“There is nothing wrong with asking the heavenly saints to pray for us.
Many Protestants argue that asking the saints to pray for us is “unbiblical,” while throwing around verses like 1 Timothy 2:5. But they are incorrect.
1 Timothy 2:5 — the infamous “one mediator between God and men” verse — refers to salvation, not prayer. The verse reminds us that it is only because of the graces found through Christ (God Himself) that we are able to have any real relationship with God and reach Heaven. It does not, however, absolutely negate relations with angels or heavenly saints. After all, it was an angel (Gabriel) that spoke to Mary before Christ was conceived in her body, not God Himself.
I was raised in several Protestant denominations. They all placed a major emphasis on Christians praying for each other — which is encouraged in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and other passages. I would contend that a heavenly saint, one who is holy and in Heaven with God, would have a lot more sway with God than a rebellious sinner on earth would.
To put that another way, if someone asked you to do something for them, would you not be more likely to help them if they were your best friend, as opposed to a complete stranger? Of course, you may very well be willing to do something for a complete stranger, but you would probably be more willing to do something for your best friend.
And there is evidence in the Bible of the saints praying to God.
“Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, so that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.” – Revelation 8:3-4
The word for “saints” in that passage comes from the Greek word hagios. Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon says that the best definition of hagios is “most holy thing, a saint”. This would seem to undermine the Protestant assertion that “saints” in this context can only refer to people on earth.
Now, what would the saints be praying for? Themselves? Doubtful. They are in Heaven, so they do not need anything, as eternal life with God is perfect. That really only leaves one option: they are praying for us. And because they are praying for us anyway, how could it be wrong to ask them to pray for us about something specific? It is like interacting with a DJ at an event. He’s playing music anyway, so what is the harm in asking him to play your favorite song?
Here’s my Scripture-based defense of the practice that should answer most Protestant objections:
Matthew 17:3-4 & Luke 9:28-31.
Moses and Elijah (who are clearly heavenly saints, not “saints” in the way Paul would sometimes use the word) are with Christ during the Transfiguration.
The martyrs can talk to God.
From those three passages, we can gather that the saints in Heaven interact with God.
The angels and saints (who, in Luke 20:35-36, Christ says are equal to the angels) are aware of earthly events.
1 Timothy 2:1 & James 5:16.
It is good for Christians to pray for one another.
Now, if the saints interact with God and are aware of earthly events (and can therefore hear us), why wouldn’t they pray for us, considering that it is good for Christians (which the angels and saints definitely are) to pray for one another?
Nothing imperfect will enter into Heaven.
Psalm 66:18 & James 5:16.
God ignores the prayers of the wicked, and the prayers of the righteous are effective.
Because the saints have reached perfection (they are in Heaven), their prayers are more effective than the prayers of those that are less righteous, so that’s why one might ask them to pray instead of asking another Christian on earth or simply doing it themselves.”
“When French missionaries first set foot on Korean soil in 1836, they were not prepared for the surprise that awaited them. There they found thousands of practicing Catholics, living without sacraments and who had never seen a priest before. Among these remarkable faithful, the missionaries would help one young Korean begin his path toward holy orders—one who would, in time, be declared Korea’s first native priest and the canonized patron of the East Asian Peninsula: Andrew Kim Taegon.
In its typically mysterious ways, the Church preceded its apostles in Korea, coming some three hundred years before the Paris Foreign Mission Society at the hands of Japanese invaders, and later, from texts that were brought over by scholars from China. Many Korean people were moved to embrace Jesus Christ wholeheartedly on hearsay and hope alone. It was this extraordinary faith that characterized the early Church in Korea and that animated Korea’s first Catholic priest and saint.
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Born in Chungchong Province in 1821 to parents who were Catholic converts, Kim Taegon was baptized Andrew at the age of 15, even though his father and grandfather had been put to death for adhering to Christianity. The Korean monarchy was suspicious of this Western faith and its opposition to the nation’s predominant Confucian philosophy. Catholicism was regarded as a sinister colonizing influence, and violent efforts were made to crush it.
Under these circumstances of persecution, the missionary priests sent Andrew with two companions over a thousand miles away to a seminary in Macau, China, to prepare for the priesthood. After years of study, and adventures as an interpreter aboard a French warship, Andrew was ordained a deacon in China. He then made his way back to his fatherland.
From Seoul, Andrew led a number of French missionaries to Shanghai, where the French bishop Jean-Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Ferréol ordained him the first Korean priest. Shining with zeal and fervor at the age of 25, Andrew returned to Korea with Bishop Ferréol himself to bring the gospel and Christ’s salvation to his people. He labored and ministered with joy in his home province of Chungchong until the bishop sent him on to Seoul in an effort to introduce the French missionaries from China into that region, using Chinese fishing boats to smuggle them in.
His mission was discovered by officials of the Joseon Dynasty, whose merciless clampdown on Christianity forced the faithful into hiding, but Andrew was bold in his love for Christ and Christ’s flock. He was taken to prison in Seoul, where he was tortured and finally found guilty of treason in leading a heretical cult into the country. As he awaited the executioner’s blade, Andrew Kim Taegon is reported to have cried out to those who assembled for his beheading,
This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and my God. It is for him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know him.
In 1984, Pope St. John Paul II canonized Andrew Kim Taegon together with Paul Chong Hasang, who laid the groundwork for the founding of a diocese in Korea, and 102 Korean martyrs. These valiant companions in Christ celebrate their feast day on September 20.
Today, we are all somewhat accustomed, at least from afar, to the longstanding tensions that entangle North Korea and South Korea and the ripple effects they produce on the world stage. The peculiar isolationism of North Korea, with its overt militaristic bluff and bluster, might be viewed as an extreme and alarming caricature of a certain Oriental self-assurance, arising paradoxically from an Asian privacy that in many, if not most, cases, is an Asian courtesy, given how much of a matter of course it is for a multitude to live in a relatively minute territory.
That attitude of charity in society and forbearance of neighbors is one that makes for good soil for Christianity. On the other hand, the defensive attitude also prevalent in such places challenges the Faith’s taking root. Today, a good deal of saber-rattling may come from Pyongyang, but the sword that Our Lord promised to bring has rattled these nations for centuries beyond any modern missile test. That sacred saber-rattling has awoken many in the East to the sun of righteousness, rising with healing in his wings.
The persecution of Catholics in the history of Asia is not as storied as it deserves to be, hidden perhaps behind that deep Eastern veil of secrecy and sanctity. But there are heroes, valiant soldiers of Christ, whose lives and deaths, though obscure, have built up a foundation of faith that has withstood the brinkmanship and pressures of oppressive dynasties whose motives often appear more calculated toward power than peace.
Christianity now has a home in Korea and, more importantly, in Korean hearts, though their struggles continue to this day. But also to this day, the blessings and bruises of Korean Catholics remain in the hands of their holy patron saint, Andrew Kim Taegon, and his fellow martyrs. As goes the ancient Korean saying, at the end of hardship comes happiness.”
-Mirinae Holy Site, the location of the graves of Saint Andreas Kim Taegon, Korea’s first Catholic priest and saint; his mother Ursula; Bishop Ferréol, the third head of the Joseon parish who ordained Priest Kim; and Vincentius Lee Minsik who buried Saint Kim’s body.
“My Lord, Your Excellency will have already heard what has happened in the capital since we parted. We set sail as soon as we had completed our preparations, and a favourable wind brought us in safety to the sea of Yen-pieng, which was covered at that time by a quantity of fishing boats. My people bought some fish, and went to the harbour of the island of Suney to sell it again, but not finding purchasers, they sent a sailor ashore to salt it.
In the course of our voyage we passed by Pokang, and the islands of Maihap Thetsinmok and Sotseng Taitseng, and at last cast anchor near Pelintao. I saw there about a hundred fishing junks from Canton; they kept very near to the shore, but the crew were prevented from landing by sentinels, who were posted on the elevations of the coast, and the tops of the hills. Curiosity drew a crowd of Coreans from the neighbouring islands round the Chinese. I myself went near them at night, and was able to speak to the master of a boat. I entrusted him with the letters of your Excellency, and wrote some to MM. Beneux, Libois, and Martre, as well as to two Chinese Christians. I added to these two maps of Corea, with a description of the islands, rocks, and other remarkable features of the coast of Hoang-hai. This place appears very favourable for the introduction of missionaries, and for the transmission of letters, provided sufficient precautions are taken in making use of the Chinese. They make an appointment here for the fishing every year, about the beginning of the third month, and remain there till about the end of the fifth.
After having executed your Lordship’s orders, we set out again, and returned to the harbour of Suney. Up to this time my voyage had been very prosperous, and I hoped for an equally fortunate termination of it. The fish which we had left was not yet dried, which obliged us to stay longer in port. My servant Veran asked leave to go on shore to reclaim some money which he had left in charge of a family, with whom he had been concealed for seven years for fear of persecution.
After he had gone the mandarin came to our boat, with some of his people, and asked to be allowed to use it to drive away the Chinese junks. Corean law does not allow the boats of the nobles to be taken for the public service, and as I had been made, I do not know how, to pass with the people for a ianpan of high rank, as the nobles are called, I should have fallen in their estimation, and so done an injury to our future expeditions, if I had given up my boat to the mandarin. Besides, Veran had prescribed for me a line of conduct which I was to pursue in similar circumstances. I therefore replied to the mandarin, that my boat was for my own use, and that I could not give it up to him. His officers abused me violently, and took my pilot away with them.
They came back in the evening, and taking away another sailor, brought him into the court, where the answers which both of them made when questioned, threw grave suspicions upon me. The mandarin was aware that the grandmother of one of them was a Christian. The officers then consulted together, and said: “We are thirty; if this person is really noble, perhaps one or two of us may be put to death, but not all; let us go and seize him.” They accordingly came at night, accompanied by several women of bad character, and throwing themselves upon us like madmen, they dragged me by the hair, some of which was pulled out, and tying me with a cord, they showered kicks and blows with their hands and with sticks upon me. In the mean time the remaining sailors under cover of the darkness of the night crept quietly down into the boat, and rowed away as fast as they could.
When we reached the shore, the officers stripped me of my clothes, bound and beat me again with every sort of insult and sarcasm, and brought me to the court, where a great many persons were assembled. The mandarin said to me: “Are you a Christian?”
“Yes, I am,” I answered.
“Why do you practise this religion contrary to the king’s orders? Give it up.”
“I practice my religion because it is true; it teaches me to know God, and brings me to eternal happiness: I know of no such thing as apostasy.”
The torture was then applied to me, and the judge said, “If you do not apostatise you shall die under the blows.”
“As you please, but I will never abandon my God. Do you wish to hear the truth of my religion? Listen. The God whom I worship is the Creator of heaven and earth, of men and of everything that is: He punishes sin and rewards virtue, &c. Whence it follows that all men are bound to do homage to Him. For my part, I thank thee, O mandarin, for making me suffer these tortures for His love. May my God reward you for this benefit, and raise you to a higher rank.”
At these words the mandarin and the whole assembly began to laugh. They next brought me a cangue about eight feet long, which I immediately took up, and put on my neck, at which bursts of laughter broke from all parts of the audience. I was thrown into prison with the two sailors, who had already apostatised. My hands and feet, my neck and my loins were tightly bound, so that I could neither walk, nor sit, nor lie down. A crowd of people pressed round me out of curiosity, and I spent part of the night in preaching the faith to them, and they declared that they would embrace it if it were not forbidden by the king.
The officers finding some Chinese articles in my bag believed that I was of that country, and the next day the mandarin sent for me and asked if I was a Chinese.
“No,” I answered, “I am a Corean.”
Not believing what I said he asked, “In what province of China were you born?”
“I was brought up in Macao in the province of Koang-tong; I am a Christian, and curiosity and the desire of propagating my religion brought me to this country.”
He then sent me back to prison, from whence, five days later, I was taken by a subaltern and several men to Kaiton, the capital of the province. The governor asked me if I was a Chinese, and I answered as I had done to the mandarin of the island. He put a great many questions to me about my religion, and I gladly took the opportunity of speaking to him of the immortality of the soul, hell, paradise, the existence of God, and the necessity of worshipping Him in order to be happy after death.
He and his people answered, “What you say is good and reasonable: but the king does not allow us to be Christians.” They afterwards asked me many things which would have compromised the Christians and the mission, and I was very careful not to reply to them. “If you do not tell us the truth,” they said angrily, “we will torment you in various ways.”
“Do what you please,” I answered; and running to the instruments of torture I took them up and threw them at the governor’s feet, saying, “See, I am ready, strike me. I do not fear your tortures.”
The officers removed them immediately, and the servants of the mandarin came up to me and said: “It is the custom for every body who speaks to the governor to call himself So-in” (which means fool.) “What are you saying?” I answered, “I am a great nobleman, and know nothing of such an expression.”
Some days afterwards the governor sent for me again, and overwhelmed me with questions about China, sometimes speaking by an interpreter to find out if I was really a Chinese, and ending by ordering me to apostatise. I shrugged my shoulders and smiled to express my pity for him. The two Christians who were arrested with me were overcome by the severity of the torture, and pointed out the house where I had lived in the capital, besides betraying your excellency’s servant, Thomas Ly, his brother Matthew, and several others: they confessed that I had communicated with the Chinese junks, and given some letters to one of them. A detachment of soldiers was immediately sent off to the junks, which brought back the letters to the governor. We were very strictly guarded in separate cells, with four soldiers watching us night and day, and a long cord tied to our loins. The soldiers seeing seven scars which had been left on my breast by the ten leeches which I had put on when I was ill at Macao, declared that I was the Great Bear, and amused themselves by many jokes about it.
As soon as the king heard of our arrest he sent some officers to bring us to the capital: he had been told that I was a Chinese. During the journey we were not bound as we were in prison, but our arms were tied with a red cord, as is done with robbers and great criminals, and our heads were covered with bags of black cloth. We suffered greatly on the way from the crowds, who thought I was a foreigner, and pressed to see me, some even climbing up trees and getting on the roofs of houses as I passed.
When we reached Seoul we were thrown into the prison of thieves. The people of the court, hearing me speak, said I was a Corean. The following day I appeared before the judges, who asked me what I was.
“I am a Corean,” I answered, “and I was educated in China.” Interpreters of Chinese were then called that I might speak with them.
In the persecution of 1839 the person who betrayed us declared that three young Coreans had been sent to Macao to study the language of the Europeans, so that it was impossible that I should not be recognized: besides, one of the Christians who was arrested with me had told them that I was their countryman. I confessed to the judges that I was Andrew Kim, one of the three Coreans mentioned, and I related to them all that I had gone through in order to return to my country.
When I had told my story every one exclaimed, “Poor young man! From his infancy upwards he has been in trouble.”
The judges ordered me to conform to the king’s orders and to apostatise, but I answered, “The God who orders me to worship Him is above the king, and to deny Him is a sin which the king’s order cannot justify.”
When it was suggested to me to denounce the Christians I objected to them the duties of charity and the commandment of God to love our neighbour. Being asked about religion I spoke to them at length of the existence and unity of God, of the creation and immortality of the soul, of hell, of the necessity of worshipping our Creator, and of the falsehood of the religions of the heathen.
When I had finished speaking the judges answered: “Your religion is good, but ours is so also, and therefore we practise it.”
“If such is your opinion,” I replied, “you ought to leave us alone and live at peace with us. But instead of that you persecute us, and treat us worse than the greatest criminals: you confess that our religion is good, and you attack us as if its teaching was abominable.”
They laughed loudly at my reply, and handed to me the letters and papers they had taken. The judges read the two that were written in Chinese; they only contained salutations to friends. They then told me to translate the European letters, but I only explained to them what was of no consequence to the Mission. They asked me about MM. Berneux, Maistre, and Libois, and I answered “esse philosophantes in Sinis,” that they were studying philosophy in China.
Finding a difference between my letters and those of your Excellency they asked me who had written the latter. I said in general that they were my letters. They showed me those of your Excellency, and desired me to write like them, intending to entrap me, but I was too cunning for them. “These characters,” I said, “were written with a metallic pen; if you will bring one I will do as you wish.
“We have no pens of metal.”
“Unless I have one I cannot form characters like these.”
A quill was then brought, and the judge gave it to me saying, ” Cannot you write with this instrument?”
“It is not the same thing, but it will serve to show how a person who uses the European characters can write different hands.” Then making a very fine pen I wrote several lines in a small hand, and afterwards I cut off the point and wrote much larger. “You see,” I said to them, “these characters are not the same.” This satisfied them, and they did not press me further, but your Lordship will see from this how far our learned men in Corea are behind those of Europe.
The Christians who were taken with me have not yet been put to any torture in the capital. Charles and his companions are in another prison, where we cannot communicate with them. Of the ten who are here four have apostatised, but three of them repent of their weakness. Matthias Ly, who played so vile a part in 1839, appears full of courage and desirous of martyrdom, His example is followed by the father of the convert Sensiri, by my pilot, and by Peter Nam, who formerly gave such scandal to the faithful. We do not know when we shall be led out to death, but we are full of confidence in the mercy of the Lord, and trust that He will give us strength to confess His holy Name up to our last moment.
The government has decided upon seizing your Excellency’s servant Thomas, and several other important persons. The police seem rather tired, and not caring to look for Christians any more, have said that they have all gone away to Itsen Iantsi Ogni, and into the provinces of Tshong-tsheng and Tsella. I entreat your Excellency and M. Daveluy to remain concealed until after my death.
The judge tells me that three vessels, believed to be French, have anchored near the island Oiento. He says they have come by order of the Emperor of France, (a convenient expression in these countries,) and that they threaten to do much harm to Corea; that two of them have gone away with the intention of returning next year, and that the third still remains in Corean waters. The government seems frightened, remembering the death of the three Frenchmen who were martyred in 1839. I was asked if I knew the reason of their coming, and I replied that I knew nothing about it, but that they need not be afraid, for that the French never did harm to any one without good reason. I have spoken to them of the power of France, and of the liberality of her government. I think they believe me, but they object to me that they have killed three Frenchmen without coming to any harm. If French ships have really come to Corea, your Excellency will doubtless be aware of it.
I have had to translate an English map of the world, and have made two copies of it in colours, which have pleased them much; one is intended for the king. Just now I am engaged, by order of the ministers, in making a small compendium of geography. They take me for a very learned man. Poor people!
I recommend Ursula, my mother, to your Excellency. She was allowed to see her son for a day or two after an absence of ten years, and then he was taken from her again. Have pity upon her, I beseech you, and console her in her sorrow.
Prostrating myself in spirit at your Excellency’s feet, I salute for the last time my beloved father and revered bishop. I likewise salute Mgr. De Besi, and send my respectful compliments to M. Daveluy.
May we meet in heaven.
From prison, 26th August, 1846,
-Andrew Kim, Priest, Prisoner of Jesus Christ” (beheaded on September 16, 1846, Seoul, Korea), Letter of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon (martyr) to Bishop Jean Joseph Ferréo,
““We have received baptism, entrance into the Church and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name only and not in fact?” -St Andrew Kim Taegon
“This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.” -final words of St Andrew Kim Taegon
“O God, Who have been pleased to increase your adopted children in all the world, and Who made the blood of the Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his companions a most fruitful seed of Christians, grant that we may be defended by their help and profit always from their example. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.” –Collect for the feast of the Martyrs of Korea.
CA: “If you spend any amount of time on social media, I’m sure you’ve sensed a lot of division in the Church today, be it over the Latin Mass, the pope, or any other number of things. Can you liken what we’re seeing today to any other period in Church history?”
Steve: “One reason why I wrote this book is to illustrate that crisis in the Church and larger society is a constant in Church history. Although we tend to focus on the present, and social media certainly contributes to what I term the “tyranny of the present,” cultivating an understanding of the past provides meaning to the present and leads to patience during current crises and hope in the future. Knowing Church history, and especially the crises in the Church through the centuries, provides not just a simple platitude that things were also bad (or even worse) than the current situation but even more importantly proves that God brings forth reform and renewal because of the crises.”
CA: “We hear the terms heresy and schism thrown around quite a bit. Can you explain what sort of baggage is attached to terms like these and if they legitimately apply to what’s going on in the Church today?
Steve: “Both those terms have precise canonical definitions and should not be used lightly. Simply stated, heresy is an obstinate post-baptismal denial of doctrine, and schism is rejection of the authority of the supreme pontiff. History is replete with examples of these type of offenses against Church unity. Based on a review of Church history, we should not be surprised that some may embrace heresy and schism in our own day and age. Sadly, there are examples of both.”
The Church in the Age of Social Media
The modern age presents a whole new set of challenges for the Church.
CA: “Does the pontificate of Pope Francis remind you of any other in Church history? How much do you think the explosion of social media and media coverage in general play into the sequence of events we’ve seen over the past couple of years?”
Steve: “I think each pontificate is unique and faces its own challenges in the context of the ecclesial and secular situation in which it operates. I do believe that reaction to this pontificate in some circles is exacerbated by social media and media coverage in general, both of which occupy a unique place in the life of the modern Church. Of course, it would have been fascinating if social media existed at the time of Pope Formosus and the Synod of the Corpse!”
The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail Against Her
Ask Catholics about the crisis in the Church today and you’ll often get one of two responses: The end is upon us! or Everything’s fine—the Holy Spirit is in charge!
CA: “How do you see the Church finding its way out of the current situation? I know reform is the answer, but what form does that reform need to take? Is it up to the laity? Is it up to the bishops? How do you see us finding our way back home?”
Steve: “The crisis in the modern world and the troubles in the Church today will lead to great reform and renewal since this is the clear pattern from the lessons of Church history. I think the time of renewal/reform in the modern age, as I indicate in the book, will result from the efforts of the lay faithful, who love Christ and the Church and want to see it focused on its authentic mission. The Second Vatican Council and recent pontificates have highlighted the vital role of the laity in the Church and the world. Of course, these efforts must be united to the mission of the Church and in obedience to the Magisterium and the hierarchy. The last chapter of the book provides a case study of two Catholics who lived in separate times of great stress and crisis in the Church, but they approached the reform/renewal of the Church in opposite ways. St. Catherine of Siena was forceful yet faithful in calling for reform and is recognized for her sanctity. The other, Savonarola, was self-centered and mixed his faith with politics, which led him down the path of schism and heresy, condemnation, and a terrible death.”
History Doesn’t Repeat, But it Often Rhymes
Don’t get bogged down in the “Tyranny of the Present”
CA: “I believe the phrase often used is “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” Can you think of challenges to the Church in the past that have repeated themselves throughout history, and if so, to what would you attribute that?”
Steve: “Well, I don’t think history repeats itself but there are times it rhymes. Although the historical and political context in which the Church operates changes through the centuries, there are several constant challenges. These include Church-state relationships, persecution (either external or internal and violent or nonviolent), evangelization, and catechetical efforts to ensure the gospel is spread and lived authentically. Ultimately, the Church must (and will) continue Christ’s salvific mission and should always be a missionary entity—not of the world but in the world. The key for Catholics today is to not get bogged down in the “tyranny of the present” but rather to hold fast to the long view of history, take solace in prayer and the sacraments, work diligently for reform (first of oneself and then the larger community), and trust in the Holy Spirit, who has and always will guide, guard, and animate the Church until our Savior comes again.”
Neither of those attitudes makes sense from the perspective of history, says Steve Weidenkopf (author of The Real Story of Catholic History). In his new book, Light from Darkness, Weidenkopf shows how the Church’s past ages were no less tumultuous than our own. Yet, whether it was decadent hierarchs selling out the Faith for pleasure and power, or hostile princes, heresies, or ideologies (sometimes all three at once) menacing Christendom, the Catholic Church not only persisted during hard times but came through them stronger than before.
In each case, though, Weidenkopf demonstrates how the Church’s survival was not an accident or a last-minute miracle. Instead, good Catholics (lay and clergy alike) cooperated with God’s grace to beat back error and corruption and reform the house of God from within. They resisted the twin temptations of cynical schism and Pollyanna passivism and went to work—first in their own hearts—bringing good out of evil, light from darkness.
St Catherine of Siena, OP, (1347-1380 AD)
“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.”
“Augustine’s magnum opus not only answered the immediate objections of his contemporaries; it provided (and provides) a foundation of authentic Christian historical perspective. As a young man, Augustine had known well the pagan mentality, as he rejected the Faith and embraced the cults of false gods. Eventually, through the patient prayers of his saintly mother Monica, Augustine converted and found peace. The pagan scapegoating of the Church disturbed Augustine, so he dedicated thirteen years to writing a response and developing a Catholic understanding of history. Subtitled Against the Pagans, the City of God is a Catholic manifesto on interpreting history and maintaining a proper perspective of human events.
The work comprises two parts containing twenty-two books. Part one (books I-X) articulates a defense of the Faith in response to the pagan charge that the Church was the reason for the empire’s decay. Part two (XI-XXII), which forms the majority of the work, illustrates Augustine’s historical perspective, wherein history is viewed as a great drama between two cities: the City of Man and the City of God. The City of Man, founded on self-love, is where pride, ambition, greed, and expediency reign supreme. In contrast, the City of God is founded on selflessness and love of God, and in it humility, sacrifice, and obedience are paramount.
Membership in the City of God is not exclusionary. As Augustine wrote: “So long, then, as the heavenly City is wayfaring on earth, she invites citizens from all nations and all tongues, and unites them into a single pilgrim band.” The cities are distinct yet comingled in time. Each individual struggles with membership in both cities. At times, the citizen finds himself immersed in the City of Man and at other times he is safely ensconced in the City of God, but, more often than not, he bestrides the two. Augustine’s construct is meant to illustrate that the “meaning of history lies not in the flux of outward events, but in the hidden drama of sin and redemption.” For Augustine, the sack of Rome, as devastating as it was, did not constitute the end of the world, as some feared, nor a repudiation of the Faith, as the pagans claimed. Rather, the event can be understood through the prism of an authentic historical perspective as the free-willed action of inhabitants of the City of Man, focused on selfish goals.
Embracing Augustine’s perspective gives us the ability to maintain calm and hope in the midst of earthly calamities. Sadly, that perspective is sorely lacking in the modern age.
Modernity has lost a proper sense of historical perspective and lacks historical memory. Perhaps this mindset is widespread because modern man is too entrenched in the City of Man and has rejected, or at least ignores, the City of God. The Catholic author, historian, and politician Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) opined on this modern mindset in his 1929 work Survivals and New Arrivals. In it he analyzed the strength and vitality of the Church in the modern world by focusing on the various forms of attacks against it and how likely the Church was to survive these assaults. He categorized these attacks into survivals and new arrivals. Survivals were centuries-old attacks that were not sustainable into the future. The main opposition came from the new arrivals: attacks present in Belloc’s day, such as nefarious political ideologies that seek to replace the Church with the state as the citizen’s object of love and obedience. Within this group Belloc included also the modern mind, which he qualified as not so much an attack as a resistance—something that tries to render faith unintelligible. With its three main vices of pride, ignorance, and intellectual sloth, the modern mind impedes a vibrant faith life.
It also views history with disdain, believing that modernity is superior to the past. As a result, the present becomes the sole focus of human activity and thought. Reflection on the past in order to learn from history is rejected. The future is ignored because it cannot produce immediate and tangible results. God is ignored, partly because the principal benefit of a relationship with him is in the future (eternal life), and instead, modern man worships himself. Belloc argued that changing the modern mind proves extremely difficult, because indoctrination in this false mindset is achieved through universal compulsory education, which is centered on the accumulation of information rather than on forming virtue.
Additionally, Belloc noted that the modern mind lacks the skill of critical thinking, in part, because it focuses on the pursuit of temporal pleasures in the present and because the popular press enables this “sloth by providing sensational substitutes.”
“Purity is the fruit of prayer.” — Saint Teresa of Calcutta, quoted from the book Purity 365
Chastity as a Virtue
“The Catholic Church wants YOU to have AWESOME SEX!!!!”
Chastity is not a teeth-gritting ability to avoid violating the sexual rules. Rather, chastity is a habit of reverence for oneself and others that enables us to use our sexual powers intelligently in the pursuit of human flourishing and happiness.
“Those who are chaste are fully at peace with their bodies and their sexuality. Chastity is not best seen as the ability to keep oneself from violating the sexual “rules”; rather, it is “a dynamic principle enabling one to use one’s sexual powers intelligently in the pursuit of human flourishing and happiness.”
If chastity is a virtue, it is an aspect of character that a person can aspire to, achieve, stray from, regain. Notice that when the virtue at the top of this spectrum is chastity, there are three different ways of being unchaste—continence, incontinence and the vice of lustfulness.”
-Caroline J. Simon
“The virtue of chastity calls us, as sexual beings, to revere ourselves as creatures made in the image of God and made to honor God through our actions—through how we do have sex and do not have sex,” Matt Fradd writes. “And it calls us to revere other persons for the sake of the other person’s good and ultimate happiness. When we think about it, this loving reverence for ourselves and others is what we deeply desire.”
However, these truths about the virtue of chastity are easily forgotten today. There are some reasons for our amnesia.
We are unfamiliar with the language of “virtue.” Caroline Simon notes above that chastity (like other virtues that temper human desire for pleasure) is actually an ideal trait, a settled and comfortable “peace” with our well-ordered desires and pleasures—in this case, our desires for and pleasures regarding sex. Chastity is neither mere continence (a difficult, but successful struggle against disordered desires) nor incontinence (a losing struggle); chastity is not a struggle at all. Of course, many of us continue to struggle with wayward sexual desires. But this suggests that we are not yet chaste and not yet at peace with proper sexual desire, as we want to be.
We experience some resentment toward morality generally and toward specific ideals like chastity. The emotion-stance of resentment “involves disparaging and rejecting what is good and strong because we feel unable to attain it,” Fradd explains. We long to be at peace with sexual desire in relationships that “accord with our human dignity and…weave into the happiness that God intends for us in this life.” But this ideal seems unattainable. “All around us we see marriages that are impermanent, personal loyalties that are problematically divided, and spouses and friends who are unfaithful. Sexuality is misused, within marriages and in singleness, in ways that are selfish, in ways that are abusive, and in ways that do not honor God,” he notes. “So, we end up despising the ideal. We call chastity ‘oppressive’; we call it ‘naïve.’Lacking the strength in ourselves and having little community support to obtain the ideal we desire, we end up resenting it.”
We mistakenly think chastity revolves around not having sex. Yes, during singleness and at times in marriage it is appropriate to not have sex. But abstinence is not the heart of this virtue. “Simply put, chastity is a sort of reverence: a chaste person reveres and respects the other person by making sure that before they have sex, both are united in a common aim—namely, a marriage commitment whose mutual goal is the gift of self to the other,” Fradd writes. “When people will the good for one another in this way, they do not act solely on passing desires and feelings, but rather on their commitment to help the other person attain the good and honor God.”
We mistakenly think chastity revolves around repressing sexual desire and not thinking about sex. This is “almost exactly backwards,” Fradd notes. Chastity has no interest
in eliminating true sexual desire, which says, “This is my body given for you,” but it would like to rid our lives of the lust that says, “This is your body taken for me.” Furthermore, chastity has no interest in stopping our thinking about sex, but it would like for us to think carefully and well about sex. Fradd says, “The place to start is with the telos for which God created us, and why God made the other creatures and us sexual beings: ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:22, 28). This tells us that sex, sexual desire, and orgasms are good. Chastity wants us to think about what good it is that they were created for. How do they fit within God’s plan for us to love one another and honor God?”
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” — Mt 22:36-39
“By the eleventh century, the Church found itself in great need of reform, especially the clergy, and the Holy Spirit provided a series of reform-minded popes. These popes began their ecclesial careers as monks, and many of them had spent time at the famous reformed Benedictine monastery at Cluny in France. When Bruno of Alsace was elected pope in 1049, taking the name Leo IX, he initiated one of the most comprehensive reforms in Church history.
Leo (r. 1049-1054) recognized that simply issuing reform decrees from Rome would not change clerical behavior and restore the Church, so he decided to go on one of the most important road trips in papal history. During his five-year pontificate, he spent only six months in Rome, taking his reform road show to France, Italy, and Germany. Wherever he went, Leo deposed immoral bishops and punished clerics who were guilty of simony. Although those actions were necessary, the pope recognized that the major problem with clerical behavior was infidelity to the promise of celibacy.
In the first three centuries of Church history, there was no law prohibiting the ordination of married men, and many priests were married; however, marriage was never permitted after ordination. Moreover, all priests—married, single, or widowed—practiced sexual abstinence after ordination. The first recorded Church legislation concerning clerical celibacy in the West was decreed at the Synod of Elvira in Spain around the year 300, and in 385, Pope Siricius (r. 384-399) mandated celibacy for all clergy in the West.
But despite the longstanding practice of the Church, clergy in the early medieval Church often did not live celibacy faithfully. Many priests were not properly trained or formed, and they flouted their vow of celibacy, taking mistresses and concubines who bore them children, causing great scandal. Other priests engaged in homosexual acts. All the while, bishops and abbots seemed hesitant to act and restore virtue to the priesthood and monasteries.
But one monk was not afraid, and he wrote a book in which he called for Leo IX to remove this stain of clerical immorality. His name was Peter Damian, and today (Feb 21) is his feast day.
Peter was born in Ravenna seven years into the eleventh century. His early life was marked by suffering; both his parents died when he was an infant. An older, abusive brother and his concubine took Peter into their home, where he was beaten, starved, and sent to work as a swineherd. In the midst of this tribulation, Peter took solace in Christ and developed deep piety. When he found a gold coin in the mud while tending the pigs, for example, instead of spending it on himself, Peter ran to the parish priest and paid a stipend for a Mass to be celebrated for the repose of his father’s soul.
Eventually, Peter was rescued from his horrible conditions by another brother who recognized Peter’s intellectual gifts and ensured he received an education in the liberal arts. This brother’s love and generosity influenced Peter to add his brother’s name, Damian, to his own and he henceforth was known as Peter Damian.
Peter’s devoted his life to growing closer to God, and he performed many acts of mortification to drive away temptations of the flesh. His spirituality was focused on the Cross, and he wrote, “Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ” (Sermo XVIII, 11). He incorporated this focus into his life to such a degree that he came to describe himself as “Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ.”
In his late twenties, Peter joined a monastery, where he committed himself to personal reform and to pursuing reform within his community. He knew that reform in the larger Church and even in secular society was impossible without first focusing on the individual. Peter was appalled by the immoral behavior of the diocesan clergy and monks and endeavored to return his brother priests to virtuous living. During the time of Leo’s reign, he composed a book critical of clerical sexual immorality.
Addressed to the pope, the book (given the title The Book of Gomorrah centuries later) was not just a diatribe against sin but was also an exhortation to personal penance and a return to virtue and was written in a firm yet compassionate tone. He exhorted fellow priests who were tempted by the devil toward carnal pleasures to orient “your mind to the grave.” Even as he offered a chapter on “a weeping lamentation over souls surrendered to the dregs of impurity,” he provided also “an exhortation to the man who has fallen into sin, that he might rise again.”
He also noted that the “cancer of sodomitic impurity” was raging through the clergy “like a cruel beast,” decrying that “degenerate men do not fear to perpetuate an act that even brute animals abhor.”
Pope Leo IX favorably responded to Peter’s book and adopted many of his recommendations. Over time this work became an important part of the eleventh-century reform movement.
A few years after completing his manuscript, Peter was ordained a bishop and later created a cardinal. Peter wrote extensive letters, sometimes signing them as “Peter the Sinner” or “Peter the Sinner-Monk,” which provide a window into the soul of this important saint in the life of the Church. The life of St. Peter Damian is a model of virtue to Catholic clergy, and his words provide an exhortation and a warning for all Catholics not to let sexual vice taint the life and mission of the Church.”
(Source : Dorcy, Marie Jean. St. Dominic’s Family. Tan Books and Publishers, 1983)
“Henry Suso is a bundle of contradictions, and a person, moreover, who has gathered legends about him like a snowball rolling downhill. He was a poet, which is not always a key to happiness in this world; a mystic of the highest order; a hard working Dominican; and a man with a positive genius for getting into embarrassing situations. He has suffered at the hands of chroniclers who dislike his followers, or his tactics, or his poetry; he is all but canonized by those who see in him the Dominican mystic. It will require many years of exhaustive research to sort out the diverse elements in his personality, if, indeed, it can ever be accomplished. Poets are not easy to analyze, and Henry, before all else, was a poet.
Henry was born in Switzerland, in 1290, the son of a warlike family of counts and crusaders. His father said more than once that he wished Henry had been a girl and some of his spirited daughters had been boys; for Henry was not a type to carry a sword. Henry was a gentle, dreamy lad, who liked to accompany his mother on pilgrimages and read about heroic deeds. He had taken his mother’s name of Suso, perhaps out of sheer inability to live up to the warlike title of the Count von Berg.
After a number of unsuccessful attempts to make a soldier out of Henry, his father abandoned the task and sent him, when he was barely thirteen years old, to the Dominican convent near Lake Constance. At the convent, Henry found a happy life, one that he did not know existed. Like a starved child who has had no happiness before, he revelled in the companionship of friendly people and the beauty of community prayers. For five years it did not occur to him that there was anything more to religious life than the gay and irresponsible way he lived. This brief paradise came to an abrupt end when he was eighteen. He sat one day in chapel, restless and worried, because suddenly it had dawned upon him that he was not really getting anywhere, and without warning he fell into an ecstasy that lasted more than an hour. Arousing from the ecstasy, he was a different person, and a whole new life began.
First of all Henry looked with wide opened eyes on the lukewarm life he had been living. Considering his age, we would be inclined to suspect that it was not so much lukewarm as adolescent, but it appeared to him that he was a great sinner and should do great penance. The penance he performed for the next sixteen years became notorious, even in that age of extremes; an iron chain, and an undershirt studded with nails, were the most mentionable of the methods he used. At night, he tied his hands so that he could not slap at the mosquitoes that infested his room. Out of determination to overcome his natural taste for cleanliness, he bent over backwards in the opposite direction to torture himself into submission and to make himself ready for the grace of God, which he felt that he so little deserved. At the end of sixteen years, he was favored with another vision, telling him that the physical phase of his suffering was over, but to be prepared for mental torments.
While all this interior purification was being accomplished in his soul, Henry was busy about the ordinary work of a priest. He preached and taught and heard confessions, never absenting himself from apostolic work under the impression that pure contemplation would be better. Some of his travels got him into weird situations, and legends began building up around the strange young priest whose penances had already earned him the name of eccentric. Things happened to him that just never happened to other people.
One time ha was on a journey with a lay brother who was not very bright. While Henry was looking for lodgings in a strange village, the lay brother went into a tavern, and, with the help of some of its customers, rapidly got out of hand. In order to direct attention away from himself, he told the men they should go after the priest who was with him; he said that the Jews had hired Henry to poison their wells, and that he was now out investigating how it could be done. It was possibly only the lay brother’s heavy humor, but the townspeople did not think it was funny, and they went in pursuit of Henry. Seeing himself chased by men with clubs, Henry did what most people do he ran. He hid all night in a hedge, and the next day he had to get the lay brother out of jail.
He fell into rivers and almost drowned. He became innocently involved in family feuds and was nearly killed for interfering. People tried to poison him. As prior, he ran the house finances into such a snarl that no one could untangle them. As if he did not have enough trouble, one of his penitents at least he thought she was penitent decided to blackmail him, and told all over town that he was the father of her child. To clean up the ensuing scandal, he stood formal trial with his superiors, and was, of course, proved innocent but no one could stop the scandal which had by this time gone to the four winds.
As a last terrible trial, his own sister, who had gone into religion against her will, fell into serious sin and ran away from the monastery. The convent from which she had escaped was a relaxed and worldly place, but she was legally a fugitive. Henry got permission to go and look for her, and, after a long search, he found her repentant, penniless, and terrified in a tavern. He brought her to another monastery, where a strict rule was observed, and he stayed until she was firmly settled and living a good religious life. How any man could write poetry while trying to keep up with such events is hard to say, but some of the finest poetry in medieval German poured from the pen of this gifted man during the years when life was most difficult for him. His prose, too, was almost poetry perhaps this is why his writings have always been so popular with women.
We are indebted to the sisters whose consciences Henry directed for all that we know of his writing. They kept careful track of all of it and made copies to circulate among a discreet circle of friends. In fact, it is from this circumstance that the unhappy charges against Suso stem. Some of the sisters, making their personal copies, took down notes indiscriminately from Suso, Tauler, and Master Eckhart and it was practically impossible to untangle them. Only the persistent scholarship of Father Denifle, in the past century, has identified the writings of each of these men, and exonerated both Tauler and Suso of the charges that caused Eckhart to be censured.
The best known work of Henry Suso is his Little Book of Eternal Wisdom, which is a classic of spiritual writing. He also composed many other short treatises on the mystical union of the soul with God, all written with the same poetic language and the same intensity of feeling. The man who had carved “the lovely name of Jesus” into the flesh over his heart was just as intense in his spiritual life. He had an outstanding devotion to the Mother of God, which he expressed very beautifully.
Henry died in 1365, in Ulm, and was buried there in the convent of St. Paul. However, in spite of the fact that his body was found intact and giving forth a sweet odor two hundred and fifty years later, the beatification was delayed until 1831. The relics, meantime, had disappeared entirely and have never been recovered.”
On Wednesday, 17 November , at the General Audience in St Peter’s Square, the Holy Father commented on St Juliana of Cornillon, better known as Juliana of Liege, who lived in the 12th century. The following is a translation of the Pope’s Catechesis, which was given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This morning too I would like to introduce a female figure to you. She is little known but the Church is deeply indebted to her, not only because of the holiness of her life but also because, with her great fervour, she contributed to the institution of one of the most important solemn Liturgies of the year: Corpus Christi.
She is St Juliana de Cornillon, also known as St Juliana of Liège. We know several facts about her life, mainly from a Biography that was probably written by a contemporary cleric; it is a collection of various testimonies of people who were directly acquainted with the Saint.
Juliana was born near Liège, Belgium between 1191 and 1192. It is important to emphasize this place because at that time the Diocese of Liège was, so to speak, a true “Eucharistic Upper Room”. Before Juliana, eminent theologians had illustrated the supreme value of the Sacrament of the Eucharist and, again in Liège, there were groups of women generously dedicated to Eucharistic worship and to fervent communion. Guided by exemplary priests, they lived together, devoting themselves to prayer and to charitable works.
Orphaned at the age of five, Juliana, together with her sister Agnes, was entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns at the convent and leprosarium of Mont-Cornillon.
She was taught mainly by a sister called “Sapienza” [wisdom], who was in charge of her spiritual development to the time Juliana received the religious habit and thus became an Augustinian nun.
She became so learned that she could read the words of the Church Fathers, of St Augustine and St Bernard in particular, in Latin. In addition to a keen intelligence, Juliana showed a special propensity for contemplation from the outset. She had a profound sense of Christ’s presence, which she experienced by living the Sacrament of the Eucharist especially intensely and by pausing frequently to meditate upon Jesus’ words: “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).
When Juliana was 16 she had her first vision which recurred subsequently several times during her Eucharistic adoration. Her vision presented the moon in its full splendour, crossed diametrically by a dark stripe. The Lord made her understand the meaning of what had appeared to her. The moon symbolized the life of the Church on earth, the opaque line, on the other hand, represented the absence of a liturgical feast for whose institution Juliana was asked to plead effectively: namely, a feast in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to increase in faith, to advance in the practice of the virtues and to make reparation for offences to the Most Holy Sacrament.
Juliana, who in the meantime had become Prioress of the convent, kept this revelation that had filled her heart with joy a secret for about 20 years. She then confided it to two other fervent adorers of the Eucharist, Blessed Eva, who lived as a hermit, and Isabella, who had joined her at the Monastery of Mont-Cornillon. The three women established a sort of “spiritual alliance” for the purpose of glorifying the Most Holy Sacrament.
They also chose to involve a highly regarded Priest, John of Lausanne, who was a canon of the Church of St Martin in Liège. They asked him to consult theologians and clerics on what was important to them. Their affirmative response was encouraging.
What happened to Juliana of Cornillon occurs frequently in the lives of Saints. To have confirmation that an inspiration comes from God it is always necessary to be immersed in prayer to wait patiently, to seek friendship and exchanges with other good souls and to submit all things to the judgement of the Pastors of the Church.
It was in fact Bishop Robert Torote, Liège who, after initial hesitation, accepted the proposal of Juliana and her companions and first introduced the Solemnity of Corpus Christi in his diocese. Later other Bishops following his example instituted this Feast in the territories entrusted to their pastoral care.
However, to increase their faith the Lord often asks Saints to sustain trials. This also happened to Juliana who had to bear the harsh opposition of certain members of the clergy and even of the superior on whom her monastery depended.
Of her own free will, therefore, Juliana left the Convent of Mont-Cornillon with several companions. For 10 years — from 1248 to 1258 —she stayed as a guest at various monasteries of Cistercian sisters.
She edified all with her humility, she had no words of criticism or reproach for her adversaries and continued zealously to spread Eucharistic worship.
She died at Fosses-La-Ville, Belgium, in 1258. In the cell where she lay the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and, according to her biographer’s account, Juliana died contemplating with a last effusion to love Jesus in the Eucharist whom she had always loved, honoured and adored. Jacques Pantaléon of Troyes was also won over to the good cause of the Feast of Corpus Christi during his ministry as Archdeacon in Lièges. It was he who, having become Pope with the name of Urban IV in 1264, instituted the Solemnity of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Pentecost as a feast of precept for the universal Church.
In the Bull of its institution, entitled Transiturus de hoc mundo, (11 Aug. 1264), Pope Urban even referred discreetly to Juliana’s mystical experiences, corroborating their authenticity. He wrote: “Although the Eucharist is celebrated solemnly every day, we deem it fitting that at least once a year it be celebrated with greater honour and a solemn commemoration.
“Indeed we grasp the other things we commemorate with our spirit and our mind, but this does not mean that we obtain their real presence. On the contrary, in this sacramental commemoration of Christ, even though in a different form, Jesus Christ is present with us in his own substance. While he was about to ascend into Heaven he said ‘And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Matthew 28:20) “.
The Pontiff made a point of setting an example by celebrating the solemnity of Corpus Christi in Orvieto, the town where he was then residing. Indeed, he ordered that the famous Corporal with the traces of the Eucharistic miracle which had occurred in Bolsena the previous year, 1263 , be kept in Orvieto Cathedral — where it still is today.
While a priest was consecrating the bread and the wine he was overcome by strong doubts about the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. A few drops of blood began miraculously to ooze from the consecrated Host, thereby confirming what our faith professes.
Urban IV asked one of the greatest theologians of history, St Thomas Aquinas — who at that time was accompanying the Pope and was in Orvieto — to compose the texts of the Liturgical Office for this great feast. They are masterpieces, still in use in the Church today, in which theology and poetry are fuse. These texts pluck at the heartstrings in an expression of praise and gratitude to the Most Holy Sacrament, while the mind, penetrating the mystery with wonder, recognizes in the Eucharist the Living and Real Presence of Jesus, of his Sacrifice of love that reconciles us with the Father, and gives us salvation.
Although after the death of Urban IV the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi was limited to certain regions of France, Germany, Hungary and Northern Italy, it was another Pontiff, John XXII, who in 1317 reestablished it for the universal Church. Since then the Feast experienced a wonderful development and is still deeply appreciated by the Christian people.
I would like to affirm with joy that today there is a “Eucharistic springtime” in the Church: How many people pause in silence before the Tabernacle to engage in a loving conversation with Jesus! It is comforting to know that many groups of young people have rediscovered the beauty of praying in adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament.
I am thinking, for example, of our Eucharistic adoration in Hyde Park, London. I pray that this Eucharistic “springtime” may spread increasingly in every parish and in particular in Belgium, St Juliana’s homeland.
Venerable John Paul II said in his Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: “In many places, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is also an important daily practice and becomes an inexhaustible source of holiness. The devout participation of the faithful in the Eucharistic procession on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is a grace from the Lord which yearly brings joy to those who take part in it. Other positive signs of Eucharistic faith and love might also be mentioned” (n. 10).
In remembering St Juliana of Cornillon let us also renew our faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As we are taught by the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Jesus Christ is present in the Eucharist in a unique and incomparable way. He is present in a true, real and substantial way, with his Body and his Blood, with his Soul and his Divinity. In the Eucharist, therefore, there is present in a sacramental way, that is, under the Eucharistic Species of bread and wine, Christ whole and entire, God and Man” (n. 282).
Dear friends, fidelity to the encounter with the Christ in the Eucharist in Holy Mass on Sunday is essential for the journey of faith, but let us also seek to pay frequent visits to the Lord present in the Tabernacle! In gazing in adoration at the consecrated Host, we discover the gift of God’s love, we discover Jesus’ Passion and Cross and likewise his Resurrection. It is precisely through our gazing in adoration that the Lord draws us towards him into his mystery in order to transform us as he transforms the bread and the wine.
The Saints never failed to find strength, consolation and joy in the Eucharistic encounter. Let us repeat before the Lord present in the Most Blessed Sacrament the words of the Eucharistic hymn “Adoro te devote”: [Devoutly I adore Thee]: Make me believe ever more in you, “Draw me deeply into faith, / Into Your hope, into Your love”.
Pope Benedict XVI
Weekly Edition in English
24 November 2010, page 18
(Opusculum 57, in festo Corporis Christi, lect. 1-4)
“O precious and wonderful banquet!
Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.
O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.
It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.”
-Beethoven, Symphony 7, Allegretto
iuncta sint gaudia,
et ex praecordiis
nova sint omnia,
corda, voces, et opera.
qua Christus creditur
agnum et azyma
priscis indulta patribus.
Post agnum typicum,
sic totum omnibus,
quod totum singulis,
eius fatemur manibus.
dedit et tristibus
quod trado vasculum;
omnes ex eo bibite.
quibus sic congruit,
ut sumant, et dent ceteris.
fit panis hominum;
dat panis caelicus
O res mirabilis:
pauper, servus et humilis.
Te, trina Deitas
sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
ad lucem quam inhabitas.
At this our solemn feast
let holy joys abound,
and from the inmost breast
let songs of praise resound;
let ancient rites depart,
and all be new around,
in every act, and voice, and heart.
Remember we that eve,
when, the Last Supper spread,
Christ, as we all believe,
the Lamb, with leavenless bread,
among His brethren shared,
and thus the Law obeyed,
of all unto their sire declared.
The typic Lamb consumed,
the legal Feast complete,
the Lord unto the Twelve
His Body gave to eat;
the whole to all, no less
the whole to each did mete
with His own hands, as we confess.
He gave them, weak and frail,
His Flesh, their Food to be;
on them, downcast and sad,
His Blood bestowed He:
and thus to them He spake,
“Receive this Cup from Me,
and all of you of this partake.”
So He this Sacrifice
to institute did will,
and charged His priests alone
that office to fulfill:
to them He did confide:
to whom it pertains still
to take, and the rest divide.
Thus Angels’ Bread is made
the Bread of man today:
the Living Bread from heaven
with figures dost away:
O wondrous gift indeed!
the poor and lowly may
upon their Lord and Master feed.
Thee, therefore, we implore,
O Godhead, One in Three,
so may Thou visit us
as we now worship Thee;
and lead us on Thy way,
That we at last may see
the light wherein Thou dwellest aye.
Adóro te devóte, látens Déitas,
Quæ sub his figúris, vere látitas:
Tibi se cor meum totum súbjicit,
Quia, te contémplans, totum déficit.
Visus, tactus, gustus, in te fállitur,
Sed audítu solo tuto créditur:
Credo quidquid díxit Dei Fílius;
Nil hoc verbo veritátis vérius.
In cruce latébat sola Déitas,
At hic látet simul et humánitas:
Ambo támen crédens átque cónfitens,
Peto quod petívit latro pœnitens.
Plagas, sicut Thomas, non intúeor,
Deum támen meum te confíteor.
Fac me tibi sémper mágis crédere,
In te spem habére, te dilígere.
O memoriále mortis Dómini,
Panis vivus, vitam præstans hómini,
Præsta meæ menti de te vívere,
Et te illi semper dulce sápere.
Pie pellicáne, Jesu Dómine,
Me immúndum munda tuo sánguine,
Cujus una stilla salvum fácere,
Totum mundum quit ab ómni scélere.
Jesu, quem velátum nunc aspício,
Oro fíat illud, quod tam sítio:
Ut, te reveláta cernens fácie,
Visu sim beátus tuæ glóriæ. Amen.
I devoutly adore you, O hidden Deity,
Truly hidden beneath these appearances.
My whole heart submits to you,
And in contemplating you, It surrenders itself completely.
Sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of you,
But hearing suffices firmly to believe.
I believe all that the Son of God has spoken;
There is nothing truer than this word of truth.
On the cross only the divinity was hidden,
But here the humanity is also hidden.
Yet believing and confessing both,
I ask for what the repentant thief asked.
I do not see the wounds as Thomas did,
But I confess that you are my God.
Make me believe more and more in you,
Hope in you, and love you.
O memorial of our Lord’s death!
Living bread that gives life to man,
Grant my soul to live on you,
And always to savor your sweetness.
Lord Jesus, Good Pelican,
wash my filthiness and clean me with your blood,
One drop of which can free
the entire world of all its sins.
Jesus, whom now I see hidden,
I ask you to fulfill what I so desire:
That the sight of your face being unveiled
I may have the happiness of seeing your glory. Amen.
Pange, lingua, gloriósi
Quem in mundi prétium
Fructus ventris generósi
Rex effúdit géntium.
Nobis datus, nobis natus
Ex intácta Vírgine,
Et in mundo conversátus,
Sparso verbi sémine,
Sui moras incolátus
Miro clausit órdine.
In suprémæ nocte coenæ
Recúmbens cum frátribus
Observáta lege plene
Cibis in legálibus,
Cibum turbæ duodénæ
Se dat suis mánibus.
Verbum caro, panem verum
Verbo carnem éfficit:
Fitque sanguis Christi merum,
Et si sensus déficit,
Ad firmándum cor sincérum
Sola fides súfficit.
Tantum ergo sacraméntum
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Sing, my tongue, the Saviour’s glory,
Of His Flesh, the mystery sing;
Of the Blood, all price exceeding,
Shed by our Immortal King,
Destined, for the world’s redemption,
From a noble Womb to spring.
Of a pure and spotless Virgin
Born for us on earth below,
He, as Man, with man conversing,
Stayed, the seeds of truth to sow;
Then He closed in solemn order
Wondrously His Life of woe.
On the night of that Last Supper,
Seated with His chosen band,
He, the Paschal Victim eating,
First fulfils the Law’s command;
Then as Food to all his brethren
Gives Himself with His own Hand.
Word-made-Flesh, the bread of nature
By His Word to Flesh He turns;
Wine into His Blood He changes:
What though sense no change discerns.
Only be the heart in earnest,
Faith her lesson quickly learns.
Down in adoration falling,
Lo, the sacred Host we hail,
Lo, o’er ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail:
Faith for all defects supplying,
When the feeble senses fail.
To the Everlasting Father
And the Son who comes on high
With the Holy Ghost proceeding
Forth from each eternally,
Be salvation, honor, blessing,
Might and endless majesty.
Verbum supernum prodiens,
Nec Patris linquens dexteram,
Ad opus suum exiens,
Venit ad vitæ vesperam.
In mortem a discipulo
Suis tradendus æmulis,
Prius in vitæ ferculo
Se tradidit discipulis.
Quibus sub bina specie
Carnem dedit et sanguinem;
Ut duplicis substantiæ
Totum cibaret hominem.
Se nascens dedit socium,
Convescens in edulium,
Se moriens in pretium,
Se regnans dat in præmium.
O salutaris hostia,
Quæ cæli pandis ostium,
Bella premunt hostilia;
Da robur, fer auxilium.
Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria:
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria.
The heavenly Word proceeding forth,
Yet leaving not his Father’s side,
And going to His work on Earth,
Has reached at length life’s eventide.
By false disciple to be given
To foemen for His blood athirst,
Himself, the living bread from heaven,
He gave to his disciples first.
In twofold form of sacrament,
He gave His flesh, He gave His blood,
That man, of soul and body blent,
Might wholly feed on mystic food.
In birth man’s fellow-man was He,
His meat while sitting at the board;
He died, our ransomer to be,
He reigns to be our great reward.
O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of heaven to man below;
Our foes press hard on every side,
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.
All praise and thanks to thee ascend
For evermore, blessed One in Three;
O grant us life that shall not end,
In our true native land with Thee.
My father had willpower and grace I will never understand, had six children, sold cars, sold real estate after interest rates during the Carter administration killed his automobile dealership, 56 yrs of marriage, put five boys through college, functional alcoholic, quit smoking and drinking by sheer will power and grace after forty years, drove himself to the hospital after the last, of many we believe, infarction strokes. “Young man, get your ass to Mass!!!” at the beginning of the first year of college for me when such temptations due to freedom and its indiscipline cause 18-year-olds to flirt with disaster.
When St. Thomas Aquinas’s sister asked him how to become a Saint, he told her to just “will it.” Venerable Anne de Guigné was a child with an iron will and from the moment of her conversion, she willed only one thing…to be a Saint. “To become a Saint is to persist,” she said.
Anne de Guigné was born April 25, 1911 at Annecy-le-Vieux, Savoy, France, to a very happy family who named her Jeanne Marie Josephine Anne; she was Baptized the next day and came to be called Nenette. One day when there was company, Mother told Nenette to pass around a box of chocolates. After the children had all had their share, Mother placed the box high above Nenette’s reach and then went on visiting. But Nenette loved sweets and she wanted more candy. She quietly pulled her little table right below the chocolates and then just as quietly placed her little arm chair on the table. Without any noise she climbed up on the table and then on the chair. Just as she was reaching for the longed-for box, her chair scratched the table and all the grown-ups looked around. Mother made Nenette climb down quicker than she had climbed up, while she said to her, “Do you think little Jesus would have done that?”
-left front is Marie-Antoinette and next to her is Magdeleine. Back is Jacques and Anne, who is eight years old.
On Christmas the family always went to Grandfather’s house for the day. All the cousins came, too. Grandfather enjoyed giving each one of his grandchildren a beautiful gift. This year he had a pretty little arm chair for Nenette, a table for Renee, and many pretty toys for the others. When Nenette came into the room she saw the table at once. She did not care for the arm chair, but she wanted the table. Each little one was happy to receive his gift and thanked Grandfather, all except Nenette. She did not even look at the arm chair Grandfather handed her, but grabbed the table and started to pull it away from Renee. She pulled and Renee pulled. Mother had to come and tell her little Nenette how ashamed she was of her. Of course, Nenette had to give in again, but she pouted all day. When her little brother Jojo [Jacques] was born Nenette was jealous but eventually became ashamed that she was.
-Anne aged two and a half, 1913. “When very small, before the age of four, obedience was very difficult for her. She used to resist violently. From the time of her conversion, however, she started to control herself and achieved unquestioning obedience which cost her a great deal,” Madame de Guigné.
Venerable Anne de Guigné’s body remains incorrupt. She has been declared Venerable, her life recognized as exemplifying heroic virtue. In 1911, Anne de Guigné came into this world, followed within four years by a brother, JoJo, and two sisters, Lelaine and Marinette. Her army complete, Anne in charge, was indeed a demanding sergeant. A perfect example of this is seen in an incident with an older cousin when Anne was three. The two children came upon a high mound of sand, not to be climbed, which Anne took as a challenge. Her cousin, older and bigger than Anne, expressed his decision not to attempt it. Anne took charge: “I say you MUST. I’ll make you!” And with that, the tug of war commenced. The outcome remains unknown as an adult intervened and the little sergeant was vanquished.
-Anne with her father, Jacques
-Anne’s father, Jacques de Guigne’
Her parents were wealthy and prominent. Anne’s father was Count Jacques de Guigné, second lieutenant in the 13th Battalion, Chambéry of Chasseurs Alpins, a graduate of St. Cyr Military Academy and a second-lieutenant in the 13th Battalion of Alpine Chasseurs: family matters had caused him to leave the army, although he did return to his unit in 1914 at the beginning of the First World War. A devout Catholic with the zeal of an apostle, he studied Church history in view of his children’s education, and legal matters to better serve the causes he loved, managing this without depriving his family of his affection. A learned man, he was a lecturer, and a journalist as well as a husband and father; he founded and directed a Catholic youth group in his parish.
When Anne was 3 ½ the war broke out between France and Germany and her father, though retired, was sent to the front lines. A month later he returned home, severely injured. Anne, who loved her father immensely, took upon herself to look after him, fetching books and even arranging his cushions. Recovering from his wounds, Lieutenant de Guigné left again for the front lines only to return a few days later wounded worse than before. Despite not being healed sufficiently, Lieutenant de Guigné insisted upon returning to his men. In February, being seriously wounded, he was sent to a hospital in Lyons for an operation. Taking Anne with her, Madame de Guigné went to Lyons and pointed out the suffering soldiers to Anne, who was moved at the sight.
Anne’s mother was born Antoinette de Charette on September 19, 1886, the great-niece of François de Charette, the well-known general who led the soldiers of France in the Battle of Patay, beneath the banner of the Sacred Heart. Anne’s maternal grandmother Francoise Eulalie Marie Madeleine de Bourbon-Busset was a direct descendant of the sixth son of King Louis IX of France, Robert, Count of Clermont.
Born with a terrible temper and selfishness, Venerable Anne would often throw tantrums if she didn’t get her way, and would not share anything with others. But at the young age of four, she experienced a powerful grace. Her father, who was fighting in World War I, died on the front lines, and when the officer came to inform her mother of the death, Anne’s mother collapsed in tears. Anne asked how she could make it better, and the mother replied, “Your father is in heaven, but if you wish to comfort me, you must be good.”
Gazing long and thoughtfully into her Mother’s eyes, she realized that in order to please God she must be good and Anne resolved to be good and please her Mother. Her father’s death was the beginning of Anne’s conversion. All day long, Anne was thoughtful, trying to make the other children behave. “You must be good Jojo, because Mother is sad.” From this time on there was no more tempers, nor selfishness. This huge change did not come easy for Anne; though no one would have guessed the daily battle within herself she fought.
-Jacques, Magdeleine on the cushion, Anne, and Marie-Antoinette on Madame de Guigné’s lap, May 3rd, 1915. “From the age of four until her death, her striving for perfection never faltered. There was nothing spectacular, no amazing facts but everything she did was inspired by the Holy Ghost and she put all her love into it,” Madame de Guigné.
Her life was changed at that moment. As her mother later testified, “She changed through two things: willpower and prayer.” Anne’s conversion was immediate. She became the comfort of her mother, the apostle of the nursery, a model of obedience. At five, she was permitted to join the older children in the retreat to prepare for and receive First Communion, showing knowledge, understanding and great faith in the presence of our Lord in the Eucharist.
A month before her father was killed, Anne talked about preparing for her First Holy Communion, so in the autumn of 1915, Madame de Guigné enrolled Anne in the catechism class taught by Mother St. Raymond at the Auxiliatrice Convent. Mother St. Raymond perceived that Anne, though only 5 years old, was far advance than all the rest. “I soon saw that Anne was a very gifted child; but what struck me most was this: the others were never jealous of her, though she was cleverer than any of them and the youngest. Every one of them loved and admired her. I think it was because she never tried to ‘show off’ or get the better of anyone. Her manner was so sweet too. She was as nice with some rather spoiled children as with those who behaved well. Not only did I never hear her say an unkind word, but she never even teased the other children, and this must have meant considerable self-control, for she was naturally so quick and sharp. At first she had a little difficulty in learning by heart, so I told her to repeat in her own words all she had understood of the day’s lesson. It was about the Church, a difficult subject for a small child, and I did not expect much; but to my great surprise she had understood it all and repeated the whole lesson in astonishingly clear and precise words. It often seemed as if God must have taught her.”
Mother St. Raymond began to prepare Anne for her First Confession and was surprised that not only did Anne know her faults, but she had also carefully analyzed them, with gravity and precision. When asked if she was afraid of her First Confession, “Afraid of the priest! Why should I be? You said he would be acting as Our Lord!” Anne’s Confessor, Mother St. Raymond, and Madame de Guigné requested from the Bishop that Anne be allowed to make her First Holy Communion, but the Bishop, seeing that Anne was only 5, refused the request. After arguing the matter over, the Bishop finally agreed but only on the condition that she be put through a rigorous examination by the Superior of the Jesuits, who viewed the examination as a waste of his time. Everyone was apprehensive and nervous about the interview, except Anne, who want to receive Our Lord and was determined to change the Superior’s mind.
The learned Jesuit questioned Anne with a series of random questions and quickly became convinced that she was perfectly prepared. He became so interested in her that he prolonged the interview for some time, questioning her on all sorts of subjects and even probing Anne’s conscience.
“What is your chief fault?” he asked.
“Pride,” Anne promptly answered, “and disobedience too.”
Humility there, thought the priest, but he pretended to be very stern and told her that a little girl who wanted to receive Our Lord must obey at once. Then he quickly asked her: “When does Jesus obey?”
“At Mass,” Anne quickly responded.
“What words does He obey?”
“He obeys the priest when he says: ‘This is My Body, this is My Blood.’”
Finally the interview was over and both the Superior and Anne emerged, smiling, much to everyone’s great relief. “I wish you and I were as well prepared to receive Our Lord as this little girl is,” the Superior said. All obstacles being now removed, Anne joined the First Communicants’ retreat at the Convent. The theme being, “Obedience is the sanctity of children” which Anne took to heart and for her to know was to act, so it was done. From that time forth, she was practically perfect in obedience. “You must offer everything to our good Jesus. I want my heart to be as pure as a lily for Jesus,” Anne said.
When Anne made her First Holy Communion, it was March 26, 1917, a Monday in Passion Week and the feast of Our Lady’s Assumption, which had been transferred to the 26th since the 25th fell on Passion Sunday. Her First Communion resolution was: “I will give my sacrifices to Mary, so that She may give them to Jesus.” She was never known to refuse a sacrifice. That day, Anne wrote: “My Jesus, I love You and to please You, I resolve to obey You always.” Anne had a great devotion to Our Lady and Our Lady of Sorrows for her was “Our Lady of Consolation,” and this was the title she gave to a little statue in the garden, near where the children played. Here she would go to beg for help when the struggle for self-control became very hard.
-the statue in the garden in Le Réray that Anne called “Our Lady of Consolation.”
-Anne, almost nine. “I asked her ‘Do you love God?’ She answered me with such intensity in her eyes and her whole body: ‘Father, I love Him with all my heart and soul!’ I have never forgotten the ardour of the love that she radiated,” -Father Jacquemont.
One time when Anne was 4 years old, she was walking with her grandfather and they passed by a store of wheat. Her grandfather asked her: “Anne, do you know what is done with wheat?” Anne answered, “Tell me, Grandpa.”
“The farmer gathers the wheat and then grinds it and then makes flour for us. We use this flour to make bread and also to make the Hosts that the priest gives us at Mass. Do you know what the Hosts become?”
Anne responded, “Little Jesus comes and hides Himself in the white Hosts, which become Jesus.”
A priest asked Anne where the Holy Ghost dwelt specially. “In the souls of the just,” came the quick response. No one remembered teaching her that. “She listened eagerly to all I said,” Mother St. Raymond continues, “but she never tried to answer out of her turn, or in fact until she was questioned; but very often all heads would turn in her direction when nobody knew the lesson ― and they were not mistaken
-Anne, aged about six, with Magdeleine, Jacques and Rajah, the family dog
-Anne & Rajah
When Madeleine Bassett (Demoise as the children called her), the governess came in January 1916, she was surprised to hear how difficult Anne had been for the past 4 ½ years. Anne fussed over Demoise, so as to make her feel at home, even pointing to the flowers in the garden, telling Demoise that she can send a bouquet to her family back home in Cannes. One thing that the governess noticed was that Anne seemed wise beyond her years. “I was really charmed by the easy grace of her manner. One could not help loving her even then that inspired respect. She was very sensible too, and she had such a kind little heart.”
-Jacques, Magdeleine, the Governess Mlle Madeleine Basset, Anne and Marinette who must have moved. “It was she [Anne] who taught me what loving God meant. The secrets of her spiritual growth were prayer and willpower.” (Mademoiselle Basset)
Shortly before Anne’s conversion, Madeleine Bassett found Anne standing on a chair surveying her reflection in the mirror with some satisfaction. “I’m rather pretty, don’t you think so,” said the four-year-old. The governess replied that it was a waste of time to admire yourself since beauty is a gift of God and we should not be vain about it. Anne jumped down from the chair and never praised herself again.
The next years of her young life, she gave all of her energy into controlling her temper and making sacrifices, two things that did not come naturally to her! But she could only do so because she began a rich relationship with Jesus. Everything she would suffer, she offered to the Lord with joy. Every action of hers, she sought to unite it with Jesus. She eventually conquered herself; or rather, God won the victory in her. When she died of meningitis at the age of 11, her cause for canonization was opened.
-last photo of Anne, a few weeks before her death
Anne’s apostolate didn’t stop with her three siblings, though they were the primary recipients. She was continually praying for the conversion of sinners, asking the Sisters to give her the name of a sinner to pray and sacrifice for, and she took this responsibility to heart. Her sacrifices were many ranging from the sacrifice of treats, (carefully done so as to avoid attention), extra prayers, accepting whatever came her way, whether it was agreeable or not and enduring the agonizing headaches from which she suffered for some time due to spinal pain, but still did her work in school.
On December 30th, Anne received Last Rites, as her condition became steadily worse. On New Year’s Day, she seemed to be feeling much better and Madame de Guigné had a Mass of Thanksgiving said. Gathering all her energy, Anne wished everyone a happy new year, but two days later the doctor told Madame de Guigné the terrible news. Anne’s chest muscles were paralyzed and for several days Anne would have attacks of suffocation that lasted for hours. For two weeks she suffered in this manner and on the night of January 13, Anne asked her Aunt, who was a nun, “Sister, may I go with the Angels?” “Yes, my dearest little child.” “Thank you, Sister. Oh thank you.” Soon Anne slipped into a coma and at 5:25 am, Saturday, January 14, 1922, Anne died peacefully, obediently, one last time looking at her mother.
In 1932, the Bishop of Annecy, opened the canonical investigation into Anne’s life. On October 30, 1933, the family vault was opened and the examination of the remains of Anne took place at de Guigné home. Her body was found to be perfectly preserved, with no signs of decay by the two doctors present. Two nuns decorated a new casket and Anne’s body was placed back in. Meanwhile 300 people had been waiting outside in the cold rain and icy wind for over an hour. All were finally allowed to come and file past Anne’s body, giving to two priests any article that they wished to have touched to Anne. The casket was placed inside another casket and locked again in the family vault. On March 3, 1990, Anne de Guigné was declared Venerable by Pope St John Paul II.
Though Anne wanted to become a Carmelite, her death from meningitis at the age of 10, cut short her time on earth, but she continues to answer prayers for the conversion of those who had turned away from God and she has also won many souls for her dear Jesus from heaven. Venerable Anne de Guigné, pray for us!
“My Jesus, I love You, and to please You, I resolve to obey You always.” -Venerable Anne de Guigné
“St. Anselm’s ontological argument for God’s existence often gets a bad rap, even from many Catholics. For one thing, it can be a difficult argument to understand. Though its premises are rather simple, something about it makes us think we are being tricked. For another thing, we know that eminent authorities like St. Thomas Aquinas have expressed their discontent with the argument.
Nonetheless, I think it is wrong to discard the argument without a second thought. Indeed, I think there is still much of value to be gleaned from it. For simplicity’s sake, here’s a basic sketch of the argument:
God is the greatest conceivable thing.
But if something is only in the mind and not in reality, then a greater thing can be conceived.
So, God cannot only be in the mind.
Therefore, God exists in reality.
In short, the very idea of God necessitates His existence. Thus, the Psalmist is right when he writes, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Whether or not this is a perfect representation of Anselm’s argument, it should serve our purposes today.
I would like to set aside for now the objections against it as an argument for God’s existence, not because it’s not an important question. It is indeed a very important question! But before defending the argument, we have to understand better what Anselm was saying. In fact, unbelievers who point out what they believe to be its weaknesses tend to miss Anselm’s meaning, and thus end up “defeating” a straw man. Engaging in an argument without clarifying meanings is never a good idea.
Christian apologists have long been frustrated to deal with popular skeptics railing against God as something other than what he truly is. Comparisons of God to the tooth fairy or Santa Claus are often flippantly made, particularly among the New Atheist types. Pathetic as such caricatures are, they betray a conception among non-believers that God is a finite creature. But for St. Anselm, that is precisely what God is not.
In an age when religious indifference is rampant and serious contemplation of spiritual things is scarce, St. Anselm’s argument is valuable because it takes on the form of a spiritual exercise.
In reality, God is not a thing at all—things in the sense of “beings in the world” have limitations. They can always be imagined to be greater in some way. But as Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe writes, “God cannot be a thing, an existent among others. It is not possible that God and the universe should add up to make two.”
What he means is that God’s mode of existence is completely different than everything else. Indeed, God is the creator of everything, and keeps it in being every moment it exists. This is the kind of God St. Anselm has in mind when he imagines “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.”
The Anselmian proof invites us to do away with the caricatures—a challenger cannot even begin to refute the proof until he seriously entertains the notion of God presented by Anselm. From that starting point, then, all lesser kinds of “divinities”—from Zeus to the Flying Spaghetti Monster—are necessarily ruled out. We must ask the question soberly: what is the greatest conceivable thing? It is certainly not a beast composed of pasta.
There is more than one way to approach the question. We can think about God as unrestricted existence—that is, existence itself. Or in Aristotelian terms, we can think about God as being pure act and no potency—which just means that God is utterly perfect and lacks all possibility of further perfection. Technically (and as St. Thomas affirmed), to think of God as existence itself is probably the best way to think about “what” God is.
But there is another way to think about what it means for God to be, as Anselm put it, “that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” Let’s think about this in concrete terms. What is greater—a God who loves everyone who loves him back, or a God who loves everyone unconditionally? Clearly the latter, for his love is perfect. Now, such “negative theology” can help us understand what God isn’t, but it proves nothing about whether such a thing exists. Still, it can help to clarify the nature of the thing considered—the first step of serious argumentation.
In his influential book, The God of Faith and Reason, philosopher Robert Sokolowski considers another contrast, one that sheds light on St. Anselm’s meaning of God. The first “god” Sokolowski asks us to consider is one who becomes greater as the result of his creation. In this first case, “god + the world” is greater than the god alone. He contrasts this version with another in which God is so great that his creation adds nothing to his perfection. In the latter case, “God + the world” is not greater than God alone. And clearly, argues Sokolowski, this latter God is a greater conception of God than the former. Indeed, no greater God could be conceived. And there are important implications that follow from this.
One implication is that if God creates but gains nothing for himself by doing so, then it follows that God’s act of creation is completely gratuitous and unsolicited. We—the created—have everything to gain by virtue of the gift of our existence.
So, aside from what it contributes to the debate about God’s existence, St. Anselm’s ontological proof helps us to re-establish who God is and what it means for us to exist. It gets us thinking about the big questions again, for we have been created for our own good by a God who is unlimited in perfection. Our lives, then, should be lived in a way that reflects uncompromising gratitude, humility, and trust in God.
If St. Anselm’s argument fails as a proof for God’s existence, it nonetheless does great service in establishing a firm starting point for determining what it is we are trying to prove in the first place. Moreover, it compels us to think seriously about whether such a grand contention could be true.
-linen jacket (~1640), woman’s bodice, in which remains were found at Holywell, please click on the image for greater detail
It’s a mystery that has puzzled researchers for almost 150 years. In 1878, a wooden box was discovered in an attic in the Welsh town of Holywell. It contained two skulls and a cluster of other bones, wrapped in a linen jacket.
Jan Graffius is the curator of the Stonyhurst Collections, an eye-popping assembly of Catholic martyrs’ relics at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, northwest England. She believes that she has finally solved the conundrum.
“The starting point is you look at the evidence in front of you,” she told Catholic News Agency in an interview. “So you have two skulls. One has a hole in the cranium, and many of the bones that are associated with the two skulls show evidence of having been cut with a sharp knife.”
“The immediate premise that you draw from that is that at least one of these two was dismembered after death and that one of the heads was stuck on a spike.”
Acknowledging that the details were “quite graphic,” she continued: “I examined the skull to see whether the hole in the top had been inflicted from the outside in or from the inside out. And the way the bone had been damaged indicated that the force had come from within the skull, within the cranium itself. It had also been pierced by something from inside, like a spike.”
“The clinching argument was that the coccyx [pictured above] — the bone at the base of the spine — had been severed very cleanly. And when you’re hanging, drawing, and quartering, the quartering is literal: you cut the body into pieces. And that indicates to me where you would normally expect the cuts to come from severing the legs from the body.”
A second identifying factor, Graffius said, was where the bones were found. They were uncovered in a house connected to the Jesuit order, where relics of English martyrs were previously discovered.
“So there was an association with an English martyr, or a Welsh martyr, and somebody with a Jesuit association,” she explained.
(Holywell is, in addition, home to St Winefride’s Well, the oldest continually visited pilgrimage site in Britain.)
Graffius said that another clue was that the two skulls were found together, suggesting that the two figures were closely associated.
She consulted Maurice Whitehead and Hannah Thomas, academic experts on the Welsh martyrs of the 16th and 17th centuries. That led to the breakthrough.
Philip Evans was playing tennis on July 21, 1679, when he heard that he would be executed the following day. He reportedly received the news in good spirits and asked permission to finish the game in the grounds of the prison where he was being held. Not permitted to do so, he took up a harp back in his prison cell and sang praise to God for calling him to be a martyr.
Evans was born around 34 years earlier in Monmouthshire, southeast Wales. He studied at the English Jesuit College at St Omer in Flanders, entering the Jesuits at the age of 20. In 1675, he returned to his homeland to serve as a missionary: a perilous enterprise following the Welsh Reformation.
Priest hunters tracked Evans down on Dec. 2, 1678. After weeks of solitary confinement at Cardiff Gaol, he was allowed to share a cell with another condemned man, John Lloyd.
Lloyd was older than Evans. Born in Brecon, mid-Wales, he trained for the Catholic priesthood in Valladolid, Spain. He came back to Wales in 1654, knowing that he risked his life by doing so.
Evans and Lloyd were condemned to death at the Spring Assizes in 1679. A jailer allowed them considerable freedom in their final months, with Evans playing the harp as well as engaging in racket sports.
On the evening before his execution, Evans wrote to his younger sister, a nun in Paris.
“Dear Sister,” he said. “I know that you are so well versed in the principles of Christian courage as not to be at all startled when you understand that your loving brother writes this as his last letter unto you, being in a few hours hence to suffer as a priest and consequently for God’s sake. What greater happiness can befall a Christian man?”
Evans was the first to be hanged, drawn, and quartered the next day. Witnesses noted that his executioners showed unusual aggression. At executions of groups of Catholic priests, the first killing was often especially savage, in an attempt to persuade those waiting to recant. But Lloyd held fast to the faith to the end.
Graffius said that the experts she consulted suggested that the bones possibly belonged to the two Welsh priests.
“They both said, ‘Look, this must be Evans and Lloyd because they were very closely associated in life.’ They spent their last six months or so together in prison. They were executed at the same time. They were buried, or disposed of, at the same time, and they are always spoken of as a pair, if you like, because of the close friendship they had during life.”
“So it makes perfect logical and historical sense for these two bones of these very closely associated men to have been rescued together, and secreted together.”
The story of the bones’ identification is told in an online exhibition, “‘How bleedeth burning love’: British Jesuit Province’s Relics of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales,” inspired by the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
The exhibition was originally planned as a physical event marking the anniversary of the canonization by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 25, 1970. But the coronavirus crisis forced the organizers to change their plans, offering instead an audio and visual experience to internet users around the world.
It also features relics of the celebrated Jesuit martyrs St. Edmund Campion, St. Robert Southwell, and Blessed Edward Oldcorne, as well as two hats, a crucifix, and part of a hair shirt belonging to St. Thomas More.
Graffius said that she was “just thrilled” when she drew the evidence together and connected the Holywell bones to Evans and Lloyd.
“To be able to say with a good degree of confidence, ‘this is who they are,’ is very exciting,” she said.
-St Philip Evans, SJ
-St Philip Evans, SJ
-17th century chalice believed to have belonged to St Philip Evans, SJ
-carving of St Philip Evans, SJ with his harp
Philip Evans was born in Monmouth in 1645, was educated at Jesuit College of St. Omer (now in France), joined the Society of Jesus in Watten on 7 September 1665, and was ordained at Liège (now in Belgium) and sent to South Wales as a missionary in 1675.
He worked in Wales for four years, and despite the official anti-Catholic policy no action was taken against him. When the Oates’ scare swept the country both Lloyd and Evans were caught up in the aftermath. In November 1678 John Arnold, of Llanvihangel Court near Abergavenny, a justice of the peace and a staunch Calvinist and hunter of priests, offered a reward of an additional £200 (equivalent to £30,000 in 2019) for his arrest. The normal price for a Jesuit was £50.
Despite the manifest dangers Father Evans steadfastly refused to leave his flock. He was arrested at the home of a Mr Christopher Turberville at Sker, Glamorgan, on 4 December 1678. Ironically the posse which arrested him is said to have been led by Turberville’s brother, the notorious priest-taker Edward Turberville.
Father John Lloyd, a Welshman and a secular priest (a priest not associated with any religious order), was a Breconshire man. He was educated in Ghent (now in Belgium), and from 1649 at the English College, Valladolid, Spain. He took the ‘missionary oath’ on 16 October 1649 to participate in the English Mission. Sent to Wales in 1654 to minister to covert Catholics, he lived his vocation while constantly on the run for 24 years. He was arrested at Mr Turberville’s house at Penlline, Glamorgan, on 20 November 1678, and imprisoned in Cardiff Gaol. There he was joined by the Jesuit, Philip Evans.
They waited five months before going to trial because the prosecution could not find witnesses to testify that they were indeed priests. Eventually a woman and her daughter said that they had received the sacraments from the Jesuit, which was true. Both priests were brought to trial in Cardiff on Monday, 5 May 1679. Neither was charged with being associated with the plot concocted by Oates. Nonetheless, they were tried for being priests and coming to England and Wales contrary to the provisions of Jesuits, etc. Act 1584, and were declared guilty of treason for exercising their priesthood.
The executions took so long to be scheduled that it began to appear that they might not take place. The priests were allowed a good deal of liberty, even to leaving the prison for recreation. The executions took place in Pwllhalog, near Cardiff, on 22 July 1679. Two plaques mark the site at what is now the junction of Crwys Road and Richmond Road in Roath, Cardiff, still known as “Death Junction”.
Philip Evans was the first to die. When Evans mounted the ladder at the gallows, he said, “This is the best pulpit a man can have to preach in, therefore, I can not forbear to tell you again that I die for God and religion’s sake. “He addressed the gathering in both Welsh and English saying, ‘Adieu, Father Lloyd! Though only for a little time, for we shall soon meet again’. John Lloyd spoke very briefly saying, “My fellow sufferer has declared the cause of our death, therefore I need not repeat it. Besides, I never was a good speaker in my life. I shall only say that I die in the true Catholic and apostolic faith, according to these words in the Creed, I believe in the holy Catholic Church; and with those three virtues: faith, hope and charity”.
-plaque at Death Junction
“Archbishop George Stack marked the 50th anniversary of the Canonisation of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales by Pope Paul VI by holding Mass in the stark and grim bare stone cell at Cardiff Castle where two of these Martyrs were held before their execution on 22 July 1679.
The Archbishop and pilgrims then carried statues of Saint Phillip Evans and Saint John Lloyd to the site of their execution, then called the Gallows Field, and situated outside the Cardiff walls. It is now a busy road junction but the spot is marked by a plaque on the wall of the NatWest bank.
Almighty God, by whose grace and power your holy martyrs
Saint Philip Evans and Saint John Lloyd
triumphed over suffering and were faithful even to death:
Grant us, who now remember them in thanksgiving,
to be so faithful in our witness to you in this world,
that we may receive with them the crown of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP