Category Archives: Saints

Nov 15 – St Albert the Great, OP, (1193-1280), Doctor of the Church – Maligned & Misunderstood


-please click on the image for greater detail

The first parish Kelly, Mara, & I attended in Wisconsin is named St Albert the Great. I am still fond.


-by Br Bartholomew Calvano, OP

“On March 7, 1274, Saint Thomas Aquinas died. His teacher Saint Albert the Great was around 80 years old at the time. Tradition tells us that St. Albert was profoundly affected by St. Thomas’ death, as seems natural for men whose intellectual relationship and relationship in the Order was so close. In fact, according to the process of canonization of St. Thomas, Br. Antonius de Brixia reports that St. Albert received supernatural knowledge of St. Thomas’ death the very hour he died. Saint Albert’s words relating this death to the brethren in Cologne were as follows: “I tell to you all grave news, for Br. Thomas Aquinas, my son in Christ, who was the light of the Church has died, and this has been revealed to me by God.” Saint Albert was, in many ways, the intellectual father of St. Thomas, who received his teaching and carried it forward. Saint Albert, therefore, must have been proud of all that St. Thomas had accomplished in the short span of years he had been allotted.

Soon after St. Thomas’ death, the bishops Stephen Tempier of Paris and Robert Kilwardby of Canterbury, himself a Dominican, began to issue condemnations that, while not mentioning St. Thomas by name, censured several positions held by him. Through these condemnations, St. Thomas was associated with the Averroism of Siger of Brabant, the primary target of Tempier’s condemnations. Given that Siger contradicted both St. Thomas and St. Albert and that St. Thomas wrote explicitly against Siger, St. Albert was understandably outraged by this association. To add insult to injury, the condemnation issued by Stephen Tempier was promulgated on March 7, 1277, the anniversary of the death of St. Thomas. Seeing the good name of his student at risk, the old teacher made the long journey from Cologne to Paris. The distance between the two cities is between 250 and 300 miles. Saint Albert made this journey in the middle of winter on foot—the early constitutions forbade travel on horseback—at the age of 84.


-Ernest Board, Albertus Magnus expounding his doctrines of physical science in the streets of Paris ca. 1245. Wellcome Collection (CC BY 4.0).

The great humility and love of St. Albert is clearly displayed in the care he had for the work and memory of St. Thomas. Saint Albert bears the title of “the Great” not only because of his incomparable learning and mastery of every subject but also for this humility. Having already been shown a humble man by retiring from the episcopacy, he crowned that humility in spreading the works of his student. In the normal course of affairs, it is the student who hands on the teachings of his master: only the fullness of the virtue of humility could recognize and accept that the student had surpassed the master. Furthermore, in accepting so fully the achievement of his student that even in his old age he should deny the natural desire to complete unfinished endeavors and instead focus on the elevation of his student’s work, St. Albert demonstrated a supernatural humility. Such humility aided St. Albert in showing forth the love he had for his student and son St. Thomas.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 13 – St Francis Xavier Cabrini, MSC, (1850-1917), “Not East, but West..”, Holy Pivots…

https://endowgroups.org/content/mothercabriniprayforus

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini must have been a flexible soul. Several times in her life, God asked her to pivot in her plans and follow Him in directions she had not thought to discern. But through her obedience, the Lord did amazing things – and now she is honored as the first American citizen to be canonized, and the patron saint of immigrants. In the United States, we celebrate her feast day on November 13.

She was born a miracle baby in 1850, into a world where life was especially fragile. Two months premature, she survived even though only three of her twelve siblings would live into adulthood.

As a child, she would play by a stream near her uncle’s house, dropping little violets into paper boats and watching “the missionaries” float away to Eastern shores.
Her health would always be compromised, and her physical weakness caused her to be turned down when she desired admittance into the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at the age of 18. This must have been heartbreaking – these sisters had been her teachers for years, but they just felt she was too frail for their way of life.

Here was the first pivot – a priest asked her to teach at an orphanage, and she embraced God’s new call. Her enthusiasm attracted others, and soon she had a community of women following her. They took religious vows, and she added ‘Xavier’ to her name after the great missionary priest St. Francis Xavier. Their order was named The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her heart, it seemed, still belonged to the Eastern missions.

She asked permission of the Pope to establish missions in China. But Pope Leo XIII was thinking instead of the thousands of Italian immigrants flooding into America – orphans themselves, in a sense – far from home, in great poverty, and without spiritual support. We can image her surprise when the Pope told her, “Not to the East, but to the West.” Another pivot.

Obedient again, she packed her bags, gathered six other sisters, and joined the throngs of Italians heading to New York. When she arrived, she encountered another surprise: the house they had been promised was no longer available, and the archbishop insisted she return to Italy. This time, she held her ground. Certain that this was God’s will for her, after all her other changes in plans, she refused to return. Eventually he found them room at another convent and no doubt became glad he had: over the next 35 years these women would found 67 institutions around the United States and the world, caring for the poor and sick in hospitals, schools, and orphanages. Mother Cabrini, as she was called, was prayerful, resourceful, and an astonishingly skilled administrator. She became a citizen of the United States in 1909, and died eight years later in one of her own hospitals in Chicago.

It would seem that in heaven, she made another plea to go East. This time, God humored her. Long after her death, the sisters of her order would be sent as missionaries to China, and surely with joy she watched them sail away, as she had watched the little paper boats of her childhood.

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, pray for us, that we may accept the upsets of life when they are God’s will for us, stand firm when they are not, and that we may have the discernment to know the difference. Give us, too, a heart for the poor and needy and the spiritual eyes to see them in our own midst. Amen.”

Love & pivots,
Matthew

Oct 17 – Enthusiasm for Martyrdom!!! :)


-fresco of St. Ignatius from Hosios Loukas Monastery, Boeotia, Greece

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” -Acts 5:41

Catholics are NOT NOT NOT to actively seek martyrdom!!!! That would make them Marcionites, who did, and NOT Catholics!!!!!! Catholics are to accept it if unavoidable. Enthusiasm, however….

I have two dear friends who are sisters. They are practically giddy protesting/dissuading/resisting outside abortion clinics. While there they may sit in a car together to rest or respite from the elements. Their giddiness stems not only from their holy action, but from the dream of martyrdom while so engaged. They also dream of the rocketing of their causes for beatification to the top of the list!!!! I imagine an attacker with a shotgun taking them both out while they sit in the front seats of the car together. Only Catholics!!!!

I have decided the color (and here) for our current martyrdom of reputation is black, as in “to blacken the name”.


