Aug 12 – Bl Karl Leisner, (1915-1945), Priest & Martyr, Dachau Prisoner 22356, Camp 26

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Very near to where Kelly and I live is the Schoenstatt Shrine of Madison.
http://schoenstattwisconsin.org/
http://schoenstattmadison.com/

-by Rev. Mark Steffl, April 2006, while studying for his STL in Rome.  He is a priest of the diocese of New Ulm, MN.

“My time as a student in Rome has afforded me many opportunities to experience the great wealth and tradition of the Universal Catholic Church. This past February was one of the highlights of that experience when I was able to celebrate a Mass at the altar that was in the Dachau Concentration Camp during World War II.

Before and during the Second World War, the Nazis in Germany forced many priests into concentration camps and the majority were sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich.  The priests were segregated together in a single area, the “Priesterblock” and through the diplomacy of the Holy See at the time, they were permitted to have a chapel and a single altar in which to celebrate Mass. The altar, made of wood by the prisoners was the site where these priests were allowed a single Mass each day.

Many of these priests, who were called to join in a special way to the sufferings and Passion of Our Lord, died because of illness and as a result of harsh punishment. I have a particular devotion to one of them who is especially connected to the Dachau altar, Blessed Karl Leisner.  He has a fascinating story of being arrested as a deacon because of his efforts with Catholic youth contrary to the Nazi regime.

Blessed Karl Leisner’s vocation is a particular one in several details. He was the only man who was ordained a priest in Dachau. On December 17, 1944, under great secrecy and against the orders of the Nazis, he was ordained a priest by a French Bishop after five years of life in concentration camps as a deacon. He was in such poor health at that time, that he was able to celebrate only a single Mass as a priest before he died. He lived to see liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp, and of Germany from the Nazi regime, but died soon after.

Blessed Karl Leisner’s life stands out in an important way for us today on many levels.The first is that Blessed Karl, a German, was ordained by a French bishop during a war in which the two nationalities were in bloody conflict with each other.  It shows in a beautiful way how “Catholic” (which means “universal”)  faith truly lives up to its etymological roots surpassing borders and boundaries. Jesus’ message of hope and love goes beyond national identities and embraces all of humanity.

Secondly, for a world that measures worth by productivity, Karl Leisner’s life would seem “unproductive.” He celebrated only one single Mass as a priest. But his life shows and challenges us to see life as God would, with its dignity and special plan for each of us, rather than to follow the world in judging worth by ability to produce.  His whole life had been planned by God for that single Mass he offered at the altar in the Dachau Concentration Camp, and his suffering was not in vain, but went on to inspire many with him after him to persevere in their own suffering, seeing it in the “plan of God” and knowing that God does great things with the struggles we bear for Him.

Pope John Paul II beatified Karl Leisner, along with a second German priest who died in custody of the Nazis, on a trip to Germany that he made in 1996. The beatification Mass was held in the same Olympic Stadium that Adolf Hitler had constructed for the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games and used often for Nazi parades and spectacles. Here again we see the great paradox of the same stadium, constructed for the worst of reasons, becoming a place of great graces, with the Holy Father celebrating a Mass there for a great crowd and beatifying two priests who stood firmly against the Nazis and gave their lives for their faith in the Lord and His Gospel that comes to us in the Church.

Pope John Paul II, in his homily at this beatification Mass highlighted how Blessed Karl Leisner witnessed to his faith and how he is an example of how we today are to take that witness and apply it to our own lives. John Paul pointed out that often we are called against the “popular world view” illustrating that we are called to bear witness to a culture of life that finds its reward in eternal life. That we are called to “resist the culture of hatred and death, regardless of the guise which it may assume.

The Dachau altar, the altar that was the place of this Blessed Karl Leisner’s ordination Mass and the single Mass after his ordination that he said as a priest, is today in a house for diocesan priests affiliated with the Schoenstatt Movement (of which Karl Leisner was a part as a boy and seminarian) not far from Frankfurt. It was “rescued” after the war and is kept as a witness to great hope and joy in the midst of the worst of conditions, the great dignity to which we are all called in the Mass, where we find a foretaste of the eternal banquet that we hope and strive to attain, eternal life with Jesus in heaven.”

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“But we maintain our Christian, courageous calm. Nobody will take away our will to struggle and fight back as long as He is with us. God is the ruler of the fates of men and peoples. This is our victory, which overcomes the world.” – Bl Karl, remarking after the Nazis closed the Catholic youth center in Dusseldorf, where he ministered.

He wrote a poem that expressed his feelings at this time:

Though the road wind through the blackest night,
Victory will be ours in the dawn’s crimson light.
We are ready to proclaim, in all lands and climes,
That God is the Lord even of these our times.

Karl continued to work with youth, and the Gestapo noted it. They opened a secret file on his activities in 1936. They watched his movements and read his mail.

One day after hearing about an attempt to assassinate Hitler with a bomb, he remarked that it was a pity that Hitler wasn’t there when the attack occurred. This was reported to the authorities, and within hours, then Deacon Karl was arrested.

“Karl Leisner encourages us to remain on the way that is Christ. We must not grow weary, even if sometimes this way seems dark and demands sacrifice. Let us beware of false prophets who want to show us other ways. Christ is the way that leads to life. All other ways are detours or wrong paths.” – Pope John Paul II, during the beatification Mass.

Blessed Karl Leisner, priest & martyr, pray for us when we are called to witness to the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Eternal, Glorious Reign!!!

Love,
Matthew

Aug 11 – St Clare of Assisi, OSC, (1194-1253), Virgin

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“Go forth without fear, Christian soul, for you have a good guide for your journey. Go forth without fear, for He that created you has sanctified you, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.” – Saint Clare, on her deathbed in 1253

Saint Clare was born in 1193 in Assisi to a noble family. Before her birth, her mother received a sign that her daughter would be a bright light of God in the world. As a child she was already very strongly drawn to the things of God, praying fervently, devoutly visiting the Blessed Sacrament, and manifesting a tender love towards the poor.

When she was 18, she heard St. Francis preaching in the town square during Lent and she knew at once that God wanted her to consecrate herself to Him. The next evening, Clare left her house at night, ran to meet St. Francis and his companions at the church they were staying in, and shared her desire to follow him in his way of life. He received her, gave her his tunic, cut off her golden locks, and sent her to a Benedictine convent, because she could not stay with the brothers. Her younger sister Agnes soon joined her and the two had to resist much pressure from their family to return home.

When Clare was 22, St. Francis placed her in a small house beside the convent and made her superior, a post she should serve for the next 42 years of her life until her death.

The ´Poor Clares’ as they came to be known, lived an unusually austere life for women of the time, walking barefoot around the town begging for alms, wearing sackcloth, and living without any possessions, completely dependent for their food on what was given to them. But the emphasis of their lives was, and still is, contemplation.

