Category Archives: Theology

Nov 28 – St James of the Marche, OFM (1394-1476) – The Virtue of Fortitude

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-St James of the Marche,~1625 AD, by Francisco Zuraban, oil on canvas, Height: 291 cm (114.6 in). Width: 165 cm (65 in), Prado Museum

The self-inflicted wound is always the dearest (most costly).  I am well acquainted.  Well acquainted.

I LOOOOOOOOVE BEING A CATECHIST!!!!!!  So far, I want my epitaph, very fashionable to write your own, to read:  engineer, entrepreneur (still working on that one), CATECHIST!!!!!!!!, & Mt 25:20.  JPII posited, and I agree, unleash an army of dedicated catechists on the world and it will be converted.  The message is the power, we are only messengers.  But, they still shoot messengers, don’t they.  Regardless of how profoundly imperfect the messenger (me), the Message IS PERFECT!!!!!

When preparing the confirmandi for the sacrament of Christian adulthood, it is required they know the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit they are about to receive through supernatural grace:  wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude (courage), knowledge, piety, and holy fear of the Lord – which is the beginning of wisdom.

I have come to a much deeper, more personal knowledge of fortitude, and what that gift of the Holy Spirit means, of late, as I am sure have most Catholics who continue to practice the Faith and are not in denial or willful ignorance.

For the past ten years, going to Mass I have felt and still feel distinctly like Alice in Wonderland and the Queen of Hearts is having a bad day.  No apologies to Lewis Carroll (Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) who was a pedophile.  Why do you think he wrote the book?  I learned this from former Cook County detective, and now international consultant on child trafficking, Robert Hugh Farley.  See all the wonderful things I get to learn?  Sleep like the dead?  References to Carroll are used in chat rooms and in person by the depraved as a sort of code their fellow felons will comprehend.

For ten years I have gone to Mass as internationally billions were paid, priests were defrocked, arrested, sentenced to prison for the rest of their short natural lives, a bishop was indicted, international criminal court charges of crimes against humanity were filed at the Hague, multiple international government reports issued and never once have I heard this Truth addressed in any meaningful way from the pulpit.  Not a blip.  Not a burp.  Not a wiggle from the pulpit, save Old St Pat’s, to their credit and courage.  Silence.  I realize there have been exceptions, and I have not attended every homily, yet, still, in general, a profoundly disconcerting level of silence given the magnitude of “the situation”.  Disturbing, disturbing.

I realize the ears  of many of my fellow Catholics would bleed should a celebrant have the courage to speak such truth to power during Mass, but, the Truth is a b****, ain’t she?  Apologies, ladies.  Cultural milieu, and all that jazz, you know.   No offense intended.

We can pray for the repose of the soul of Moammar Ghadafi or some other nonsense I regularly hear in the Prayers of the Faithful together as a community in our worship space, a horrible Muslim dictator, but not deal with our own s***?  Knave of Hearts, pray tell, where are the Queen’s tarts?  As if nothing was going on?  As if we would not notice?  Yet, we play with the words of the Mass?  Nero, where’s that violin?  Maddening.  Absolutely maddening.  We applaud positive financial status updates from the pulpit, but never sermons?  That assumes there would be, are, were sermons worth applauding?  The celebrant gets up to the pulpit and says, “Be nice!” 🙁   St John Chrysostom, pray for us!  Comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable?

Each time another shoe would drop, and those shoes are GIANTS, I thought to myself every Sunday, “OK, now they HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING!!!!!”  Nope.  But, nothing stopped the big, important collections.  Those HAD to go on without a hitch.  God help us all.  He will have to.  Not the soul murder of children, the ripping away of their innocence, not the utter destruction, literally, of lives, of families, not the obfuscation, not the dissembling, not the obstruction of justice, not the bs, not the payouts, not the abounding stupidity & insanity. Nothing.  Where is the virtue of fortitude?  Holy Spirit gift #4!!!!!????  Mt 23:3

I must give credit to Old St Pat’s though for at least having the courage to speak of the issue, if not to it.  One-third of the country still cannot accept the current President was born in the US, so sanity and rational behavior I am not expecting.  (Pssssst…let you in on a little secret…non-white people have, actually, been born in this country, and, according to the Constitution, are legally eligible to be President of the USA.  Shocker.  The Union won!  Ad victorem spolias!  Your mileage may vary.)

I really start to wonder if Jesus had any doubts?  Regrets?  How tormenting they must have been.  I cannot, dare not attempt to imagine.  The Agony in the Garden has always been one of my most favorite meditations.  How could it not be?  For anyone?  Who is human and has a pulse?

The observant viewer of Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, will note that in the garden scene, one manifestation of the agony of Jesus was the tiny blotches of blood that surfaced on His facial skin. This feature of Christ’s suffering is alluded to by Luke, the author of the New Testament books of Luke and Acts, who himself, by profession, was a physician. His writings manifest an intimate acquaintance with the technical language of the Greek medical schools of Asia Minor.

Of the four gospel writers, only Dr. Luke referred to Jesus’ ordeal as “agony” (agonia). It is because of this agony over things to come that we learn during His prayer “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat (idros)—a much-used term in medical language. And only Luke referred to Jesus’ sweat as consisting of great drops of blood (thromboi haimatos).

A thorough search of the medical literature demonstrates that such a condition, while admittedly rare, does occur in humans. Commonly referred to as hematidrosis or hemohidrosis (Allen, 1967, pp. 745-747), this condition results in the excretion of blood or blood pigment in the sweat. Under conditions of great emotional stress, tiny capillaries in the sweat glands can rupture (Lumpkin, 1978), thus mixing blood with perspiration. This condition has been reported in extreme instances of stress (see Sutton, 1956, pp. 1393-1394).

During the waning years of the twentieth century, 76 cases of hematidrosis were studied and classified into categories according to causative factors: “Acute fear and intense mental contemplation were found to be the most frequent inciting causes” (Holoubek and Holoubek, 1996). While the extent of blood loss generally is minimal, hematidrosis also results in the skin becoming extremely tender and fragile (Barbet, 1953, pp. 74-75; Lumpkin, 1978), which would have made Christ’s pending physical insults even more painful.

From these factors, it is evident that even before Jesus endured the torture of the cross, He suffered far beyond what most of us will ever suffer. His penetrating awareness of the heinous nature of sin, its destructive and deadly effects, the sorrow and heartache that it inflicts, and the extreme measure necessary to deal with it, make the passion of Christ beyond all comprehension.

Age and experience have only added/continue to add to the profundity of the Agony’s contemplation for me.  I have to do what?  For whom?  Father, U R NUTS!!!!!!  I AM outta here!  Amen.

I am told from those who have been to the Gethsemane, there is a little path with which one can slip out unseen, unnoticed and anyone in a situation like the Lord’s, knowing they were about to be betrayed and fully comprehending what that meant and what “justice” they were likely to receive could have been long gone, quickly & easily.   See what Love can do?  For the profoundly unworthy?  Like me.

dys·func·tion [dis-fuhngk-shuhn]
noun Sociology. a consequence of a social practice or behavior pattern that undermines the stability of a social system.  I n s a n i t y.

WWJD?  Jesus would say, “WTF?”  Kyrie eleison.  Kyrie eleison.


-please click on the image for greater detail

Tragically, in these times of economic hardship, it seems perversely appropriate, ironic, to introduce ourselves to St James of the Marche, one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop.

James Gangala was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor (Conventuals) and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances.