-by Elijah Dubek, OP

“The letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch (35-108 AD) were some of the first writings of Church Fathers I ever read. One of my friends bought me a copy of The Apostolic Fathers, and the summer before I entered seminary, I read through them. Saint Ignatius’ excitement, even enthusiasm, for martyrdom, was striking and memorable:

Fire and cross and battles with wild beasts, mutilation, mangling, wrenching of bones, the hacking of limbs, the crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil—let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ! (St Ignatius’ Letter to the Romans 5:3)

This martyr begs the Roman Christians not to interfere with his impending martyrdom, but if they must, they should coax the beasts to devour him completely, that his body may not be left behind as a burden for anyone.

When I first encountered these words, the enthusiasm was contagious. As I return to them, it is their courage that strikes me. Here is a saint who knows that the only way to follow Jesus Christ is to take up one’s cross, which led St. Ignatius to his own death. His fear, however, is not of the wild beasts that will tear him apart and cause him pain. No, he worries that fellow Christians, well-intentioned perhaps, will “save” him from this cross. “For I am afraid of your love, in that it may do me wrong….I implore you: do not be unseasonably kind to me” (1.2, 4.1).

Violent martyrdom of this kind, especially enthusiasm for such, is often hard for us to swallow. It is not that we don’t hear the words of the Gospel: “Whoever wishes to follow me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt 16:24). Perhaps we have the same difficulty that Peter and the disciples had when Jesus first began predicting for them his coming Passion—Peter himself even tried to rebuke our Lord! We are happy to follow our Lord, but we fear the cross.

Saint Peter, of course, comes to understand, even enduring martyrdom himself, and perhaps it was St. Peter’s preaching that St. Ignatius heard in Antioch decades before his own martyrdom in Rome. So why are they no longer afraid of the cross, even eager to embrace it? Like St. Paul, they know that “the sufferings of the present time are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). Despite his enthusiasm, St. Ignatius is certainly not excited for mutilation, mangling, wrenching, and hacking for their own sake. No. He says, “Let these come upon me, only let me reach Jesus Christ!” The sufferings of the present are bearable because of the promise of Jesus, because through them, Jesus brings us to Himself.”

We MUST imitate Him in ALL things!!!!

Love & Martyrdom!!!!
Matthew

Oct 19/20 – St Paul of the Cross (1694-1775), Priest, Mystic, Founder of the Passionists

When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. ” -(Holy Bible, 1 Corinthians 2, 1-2)

“…but we preach Jesus crucified…”
-St Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1, 23)

St Vincent Strambi, Paul’s first biographer writing only 11 years after his death, stated that the Holy Spirit raised up Paul of the Cross to help people find God in their heart. Paul was convinced that God is most easily found by us in the Passion of Jesus Christ. He saw the Passion as being the most overwhelming sign of God’s love for us, and at the same time our best means for union with Him.

St Paul is most notable for his fervent love for God and his special devotion to the Passion of Jesus. Inspired and led by God, Paul travelled throughout Italy, preaching missions with a particular emphasis on the passion of Jesus. Along with his preaching vocation he was also inspired by God to found a order of Priests and Nuns devoted specifically to the Passion of Jesus. Thus, by the express will of God and through Paul’s continual prayers and sacrifices, he eventually became the founder and was elected the first Superior General of the “Congregation of Discalced Clerks of the Holy Cross and Passion of Our Lord”, more commonly known as the Passionists.

The devil, knowing in advance all the glory that the members of the Passionist Congregation would give to God, and of all the souls that would be snatched from him through their continual acts of sacrifice and penance, sought in earnest to inspire as much opposition as possible, in a hellish effort to block its foundation. And so it was that through many years of toil, sacrifices and sufferings that Paul, with the help of God, eventually founded the Passionist Congregation of Priests, and a few years later the Passionist Nuns.

Paul often spent many hours in prayer and adoration before Jesus crucified. Throughout his many travels while preaching missions and making foundations of his Passionist Order, he always carried with him a large wooden crucifix in honor of our Lord’s Passion, thus he became known by the popular name of “Paul of the Cross”. Undoubtedly the two greatest characteristics of St Paul were his fervent devotion to the Passion of Jesus and also his extraordinary sacrifices and penances that he made for the conversion of sinners.

Throughout his religious life, Paul continuously sacrificed and made special penances and mortification’s for the success of his preaching missions, that many souls may be converted. An example of his many penances was that he went barefoot in all his travels throughout Italy, regardless of the harsh seasons and climates. And God, Who was pleased with the heroic sacrifices and devotion of His servant, chose to perform countless extraordinary miracles through Paul’s intercession and prayers. As he went about doing good, the frequent extraordinary signs from heaven that accompanied him were a sign to all that God was with him in a most remarkable way. Like his holy predecessors the Apostles, immense crowds gathered and followed him as he went about preaching from town to town. His great love for God and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary radiated to the crowds with remarkable unction through both his words and his actions, thereby causing countless conversions everywhere he went. His austere manner of life, full of sacrifices and penances, encouraged the people to make reparation to God for their own sins.

St Paul of the Cross, pray for us!

Saint Paul of the Cross, originally named Paolo Francesco Danei, was born on 3 January 1694, in the town of Ovada, Piedmont, between Turin and Genoa in the Duchy of Savoy in northern Italy.

His parents were Luca and Anna Maria Massari Danei. His father ran a small dry-goods store, and moved his family and store from town to town near Genoa trying to make ends meet.[3] Paul was the second of sixteen children, six of whom survived infancy; and learned at an early age the reality of death and the uncertainty of life.[4] Paul received his early education from a priest who kept a school for boys, in Cremolino, Lombardy. He made great progress and at the age of fifteen he left school and returned to his home at Castellazzo. In his early years he taught catechism in churches near his home.

Paul experienced a conversion to a life of prayer at the age of 19. Influenced by his reading of the “Treatise on the Love of God” by Saint Francis de Sales and the direction he received from priests of the Capuchin Order it became his lifelong conviction that God is most easily found in the Passion of Christ.

In 1715, Paul left his work helping his father to join a crusade against the Turks who were threatening the Venetian Republic, but soon realized that the life of a soldier was not his calling. He returned to help in the family business. On his way home he stopped at Novello, where he helped an aging, childless couple until the end of 1716. They offered to make him their heir, but he declined. His uncle, Father Christopher Danei, tried to arrange a marriage, but Paul had no plans to marry. When his uncle died, he kept for himself only the priest’s Breviary.

When he was 26 years old, Paul had a series of prayer-experiences which made it clear to him that God was inviting him to form a community who would live an evangelical life and promote the love of God revealed in the Passion of Jesus. In a vision, he saw himself clothed in the habit he and his companions would wear: a long, black tunic on the front of which was a heart surmounted by a white cross, and in the heart was written “Passion of Jesus Christ”. On seeing it, he heard these words spoken to him: “This is to show how pure the heart must be that bears the holy name of Jesus graven upon it”. The first name Paul received for his community was “the Poor of Jesus”; later they came to be known as the Congregation of the Passion of Jesus Christ, or the Passionists.