Many young noble women left all they had to take on the poor habit of Clare and the order grew rapidly, with houses being founded all over Italy, all of whom took St. Clare as their model and inspiration.

Clare’s reputation for holiness was such that the Pope himself came to her deathbed in 1253 to give her absolution, and wanted to canonize her immediately on her death, but was advised by his cardinals to wait.

Claire died in absolute tranquility, saying to one of the brothers at her side “Dear brother, ever since through His servant Francis I have known the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have never in my whole life found any pain or sickness that could trouble me.”

St. Clare

“Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the virgin’s womb, willed to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that men who were in dire poverty and in great need of heavenly nourishment might be made rich in Him.” -St. Clare of Assisi

Prayer of St. Clare

I look up and I behold the Lord,
Clare says to me,

Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him,
I put this more simply: behold, hold, enfold.

I behold the Lord
I see His outstretched hands
I see the blood from His wounds.
I see the love in the eyes of Jesus.
I see His gracious acceptance of me.

Jesus has come out of the tomb –
He still has the scars,
but now they are glorious, with the glory of heaven.
Still looking at the Lord, I reach out and touch Him.
I hold the Lord – and I am held in His love.

Love enfolds
It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.
I am secure in the Lord.
I can look out, now, through the Lord’s eyes.
I can see the world as He created it, in His mercy,
I can see my sisters and brothers with His love,
and I can worship the Father through the eyes of the Son
in the Love of the Holy Spirit.

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“Totally love Him, Who gave Himself totally for your love.”
— St. Clare of Assisi

Love,
Matthew

Promises of the (Diocesan) Priesthood

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(Editor’s note:  to be qualified for ordination in the Roman Catholic Church, a man must be without physical defect/physically sound.  It’s got to ALL be there!  If not, a formal dispensation will be required.  Even after ordination, if the man is maimed or is otherwise physically unsound, there are other qualifications such as psychological, but let’s stick with physical right now, a formal dispensation will be required.  St Isaac Jogues, SJ, (1607-1646) required and was granted a dispensation to say Mass after his fingers were burned or chewed off by the Mohawk Native Americans.  Certainly, this requirement is reflective and symbolic of Christ’s FULL HUMANITY, even FULL MASCULINITY in the Incarnation – the HARDEST point for fellow, non-Christian monotheists to accept.

Which leads to another interesting point and post for a later date regarding why women, sorry ladies, cannot be ordained, imho.  During Mass, did you ever notice, the priest intones, “This is MY body!” , in persona Christi, not “This is the LORD’s body!” during consecration?  Did ya’?  Did ya’?  Can a female celebrant say with the same authenticity “This is MY body?”  Discuss.)

– by Bishop Thomas J Tobin, Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island

Let’s start with celibacy.  (Ed. “Let’s!”)

When a man is ordained a deacon on the road to the priesthood, he commits himself to a life of celibacy and chastity. The Rite of Ordination instructs the ordinand: “Compelled by the sincere love of Christ the Lord, and embracing this state with total dedication, you will cling to Christ more easily with an undivided heart. You will free yourself more completely for the service of God and man.”

Without a doubt, celibacy is a sacrificial and life-changing commitment. But it’s a promise freely made after years of discernment and lots of discussion and prayer. The spiritual motivation of celibacy is critical; it’s best seen not as a denial of something negative, but rather, an embrace of something positive: an intense relationship with Jesus Christ and through Him, with our Heavenly Father.

Nor should celibacy lead to a life of selfishness, isolation or loneliness. To be fully human, priests need friends – young and old, male and female, clerical and lay. And while celibacy appropriately limits the nature of relationships, priestly ministry often affords wonderful, lifelong friendships that truly enrich the life of the priest.

Obedience to “the bishop and his successors” is another commitment a priest makes to strengthen his union with Christ and provide freedom for service.

I think it’s interesting that on the road to the priesthood a man pledges his commitment to celibacy only once, but to obedience, twice – in both diaconate and priesthood ordinations. That’s not because obedience is more important than celibacy, but because it can actually be more challenging. Once a priest pledges celibacy, that commitment sets him on a determined, focused path that results in a particular lifestyle. Obedience, on the other hand, is tested multiple times, in very practical ways – for example, every time a priest is asked to move to another assignment, or live with a priest he may not know or like, or is denied a personal request, or is required to follow a particular policy or law of the Church.

Again, it’s important to underline the spiritual motive for obedience. In one of his audiences, Blessed Pope John Paul spoke of the practical challenges and rewards of obedience: “Obedience can sometimes be difficult, particularly when different opinions clash. However, obedience was Jesus’ fundamental attitude to sacrificing himself and it bore fruit in the salvation the whole world has received.” Similarly, in his obedience, the priest shares in the humility of the cross and lays down his life for others.

And what of poverty? Unlike celibacy and obedience, there’s no formal liturgical promise of poverty required of priests at their ordination, but perhaps there should be. After all, the virtue of poverty in the life of the priest has the same motives as celibacy and obedience: imitation of Christ and freedom to serve God’s people.

Priests are not expected to live in abject material poverty. But the “spirit of poverty” is a Gospel value for all Christians, and it has particular consequences for priests. It speaks of priorities, detachment and proper use of material goods.

The Second Vatican Council was rather clear on this point: “Priests are invited to embrace voluntary poverty … [Priests] are to use money acquired in the exercise of their ecclesiastical office primarily for their own decent support and the fulfillment of the duties of their state. They should be willing to devote whatever is left over to the good of the Church or to works of charity. So they are not to regard an ecclesiastical office as a source of profit and are not to spend their income for increasing their own private fortunes.” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, #17)

The concept of “voluntary poverty” raises interesting questions. On occasion I’ve heard members of the laity complain about the very comfortable, secular lifestyle of priests today. They note that priests receive reasonable salaries, and unlike the laity who often have to struggle to meet daily expenses, are somewhat pampered, having most of their needs provided for them – housing, housekeeping, food and beverage expenses, health insurance and pension funding. The laity sometimes point to the “freebies” priests often receive – use of vacation homes, meals in restaurants, and tickets to sporting and cultural events, for example.  (Ed:  glamorous, frequent, international travel, to places most laity could never afford to travel, nor ever will in their lifetimes.  The laity, by necessity, “work out their salvation in fear and trembling”, Phil 2:12,  and Christian vocation, drudgingly, AT HOME, out of necessity, not choice.)

It’s true, I think, that priests need to examine themselves very closely on this point, lest they fall into the quicksand of materialism or unhealthy priorities. Priests have to be careful that they don’t feel sorry for themselves, abuse their privileges, or use their ministry for personal gain.

On the other hand, the laity should recognize that priests receive these material benefits precisely because they’ve handed their lives over to the Church. Priests aren’t free to seek secular employment, change employers or negotiate their salaries; they don’t own their own rectories; they can’t freely choose where they’ll live, with whom they’ll live, or when they’ll move. In return for these personal sacrifices, the Church is obliged to take care of her priests for life, providing a decent standard of living and suitable material benefits. And if grateful parishioners want to thank their priests with personal gifts, so be it.

