Category Archives: Saints

Rev 5:8

“Catholics, along with other Christians who believe in the intercession of the saints, such as the Eastern Orthodox, often appeal to Revelation 5:8 as biblical support for the intercession of the saints.

And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Since the Bible reveals that the saints in heaven offer our prayers to God, it’s reasonable to pray to them—that is, to make our requests known to them and ask them to pray to God for us.

Most Protestants don’t accept this interpretation of Revelation 5:8, and they offer several comebacks. Some challenge the assumption that “prayers of saints” refers to petitions that Christians on earth make.

Let’s take a look at a common counter-argument from prominent anti-Catholic apologist Matt Slick.

“The ‘saints’ aren’t Christians on earth.” 

Protestant apologist Matt Slick challenges the assumption that the term “saints” refers to Christians on earth. He argues that the referent for the term is ambiguous and that “their identity can’t be precisely demonstrated.” Slick favors the view that the term “saints” refers to either the four living creatures or the twenty-four elders who surround the throne of the Lamb.

His reasoning is that in verse 9, John says, “They sang a new song.” Slick asks, “Who is the ‘they’?” Slick answers, “It would have to be either the four living creatures and/or the twenty-four elders since ‘prayers of the saints’ don’t sing; ‘creatures’ and ‘elders’ do the singing.”

Answering the Comeback 

It’s true that the “they” in verse 9, those who sing the new song, are the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders. John lists the activity of singing along with other activities these heavenly inhabitants perform: falling down before the Lamb, holding harps, and offering the golden bowls full of incense. But his phrase “prayers of the saints” is separated from, or not included in, what the four living creatures and twenty-four elders are doing. John identifies “prayers of the saints” with the incense that the elders offer. The offering that the elders make is distinct from the “prayers of the saints,” so the twenty-four elders are not the “saints” John speaks of.

We can complement the above negative approach with a more positive one and give reasons to think “saints” refers to Christians on earth. Consider that in the New Testament, the term saint overwhelmingly refers to human beings on earth, and there are no unambiguous instances where the New Testament uses the term saint to refer to a human being in heaven. This gives us reason at least to be inclined to think “saints” in Revelation 5:8 refers to Christians on earth.

Another reason is that the Bible directly associates the prayers of the faithful on earth with incense. For example, the Psalmist writes, “Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!” (Ps. 141:2). If the Bible describes prayers being offered in heaven under the form of incense (Rev. 5:8), and the Bible explicitly associates prayers from on earth arising to God with incense (Ps. 141:2), then we have biblical grounds for identifying the prayers of Christians on earth with the “prayers of the saints.”

One more point: This phrase, “prayers of the saints,” would have been familiar to any Jew who read the book of Tobit. It comes from Tobit 12:15, where the angel Raphael says, “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.”

The context reveals that the “prayers of the saints” included the prayer of Tobit and his daughter-in-law. In verse 12, Raphael tells Tobit, “When you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One.” And so here we have explicit scriptural evidence that the phrase “prayers of the saints” includes prayers of God’s righteous on earth.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “But Protestants don’t accept Tobit as inspired.” That’s true. But Tobit still is a historical source for Jewish belief, and thus, it is acceptable for trying to discern what a Jew, like John, would have had in mind when he wrote “prayers of the saints.”

Our appeal to Tobit becomes even more reasonable when we read in Revelation 8:3-4 that the “prayers of the saints,” which are mingled with incense, also rise to God from the hand of an angel.

Perhaps Raphael?”

Love,
Matthew

Oct 31 – St Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ, (1532-1617)


-by Mark A. McNeil, a former Oneness Pentecostal, was received into the Catholic Church in 1999.

“Although the modern spectacle of Halloween has for most eclipsed the day’s original case for celebration, the Eve of All Saints (All Hallows Eve), I’d like to propose that families consider a devotion placed by the Church on the same day, honoring a relatively unknown Jesuit brother: St. Alphonsus Rodriguez (1532-1617). In his life, we see that it is possible to have a powerful impact for Christ even while we perform simple, humble daily tasks with great love. No matter their mission, saints are always uniquely attractive.

The first half of Alphonsus’s life was full of tragedy. His poor father, a wool trader, died when Alphonsus was young. Years later, Alphonsus married Mary Suarez, though she would live for only five more years. Only one of their three children outlived Mary. Tragedy struck again within two years of her death when Alphonsus’s mother and remaining son both died.