James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. James preached penance and conversion and combated heresy.

The Fraticelli

The Fraticelli/Zelanti/Spirituals were medieval Roman Catholic groups that could trace their origins to the Franciscans, but which came into being as a separate entity. The Fraticelli were declared heretical by the Church in 1296 by Boniface VIII.

The Fraticelli (“Little Brethren”) were extreme proponents of the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with regard to poverty, and regarded the wealth of the Church as scandalous, and that of individual churchmen as invalidating their status. They were thus forced into open revolt against the whole authority of the Church.  Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose is set against the persecution of Fraticelli.

In 1394, Pope Martin V nominated St. John Capistran (27 May) and St. James of the March (11 October) as inquisitors general to take action against the Fraticelli. These promoters of order among the Franciscans fulfilled the duties of their office strictly and energetically and succeeded in striking at the very vitals of the sect. In 1415, the city of Florence had formally banished the “Fraticelli of the poor life, the followers of Michelino of Cesena of infamous memory”, and in Lucca five Fraticelli, on trial, had solemnly abjured their error (1411).

Preaching

Friar James was an extremely popular preacher and converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence.

With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the “four pillars” of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching.

Pawn Star

To combat extremely high interest rates, James established montes pietatis (literally, mountains of charity) — nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects.

Enemies & assassination attempts

Not everyone was happy with the work James did. King Tvrtko II of Bosnia and particularly Queen Dorothea tried to poison him. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him.  He is generally represented holding in his right hand a chalice, out of which a snake is escaping – an allusion to some endeavors of heretics to poison him, using the chalice with which he would celebrate Mass.  James was buried in Naples in the Franciscan church of St. Maria la Nuova, where his body is still to be seen.

James wanted the word of God to take root in the hearts of his listeners. His preaching was directed to preparing the soil, so to speak, by removing any rocks and softening up lives hardened by sin. God’s intention is that his word take root in our lives, but for that we need both prayerful preachers and cooperative listeners.


-incorrupted remains of St James of the Marches, please click on the image for greater detail

“Beloved and most holy word of God! You enlighten the hearts of the faithful, you satisfy the hungry, console the afflicted; you make the souls of all productive of good and cause all virtues to blossom; you snatch souls from the devil’s jaw; you make the wretched holy, and men of earth citizens of heaven” -sermon of St. James of the Marche

On the feast of Saint James of the Marches, we pray for the fortitude, steadfastness, and endurance that this holy man displayed each day of his life in defense of the Faith and of Holy Mother Church. Saint James of the Marche, pray for us!  2 Tim 4:7,  “Keep the Faith!” -Mary D. McCormick.  “Young man, get your ass to Mass!” – (Pfc) Robert L. McCormick (USMC, 1942-1946, Ret), when as a college student I had temporarily stopped attending Mass.

A Prayer for Fortitude

O Holy Spirit, who descended upon the twelve as they stood in anxiety, come unto me in my endeavors. Banish from my heart all timidity and false pride; strengthen my soul to avoid all sin, to practice virtue, and to prefer ridicule to the denial of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let not the goodness of purity, obedience and charity be obscured in the face of adversity. Instill in me the virtue of Fortitude so that I may courageously profess and practice my holy Catholic faith. Open my eyes, O Holy Spirit, that I may recognize my state in life. Give me the confidence to embrace it and the strength to live it as a son of God. I pray that Your guidance, protection and consolation may be with me now and throughout my life. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Augustine, (354-430 AD), Bishop, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Gratiae, Doctor of Grace, “Tolle, Lege!”

Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_Monica
– Sts Augustine & Monica, by Ary Scheffer, 1846, please click on the image for greater detail.

“This very moment I may, if I desire, become the friend of God.” -St Augustine

Bishops have had a tough decade, as have all the ordained.  Some would say, of the guilty, deservedly so, by their or their predecessors own action/inaction.  We are ALL sinners, most especially, yours truly!  Sins of commission and omission.  The Catholic understanding of sin is that it is never a private affair.  All sin, even unknown sin, is a social offense.

The first tragedy, the victims of clergy sexual abuse, and, a second, I dare suggest, are the innocent ordained, who have dedicated their lives in service and love, try as they may with the aid of grace, in service to the Lord and His People.  God bless them!  Their reward will surely be great in Heaven for having lived, and served, and loved in this time.  Bless them!  And, thank you!  How much harder it must be to live out the life of service and love in these days!  Rejoice!  I say again, rejoice!  You shine as examples of Christian fortitude, fidelity, the power of grace and commitment!  True servants of the Lord!  I know I am inspired by your example!  Thank you!  God bless you!  Thank you for your service and your love, for your fidelity and example which inspires us all in, of, and for Love!

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break.

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Accepted by most scholars to be the most important figure in the ancient Western church, St. Augustine was born in Tagaste, Numidia in North Africa. His mother, St Monica, was a Christian, but his father remained a pagan until late in life. After a rather unremarkable childhood, marred only by a case of stealing pears, Augustine drifted through several philosophical systems before converting to Christianity at the age of thirty-one. At the age of nineteen, Augustine read Cicero’s Hortensius (now lost), an experience that led him into the fascination with philosophical questions and methods that would remain with him throughout his life. After a few years as a Manichean, he became attracted to the more skeptical positions of the Academic philosophers. Although tempted in the direction of Christianity upon his arrival at Milan in 383, he turned first to neoplatonism. During this time, Augustine fathered a child by a mistress. This period of exploration, including its youthful excesses (perhaps somewhat exaggerated) are recorded in Augustine’s most widely read work, the Confessions.

This famous son of St. Monica was born in Africa and spent many years of his life in wicked living and in false beliefs. At age 17, through the generosity of fellow citizen Romanianus, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to the despair of his mother, Monica.  As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits with women and urged the inexperienced boys, like Augustine, to seek out experiences or to make up stories about experiences in order to gain acceptance and avoid ridicule.  It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet!” – “da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo.” At a young age, he began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. She was his lover for over thirteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus, who was said to have been extremely intelligent.

Though he was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and though he had been brought up a Christian, his sins of impurity and his pride darkened his mind so much, that he could not see or understand the Divine Truth anymore. Through the prayers of his holy mother and the marvelous preaching of St. Ambrose, Augustine finally became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion. Yet he did not become a Christian then, because he thought he could never live a pure life. One day, however, he heard about two men who had suddenly been converted on reading the life of St. Antony, and he felt terrible, ashamed of himself. “What are we doing?” he cried to his friend Alipius. “Unlearned people are taking Heaven by force, while we, with all our knowledge, are so cowardly that we keep rolling around in the mud of our sins!”

Full of bitter sorrow, Augustine flung himself out into the garden and cried out to God, “How long more, O Lord? Why does not this hour put an end to my sins?” Just then he heard a child singing, “Tolle, lege! = Take up and read!” Thinking that God intended him to hear those words, he picked up the book of the Letters of St. Paul, and read the first passage his gaze fell on. “Not in riots and drunken parties, not in eroticism and indecencies, not in strife and rivalry, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in its lusts'”[Rom 13:13-15]. “I neither wished nor needed to read further. At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.” — The Confessions of Saint Augustine, Book VIII, Paragraph 29.

During his youth, Augustine had studied rhetoric at Carthage, a discipline that he used to gain employment teaching in Carthage and then in Rome and Milan, where he met Ambrose who is credited with effecting Augustine’s conversion and who baptized Augustine in 387. Returning to his homeland soon after his conversion, he was ordained a presbyter in 391, taking the position as bishop of Hippo in 396, a position which he held until his death.