Oh well, these are all interesting practical questions for the Church today. And to be sure the life of the priest and the commitments they make deserve much fuller discussion than I’ve provided here.

But, pray for your priests, love them and support them, personally and prayerfully. And, dear brother priests, as we celebrate the ordination of new priests for our diocese, use the occasion to thank God for your vocation and to renew your commitment to serve Christ and His people with generosity, love and joy.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 9 – Bl Florentino Asensio Barroso, (1877-1936), Bishop & Martyr, Patron of Torture Victims & Those Under A Promise Celibacy

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Former Apostolic Administrator of Barbastro, Monsignor Florentino Asensio y Barroso was born to a poor but devout Catholic family in Villasexmir, Valladolid, Spain, on October 16, 1877, he had an elder brother who was an Augustinian Monk.

Ordained to the Priesthood on June 1, 1901, in Valladolid, Barroso earned a Licentiate and Doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical University of Valladolid, where he subsequently served as a Lecturer.

Spiritual Director and Confessor to several Religious Congregations, Barroso was a keen Orator. Luckily, many of his homilies have survived. Receiving his Episcopal Consecration following his appointment as Apostolic Administrator of Barbastro at 58 years of age on January 26, 1936, his brief Episcopate, which lasted only five months, was noted for his charity to the poor and sick. However, this was a period of hostility to the Catholic Church.

Bishop Florentino was placed under house arrest, and then imprisoned. Moved to solitary confinement on August 1, 1936, he was tortured and brutally mutilated.

An autopsy on his remains performed on April 16, 1993, proved that he suffered among others the amputation of his genitals, almost certainly in attempted mockery of his vow of celibacy.

Following these horrible tortures, Bishop Florentino was shot three times through the temple in a Cemetery outside Barbastro, Huesca, on August 2, 1936, becoming thus one of the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

Buried in a common grave with other victims, his remains were later exhumed and immediately identified as his body was found incorrupt. Re – interred in the Cathedral Crypt of Barbastro, beneath the Presbytery, his body was later moved to the Capilla de San Carlos Borromeo inside the same Cathedral, were they lie to this day in a specially constructed sarcophagus.

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View Of The Sarcophagus Which Houses The Venerated Incorrupt Remains Of Bishop Florentino At The Chapel Of St. Charles Borromeo, Inside The Cathedral Of Barbastro, Huesca, Spain.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 8 – St Mary Helen MacKillop, RSJ, (1842-1909), Foundress of the Josephites

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/19/saint-mary-mackillop-aust_n_468595.html

Feb 19 2010

VATICAN CITY (AP) – Pope Benedict XVI approved sainthood for Mother Mary MacKillop on Friday, making the woman known for her work among the needy Australia’s first saint.

The pope made the announcement during a ceremony at the Vatican and set the formal canonization for Oct. 17 in Rome. Five others – from Italy, Spain, Poland and Canada – will be canonized at the same time.

MacKillop founded the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (of the Sacred Heart!), an order that built dozens of schools for impoverished children across the Australian Outback in the 1800s, as well as orphanages and clinics for the needy.

With vows of abstinence from owning personal belongings and dedication to helping the poor, MacKillop is credited with spreading Roman Catholicism in Australia and New Zealand.

But she was a strong-willed advocate who sometimes got into trouble for challenging orthodox thinking within the male-dominated church. In 1869 she was excommunicated for inciting her followers to disobedience, though the bishop who punished her recanted three years (some accounts say five months) later (nine days before his death – timing is everything) and she was exonerated by a church commission.

“This is a great, great tribute to the Catholic church and a great, great tribute to her hard work in education,” Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Friday. “This is a great honor for Australia. I offer a heartfelt expression of appreciation to the wider Catholic community.”

MacKillop died in 1909 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.

Australians have been awaiting Friday’s announcement since Benedict in December cleared the way by declaring MacKillop was responsible for the required second miracle, one of the final steps in the complex process before sainthood can be bestowed.

“It’s more than just Catholics, the whole country has a new hero – someone that will give them hope for the future,” said Garry McLean, CEO of the Mary MacKillop Heritage Center in Melbourne.

“Today it has been recognized that a woman can become a saint in the Australian environment with all its complexities and challenges,” Postulator for the Cause of Mary MacKillop, Sister Maria Casey, said in a statement. “Mary MacKillop is to be listed among the saints of the Catholic Church. I look forward to the celebration of her goodness when many pilgrims from all over the world come to Rome for the ceremony.”

“By their fruits you will know them.” (Mt 7:16)

Because of my personality, I realize, when I was considering making a solemn promise of vows similar to Mother MacKillop, the one I struggled with most then and still would now is obedience without reservation or foreknowledge. I wanted a contract with rights and duties, limits of liability, and perfect clairvoyance of the future – or something like that. With the benefit of twenty-two additional years of experience and maturity, I might have some incremental hope of inching closer to such a promise now, not knowing what that would mean or entail for the rest of my life; yet, my experience with authority in human organizations since then  could also be a bulwark and an impediment against the embrace of such a promise.

That may seem odd, and others might find poverty, or celibacy or life in religious community more challenging, but for me, it was obedience. And, I couldn’t just let the clock run out and potentially make a promise in my heart of hearts I really knew I couldn’t fully embrace or potentially fulfill. That would have been dishonest. It’s not that simple, but that’s probably one of the bigger reasons I left.

Marriage has its own implicit promises of obedience, without reservation, regardless of gender or role in family – the obedience of love, to the best of our ability. And this obedience is joyful, as I am sure those who embrace the vow of obedience in religious life, like Mother MacKillop, must find it to have any hope of living it.

What the article fails to mention is Mother MacKillop took that vow of obedience I could not. Obedience to authority has become very unfashionable in the last few centuries. Granted, those in authority are replete with all the human weakness we all suffer. Yet, Christian love, in my understanding and my attempted and faltering and failing practice, requires mission and obedience are inextricable, by the Lord’s own example.

Mother MacKillop’s life and example was replete with rich fruits of her profound faith and practice of it. Her works, as are all good works of Christian charity, are the fruits of profound faith. There is no dichotomy between “faith & works” in my understanding or experience. One blossoms into the other, it has to, in the Catholic understanding, and the Lord should be praised therefore.

When I grow angry with the failings of those in authority, and feel the need to express my displeasure openly, I ask myself “What are the irrefutable fruits of my own faith in my life all could recognize, such that I possess evidence for myself and for others that it is not merely anger which I am celebrating or indulging in, but my anger is a just a continuum of my attempt to live out of Christian love?” As Mother MacKillop did? That is not to let the culpable off the hook, but rather to assure myself of my proper orientation in what I am doing and trying to live my faith.

The Lord commands us to love one another, especially when we are most unhappy with or treated most unjustly by each other, even to the point of evil – even the evil of crucifixion and a tortured death. Could I forgive in the moment of my agony? I doubt it in the extreme. God give me the grace to hope to do so and, please Lord, do not test my faith.