Alphonse Rodriguez

Who wouldn’t be consumed by bitterness and anger in the face of such miserable misfortune? For the young widower, however, Alphonsus’s losses birthed a desire to consecrate his life completely to God. After his wife’s death, he immersed himself in intense prayer and rigid bodily disciplines.

As a young boy, Alphonsus briefly studied under Jesuit teachers. After the deaths of his loved ones, he sought to enter the Society of Jesus but was rejected because of his age, ill health, and lack of education.

Undeterred, Alphonsus enrolled in Latin school and found himself surrounded by students half his age who ridiculed him mercilessly. Still, he persisted, and after graduating at the age of forty, Alphonsus again sought to become a Jesuit priest. Impressed with his persistence if not his intellectual abilities, the Jesuits accepted him as a brother of the order, assigning to be a porter in the newly founded Jesuit school of Majorca.

Such a lowly role might have discouraged many, especially after everything he had been through. But Alphonsus made the most of his opportunity to serve and pursued his task with great care and devotion. As the years passed, his evident holiness and humility inspired many to seek spiritual counsel from the relatively unschooled porter.


-The Vision of Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez (1630) by Francisco de Zurbarán, Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid, please click on the image for greater detail

Although most stories of Alphonsus’s life understandably focus on his prayerfulness and continual consciousness of God’s presence, others reveal his deeply human struggles with scrupulosity and agitations of mind. Obsession with rules can lead to mental torment about past and present sins and shortcomings. In this struggle, Alphonsus followed St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, who almost lost his battle with scrupulosity.

Ignatius was so tormented by his many sins that he came close to taking his own life during his stay in Manresa, the same place where he would begin to develop the highly influential Spiritual Exercises. For both Ignatius and Alphonsus, the crucible of interior pain would give birth to a path to hope and love for countless others influenced by them.

Of the many who were profoundly influenced by St. Alphonsus, St. Peter Claver is perhaps the best known. Claver, after receiving counsel from Alphonsus, devoted his life to tireless missionary work among the victims of the slave trade. Both Alphonsus and Claver would later be recognized by their order as models of what became a common refrain for Jesuits, “a man for others,” a phrase intended as a stark contrast to the temptation to be men “for ourselves.”

We can think of these opposing possibilities as forces that we can yield to or resist. One pulls us toward satisfying our own appetites and desires, whereas the other draws us to offer ourselves as a gift to others. The theme is evident throughout Scripture and Church teaching.

The seven deadly sins, for instance, are all self-centered distortions of human freedom. Beginning with a disproportionate and unrealistic sense of our own importance, pride stealthily lays the foundation of other sins of self-absorption and excess. The opposite is seen most clearly in the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, which draw a person out of himself and toward God in prayer and in service to those made in his image.

We can choose to stay closed in upon ourselves, with one inevitable effect being a need to control and use others. The irony and tragedy, however, is that our own humanity is undermined in the ugliness that follows from such egoism. The Church offers a starkly different path by pointing us to the supreme Man for othersJesus Christ.

St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, like all the saints, models the supreme Man for others he faithfully followed. On a day that now serves as an occasion for endless parades of ugliness and pride, he presents a beautiful example of the holy and humble faith that gives shape to his life. Like all the saints, Alphonsus shows us that Christ-like love and service are the most attractive witness of the gospel.”

Some saints attack the world head-on, like St. Peter Claver, SJ, the friend and disciple of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ. Others like Alphonsus himself fight personal battles against failure, loss, temptation, disease. Crucibles of interior pain that give birth to paths of hope and love. We tend to admire more activist champions such as Peter Claver, who worked among slaves for forty years. But why should we think any the less of saints such as Alphonsus, who was more like us in his ordinariness and suffering? And who showed us how to be faithful in long lasting spiritual and personal struggles?

“Another exercise is very valuable for the imitation of Christ—for love of Him, taking the sweet for the bitter and the bitter for sweet. So, I put myself in spirit before our crucified Lord, looking at Him full of sorrow, shedding His blood and bearing great bodily hardships for me.