With the encouragement of his bishop, who clothed him in the black habit of a hermit, Paul wrote the rule of his new community (of which he was, as yet, the only member) during a retreat of forty days at the end of 1720. The community was to live a penitential life, in solitude and poverty, teaching people in the easiest possible way how to meditate on the Passion of Jesus.

His first companion was his own brother, John Baptist. In the belief that it was necessary to reside in Rome in order to secure approval of the Rule, Paul and John Baptist accepted an invitation of Cardinal Corrandini to help establish a new hospital being founded by the Cardinal. The brothers devoted their energies to providing nursing care and ministered to the pastoral needs of both patients and staff.

After a short course in pastoral theology, the brothers were ordained to the priesthood by Pope Benedict XIII on 7 June 1727, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. After ordination they devoted themselves to preaching missions in parishes, particularly in remote country places where there were not a sufficient number of priests pastorally involved. Paul was known as one of the most popular preachers of his day, both for his words and for his generous acts of mercy. Their preaching apostolate and the retreats they gave in seminaries and religious houses brought their mission to the attention of others and gradually the community began to grow.

The first Retreat (the name Passionists traditionally gave to their monasteries) was opened in 1737 on Monte Argentario (Province of Grosseto); the community now had nine members. Paul called his monasteries “retreats” to underline the life of solitude and contemplation which he believed was necessary for someone who wished to preach the message of the Cross. In addition to the communal celebration of the divine office, members of his community were to devote at least three hours to contemplative prayer each day. The austerity of life practised by the first Passionists did not encourage large numbers, but Paul preferred a slow, at times painful, growth to something more spectacular.

More than two thousand of his letters, most of them letters of spiritual direction, have been preserved.

He died on 18 October 1775, at the Retreat of Saints John and Paul (SS. Giovanni e Paolo). By the time of his death, the congregation founded by Saint Paul of the Cross had one hundred and eighty fathers and brothers, living in twelve Retreats, mostly in the Papal States. There was also a monastery of contemplative sisters in Corneto (today known as Tarquinia), founded by Paul a few years before his death to promote the memory of the Passion of Jesus by their life of prayer and penance.

“I want to set myself on fire with love…I want to be entirely on fire with love…and I want to know how to sing in the fire of love.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Look upon the face of the Crucified, Who invites you to follow Him. He will be a Father, Mother–everything to you.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Oh Love, oh fire of charity; how powerful You are!”-St Paul of the Cross

“I enjoy remaining on the Cross. How beautiful it is to suffer for Jesus!”…..”I rejoice in the nails that hold me crucified.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Ah, my Supreme Good. What were the sentiments of your Sacred Heart when You were scourged? My beloved Spouse, how greatly did the sight of my grievous sins and my ingratitude afflict You! Oh, my only Love, why do I not die for You? Why am I not overwhelmed with sorrow? And then I feel that sometimes my spirit can say no more but remains thus in God with His sufferings infused into the soul- and sometimes it seems as if my heart would break.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Your crosses dear God, are the joy of my heart. How beautiful to suffer with Jesus!”-St Paul of the Cross

“I hope that God will save me through the merits of the Passion of Jesus. The more difficulties in life, the more I hope in God. By God’s grace I will not lose my soul, but I hope in His mercy.”-St Paul of the Cross

“I am a bottomless pit and deserve no light, so unworthy am I.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Christ Crucified is a work of love. The miracle of miracles of love. The most stupendous work of the love of God. The bottomless sea of the love of God, where virtues are found, where one can lose oneself in love and sorrow. A sea and a fire or a sea of fire. The most beneficial means of abandoning sin and growing in virtue, and so in holiness.”-St Paul of the Cross

“At holy Communion I had much sweetness. My dear God gave me infused knowledge of the joy which the soul will have when we see Him face to face, when we will be united with Him in holy love. Then I felt sorrow to see Him offended and I told Him that I would willingly be torn to pieces for a single soul. Indeed, I felt that I would die when I saw the loss of so many souls who do not experience the fruit of the Passion of Jesus.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Oh my Love, what happened to Your heart in the Garden! Oh, what suffering; what shedding of blood! What bitter agony, and all for me!”.-St Paul of the Cross

“I felt pain in seeing my dear God so offended. I could faint from seeing so many souls lost for not feeling the fruit of the Passion of Jesus. A desire to convert all sinners will not leave me.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Oh good Jesus, how swollen, bruised, and defiled with spittle do I behold Thy countenance! O my Love! Why do I see Thee all covered with wounds? Oh infinite sweetness, why are Your bones laid bare? Ah, what sufferings! What sorrows! O my God, why are You all wounded? Ah, dear sufferings! Dear wounds! I wish to keep you always in my heart.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Oh Jesus, my Love, may my heart be consumed in loving Thee; make me humble and holy; give me childlike simplicity; transform me into thy holy love. O Jesus, life of my life, joy of my soul, God of my heart, accept my heart as an altar, on which I will sacrifice to Thee the gold of ardent charity, the incense of continual, humble and fervent prayer, and the myrrh of constant sacrifices! Amen.”-St Paul of the Cross

“The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus, which are the miracle of miracles of the Love of God.”-St Paul of the Cross

“Oh my good God, how gentle You are! How sweet You are! Oh dear cross, I embrace you and press you to my heart!”-St Paul of the Cross

“We ought to glory in nothing other than the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are blessed and don’t know it. You have Jesus Crucified with you.”-St Paul of the Cross

“I place all of my hope and confidence in the Passion of Jesus. Our Lord knows well that I have laboured all of my life to love Him myself, and to make others love Him” –St Paul of the Cross during a serious illness

“Remember that your soul is a temple of the living God. The kingdom of God is within you. Night and day let your aim be to remain in simplicity and gentleness, calmness and serenity so that you will find your joy in the Lord Jesus. Love silence and solitude even when in the midst of a crowd or when caught up in your work. Physical solitude is a good thing, provided that it is backed up by prayer. But far better than this is solitude of the heart, the interior desert in which your spirit can become immersed in God.
-St. Paul of the Cross

“The service of God does not require good words and good desires, but efficient workmanship, fervor and courage.” – Saint Paul of the Cross

“Build an oratory within yourself, and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. Speak to Him often while you are doing your work. Speak to Him of His holy love, of His holy sufferings and of the sorrows of most holy Mary.”
— St Paul of the Cross

“Oh my God! teach me how to express myself. I wish that I were all aflame with love! More than that: I wish that I could sing hymns of praise in the fire of love and extol the marvelous mercies that uncreated Love has bestowed on us! Do you know what consoles me somewhat? To know that our great God is an infinite good and that nobody is capable of loving and praising Him as much as He deserves.” -St Paul of the Cross

