Aug 11 – Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Cong. Orat., (1801-1890), Patron of the RCIA – Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

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Cardinal John Henry Newman, CO, DD, by Sir John Everett Millais, 1881.

Catholic education.  Those words in many minds and places are synonymous.  Deo gratias.  The Church created the university system in medieval Europe, emerging from the training of monks and clerics, at the turn of the first millenia of Christianity to the second.  Fides et ratio, faith and reason; there is no conflict in the Catholic mind, or at least there should not be.  The intellect is a gift from God.  Catholics believe its use is proper, expected by God, a form of praise of its Creator, and the proper formation of conscience is essential to the assent to Faith.  The fundamental purpose of a university education is to seek and discover truth. Through this discovery, man comes to an understanding of God, himself, and the created order.  Gaudium et veritate – the joy of truth.

Credo ut intelligam – I believe that I may understand.  Intellego ut credam – I understand that I may believe.  Fides quaerens intellectum – faith seeking understanding.  (St Anselm, ora pro nobis.)  I often say to people, “I am a man of faith, not superstition.”  I am also a professional and professionally trained applied scientist.  Nothing I have ever studied as an engineer or computer scientist has ever contradicted my Catholic beliefs, quite the contrary.  How marvelous is the creation of the Almighty.  How inscrutable His designs. (cf Romans 11:33)

A much bandied about term these days in Catholic higher education is “Catholic identity”.  Very, very, over simply put it “means” if you attended a Catholic institution of learning, could you tell?  Really?  How different is it attending Catholic U vs State U?  Really.  How and to what degree is debatable.  And, IT IS!  Trust me.

I keep trying to remind others who want more uniformity in the Church, Catholic means “universal”, not “uniform”.  At the same time, overly shielding others who have chosen to voluntarily attend a Catholic university is, at least, intellectually dishonest, IMHO, and possibly an immoral omission.  This in some not quite understandable, on my part, assent to “diversity”, mea culpa, as if “diversity” were a greater good than the Gospel?  (cf Rom 1:16)  I don’t understand.  I just think of all the Catholic martyrs who embraced their passion rather than equivocate, and I understand even less.  Would the Lord understand?  Would the canonized founder understand, if modern members of the family he/she founded tried to explain “how the world works now” and convince them?  I am incredulous.  Love is unreasonable, literally.  Love is terrifying in what it may and does ask. (cf Mt 10:34-36)

The dean of Catholic studies of a major Catholic institution, a dear friend, said to me, as I recall the conversation, mea culpa if I misquote, the President of the university had given this person the assignment to conduct a dialogue with the faculty, “Who owns the Catholic identity of the university?”  This question was posed to me as we walked together.  I thought for a moment, and said,”Jesus.”  “You’re right,” I was told.  “Now, just convince the faculty of that!”

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John Henry Newman was born on 21st February, 1801, in London, the eldest son of a London banker. His family were ordinary church-going members of the established Anglican Church, without any strong religious tendencies, though the young John Henry did learn at an early age to take a great delight in the Bible. He was sent to Ealing School in 1808, and it was there, eight years later, that he underwent a profound religious conversion, which was to determine the rest of his life as a quest for spiritual perfection. In 1817 he entered Trinity College, Oxford, where he was a very successful student. Five years later he was elected to a coveted Fellowship of leading Oriel College. He was ordained and worked, first as a curate in the poor Oxford Parish of Saint Clement’s, and then, from 1828, as Vicar of the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. There, his spiritual influence on parishioners and members of the University was truly enormous, particularly through his preaching, embodied in the Parochial and Plain Sermons. He worked as a College Tutor, and a little later began to research the first of his many theological works, “The Arians of the Fourth Century”. Newman was to be one of the foremost religious writers of his century.

In 1833 he went on a tour of the Mediterranean with a friend who was in very poor health. While in Sicily Newman himself fell desperately ill with fever. On his recovery it struck him that God had spared him to perform a special task in England. On his return home he eagerly set about organizing what was to become known as the Oxford Movement. The Movement, which spread rapidly, was intended to combat three evils threatening the Church of England – spiritual stagnation, interference from the state, and doctrinal unorthodoxy.

When studying the history of the early Christian Fathers in 1839, Newman received an unexpected shock, for it appeared that the position of his own Church bore a close resemblance to that of the early heretics. He was also worried when many of the Anglican Bishops denounced one of his works a few years later – some not just denouncing him, but also espousing erroneous positions themselves. He decided to retire partly from Oxford, and, joined by a few others a little later, he moved to quarters at the nearby hamlet of Littlemore. For three years he lived a strict religious life, praying for light and guidance. By 1845, as he was writing his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, he saw his way clear, and on 9th October he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Father, now Blessed, Dominic Barberi. He had at last found ‘the One True Fold of the Redeemer’.

Conversion meant ostracism by friends and relatives. Undaunted, Newman set out for Rome to study for the priesthood. While there he became attracted by the idea of the Oratory – a Congregation of priests founded by Saint Philip Neri in the sixteenth century. He founded the first English Oratory at Maryvale, near Birmingham, in 1848, moving soon afterwards to Alcester Street, close to the town centre, where he converted a disused gin distillery into a chapel. They moved to a new and more permanent base in nearby Edgbaston three years later, and were engulfed by work among the poor Catholics of Birmingham, which was soon to become one of the new cities of the English Industrial Revolution.

In 1851 the Bishops of Ireland decided that a separate University should be established for Catholics, and invited Newman to become its founder and first Rector. It was a demanding task for an older man, but despite the strain of fifty six crossings to and from Ireland in seven years, he succeeded in establishing what is known today as University College, Dublin. From this period dates the important work “The Idea of a University” on the nature and scope of education, and the role of the Church in the context of a university.

When he returned to England, Newman faced a life of trials, as he was suspected and even resented by some in authority. Several projects which he took up, including a magazine for educated Catholics, a mission at Oxford, and a new translation of the Bible, met with rejection or failure. On the other hand, many of his publications in this period were well-received: the “Apologia pro Vita Sua” (1864), a biographical account of Newman’s conversion; the “Letter to the Duke of Norfolk” (1875), which considered the relationship between conscience and the authority of the Church; and the “Grammar of Assent” (1870), on human reasoning and the act of faith, which although not always well understood by his contemporaries, would become generally acknowledged as a major contribution to both philosophy and theology.

During old age, Newman continued in Birmingham, quietly writing, preaching and counseling (from the age of twenty three he had been above all a pastor – ‘a father of souls’) until, when seventy eight, a big surprise came. As a tribute to his extraordinary work and devotion, Pope Leo XIII made the unprecedented gesture of naming Newman, an ordinary priest, a Cardinal. After a life of trials the news came as a joyful relief and Newman declared ‘the cloud is lifted for ever’. Cardinal Newman died on 11th August 1890 and received a universal tribute of praise. The Times wrote: ‘whether Rome canonizes him or not he will be canonized in the thoughts of pious people of many creeds in England.’ The Cork Examiner affirmed that, ‘Cardinal Newman goes to his grave with the singular honor of being by all creeds and classes acknowledged as the just man made perfect.’

