Category Archives: Saints

Semper ecclesia reformanda: chastity & celibacy


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“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 Steve Weidenkopf

“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.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 23 – Bl Henry Suso, OP (1295-1366), priest, mystic, poet, bundle of contradictions

(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.”

Love,
Matthew

Apr 6 – St Juliana of Cornillon (aka of Liège)(1193-1258) – Promoter of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi


On Wednesday, 17 November [2010], 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”.

Thank you.

Pope Benedict XVI

Taken from:
L’Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
24 November 2010, page 18

-by St Thomas Aquinas, OP

(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

Sacris solemniis
iuncta sint gaudia,
et ex praecordiis
sonent praeconia;
recedant vetera,
nova sint omnia,
corda, voces, et opera.

Noctis recolitur
cena novissima,
qua Christus creditur
agnum et azyma
dedisse fratribus,
iuxta legitima
priscis indulta patribus.

Post agnum typicum,
expletis epulis,
Corpus Dominicum
datum discipulis,
sic totum omnibus,
quod totum singulis,
eius fatemur manibus.

Dedit fragilibus
corporis ferculum,
dedit et tristibus
sanguinis poculum,
dicens: Accipite
quod trado vasculum;
omnes ex eo bibite.

Sic sacrificium
istud instituit,
cuius officium
committi voluit
solis presbyteris,
quibus sic congruit,
ut sumant, et dent ceteris.

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
dat panis caelicus
figuris terminum;
O res mirabilis:
manducat Dominum
pauper, servus et humilis.

Te, trina Deitas
unaque, poscimus:
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
Córporis mystérium,
Sanguinísque pretiósi,
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
Venerémur cérnui:
Et antíquum documéntum
Novo cedat rítui:
Præstet fides suppleméntum
Sénsuum deféctui.

Genitóri, Genitóque
Laus et jubilátio,
Salus, honor, virtus quoque
Sit et benedíctio:
Procedénti ab utróque
Compar sit laudátio.
Amen. Alleluja.

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.
Amen. Alleluia.

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.

Love,
Matthew

Jan 14 – Venerable Anne de Guigné (1911-1922) – Toddler Tyrant, Willpower & Prayer

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.


-September, 1919


-Autumn, 1921

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

Love,
Matthew

St Anselm’s argument for the existence of God


-by Matt Nelson

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:

  1. God is the greatest conceivable thing.
  2. But if something is only in the mind and not in reality, then a greater thing can be conceived.
  3. So, God cannot only be in the mind.
  4. 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 allthings 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.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 23 – Sts Philip Evans, SJ (1645-1679) & John Lloyd, (1630-1679), Priests & Martyrs


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-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.

The exhibition describes the discovery of the bones at Holywell as well the lives of Evans and Lloyd, who were among the 40 martyrs canonized in 1970.

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),[citation needed] 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.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 19 – St Joseph “dream, service, fidelity”


-by Giovanni Gasparro, “Chaste Heart of St. Joseph”, 2013, Basilica of St. Joseph the craftsman (Ex San Biagio d’Amiternum, XIII century), L’Aquila, Italy

“He did not do astonishing things, he had no unique charisms, nor did he appear special in the eyes of those who met him. He was not famous or even noteworthy: the Gospels do not report even a single word of his. Still, through his ordinary life, he accomplished something extraordinary in the eyes of God.

God looks on the heart (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), and in Saint Joseph he recognized the heart of a father, able to give and generate life in the midst of daily routines.  Saint Joseph comes to meet us in his gentle way, as one of “the saints next door”. At the same time, his strong witness can guide us on the journey.

Saint Joseph suggests to us three key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream. Everyone dreams of finding fulfillment in life. We rightly nurture great hopes, lofty aspirations that ephemeral goals – like success, money and entertainment – cannot satisfy. If we were to ask people to express in one word their life’s dream, it would not be difficult to imagine the answer: “to be loved”. It is love that gives meaning to life, because it reveals life’s mystery. Indeed, we only have life if we give it; we truly possess it only if we generously give it away. Saint Joseph has much to tell us in this regard, because, through the dreams that God inspired in him, he made of his life a gift.