“When you feel the assaults of passion and anger, then is the time to be silent as Jesus was silent in the midst of His ignominies and sufferings.” -St Paul of the Cross

“Beginners in the service of God sometimes lose confidence when they fall into any fault. When you feel so unworthy a sentiment rising within you, you must lift your heart to God and consider that all your faults, compared with divine goodness, are less than a bit of tattered thread thrown into a sea of fire. Suppose that the whole horizon, as far as you can see from this mountain, were a sea of fire; if we cast into it a bit of tattered thread, it will disappear in an instant. So, when you have committed a fault, humble yourself before God, and cast your fault into the infinite ocean of, charity, and at once it will be effaced from your soul; at the same time all distrust will disappear.” -St Paul of the Cross

“I hope that God will save me through the merits of the Passion of Jesus. The more difficulties in life, the more I hope in God. By God’s grace, I will not lose my soul, but I hope in His mercy.” -St Paul of the Cross

“Be thankful for your precious trials, both interior, and exterior; it is thus that the garden of Jesus is adorned with flowers, that is, with acts of virtue!” -St Paul of the Cross

“The more deeply the cross penetrates, the better; the more deprived of consolation that your suffering is, the purer it will be; the more creatures oppose us, the more closely shall we be united to God.” -St Paul of the Cross

“What an honor God confers on us when He calls us to travel the same road as His divine Son!” -St Paul of the Cross

“Sickness is a great grace of God; it teaches us what we are; in it, we recognize the patient, humble, and mortified man. When sickness weakens and mortifies the body, the soul is better disposed to raise herself up to God.” -St Paul of the Cross

“Therefore, be constant in practicing every virtue, and especially in imitating the patience of our dear Jesus, for this is the summit of pure love. Live in such a way that all may know that you bear outwardly as well as inwardly the image of Christ crucified, the model of all gentleness and mercy. For if a man is united inwardly with the Son of the living God, he also bears His likeness outwardly by his continual practice of heroic goodness, and especially through a patience reinforced by courage, which does not complain either secretly or in public. Conceal yourselves in Jesus crucified, and hope for nothing except that all men be thoroughly converted to His will.” -St Paul of the Cross

“Do not live any longer in yourself, but let Jesus Christ live in you in such a way that the virtue of this Divine Savior may be resplendent in all your actions, in order that all may see in you a true portrait of the Crucified and sense the sweetest fragrance of the holy virtues of the Lord, in interior and exterior modesty, in patience, in gentleness, suffering, charity, humility, and in all others that follow.” -St Paul of the Cross

O’ glorious Saint Paul of the Cross, you were chosen by God to profess to all of humanity the bitter sufferings of His only-begotten Son, and to spread devotion to the Passion of Jesus throughout the world.

By your preaching and holy example Jesus converted thousands of sinners through you by bringing them to the foot of the Cross to repent of their sins, thereby obtaining for them His infinite forgiveness and mercy! May Jesus be blessed for His extraordinary grace that was so often made present in your life, and for the many miracles He worked through you for the conversion of souls!

O’ blessed St Paul of the Cross, turning towards you now I ask that from your place with Jesus and Mary in heaven that you may look mercifully upon my poor soul and hear my prayers, and with all of your love humbly present them to Jesus for me.

Obtain for me also a great love of Jesus suffering, that by frequent meditation on His Passion I may take up my own cross and accept with holy resignation the sufferings that God has permitted in my life. Help me to suffer and to sacrifice in union with Jesus for the conversion of my poor soul, the souls of my loved ones, and for all of humanity. Help me to love Jesus and Mary with all of my heart, and intercede for me that I may, by the grace of God, die a holy death, and come at last to enjoy with you the blessed Presence of Jesus and Mary in Heaven for all of eternity.

May the Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us Your grace, O Lord, so that, urged on more strongly by his example, we may each embrace our own cross with courage. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

May Your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Love & His Passion,
Matthew

Palm Sunday, 3/31/1146 – St Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Mellifluous, preaches the Second Crusade


-“St. Bernard Preaching the Second Crusade in Vezelay”, 1840 (oil on canvas), Signol, Emile (1804-1892)

Now is a time for holiness and saints within the Church. Would that we had a Bernard now to preach a Crusade of Holiness. It has often been the case, when the Church has faced its greatest crises, its greatest saints have arisen.

“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.” -Joel 2:13

-by Hugh O’Reilly

“Born in 1091, died in 1153, made Abbot of Clairvaux in 1115, St. Bernard exercised strong influence on 12th century Europe. When the Crusader State of Edessa fell in 1144, Pope Eugene III, who himself had been a monk in Clairvaux, called on his spiritual father to preach a Second Crusade to bring succor for the distressed condition of the Holy Land.

Abbot Bernard girded on the sword of the Divine Word and inspired many for the overseas Crusade.

This is one of his most famous speeches, preached at Vezelay, a little city of Burgundy, on Palm Sunday, March 31, 1146. The orator of the Crusade preached on a large tribune on the side of a hill outside the gates of the city. With King Louis VII of France in his royal robes present, St. Bernard first read the letters of the Sovereign Pontiff calling for a Crusade, then made this plea to arms to the large crowd that had gathered there to hear his words:

“How can you not know that we live in a period of chastisement and ruin? The enemy of mankind has caused the breath of corruption to fly over all regions; we behold nothing but unpunished wickedness. Neither the laws of men nor the laws of religion have sufficient power to check the depravity of customs and the triumph of the wicked. The demon of heresy has taken possession of the chair of truth, and God has sent forth His malediction upon His sanctuary.

“Oh, ye who listen to me, hasten then to appease the anger of Heaven. But no longer implore His goodness by vain complaints; clothe not yourselves in sackcloth, but cover yourselves with your impenetrable bucklers. The din of arms, the dangers, the labors, the fatigues of war are the penances that God now imposes upon you. Hasten then to expiate your sins by victories over the infidels, and let the deliverance of holy places be the reward of your repentance.

“If it were announced to you that the enemy had invaded your cities, your castles, your lands; had ravished your wives and your daughters and profaned your temples – who among you would not fly to arms? Well, then, all these calamities, and calamities still greater, have fallen upon your brethren, upon the family of Jesus Christ, which is yours. Why do you hesitate to repair so many evils; to revenge so many outrages? Will you allow the infidels to contemplate in peace the ravages they have committed on Christian people?

“Remember that their triumph will be a subject for grief to all ages and an eternal opprobrium upon the generation that has endured it. Yes, the living God has charged me to announce to you that He will punish them who shall not have defended Him against His enemies.

“Fly then to arms! Let a holy ire animate you in the fight, and let the Christian world resound with these words of the prophet, ‘Cursed be he who does not stain his sword with blood!’ “If the Lord calls you to the defense of His heritage think not that His hand has lost its power. Could He not send twelve Legions of Angels or breathe one word and all His enemies would crumble away into dust? But God has considered the sons of men, to open for them the road to His mercy. His goodness has caused to dawn for you a day of safety by calling on you to avenge His glory and His name.

“Christian warriors, He Who gave His life for you, today demands yours in return. These are combats worthy of you, combats in which it is glorious to conquer and advantageous to die. Illustrious knights, generous defenders of the Cross, remember the example of your fathers, who conquered Jerusalem, and whose names are inscribed in Heaven. Abandon then the things that perish, to gather unfading palms and conquer a Kingdom that has no end.”

All the barons and knights applauded the eloquence of St. Bernard and were persuaded that he uttered the will of God. Louis VII, deeply moved by the words he had heard, cast himself at the feet of St. Bernard and demanded the Cross. Then, clothed with this sign, he exhorted all those present to follow his example.

The hill upon which this vast multitude was assembled resounded for a long period of time with the cries of Deus vult! Deus vult! (God wills it). Then, many counts and a crowd of barons and knights followed the example of the King. Several Bishops threw themselves at the feet of St. Bernard, taking the oath to fight against the infidels.

The crosses that the Abbot of Clairvaux had brought were not sufficient for the great number who asked for them. He tore his vestments to make more.

To preserve the memory of this day, Pons, abbot of Vèzelay, founded upon the hill where the knights and barons had assembled a Church that he dedicated to the Holy Cross. The tribune upon which St. Bernard had preached the Crusade remained there a long time, the object of the veneration of the faithful.”

Today, a cross marks the spot on the hill in Vèzelay where Bernard preached.

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise Him, all ye people.

For His merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.” -Psalm 117

Love,
Matthew

Oct 15 – Preachers & Mystics

I have been reading a great deal about Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, recently.


-by Br Juan Macias Marquez, OP

“In recalling today’s feast of the glorious and spirited reformer St. Teresa of Avila, I can’t help but recall, as a Dominican myself, the great gifts that the Order of Preachers and the Carmelites together have given to the Church. This is particularly noted in the interaction between the intellectual contributions of the Dominicans and the mystical legacy of the Carmelites.

One of the most dynamic engagements between the two Orders began in Spain’s famed siglo de oro, the Golden Age. During this period, Spain experienced an incredible flourishing in nearly all of the liberal arts and also a revival in philosophical and theological Scholasticism and Catholic mysticism. Catholic Spain had become arguably the stronghold of the Faith after the onset of the Reformation, especially with the unification of the peninsula by los Reyes Católicos, Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. As a result, an orthodox and vibrant Catholic renewal was fostered. With regards to the intellectual life, the Dominican Francisco de Vitoria helped establish the historic tradition of academic excellence and made expansive developments in law and philosophy at the school of Salamanca. After him would come many learned friar preachers, like Domingo de Soto and Domingo Bañez, seeking to preach not only to Spaniards but to all those they might meet in the New World.

In mysticism, we find the two chief figures, both Carmelites, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. These two legendary reformers were for the most part not directly involved with the schoolmen but neither were they far removed from them. Their culture still retained a dogged commitment to the medieval understanding of the integral nature of the Catholic life; one did not separate intellectual study and the mystical life with as strong a tendency as is common today. For example, St. Teresa herself was a voracious reader, and she was not afraid to make this known, which was bold for a woman in the sixteenth century. In addition, she insisted that her sisters “go from time to time beyond their ordinary confessors and talk about their souls with persons of learning, especially if the confessors, though good men, have no learning; for learning is a great help in giving light upon everything” (The Way of Perfection, Ch. 5). Especially as the reformer of the Carmelite monasteries, she knew that establishing a firm intellectual foundation grounded in the font of the Church’s wisdom would be necessary if her reform was going to perdure. She would pick, for a large portion of her life, a succession of Dominican confessors and advisors trained in the rigorous intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas. The most famous of those that St. Teresa sought out was the aforementioned Domingo Bañez. He was her confessor for six years and her advisor off and on for many more.

Jumping ahead a few centuries, we stumble upon a daughter of the holy Mother Teresa, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity. It was not the case for St. Elizabeth that she sought out a Dominican confessor or director, but it happened that Divine Providence allotted her one. The preaching of Fr. Irénée Vallée, a popular Dominican preacher in France at the time, captivated her, becoming one of the catalysts for her deep growth in the spiritual life. Saint Elizabeth spent a meager twenty-six years on this earth, so the development of her interior life happened rather quickly. Many of her writings attest to the great advances she made in the understanding of divine mysteries as a result of the doctrine she learned from Fr. Valleé. The friar also was edified by the future saint. He readily refers to her as his daughter. So, here too we see a similar edifying relationship between a Dominican spiritual director and a Carmelite nun.

The last mention goes to the great spiritual master of the twentieth century, Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange. Father Lagrange is arguably most well known for his project of fusing the thought of St. John of the Cross and St. Thomas Aquinas in his spiritual theology. He recognized the obvious foundations of St. John’s mystical theology on Thomistic principles and thought that he could reunite these disciplines, which were becoming more and more disparate in modern times. He wanted to prove that the serious Christian could find spiritual nourishment in rigorous Scholasticism and the mystical tradition. In his project, Fr. Lagrange shows the fecundity of the relationship between the charisms of the two Orders.

In this fallen world, harmonious things often become separated over time. The saints and theologians mentioned above are a refreshing witness to the power of collaboration for the building up and unification of God’s kingdom. Let us, then, call upon St. Teresa of Avila to help us to live more fruitful, unified lives in the mystical body of Christ.”

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.

Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks with
Compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

Love,
Matthew

“As YOU will…” -Mt 26:39


-by Br Raymond LaGrange, OP

“There are many fascinating stories about St. Catherine of Siena. She once almost got her head cut off. Another time, she caught the head of someone else just after it was cut off. Jesus literally removed her heart and replaced it with is own; she had the scars to prove it. Demons obeyed her. Popes sought her counsel. Jesus taught her to write. She even gave up wine as a child. The list goes on.

Those accustomed to history may see this as another list of fanciful legends which time has attached to a real name. But what is unique about St. Catherine’s hagiography is that her life was written by her spiritual director, Bl. Raymond of Capua, who lived, worked, and suffered alongside her for six years. This makes his autobiography a vivid testimony to a remarkable saint. His work comes alive in unique and gripping ways.