I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man,
God knows me and calls me by my name.
God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes,
as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his
–if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham.
Yet I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
He has not created me for naught.
I shall do good, I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace,
a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him.
Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away.
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him;
in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him;
if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him.
My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end,
which is quite beyond us.
He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it;
He knows what He is about.
He may take away my friends,
He may throw me among strangers,
He may make me feel desolate,
make my spirits sink, hide the future from me
–still He knows what He is about.
– Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, Meditations on Christian Doctrine

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7459867

“Learn to do thy part and leave the rest to heaven.” -Bl. John Henry Newman

“With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every event.” -Bl. John Henry Newman

Love,
Matthew

Aug 9 – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, (Edith Stein), OCD, (1891-1942), Religious & Martyr

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I love reading about people like Edith Stein.  I find I need a little inspiration every day and the example of a life well-lived to encourage me.  I hope you find the story of the life of Edith Stein inspiring, too.

Edith Stein (October 12, 1891 – August 9, 1942) was a German philosopher, a Carmelite nun, martyr, and saint of the Catholic Church, who died at Auschwitz. In 1922, she converted to Christianity, was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church and was received into the Discalced Carmelite Order in 1934. She was canonized as Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (her Carmelite monastic name) by Pope John Paul II in 1998; however, she is still often referred to, and churches named for her as, “Saint Edith Stein”.

Stein was born in Breslau, in the German Empire’s Prussian Province of Silesia, into an Orthodox Jewish family.  She stopped believing in God at 14.

At the University of Göttingen, she became a student of Edmund Husserl, whom she followed to the University of Freiburg as his assistant. She became fascinated with Phenomenology, an approach to Philosophy.  In 1916, she received her doctorate of philosophy there with a dissertation under Husserl, “On The Problem of Empathy.” She then became a member of the faculty in Freiburg.

As a graduate student of the philosopher Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein decided to write her dissertation on empathy, the ability to become aware of what others are experiencing. At the outbreak of World War I, however, Edith Stein deferred her philosophical studies and volunteered as a nurse’s aide at a military hospital in Moravia.

Far from distracting her from her philosophical pursuits, this time of service was a providential opportunity to learn more deeply the meaning of empathy. Each day, she assisted patients who were difficult to communicate with because of barriers of language and debilitation, trying to understand how and why they were suffering so as to be able to assist them or to communicate their symptoms to a doctor. According to Alasdair MacIntyre, this constant exposure to suffering and death helped Stein to later articulate in philosophical terms “what it is to be with and to be there for others, when they are confronting the possibility of imminent death.”

Several years later, while visiting the recently widowed Anna Reinach, Stein was astounded to find that though she had come to comfort her friend, it was in fact Reinach who comforted Stein. Years later, Stein was able to understand that this visit with Reinach, who had been baptized with her husband shortly before his death, was her “first encounter with the cross and the divine power that it bestows on those who carry it. For the first time I was seeing with my very eyes the church, born from its Redeemer’s sufferings, triumphant over the sting of death.”

While Stein had earlier contacts with Catholicism, it was her reading the autobiography of the mystic St. Teresa of Ávila on a holiday in Göttingen in 1921 that caused her conversion. Baptized on January 1, 1922, she gave up her assistantship with Husserl to teach at a Dominican girls’ school in Speyer from 1922 to 1932. While there she translated Thomas Aquinas’ De Veritate (On Truth) into German and familiarized herself with Catholic philosophy in general. In 1932 she became a lecturer at the Institute for Pedagogy at Münster, but anti-Semitic legislation passed by the Nazi government forced her to resign the post in 1933. In a letter to Pope Pius XI, she denounced the Nazi regime and asked the Pope to openly denounce the regime “to put a stop to this abuse of Christ’s name.”

She entered the Discalced Carmelite monastery at Cologne in 1934 and took the name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. There she wrote her metaphysical book “Endliches und Ewiges Sein,” which tries to combine the philosophies of Aquinas and Husserl.

To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her order transferred Stein to the Carmelite monastery at Echt in the Netherlands. There she wrote Studie über Joannes a Cruce: Kreuzeswissenschaft (“The Science of the Cross: Studies on John of the Cross”).

However, Stein was not safe in the Netherlands—the Dutch Bishops’ Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the country on July 20, 1942, condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on July 26, 1942, the Reichskommissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts, who had previously been spared. Stein and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chambers on August 9, 1942.

The writings of Edith Stein fill 17 volumes, many of which have been translated into English.  Sister Josephine Koeppel, O.C.D., translator of several of Edith’s books, sums up this saint with the phrase, “Learn to live at God’s hands.”

In his homily at the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II said: “…A few days before her deportation, the woman religious had dismissed the question about a possible rescue: ‘Do not do it! Why should I be spared? Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my Baptism? If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.’”

Addressing himself to the young people gathered for the canonization, the Pope said: “Your life is not an endless series of open doors! Listen to your heart! Do not stay on the surface but go to the heart of things! And when the time is right, have the courage to decide! The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.”

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“God is there in these moments of rest and can give us in a single instant exactly what we need. Then the rest of the day can take its course, under the same effort and strain, perhaps, but in peace. And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him — really rest — and start the next day as a new life.” – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me, and I shall meet it with peace.” – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“Learn from St. Thérèse to depend on God alone and serve Him with a wholly pure and detached heart. Then, like her, you will be able to say ‘I do not regret that I have given myself up to Love’.” – St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“One cannot desire freedom from the Cross when one is especially chosen for the Cross.” -St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross 

“The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs who we are.” -St. Teresa Benedicta

“Whoever is near us and needing us must be our ‘neighbor’; it does not matter whether he is related to us or not, whether he is morally worthy of our help or not. The love of Christ knows no limits. It never ends; it does not shrink from ugliness and filth.” -St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

“O Prince of Peace, to all who receive You, You bright light and peace. Help me to live in daily contact with You, listening to the words You have spoken and obeying them. O Divine Child, I place my hands in Yours; I shall follow You. Oh, let Your divine life flow into me.

I will go unto the altar of God. It is not myself and my tiny little affairs that matter here, but the great sacrifice of atonement. I surrender myself entirely to Your divine will, O Lord. Make my heart grow greater and wider, out of itself into the Divine Life.

O my God, fill my soul with holy joy, courage and strength to serve You. Enkindle Your love in me and then walk with me along the next stretch of road before me. I do not see very far ahead, but when I have arrived where the horizon now closes down, a new prospect will open before me and I shall met with peace.

How wondrous are the marvels of your love, We are amazed, we stammer and grow dumb, for word and spirit fail us.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 14 – St Maximilian Kolbe, (1894-1941)

St. Maximilian Kolbe

I find I need REAL sinners in my relating towards my own sinfulness and redemption.  I love Jesus, and He is my constant inspiration, dare I say companion, but it can be a little hard to relate to an infinitely transcendant God, at least for me, on a constant basis.  Maybe you get it, but I struggle.

