Category Archives: Saints

May 15 – St Dymphna, 7th century – the saint for an age of insanity


-please click on the image for greater detail


-by Sean Fitzpatrick

“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.”

Love,
Matthew

Apr 29 – St Catherine of Siena, OP, (1347-1380) – United w/Christ’s Mystical Body

“Born on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1347, Catherine was the twenty-third child of the wool dyer Jacopo Benincasa and his wife Lapa. From a young age, Catherine was devoted to Christ and the Church. She wished to join a group of third-order Dominican women known informally as the Mantellate or “Cloaked Sisters” and formally as the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic. The group of laywomen wore a white woolen dress with a white veil and black cape and lived in their own homes.

Her family desired marriage for Catherine, however, and they persecuted Catherine in an effort to convince her to acquiesce to their plan. Her personal room was taken away and she was given a multitude of chores around the house to keep her so busy that she would have no time for prayer. Distraught at the behavior and unsure how to convince her family otherwise, on the advice of a Dominican friar Catherine cut off her hair to dissuade potential suitors. Finally, she informed her family of the visions of Christ she experienced as a youth and her pledge of virginity out of love for him. This admission finally convinced her father that her desire to join the Mantellate was authentic and so the family acquiesced. Catherine joined the group in 1366 at the age of nineteen.

Catherine experienced a rich spiritual life from an early age, with locutions from Christ and visions of the Savior—the first when she was six—the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Dominic, Sts. Mary Magdalen, John the Evangelist, Peter and Paul, and even King David. When she was still a little girl, a vision of the Blessed Mother prompted Catherine to request her assistance in remaining a virgin for life so that she could be espoused to Jesus. Her prayers were answered and when she was twenty-one, Jesus appeared to her and presented an invisible engagement ring as a sign of their spiritual union. Catherine could see the ring and it remained visible to her for the rest of her life, but it was invisible to others.

Catherine’s spiritual life included also great spiritual gifts and miraculous events. She had great concern for the sick and suffering in Siena, especially those afflicted with diseases that repelled others. Catherine cared for a woman afflicted with leprosy, which she contracted in her hands as a result. When the women died, Catherine buried her, and the leprosy miraculously left, and she was healed. Catherine desired the salvation of all souls and interceded with the Lord on the behalf of others; for this, the Lord gifted Catherine with the ability to know the state of another’s soul. This special spiritual illumination allowed Catherine to sense the “beauty or ugliness” of the souls in her presence but also those she could not see. Souls in a state of mortal sin reeked in Catherine’s presence. In the presence of Pope Gregory XI, Catherine would inform the pontiff that his court, “which should have been a paradise of heavenly virtues” was instead full of “the stench of all the vices of hell.” When in Avignon on a mission to convince the pope to return his residence to Rome, Catherine met a young beautiful woman, who was the niece of a cardinal. The woman could not look Catherine in the eye and when Bl. Raymond of Capua, Catherine’s confessor, asked Catherine about the woman later, that told him the young woman, beautiful on the outside, reeked of decay. The woman was an adulteress and a priest’s mistress.

In 1376, Catherine received a spiritual gift from the Lord reserved to only a few holy saints: the stigmata or the wounds of Christ’s crucifixion. But Catherine begged the Lord not to allow the wounds to be visible on her body, for fear they would attract others out of curiosity and detract from proper attention to Christ. He agreed, and so Catherine suffered silently with the wounds for the rest of her life; they became visible on her body only at death. In one of her many ecstasies, in which she was oblivious and impervious to the outside world, Catherine received a supernatural garment from Christ, which provided the ability to wear the same amount of clothing in winter or summer with no physical discomfort. Catherine wore a single tunic over a petticoat in all seasons thanks to this exceptional gift.

Catherine lived during the time of the Avignon Papacy, when the papal residence and court was in southern France, causing great scandal throughout Christendom. St. Bridget of Sweden (1302-1373) had worked tirelessly to end the scandal and bring the popes back to Rome, sending letters to the popes in Avignon urging their return.

When St. Bridget died, the holy cause passed to Catherine, who wrote to the pope in one letter: “Come, come and resist no more the will of God that calls you: and the hungry sheep await your coming to hold and possess the place of your predecessor and champion, Apostle Peter. For you, as the vicar of Christ, should rest in your own place.” However, Catherine realized that letters were not sufficient to effect such a change, so she decided that a personal visit to France was necessary to bring Christ’s vicar home.

Prayer, virtuous living, trust and hope in divine providence, and respectful obedience to the hierarchy, as found in the life of St. Catherine of Siena, are the foundation of authentic Catholic response to crises in the Church. That foundation will effect genuine change and yield enduring reform in Christ’s Mystical Body.”

Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – St Patrick (5th century) – Loch na Chara, The Holy Wells of Ireland


-Holy Wells of Ireland triptych by Anja Renkes 2020, author and artist, please click on the image for greater detail


-leftmost and then rightmost panels of Holy Wells of Ireland triptych, both 24 x 36 inches, by Anja Renkes 2020, please click on the images for greater detail

“This lake is known as Loch na Chara. It is believed to be the place where the devil was drowned by St. Patrick. This remarkable saint is believed to have battled and conquered many evil spirits as he introduced Christianity to Ireland. Standing with your back to the holy wells and pilgrimage site, this lake stands before you on the other end of the mouth of the pass.

St. Patrick’s holy well, at the crest of this mountain pass called Mám Éan, has been a Catholic pilgrimage destination for many years. Other kinds of rituals that are not specifically Catholic or Christian, which may include elements of pre-Christian religions, also continue at some holy wells today.

The objective persistence of many cultic or religious practices at these places reveals a human longing for communion and healing. This longing is significant, and I hope that my work, as it explores the evidence of this longing at holy wells, might offer a response by pointing to the life-giving well of Jesus’ mercy and love in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Catholic popular piety requires that pilgrims have received suitable catechesis to understand how to participate, so that it may nourish them spiritually and assist in developing a relationship with God. My work seeks not to qualify all the practices that occur at holy wells, but to understand and recognize the longing revealed therein.

Upon further contemplation, this longing is revealed in myriad ways throughout the world today. The persistence of religious practice at holy wells provides an example that reaches back through times gone by; however, modern phenomena like night clubs and even social media all reveal this deep, innate desire for communion…

Compline (Night Prayer, the last prayers of the day in the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours) of the Benedictine monks at Glenstal Abbey, includes:

When darkness everywhere draws near
Creations sign to close the day,
Teach us to calm our inner fear
That we may watch with you and pray.

Let not anxieties undo
Our trust that you are always there
Increase our fragile hope in you
Who hold us ever in your care.

As shadows overwhelm the skies
Shine in our hearts, eternal light.
Stay with us, Lord, as daylight dies;
Let angels guard us through the night.

To you be glory, God of rest,
To you be glory, God the Son,
To you be glory, Spirit blest,
The One in Three and Three in One. Amen.

Slàinte Mhath, Love,
Matthew

Mar 17 – St Patrick (5th century) – Mám Éan, The Holy Wells of Ireland


-Holy Wells of Ireland triptych by Anja Renkes 2020, author and artist, please click on the image for greater detail


-Mám Éan, 36 by 48-inch center panel of Holy Wells of Ireland triptych by Anja Renkes 2020, please click on the image for greater detail

“The pilgrims we met on our way knelt at the well, dipped their fingers in the water, and blessed themselves in the sign of the cross. In this way, prayer was embodied.

In the upper left corner, a small figurine of the Blessed Virgin Mary rests next to the stone plaque on which is written “Tobar Phadraig”. The Blessed Mother’s presence is felt at holy wells and shrines around the country. As the Theotokos, or ‘God-bearer’, the Blessed Mother’s acceptance of the will of God, that Jesus Christ would be born of her immaculate womb, by the power of the Holy Spirit, allowed for the sanctification of humanity through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Christian hope is deeply related to our bodily reality. God created, and it is good. When humanity needs redemption in our sin and weakness, through Christ, God mercifully created a way for us to turn back to Him with our whole hearts, open for Him to heal and to protect. The presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, at these pilgrimage sites of prayer and petition makes present this reality in the minds and hearts of those on their knees.

In the upper right corner, a rosary hangs down, wedged between two rocks in the stone structure. As a prayer offering in petition or thanksgiving to God, people will often leave devotional items, statues, rosaries, prayer cards, and even more random objects like coins, pins, and ribbons or bits of cloth near the spring at these wells.

In the wellspring itself, one finds a dog dish floating in the water. At many wells, one will find a vessel to be used to drink water from the well as part of the ritual and prayer to be performed at the site. This presence of a commonly-used receptacle emphasizes the perpetuation of community in these places, which extends back through generations. On a rock ledge under the “Tobar Phadraig” plaque, one can see coins deposited long enough ago that they have had time to rust, bleeding a deep, burnt orange color into the stone beneath them.”

Slàinte Mhath,
Matthew

Mar 19 – St Joseph, Mirror of Patience, a willingness to suffer

I have a special devotion to St Joseph, Mirror of Patience.  I have experienced in my life times requiring patience which still scars.  I am not an impatient person, however these times have required divine patience I do not possess on my own.  St Joseph, Mirror of Patience, save me!  Help me!

-by Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss, Bishop of Saginaw, Michigan

“Today, we want to reflect upon Joseph Mirror of Patience.

We have all heard these words many times, “Patience is a virtue.” Patience is listed by St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

People talk about the ‘patience of Job”. And, it is something which many people often confess the “lack of” in the Sacrament of Penance.

And St. Joseph is seen as the Mirror of Patience. What do we mean by that? Let’s look at patience in general. We have all practiced patience on a human level, perhaps in an isolated incident or situation. I practice patience in a traffic jam; at the checkout line; with a two year old who is learning something.

Our patience can wear quite thin

But we also have experience that when something is out of our control, or when we cannot have something instantly, or when we are struggling with the same problem or issue, or when we are dealing with someone else’s faults, our patience can wear quite thin, we might say. We wonder where it went!

Finding peace and calm in our days can be very challenging with all of the different demands and pressures that we experience. What I have described is more about human patience.

Holy habits

The virtue of patience is different. Virtues in and of themselves are holy habits which help us to live more fully our relationship with the Lord. They help us to live (and love) as God desires of us. They lead us to holiness. So the virtue of patience indicates a habit of acting or perhaps better put, a way of being that has become a part of our holiness. This is the patience of St. Joseph.

Patience is willingness to suffer

When we look at this virtue, patience is willingness to suffer. A patient is one who suffers an illness not by choice, whereas a patient man is one who suffers willingly rather than relinquish the vocation given him. Joseph was patient because of his love. He was willing to suffer anything for Mary and Jesus if that is what God asked of him.

St. Joseph’s life required a lot of waiting. Imagine what must have been going through his mind when being awakened by an angel and being told to take Mary as his wife.

Imagine leaving Nazareth for Bethlehem with a pregnant wife and not knowing what would await them….only to find “no room at the inn.”

Imagine the distress

Imagine the distress he may have experienced at being awakened in the night by an angel who told him the Divine Child’s life was in danger. And he was told to take the Child and His Mother and flee immediately to a foreign country.

These are just some of the trials St. Joseph had to face as the head of his family. And what husband and father would not be in a constant state of anxiety in these situations? At least on a human level.

St. Joseph’s obedience is something I talked about a few weeks ago. Joseph was obedient in responding to God’s direction in caring for Mary and Jesus. The virtue of patience goes hand-in-hand with obedience.

St. Joseph did not demand to know the full plan laid out step-by-step before God’s time to do so.

He lived the virtue of patience

But he patiently awaited the revelation of God’s plan, submitting himself completely, always peaceful, kind, calm, and abandoned to God’s providence. He lived the virtue of patience. And he desires to help us do the same.

When we have difficulties in our lives, we should look to St. Joseph, the Mirror of Patience, and learn from him how to be patient in wearisome and painful situations, and how to bear inconveniences and hardships.

Practicing the virtue of patience

These are little crosses that God sends to us; not because he doesn’t like us – in fact, He loves us. Not because He wants us to suffer. He wants to teach us the way of holiness by practicing the virtue of patience.

Patience, and trust in God does not mean that we will be free of anxieties, or upheaval in our lives.

When Jesus was left back in Jerusalem with the Church leaders, Mary and Joseph had to go back and look for Him, and they were filled with great anxiety. But their earlier experiences in life gave them boundless confidence in Divine Providence. Their faith gave them an awareness that no matter what happens in life, God foresees it, allows it, and can bring good out of it if we trust in His loving concern.

It takes a deep faith in God

The practice of Christian patience requires that everything be seen in this light of faith. No matter where life’s trials and suffering come from, they are foreseen by God and allowed for our spiritual purification and growth. This is part of conversion. But it takes a deep faith in God to be aware of His hand in it all, and a strong trust and love of God to accept His will in patience, i.e. with an interior serenity of mind and heart. This Lenten season St. Joseph wants to teach us this….holy patience.

Our patience will be tested

As part of our human condition, our patience will be tested. It probably is on a daily basis – whether it be at home or the work place, or certain situations or events out of our control. Do we have the boundless confidence in the Lord that St. Joseph had?

Joseph lived with two perfect people. (Ed. Living with perfect people can be a cross, too, to the imperfect, most especially like me!  It shows us in the greatest contrast possible how imperfect we are!  Misery loves company, and there is no company living with perfect people!) We don’t! (Amen! Amen!) I am sure Joseph experienced unpleasant people in his life, people who were difficult to deal with. We do as well. One way we can exercise the virtue of patience is by being merciful to others, especially when we know their faults. Forgiving them, praying for them, asking God’s blessing upon them. Ask the Lord for the grace to love your neighbor.

Our faith and trust in God will deepen

By God’s grace, practicing patience means we can deal with the daily annoyances, the faults of others, the little inconveniences, and the big problems that face us. In the process of practicing the virtue of patience, our faith and trust in God will deepen.

In this season of Lent, go to St. Joseph and ask his intercession to help you be patient and merciful, trusting in God’s plan and care for you.

St. Joseph, Mirror of Patience, pray for us!”

Amen. Love,
Matthew

Feb 12 – 49 Martyrs of Abitinae (d. 304 AD) – “Sine Dominico non possumus…We cannot live without Sunday!”


-please click on the image for greater detail

On November 8, 2017, at his general audience, Pope Francis began a new catechesis series on the Eucharist. He referenced The 49 Martyrs of Abitinae. “The Mass isn’t a show…”, said the pope chiding those who take cell phone pictures during liturgy.

A group of 49 Christians found guilty, in 304, during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian, of having illegally celebrated Sunday worship at Abitinae, a town in the Roman province of Africa, the group was surprised by soldiers in Octavius Felix’s home. The town is frequently referred to as Abitina, but the form indicated in the Annuario Pontificio (and elsewhere) is Abitinae. The plural form Abitinae is that which Saint Augustine of Hippo used when writing his De baptismo in 400 or 401 AD.

On February 24 of the year before, Diocletian had published his first edict against the Christians, ordering the destruction of Christian scriptures and places of worship across the Empire, and prohibiting Christians from assembling for worship.

Though Fundanus, the local bishop in Abitinae, obeyed the edict and handed the scriptures of the church over to the authorities, some of the Christians continued to meet illegally under the priest Saturninus. They were arrested and brought before the local magistrates, who sent them to Carthage, the capital of the province, for trial.

The trial took place on February 12 before the proconsul Anullinus. One of the group was Dativus, a senator. He was interrogated, declared that he was a Christian and had taken part in the meeting of the Christians, but even under torture at first refused to say who presided over it. During this interrogation, the advocate Fortunatianus, a brother of Victoria, one of the accused, denounced Dativus of having enticed her and other naive young girls to attend the service; but she declared she had gone entirely of her own accord. Interrupting the torture, the proconsul again asked Dativus whether he had taken part in the meeting. Dativus again declared that he had. Then, when asked who was the instigator, he replied: “The priest Saturninus and all of us.” He was then taken to prison and died soon after of his wounds.

The priest Saturninus was then interrogated and held firm even under torture. His example was followed by all the others, both men and women. They included his four children.

When the Proconsul asked them if they kept the Scriptures in their homes, the martyrs answered courageously that “they kept them in their hearts,” revealing that they did not wish to separate faith from life.

During their torture and torment, the martyrs uttered exclamations such as: “I implore you, Christ, hear me,” “I thank you, O God,” “I implore you, Christ, have mercy.” Along with their prayers they offered their lives and asked that their executioners be forgiven.

“The term ‘dominicum’ has a triple meaning. It indicates the Lord’s day, but also refers to what constitutes its content — His Resurrection and presence in the Eucharistic event.”

One of the responses of the accused has been frequently quoted. Emeritus, who declared that the Christians had met in his house, was asked why he had violated the emperor’s command. He replied: “Sine dominico non possumus” – we cannot live without this thing of the Lord. He was referring to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that the emperor had declared illegal, but in which they had chosen to participate even at the cost of being tortured and sentenced to death.

In the commentary that the writer of the Acts of the Martyrs made to the question posed by the Proconsul to martyr Octavius Felix: ‘I am not asking you if you are a Christian, but if you have taken part in the assembly or if you have a book of the Scriptures,’ the commentator wrote these provocative words:

“O foolish and ridiculous question of the judge! As if a Christian could be without the Sunday Eucharist, or the Sunday Eucharist could be celebrated without there being a Christian! Don’t you know, Satan, that it is the Sunday Eucharist which makes the Christian and the Christian that makes the Sunday Eucharist, so that one cannot subsist without the other, and vice versa?”

Saint Restituta is sometimes considered one of the Martyrs of Abitinae,

List of the Martyrs of Abitinae, all tortured to death

The feast of the Martyrs of Abitinae is on February 12. Under that date the Roman Martyrology records the names of all forty-nine:

Saturninus, Presbyter
Saturninus, son of Saturninus, Reader
Felix, son of Saturninus, Reader
Maria, daughter of Saturninus
Hilarion, infant son of Saturninus
Dativus, also known as Senator
Felix
another Felix
Emeritus, Reader
Ampelius, Reader
Benignus, infant son of Ampelius
Rogatianus
Quintus
Maximianus or Maximus
Telica or Tazelita
another Rogatianus
Rogatus
Ianuarius
Cassianus
Victorianus
Vincentius
Caecilianus
Restituta
Prima
Eva
yet another Rogatianus
Givalius
Rogatus
Pomponia
Secunda
Ianuaria
Saturnina
Martinus
Clautus
Felix junior
Margarits
Maior
Honorata
Regiola
Victorinus
Pelusius
Faustus
Dacianus
Matrona
Caecilia
Victoria, a virgin from Carthage
Berectina
Secunda
Matrona

Love,
Matthew

St Thomas Aquinas – the will & the intellect


-detail The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, fresco in The Spanish Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, by Andrea di Bonaiuto (1365-1367), Florence, Italy, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko, Ignitum, Fr. Christopher serves in the Diocese of London, Ontario.

“Something that is often misunderstood about St. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical psychology is his definition of the will and the intellect. Although he calls the will the “intellectual appetite” many are concerned that he is promoting a type of robotic approach to spirituality.

To put it simply, the “intellectual appetite” to Aquinas or the “will” is concerned with two things: to know and to love. From this vantage point we can summarize the spiritual life of any Christian. The intellectual appetite is not simply a machine that wants to know, but it wants to know God so that it can love God. Aquinas makes this point rather simply when he says we cannot love what we do not know, and therefore we seek to know God more, so that we can love Him more. This makes sense out of St. Thomas who leaned his head against the Tabernacle weeping because his mind was trying to grasp more about God but was coming up against great difficulty.