The Gospels tell us of four dreams (cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13.19.22). They were calls from God, but they were not easy to accept. After each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely. We may ask ourselves, “Why put so much trust in a dream in the night?” Although a dream was considered very important in ancient times, it was still a small thing in the face of the concrete reality of life. Yet Saint Joseph let himself be guided by his dreams without hesitation. Why? Because his heart was directed to God; it was already inclined towards him. A small indication was enough for his watchful “inner ear” to recognize God’s voice. This applies also to our calling: God does not like to reveal himself in a spectacular way, pressuring our freedom. He conveys his plans to us with gentleness. He does not overwhelm us with dazzling visions but quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings. In this way, as he did with Saint Joseph, he sets before us profound and unexpected horizons.

Indeed, Joseph’s dreams led him into experiences he would never have imagined. The first of these upended his betrothal, but made him the father of the Messiah; the second caused him to flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the third, which foretold his return to his native land, a fourth dream made him change plans once again, bringing him to Nazareth, the place where Jesus would begin his preaching of the Kingdom of God. Amid all these upheavals, he found the courage to follow God’s will. So too in a vocation: God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to grace, setting aside our own programmes and comforts, can we truly say “yes” to God. And every “yes” bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece. In this regard, Saint Joseph is an outstanding example of acceptance of God’s plans. Yet his was an active acceptance: never reluctant or resigned. Joseph was “certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive” (Patris Corde, 4). May he help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true. May he inspire in them the courage to say “yes” to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.

A second word marks the journey of Saint Joseph and that of vocation: service. The Gospels show how Joseph lived entirely for others and never for himself. The holy people of God invoke him as the most chaste spouse, based on his ability to love unreservedly. By freeing love from all possessiveness, he became open to an even more fruitful service. His loving care has spanned generations; his attentive guardianship has made him patron of the Church. As one who knew how to embody the meaning of self-giving in life, Joseph is also the patron of a happy death. His service and sacrifices were only possible, however, because they were sustained by a greater love: “Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice. The priesthood and consecrated life likewise require this kind of maturity. Whatever our vocation, whether to marriage, celibacy or virginity, our gift of self will not come to fulfilment if it stops at sacrifice; were that the case, instead of becoming a sign of the beauty and joy of love, the gift of self would risk being an expression of unhappiness, sadness and frustration” (ibid., 7).

For Saint Joseph, service – as a concrete expression of the gift of self – did not remain simply a high ideal, but became a rule for daily life. He strove to find and prepare a place where Jesus could be born; he did his utmost to protect him from Herod’s wrath by arranging a hasty journey into Egypt; he immediately returned to Jerusalem when Jesus was lost; he supported his family by his work, even in a foreign land. In short, he adapted to different circumstances with the attitude of those who do not grow discouraged when life does not turn out as they wished; he showed the willingness typical of those who live to serve. In this way, Joseph welcomed life’s frequent and often unexpected journeys: from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the census, then to Egypt and again to Nazareth, and every year to Jerusalem. Each time he was willing to face new circumstances without complaining, ever ready to give a hand to help resolve situations. We could say that this was the outstretched hand of our heavenly Father reaching out to his Son on earth. Joseph cannot fail to be a model for all vocations, called to be the ever-active hands of the Father, outstretched to his children.

I like to think, then, of Saint Joseph, the protector of Jesus and of the Church.  In fact, from his willingness to serve comes his concern to protect. The Gospel tells us that “Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night” (Mt 2:14), thus revealing his prompt concern for the good of his family. He wasted no time fretting over things he could not control, in order to give full attention to those entrusted to his care. Such thoughtful concern is the sign of a true vocation, the testimony of a life touched by the love of God. What a beautiful example of Christian life we give when we refuse to pursue our ambitions or indulge in our illusions, but instead care for what the Lord has entrusted to us through the Church! God then pours out his Spirit and creativity upon us; he works wonders in us, as he did in Joseph.

Together with God’s call, which makes our greatest dreams come true, and our response, which is made up of generous service and attentive care, there is a third characteristic of Saint Joseph’s daily life and our Christian vocation, namely fidelity. Joseph is the “righteous man” (Mt 1:19) who daily perseveres in quietly serving God and his plans. At a particularly difficult moment in his life, he thoughtfully considered what to do (cf. v. 20). He did not let himself be hastily pressured. He did not yield to the temptation to act rashly, simply following his instincts or living for the moment. Instead, he pondered things patiently. He knew that success in life is built on constant fidelity to important decisions. This was reflected in his perseverance in plying the trade of a humble carpenter (cf. Mt 13:55), a quiet perseverance that made no news in his own time, yet has inspired the daily lives of countless fathers, labourers and Christians ever since. For a vocation – like life itself – matures only through daily fidelity.

How is such fidelity nurtured? In the light of God’s own faithfulness. The first words that Saint Joseph heard in a dream were an invitation not to be afraid, because God remains ever faithful to his promises: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid” (Mt 1:20). Do not be afraid: these words the Lord also addresses to you, dear sister, and to you, dear brother, whenever you feel that, even amid uncertainty and hesitation, you can no longer delay your desire to give your life to him. He repeats these words when, perhaps amid trials and misunderstandings, you seek to follow his will every day, wherever you find yourself. They are words you will hear anew, at every step of your vocation, as you return to your first love. They are a refrain accompanying all those who – like Saint Joseph – say yes to God with their lives, through their fidelity each day.

This fidelity is the secret of joy. A hymn in the liturgy speaks of the “transparent joy” present in the home of Nazareth. It the joy of simplicity, the joy experienced daily by those who care for what truly matters: faithful closeness to God and to our neighbour.”

Rome, from Saint John Lateran, 19 March 2021, Feast of Saint Joseph

Francis

Patris corde

“…In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.

We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage.

In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed.  Christian realism, which rejects nothing that exists.

Reality, in its mysterious and irreducible complexity, is the bearer of existential meaning, with all its lights and shadows.”

The pope warned that we should not think of believing as “finding facile and comforting solutions. The faith Christ taught us is what we see in Saint Joseph. He did not look for shortcuts, but confronted reality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.

Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception, and to show special concern for the weak, for God chooses what is weak (cf. 1 Cor 1:27).

The Lord is the “Father of orphans and protector of widows” (Ps 68:6), Who commands us to love the stranger in our midst.

APOSTOLIC LETTER
PATRIS CORDE
OF THE HOLY FATHER 
FRANCIS
ON THE 150th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE PROCLAMATION OF SAINT JOSEPH
 AS PATRON OF THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH

Given in Rome, at Saint John Lateran, on 8 December, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the year 2020, the eighth of my Pontificate.”

Prayer for the Sorrows of St Joseph

I can’t help but notice the scars on your heart, how you suffered with love. You suffered darkness and confusion when Mary was found with child. You suffered the sacrifice of your flesh as you lovingly offered up the absence of bodily intimacy in marriage. You suffered a sword in your heart, with Mary, when Simeon foretold the Passion of your Son. You suffered stress and uncertainty when you had to escape with your family to Egypt and live as an immigrant. You suffered crushing anxiety when your 12-year-old Son was lost for three days. You daily suffered fatigue and bodily aches from your manual labor. Worst of all, your fatherly heart grieved at knowing that you could not be there for Jesus and Mary when their darkest hour would one day come.

St. Joseph, thank you for what you suffered in God’s service, in union with your Son, for my salvation. I love you, St. Joseph. Thank you for your yes. Now, please help me to suffer with love as you did. When I suffer, help me not to complain. Help me not to forget love. Help me not to forget others. Dear St. Joseph, through my suffering, watch over my poor heart: May it not harden but rather become more merciful. Help me to remember all God’s children who are suffering in the world, and help me to offer my suffering for them and for the good of the Church. I am counting on you, St. Joseph. I know you will be with me, helping me to suffer with love.

St. Joseph, who suffered with love,
 please help me also to suffer with a love like yours.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 27 – Servant of God Fr. Igor Aleksandrovich Akulov (Epiphany, Epiphanius), (1897-1937) – Priest, Martyr, Victim of Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge

Fr. Epiphany was born 13 April 1897, Novo-Nikitskaya, Korchevsky County, province of Tver and was executed on 27 August 1937, Leningrad. He was a Russian orthodox monk and priest of the Russian Catholic Church, and a victim of Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge.

Igor Aleksandrovich Akulov was born into a family of orthodox peasant farmers. He graduated from Technical High School (2009). In 1918-1920 worked as a telephone clerk at the Moscow – Saint Petersburg Railway. During the Russian Civil War, he was mobilized and served in the Red Army as a noncombatant. From 1920 he became a postulant at the Alexander Nevsky Lavra and studied at the Petrograd Theological Institute (1920–1922). On 2 July 1921 he was tonsured a Russian Orthodox monk with the name of Brother Epiphany.