My fellow mortals, on the other hand, I seem to relate to readily.  And, I am inspired by how they responded, in faith, to a very real world, each of their own time.  I hope and trust you may sense method to my madness.

Maximilian Kolbe’s proximity to our own time certainly makes him more tangible, and some of our beloved elders still hold that terrible time in living memory.

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“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers…For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.”
– Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Auschwitz prisoner #16670, Franciscan priest, missionary, martyr of charity.

He took the place of Francis Gajowniczek who was married with young children who had been condemned to die along with nine others by order of SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Karl Fritzsch, the Lagerfuhrer (i.e., the camp commander), as punishment for the escape of a prisoner from the camp in late July, 1941.  (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.)

When selecting the prisoners to die, the Nazi guards selected one man from each line at random, including Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek, when the sergeant cried out, “My wife and children.  I shall never see them again!”.  A man stepped out from the rows and offered to take his place.  It was prisoner #16670, Maximilian Kolbe.

A Nazi officer asked Kolbe who he was.  Kolbe responded, “I am a Catholic priest.  I wish to die for that man.  I am old.  He has a wife and children.”  Remember, Auschwitz was a work camp first and an extermination camp later and had the horrific deception cast in iron above the main entrance, “Arbeit Macht Frei!” – Work Makes You Free!  So, a younger prisoner was more valuable to the Nazis than someone passing middle-age.

So it was that Maximilian Kolbe and the nine others were taken to the death chamber of Block 11, notorious for torture.  Kolbe was placed in cell 18.   In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming. During the time in the cell, Fr. Kolbe led the other condemned men in songs and prayer.

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Francis Gajowniczek was set eventually set free from Auschwitz when it was liberated by the Allies. Pope John Paul II canonized Maximillian Kolbe on 10 October 1982, in the presence of Gajowniczek.

During the first two weeks of August, 1941 the condemned prisoners were deprived of any food or water.  One after the other died, until only four were left including Maximilian.

The Nazis felt that death by starvation was taking too long for the remaining four and the cells were needed for newly condemned.  So, each prisoner in turn was given a lethal injection of carbolic acid (phenol) in the vein of his left arm.  Maximilian, with a prayer on his lips gave his arm to his executioner.  Maximilian Kolbe was 47 years old when he was executed.  His remains were cremated in the ovens at Auschwitz and his ashes dumped, like so much trash, along with the rest, near the camp, as had and would so many others.

As a child, he was known to be mischievous and sometimes considered wild, and a trial to his parents. However, in 1906 at Pabianice, Poland, at age twelve and around the time of his first Communion, Raymond, his baptismal name, Maximilian was his religious name, reports he received a vision of the Virgin Mary that changed his life:

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“I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”

“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes.” -Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested.

“Love without penance, without sacrifice, is not love. There are souls who would like to possess the love of God, but they avoid and fear to do penance. Without the spirit of penance and self-abnegation, there can be no love.” St. Maximilian Kolbe

“The most deadly poison of our times is indifference. And this happens, although the praise of God should know no limits. Let us strive, therefore, to praise Him to the greatest extent of our powers.” -St. Maximilian Kolbe 

St Maximilian Kolbe is the patron of addicts.

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Prayer – St Maximillian Kolbe:

O Lord Jesus Christ, You who said, “greater love than this no man has, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13), through the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe, whose life illustrated such love, we beseech you to grant us our petitions . . .

(here mention the requests you have).

Through the Militia Immaculata movement, which Maximilian founded, he spread a fervent devotion to Our Lady throughout the world. He gave up his life for a total stranger and loved his persecutors, giving us an example of unselfish love for all men – a love that was inspired by true devotion to You, in imitation of Mary.

Grant, O Lord Jesus, that we too may give ourselves entirely, without reserve, to the love and service of You in our lives, in imitation of our Heavenly Queen, and in so doing, better love and serve our neighbor, in imitation of Your humble servant, Maximilian. Amen.

“Be a man, be a Catholic, don’t blush for your convictions. Be a man.” – Saint Maximilian Kolbe

“Let us remember that love lives through the sacrifice & is nourished by giving.” – St M. Kolbe

Love,
Matthew

Nov 25 – St Catherine of Alexandria, (282-305 AD), Virgin & Martyr, Co-patroness of the Order of Preachers & “The Sopranos”

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-Gaudenzio Ferrari, “The Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria”, c. 1500~1550, oil on panel, 334 cm (131.5 in) x 210 cm (82.7 in).

Christians have always venerated the saints and martyrs since the inception of the Church.  We have evidence of this from 1st century scratchings on the walls of the catacombs.  “Vincent, you are in Christ, pray for Phoebe.  Paul and Peter, pray for Victor.  Sentianus, in your prayers, pray for us, for we know you are in Christ.”

This Summer (2007), Kelly and I, in honor, or mourning, if you prefer, of the ending of the HBO series “The Sopranos”, watched the entire series from beginning to end in the vacuum of Summer television programming.

In addition to being entertaining, I felt there might be therapeutic, for my wife, and practical, to me, benefits in helping my Midwestern born and raised wife understand that not all of her new husband’s volatile (relative to the Midwest) personality traits were his fault alone, but that some were certainly environmental and cultural and “from the water”, as they say, of his youth as a waif growing up in “Joisey”.

The plot of the series and the actions of its characters made perfect practical sense to me.  Tony Soprano is my hero, along with Jesus Christ; a study in contrasts, I realize.  I mean, really, how else or otherwise are you efficiently supposed get your point across? Negotiate?  🙂

While Kelly did gain an appreciation of her husband’s native State and its people, culture, and ways, as we watched the series, she still confessed there are many things she does not understand about me.  Join the club.  The mystery is the joy.  To know is to love.  You gotta’ problem with ‘dat?

We now regularly greet each other at home with “how you doin’?”  Or, “fuggettaboutit”.

I must confess, seasons 1-3 are my favorites.  I think success altered the tone of the plot after that.

In season three, episode twelve, Carmela and Meadow are touring the Met in NY, and stand before the painting “The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria” by Giuseppe (alt, Jose’ de) Ribera, 1648.  Carmela begins to weep and the plot moves on.

I love the story of St Catherine of Alexandria. See…and you wondered how I was going to tie in “The Sopranos” to St Catherine of Alexandria, didn’t you?  Oh, ye of little faith. 🙂

Alexandria, the historically great Egyptian city (a rival to Rome itself in nearly all aspects in the ancient world, and exceeding it in some) at the mouth of the Nile was founded by Alexander the Great.  In the ancient world, Alexandria was traditionally a center of great learning, both pagan and Christian. The “Library of Alexandria”, before it burned, was sibling to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Its Christian activities centered around the great church founded, according to tradition, by the Apostle Mark, with its catechetical school, the first of its kind in Christendom.

Saint Catherine lived at the end of the third century A.D. and the beginning of the fourth.  Catherine was born of a patrician family of Alexandria. She was the daughter of Constus, Governor of Alexandria, Egypt.  From childhood Catherine had devoted herself to study and through her reading she had learned much intellectually of Christianity.  She declared to her parents that she would only enter into marriage with someone who surpassed her in reputation, wealth, beauty and wisdom.

Catherine’s mother, a secret Christian, sent her for advice to her own spiritual advisor – a monk who lived in solitude in a cave not far from the city. Having listened to Catherine, the monk said that he knew of a Youth who surpassed her in everything, such that “His beauty is more radiant than the shining of the sun, His wisdom governed all creation, His riches were spread throughout all the world—this however did not diminish but rather added to the inexpressible loftiness of his lineage.”

At this point, Catherine had not yet been baptized, but prayed all night and was granted a vision the Blessed Mother holding the infant Jesus. But the Child turned His face away from her saying that He was not able to look at her because she was ugly, of shabby lineage, beggarly and mindless like every person—not washed with the waters of holy Baptism and not sealed with the seal of the Holy Spirit.

Catherine returned again to the monk deeply saddened. The monk lovingly instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly; he then performed over her the mystery and sacrament of holy baptism.  Again, Catherine had a vision of the Mother of God with her Child. Now the Lord looked tenderly at her and gave her a ring—a wondrous gift of the heavenly Bridegroom – a mystical marriage.

The account of Catherine’s life continues that shortly afterwards, at the age of eighteen, Catherine presented herself to the Roman Emperor Maximinus Daia who was in Alexandria celebrating a pagan feast day, but who also was carrying out a persecution of the Christians. She admonished him for his cruelty and demanded that he cease the persecutions.

Astounded and insulted at the young woman’s audacity, but lacking the training and intellectual skills necessary to debate with her, Maximinus detained her in his palace and called for fifty of his best scholars to try to trip her up in her beliefs, either to make her apostatize against Christianity or commit a heresy against the Roman pagan religion so that she could be put to death. Contrary to what Maximinus expected, she managed to convert his scholars with her eloquence and knowledge of both religion and science.  Maximinus was so outraged he had all fifty of them burned alive and Catherine scourged and put in prison.

The empress, Faustina, however, heard of the extraordinary young woman and stole secretly into the prison in the company of the Roman general Porphyry.  They listened to Catherine, were converted and baptized, but were both executed by Maximinus when he discovered what had happened.

The beauty of the maiden captivated the emperor.  Maximinus, no longer hoping to convince the saint, tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame by becoming his wife. Catherine gave him an angry refusal.  Infuriated, Maximinus ordered Catherine to be broken on a spiked wheel. Yet at her touch, the instrument of torture was miraculously destroyed.

Seeing no alternative, Maximinus ordered her beheaded. She died in the year 305 A.D.

Her final words are recorded as:  “O Jesus, good King, I await the sword for Thy sake; do Thou deign to receive my spirit, and to show mercy to those who honor my memory.  Come, My chosen one, come; enter into the bridal chamber of thy Spouse.  Thou hast obtained the grant of thy petition, and it shall be well with them that praise Thee.”

Her body was carried to Mount Sinai where a monastery and church were later built by the order of the Emperor Justinian. Interestingly enough, the site where Catherine’s body was found is also believed to be the site of the burning bush seen by Moses.

Eleven centuries later, when Jeanne d’Arc, a twelve year old illiterate French farm girl claimed to hear three voices telling her to drive out the English from France and bring the Dauphin to Reims for his coronation and did, Joan, at her trial for heresy after being captured by the English, claimed Catherine’s voice was one of those she heard.

In the Eastern Church, the following hymns (troparion) are used as part of the Liturgy of the Feast of St Catherine of Alexandria:

Greek usage (Tone 5)

Let us praise the all-lauded and noble bride of Christ,
the godly Catherine, the guardian of Sinai and its defense,
who is also our support and succour and our help;
for with the Holy Spirit’s sword
she hath silenced brilliantly the clever among the godless;
and being crowned as a martyr, she now doth ask great mercy for us all.

Slavic usage (Tone 4)

Thy lamb Catherine, O Jesus,
Calls out to Thee in a loud voice:
I love Thee, O my Bridegroom,
And in seeking Thee, I endure suffering.
In baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in Thee,
And died so that I might live with Thee.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
For I have offered myself in love.
By her prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

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-Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Caravaggio, c. 1598, oil on canvas, H: 173 cm (68.1 in). W: 133 cm (52.4 in).

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-The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine of Alexandria by Giuseppe Ribera, 1648. Catherine kisses an infant Jesus, who is held by the Virgin Mary. In the background are Saint Anne and Saint Joseph.

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-ring of St Catherine given to pilgrims who visit Mount Sinai

Tradition has it that Catherine appeared three times in visions during the early days of the Order of Preachers.  She was one of the Virgins (along with St. Cecilia) who accompanied the Blessed Virgin Mary when she gave Bl. Reginald the scapular.  She also accompanied the Blessed Virgin in the vision in which St. Dominic saw the Virgin Mary sprinkling the brethren while they slept.

Lastly, she again accompanied the Blessed Virgin, along with St. Mary Magdalene (co-patroness of the Order of Preachers), during the transitus of the miraculous image of St. Dominic to Soriano.  It might seem that not only has the Dominican Order chosen her as patroness, but you might even be able to say that she herself has chosen to watch over the Friars Preachers in a special way.

O God, you gave the law to Moses on the summit of Mount Sinai, and through your holy angels, wonderfully put in that same place the body of the blessed Catherine, your virgin and martyr; grant, we beseech you, that by her merits and intercession, we may reach that mountain which is Christ.  Through Christ our Lord.

Love,
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.

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“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.”

“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…”

“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.”

“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

Aug 28 – St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ, (1585-1628) – Priest & Martyr, The Holy Hand

St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ

OK, maybe this whole internet thing has gone far enough?  Now I’m finding “rate this saint” and blogs about saints – the opine of the unwashed masses. 🙂 Now:  if you can’t beat ’em, join em! 🙂

The Internet – where else you can curse out and become furious with people whom you have never met?  What a wonderful invention.  Remember, it’s not the technology.  It’s the humans.  The technology is neutral, it merely amplifies what was already there.  Granted it may serve as a catalyst to more and greater positive and negative interactions, but “It IS in the way that you use it.”  Thank you, Eric Clapton.

n.b. the only exception I have found, of course, is the University of Virginia blogs.  Everyone stays on topic, refers to each other as Mr./Ms., liberally quotes Jefferson, and all remain quite respectful of each other throughout the entire discourse, citing meaningful reference, analogy, and example.  It is a special place, isn’t it.  Profanity would be met with horror, and certainly never in writing, and never in a public forum.  Puhllease!  We are ladies and gentlemen here, not the help. (please never take me seriously when I sound like that.  I’m just having fun!)  Civilization and civility clings to life in a few very sparse, special pockets.  Like Ireland in the Dark Ages.  See http://tiny.cc/inf9y.

Civility, anyone?  What happened to good manners?  Civil discourse?  Our democracy relies upon the respectful exchange of viewpoints, or it should.  For that matter, so does civilization?  So instead of the effort, discipline, and charity civil discourse requires, we remain silent?  God help us all.  Class cannot be bought, and very rarely taught to adults.  It is realized in the rearing of children, if at all.  If you want to get depressed about humanity, read blogs.  “Love one another?”  Jesus, you’re kidding, right?  That is a good one.  What else ya’ got?

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A Jesuit saint, finally!  I shouldn’t act so surprised, should I?  I couldn’t resist.  Ok, there go a goodly part of Mara’s chances for a quality education…I hope the Holy Ghost Fathers have a sense of humor.

We must remember, the idea of separation of Church and state was deeply radical at the time of US Revolution.  The idea that one could hold public office and not be of a certain denomination was unheard of.  The idea held that loyalty to one’s country was predicated on one’s religious beliefs, and religious beliefs and attendance at services was mandatory and absences were very noticeable, was prevalent and had been for all of history, to that point.

Go back as far as you like, but take the god-king Pharaohs as a primary example.  Coronation has many parallels and overtones with ordination and vice versa, both include anointing, and both always in churches.  Jesus is the Christ because He is King, Priest, & Prophet.  “A Deo rex, a rege lexa!…The king is from God, the law from the king!” -James I of England.

Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, knelt in the snow of Canossa for three days, 25 January to 27 January 1077, begging the Pope to rescind his excommunication.  Excommunication of the sovereign meant subjects no longer had feudal duty and may overthrow at will, and should.  When Napoleon took the crown from the altar of Notre Dame, it having been blessed by Pius VII, and placed it on his own head, instead of having the Pope crown him, as was traditional, the symbolism was clear.  It was he himself who gave himself power, not the Church.

If one was not of the established state religion, how could one claim loyalty to the state?  The Church supported the state and gave it legitimacy.  The state gave protection to the Church, usually, exemption from taxes, its own ecclesiastical courts, etc., all were most historical.  When the Roman Empire collapsed in the West, the Church was the only remaining institution resembling some/any form of government.  People came to rely on it for such.  The very vestments worn today are the uniforms of office of Roman civil servants.

In England, during the reign of Henry VIII, it became dangerous to remain Catholic.  It became right out mortal to be priest.  It became a death wish to minister.  The main source of information on St Edmund is a contemporary account written by an eyewitness and published a short time after his death.  Edmund was the eldest son of Robert Arrowsmith, a farmer, and Margery Gerard’s, a member of an important Lancashire Catholic family, four children.  Edmund was born at Haydock, England. He was baptized Brian, but always used his Confirmation name of Edmund.  The name Edmund has a sentimental value for me.  It is a long given Christian name in the McCormick family.

Edmund’s parents refused to attend Protestant services, harbored priests in their home, and at one point were arrested and imprisoned in Lancaster Castle for their actions, dragged away in the night, leaving the shivering child Edmund in his night clothes, along with his siblings, until neighbors took them in.

Edmund’s grandfather, Nicholas Gerard, was recusant, one who refuses to attend Anglican services, and spent time in prison.  His other grandfather died in prison a confessor, one who suffers persecution, including torture.  The family was constantly harassed for its adherence to Roman Catholicism.  English Catholics have always been devoted to Our Lady and the first of St Edmund’s biographers speaks of his devotion to her. On his way to school at Sennely Green, it was his custom to say part of the Little Office of Our Lady and he would recite vespers and compline on his return.

In 1605 Edmund left England and went to study for the priesthood at the English College at Douai, France.  Many young Catholic men risked their lives to make such a journey.  On 27 May 1601 it was recorded that, “Lately 15 or 16 youths of good houses were taken (captive) as they were going over to the seminary.  Some had journeyed in rags through forests living on roots and berries until they reached the coast. Others had been sent to the frightful house of correction at Bridewell, or imprisoned twice or even three times before they got clear…..”

Edmund was soon forced to quit the seminary and return to England due to ill health, but recovered and returned to Douai in 1607.  Edmund was ordained in Arras, France on December 9, 1612 and sent on the English mission (sent back to England to minister to Catholics) the following year.  The return to England was also dangerous.

On June 17, 1613, Edmund began his return journey.  Ports were especially dangerous: officials had descriptions from spies of those returning and so many landed on isolated shores. In ‘The Proclamation against Jesuits’ 21 November 1591 it was said, ”And furthermore , because it is known and proved by common experience…that they do come into the same (realm) by secret creeks and landing places, disguised both in names and persons, some in apparel as soldiers, mariners or merchants, pretending that they have heretofore been taken prisoners and put into galleys and delivered. Some come as gentlemen with contrary  names in comely apparel as though they had travelled to foreign countries for knowledge: and generally all, for the most part, are clothed like gentlemen in apparel, and many as gallants; yea in all colours, and with feathers and such like, disguising themselves; and many of them in their behaviour as ruffians, far off to be thought or suspected to be friars, priests, Jesuits or popish scholars.”

Edmund Arrowsmith ministered to Roman Catholics of Lancashire at the still-standing Arrowsmith House, located in Hoghton, Lancashire.  He hid his vestments, chalice, and altar stones in a nearby cottage.  He travelled the area on horseback and would stay overnight where there was a hiding place, to bring the sacrifice of the Mass to the people. Father Robert Persons, in a letter written in July 1581 wrote, “No-one is to be found…who complained of the length of services. If Mass does not last nearly an hour many are discontented. If six or eight masses are said in the same place on the same day, the same congregation will assist at all.”(Compare that to today, and whispers of “Fr. Sominex” and the rush to the parking lot!  I guess it IS ALL context!)

Queen Elizabeth’s governors and hierarchy lived on confiscated Catholic property, so public distrust of priests supposedly working as agents of Catholic Spain and working for a Spanish invasion, worked to their advantage, keeping the population in a constant state of paranoia, dependant on an intrusive government. To keep all this in place, Elizabeth had her own Inquisition. Outspoken, Edmund was arrested in 1622 and questioned by the Protestant bishop of Chester, Dr. Bridgeman, and various Protestant clergymen of the area.  Edmund spent his prison time arguing theology with them.   He was released unexpectedly when King James I ordered all arrested priests be freed, in a political maneuver to temporarily appease the Spanish.  Even in these oppressive times Edmund was known for his pleasant disposition, sincerity, energy, fervor, zeal, and wit.

After making the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola (ask a Jesuit), Edmund joined the Jesuits in 1624, at Clerkenwell, London then immediately returned to Lancashire.  In 1628, he was arrested when betrayed by a fellow Catholic to the local justice of the peace, a Mr. Rostern.  His betrayer was a young man, a Mr. Holden, the son of the landlord of the Blue Anchor Inn in south Lancashire, where Fr. Arrowsmith was staying.  Fr. Arrowsmith had imposed a penance on Holden and his wife to which they would not submit.  Fr. Arrowsmith had censored Holden for an incestuous marriage.  The Holdens were first cousins.  Fr. Arrowsmith tried to escape, warned by Capt. Rawsthorn that he was about to send soldiers for him, but Edmund was captured at Brindle Moss, where his horse refused to jump a ditch.  A small statue of Our Lady Edmund always carried with him dropped as he was captured.  It now resides at Arrowsmith House.  His captors bought themselves drinks with nine shillings of Edmund’s money.

Edmund preached the Gospel to his fellow prisoners while in jail.  On August 26th 1628, Sir Henry Yelverton ordered Edmund to be brought to the bar, and during the trial Yelverton swore that he would not leave Lancashire before the prisoner was executed and made sure the prisoner saw his own bowels burn before his face.  Sir Henry inflamed the jury with his bitterness.

Edmund decided to let the court prove the charge rather than help them with a confession, replying, “Would that I were worthy of being a priest!” When the jury found him guilty of being a Jesuit priest, he fell to his knees, bowed his head, and exclaimed, “Thanks be to God!”  The sentence was read,”You shall go from hence to the place from whence you came.  From thence you shall be drawn to the place of execution upon a hurdle;  you shall there be hanged till you are half dead;  your members shall be cut off before your face and thrown into the fire, where likewise your bowels shall be burnt:  your head shall be cut off and set upon a stake, and your quarters shall be set upon the four corners of the castle; and may God have mercy upon you.”  No one in Lancashire could be found to perform the execution.  Finally, a deserter, under the same sentence, was found to do the deed.

Yelverton ordered the execution at mid-day when the townspeople of Lancashire would be busy, so as to avoid a crowd.  However, a large crowd appeared.  Edmund spoke, “I die for love of Thee;  for our Holy Faith; for the support of the authority of Thy vicar on earth, the successor of St Peter, true head of the Catholic Church, which Thou hast founded and established.”

Brought to execution, “the usual butchery”, Edmund spoke again.  “I freely offer Thee my death, O sweet Jesus, in satisfaction for my sins, and I wish this little blood of mine may be a sacrifice for them”.  He asked the Catholics present to pray for him. He then prayed for the King, forgave his persecutors and asked for forgiveness from all those whom he may have offended. He continued, “Be witnesses with me that I die a constant Roman Catholic and for Christ’s sake; let my death be an encouragement to your going forward in the Catholic religion.” His confession on the day of his execution was heard by fellow-prisoner Saint John Southworth.  His final words before the executioner pushed him from the ladder were,”Bone Jesu” (O good Jesus).

Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ, was hanged, drawn, and quartered at Lancaster on August 28th, 1628.  He was 43 yrs old and had been a Jesuit for only five years.

From his remains, his hand was cut off by another Catholic as a relic.  It has been preserved and kept by the Arrowsmith family until he was beatified and it now rests in the Catholic Church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith, Ashton-in-Makerfield, England in a silver casket.  Many miracles are reported due to it.

On Saturday, September 18, 2010, 43 staff and pupils from St Edmund Arrowsmith, SJ High School in Ashton-in-Makerfield, UK journeyed to London to welcome BXVI to England for the beatification of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman  The Pope spoke the following words to the crowd, especially the young, “When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best.”

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-St Edmund’s vestments and Mass kit, Stonyhurst College, UK

Love,
Matthew

Sep 29 – St Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle

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“Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.  The God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory through Christ [Jesus] will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered a little.  To him be dominion forever. Amen.”  1 Peter 5:8-11

The last thing the Evil One wishes is our despair.  Resist him, solid in your faith.

Satan’s Tools

Resist him, solid in your faith.  We used to call this Spiritual Warfare.  The Lord’s love is infinitely stronger than any evil.  He is God.  He cannot be defeated.  The Prince of Lies wishes us to believe he can defeat Him.  It is a lie.  Do not listen to him.  With the power of prayer and trust in the Lord, banish the Liar to the void of suffering from whence he came for his rebellion against God, to which he wishes to drag us all.  Resist him, solid in your faith.

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Seraphim may the Lord make us worthy to burn with the fire of perfect charity. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Cherubim may the Lord grant us the grace to leave the ways of sin and run in the paths of Christian perfection. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Thrones may the Lord infuse into our hearts a true and sincere spirit of humility. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Dominions may the Lord give us grace to govern our senses and overcome any unruly passions. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Powers may the Lord protect our souls against the snares and temptations of the devil. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Virtues may the Lord preserve us from evil and falling into temptation. Amen.
By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Principalities may God fill our souls with a true spirit of obedience. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Archangels may the Lord give us perseverance in faith and in all good works in order that we may attain the glory of Heaven. Amen.

By the intercession of St. Michael and the celestial Choir of Angels may the Lord grant us to be protected by them in this mortal life and conducted in the life to come to Heaven. Amen.

O glorious prince St. Michael, chief and commander of the heavenly hosts, guardian of souls, vanquisher of rebel spirits, servant in the house of the Divine King and our admirable conductor, thou who dost shine with excellence and superhuman virtue deliver us from all evil, who turn to thee with confidence and enable us by your gracious protection to serve God more and more faithfully every day.

Pray for us, O glorious St. Michael, Prince of the Church of Jesus Christ, that we may be made worthy of His promises.

Almighty and Everlasting God, Who, by a prodigy of goodness and a merciful desire for the salvation of all men, has appointed the most glorious Archangel St. Michael Prince of Thy Church, make us worthy, we beseech Thee, to be delivered from all our enemies, that none of them may harass us at the hour of death, but that we may be conducted by him into the August Presence of Thy Divine Majesty. This we beg through the merits of Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Amen.

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-St Michael the Archangel, Scipione Tadolini, 1865, Rotunda, Gasson Hall, Boston College

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – St Augustine Zhao Rong & Companions, (1746-1815), Martyrs

Chinese_Martirs
-please click on the image for greater detail

Christianity came to China in the 600s.  It is estimated there are twelve million Catholics in China today despite persecution, martyrdom, and suppression.  The Chinese government refuses to recognize bishops appointed by Rome, rather enforcing a state run “Church” selecting Chinese appointed bishops.  In Chinese, Catholicism is referred to as Tianzhu jiao (天主教, Lord of Heaven Religion).

Augustine was a respected highly-ranked Chinese soldier who accompanied the prisoner Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse of the Paris Foreign Mission Society to his beheading in Peking in 1815.  Augustine was so impressed by the tremendous patience and courage of Bishop John as the bishop boldly chose death over the denial of his beliefs, Augustine soon realized this man possessed an inner strength that even the greatest Chinese soldier lacked. Acting on this insight, Augustine was baptized, and soon became a diocesan priest—despite the fact he knew such an action was almost a sure sentence to a slow and painful death.

Augustine was not a priest for long, but in the short time he was, he led many youth to the faith. One of those, an 18-year-old boy named Chi Zhuzi, was flayed alive in Zhao Rong’s sight shortly before Augustine himself was tortured and killed.

His captors, many of whom knew Augustine from his Army captain days, no doubt hoped that torturing the youth in front of their former mate would lead the priest to renounce the faith for himself and his followers, so they could call the massacre off. Instead, the steadfast Chi, after having had his right arm lopped off by the Army, cried out, “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you I’m a Christian!” Needless to say, Chi, Augustine, and all the 119 Chinese youth brought there that day in 1815 glorified God with a martyr’s death.

Augustine Zhao Rong
-please click on the image for greater detail.

Lord, you gave your martyrs, St Augustine Zhao Rong & his companions: Grace, to witness Your True Strength – Love, with their lives. Death nor torture could distract them. Grant us similar grace so that neither inconvenience nor unpopularity may distract us from witnessing to You as well in our lives.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 6 – St Maria Goretti, (1890-1902)

Realizing that teenagers sending each other nude photos of one another is now part of dating, I submit the following for your contemplation.  On February 12th of this year, the northwest Chicagoland chapter of Voice of the Faithful attended a workshop on the global exploitation of children sponsored by the Des Plaines Park District and Maryville Academy.  The workshop was presented by former Cook County detective and now international consultant on the subject Robert Hugh Farley, http://child-abuse-training-consulting.com/.  

Mr. Farley’s most poignant comment, I thought, was what he tells young people post facto.  They always ask him, usually in tears or near to regardless of gender, “Can you get the pictures back (from the internet, taken either by themselves or their abusers while abusing them)?”  Out of compassion, Mr. Farley always politely lies to them and says, “I’ll try.”

In my work with young people, one of the most difficult concepts to communicate to them is that in 2009, and every other time for that matter, but they are focused on the now, the concept of sin is not one of just trying to poop the party.  Rather, those behaviors we term as “sinful” are not just the truly tempting things in life, they are, but that the avoidance of sin is more than just theology and killjoy.  I guess like so much in adult life, it takes negative experience to appreciate this fact.  It certainly does and did for me.

Sin has a practical side, completely distinguishable and viewable and appreciable outside of theology.  You could, almost, disengage the two, but the logic which makes sense would be broken.  You would lose the meaning of why these behaviors with predictability have the tragic consequences they do, here and now, on this earth, in the “real” world, and then also in the next.

Sin is insidious, at least in my experience.  Always starting very small.  So small, the sinner, like me, can easily justify and dismiss it, like an annoying fly.  I’m not aware of big sinners who started big.  Everybody starts small, and if unchecked by the graces, the church would say, of the spiritual disciplines and sacraments it offers for our benefit, sin can grow very big.  The lie gets bigger.  The lie we tell ourselves and others.  Sin, in my experience, always grows by degrees until it consumes us and we forget how we got there.  We remember how small and easily we started and we realize how profoundly we have been deceived by the Prince of Lies and by ourselves.  I am always so ashamed of myself when I come to that point of realization, not how I was duped again, but how I let myself be duped again.  I wanted to be duped, and I knew better.  And I knew even as I began exactly what I was doing.  That was the temptation and the lie.  I wanted to be duped and embrace my sin = giving in to temptation.

Engaging in those behaviors us old fogey squares like me call sinful, and I am, deeply regrettably, a regular partaker, does lead to undesired and even tragic consequences.  Theology does not just go out and name every appearing pleasure in life sinful.  Those acts deemed sinful have to really earn their title, even deadly.  Sin is out of fashion from almost all homilies I have heard in my life.  We don’t want to become Jansenists, but neither should we deny the reality.

The daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer from Corinado, Ancona, Italy, Maria Goretti had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write.  Her father died while she was still very young and her mother struggled to feed her children. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class.

On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it,” she cried out. “It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Maria told Alessandro she would rather die than submit.  Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger.

Maria was taken to a hospital.  Her last hours were marked with care for others:  her mother and her attacker.  She forgave Alessandro while she lay dying.

Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother.  “If my daughter can forgive him, who am I to withhold forgiveness,” she said.  Alessandro spent the remaining years of his life in a Capuchin monastery at age 88.

Devotion to Maria grew, particularly in regard to advocacy for the young and the many truly dangerous alternatives and choices they must navigate, now more than ever, and with the speed of light.  She is the patroness of youth and of rape victims.  At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.

The Church admires and honors Maria Goretti not primarily because of her strong desire not to commit sin, but primarily for her solicitude of her offender while on earth and afterwards.

I know I’m crazy, but I am already starting to form the words in my mind for “talks” with Mara, trying to discern the right age, years from now and how I might say the words she will remember in her moments of truth.  I remembered when I was offered drugs in the locker room at Middle Township High School how much my parents loved me, and the firm knowledge of that love gave me the strength to say “no” then.  I hope and trust and pray I can give Mara similar assurance of her parents’ love for her and that will give her strength in her moments of truth.


Prayer

O Saint Maria Goretti!  Who, strengthened by God’s grace, did not hesitate even at the age of twelve to shed your blood and sacrifice life itself to defend your virginal purity, look graciously on the unhappy human race which has strayed far from the path of eternal salvation. Teach us all, and especially youth, with what courage and promptitude we should flee for the love of Jesus anything that could offend Him or stain our souls with sin. Obtain for us from our Lord victory in temptation, comfort in the sorrows of life, and the grace which we earnestly beg of thee (here insert intention), and may we one day enjoy with thee the imperishable glory of Heaven. Amen.


Prayer to St Maria Goretti before a dance or party

Dear Saint Maria Goretti! The world teaches that we must please others in order to be popular. Conscience demands that I please God more than one who asks an evil thing in the name of false love. Teach me by your example to instill into others a real respect for modesty and purity. Through your powerful intercession, help me to make of this evening an occasion for helping others to become spiritually stronger. Grant that others may see in me reason to change their ways, if that be necessary, and that I may have the courage to resist any temptation to sinful conduct. Let others be led closer to Jesus and Mary by my example.

Oh Little Saint who wanted to be popular only with your Divine Master and His Blessed Mother, help me to imitate you. Amen.


Prayer Before a Date

Saint Maria Goretti! Teach me that God must be my first love and that all other love is based on Him and Him alone. Obtain for me the grace to cease toying with the occasions of sin and to remember that my body and the bodies of all in grace are temples of the Holy Spirit, destined someday for a glorious resurrection.

Through your beautiful example, teach me the value and dignity of Christian modesty. Grant that I may never be the occasion of dragging others into sin, by suggestive words or evil deeds of any kind. Through the merits of your martyrdom, obtain for me the grace to turn aside from sin, no matter what the cost, so that one day I may enjoy Heaven with you and all the other saints. Amen.

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us and for all young people!  Deliver us from evil!

-the wax effigy containing the relics of St Maria Goretti at her shrine in Nettuno, Italy.
-a repentant Alessandro praying before an image of St Maria Goretti
 
Love,
Matthew

Jul 17, 2011 – Homily of the Most Rev Diarmud Martin, Archbishop of Dublin & Primate of Ireland

As an activist for the protection of children, I have spent the last three years reading and hearing the unreadable and the un-hearable.  I will wish I had not read it, or heard it until I die.  I can understand how someone unfamiliar with the subject would not understand.  Tragically, ignorance does not heal the afflicted.  I have observed how different countries have responded.  Archbishop Martin, it is my strong opinion, has responded in a more open, honest and healthy way than the Church in the US continues to do so.

I still meet and speak with the ordained here in the US who “don’t get it”.  They should spend more time with the survivors of clerical sexual abuse, if those survivors could tolerate their presence.  I can tell you from much personal experience, those survivors are a blessing to me.  They reflect God to me, more than defensive denial or minimization ever could.