One of the more powerful themes in Bl. Raymond’s writing is that of Catherine’s extreme devotion. Every waking moment of hers, ill or healthy, alone or with others, was devoted to God. Sometimes this took the form of tireless service to neighbor, sometimes of ecstatic prayer, sometimes of preaching. Through it all she was permeated with a positive desire to suffer for the good of God’s kingdom. She was so distressed by the sin in the world that she would suffer anything alongside Jesus so as to join in his redemptive passion.

One of my favorite stories about her is one that, unfortunately, I seldom hear told. Bl. Raymond recounts for us a conversation he had with her about Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane. She explained to him that Jesus from the moment of his conception was perfect, and so always desired, with everything he had, to complete his mission, up to and including his passion and death. This desire, while unfulfilled, led to an immense suffering. When he prayed in Gethsemane, “Let this cup pass from me” (Mt 26:39), he was not asking for a reprieve from death, but rather, that the agony of his incomplete mission might be removed soon, by his final passion. But, in obedience, he accepted whatever timing the Father might choose, adding “But not what I will, but what you will” (Mt 26:39). In St. Catherine’s view, Jesus’ pain stemmed not from a fear of death, but from the very opposite, from his having something more to suffer.

Catherine’s desire to suffer for God was so great that she could see in Jesus a desire only to drain his cup of suffering by completing God’s plan. In her mind, Jesus, as a man, could never have desired to leave the cup undrunk. We can imagine both Jesus and Catherine thinking no thought that was not directed to their final goal, ready to face all obstacles in order to suffer what must be suffered. I hesitate to pass judgment over the validity of the exegesis, but it certainly shows a remarkable woman.

Raymond himself was incredulous when she told this to him. He explained to her how all the doctors interpreted it, that Jesus was, as a man, naturally afraid of death, and that he spoke on behalf of all the elect in order to encourage them. Catherine only answered that Scripture can speak to the weak and the strong in different ways, appropriate to each. The interpretation that made sense to Catherine was one of a Jesus who desired to suffer. But Scripture speaks to everyone. Raymond recounts that he was then silenced by her wisdom. The story had a similar effect on me.

You can learn a lot about someone from what they think of Jesus. For this reason, I think this story holds a high place in understanding St. Catherine. It may not be as exciting as some of her escapades across fourteenth century Europe; it may seem less heroic than her grand acts of mortification. But it deserves a higher place than it has received amidst all the stories of saints that dwell in popular memory, decorating religion classes and homilies and children’s books. St. Catherine, pray for us!”

Love, pray for me that I may accept His will,
Matthew

Oct 25 – Sts Chrysanthus & Daria of Rome, (d. 283 AD), Husband & Wife, Martyrs – reading your way into the Church

I have heard in my “travels” of the evangelistic kind, of adults converting to Catholicism by “reading their way into the Church”. Hence, this blog. All is grace.

-by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

“Saint Chrysanthus is one of the many who have experienced how useful and beneficial is the reading of devout books, especially the Gospel. He was born of heathen parents. Polemius his father, stood so high with the emperor, that he was raised to the dignity of a Senator. Chrysanthus’ greatest pleasure was reading; and one day, by special Providence, the Gospel fell into his hands. He read it through most attentively; but not being able to comprehend it, he secretly requested a Christian to explain it to him. This Christian procured him an opportunity to speak to Carpophorus, a holy and very learned priest, who explained to him all he desired to know, and, with the divine assistance, succeeded so well, that Chrysanthus recognized the falsity of the heathen gods, as well as the truth of the Christian religion, and having been properly instructed, he received holy baptism. After this, he appeared no more at the heathen theatres and sacrifices, but associated with Christians, which awakened in his father the suspicion that his son either desired to adopt the faith of Christ, or perhaps was already enrolled among the number of the faithful.


-statue of Saint Chysanthus, Catholic Parish of Saints Chysanthus and Daria, Welcherath, Germany

He called him to account, and as Chrysanthus fearlessly confessed the truth, the angry father cast him into a damp and dark prison, determined to let him die there of hunger. As, however, after a few days, he found him as strong as ever, and as firm in confessing Christ as he had been before, he resorted to other and more horrible means to compel him to forsake Christ. He confined him in a room most luxuriously fitted up, and sent several wicked young women to tempt him, believing that this would be the easiest manner of bringing him back to idolatry. When the first of these women entered, and the chaste Chrysanthus became aware of her intention, he cried loudly to God for assistance, most solemnly declaring that he would much rather die than offend Him. He endeavored to flee, but the room was locked. Hence he did all that was possible under the circumstances. He turned his face away, shut his eyes and closed his ears with both hands, while he continued to pray to the mighty God for assistance. His prayers went to heaven; for the woman was suddenly seized with so invincible a drowsiness, that she sank to the floor, and was carried out of the room. The same happened to the second and the third; and the Saint, recognizing the hand of the Almighty in it, gave due thanks to heaven.

Polemius, however, ascribed it all to witchcraft, and sought in another manner to compass his design. He persuaded Daria, a virgin consecrated to the service of Minerva, to marry his son, in order to draw him gradually away from the Christian faith and bring him back to the gods. Daria consented, and Polemius bringing her to Chrysanthus, introduced her as his future spouse. Chrysanthus, conversing for some time alone with her, told her that he was a Christian, and making her acquainted with the reasons which had induced him to become converted, he succeeded, by the grace of God, in making her promise to embrace the true faith. Not satisfied with this, he explained to her how priceless a treasure chastity is, adding that he was determined to preserve it unspotted. He also said to her that he was willing to marry her, to give her the opportunity of becoming a Christian, but only if she was willing that they should live in perpetual continence. Daria consented cheerfully, after which Chrysanthus announced to his father that he was ready to make Daria his wife.


-statue of Saint Daria of Rome, Catholic Parish of Saints Chysanthus and Daria, Welcherath, Germany

Polemius, greatly rejoiced, ordered a splendid wedding, after which the newly-married couple lived as they had agreed upon, in virginal chastity. Soon after, Daria was secretly baptized, and endeavored to lead an edifying life with her spouse. Both assisted, to the best of their ability, the oppressed Christians, and also used every opportunity to bring the infidels to the knowledge of the true God. For a time they were not molested; but when, at length, Celerinus, the Governor, was informed of their conduct; he gave Claudius, the Praetor, orders to investigate the matter. Hence, Chrysanthus was brought into the Temple of Jupiter to sacrifice to the idols, after the manner of the pagans. As he refused to do this, he was scourged so dreadfully, that he doubtless would have died, had not God preserved him by a miracle. After this, he was dragged, laden with heavy chains, into a dark hole, into which all the sewers of the prison emptied. Being locked up in this foul place, the holy man called on the Almighty, and suddenly the darkness around him gave away to a heavenly light; a delicious odor filled the air, and he was freed from his heavy chains. Claudius, in consequence of this and other miracles, desired to be baptized, with his wife, Hilaria, his two sons, Maurus and Jason, and seventy soldiers who were under his command. The emperor was greatly enraged when this news was reported to him, and ordered Claudius drowned, Hilaria hanged, and Maurus and Jason beheaded.