In this Lent, let us give up righteous anger, no matter how good or right it feels in the moment, let us abstain from it, and put on righteous love, as Mother MacKillop did through grace.

Besides, would you mess with an Australian nun who lived in the outback without air conditioning wearing a habit like the one in the picture, accomplished what she accomplished, and who had so big a crucifix stuck in her belt? Not me.

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Love,
Matthew

Laity = Salt of the Earth

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-by Br Justin Mary Bogler, OP

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again?” (Mt 5:13)

We are nourished when we come to church, listen to God’s Word, and receive the sacraments. But after being nourished, we leave the temple to sanctify the temporal order. This is the mission the laity are specifically charged with by the Church. In Lumen Gentium, we read that given their secular character, and that the Church has an authentic secular dimension, the laity must be “present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth” (LG 4).

What does it mean to become the salt of the earth? There are the familiar uses of salt: preservation and seasoning. Being salt in the world means we preserve what is good in it, and by seasoning it we make it better. There are other uses of salt. It’s used as a sacramental to protect from sickness and evil, so by being salt we guard what we have preserved and seasoned. Salt can also be a means of destroying. Cities and fields used to be salted as a sign of their defeat and so that nothing would grow there. This means not only guarding what we preserve and season, but also fighting against that which threatens it.

This mission to become salt of the earth has implications for civil society, which is comprised of church, family, charitable institutions, and community organizations. Edmund Burke referred to these institutions as “little platoons” within which the individual flourishes and learns virtue. The laity’s mission of salting will take place here. Of course it will also take place in the economic and political sectors of society, but these sectors flourish when civil society does. A healthy society grows from the bottom up. For it is in church, in the family, in working with charitable societies that carry out the corporal works of mercy, and in community organizations that individuals become virtuous, learn civic virtue and spirit, and become responsible members of society, ordering it to God, its source and end.

So how should the laity sanctify the temporal order? How exactly do we salt civil society? We must preserve those institutions that have been handed down to us so that we can hand them on to those who will come after us…The family is also obviously in need of preserving.

It is within the family, the domestic church, that individuals first encounter the faith and virtue lived out on a daily basis. Civil society must also be seasoned, that is, it must be improved where possible.

We are not called merely to preserve, to watch, as these institutions grow old. We attend to them and make them better ordered to God and the truths he has established. We also guard such institutions against forces that would attack them.

We especially see how there are certain forces, cultural and political, working against the family and religious institutions. And lastly, we don’t only play defense by guarding. We salt the fields of the enemy by fighting where and when necessary.

An obvious Christian way to fight against forces that work against civil society is through prayer. But we can also do this through protesting unjust laws and organizations and through establishing new institutions that promote charity, justice, and peace in society.

Christ charges us to be salt of the earth, but He also intimates the possibility of our losing this salty character. We must remain salty if we are to sanctify the world.

But if the faithful, especially the laity, are to order society to its Creator we must learn from Him how to do so. We must always return to prayer, the sacraments, and Scripture.

But we can also look back at the Scripture quoted above when Jesus urges us to become salt of the earth and remain that way. Christ says this in the context of the Sermon on the Mount.

And immediately prior to the verse above He gives us the Beatitudes. This too, given the context, is a way to remain salty. Be meek. Hunger for righteousness. Be pure. Be merciful. Work for peace. Turn the other cheek when insulted for the sake of the Gospel. The Beatitudes give us a program for staying salty. We have the charge (be salt), the place where it takes place (civil society), and the way to stay salty (prayer, sacraments, the Beatitudes).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

-Matthew 5:3-10

Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ!  King of Endless Glory!!!  Amen!  Amen!  Amen!  Hosanna in the Highest!!!

Love,
Matthew

Aug 4 – St Jean-Baptiste Marie Vianney, TOSF, (1786-1859), “Curé d’Ars”, Patron of Priests

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“…so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Cor 9:27

Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney was a religious personality of unusual force. To the incomparable exclusion of everything else he addressed himself to the greater honor and glory of God and the salvation of souls. He accepted his obligation to holiness at an early age, and it took complete possession of him. Every word he uttered was spoken out of the world of religiousness. He brought to a conclusion an achievement which it would be hard for anyone to imitate. From this man there emanated an influence which cannot be overlooked, and the results of which cannot be contested.

“I owe a debt to my mother,” he said, and added, “virtues go easily from mothers into the hearts of their children, who willingly do what they see being done.”

In his assignment as parish priest of Ars, St. John achieved something which many priests would like to have done, but which is scarcely granted to any. Not over night, but little by little, the tiny hamlet underwent a change.

The people of Ars were unable to remain aloof for long from the grace which radiated from the remarkable personality of their priest. When a man attacks inveterate disorders and popular vices, he challenges opposition. St. John was not unprepared – he knew the enemy would raise his head. “If a priest is determined not to lose his soul,” he exclaimed, “so soon as any disorder arises in the parish, he must trample underfoot all human considerations as well as the fear of the contempt and hatred of his people. He must not allow anything to bar his way in the discharge of duty, even were he certain of being murdered on coming down from the pulpit. A pastor who wants to do his duty must keep his sword in hand at all times. Did not St. Paul himself write to the faithful of Corinth: ‘I most gladly will spend and be spent myself for your souls, although loving you more, I be loved less.’”

Saint John Marie would never consider Ars converted until all of the 200 villagers were living up to the ten commandments of God and the fulfillment of their duties in life.

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It took St. John Vianney ten whole years to renew Ars, but the community changed so noticeably and to such an extent that it was observed even by outsiders.  There was no more working on Sundays, the church was filled more and more every year, and drunkenness fell off.  In the end the taverns had to close their doors since they had no more customers; and even domestic squabbles abated.  Honesty became the principal characteristic.  “Ars is no longer Ars,” as St. John Vianney himself wrote; for it had undergone a fundamental change.  Under his guidance the little village became a community of pious people, to whom all his labors were directed.

He delighted in teaching the children their catechism and he did this daily.  After a while the grown-ups came too and he found that those who were children during the French Revolution were in complete ignorance of their religious duties.  He taught the people love for the rosary and wanted everyone to carry one around at all times.  It is truly astounding to reflect upon what St. John Vianney, with a staff of trained assistants, was able to achieve in the village in the space of a few years.  What an immense amount of endeavor underlay his work will best be appreciated by anyone who has had to convert only a few drunkards to sanity.

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Jean-Marie sanctified himself while at work in the field or in the house. The supernatural world was ever present to him, but for all that he was neither a slacker nor a dreamer, his being a healthy and active temperament. “O what a beautiful thing it is to do all things in union with the good God!” he would say. “Courage, my soul, if you work with God, you shall, indeed, do the work, but He will bless it. You shall walk and He will bless your steps. Everything shall be taken account of – the forgoing of a look, of some gratification – all shall be recorded. There are people who make capital out of everything, even the winter. If it is cold they offer their little sufferings to God. Oh! What a beautiful thing it is to offer oneself, each morning, as a victim to God!”