Besides the Confessions, Augustine’s most celebrated work is his De Civitate Dei (On the City of God), a study of the relationship between Christianity and secular society, which was inspired by the fall of Rome to the Visigoths in 410. Among his other works, many are polemical attacks on various heresies: Against Faustus, the Manichean; On Baptism; Against the Donatists;and many attacks on Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism. Other works include treatises On the Trinity; On Faith, Hope, and Love; On Christian Doctrine; and some early dialogues.

St. Augustine stands as a powerful advocate for orthodoxy and of the episcopacy as the sole means for the dispensing of saving grace. In the light of later scholarship, Augustine can be seen to serve as a bridge between the ancient and medieval worlds. A review of his life and work, however, shows him as an active mind engaging the practical concerns of the churches he served.

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“The honors of this world, what are they but puff, and emptiness and peril of falling?” – Saint Augustine

“In my deepest wound I saw Your glory and it astounded me.”-St. Augustine 

“What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
–St. Augustine

“One loving heart sets another on fire.” -St. Augustine

“What is more fragrant, more delightful, than the gentle breath of truth?” -St. Augustine

“Daily advance, then, in this love, both by praying and by well doing, that through the help of Him who enjoined it on you, and whose gift it is, it may be nourished and increased, until, being perfected, it render you perfect.”– Saint Augustine

“What do you possess if you possess not God?” – Saint Augustine

“Fortitude is the disposition of soul which enables us to despise all inconveniences and the loss of things not in our power.”
–St. Augustine 

“If you are suffering from a bad man’s injustice, forgive him—lest there be two bad men.”
–St. Augustine

“Prayer is greatly aided by fasting and watching and every kind of bodily chastisement. In this regard each of you must do what you can. Thus, the weaker will not hold back the stronger, and the stronger will not press the weaker. You owe your conscience to God. But to no one else do you owe anything more except that you love one another.”
—St. Augustine

“The Holy Spirit has come to abide in you; do not make Him withdraw; do not exclude Him from your heart in any way.” -St. Augustine

“There are two loves, the love of God and the love of the world. If the love of the world takes possession of you, there is no way for the love of God to enter into you. Let the love of the world take the second place, and let the love of God dwell in you. Let the better love take over.”
—St. Augustine

“Unhappy is the soul enslaved by the love of anything that is mortal.” -Saint Augustine

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” -St. Augustine

“The world is a book and he who does not travel reads only one page.” -St Augustine

“Love, and He will draw near; love, and He will dwell within you. The Lord is at hand; have no anxiety. Are you puzzled to know how it is that He will be with you if you love? God is love.” -St. Augustine

“You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones.” -St. Augustine

“I was sure that it was better for me to give myself up to your love than to give in to my own desires. However, although the one way appealed to me and was gaining mastery, the other still afforded me pleasure and kept me victim. I had no answer to give to you when you said to me, ‘Rise, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you.’ When on all sides you showed me that your words were true, and I was overcome by your truth, I had no answer whatsoever to make, but only those slow and drowsy words, ‘Right away. Yes, right away.’ ‘Let me be for a little while.’ But ‘Right away—right away’ was never right now, and ‘Let me be for a little while’ stretched out for a long time.”
—St. Augustine, Confessions

“Know that our faith is strengthened by the resurrection of Christ. The passion of Christ represents the misery of our present life, while the resurrection of Christ gives us a brilliant glimpse of the happiness of the future life. Let us apply ourselves energetically in the present life, and hope in the future. Now is the time for painful struggle; then will come the recompense. Those who are lazy about carrying out their work will be brazenly impudent if they expect the recompense.” — St. Augustine

“If a vessel is to be filled, it must first be empty. So cast all evil away from you, that you may be filled to the brim.” -St. Augustine

“He willed not that any one should glory in the exalted position of any city of earth. He, too, Whose are all things and by Whom all things were created, was made poor, in order that no one, while believing in Him, might venture to boast himself in earthly riches. He refused to be made by men a king, because He displayed the pathway of humility to those unhappy ones whom pride had separated from Him; and yet universal creation attests the fact of His everlasting kingdom.” -St Augustine

“I will suggest a means whereby you can praise God all day long, if you wish. Whatever you do, do it well, and you have praised God.” – Saint Augustine

“Love has hands to help others. It has feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. This is what love looks like.” -St. Augustine

“But you, ‘a chosen generation’, weak things of the world, who have forsaken all things, so that you may follow the Lord, go after Him, and confound the strong; go after Him, you beautiful feet, and shine in the firmament so that the heavens may declare His glory . . . Shine over the whole earth, and let the day, brightened by the sun, utter unto day speech of wisdom, and let the night, shining with the moon, declare to the night the word of knowledge . . . Run into every place, O you holy fires, you beautiful fires! You are the light of the world, and you are not put under a measure. He to Whom you have held fast has been exalted, and He has exalted you. Run forth, and make it known to all nations.”
—Saint Augustine

“This is the business of our life. By labor and prayer to advance in the grace of God, till we come to that height of perfection in which, with clean hearts, we may behold God.” -Saint Augustine

“God in his omnipotence could not give more, in His wisdom He knew not how to give more, in His riches He had not more to give, than the Eucharist.” – Saint Augustine

“God does not command impossibilities, but by commanding admonishes you do what you can and to pray for what you cannot, and aids you that you may be able.” – Saint Augustine

“Conquer yourself and the world lies at your feet.” – Saint Augustine

“God himself will be the goal of our desires; we shall contemplate him without end, love him without surfeit, praise him without weariness.”-St Augustine (on St Paul writing: “So that God may be all in all.”)

“O eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you. But I did not find it until I embraced “the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who is above all, God blessed for ever.” He was calling me and saying: “I am the way of truth, I am the life.” Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with You. Created things kept me from You; yet if they had not been in You they would have not been at all. You called, You shouted, and You broke through my deafness. You flashed, You shone, and You dispelled my blindness. You breathed Your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for You. I have tasted You, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.” – from the Confessions of Saint Augustine

Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. – from The City of God by Saint Augustine

A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers. – from Against Faustus the Manichean, by Saint Augustine

There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for the dead who are remembered. For it is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended. – from Sermons by Saint Augustine

“At the Lord’s table we do not commemorate martyrs in the same way that we do others who rest in peace so as to pray for them, but rather that they may pray for us that we may follow in their footsteps.” – from Homilies on John by Saint Augustine

“Let us understand that God is a physician, and that suffering is a medicine for salvation, not a punishment for damnation.” – Saint Augustine

“O Sacrament of Love! O sign of Unity! O bond of Charity! He who would have Life finds here indeed a Life to live in and a Life to live by. – Saint Augustine

“And He departed from our sight that we might return to our heart, and there find Him. For He departed, and behold, He is here.” -St. Augustine

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek Him the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement.”
–St. Augustine

“We are Christians, and strangers on earth. Let none of us be frightened; our native land is not in this world.”
–St. Augustine

“Walking by faith, let us do good works. In these let there be a free love of God for His own sake and an active love for our neighbor. For there is nothing we can do for God. But because we have something we can do for our neighbor, we shall by our good offices to the needy gain the favor of Him Who is the source of all abundance. Let us then do what we can for others; let us freely bestow upon the needy out of our abundance.”
—St. Augustine