As love is paid for in love, I must imitate Him, sharing in spirit all His sufferings. I must consider how much I owe Him and what He has done for me. Putting these sufferings between God and my soul, I must say, “What does it matter, my God, that I should endure for your love these small hardships? For you, Lord, endured so many great hardships for me.” Amid the hardship and trial itself, I stimulate my heart with this exercise. Thus, I encourage myself to endure for love of the Lord Who is before me, until I make what is bitter sweet. In this way learning from Christ our Lord, I take and convert the sweet into bitter, renouncing myself and all earthly and carnal pleasures, delights and honors of this life, so that my whole heart is centered solely on God.”
-St Alphonsus Rodriquez, SJ

In his old age, Alphonsus experienced no relief from his trials. The more he mortified himself, the more he seemed to be subject to spiritual dryness, vigorous temptations, and even diabolical assaults. In 1617 his body was ravaged with disease and he died at midnight, October 30.

“Honour is flashed off exploit, so we say;
And those strokes once that gashed flesh or galled shield
Should tongue that time now, trumpet now that field,
And, on the fighter, forge his glorious day.
On Christ they do and on the martyr may;
But be the war within, the brand we wield
Unseen, the heroic breast not outward-steeled,
Earth hears no hurtle then from fiercest fray.

Yet God (that hews mountain and continent,
Earth, all, out; who, with trickling increment,
Veins violets and tall trees makes more and more)
Could crowd career with conquest while there went
Those years and years by without event
That in Majorca Alfonso watched the door.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins

Love,
Matthew

Are the saints alive?

“Many non-Catholics struggle with the concept of praying to saints because they think prayer and worship are the same things. Since the Bible says we should only worship God, then shouldn’t we only pray to God? But the word “worship” refers to giving someone “worth-ship,” or the honor that person is due. We call judges “your honor,” for example, as a way of paying them respect, but we don’t treat them like gods.

“Prayer” comes from the Latin word precarius and refers to making a request for something. In Old English, a person might have said to a friend, “I pray you will join us for dinner tomorrow night.” They aren’t worshipping their friend as a god but simply making a request of them. Catholics do the same thing when they pray to saints; they don’t honor them as gods but ask them for their prayers.

Why should we ask saints in heaven to pray for us when we can just pray to God instead? After all, 1 Timothy 2:5, says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.” Catholics agree that it is great to pray to directly to God, but if this argument were taken to its logical conclusion, then it would forbid asking anyone on earth to pray for us.

It doesn’t make sense to say Christians who are in heaven are some kind of “amputated” part of Christ’s body that cannot pray for any of the other parts. Jesus calls himself the vine and says we are the branches (John 15:5). If Jesus holds the “keys of Death” (Rev. 1:18), then how could death ever separate the branches from one another as long as they are all spiritually connected to the same vine?

Jesus Himself said that God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” and reminded his Jewish audience that the Father said, “I am [not “I was”] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Mark 12:26-27). In the time of Christ (as well as the time of Moses), the Father was still the God of Jewish heroes like Abraham, who had died centuries earlier.

To write off saints like them as being “dead” ignores the fact that, by virtue of their heavenly union with Christ, they are more alive than they were on earth.”

Love,
Matthew

Mar 19 – St Joseph


-“El sueño de San José”, Vicente López Portaña (1772-1850), Museo del Prado

“Joseph’s virtue was sublime and exceptional; therefore it was subjected to a great and singular trial. But, as he heroically surmounted this trial, so God was pleased, not only to console him, but to exalt him to a dignity of extraordinary glory. … Jesus, the Son of God … willed to recognize this virgin spouse as His father in affection, adoption, government, and education, and to be constantly obedient and subject to him. The Holy Ghost, who had operated the incarnation of the Son of God in the womb of Mary, willed that to Joseph this His spouse should be entirely confided. He was to be the zealous guardian of her virginity, her guide, her aid, her support, and her inseparable companion through all the vicissitudes of life. And where, apart from the Divine Maternity, can so great a dignity be found upon earth as that which was conferred on Joseph by the Three Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity?”
—Edward Healy Thompson, The Life & Glories of St Joseph

“Natural love is sufficient for earthly parents, but the love which [Joseph] bore to Jesus, as His appointed father, was not a mere human love, it was also a super eminently divine love; for, in loving his Son he was exercising the most perfect love of God; since He whom he called his Son was at the same time his God. As in creatures all is finite, so all is capable of increase. What, then, may we imagine, must have been the growth of this ardent love in the heart of our saint during the long period which he spent with Jesus! Those things which tend naturally to add to human love, in him ministered fresh fuel to the divine flame within him. The constant association with the Son of God made Man and given to him as his own Son, the serving Him and being served by Him for thirty years, and, we must add, their marvelous resemblance created a bond between them which was unequaled of its kind.”
—Edward Healy Thompson, p. 363, The Life & Glories of St Joseph

Love,
Matthew

Jun 29 – Solemnity of St Peter & Paul, “You must loose by love what your fear bound”

“This day has been made holy by the passion of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul. We are, therefore, not talking about some obscure martyrs. For their voice has gone forth to all the world, and to the ends of the earth their message. These martyrs realized what they taught: they pursued justice, they confessed the truth, they died for it.