In letters of consolation to a cousin, Frère Chalovet, whom obedience had sent to the Hotel-Dieu of Lyons and who was greatly tempted, he wrote: “My good friend, I write these lines in haste to tell you not to leave, in spite of all the trials that the good God wishes you to endure. Take courage! Heaven is rich enough to reward you. Remember that the evils of this world are the lot of good Christians. You are going through a kind of martyrdom. But what a happiness for you to be a martyr of charity! Do not lose so beautiful a crown. ‘Blessed are they that suffer persecution for my sake,’ says Jesus Christ, our model. Farewell, my most dear friend. Persevere along the way on which you have so happily entered and we shall see each other again in heaven…” “Courage my good cousin! Soon we shall see it, our beautiful heaven. Soon there will be no more cross for us! What divine bliss! To see that good Jesus Who has loved us so much and Who will make us so happy!”

Often when the Curé was returning to Ars from missionary expeditions, Mayor Mandy, who was anxious about the safety of his holy pastor, would send his son Antoine to accompany him on his journey home. “Even amid the snows and cold of winter,” Antoine afterwards related, “we rarely took the shortest and best road. M. le Curé had invariably to visit some sick person. Yet the tramp never seemed really long, for the servant of God well knew how to shorten it by relating most interesting episodes from the lives of the saints.

If I happened to make some remark about the sharpness of the cold or the ruggedness of the roads, he was always ready with an answer: ‘My friend, the saints have suffered far more; let us offer it all to the good God.’ When he ceased from speaking of holy things we began the Rosary. Even today I still cherish the memory of those holy conversations.”

St. John Vianney had loved Mary from the cradle. As a priest he had exerted all his energy in spreading her glory. To convince themselves of it, the pilgrims had but to look at the small statues of her that adorned the front of every house in the village. In each home there was also a colored picture of the Mother of God, presented and signed by M. le Curé. In 1814 he had erected a large statue of Mary Immaculate on the pediment of his church. Eight years earlier, on May 1, 1836, he had dedicated his parish to Mary Conceived Without Sin.

The picture which perpetuates this consecration, says Catherine Lassagne, is placed at the entrance to our Lady’s Chapel. Shortly afterwards he ordered a heart to be made, in vermeil (color), which is, even to this day, suspended from the neck of the miraculous Virgin. This heart contains the names of all the parishioners of Ars, written on a white silk ribbon. On the feasts of Our Lady, Communions were numerous, and the church was never empty. On the evenings of those festivals the nave and the side chapels could barely contain the congregation, for no one wished to miss M. Vianney’s homily in honor of Our Blessed Lady. The hearers were enthralled by the enthusiasm with which he spoke of the holiness, the power, and the love of the Mother of God.

The explanation of this mysterious transformation of the village of Ars can only be grasped in the remarkable manner that this simple priest realized that a man must always begin with himself, and that even the rebirth of a community can only be achieved by its renewing itself.  We must expect nothing of men which is not already embodied within them.

On the basis of this perception St. John Vianney set to work, in the first place, upon himself, so that he could attain the ideal which he demanded of his parishioners in his own person.  He took his own religious obligations with the greatest seriousness, and did not care whether the people noticed this or not.  And finally the inhabitants of Ars said to each other:  “Our priest always does what he says himself; he practices what he preaches.  Never have we seen him allow himself any form of relaxation.”

St. John Vianney read much and often the lives of the saints, and became so impressed by their holy lives that he wanted for himself and others to follow their wonderful examples. The ideal of holiness enchanted him.

He placed himself in that great tradition which leads the way to holiness through personal sacrifice. “If we are not now saints, it is a great misfortune for us: therefore we must be so. As long as we have no love in our hearts, we shall never be Saints.”

The Saint, to him, was not an exceptional man before whom we should marvel, but a possibility which was open to all Catholics. Unmistakably did he declare in his sermons that “to be a Christian and to live in sin is a monstrous contradiction. A Christian must be holy.” With his Christian simplicity he had clearly thought much on these things and understood them by divine inspiration, while they are usually denied to the understanding of educated men.

The conversion of the whole parish was too unusual an occurrence for it to remain unknown.  From the year 1827, there began the famous stream of pilgrims to Ars.  People went to Ars from all parts of France, from Belgium, from England and even from America.  The principal motive which led all these crowds of pilgrims to the priest of Ars was purely the desire for him to hear their confession and to receive spiritual counsel from him.  They were driven to his thronged confessional by the longing to meet once and for all the priest who knew all about the reality of the soul.

The priest of Ars possessed the ability to see the human soul in its nakedness, freed of its body.  Like St. Francis de Sales, he had the gift of “seeing everything and not looking at anyone.”

In confessing people this holy man, who had a fundamental knowledge of sin, strove after one thing only – to save souls.  This great saint heard confessions from 13 to 17 hours a day, and could tell a penitent’s sins even when they were withheld.

In order to save souls one must be possessed of that holy love of men which consumed the priest of Ars.  He would often weep in the confessional and when he was asked why he wept, he would reply:  “My friend, I weep because you do not weep.”

“The great miracle of the Curé d’Ars,” someone has said, “was his confessional, besieged day and night.” It might be said with equal truth that his greatest miracle was the conversion of sinners: “I have seen numerous and remarkable ones,” the Abbé Raymond assures us, “and they form the most beautiful chapter of the life of the Curé d’Ars. ‘Oh, my friend,’ he often told me, ‘only at the last judgment will it become known how many souls have here found their salvation.’”

“In reality,” Jeanne-Marie Chanay writes, “he made but small account of miraculous cures. ‘The body is so very little,’ he used to repeat. That which truly filled him with joy was the return of souls to God.” How many occasions he had for such joy! M. Prosper des Garets relates: “I asked him one day how many big sinners he had converted in the course of the year. ‘Over seven hundred,’ was his reply.” Hence it is easy to understand the wish expressed by a Curé who made the pilgrimage to Ars: “Those of my parishioners who go to M. Vianney become models. I wish I could take my whole parish to him.”

One day, under the pretext of sending him on an errand, the Baronne de Belvey dispatched to M. Vianney a hardened sinner, who only set foot in the church at Christmas and Easter. It would seem that he had not been to confession since his first Communion. “How long is it since you were last at Confession?”, M. le Curé asked. “Oh, forty years.” “Forty-four,” the saint replied. The man took a pencil and made a hasty calculation on the plastering of the wall. “Yes, it is quite true,” he admitted, overcome with amazement. The sinner was converted and died a good death.

St. John Vianney possessed the gift of being able to understand the soul of a man in an instant, and, without any lengthy explanations, to feel at once what spiritual trouble was afflicting it.