Now the will can be described in more ways than that it is free, according to Aquinas. The will itself has a voluntary and involuntary dimension to it. The involuntary dimension is that it is ordered towards God as the Supreme Good. Aristotle explained this as Happiness, which is nonetheless the same thing. In every practical choice we make it is tethered to this quest for happiness in God. What is the choice, is not that our will is ultimately oriented toward God, but that we can choose the means – be it making Money or Honour or Power or Pleasure or God – our means to that end. In this way we often make grave errors, and insult God by replacing the uncreated and Supreme Good with something corruptible, created, and base in contrast to God. The voluntary dimension therefore is always in reference to the means – the path we take on our journey toward happiness. For this reason Jesus reveals to us that He is the Way – and that we ought to enter through the narrow gate. He is speaking to a rightly ordered free-will, that disposes itself to Him, and all created goods to be considered prior to Him.

If we want peace, a first step may simply be in acknowledging that what we are is only going to find its perfect rest in God. Everything else will be eaten up by the moths.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Jan 12 – St Tatiana of Rome (d. 226), Virgin & Martyr, “Armies of Angels” -Mt 26:53

The Holy Virgin Martyr Tatiana was born into an illustrious Roman family, and her father was elected consul three times. He was secretly a Christian and raised his daughter to be devoted to God and the Church. When she reached the age of maturity, Tatiana decided to remain a virgin, betrothing herself to Christ. Disdaining earthly riches, she sought instead the imperishable wealth of Heaven. She was made a deaconess in one of the Roman churches and served God in fasting and prayer, tending the sick and helping the needy.

Tatiana was the daughter of a civil servant who was secretly a Christian and privately brought her up in the Faith. However, being a deaconess and ministering to the poor and sick in that capacity attracted the attention of Ulpian, the jurist who effectively yielded power in Rome while the emperor, Alexander Severus, was underage.

Ulpian was considered one of the great legal minds of his age, an expert systematizer, codifier, and commentator of the law (about a third of Justinian’s Digest comes from him, including the first ever actuarial life table). He was known for making sagely remarks, like the descriptive phrase “juris praecepta sunt haec: honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere” (“the precepts of justice are: to live honestly, to not harm others, and to render each his due”).

Yet, for all this, he was also a rabid anti-Christian, who codified anti-Christian legislation to make it easier for judges to apply it against believers. Even the intelligentsia can be enemies of the Faith.

When Rome was ruled by the sixteen-year-old Alexander Severus (222-235), all power was concentrated in the hands of the regent Ulpian, an evil enemy and persecutor of Christians. Christian blood flowed like water. Tatiana was also arrested, and they brought her into the temple of Apollo to force her to offer sacrifice to the idol. The saint began praying, and suddenly there was an earthquake. The idol was smashed into pieces, and part of the temple collapsed and fell down on the pagan priests and many pagans. The demon inhabiting the idol fled screeching from that place. Those present saw its shadow flying through the air.

Then they tore holy virgin’s eyes out with hooks, but she bravely endured everything, praying for her tormentors that the Lord would open their spiritual eyes. And the Lord heard the prayer of His servant. The executioners saw four angels encircle the saint and beat her tormentors. A voice was heard from the heavens speaking to the holy virgin. Eight men believed in Christ and fell on their knees before Saint Tatiana, begging them to forgive them their sin against her. For confessing themselves Christians they were tortured and executed, receiving Baptism by blood.

The next day Saint Tatiana was brought before the wicked judge. Seeing her completely healed of all her wounds, they stripped her and beat her, and slashed her body with razors. A wondrous fragrance then filled the air. Then she was stretched out on the ground and beaten for so long that the servants had to be replaced several times. The torturers became exhausted and said that an invisible power was beating them with iron rods. Indeed, the angels warded off the blows directed at her and turned them upon the tormentors, causing nine of them to fall dead. They then threw the saint in prison, where she prayed all night and sang praises to the Lord with the angels.

A new morning began, and they took Saint Tatiana to the tribunal once more. The torturers beheld with astonishment that after such terrible torments she appeared completely healthy and even more radiant and beautiful than before. They began to urge her to offer sacrifice to the goddess Diana. The saint seemed agreeable, and they took her to the heathen temple. Saint Tatiana made the Sign of the Cross and began to pray. Suddenly, there was a crash of deafening thunder, and lightning struck the idol, the sacrificial offerings and the pagan priests.

Once again, the martyr was fiercely tortured. She was hung up and scraped with iron claws, and her breasts were cut off. That night, angels appeared to her in prison and healed her wounds as before. On the following day, they took Saint Tatiana to the circus and loosed a hungry lion on her. The beast did not harm the saint, but meekly licked her feet.

As they were taking the lion back to its cage, it killed one of the torturers. They threw Tatiana into a fire, but the fire did not harm the martyr. The pagans, thinking that she was a sorceress, cut her hair to take away her magical powers, then locked her up in the temple of Zeus.