We must relearn the words and the meaning of the words as Catholic Christians, “mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”.  Every one of us.  And beg the mercy of God and the forgiveness of survivors of offenses by the Church.  The Lord is a just judge. (Psalm 7, etc.)  We must also remember the judgment of the Lord will be harsher upon those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders, therefore a sacrament most grave.

I strongly encourage you to read the article in its entirety:

 
“Only a few months ago, here in Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral, we celebrated a liturgy of lament and repentance reflecting on the shattering facts regarding the wide-ranging abuse of children by priests and religious in this diocese and about the manner in which the Church in this diocese responded to that abuse.It was for me a moment of hope. The liturgy had been prepared by survivors of abuse and survivors took part in the carrying out of the liturgy. Courageously, men and women who had been abused spoke out about their hurt and their hopes.

It was a moment which I know brought healing to many and gave them renewed strength in themselves and some sense of renewed hope in the Church which had not believed them or had even betrayed them. At that liturgy I saw many faces that I knew in tears; I watched others whose names I will never know sit alone in silence and sadness.My first thoughts on reading the Cloyne report went back to that liturgy and to those who organized it and took part in it. I asked myself: what are they thinking today? Are they asking themselves if that entire liturgy was just an empty show? Were they being used just to boost the image of the Church? Were their renewed hopes just another illusion about a Church which seems unable to reform itself? Was their hurt just being further compounded?

As I reflected, the first emotion that came to me was one of anger:

• anger at what had happened in the diocese of Cloyne and at response – or non-response – that was made to children whose lives had been ruptured by abuse;
• anger at the fact that children had been put at risk well after agreed guidelines were in place which were approved by all the Irish bishops;
• anger at how thousands of men and women in this diocese of Dublin must feel, who have invested time and training to ensure that the Church they love and hope can be different would truly be a safe place for children;
• anger at the fact that there were in Cloyne – and perhaps elsewhere – individuals who placed their own views above the safeguarding of children, and seemingly without any second thought placed themselves outside and above the regime of safeguarding to which their diocese and the Irish bishops had committed themselves.

Paradoxically, appealing somehow to their own interpretation of Canon Law they had put themselves even above and beyond the norms which the current Pope himself has promulgated for the entire Church.

Some years ago I was criticized in some Church circles for speaking of strong forces still present in the Church which “would prefer that the truth did not emerge”. “There are signs”, I said, “of subconscious denial on the part of many about the extent of the abuse which occurred within the Church of Jesus Christ in Ireland and how it was covered up. There are other signs of rejection of a sense of responsibility for what had happened. There are worrying signs that despite solid regulations and norms these are not being followed with the rigour required”.

Much has, thank God, been undertaken within the Catholic Church to address the facts of the past and to improve safeguarding procedures. The Catholic Church in Ireland is a much safer place today than it was even in the recent past.

Much is being said, on the other hand, that despite words the Church has not learned the lessons. Both statements are true. At our liturgy of lament and reconciliation I stressed that that event was only a first step. “It would be easy for all of us”, I said, ”to go away this afternoon somehow feeling good but feeling also ‘that is that now’, ‘it’s over’, ‘now we can get back to normal’”. I repeat once again what I said on that occasion “The Church can never rest until the day in which the last victim has found his or her peace and he or she can rejoice in being fully the person that God in his plan wants them to be”.

That is a challenge not just for bishops and Church leaders. It is a challenge for all. Obviously in this diocese it is a challenge to me personally. I know my own inadequacies and I do not wish to present myself as being better or more expert than anyone else. Like all of us, I need to have the courage to address my responsibilities with the utmost honesty day by day.

All of us need to have in place systems of verification and review which help us to identify mistakes made or areas where more can be done or things can be done better. We need to continue to build a cooperative climate where all the institutions of the Church work in a constructive way together and with the institutions of the State, which bears the primary responsibility for child safeguarding in the country.

I thank the priests and lay persons in this diocese who have committed themselves to implementing our child safeguarding policies and I appeal to them not to be become frustrated or indifferent. The Church needs you.

The children who frequent our Churches need you. Parents need to be reassured by your presence. Public recognition is due to the mobilisation within the Church of so many volunteers who are in the front line in our parishes and organizations in child safeguarding.Those priests who have ministered untarnished and generously over years – indeed for an entire lifetime – should not be made scapegoats and objects of hate. Priests deserve recognition for the good they do and they need the support of their people. I appeal to those priests who have become demoralised and half-hearted not to give in to cynicism but to heed the Lord’s call to renewal and conversion.

However, those in Church and State who have acted wrongly or inadequately should assume accountability.

What is at stake here is not just the past, but the future of our children and our young people and the need to foster a healthy environment across the board in which our upcoming generations are cherished and can grow to maturity. This is a huge challenge and cannot be addressed in a patchwork manner. The early results of the most recent census indicate that there will be a significant growth in the numbers and the proportion of children and young people in our population in the coming years. This will inevitably require significant investment.

While recognising the challenges of our current economic crisis, our long-term economic planning cannot overlook the need to provide not just protection but also vision, hope and opportunity for this future generation.

The Proclamation of 1916 contained a vision of solidarity and inclusivity which dreamt not just of the freedom for Ireland’s people, but also of their welfare; it hoped for “equal rights and equal opportunities for all its citizens”; it dreamt of a society “where all the children of the nation would be cherished”. These are perennial goals for our nation which must at all times be a clear focal point for future economic and social planning.The same proclamation and vision of those who founded our republic recognised that religious and civil liberty of all was to be fostered.

A republic is not indifferent to the faith of its citizens. A republic respects the specific rights of believers. It recognises the role of believers in contributing to the common good as they journey with others in search of that hope to which we are all called as human beings and believers.Great damage has been done to the credibility of the Church in Ireland. Credibility will only be regained by the Church being more truly what the Church is. Renewal will not be the work of sleek public relations moves.

Irish religious culture has radically changed and has changed irreversibly. There will be no true renewal in the Church until that fact is recognised.The Church cannot continue to be present in society as it was in the past. That is not to say that the Church will be renewed by that changed culture or should simply adapt itself to the vision of that new culture. The Gospel reading reminds us that the Church lives its life in the midst of different cultures and indeed with the presence of sin in its own midst.

As believers we know that in the long-term Christ who sows the good seed in our midst will work tirelessly to see that those forces “that provoke offence and who do evil” will not prevail but will face judgement on their lives.

It would however be false to interpret the Gospel reading as if we should simply sit back and allow good and evil to grow together in the hope that in the end the good will win out. It is reminding us that fidelity to the message of Jesus is the way in which we will ensure the victory of the good.The Gospel reading cries out: “Listen”, anyone who has ears”. Rarely more often than in our day are we as believers called to listen, to take note, to be alert and on our guard, so that the virtuous life will shine through us in our world.

To do that we must renew ourselves and, as the second reading reminds us, allow the spirit of God to put into our lives a goodness and a love that cannot be summed up in our words. It is only then if we love good that we will drive evil away from us.” 

 


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