the office of master of novices, in the convent at Valencia, the duties of which he discharged at different intervals for an aggregate of thirty years. When the plague broke out in Valencia in 1557 he devoted himself to the sick and dying; the dead he prepared for burial and interred with his own hands.

When the plague had subsided, the zeal of the holy novice-master sought to extend the scope of his already large ministry into the apostolate of preaching. Although it is said that “his voice was raucous, his memory treacherous, his carriage without grace”, he became a fervent preacher.

The cathedral and most capacious churches were placed at his disposal, but proved wholly inadequate to accommodate the multitude that desired to hear him. Eventually it became necessary for him to resort to the public squares of the city. It was probably the fame of his preaching that brought him to the attention of St. Teresa, who at this time sought his counsel in the matter of reforming her order.

Louis had long cherished the desire to enter the mission fields of the New World. Receiving permission he sailed for America in 1562, and landed at Cartagena, where he immediately entered upon the career of a missionary.

Missionary work in South America

The Bull of canonization asserts that he was favored with the gift of miracles, and while preaching in his native Spanish was understood in various languages. With the encouragement of Bartolomé de las Casas defended the natives rights against the Spanish conquerors.

From Cartagena, the scene of his first labors, St. Louis was sent to Panama, where in a comparatively short time he converted some 6,000 people. His next mission was at Tubará, situated near the sea-coast and midway between the city of Cartagena and the Magdalena River.

The success of his efforts at this place is witnessed by the entries of the baptismal registers, in the saint’s own handwriting, which show that all the inhabitants of the place were received into the Church by St. Louis; Turon places the number of converts in Tubará at 10,000. Remarkably all had been adequately instructed in the teachings of the Church before receiving baptism, and continued steadfast in their faith.

From Tubará, Louis went to Cipacoa and Paluato. His success at the former place, the exact location of which it is impossible to determine, was little inferior to that of Tubará. At Paluato the results of his zealous efforts were somewhat disheartening. From this unfruitful soil the saint withdrew to the province of Santa Marta, where his former successes were repeated, yielding 15,000 souls. While labouring at Santa Marta, a tribe of 1500 natives came to him from Paluato to receive baptism, which before they had rejected.

The work at Santa Marta finished, the tireless missionary undertook the work of converting the warlike Caribs, probably inhabitants of the Leeward Islands. His efforts among the tribesmen seem not to have been attended with any great success.

Nevertheless, Louis used the occasion again to make manifest the protection which overshadowed his ministry. According to legend, a deadly poison was given to him by one of the native priests. Through Divine interposition, the poison failed to accomplish its purpose.

Tenerife in the Canary Islands became the next field of the saint’s apostolic labours. Unfortunately, there are no records extant to indicate what was the result of his preaching.

At Mompax, thirty-seven leagues south-east of Cartagena, we are told, rather indefinitely, that many thousands were converted to the faith.

Several of the West Indies islands, notably those of St. Vincent and St. Thomas, were visited by St. Louis in his indefatigable quest for souls.

Return to Spain

After seven years as a missionary in South America, Bertrand returned to Spain in 1569, to plead the cause of the oppressed Indians, but he was not permitted to return and labor among them.

He used his own growing reputation for sanctity, as well as family and other contacts to lobby on behalf of the native peoples he had encountered, as well as serving in his native diocese of Valencia.  There he also became a spiritual counselor to many, including St. Teresa of Ávila.

In 1580, the Bertrand fell ill and was carried down from the pulpit of the Valencia cathedral. He died on October 9, 1582, as he supposedly foretold.

Bertrand is sometimes called the “Apostle of South America”.

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-statue of St Louis Bertrand, OP, St Louis Bertrand Parish, Louisville, KY

In Catholic iconography, St. Louis Bertrand is often portrayed holding a chalice from which serpents are emerging. In the other hand, he displays a crucifix with a pistol at its base. These articles call to mind two stories from the great saint’s life when God miraculously saved him from attempts on his life by vile would-be assassins. The first recalls the story of Brother Louis’ the above story where a native priest gave him a chalice of poison for Mass. Louis made the sign of the Cross over the toxic potation, and serpents sprang from the chalice, thus revealing its true contents and saving his life.

The second object – the crucifix/pistol – recalls another account of near-martyrdom in the life of St. Louis Bertrand. Set upon by a crazed gunman, St. Louis calmly made the conquering sign of the Cross. With this most basic gesture of our faith, the barrel of the gun miraculously turned into a crucifix.

“If because of your preaching men lay aside enmities, forgive injuries, avoid occasions of sin and scandals, and reform their conduct, you may say that the seed has fallen on good ground. But to God alone give all the glory and acknowledge yourselves ever unprofitable servants.” -St Louis Bertrand, OP

O God, through mortification of the body and preaching of the faith, You raised the blessed Louis, your confessor, to the glory of the saints; grant that what we profess by faith we may ever fulfill by works of piety. Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 18 – St Luke & The Yoke of Love, “If you would be my disciples…”

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-by Br Bonaventure Chapman, OP

“Doctors are prominent in my family’s lineage: my great-grandfather was a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor, my uncle is a doctor, and my brother is carrying on the tradition in the youngest generation. So naturally St. Luke, the “beloved physician,” has always attracted me. Except for his symbol, that is. An ox? Really? As compared with Mark’s lion, Matthew’s angel, or John’s eagle, Luke’s ox seems a consolation prize, as if he showed up late when the Holy Spirit was doling out emblems. Who would want to be associated with an ox?