On the third day, pagan priests came to the temple intending to offer sacrifice to Zeus. They beheld the idol on the floor, shattered to pieces, and the holy martyr Tatiana joyously praising the Lord Jesus Christ. The judge then condemned the valiant sufferer to be beheaded with a sword. Her father was also executed with her, because he had raised her to love Christ.  The meaning of her father being executed along with her is we should all ask God to bring people into our lives who will teach and model for us how to live the Faith. Maybe, like Tatiana, having those kinds of teachers will help us to become saints.

This isn’t to suggest that beheading “worked” where no other methods did, like beheading had some magic the other techniques didn’t. The point is that God was making it clear that His saints only lose their life because He chooses to let it happen. If He had wanted to, He could have had His angels break the sword the moment it touched her neck.


-please click on the image for greater detail

What all those dramatic interventions before she finally died were effectively saying was: “You can’t take My daughter’s life by force. Her life and death is in My hands, and, if she does die, it’s because I chose to take her, not because you have any power.” Just as Jesus had said, if God wants, He can send armies of angels to protect us — and He probably does this a lot more often than we realize. Such misfortunes as seem to befall us are only allowed because of His loving plan for us. In that way, a strange story like Tatiana’s is a kind of theodicy.

The Relics of Saint Tatiana in Craiova

The honorable head of the Holy Martyr Tatiana was first brought to Romania in 1204, when members of the ruling family (Asanestan dynasty) placed it in a church in Tarnovo (Bulgaria) and then in Bucovat Monastery (near Craiova). Later, however, in 1393, the head of the Saint was taken to a church in the town of Nicaea (where the First Ecumenical Synod met), and then to Constantinople, and placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles.

In 1453, after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, during the reign of Neagoe Basarab, the Craioveşti boyars brought the head of the holy Martyr Tatiana to Russia, as well as the entire body of Saint Gregory the Decapolite (November 20), which they placed in the church of Bistriţa Monastery. From that monastery, the relics of Saint Tatiana were taken by Saint Neagoe Basarab (September 15) and brought to the royal church at Curtea de Argeș. Later, with the reorganization of the Metropolitan Church of Oltenia (1950-1955), the honorable skull of Saint Tatiana was taken from Curtea de Argeș and brought to the Episcopal Cathedral of Râmnicu Vâlcea in 1955. Finally, the honored relics were permanently enshrined in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Craiova.

Today, the holy relics of Saint Tatiana are kept, with great honor, in the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios in Craiova, in the same reliquary with the relics of Saint Niphon of Constantinople (August 11), and the Holy Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus (October 7).

Troparion — Tone 4
Your lamb Tatiana, / calls out to You, O Jesus, in a loud voice: / “I love You, my Bridegroom, / and in seeking You, I endure suffering. / In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You, / and I died so that I might live with You. / Accept me as a pure sacrifice, / for I have offered myself in love.” / Through her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.

Kontakion — Tone 4
In your sufferings you shone brightly / in the royal purple of your blood, / and like a beautiful dove you flew to heaven, / passion-bearer Tatiana. / Therefore, always pray for those who honor you.

The empress Elisabeth of Russia opened that nation’s first university in 1755 on Tatiana’s feast day, she is also the patron saint of students, and her feast day is commemorated as Students’ Day in Russia and her former colonies. So, if you’re trying to study and you feel like your eyes are failing you or you no longer wish to look upon your studies, you may want to ask Tatiana for her intercession.

Love,
Matthew

Praying to saints

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, by Fra Angelico, 1423-4, The National Gallery, London, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Karlo Broussard

“We as Catholics often take great pride in what we believe—rightly so, since it is the truth. But that pride sometimes can be challenged when we dabble a bit in theology, reflecting further upon those beliefs only to discover that some of them seemingly conflict with each other.

Here is an example: Catholics believe that the saints in heaven have wills that are perfectly conformed to God’s will. We also believe that the saints intercede for us, praying to God for help on our behalf. But if the saints’ wills are perfectly conformed to God’s will, then what difference does it make whether they intercede for us? Isn’t there a contradiction here?

St. Thomas Aquinas addresses this apparent incompatibility in the Supplement to his Summa Theologiae (72:3, ad 5). Here’s one way of showing the tension:

P1: The saints conform their wills perfectly to the will of God.

C1: Therefore, the saints will only what they know God to will.

P2: Prayer necessarily involves what someone wills.

C2: Therefore, the saints pray for only what they know God to will.

P3: What God wills can be done without the saints praying for it.

C3: Therefore, the saints’ prayers are not efficacious for obtaining anything.

Aquinas accepts every step of the argument except at the end, where it jumps from premise three to conclusion three. Just because God can bring about some effect without the saints praying for it, that doesn’t automatically mean that the saints’ prayers aren’t efficacious to obtain anything.

His reason is that God could will that the prayers of the saints be the means by which he brings about an effect. In other words, God could will the saints’ prayers to be secondary causes of goodness and of help in our lives.