Meanwhile, Daria also was imprisoned on account of her belief in the Christian faith. She evinced, however, no less fortitude than her holy spouse. She was taken into a house of ill-repute to be a prey to wicked men. Daria, in this danger, called on the great protector of the innocent, and God caused a lion to break from his place of confinement and come running to her, as if to guard her from all harm. When the first man entered the room where the chaste virgin was, the lion seized him, threw him to the ground, and then looked up to Daria, as if to ask her whether he should kill him or not. The tender martyr helped the trembling youth to rise, and reproaching him for his wickedness, she exhorted him to do penance, and succeeded in persuading him to become a Christian. The same happened to two others, who, like the first, left her converted. The tyrant raged when he heard of it, and commanded fire to be set to the room in which Daria was, that she might be burnt with the lion. When the fire was kindled, Daria made the sign of the holy cross over her protector, the lion, and sent him away through the flames uninjured. She herself also remained unharmed, though the room was burnt to ashes. Many other miracles were wrought by her and by Saint Chrysanthus, in consequence of which a great many heathens were converted. At last, both were sentenced to be thrown into a deep sand pit outside the city, near the Via Salaria Nova where, covered with stones and sand, they were buried alive, in the year 283 AD.


-The Martyrdom of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria of Rome; Menologion of Basil II, Menologion of Basileiou; 11th century illuminated Byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures; Vatican Library; Italy

Considerations

Saint Chrysanthus shut his eyes and closed his ears with both hands, that he might not see nor hear those who had been sent to tempt him. Oh! how wisely he acted! Numberless persons have fallen into vice and have been precipitated into hell, because they did not guard their eyes from gazing on dangerous persons and objects; or because they listened to flatteries or to impure words and songs. Death came upon them through eyes and ears, like a thief through the window. If they had turned their eyes away and closed their ears, if they had left those who spoke immodestly and sang lascivious songs, they would not have become guilty of sin, and would not have been cast into the depth of hell. The pious king David would not have fallen, if he had not been careless in the use of his eyes. And where would he be, if he had not done penance? The beginning of the misfortunes which assailed the strong Samson, and which ended in his death, was his gazing upon Delilah. Sichem, a noble prince, was tempted to sin, as we are told in Holy Writ, by looking upon the imprudent Dina, and being soon after murdered, was cast into hell. We omit innumerable others whose ruin began in the same manner. Each of these shall cry out, during all eternity: “My eye,” (my ear) “has wasted my soul” (Lament iii.). Imprudent looking about and listening robbed them of their innocence, their piety, the grace and friendship of God, and at last, of salvation. If you do not wish to experience the same, keep your eyes, your ears, and in fact all your senses under control. “Hedge in thy ears with thorns,” admonishes the Wise Man, “hear not a wicked tongue.” (Eccl., xxviii.) “Those who listen voluntarily to sinful speeches, give death permission to enter through the window,” writes Saint Theodore. “The eyes are the leaders of sin,” says Saint Jerome. “To preserve purity of heart, it is necessary to keep a guard over our exterior senses,” says Saint Gregory.

Saint Chrysanthus and Saint Daria were thrown into the greatest danger to sin. They were tempted, but without their fault. They resisted, called on God, and did all in their power not to yield, and God protected them from consenting to do wrong. As these Saints were subjected to exterior temptations, so are many souls tempted interiorly; some through their own fault, others without the reproach of the slightest guilt. To the former belong those who spend their time in idleness; who are intemperate in eating and drinking; who neglect prayer and other good works; who, without reason, seek dangerous company, assist at indecent plays, read unchaste or sensational books; who look at persons immodestly dressed or at unclean pictures; who like to listen to, or indulge in improper jests, or songs; who play indecent games; delight in wanton dances and amusements; make friends and acquaintances of persons of little or no virtue; in short, those who in their manners and actions, dispense with Christian modesty. All these can blame only themselves when they suffer from unclean temptations; they themselves give occasion to them. But there are many who, though they avoid all this, are still violently tempted, as was the case with many Saints in this world. These are not to be blamed for their temptations, as they have not, by their conduct, occasioned them.

The former have every reason to fear that they will commit great sins in consequence of the temptations which they themselves have caused; for it is written: “He that loveth the danger, shall perish in it.” (Eccl., iii.) No one will believe such people when they say that they are sorry to be troubled by such temptations. If this is the truth, why then do they give occasion to them? To imagine that these temptations can easily be overcome, without the divine assistance, is presumption; for, God has nowhere promised His aid to those who throw themselves into danger. They are not worthy of it. What else then, can they expect but that they will frequently fall into sin, and finally into hell? Quite differently must those be judged who are tempted without their own fault. If they do all they can, and pray to God for help, they will not be overcome, but may be assured that the Almighty will assist them, as they manifest their love and fidelity to Him by avoiding everything that may lead them into temptation. And who can believe that God will forsake His faithful servants in their fight?

For the two Saints, whose festival we celebrate today, and for many others, He worked miracles to protect them in their danger. Hence, never give occasion to temptations; and if they nevertheless assail you, trust in God; call on Him, and resist bravely. The whole of hell will be unable to conquer you; for, the Almighty will be your protector. “He is a protector of all who trust in Him.” (Psalm xvii.) “He is a protector in the time of trouble, and the Lord will help and deliver them.” (Psalm xxxvi.)”

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In 2008 the Reggio Emilia Cathedral in Modena in Northern Italy faced renovations. The workers discovered more than 300 bones belonging to two skeletons in one of the sealed crypts. The skulls were packed inside a pair of silver-and-gold busts deep in a cathedral vault. The relics of Daria & Chrysanthus were venerated and displayed. Carbon dating showed they belonged to a young man and a young woman in their late teens with a radiocarbon date between AD 80 and AD 340.


-the skull of Daria


-Daria


-before the altar

Love,
Matthew

Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Love: The Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena

Transcendentals

The transcendentals (Latin: transcendentalia) are the properties of being that correspond to three aspects of the human field of interest and are their ideals; science (truth), the arts (beauty) and religion (goodness). Philosophical disciplines that study them are logic, aesthetics and ethics…

…In the Middle Ages, Catholic philosophers elaborated the thought that there exist transcendentals (transcendentalia) and that they transcended each of the ten Aristotelian categories. A doctrine of the transcendentality of the good was formulated by Albert the Great. His pupil, Saint Thomas Aquinas, posited five transcendentals: res, unum, aliquid, bonum, verum; or “thing”, “one”, “something”, “good”, and “true”. Saint Thomas derives the five explicitly as transcendentals, though in some cases he follows the typical list of the transcendentals consisting of the One, the Good, and the True. The transcendentals are ontologically one and thus they are convertible: e.g., where there is truth, there is beauty and goodness, also.

In Christian theology the transcendentals are treated in relation to theology proper, the doctrine of God. The transcendentals, according to Christian doctrine, can be described as the ultimate desires of man. Man ultimately strives for perfection, which takes form through the desire for perfect attainment of the transcendentals. The Catholic Church teaches that God is Himself truth, goodness, and beauty, as indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Each transcends the limitations of place and time, and is rooted in being. The transcendentals are not contingent upon cultural diversity, religious doctrine, or personal ideologies, but are the objective properties of all that exists.
-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendentals

“…(Catherine is a) permanent source of refreshment to the human spirit. She intuitively perceived life under the highest possible forms, the forms of Beauty and Love. Truth and Goodness were, she thought, means for the achievement of those two supreme ends. The sheer beauty of the soul “in a state of Grace” is a point on which she constantly dwells, hanging it as a bait before those whom she would induce to turn from evil. Similarly the ugliness of sin, as much as its wickedness, should warn us of its true nature. Love, that love of (hu)man for (hu)man which, in deepest truth, is, in the words of the writer of the First Epistle of St. John, God Himself, is, at once, the highest achievement of man and his supreme and satisfying beatitude. The Symbols of Catholic theology were to her the necessary and fitting means of transit, so to speak. …the fine allegory of the Bridge of the Sacred Humanity, of the soul in viâ on its dusty pilgrimage toward those gleaming heights of vision. “Truth” was to her the handmaid of the spiritualized imagination, not, as too often in these days of the twilight of the soul, its tyrant and its gaoler. Many of those who pass lives of unremitting preoccupation with the problems of truth and goodness are wearied and cumbered with much serving. We honor them, and rightly; but if they have nothing but this to offer us, our hearts do not run to meet them, as they fly to the embrace of those rare souls who inhabit a serener, more pellucid atmosphere. Among these spirits of the air, St. Catherine has taken a permanent and foremost place. She is among the few guides of humanity who have the perfect manner, the irresistible attractiveness, of that positive purity of heart, which not only sees God, but diffuses Him, as by some natural law of refraction, over the hearts of men. The Divine nuptials, about which the mystics tell us so much, have been accomplished in her, Nature and Grace have lain down together, and the mysteries of her religion seem but the natural expression of a perfectly balanced character, an unquenchable love and a deathless will.
-St. Catherine of Siena (2013-07-31T23:58:59). The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena (with Supplemental Reading: Catholic Prayers) [Illustrated] (Kindle Locations 438-454). TAN Books. Kindle Edition.

Love, Beauty, Goodness, Truth,
Matthew

Fire within – St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church

“Because there is a crucial connection in the divine plan between advanced prayer and generous suffering, we may not omit to mention the extraordinary continuity and number of physical illnesses that beset Teresa from about the age of twenty until her death at sixty-seven. While most writers dealing with the teresian account of contemplation may see no particular significance in the saint’s sicknesses, spiritual direction over the years has taught this observer that there is a close correlation between suffering well and growth in prayer depth. Of itself, of course, suffering improves no one, for a person can become bitter in his woes. But trials borne with love and in union with the crucified Beloved make one grow by leaps and bounds. I have noticed this connection over and over through the years. Students of contemplation must attend to what cannot be coincidental, namely, that this woman who reached the heights of contemplative prayer also descended to the inner abyss of pain. From her early twenties Teresa was in daily discomfort, sometimes in agony.3 She suffered from fevers, tinnitus and a serious heart condition. So grave were some of her afflictions that she “always nearly lost consciousness” and sometimes completely lost it.4 Early in her autobiography she tells us that her heart pains were so severe that she felt she was near death: “For sometimes it seemed that sharp teeth were biting into me . . . because of nausea I wasn’t able to eat anything.” Teresa was so shriveled and wasted away from a daily purge prescribed for her that she considered her nerves to be shrinking, and she said this caused “unbearable pains”. All hope was given up for her life, because in addition to her heart problem she was also tubercular. This last diagnosis did not bother Teresa much because the “bitter torment” of her other problems had already drained and exhausted her. She added that the latter “were like one continuous entity throughout my whole body”.5 A little further on she noted that she was “almost never, in my opinion, without many pains, and sometimes very severe ones, especially in the heart”.6 In a letter to Don Antonio Gaytan she observed that “I was going to say I am well, because, when I have nothing the matter beyond my usual ailments, that is good health for me.”7 From a mere factual point of view one must marvel at what this woman accomplished in her supremely busy life and how it was that she lived as long as she did, for while she lacked the skilled medical treatment of our century, she by no means pampered her body.

Eyewitness accounts agree that throughout her life, from her early teens to mature age, Teresa of Avila had a remarkable impact on people. Though she made no effort to achieve notoriety, as a young woman she became a celebrity. At the Incarnation convent, the important people of Avila who frequented the parlors (apparently as a pastime and for spiritual edification) considered this nun the number-one attraction because of her charm and intelligence and holy conversation. When later during her travels she began to speak at rest stops on the road, the men who cared for the carts and the animals stopped their swearing and quarreling because they preferred hearing about God from her to indulging in their customary pastimes.8 Her persuasive force was such that she transformed an everyday Catholic, none other than her own father,9 into a mystic. One can only be amazed that, in a century hardly known for feminism, a nun could have exercised so strong an influence over men. She was authorized by Rubeo, the master general of the Carmelite Order, to found reformed houses of men, and she gave the discalced habit to St. John of the Cross. She was spiritual director to her married brother Lorenzo, who not surprisingly became a mystic himself, and to at least one bishop. Men had so great a trust in her person and her judgment that they would give her large sums of money to use as she saw fit. About this she confided to Lorenzo that “people have such a blind confidence in me—I don’t know how they can do such things”.10

-Dubay, Fr. Thomas (2009-12-16T22:58:59). Fire Within (Kindle Locations 336-362). Ignatius Press. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

3 Testimony 58, no. 16, p. 353.
4 Life, chaps. 3 and 4, pp. 38-45.
5 Ibid., chap. 5, nos. 7-8, p. 49.
6 Ibid., chap. 7, no. 11, p. 60. See also Marcelle Auclair, Teresa of Avila (New York: Doubleday, Image edition, 1961), pp. 73-74, for a more detailed description of one of these frightful illnesses.
7 Letter 57, p. 144.
8 E. Allison Peers tells us that Ana reports this “from their own mouths”. See his introduction to the Book of Foundations, vol. 3, p. xii.
9 Auclair, p. 77.
10 Letter 19, p. 75.