Saint Peter, the first of the apostles and a fervent lover of Christ, merited to hear these words: I say to you that you are Peter, for he had said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then Christ said: And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church. On this rock I will build the faith that you now confess, and on your words: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my Church. For you are Peter, and the name Peter comes from petra, the word for “rock,” and not vice versa. “Peter” comes, therefore, from petra, just as “Christian” comes from Christ.

As you are aware, Jesus chose His disciples before His passion and called them apostles; and among these almost everywhere Peter alone deserved to represent the entire Church. And because of that role which he alone had, he merited to hear the words: To you I shall give the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For it was not one man who received the keys, but the entire Church considered as one. Now insofar as he represented the unity and universality of the Church, Peter’s preeminence is clear from the words: To you I give, for what was given was given to all. For the fact that it was the Church that received the keys of the kingdom of God is clear from what the Lord says elsewhere to all the apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit, adding immediately, whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain, they are retained.

Rightly then did the Lord after His resurrection entrust Peter with the feeding of His sheep. Yet he was not the only disciple to merit the feeding of the Lord’s sheep; but Christ in speaking only to one suggests the unity of all; and so he speaks to Peter, because Peter is first among the apostles. Therefore do not be disheartened, Peter; reply once, reply twice, reply a third time. The triple confession of your love is to regain what was lost three times by your fear. You must loose three times what you bound three times; untie by love that which your fear bound. Once, and again, and a third time did the Lord entrust His sheep to Peter.

Both apostles share the same feast day, for these two were one; and even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching and their confession of faith.” -St Augustine, from the Office of Readings

Love,
Matthew

Confirmation

Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge. Counsel and Piety. Fortitude and Fear of the Lord.

The virtues of faith, hope, and charity stably equip our intellects and wills to make supernatural movements of knowing and loving. In the gifts, however, we receive stable supernatural perfections that equip us to be moved in a divine mode, in a way that human reason can neither grasp nor initiate. Our acts remain our own, but they exceed our understanding: God Himself moves us according to His wisdom (ST I-II q. 68). The gifts serve as spiritual instincts for the soul, once it is healed and elevated by grace.

To be sure, anyone who has charity (love) has all seven gifts of the Spirit (ST I-II q. 68, a. 5). And yet God, in His wisdom, activates these gifts differently in the life of each individual saint: “The wind blows where it wills . . . so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The Spirit gave to the martyrs the courage to confess Christ, to St. Dominic an outstanding sensitivity to our fallen condition, to St. Catherine a piercing insight into the truths of faith, and to St. Thomas a sweeping vision of the things of God. Only God, in his provident knowledge, could understand and foreknow the surprising ways that He drew each saint to Himself.

Only someone who grasps the apparently dry truth that the gifts “as to their essence” remain in heaven (ST I-II q. 68, a. 6) could write this book’s finale, which so forcefully conveys the splendor of heavenly glory. All of us are called to this glory.

The gifts of the Spirit, unlike the virtues, are not ours to direct as we will. We wait upon God, Who Himself is the wind who fills our spiritual sails. At the same time, however, we pray for God to activate in us His seven gifts, and the more we know about these gifts individually, the more we can ask for them specifically, according to our daily needs. Thus may the Spirit, as He does for every saint, govern us firmly and sweetly the whole of our lives.

Love,
Matthew

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.”

Prayer to St. Dymphna

Good Saint Dymphna, great wonder-worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick, in my present need. (Mention it.) Saint Dymphna, martyr of purity, patroness of those who suffer from nervous and mental afflictions, beloved child of Jesus and Mary, pray to Them for me and obtain my request.

(Pray 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary, and 1 Glory Be.)

Saint Dymphna, Virgin, and Martyr pray for us.

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