Aquinas appeals to Augustine as his authority on this point. Referring to the saints, he writes:

Nor is their prayer fruitless, since as Augustine says (De Praed. Sanct. [De Dono Persever. xxii]): “The prayers of the saints profit the predestinate, because it is perhaps pre-ordained that they shall be saved through the prayers of those who intercede for them”: and consequently God also wills that what the saints see him to will shall be fulfilled through their prayers.

To put it simply, God may will that some blessing not be given except through a saint’s intercessory prayer.

Perhaps we can shed further light on this by understanding that God’s providence involves willing not only certain effects to take place, but also the causes from which those effects will be brought about. That is to say, God wills a pattern of cause-effect relationships.

Now, the eternal decree that determines which causes will bring about which effects includes human acts. These actions are an essential part of God’s plan. In the words of Aquinas, they “achieve certain effects according to the order of the divine disposition” (Summa Theologiae, II-II:83:2).

Consider an example. God decreed from all eternity that I would have a fried egg for breakfast this morning. This eternal decree included the egg being produced in a way that involved my wife’s act of love to cook it for me (she’s so sweet), along with all the other ways in which a fried egg comes about: the egg is cracked, put into the frying pan, and cooked by the frying pan through the gas stove. My wife’s help, along with all the other natural processes of cooking an egg, was willed by God to be a part of the cause-effect pattern.

The same is true with intercessory prayer, whether we’re talking about the prayers of Christians on earth or in heaven. Intercessory prayer is simply one human action among many (e.g., my wife cooking the egg) that God wills to be a cause of certain effects in his divine plan.

Intercessory prayer requests from God what he has willed from eternity, to be bestowed by that intercession. As philosopher Brian Davies explains, “God may will from eternity that things should come about as things prayed for by us”—or, for our purposes, the saints.

In other words, it’s possible that God wills some events to occur only as a result of the saints’ intercession. For example, God may have eternally decreed to heal the cancer of a loved one, but only on the condition that persistent requests for a miracle be made through the intercession of a particular saint.

It doesn’t matter whether we know that the effect is conditioned by the request. The point is, it’s possible, so we make the request, hoping God wills the saints’ intercession to be a cause of the effect. If it turns out that he did not will it so, then we trust that God has good reasons for his choice. This is why Christians pray, “Thy will be done.”

But if God wills the saint’s intercession to be the cause of the desired effect, then it would be true to say the saint’s prayer made a real difference. It would have made a difference by being an essential part of the cause-effect pattern God has eternally decreed.

The real causal power that the saints’ prayers have in God’s eternal plan is not at all different from the real causal power my wife’s actions had in producing a fried egg this morning. Her help was essential for the fried egg because that is how God arranged it to be from all eternity. God has created a world in which fried eggs come to be in a specific way.

Similarly, with regard to the saints’ intercession, some events will occur only as a result of their help through intercessory prayer, because that is the specific way God has arranged things. God has created a world in such a way that our actions, including prayer, serve as real game-changers in the history of the world.

The bottom line is this: there is nothing in the saints’ conformity to the divine will that makes it incompatible with the saints’ intercessory prayer being an effective help in our lives. Their petitions are arranged by God to be part and parcel of his divine plan—a great honor God bestows upon them as real causes of good for others. And that’s a belief that we can rejoice in!”

Love,
Matthew

Jun 23 – 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia (d. 302 AD)


-from the Menologion of Basil II, 985 AD, among the martyrs were Glycerius, Zeno, Theophilus, Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius, Indes, Gorgonius, Peter, Euthymius, and the virgins Agape, Domna, and Theophila, please click on the image for greater detail

This event took place when the emperor Maximian (284-305) returned with victory over Ethiopians in 304 AD. The Christians of Nicomedia refused to sacrifice to Roman pagan idols during Christmas Mass in order to thank false pagan gods for the victory the Emperor had acquired. Later Maximian and his soldiers entered the church and told the Christians they could escape punishment if they renounced Christ. The Christian priest Glycerius answered that the Christians would never “renounce their faith, even under the threat of torture”. Maximian ordered him to be burned to death. Those who had not been burned in the church were captured and tortured to death. The bishop Anthimos who had escaped burning in the church was captured and beheaded.

In the Roman Martyrology of the Roman Catholic Church, there are separate entries for groups of martyrs of Nicomedia. The martyrdom of Anthimus of Nicomedia and companions is commemorated on 24 April and “the commemoration of many holy martyrs of Nicomedia” on June 23.

At the beginning of the fourth century the emperor Maximian (284-305 AD) gave orders to destroy Christian churches, to burn service books, and to deprive all Christians of rights and privileges of citizenship. At this time the bishop of the city of Nicomedia was Saint Cyril, who by his preaching and life contributed to the spread of Christianity, so that many members of the emperor’s court were also secret Christians.

The pagan priestess Domna was living in the palace at that time. Providentially, she obtained a copy of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Saint Paul. Her heart burned with the desire to learn more about the Christian teaching. With the help of a young Christian girl, Domna went secretly to Bishop Anthimus (Cyril’s successor) with her faithful servant, the eunuch Indes. Saint Anthimus catechized them, and both received holy Baptism.

Domna began to help the poor: she gave away her valuables with the assistance of Indes, and she also distributed food from the imperial kitchen. The chief eunuch, who was in charge of provisions for the imperial household, found out that Domna and Indes were not eating the food sent them from the emperor’s table. He had them beaten in order to find out why they did not partake of the food, but they remained silent. Another eunuch informed him that the saints were distributing all the emperor’s gifts to the poor. He locked them up in prison to exhaust them with hunger, but they received support from an angel and did not suffer. Saint Domna feigned insanity so she wouldn’t have to live among the pagans. Then she and Indes managed to leave the court, and she went to a women’s monastery. Abbess Agatha quickly dressed her in men’s clothing, cut her hair and sent her off from the monastery.

During this time the emperor returned from battle and ordered that a search be made for the former pagan priestess Domna. The soldiers sent for this purpose found the monastery and destroyed it. The sisters were thrown into prison, subjected to torture and abuse, but not one of them suffered defilement. Sent to a house of iniquity, Saint Theophila was able to preserve her virginity with the help of an angel of the Lord. The angel led her from the brothel and brought her to the cathedral.

At this time the emperor cleared the city square to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. When they began sprinkling the crowd with the blood of the sacrificial animals, Christians started to leave the square. Seeing this, the emperor became enraged, but in the middle of his rantings a great thunderstorm sprang up. People fled in panic, and the emperor had to retreat to the palace for his own safety.

Later Maximian went to the church with soldiers and told them they could escape punishment if they renounced Christ. Otherwise, he promised to burn the church and those in it. The Christian presbyter Glycerius told him that Christians would never renounce their faith, even under the threat of torture. Hiding his anger, the emperor exited the church, and a short time later commanded the presbyter Glycerius be arrested for trial. The executioners tortured the martyr, who did not cease to pray and to call on the Name of the Lord. Unable to force Saint Glycerius stop confessing Christ, Maximian ordered him to be burned to death.

On the Feast of the Nativity of Christ in the year 302, when about 20,000 Christians had assembled at the cathedral in Nicomedia, the emperor sent a herald into the church. He told the Christians that soldiers were surrounding the building, and that anyone who wished to leave had to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Anyone who defied the emperor would perish when the soldiers set fire to the church. All those present refused to worship the idols.

As the pagans prepared to set fire to the church, Bishop Anthimus, baptized all the catechumens and communed everyone with the Holy Mysteries. All 20,000 of those praying died in the fire. Among them were the abbess Agatha and Saint Theophila who had been saved from the den of iniquity by a miracle. Bishop Anthimus, however, managed to escape the fire.

Maximian thought that he had exterminated all the Christians of Nicomedia. He soon learned that there were many more, and that they would confess their faith and were prepared to die for Christ. The emperor wondered how to deal with them. At his command they arrested the regimental commander Zeno, who was openly criticizing the emperor for his impiety and cruelty. Zeno was fiercely beaten and finally beheaded. They jailed the eunuch Indes, formerly a priest of the idols, for refusing to participate in a pagan festival.

The persecution against Christians continued. Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius the deacon and others were thrown into prison. Bishop Anthimus encouraged them by sending letters to them. One of the messengers, the Deacon Theophilus, was captured. They subjected him to torture, trying to learn where the bishop was hiding. The holy martyr endured everything, while revealing nothing. Then they executed him and also those whom the bishop had addressed in his letter. Though they were executed in different ways, they all showed the same courage and received their crowns from God.

For weeks, Saint Domna concealed herself within a cave and sustained herself by eating plants. When she returned to the city, she wept for a long time at the ruins of the church, regretting that she was not found worthy to die with the others. That night she went the sea shore. At that moment fishermen pulled the bodies of the martyrs Indes, Gorgonius and Peter from the water in their nets.

Saint Domna was still dressed in men’s clothing, and she helped the fishermen to draw in their nets. They left her the bodies of the martyrs. With reverence she looked after the holy relics and wept over them, especially over the body of her spiritual friend, the Martyr Indes.

After giving them an honorable burial, she did not depart from these graves so dear to her heart. Each day she burned incense before them, sprinkling them with fragrant oils. When the emperor was told of an unknown youth who offered incense at the graves of executed Christians, he gave orders to behead the youth. The Martyr Euthymius was also executed along with Domna.

Apolytikion of 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia
Second Tone
Blessed is the earth that drank your blood, O prizewinners of the Lord, and holy are the tabernacles that received your spirit; for in the stadium ye triumphed over the enemy, and ye proclaimed Christ with boldness. Beseech Him, we pray, since He is good, to save our souls.

Kontakion of 20,000 Martyrs of Nicomedia
First Tone
A twenty-thousand numbered battalion of Martyrs ariseth like an unwaning star great with brightness, enlight’ning by faith the hearts and the minds of all godly folk. For, enkindled with divine love unto the Master, this courageous host received a sanctified ending when eagerly burned with fire.

Love,
Matthew