“If you see that you have not yet suffered tribulations, consider it certain that you have not begun to be a true servant of God; for Saint Paul says plainly that all who chose to live piously in Christ, shall suffer persecutions.” -Saint Augustine

“Just as in one man there is one soul and one body, yet many members; even so the Catholic Church is one body, having many members. The soul that quickens this body is the Holy Spirit; and therefore in the Creed after confessing our belief in the Holy Spirit, we are bid to believe in the Holy Catholic Church.”
–St. Augustine

“You judge me, O Lord, for, although no one ‘knows the things of a man but the spirit of man which is in him,’ there is something further in man which not even that spirit of man which is in him knows. But you, Lord, who made him, know all things that are in him. Although I despise myself before your sight, and account myself but dust and ashes, yet I know something of you which I do not know about myself. In truth, ‘we see now through a glass in a dark manner,’ and not yet ‘face to face.’ … Let me confess, then, what I know about myself. Let me confess also what I do not know about myself, since that too which I know about myself I know because you enlighten me. As to that which I am ignorant of concerning myself, I remain ignorant of it until my ‘darkness shall be made as the noonday in your sight.’”
— St. Augustine, Confessions

I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown. It is the words of the Apostle that I address to you: Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh and its desires, so that you may be clothed with the life of Him whom you have put on in this sacrament. You have all been clothed with Christ by your baptism in Him. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor freeman; there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus. Such is the power of this sacrament: it is a sacrament of new life which begins here and now with the forgiveness of all past sins, and will be brought to completion in the resurrection of the dead. You have been buried with Christ by baptism into death in order that, as Christ has risen from the dead, you also may walk in newness of life. You are walking now by faith, still on pilgrimage in a mortal body away from the Lord; but He to Whom your steps are directed is Himself the sure and certain way for you: Jesus Christ, who for our sake became man. For all who fear Him He has stored up abundant happiness, which He will reveal to those who hope in Him, bringing it to completion when we have attained the reality which even now we possess in hope. This is the octave day of your new birth. Today is fulfilled in you the sign of faith that was prefigured in the Old Testament by the circumcision of the flesh on the eighth day after birth. When the Lord rose from the dead, He put off the mortality of the flesh; His risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By His resurrection He consecrated Sunday, or the Lord’s day. Though the third after his passion, this day is the eighth after the Sabbath, and thus also the first day of the week. And so your own hope of resurrection, though not yet realized, is sure and certain, because you have received the sacrament or sign of this reality, and have been given the pledge of the Spirit. If, then, you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your hearts on heavenly things, not the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. – from a sermon by Saint Augustine

Saint_Augustine_by_Philippe_de_Champaigne-Saint Augustin, by Phillippe de Champaigne, (1602-1674), completed 1645-1650, oil on canvas, 78.7 × 62.2 cm (31 × 24.5 in), Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Jaume_Huguet_-_Consecration_of_Saint_Augustine_-_Google_Art_Project-The Consecration of St Augustine, by Jaume Huguet, (1412-1492), completed 1466~1475, tempera on panel, H: 272 cm (107.1 in). W: 200 cm (78.7 in), Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit,
that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit,
that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit,
to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit,
that I always may be holy. Amen.
-St Augustine’s prayer to the Holy Spirit

Give me yourself, O my God, give yourself to me.
Behold I love you, and if my love is too weak a thing,
grant me to love you more strongly.
I cannot measure my love
to know how much it falls short of being sufficient,
but let my soul hasten to your embrace
and never be turned away until it is hidden
in the secret shelter of your presence.
This only do I know,
that it is not good for me when you are not with me,
when you are only outside me.
I want you in my very self.
the plenty in the world
which is not my God is utter want. Amen.
– St Augustine

Holy Spirit, powerful Consoler,
sacred Bond of the Father and the Son,
Hope of the afflicted,
descend into my heart
and establish in it
your loving dominion.
Enkindle in my tepid soul
the fire of your Love
so that I may be wholly subject to you.
We believe that when you dwell in us,
you also prepare a dwelling for the Father and the Son.
Deign, therefore, to come to me,
Consoler of abandoned souls,
and Protector of the needy.
Help the afflicted,
strengthen the weak,
and support the wavering.
Come and purify me.
Let no evil desire take possession of me.
You love the humble and resist the proud.
Come to me, glory of the living, and hope of the dying.
Lead me by your grace
that I may always be pleasing to you. Amen.
-St Augustine

“Know that our faith is strengthened by the resurrection of Christ. The passion of Christ represents the misery of our present life, while the resurrection of Christ gives us a brilliant glimpse of the happiness of the future life. Let us apply ourselves energetically in the present life, and hope in the future. Now is the time for painful struggle; then will come the recompense. Those who are lazy about carrying out their work will be brazenly impudent if they expect the recompense.”
—St. Augustine

“I look forward, not to what lies ahead of me in this life and will surely pass away, but to my eternal goal. I am intent upon this one purpose, not distracted by other aims, and with this goal in view I press on, eager for the prize, God’s heavenly summons. Then I shall listen to the sound of Your praises and gaze at Your beauty ever present, never future, never past. But now my years are but sighs. You, O Lord, are my only solace. You, my Father, are eternal. But I am divided between time gone by and time to come, and its course is a mystery to me. My thoughts, the intimate life of my soul, are torn this way and that in the havoc of change. And so it will be until I am purified and melted by the fire of Your love and fused into one with You.” – St. Augustine, Confessions

Love,
Matthew

Forgiveness & reconciliation…

I remember, as a child, when my mother proposed to me the concept that “there is no sin that God cannot forgive”, following her around the house the rest of the day trying to think up the most horrific sins as a child I could imagine.  My mother’s constant, identical answer, a credit to the her own faith and constancy, was always, “Nope.  He can forgive that one, too.”  I could not find a crack.

Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is interior, taking place in the heart of the one who forgives. Reconciliation, the ultimate goal toward which forgiveness tends, is a two-way street. Entrusted with the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), we are called to reconcile with those willing to be reconciled with us. However, if the offender is unrepentant, God requires only that we forgive him or her interiorly. I believe that is why Jesus, who bestowed forgiveness directly upon repentant sinners (such as the “woman of the city” in Luke 7:48), forgave his murderers only indirectly. Instead of saying, “Your sins are forgiven,” he said, “Father, forgive them” (Lk 23:34). When the one who abused us continues to behave abusively, this intercessory prayer of Jesus—an outward expression of his interior forgiveness—becomes our model for fulfilling his commandment to forgive.

Forgiveness means letting go of resentment. We have seen that God permits evil only so that he may bring about a greater good (CCC 412). The greatest good possible is that we grow in grace. When we hold onto resentment toward the person who hurt us, we impede grace. Instead of being like Jesus’ disciples, who gave up everything to follow him heavenward, we become like the rich young man of Matthew 19. He could have been another St. John, “the disciple Jesus loved,” for Jesus looked upon him and “loved him.” Instead, the young man “went away sorrowing” because he was unable to let go of the things that tied him to the earth.

Forgiveness does not mean forgoing the demands of justice. It means wanting God’s best for that person. Where there is a crime, God’s best can mean, in the words of Mark Shea, “releasing the evildoer into the hands of God’s mercy even as you finger him to the cops.” St. Maria Goretti, as she lay dying, both forgave her attacker and answered the police’s questions so he could be prosecuted. Both actions sprang from the same desire for her attacker’s good and the good of others. God’s best also means not letting the offender continue to offend. If another is abusive, we fulfill God’s commandments by only having such contact with him or her as is safe.

Forgiveness means praying for the offender. This falls under the commandment to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44). When the mere thought of an abuser stirs up painful memories, it can be a particularly difficult commandment to follow. A Sister of Life gave me some helpful advice: Ask Mary to place the offender within her Immaculate Heart; then, pray often for Mary’s intentions. Prayer is vital to forgiveness because it connects you with the “circulatory system” of the Mystical Body of Christ—the graces that flow from its Head to its members. The more you pray for your abuser, the more healing you will receive. This leads to the most important point:

Forgiveness is not within our own power. It is in God’s power. Alexander Pope had it right: to err is human; to forgive, divine. In the Mass, when the bread and wine become, through transubstantiation, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, it is not by the priest’s own power, but by the power of Christ acting through him. So too, when we pray for those who have offended us, we transform the detritus of evil into a seedbed of goodness—not by our own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. The Catechism says that the effect of praying for our offender is so spiritually potent that it purifies our memory: “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2842, 2843).

All this is not to say that forgiveness is without pain. Union with Christ demands interior martyrdom (2 Cor 4:11). But we’re in good company. The Catechism says our acts of forgiveness connect us with all the saints who gave their lives for the faith: “Forgiveness . . . bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus” (CCC 2844).”

-Eden, Dawn (2012-05-12). My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints (p. 92-94). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.

Love,
Matthew

Words of Love and Creation

My friends Joe & Victoria got hitched on Friday!  Congrats you two!  Joe,
DO NOT try the below @home!    I have complete confidence!    Rather,
“Yes, ma’am!” seems to keep the peace for me!  
-By Br. Raymond Snyder, O.P.
“If you are like me and grew up attending religious education classes of
some sort (CCD = Confraternity of Christian Doctrine), you may have come
across the line, “If God stopped thinking about you at any instant, you
would immediately disappear; you would cease to exist.” What a terrifying
thought to offer the inquisitive mind of a child! The suggestion seems to
be that, on occasion, either through forgetfulness or malice, God
annihilates some unfortunate person or persons. But this is not true; God
doesn’t even annihilate demons or the damned – although some may wish,
much less unsuspecting third graders.
Of course, the remark is well meant, and, properly understood, it is a
vivid reminder of a profound metaphysical truth, namely, that we all
depend on God for both our coming to be and our preservation in being.  
Indeed, meditating on this truth can help us to grow in wisdom and
humility, whether we are third graders or thirty-somethings.  For some
reason, it seems easy for people to accept the notion that they have their
origin in God, but the fact that they are preserved in existence by God at
every moment never crosses their minds. The key idea here is that God’s
act of creation is not a one-time event, but rather extends through time.  
Since God is universal cause of all things, anything that exists not only
has its origin in God, but also its conservation in being. God alone
exists necessarily; God alone cannot not exist. All other beings exist
contingently; they might not have existed, and they depend upon God, the
Necessary Being, for their continuance in existence.
The popular notion, which runs completely contrary to this, is that, once
we come into being, we exist independently of God; we are on our own and
autonomous. Worse yet, some seem to believe—and perhaps we all sometimes
act as if we believed—that we are the cause of our own existence. As if we
could ever pat ourselves on the back and say, “Good job, self, I am glad
you decided to exist! What a great idea it was to come into being!” No,
however much we may fool ourselves, our existence is a gift, and it is a
gift that continues as long as we continue. “What have you that you have
not received?” asks St. Paul. And, of course, the appropriate response is,
“Nothing. Not even myself.”
There is something utterly foundational about this truth. Prior to the
fact that we are able to act as genuine causes, or the fact that we can be
perfected by the grace of God, there is the fact that we depend on God for
our very being. The most intimate words that Our Lord spoke to St.
Catherine of Siena, O.P. express this same truth:  “You are she who is
not; I am He Who is.” This is not the type of romantic language that we
usually associate with a mystic. In fact, it might seem like quite an insult. The
Bridegroom does not tell his mystical bride, “I love you,” but rather,
“You are nothing.” In reality, however, these words are right and just.  
Humility consists in knowing what one truly is in relation to God, and St.
Catherine was blessed to receive this knowledge directly from our Lord. Far 
from being an insult, these were the intimate words of the divine Spouse.”
Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of the Epiphany: Why did God become a man?

epiphanyaus

charles_shonk_op
-by Br. Charles Shonk, OP

“Would God have become man if man had never sinned? An odd question, perhaps, but one which St. Thomas [Aquinas, O.P.] takes the trouble to answer with characteristic intellectual humility:

“Such things as spring from God’s will, and are beyond the creature’s due, can be made known to us only through being revealed in Sacred Scripture, in which the Divine Will is manifested to us. Hence, since everywhere in Sacred Scripture the sin of the first man is assigned as the reason of the Incarnation, it is more in accordance with this to say that the work of the Incarnation was ordained by God as a remedy for sin; so that, had sin not existed, the Incarnation would not have been. And yet the power of God is not limited to this; even had sin not existed, God could have become incarnate.”

God’s omnipotence, on the one hand, and the testimony of Scripture, on the other, lead us to believe that, although God could have become incarnate in a sinless world, He would not have done so. Still, we may ask, if He had done so, why would He have done so? St. Thomas does not answer this question directly, but, when considering the Incarnation in a more general way, he does say that it was fitting, not only as a remedy for sin, but also simply as an expression of God’s goodness: “It belongs to the essence of goodness to communicate itself to others… [and] it belongs to the essence of the highest good to communicate itself in the highest manner to the creature.”

It is stupefying, really, to think of God becoming incarnate merely to communicate his goodness to unfallen mankind – even more stupefying, in a certain sense, than God becoming incarnate to redeem us from our sins. It may also seem a rather fruitless piece of speculation. I would suggest, however, that this hypothetical scenario can help us better appreciate at least one aspect of the mystery of Christ’s birth, namely, the humble circumstances in which it occurred.

If Christ had been born into a world without sin, it follows – we might almost say it follows “by definition” – that the whole of creation would have welcomed him as jubilantly as the angels did on Christmas night: “Glory to God in the highest!” There would have been no search for hospitality, no rude feeding-trough for a bed, no flight from murderous Herod. The King of kings would have come into a world that recognized him as such, a world that worshiped and adored His ineffable love and majesty; He would not have silently slipped into a world that had become enemy territory. Indeed, although it is fitting that we now see the stable and the manger through the “rose-colored glasses” of our Savior’s love for us, we must also see them as what they were: the contemptuous rebuff of a sinful and fallen world.

Yet God, by submitting to the indignity of such poverty and obscurity, blesses it. In effect, He tells us that a poor and obscure life is the appropriate, natural, and beneficial condition of mankind after the Fall, the fitting exterior sign of our interior wretchedness, a salutary obstacle to our pride and self-sufficiency. Accordingly, the angels announce tidings of peace, not to the wise and powerful, but to the poor and simple shepherds, because, to the shepherds, who know their own need so well, the coming of God’s kingdom does, in fact, mean peace. Herod, on the other hand, and, with him, all who are persuaded by their power or prosperity that they are not wretched and poor, can only see the coming of God’s kingdom as unsettling, inconvenient, or irrelevant.

We moderns have our own pride and blindness, even if it is less obvious than Herod’s. In this egalitarian, scientific, “information” age, we habitually approach the mysteries of the Faith as so many mere facts, as items to be reviewed in a more or less casual way, analyzed from a critical distance, even evaluated on a strictly evidential basis. We respect, but do not reverence. We are interested, but not ravished. We read, but do not meditate. We experiment, but do not commit. These are signs of a spiritual and moral disease, and, if we would overcome that disease – if we would hear the Christmas Gospel afresh – we must learn from the shepherds, who teach us that the mysteries of God are revealed, not to the proud and the subtle, not to the “well-informed” and sophisticated, but to the humble and to those who suffer, to the innocent and to those who know their own sinfulness, to the teachable, and to those whose hearts are prepared.”

Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Aug 19 – St John Eudes, CJM, (1601-1680), Father of Modern Devotion to the Hearts of Jesus & Mary

JeanEudes

-n.b. the Latin inscription on the enflamed Heart of God St John is holding, which is difficult to read in this image, says “Cor Jesu et Mariae fornax amoris”, his thumb is covering the “amo” in “amoris”, a prime example of why much contextual training in interpreting, appreciating art is absolutely required, when the artist in 1673 would just assume when the literate devotee would view, would immediately know what was intended, albeit un-illustrated, hidden.  “The Heart of Jesus and Mary, furnace of love”

As many of you know, the McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart.  I cannot remember a time as a child when my parents and I did not end our grace before meals w/out “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”  Modern (17th century until the present) devotion to the Sacred Heart was a response to Jansenism.

Jansenism is a Catholic heresy, condemned by Pope Innocent X in 1655, and was a product of the Counter-Reformation.  Jansenism emphasizes original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine “efficacious grace” as it relates to the free will, and predestination.  It is a form of Catholic Calvinism.  It’s principal architect was the Dutch theologian Cornelius Otto Jansen.  It held sway over Catholic thought, and strains can still be found, between the 16th-18th centuries.

Born on a farm in northern France, John died at 79 in the next “county” or department. In that time he was a religious, a parish missionary, founder of two religious communities and a great promoter of the devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  He joined the religious community of the Oratorians and was ordained a priest at 24. During severe plagues in 1627 and 1631, he volunteered to care for the stricken in his own diocese. Lest he infect his fellow religious, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague.

At age 32, John became a parish missionary. St John Eudes was dedicated and worked towards “restoring the priestly order to its full splendor” in his time. His gifts as preacher and confessor won him great popularity. He preached over 100 parish missions, some lasting from several weeks to several months.

In his concern with the spiritual improvement of the clergy, he realized that the greatest need was for seminaries. He had permission from his general superior, the bishop and even Cardinal Richelieu to begin this work, but the succeeding general superior disapproved. After prayer and counsel, John decided it was best to leave the religious community. The same year he founded a new one, ultimately called the Eudists (Congregation of Jesus and Mary), devoted to the formation of the clergy by conducting diocesan seminaries. The new venture, while approved by individual bishops, met with immediate opposition, especially from Jansenists and some of his former associates. John founded several seminaries in Normandy, but was unable to get approval from Rome (partly, it was said, because he did not use the most tactful approach).  Fr. John Eudes was a disciple of St Vincent de Paul.

In his parish mission work, John was disturbed by the sad condition of prostitutes who sought to escape their miserable life. Temporary shelters were found but arrangements were not satisfactory. A certain Madeleine Lamy, who had cared for several of the women, one day said to him, “Where are you off to now? To some church, I suppose, where you’ll gaze at the images and think yourself pious. And all the time what is really wanted of you is a decent house for these poor creatures.” The words, and the laughter of those present, struck deeply within him. The result was another new religious community, called the Sisters of Charity of the Refuge.

St John Eudes is probably best known for the central theme of his writings: Jesus as the source of holiness, Mary as the model of the Christian life. His devotion to the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary led Pius XI to declare him the father of the liturgical cult of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

St. John Eudes 02

“Continual submission to the holy will of God is the most universal of all virtues. Its practice should be most familiar to you, since at every moment there arise opportunities of renouncing your own will and submitting to the will of God.”
— St. John Eudes

“The road to Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” – St. John Eudes

“O Heart all loveable and all loving of my Savior, be the Heart of my heart, the Soul of my soul, the Spirit of my spirit, the Life of my life and the sole principle of all my thoughts, words and actions, of all the faculties of my soul and of all my senses, both interior and exterior. Amen.” -St John Eudes

“Undertake courageously great tasks for God’s glory, to the extent that He’ll give you power and grace for this purpose. Even though you can do nothing on your own, you can do all things in Him. His help will never fail you if you have confidence in his goodness. Place your entire physical and spiritual welfare in His hands. Abandon to the fatherly concern of His divine providence every care for your health, reputation, property, and business; for those near to you; for your past sins; for your soul’s progress in virtue and love of Him; for your life, death, and especially your salvation and eternity—in a word, all your cares. Rest in the assurance that in His pure goodness, He’ll watch with particular tenderness over all your responsibilities and cares, arranging all things for the greatest good.”
—St. John Eudes, p. 363, A Year with the Saints

“Holiness is the wholehearted openness to the love of God. It is visibly expressed in many ways, but the variety of expression has one common quality: concern for the needs of others. In John’s case, those who were in need were plague-stricken people, ordinary parishioners, those preparing for the priesthood, prostitutes and all Christians called to imitate the love of Jesus and His mother.”
(www.americancatholic.org for Aug 19, Feast of St John Eudes)

“Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make His spirit, His devotion, His affections, His desires and His disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly” (-St. John Eudes, The Life and Reign of Jesus in Christian Souls).

“Let us therefore give ourselves to God with a great desire to begin to live thus, and beg Him to destroy in us the life of the world of sin, and to establish His life within us.”
-St John Eudes

“Father of mercies and God of all consolation, You gave us the loving Heart of your own beloved Son, because of the boundless love by which You have loved us, which no tongue can describe. May we render You a love that is perfect with hearts made one with His. Grant, we pray, that our hearts may be brought to perfect unity: each heart with the other and all hearts with the Heart of Jesus…”
-St John Eudes

“The air that we breathe, the bread that we eat, the heart which throbs in our bosoms, are not more necessary for man that he may live as a human being, than is prayer for the Christian that he may live as a Christian.”
-St John Eudes

“I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is your true head and that you are a member of his body. He belongs to you as the head belongs to the body. All that is his is yours: breath, heart, body, soul and all his faculties. All of these you must use as if they belonged to you, so that in serving him you may give him praise, love and glory.”
–St. John Eudes

“The worthy priest is an angel of purity in mind and body,
a cherub of light and knowledge,
a seraph of love and Charity,
an apostle of zeal in work and sanctity,
a little god on earth in power and authority, in patience and benignity.

He is the living image of Christ in this world,
of Christ watching, praying, preaching, catechizing, working, weeping,
going from town to town, from village to village,
suffering, agonizing,
sacrificing Himself and dying for the souls created to His image and likeness…

He is the light of those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

He is the destroyer of error, schisms and heresies,
the converter of sinners,
the sanctifier of the just,
the strength of the weak,
the consolation of the afflicted,
the treasure of the poor.
He is the confusion of hell,
the glory of heaven,
the terror of demons,
the joy of angels,
the ruin of Satan’s kingdom,
the establishment of Christ’s empire,
the ornament of the Church…”

Prayer for the intercession of St John Eudes

Father, You chose the priest John Eudes to preach the infinite riches of Christ. By his teaching and example help us to know You better and live faithfully in the light of the Gospel. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jun 7, or 19th – Venerable Matt Talbot, OFS, (1856-1925), Intercessor for Addicts

Matt Talbot Icon [1600x1200]

“Non nobis, Domine!!!” -Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give the GLORY!!!” -Ps 115:1

It is more rare to find someone who doubts the existence of Hell; Hell being so much easier to believe in. There are so many practical, real, and terrifying examples here on Earth. Matthew Talbot is an intercessor and exemplar for those who struggle with addiction: to drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, pride, power, gossip/scandal, greed, vanity, envy, wrath, narcissism, doubt, willfulness, ego, cynicism, bad habits/sins, lust, gluttony, even god, in a dark way, where actually, god is ourselves, or far worse, but that’s pretty bad enough.

Jesus resurrects from the dead, from the corruption, darkness, and silence of the tomb; Himself and us, into endless light, freshness, and rejoicing. Seek Him, while He may be found. He invites you, passionately. He does.

Matthew Talbot, “the saint in overalls”, was born on May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings,  in Dublin, Ireland. He had three sisters and nine brothers, three  of whom died young. His father Charles was a dockworker and his  mother, Elizabeth, was a housewife. From his early teens until age 28 Matt’s only aim in life was to be liquor. But from that point forward, his only aim was God.

Compulsory school attendance was not in force, and Matt never attended any school regularly.  When Matthew was about 12  years old, he got his first job, at E & J Burke Wine Merchants, and started to drink alcohol. His father was a known alcoholic as well as all his brothers.  Charles tried to dissuade Matthew with severe  punishments but without success.

Matthew, a regular guy if ever there was one, then worked as a messenger boy and then transferred to another messenger job at the same place his father worked. After working there for three years, he became a bricklayer’s laborer. He was a hodman, which meant he fetched mortar and bricks for the bricklayers. He was considered “the best hodman in Dublin.”

As he grew into an adult, he continued to drink excessively,  He continued to work but spent all his wages on heavy drinking.  When he got drunk, he became very hot-tempered, got into fights, and swore. He became so desperate for more drinks that he would buy drinks on credit, sell his boots or possessions, or steal people’s possession so he could exchange it for more drinks. He refused to listen to his mother’s plea to stop drinking. He stole the violin from a blind fiddler and pawned it.  He eventually lost his own self-respect. One day when he was broke, he loitered around a street corner waiting for his “friends”, who  were leaving work after they were paid their wages. He had hoped  that they would invite him for a drink but they ignored him. Dejected, humiliated, and devastated,  he went home and publicly resolved to his mother, “I’m going  to take the pledge.” His mother smiled and responded, “Go, in God’s name, but don’t take it unless you are going to keep  it.” As Matthew was leaving, she continued, “May God give you strength to keep it.”

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Matthew went straight to confession at Clonliffe College and took a pledge not to drink for three months. The next day he went back to Church and received communion for the first time in years.  From that moment on, in 1884 when he was 28 years old, he became  a new man. After he successfully fulfilled his pledge for three months, he made a life long pledge. He even made a pledge to give up his pipe and tobacco. He used to use about seven ounces of tobacco a week. He said to the late Sean T. O’Ceallaigh, former President of Ireland, that it cost him more to give up tobacco than to give up alcohol.

The newly converted Matthew never swore.  A member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Matt made sure he never carried money with him to help himself avoid temptation.   He was good humored and amicable to everyone. He continued to work as a hodman and then as a laborer for T&C Martins Lumberyard.  He used his wages to pay back all his debts. He lived modestly and his home was very spartan.  He developed into a very pious individual who prayed every chance he got. He attended Mass every morning and made devotions like the Stations of the Cross or devotions to the Blessed Mother in the evenings. He fasted, performed acts of mortification, and financially  supported many religious organizations. He read biographies of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Siena. He later joined the Third Order of St. Francis on October  18, 1891 even though a young pious girl proposed to marry him.  Physically, he suffered from kidney and heart ailments. During the two times he was hospitalized, he spent much time in Eucharistic adoration in the hospital chapel. Eventually, Matthew died suddenly of heart failure on June 7, 1925 while walking to Mass. He was 69 years old.

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On his body, he was found wearing the cilice.  While penitential practice has fallen out of fashion, even in Catholic circles, in our modern age, these practices are ancient.  Though not popular or fun, penance is the cure for sin.  It must always be reasonably moderated and consultation with a healthy spiritual director is always wise.

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Penance changes us, allows us to reflect on our errant ways, and is a temporal preventative against a permanent disposition.  Even as the athlete trains his body and undergoes physical discomfort for the sake of future performance, so the spiritual athlete does the same.  We are creatures of body, mind, and spirit, and so the thinking goes, our engagement in spiritual reform cannot be purely intellectual.  Physical discomforts, such as fasting or abstaining from certain foods, make us mindful.  As humans, we are all too likely, it is our nature, not to pay attention.  It is hard work.

Piety also has fallen out of fashion in our modern age.  Matt knelt outside the doors of his church for hours every morning.  Once inside, he would prostrate himself on the floor in the form of a cross before entering his pew. Every Sunday, he spent seven hours in Church without moving, “his arms crossed, his elbows not resting on anything, his body from the knees up as rigid and straight as the candles on the altar.”  He did this every Sunday for 40 years.  One of his favorite little prayers, which he sometimes kept written on his hand, was “O blessed Mother, obtain for me from Jesus that I may participate in His folly.”

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-statue in Dublin honoring Venerable Matt Talbot, near Matt Talbot Bridge

“Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice  of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue.  In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts.”

“Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!”.

“It is constancy that God seeks.”
-Venerable Matt Talbot

Prayer for the intercession of Matt Talbot:

“May Matt Talbot’s triumph over addiction, bring hope to our community and strength to our hearts, may he intercede for …name… who struggles with his/her addiction, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

PRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless You in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministers to all who come to Him. Give Your strength to N., Your servant, bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold himlher in Your love and restore himlher to the freedom of God’s children. Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and freedom. Restore to them the assurance of Your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Matt Talbot

“Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be Your will that Your beloved servant should be glorified by Your Church, make known by Your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in Your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

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-Matt’s current resting place, the coffin was moved in 1972 and the remains now rest in Our Lady of Lourdes Church,
Sean MacDermott St., Dublin.

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-exhumed

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-formal inspection of the remains as official part of the beatification/canonization process

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-Matt’s original marker. He was originally buried in a poorer part of Glasnevin Cemetery.

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-inspection of Matt’s remains upon transfer

On 8 June 1925, the following news item appeared in the Irish Independent:

“Unknown Man’s Death:

An elderly man collapsed in Granby Lane [Dublin] yesterday, and being taken to Jervis Street Hospital he was found to be dead. He was wearing a tweed suit, but there was nothing to indicate who he was.

What was not reported was the unusual discovery when he was taken to hospital. He was wearing heavy chains: some wrapped around his legs, others on his body. Mortuary staff puzzled over not just who he was but, also, the meaning of the chains.

The newspaper report had appeared on a Monday morning. Later that night, police ushered a woman into the mortuary. She identified the body as that of her brother: Matt Talbot. A nursing nun present asked about the chains. The dead man’s sister replied simply that it was something he wore, and with that, they were placed in the coffin and the lid closed.

That was not the whole story though; the chains were part of the mystery of the man who had died. They were as symbolic as they were real. The man’s life having been a ‘crossing over’ from the servitude of vice to the freedom of those in chains for Christ.

Talbot was born in 1856 into a large Catholic family living in semi-poverty in Dublin. His schooling was slight. He was barely literate when he went to work full-time aged just 11 years old. For the rest of his life his occupation was as an unskilled labourer. He was exposed to harsh working conditions, at times harsh bosses and to a social environment that necessitated some form of release from this – this was found by many in the city’s public houses. Matt was no different, so much so that by his teenage years he was hopelessly addicted to alcohol.

Matt had the reputation of being a hard worker. Increasingly, however, that work ethic was simply the means to finance his ‘hard drinking’. As it grips, vice of whatever sort is hard to counter, especially when the will to oppose it diminishes, so it was with Matt Talbot – what had began as an escape soon became a prison of moral and spiritual degradation. And, the more time he spent there the more Matt needed alcohol to shield him from that reality. Those around watched and, shaking their heads, concluded that Talbot was a lost cause. But they were to be proved wrong and in a most unexpected way.

Fittingly, the second phase of Matt’s life began outside a pub. That day he had no money, and, therefore, hoped that some of his drinking fraternity would stand him a drink. As each acquaintance filed past, none offered to buy him anything. On that summer’s day in 1884, something occurred that was to change Matt Talbot forever. Humiliated by the indifference of his erstwhile friends, he turned and walked straight home. His mother was surprised to see him – at that early hour, and sober. He proceeded to clean himself up before announcing he was going to a nearby seminary to ‘take the pledge’ – a promise to abstain from all alcohol. His mother was mystified by this and fearful. She knew that pledges made to God were not something to be taken lightly. She counselled him against doing any such thing unless he was intent on persevering. He listened, and then left.

Matt did take the pledge that day. He also went to Confession. It was as dramatic as it was decisive. It had all the hallmarks of a genuine conversion, one as sincere as it was needed. Nevertheless, a conversion takes but a moment, the work of sanctity a lifetime: after years of drunkenness, still arraigned against Matt was a weakness of character and a world that revolved around alcohol. It looked as if the odds were stacked against him, but this was not solely a human undertaking. Into this ‘land of captivity’, from ‘across the Jordan’, there came invisible armies to fight alongside this now embattled soul, one embarked upon a war of liberation. This was not a new spiritual combat, but rather one that had commenced many years previously when this poor man’s parents brought a child to a parish church and asked for baptism in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

After his conversion, not much changed, outwardly at least: Matt continued with his employment in the docks. He continued to work hard, now respected more than ever by his fellow workers and employers who noticed that he had started to give his wages to his mother rather than straight to a publican. Nevertheless, work alone cannot satisfy the human heart. Previously, when not working his life had been many hours spent in public houses, but, now, he had turned his back on that. He had been ‘born anew’, but like a newborn was vulnerable to the world he inhabited. With no material substance to cling to he turned inward, to the Spirit that dwells within each baptised soul. And, as he did so, he commenced upon an adventure that few could have imagined possible.

From then on, along the Dublin streets, there moved a mystic soul. Each morning at 5AM, dressed in workman’s clothes a man knelt outside a city church waiting for the doors to open and the first Mass to begin. After the Holy Sacrifice, he would pray for a time before going to one of the timber yards near the docks. There, he laboured all day; but there were periods in the day when lulls and breaks would occur. Whilst his fellow workers gossiped or smoked, Matt chose to be alone, knelt in prayer in a hidden part of a workshop until the call came to return to his labors.

***

Each evening, when work was finished, Matt walked home with his fellow workers. They knew their companion’s free time was spent praying in some city church before the Blessed Sacrament. Often he asked them to join him in making a visit to Our Blessed Lord. Some did. After a short while, however, they would leave with Matt still knelt in the gathering twilight. Eventually, when at night he did return home it was to yet more prayer – and mortification. His bed was a plank of wood, a piece of that same material his pillow. Although respected by those he lived amongst and worked alongside, and not unfriendly, he had few visitors. Those who did encounter him felt he was not quite of this world; they were right; he was travelling ever inwards on a mystical journey to a freedom he could never have dreamt of when trapped in an alcoholic stupor.

When his belongings were found after his death, one of the surprises was the number of books he owned. Inquires soon revealed that he had slowly, but determinedly, taught himself to read and, as he did so, effectively began a course of study that included the spiritual classics, the lives of Saints, doctrinal books, and works of mystical and ascetical theology. When asked how he, a poor workman, could read the works of St. Augustine, Newman et al, his reply was as straightforward as it was telling. He said he asked the Holy Spirit to enlighten him. And so, he grew in an intellectual understanding of his faith, which in turn deepened the prayer and penance he undertook. Here was a 20th Century heir to the spiritual traditions of the ancient Irish monks, albeit one now living not on an island monastery but in the slums of Dublin, but, like those earlier contemplatives his life was work, study and prayer with eyes turned ever inward to the Holy Trinity.

Matt never married; held no position of note, was unknown outside his own small circle of family and friends – only one blurred photograph has survived him- and, yet, this was a rare man: one who had taken the Gospel at its word and lived it.

His lifetime ran alongside the then momentous events in Irish history. A time of cultural renaissance and nationalist fervour, of a Great Strike in 1913 and open revolution in 1916, of the Great War and a War for Independence, throughout it all his life remained largely unchanged. Matt knew all too well that kingdoms rise and kingdoms fall, but that he had set his face to serve a different Kingdom, one shown him in 1884 when he confessed all and cast himself into the hands of the Living God.

By 1925, Matt was 69. He had been in poor health for some time. Out of necessity he tried to continue working as there was only limited relief for the poor or elderly, but his strength was failing. Nevertheless, he persisted in his prayer and penance. On 7 June 1925, whilst struggling down a Dublin alleyway on his way to Mass, he fell. A small crowd gathered around him. A Dominican priest was called from the nearby church, the one where Matt had been hurrying. The priest came and knelt over the fallen man. Realising what had happened, he lifted his hand in a blessing for the final journey. Little did he realise the dead stranger lying in front of him had already been on that ‘journey’ for over 40 years.

Having lived in the intimacy of the Triune God, it was apt Matt died on Trinity Sunday. Having lived off the Eucharist daily for more than 40 years, it was equally fitting he was buried on the feast of Corpus Christi.

Decades later, a visiting Italian priest went privately to pray at the grave of the Dublin worker he had heard so much about. In 1975, and after the due process had been completed, that same cleric, now Pope Paul VI, bestowed a new title upon that Irish workman: Venerable Matt Talbot.

There is a large trunk in the safe keeping of the Archdiocese of Dublin. It contains the books owned by Venerable Matt Talbot. A veritable treasury of spiritual theology, one of the books contained therein is True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. In its pages it reflects on being a slave to this world or to the Blessed Virgin. For those that choose the latter path it recommends, after due recourse to a spiritual director and the suitable enrolment, that a chain be worn to symbolise that that soul no longer belongs to the powers of darkness but is now a child of the light. On that June day in 1925, when Matt Talbot fell upon a Dublin street, it was dressed as a slave to Mary and as an ambassador of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew

Virtue

-“Allegory of Virtue”, Corregio
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-classical virtue, Ephesus
-“Virtue coming to the aid of Christian Faith”, Titian

-traditional Chinese symbols for virtue

“A virtue is an habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.” 


-Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1803



For I agree with you that there is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents.
-Thomas Jefferson, to John Adams from Monticello, Oct. 28, 1813