He had a clear sighted vision which often enabled him to foretell to a man what would happen to him in the future.  This gift of God overpowered the people who visited his confessional, and to whom he granted a word of pardon.  The words and advice of the Curé were like darts; they penetrated deeply.  He said little, but his little was enough.

On Aug. 4, 1859, Fr. John Vianney gave up his soul to God. He had been parish priest of Ars for 41 years. In 1925, he received the highest honor of the Church by being canonized and placed in the index of the Saints. Today over 500,000 people visit every year this simple farming town where they come to see the incorrupt body of one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church. The life of St. John Vianney is the story of a humble and holy man who barely succeeded in becoming a priest, but who converted thousands of sinners.

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“My children, we are in reality only what we are in the eyes of God, and nothing more.” -St. John Vianney

“God has created my heart only for Himself. He asks me to give it to Him that He may make it happy.” –St. John Vianney 

“Let us go often to the foot of the cross…we shall learn there what God has done for us, and what we ought to do for Him.” -St. John Vianney

“I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle like a dog at the foot of his Master.” -St. John Vianney

“Let us open the door of the Sacred Heart, and shut ourselves in for a moment amidst its divine flames; we shall then realize what God’s love means.” -St. John Vianney

“God looks neither at long nor beautiful prayers, but at those that come from the heart.” -St. John Vianney

“The happiness of man on earth, my children, is to be very good… We are in this world for no other end than to serve and love the good God.” -St. John Vianney

“We have only to turn to the Blessed Virgin to be heard. Her heart is all love.” -St. John Vianney

“The Saints were so completely dead to themselves that they cared very little whether others agreed with them or not.” -St John Vianney, Patron of the Year of Priests

“Man has a beautiful office, that of praying and loving. You pray, you love – that is the happiness of man upon the earth. Prayer is nothing else than union with God. When our heart is pure and united to God, we feel within ourselves a joy, a sweetness that inebriates, a light that dazzles us.”  –St. John Vianney

“He who, when tempted, makes the Sign of the Cross with devotion, makes hell tremble and heaven rejoice.” -St. John Vianney

“Happy is he that lives to love, receive, and serve God!” -St. John Vianney

“You don’t need to wallow in guilt. Wallow in the mercy of God.” -St. John Vianney

“When we are walking on the street, let us fix our eyes on our Lord bearing his cross; on the Blessed Virgin who is looking at us; on our guardian angel who is by our side.” -St. John Vianney

“In the soul which is united to God, it is always spring.” –St. John Vianney

“My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates (the Mass) as if he were engaged in something ordinary.” -St John Mary Vianney

“The first thing about the angels we ought to imitate is their consciousness of the presence of God.” -St. John Vianney

Prayer of St John Vianney

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.
I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.
I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally…
My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

Love,
Matthew

The Life of Grace

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-by Amette Ley, Issue #30.1, The Sower Review

‘The relationship between the Christian message and human experience… springs from the very end of catechesis, which seeks to put the human person in communion with Jesus Christ. In His earthly life He lived His humanity fully: Therefore, “Christ enables us to live in Him all that He Himself lived, and He lives it in us”. Catechesis operates through this identity of human experience between Jesus the Master and His disciple and teaches us to think like Him, to act like Him, to love like Him. To live in communion with Christ is to experience the new life of grace.’ (General Directory for Catechesis 116) … Bringing people to understand this(the Catholic understanding of the life of grace) is, of course, at the very core of what catechesis must achieve.

Avoiding the Extremes  

(Ed note:  the Church predictably, historically, regularly, habitually avoids the extremes of any issue.  It has done so throughout its two millenia.  This is one of the ways we know and can come to understand the truth of a matter and the True Faith & teaching of the Church.  If it is an extreme position, in any/either direction, the Church will avoid these in her teaching, and seek a middle ground where it has found and believes always exists the Truth of a matter; not because it is a middle ground, but because the middle ground is where the Truth has historically been found by her.)

In her teaching on grace, the Church avoids two extreme positions. On the one hand, she avoids over-emphasising the weakness of human nature. She accepts that human nature is, of course, limited, corrupted and flawed. But she does believe that what is broken may be mended. God can repair the damage. In avoiding this extreme, the Catholic Church is avoiding the position of some Protestant communities.

On the other hand, the Church also avoids the opposite extreme, that places too much emphasis on the goodness of human nature, that underestimates the harm done to humanity by the Fall. That would lead to the view that salvation is possible though one’s own efforts.

All catechesis on the life of grace has to avoid these two positions. It has to accept that human nature is flawed and wounded by sin, but not fatally so. By doing so it accepts that we can and must participate in our own salvation by our own efforts, but that we cannot achieve it without being joined in communion to the incarnate Word of God, who then enables our weakened nature to begin living His new life.

Pope John Paul II summed up the Catholic understanding in his letter written on the threshold of the new millennium. He said that our catechesis must always reflect that ‘essential principle of the Christian view of life: the primacy of grace…God of course asks us really to cooperate with His grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom. But it is fatal to forget that ‘without Christ we can do nothing’ (Novo Millennio Ineunte 38)

What is the life of grace?

We must avoid the extremes. What, then, must we teach? We teach that the life of grace is communion with God. It is a life in union with Him made possible by the Incarnation. Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, united himself with our humanity so that we could have this union with God. St Paul described it as becoming adopted children of God and true heirs of all the love he wishes to give us (Rom 8:15-17). In Roman times, an adopted son gained all the rights and privileges of a natural son, losing all that belonged to his former life. He became a true member of the family into which he was adopted, and was a real co-heir with other sons of his father’s estates, and any debts form his former life were cancelled. The life of grace, then, is life as true members of God’s Trinitarian family.

We begin by teaching that point. Then we can move on to consider something further. We needed to be redeemed from the weakness and corruption caused by the Fall and the presence of sin in the world. For this, the Son of God’s uniting humanity to Himself at the Incarnation was necessary. But more was needed. The Son of God, in His human body, then subjected Himself to death for our sake, and in doing so He actually destroyed death, which could take no hold on Him as He is Life itself. We recall this just after the Consecration at Mass when we say, ‘Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life.’ Through his death, Jesus destroyed death for us, and through his resurrection he made sharing in his life possible. In the sacrament of Baptism, we are joined to him. We are made part of his body the Church and so death is destroyed in us also. Our life is a new one.

It is this twofold aspect of salvation which can be lost in explanation at times. God the Son not only redeems us from death, but also enables us to live as adopted sons and daughters of God. And He does all this through His union with us in the flesh.

Purpose, Balance, & Means

What we have, I think, are three teaching points which we will want to cover in our presentation on the life of grace.

Purpose

Firstly, then, we need to be clear about the nature and purpose of the life of grace, which is communion with Christ, and through Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We have seen that by grace, the free gift of God, we are given a share in his own life, the Trinitarian and familial communion of Father, Son and Spirit. We share in this life in the way proper to our created nature – an adopted way rather than a natural way. The grace given to us for this is supernatural. In other words, we are being given more than is due to our nature – even without considering the sinfulness of it. There would have been no way for us to gain this life without the Incarnation – and given our sinfulness, no way for death to have been destroyed without Life Himself subjecting Himself to it, which broke it to pieces and allowed us to share His own life.