These symbols of the evangelists are rooted in the Scriptures. Just to take two examples, in Ezekiel 1:1–14 they show up as the different faces of four living creatures sent to the prophet. And in Revelation 4:5–11 they are the four living creatures singing the Trisagion (“Holy, Holy, Holy”). The first ascription to the four evangelists seems to come from St. Ireneaus (ca. 120–202) in Against Heresies. There he gives the reason for St. Luke’s ox:

[The Gospel] according to Luke, taking up [Christ’s] priestly character, commenced with Zacharias the priest offering sacrifice to God. For now was made ready the fatted calf, about to be immolated for the finding again of the younger son. (3.11.8)

St. Augustine follows this identification saying that “Luke is intended under the figure of the calf, in reference to the pre-eminent sacrifice made by the priest.” The ox (or calf) signifies the priestly and sacrificial character of Christ in St. Luke’s account. This has never quite satisfied me. Surely St. John’s account emphasizes the sacrificial aspect of Christ with his title of “Lamb of God.” And St. Mark’s account is one long Passion narrative. Not to mention the temple scenes in St. Matthew. Is there any other reason that the ox might be fitting for St. Luke?

Well, what do you think of when you hear “ox”? After “big, dirty animal,” I think of a yoke. Oxen don’t just sit in the field; they are yoked together and put to work. An ox without a yoke is like an angel without wings—it just doesn’t seem right. And a yoke isn’t for one; like the disciples sent two by two, oxen work together. An eagle, lion, or angel can be by himself, but oxen are meant to be together.

And what is this yoke? St. Thomas, another saint associated with the ox, comments on Matthew 11:29: “Take, therefore, my yoke, namely, the gospel lessons. And he says yoke because just as a yoke fastens and joins the necks of oxen, so the doctrine of the Gospel fastens the people to its yoke.” The yoke of sin has been replaced, through the sacrifice of Christ, with the yoke of forgiveness and new life. And while this yoke of Christ will bring suffering in this life, it is still light and easy because, according to St. Thomas, it is a yoke of love:

“All who desire to lead a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). But [these persecutions] are not burdensome, because they are seasoned with the condiment of love; for when a person loves someone, it is not a burden to suffer anything for him. Hence love makes easy all difficult and impossible things. Therefore, if one loves Christ properly, nothing is difficult for him; consequently, the New Law does not impose a burden. (Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel 11.3)

There is something utterly fitting about this ox-yoke symbolism for St. Luke, who was St. Paul’s traveling companion and “beloved physician.” Being yoked to St. Paul must not have been easy, with all the ship-wrecks and persecutions and whatnot, but St. Luke’s love of his dear friend is found in the careful account we have of St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. The ox might not be as noble as an eagle, as regal as a lion, or as splendid as an angel; but an ox is a symbol of love and a shared mission, St. Paul and St. Luke sowing and plowing the field of the Lord’s harvest.”

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-“The Evangelists St Luke & St Mark”, by Matthias Strom, 1635, oil on canvas

Love,
Matthew

Oct 9 – Robert Grosseteste, (1175-1273), Bishop of Lincoln, UK, Inventor of the Scientific Method

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-1896 stained glass

As an applied scientist, I have a passion for people of Faith & Science.  There is NO contradiction; quite to the contrary, I feel.  Those who believe there is are either intentionally confusing both, themselves, and others.  Or, they really demonstrate their ignorance of both subjects.

I have shared before Rev. Georges LeMaitre, Inventor of the Big Bang theory, (NOT the tv show), & St Albert the Great, OP.  Check out:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Catholic_scientists, &
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_Catholic_cleric%E2%80%93scientists

While not a beatus, Robert Grosseteste was a scientist.  He is considered the first mathematician and physicist of his age.

From about 1220 to 1235 he wrote a host of scientific treatises including:
     De sphera. An introductory text on astronomy.
     De luce. On the “metaphysics of light.” (which is the most original work of cosmogony in the Latin West)
     De accessu et recessu maris. On tides and tidal movements. (although some scholars dispute his authorship)
     De lineis, angulis et figuris. Mathematical reasoning in the natural sciences.
     De iride. On the rainbow.

He also wrote a number of commentaries on Aristotle, including one on Aristotle’s Physics, which has survived as a loose collection of notes or glosses on the text.  It has been argued that Grosseteste played a key role in the development of scientific method.

Grosseteste did introduce to the Latin West the notion of controlled experiment and related it to demonstrative science, as one among many ways of arriving at such knowledge.  Grosseteste was the first of the Scholastics to fully understand Aristotle’s vision of the dual path of scientific reasoning: generalizing from particular observations into a universal law, and then back again from universal laws to prediction of particulars.

Ink drawing of bishop

-13th century manuscript

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-Grosseteste chapel

The Riverside Church
January 19, 1936

My dear Dr. Einstein,

We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men, to try and have our own question answered.

We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis’s class.

Respectfully yours,

Phyllis

January 24, 1936
Princeton, NJ

Dear Phyllis,

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science.

But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

With cordial greetings,

your A. Einstein

Prayerfully & Scientifically yours,
Matthew