Category Archives: Saints

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

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