But what can be sometimes overlooked is that, although we need this life of grace here and now to enable us to live in the world with integrity and honor, we need it much more to live in the presence of God at the end of this life. Without growth in grace here and now, we shall find it impossible to tolerate being in the presence of Love and Goodness Himself in the hereafter, let alone find pleasure and fulfillment. ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31). Jesus warns us of the dangers of failure to grow in grace in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:14-30). To live in communion with Christ is to experience the life of grace He gives us – and conversely, to break communion with Christ is to lose it.

Balance

Secondly, we ensure that in our catechesis a balance is kept so that we maintain a Catholic understanding of grace. Humanity is unable to redeem itself, but our human nature is not damaged beyond the point of no return. We are truly enabled to respond to God’s love in communion with Christ; what we do, and say and even think is of true significance when it is done in Christ, contributing to his redemptive work in the world.

Means

Thirdly, the sacraments of the Church are our normal means of keeping open the channels of grace in us – the life of grace is nourished and strengthened in us by this means and we are actually enabled to cooperate with Christ in his work of salvation…The whole understanding of how the gift of grace is transmitted to us through Christ’s and the Spirit’s work in the normal sacramental actions of the Church, and its reality in enabling us to cooperate with God, had not been handed on to her. She needed to hear that the Blessed Trinity has given us a share in their life of grace precisely though the sacrament of the Son and the sacramentality of His Church’s actions; this is the means God chooses to be one with us.

‘The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of His own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification.’ (CCC 1999)”

I believe in grace.  I do.  God help me, I do.  I have FELT it!  I, the least of His.  Praise Him!

How consoling!  How nourishing!  How fulfilling!  How strengthening!  Place ALL your trust in Him!  Do it!  And LIVE!!!!

Love,
Matthew

The Devil’s Martyrs (another great name for a band? no? :)

“Those who follow the devil have to bear his cross, and there are many who become martyrs for the devil, too.”

-(pg. 267), http://www.ignatius.com/Products/CASI-P/catherine-of-siena.aspx

-by Br Michael Mary Weibley, OP

“Sin is something altogether mysterious and awful: a turning away from God and a turning to the changeable good. As broken human persons, we create for ourselves a myriad of excuses for the sins we commit. It seems that our changeable and too easily distracted mind can hardly conceive of the idea of the Supreme Good (God) and still less hold It as the object of its preference over and above all else. In every sin, therefore, there is some element of error, a mistaken judgment.

The very possibility of sin even remains a mystery. We can point to our free will in the face of good and evil, but if God is the Supreme Good, why are we so little attracted? And for those of us who have been graced with even a little bit of the knowledge of the goodness of God, should not that little bit be enough to captivate our hearts and convince us of the absurdity of sin? We outrage the Supreme Good, we offend God, we sin against God – these are terrifying and awful thoughts; but why and how such actions are really possible is beyond our power of explanation.

This painful problem deepens into a darker mystery when viewed in light of the Incarnation and Redemption. How is it that the Word-of-God-made-man should have died upon the cross to destroy sin, and yet that sin should be so little destroyed – that sin should be still so much alive within us: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom. 7:19)? This is a profound mystery. Yet as incomprehensible as it is, the fact remains that sin is really an outrage against God and we must strive to convince our minds of the awful reality of that outrage.

For those, however, who cannot see their moral failings within the context of God – those who only see shortcomings within their own little bubble of reality – the concept of an offense before God makes no sense whatsoever. Recognition of sin presupposes a recognition of God. The sad case of those who pursue the nothingness of sin, as if it were their highest good in our broken world, walk their own via crucis. None here on earth can escape suffering and sin – our own or the effects of others – but the pursuit of nothingness brings its own bitterness for the soul, exasperating the problem of sin all the more.

This is all too common in the world today. In everything from rapacious greed, to the exploitation, abuse, and injury of others, the devil has his followers. And even if we are striving to follow God but fall out of weakness, when we sin we are taking steps on the road to being one of the devil’s martyrs, because the very definition of sin is to turn from God: “If I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me” (Rom. 7:20).

These reflections lead us to the inevitable conclusion that we must hold fast to the simple truth that contrition – true sorrow for sin – is supernatural. Through the revelation of God, we attain to the idea of the Supreme Good. Faith teaches us that it profits us nothing to gain the whole world if we lose the Supreme Good. What can heal this sickness is recourse to the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as the source and motivation of contrition. We cannot have contrition if we separate from the Passion the idea of sin which is its cause, and if, in the Person of the suffering Christ, we do not see the God whom sin offends and the Supreme Good from which sin turns us away.

Contrition, therefore, involves a proper knowledge of the goodness of God. The good news is that Goodness itself is always calling us. The very first line of the Catechism assures us of this: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in His own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man.” Even when we fall and it seems like the devil is taking us down his dark road, the God of the universe beckons us to Himself. True contrition acknowledges the mistaken judgment made in sin, and with a firmness of will, we can turn back to God who is always drawing us. In the end it matters not so much that we sin; that is a rather typical outcome of our fallen human nature. What matters more is what we do with this new understanding of our sin: Will we depart from evil?”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 30 – St Peter Chrysologus, (380-450 AD), Bishop & Doctor of the Church, Doctor Homiliis/Doctor of Homilies, “Golden Speech”

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On July 30, the Catholic Church celebrates Saint Peter Chrysologus, a fifth-century Italian bishop known for testifying courageously to Christ’s full humanity and divinity during a period of doctrinal confusion in the Church.

The saint’s title, Chrysologus, signifies “golden speech” in Greek. Named as a Doctor of the Church in 1729, he is distinguished as the “Doctor of Homilies” for the concise but theologically rich reflections he delivered during his time as the Bishop of Ravenna.

His surviving works offer eloquent testimony to the Church’s traditional beliefs about Mary’s perpetual virginity, the penitential value of Lent, Christ’s Eucharistic presence, and the primacy of St. Peter and his successors in the Church.

Few details of St. Peter Chrysologus’ biography are known. He was born in the Italian town of Imola in either the late fourth or early fifth century, but sources differ as to whether this occurred around 380 or as late as 406.

Following his study of theology, Peter was ordained to the diaconate by Imola’s local bishop Cornelius, whom he greatly admired and regarded as his spiritual father. Cornelius not only ordained Peter, but taught him the value of humility and self-denial.

The lessons of his mentor inspired Peter to live as a monk for many years, embracing a lifestyle of asceticism, simplicity, and prayer. His simple monastic life came to an end, however, after the death of Archbishop John of Ravenna in 430.