After meeting with Exarch Leonid Fyodorov, and under his influence Brother Epiphany Akulov began attending Eastern Rite Catholic Liturgies, and in the summer of 1922 was received into the Russian Catholic Church. In 1921, he was ordained as an Eastern Catholic priest by Archbishop Jan Cieplak. After August 1922 he was the Pastor of the Byzantine Catholic Church of the Descent of the Holy Ghost in Petrograd. He also served in the Latin parish of St. Boniface. According to Leonid Fedorov:

By the infinite mercy of God, and there has not left us, sent us a young priest-monk Epiphanius. He came to us in the midst of the struggle for the Church, but was not scared and did not retreat. He was not touched by Protestantism and rationalism. He serves well…”

In 1923, after the closure of the church, he secretly served at an apartment.  23 November 1923 he was arrested. After the arrests of other priests and their parishioners (during which he was not in Petrograd), he went to the police station and claimed to be a priest and Catholic. He was accused of the Catholic counter-revolutionary organization.  19 May 1924 was sentenced to 10 years in prison, was in political prison near the Irkutsk.  While Fr. Epiphanius was imprisoned, he corresponded with his elderly mother. In his letters, he tried to persuade her to remain as a steadfast Catholic. In 1927 released early and sent into exile. In 1933 he was freed from exile, he served in various churches in St. Petersburg.

In 1935 Akulov was arrested again for a short time. 26 July 1937 he was arrested and on Aug. 25 he was sentenced to death and executed on August 27. He was buried at Levashovo Mass Grave in St. Petersburg, a desolate area near the city.

O God Almighty, Your Son suffered on the Cross and died for the salvation of people.  Imitating Him, Your Servant Fr. Epiphany Akulov loved You from the bottom of his heart, served You faithfully during the persecutions, and devoted his life to the Church. Make him known in the assembly of Your blessed so that the example of his faithfulness and love would shine before the whole world. I pray to You through his intercession, hear my request ………………through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The prayer has to be used in private, as well as in public, out of the Holy Mass.
+ Archbishop Thaddeus Kondrusiewich, St. Petersburg 05.04.2004
Postulator asks to inform about the graces received through the mediation of the Servant of God.
Address: Fr. Bronislav Chaplicki, 1st Krasnoarmyskaya, D.11, 198005, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 23 – Servant of God (Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova) Mother Catherine of Siena, OPL, (1882-1936) – Victim of Stalin’s concentration camps

Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova (Russian: Анна Ивановна Абрикосова; 23 January 1882 – 23 July 1936), later known as Mother Catherine of Siena, O.P. (Russian: Екатери́на Сие́нская or Ekaterina Sienskaya), was a Russian Greek-Catholic religious sister, literary translator, and victim of Joseph Stalin’s concentration camps. She was also the foundress of a Byzantine Catholic community of the Third Order of St. Dominic.  She has gained wide attention, even among secular historians of Soviet repression. In an anthology of women’s memoirs from the GULAG, historian Veronica Shapovalova describes Anna Abrikosova as, “a woman of remarkable erudition and strength of will”, who, “managed to organize the sisters in such a way that even after their arrest they continued their work.” She is also mentioned by name in the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

The Russian Greek Catholic Church (Russian: Российская греко-католическая церковь, Rossiyskaya greko-katolicheskaya tserkov; Latin: Ecclesiae Graecae Catholico Russica), Russian Byzantine Catholic Church or simply Russian Catholic Church, is a sui iuris Byzantine Rite Eastern Catholic jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church. Historically, it represents the first reunion of members of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church. It is now in full communion with and subject to the authority of the Pope of Rome as defined by Eastern canon law.

Russian Catholics historically had their own episcopal hierarchy in the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Russia and the Russian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Harbin, China. However, these offices are currently vacant. Their few parishes are served by priests ordained in other the Eastern Catholic Churches, former Eastern Orthodox priests, and Roman Catholic priests with bi-ritual faculties. The Russian Greek Catholic Church is currently led by Bishop Joseph Werth as Ordinary.

Early life

Anna Ivanovna Abrikosova was born on 23 January 1882 in Kitaigorod, Moscow, Russian Empire, into a wealthy family of factory owners and philanthropists, who were the official suppliers of chocolate confections to the Russian Imperial Court. Her grandfather was the industrialist Aleksei Ivanovich Abrikosov. Her father, Ivan Alekseievich Abrikosov, was expected to take over the family firm until his premature death from tuberculosis. Her brothers included Tsarist diplomat Dmitrii Abrikosov and Alexei Ivanovich Abrikosov, the doctor who embalmed Vladimir Lenin.

Although the younger members of the family rarely attended Divine Liturgy, the Abrikosovs regarded themselves as pillars of the Russian Orthodox Church. Anna’s parents died early: her mother while giving birth to her, and her father ten days later, of tuberculosis. Anna and her four brothers were raised in the house and provincial estate of her uncle, Nikolai Alekseevich Abrikosov.

The memoirs of her brother Dmitrii “describes their childhood as carefree and joyous” and writes that their British governess “was quite shocked at the close relationship between parents and children.” She used to say that in England, “children were seen and not heard.”

Desiring to be a teacher, Anna graduated with Gold Medal Grade from the First Women’s Lyceum in Moscow in 1899. She then entered a teacher’s college, where the student body ostracized and bullied her for being from a wealthy family.

She later recalled, “Every day as I went into the room the girls would divide up the passage and stand aside not to brush me as I passed because they hated me as one of the privileged class.”

After graduating, she briefly taught at a Russian Orthodox parochial school but was forced to leave after the priest threatened to denounce her to the Okhrana for teaching the students that Hell does not exist. Although heartbroken Anna then decided to pursue an old dream of attending Girton College, the all-girls adjunct to Cambridge University. While studying history from 1901-1903, Anna befriended Lady Dorothy Georgiana Howard, the daughter of the 9th Earl and “Radical Countess” of Carlisle. Lady Dorothy’s letters to her mother remain the best source for Anna’s college days. She ultimately returned to Russia without a degree and married her first cousin, Vladimir Abrikosov.

Catholicism

The Abrikosovs spent the next decade traveling in the Kingdom of Italy, Switzerland and France.

According to Father Cyril Korolevsky:

“While traveling, she studied a great deal. She… read a number of Catholic books. She particularly liked the Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena and began to doubt official Orthodoxy more and more. Finally, she approached the parish priest of the large, aristocratic Church of the Madeleine in Paris, Abbé Maurice Rivière, who later became Bishop of Périgueux. He instructed and received her into the Catholic Church on 20 December 1908. Amazingly, especially at that time, he informed her that even though she had been received with the Latin Ritual, she would always canonically belong to the Greek-Catholic Church. She went on reading and came to prefer the Dominican spirituality and to enjoy Lacordaire’s biography of Saint Dominic… She never stopped thinking of Russia, but like many other people, she thought that only the Roman Catholic priests were able to work with Russian souls. Little by little, she won her husband over to her religious convictions. On 21 December 1909, Vladimir was also received into the Catholic Church. They both thought they would stay abroad, where they had full freedom of religion and… a vague plan to join some monastery or semi-monastic community. Since they knew that according to the canons they were Greek-Catholics, they petitioned Pius X through a Roman prelate for permission to become Roman Catholics — they considered this a mere formality. To their great surprise the Pope refused outright… and reminded them of the provisions of Orientalium dignitas. They had just received this answer when a telegram summoned them to Moscow for family reasons.”

The couple returned to Russia in 1910. Upon their return, the Abrikosovs found a group of Dominican tertiaries which had been established earlier by one Natalia Rozanova. They were received into the Third Order of St. Dominic by Friar Albert Libercier, O.P., of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Louis in Moscow. On 19 May 1917, Vladimir was ordained to the priesthood by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. With her husband now a priest, according to Catholic custom, Anna was free to take monastic vows. She took vows as a Dominican Sister, assuming her religious name at that time, and founded a Greek-Catholic religious congregation of the Order there in Moscow. Several of the women among the secular tertiaries joined her in this commitment. Thus was a community of the Dominican Third Order Regular established in Soviet Russia.

Persecution

During the aftermath of the October Revolution, the convent was put under surveillance by the Soviet secret police.

In 1922, Father Vladimir Abrikosov was exiled to the West aboard the Philosopher’s Ship. Soon after, Mother Catherine wrote him a letter from Moscow, “I am, in the fullest sense of the word, alone with half naked children, with sisters who are wearing themselves out, with a youthful, wonderful, saintly but terribly young priest, Father Nikolai Alexandrov, who himself needs support, and with parishioners dismayed and bewildered, while I myself am waiting to be arrested, because when they searched here, they took away our Constitution and our rules.”

Imprisonment

Due to her work with the Papal Aid Mission to Russia, Mother Catherine was arrested by the OGPU. Shortly before the Supreme Collegium of the OGPU handed down sentences, Mother Catherine told the sisters of her community, “Probably every one of you, having given your love to God and following in His way, has in your heart more than once asked Christ to grant you the opportunity to share in His sufferings. And so it is; the moment has now arrived. Your desire to suffer for His sake is now being fulfilled.”[13]

Mother Catherine was sentenced to ten years of solitary confinement and imprisoned at Yaroslavl from 1924 to 1932. After being was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was transferred to Butyrka Prison infirmary for an operation in May 1932. The operation removed her left breast, part of the muscles on her back and side. She was left unable to use her left arm, but was deemed cancer free.[14]

Release

Meanwhile, Ekaterina Peshkova, the wife of author Maxim Gorky and head of the Political Red Cross, had interceded with Stalin to secure her release and grounds of her illness and that her sentence was almost complete.

On August 13, 1932, Mother Catherine petitioned to be returned to Yaroslavl. Instead, she was told that she could leave any time she wanted. On August 14, she walked free from Butyrka and went directly to the Church of St. Louis des Français.[15]

Bishop Pie Neveu, who had been secretly consecrated as an underground Bishop in 1926,[16] wrote to Rome after meeting her, “This woman is a genuine preacher of the Faith and very courageous. One feels insignificant beside someone of this moral stature. She still cannot see well, and she can only use her right hand, since the left is paralyzed.”[17]

Despite warnings that it could lead to another arrest, Mother Catherine also reestablished ties to the surviving Sisters. She later told interrogators, “After my release from the isolator and happening to be in Moscow, I renewed my links with a group of people whom an OGPU Collegium had condemned in 1923. In reestablishing contact with them, my purpose was to assess their political and spiritual condition after their arrest, administrative exile and the expiration of their residence restriction. Following my meetings with them, I became convinced that they retained their earlier world outlook.”[18]

Rearrest

After immediately entering communication with the surviving Sisters of the congregation, Mother Catherine was arrested, along with 24 other Catholics, in August 1933. In what the NKVD called “The Case of the Counterrevolutionary Terrorist-Monarchist Organization”, Mother Catherine stood accused of plotting to assassinate Joseph Stalin, overthrow the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and restore the House of Romanov as a constitutional monarchy in concert with “international fascism” and “Papal theocracy”. It was further alleged that the organization planned for the restoration of Capitalism and for collective farms to be broken up and returned to their former owners among the Russian nobility and the kulaks. The NKVD alleged that the organization was directed by Pope Pius XI, Bishop Pie Neveu, and the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches.[19] After being declared guilty as charged, Mother Catherine was returned to the Political Isolator Prison at Yaroslavl.

Death

Abrikosova died of bone cancer at Butyrka Prison infirmary on July 23, 1936, at the age of 54 years. After being autopsied, her body was secretly cremated at the Donskoy Cemetery and her ashes were buried in a mass grave at the same location.

“I wish to lead a uniquely supernatural life and to accomplish to the end my vow of immolation for the priests and for Russia.”
“Soviet youth cannot talk about its world outlook; it is blinkered. It is developing too one-sidedly, because it knows only the jargon of Marxist-Leninism.”
“A political and spiritual outlook should develop only on the basis of a free critical exploration of all the facets of philosophical and political thought.”

Prayer for the beatification of the Servant of God Mother Catherine (Abrikosova)

O God Almighty, Your Son suffered on the Cross and died for the salvation of people.
Imitating Him, Your Servant Mother Catherine (Abrikosova) loved You from the bottom of her heart, served You faithfully during the persecutions and devoted her life to the Church.  Make her famous in the assembly of Your blessed, so that the example of her faithfulness and love would shine before the whole world. I pray to You through her intercession, hear my request………………………………..through Christ our Lord. Amen.

The prayer has to be used in private, as well as in public, out of the Holy Mass.
+ Archbishop Thaddeus Kondrusiewich, St. Petersburg 05.04.2004
Postulator asks to inform about the graces received through the mediation of the Servant of God.
Address: Fr. Bronislav Chaplicki, 1st Krasnoarmyskaya, D. 11, 198005, St. Petersburg, Russia

Love, pray for me,
Matthew