After John’s death, the clergy and people of Ravenna chose a successor and asked Cornelius, still the Bishop of Imola, to journey to Rome and obtain papal approval for the candidate. Cornelius brought Peter, then still a deacon, along with him on the visit to Pope Sixtus III.

Tradition relates that the Pope had experienced a vision from God on the night before the meeting, commanding him to overrule Ravenna’s choice of a new archbishop. The Pope declared that Peter, instead, was to be ordained as John’s successor.

In Ravenna, Peter was received warmly by the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III, and his mother Galla Placidia. She is said to have given him the title of “Chrysologus” because of his preaching skills.

Throughout the archdiocese, however, he encountered the surviving remnants of paganism along with various abuses and distortions of the Catholic faith. Peter exercised zeal and pastoral care in curbing abuses and evangelizing non-Christians during his leadership of the Church in Ravenna.

One of the major heresies of his age, monophysitism, held that Christ did not possess a distinct human nature in union with his eternal divine nature. Peter labored to prevent the westward spread of this error, promoted from Constantinople by the monk Eutyches.

The Archbishop of Ravenna also made improvements to the city’s cathedral and built several new churches. Near the end of his life he addressed a significant letter to Eutyches, stressing the Pope’s authority in the monophysite controversy.

Having returned to Imola in anticipation of his death, St. Peter Chrysologus died in 450, one year before the Church’s official condemnation of monophysitism. He is credited as the author of around 176 surviving homilies, which contributed to his later proclamation as a Doctor of the Church.

A man who vigorously pursues a goal may produce results far beyond his expectations and his intentions. Thus it was with Peter of the Golden Words, as he was called, who as a young man became bishop of Ravenna, the capital of the empire in the West.

At the time there were abuses and vestiges of paganism evident in his diocese, and these he was determined to battle and overcome. His principal weapon was the short sermon, and many of them have come down to us. They do not contain great originality of thought. They are, however, full of moral applications, sound in doctrine and historically significant in that they reveal Christian life in fifth-century Ravenna.

So authentic were the contents of his sermons that, some 13 centuries later, he was declared a doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII. He who had earnestly sought to teach and motivate his own flock was recognized as a teacher of the universal Church.

In addition to his zeal in the exercise of his office, Peter Chrysologus was distinguished by a fierce loyalty to the Church, not only in its teaching, but in its authority as well. He looked upon learning not as a mere opportunity but as an obligation for all, both as a development of God-given faculties and as a solid support for the worship of God.

Quite likely, it was St. Peter Chrysologus’s attitude toward learning that gave substance to his exhortations. Next to virtue, learning, in his view, was the greatest improver of the human mind and the support of true religion. Ignorance is not a virtue, nor is anti-intellectualism. Knowledge is neither more nor less a source of pride than physical, administrative or financial prowess. To be fully human is to expand our knowledge—whether sacred or secular—according to our talent and opportunity.

“A gentle maiden having lodged a God in her womb, asks as its price, peace for the world, salvation for those who are lost, and life for the dead.” – Saint Peter Chrysologus

“Anyone who wishes to frolic with the devil cannot rejoice with Christ.” – Saint Peter Chrysologus

“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself.” -St. Peter Chrysologus 

“We exhort you in every respect, honorable brother, to heed obediently what has been written by the Most Blessed Pope of the City of Rome; for Blessed Peter, who lives and presides in his own see, provides the truth of faith to those who seek it.” – Saint Peter Chrysologus, from a letter to Eutyches, 449

“I appeal to you by the mercy of God. This appeal is made by Paul, or rather, it is made by God through Paul, because of God’s desire to be loved rather than feared, to be a Father rather than a Lord. God appeals to us in His mercy to avoid having to punish us in His severity.

Listen to the Lord’s appeal: In me, I want you to see your own body, your members, your heart, your bones, your blood. You may fear what is Divine, but why not love what is human?

You may run away from Me as the Lord, but why not run to Me as your Father? Perhaps you are filled with shame for causing My bitter passion. Do not be afraid. This cross inflicts a mortal injury, not on Me, but on death. These nails no longer pain Me, but only deepen your love for Me. I do not cry out because of these wounds, but through them I draw you into My heart.

My body was stretched on the cross as a symbol, not of how much I suffered, but of My all-embracing love. I count it no less to shed My blood: it is the price I have paid for your ransom. Come, then, return to Me and learn to know Me as your Father, who repays good for evil, love for injury, and boundless charity for piercing wounds.

Listen now to what the Apostle urges us to do. I appeal to you, he says, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. By this exhortation of his, Paul has raised all men to priestly status.

How marvelous is the priesthood of the Christian, for he is both the victim that is offered on is own behalf, and the priest who makes the offering. He does not need to go beyond himself to seek what he is to immolate to God: with himself and in himself he brings the sacrifice he is to offer God for himself.

The victim remains and the priest remains, always one and the same. Immolated, the victim still lives: the priest who immolates cannot kill. Truly it is an amazing sacrifice in which a body is offered without being slain and blood is offered without being shed.

The Apostle says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice. Brethren, this sacrifice follows the pattern of Christ’s sacrifice by which He gave His body as a living immolation for the life of the world. He really made His body a living sacrifice, because, though slain, He continues to live.

In such a victim death receives its ransom, but the victim remains alive. Death itself suffers the punishment. This is why death for the martyrs is actually a birth, and their end a beginning. Their execution is the door to life, and those who were thought to have been blotted out from the earth shine brilliantly in heaven.

Paul says: I appeal to you by the mercy of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice, living and holy. The prophet said the same thing: Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but you have prepared a body for me. Each of us is called to be both a sacrifice to God and his priest.

Do not forfeit what Divine authority confers on you. Put on the garment of holiness, gird yourself with the belt of chastity. Let Christ be your helmet, let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection. Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that He Himself has given you. Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer. Take up the sword of the Spirit. Let your heart be an altar. Then, with full confidence in God, present your body for sacrifice. God desires not death, but faith; God thirsts not for blood, but for self-surrender; God is appeased not by slaughter, but by the offering of your free will.” – from a sermon by Saint Peter Chrysologus

st-peter-chrysologus

“The Magi are filled with awe by what they see; heaven on earth and earth in heaven; man in God and God in man; they see enclosed in a tiny body the One whom the entire world cannot contain.” -St. Peter Chrysologus 

Put on the garment of holiness,
gird yourself with the belt of chastity.
Let Christ be your helmet,
let the cross on your forehead be your unfailing protection.
Your breastplate should be the knowledge of God that He Himself has given you.
Keep burning continually the sweet smelling incense of prayer.
Take up the sword of the Spirit.
Let your heart be an altar.
-St Peter Chrysologous

Prayer of St Peter Chrysologus

Loving Father,
Clothe me with the garment of sanctity.
Gird me with the cincture of chastity.
Let Christ be the covering of my head,
the cross of Christ, the protection of my face;
instill in me the sacrament of Divine wisdom,
and let the odor of my prayers
always ascend on high. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, “You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine