Jun 30 – First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

Siemiradski_Fackeln

-“Nero’s torches” or “Chandeliers of Christianity”, 1876, oil on canvas, Henryk Siemiradzki (Polish 1843-1902) 94 x 174.5 cm. (37 x 68 3/4 in.), please click on the image for greater detail;  a favorite painting of mine.

The historical record recounts Christians were present in Rome a mere twelve years after the Resurrection.  The painting of “Nero’’s Torches” by Siemiradzki depicts an event following the Great Fire of Rome in the summer of A.D. 64. In nine days, the fire destroyed a third of the city’’s busiest and most residential quarters and Nero’’s involvement with the initial spark was widely rumored. Indeed, the time coincided with the construction of Nero’’s famed Domus Aurea, – the Golden House –, for which urban space was required to satisfy the Emperor’’s architectural desires. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Nero now sought to divert the public from the general suspicion of his involvement in the deed: “To suppress this rumor, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called).  …

First, Nero had self-acknowledged Christians arrested. Then, on their information, large numbers of others were condemned – not so much for incendiarism as for their anti-social tendencies. The official crime, according to Roman Imperial law, was “crimes against humanity”, since they would not sacrifice to the gods, nor indulge in Roman vices, nor worship openly nor publicly.  They wouldn’t “go along, to get along”.  😉

Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals’ skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight. Nero provided his Gardens for the spectacle…. Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’’s brutality rather than to the national interest. “ [Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, London: Penguin Classics, 1996 edition, Book XV, chapter 14, pp.365-366]

The Great Empires:  Rome, Communism, Ottomans, Byzantines, Mongols, kingdoms galore, great earthly powers; where are they now?  Praise Him.  Praise Him.

Love,
Matthew

Sacred Heart of Jesus

sacred-heart-of-jesus-in-stained-glass-philip-ralley

Sacred Heart -08

Many of you know, the McCormick family has a very special devotion to the Sacred Heart. Our family custom is to add, after grace before meals, the following, in unison:  “O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in Thee!”

luke hoyt

-by Br Luke Hoyt, OP (Br Luke, prior to joining the Order, earned a degree in piano performance from the University of Michigan and studied philosophy as a seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum.)

“When St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary, several centuries apart from each other, encountered Jesus in visions, they both did something curious. Ears pressed close to Jesus’ breast, they listened.

And they heard a heartbeat. With rapt attention, they listened to the Heartbeat of Jesus.

This is the act of a lover. When you are in love with someone, you want to know them entirely, to be one with them. In an exchange of spiritual goods, you want to live within the beloved, and you want that person to live within you. If you could locate one spot which somehow centered that other person, you would want to figuratively both step inside that spot, and also reach for it and hold it–tenderly and reverently–to place it deep inside yourself where it would be forever treasured.

For the human person, this spot is the heart. The heart is the locus of the “I.” And therefore to listen to the heartbeat of a beloved is to try to reach out and touch that “I,” to put your finger on another’s self, to cherish the sound, so to speak, of their existence.

This is what St. Gertrude and St. Margaret Mary sought in listening to Jesus’ heart. They were in love with their God, and were therefore spellbound by the sound of His Heart.

But when you listen to a human heart, you notice something within it. You notice a wound.  This is the case with every human heart. As soon as you locate it, you discover that it is broken and crying out in some way.

And Jesus’ heart is no exception. It is beating; it is alive. But it is also pierced. It bleeds. We ourselves pierced it, and now it flows and flows and flows.

But mysteriously, because it flows, the desire of the lover is answered.  The lover, finding the “I” of the beloved, can do more than listen to the heartbeat.  He or she can actually touch the very lifeblood which that heart beats and take it into his or her own self.

And when this happens, our hearts become like Jesus’ heart: filled with his blood. Because our hearts are also wounded, pierced like His, they too will flow – and flow and flow. But as they flow, they will spread the blood of the beloved wherever they go. And other hearts will in turn be transformed, and these also will flow.

And when the whole world is filled with our God’s blood, we will no longer need to strain our ears, listening for His heartbeat  For we will be within Him, within His Most Sacred Heart.”

Love,
Matthew

Death: God’s Greatest Gift

13762_unnamed-628x376


-by Br Bonaventure Chapman, OP (Prior to joining the Order, Br Bonaventure received an M.Th. in Applied Theology from Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University, where he studied for the Anglican priesthood.)

“There is no point in being a Christian unless we regard death as God’s greatest gift to us.”

— Fr. Edward T. Oakes, SJ (1948 – 2013)

What did he say? Death is a gift, even God’s greatest? Death is no stranger to superlatives, but they usually come in the negative form: death is the most terrible reality; death is the final enemy; death is the worst defeat. Because of this, death avoidance becomes a wellspring of activity in modern society: nursing homes and hospitals keep it at a safe distance from the home, and euphemisms are commonly deployed in its description. Is not the euthanasia movement an extreme form of this avoidance in its attempt to master death through free choice? If death must happen, I will decide exactly when and how it happens! Of course the avoidance of death is not limited to the modern condition. In his famous study, The Denial of Death, Ernest Becker writes of its universal quality:

“The idea of death, the fear of it, haunts the human animal like nothing else; it is a mainspring of human activity – activity designed largely to avoid the fatality of death, to overcome it by denying in some way that it is the final destiny for man.”

Surely Fr. Oakes must be morbidly misinformed or manifestly mistaken, mustn’t he?

Well no, actually, although a distinction is desirable. It is not any old death that is the greatest gift, but a Christian death, a death given by God, which is the greatest gift. Why? Because in a Christian death one does not die alone; one dies with Christ. The Catechism puts it succinctly: “To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ” (1005). To be united with Christ fully, one must be united with Him in His death, and therefore in our own deaths. Death has a new dimension, a new character, thanks to Christ’s death. The Catechism goes on to quote St. Paul in this new definition of death:

“Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21).“The saying is sure: if we have died with Him, we will also live with Him” (2 Tm 2:11). What is essentially new about Christian death is this: through Baptism, the Christian has already “died with Christ” sacramentally, in order to live a new life; and if we die in Christ’s grace, physical death completes this “dying with Christ” and so completes our incorporation into Him in his redeeming act. (1010)”

This Summer I have had the privilege of spending a month with the Dominican Sisters at Rosary Hill Home in Hawthorne, NY. The sisters here, part of a congregation founded by Rose Hawthorne (Mother Mary Alphonsa), the daughter of American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, work day and night to assist cancer patients in just such a “dying with Christ.” Unlike many hospices that offer a kind of palliative care that involves the refusal of suffering and the denial of death, the sisters here offer truly passionate care: the suffering-with of compassion and the acceptance of death with Christ through his passion.

Death is not covered up or ignored at Hawthorne; patients are here to die well, to die with and in Christ. It is an incredible grace and truly a gift to die with the sisters; I can attest to this because of my experiences with both patients and their families. As one family member said: “This place is the closest thing to heaven on earth.” Those gifted enough to come to Rosary Hill are taught to die well, to die with Christ, to die with love and grace. Truly what a gift!

Unfortunately, not everyone can die in the care of the Hawthorne Dominicans (Young ladies, you can change this: vocations). And yet we all face death, the final enemy and proper punishment for our sins. Thankfully, like the patients at Rosary Hill, the Church has not left us alone in this serious task of dying well; she gives us daily numerous ways of preparing well. One way is to ask for a holy death every time we see a crucifix in our house (You don’t have one? Why not?) or Church. There are also excellent works dedicated to living well by thinking about dying well, both traditional (Dominican and Jesuit) as well as contemporary (written by a friend of mine). And of course we pray for such a holy death, through the intercession of Mary, at least fifty times a day in the rosary (You don’t pray the rosary every day? Really?). The Church encourages us to prepare ourselves for the hour of death (CCC 1114). After all, if this life is to be a sequela Christi, a following of Christ, one must follow Him to death and through death. Christ’s call to each disciple “to deny himself and take up his cross daily” (Lk 9:23) finds new meaning and resonance in this daily reflection and preparation for death.

To die with Christ is truly a gift, a gift that may be the greatest because it is the way to unite ourselves with Christ. Christ offers us the gift of His death and we offer ourselves united to Him through our own deaths as our final thanksgiving for all He has done. While not all of us will have the gift of dying with the Hawthorne Dominicans, we can all experience a hint of their charism with the help of the Church. And of course our death is not the final word, for the gift of death contains also the gift of the Resurrection.”

Good St Joseph!!  Patron of a Good Death, pray for us!!  Take us by the hand at that final moment and guide us to thy Divine Foster-Son!!  That we may rejoice with the Blessed forever!!!

Love,
Matthew

Solemnity of Corpus Christi – Cibivat Eos, Introit for the Mass, “Wheat & honey from the rock!” & Lauda Sion

monstrance

(The work is in two sections, the first containing the antiphon (text: Psalm 81:17), the second the verse (text: Psalm 81:2) and doxology. For a proper liturgical performance, the first section must be repeated after the second.)

Cibávit éos ex ádipe fruménti,
allelúia:
et de pétra, mélle saturávit éos,
allelúia, allelúia, allelúia,

He fed them with the fat of wheat (alleluia);
and filled them with honey out of the rock
(alleluia, alleluia, alleluia).

Exsultáte Déo adjutóri nóstro: jubiláte Déo Jácob.

Rejoice unto God our helper; sing aloud to the God of Jacob.

Glória Pátri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sáncto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saécula saeculórum. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son,
and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Cibávit éos ex ádipe fruménti, allelúia:
et de pétra mélle saturávit éos,
allelúia, allelúia, allelúia,

He fed them with the fat of wheat (alleluia);
and filled them with honey out of the rock
(alleluia, alleluia, alleluia).


-by Br Alan Piper, OP

“A recent book, “American Catholics in Transition”, drawing on numerous surveys conducted over a period of twenty-five years, reports that 37% of self-identified Catholics in America do not believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Significantly, however, only 4% claim that they both know and disbelieve the Church’s teaching. The great majority of unbelievers in the real presence—1 in 3 of self-identified Catholics—claims not to know what the Church teaches on the subject: namely, that the bread and wine are really changed into the body and blood of Christ.

The liturgical calendar provides us with an opportunity to reflect on this mystery. The Feast of Corpus Christi (“the Body of Christ”) was instituted in the thirteenth century in order to foster a greater appreciation of the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist. In the U.S. it occurs this Sunday, though in other countries it happens today, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, as a kind of second Holy Thursday (the day of the Last Supper).

The Gospel reading for Corpus Christi is John 6:51-58. The passage follows the multiplication of the loaves and consists mainly of Jesus’ response to a request from the crowd: “Sir, give us always [the bread of God . . . which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world]” (Jn 6:33-34). Jesus’ answer is clear and emphatic: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven . . . and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (6:51). Jesus is insistent about this. In the eight verses of the liturgical text (which is only a selection from a larger passage), words meaning “eat” and “drink” appear a total of ten times, and the words “food” and “bread” occur six times in sum. Jesus persistently associates these words with himself, with his “flesh” (six times) and with his “blood” (four). Eventually he adds the adjective “true”: “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (6:55).

Jesus also uses different words for “eat.” In the first part of the passage, he uses a more generic term, which was used to denote the eating of a meal or metaphorical consumption, e.g., the devouring of books. In the second part, however, he begins to use a verb that means “gnaw” or “chomp.” Presumably, Jesus is driving home his point. What’s required is not only spiritual assimilation, but also oral ingestion. The eating that Jesus is talking about is bodily; it’s animalistic. The translation in the Lectionary hints at this animality in verse 57: “the one who feeds on me will have life . . .”

Some of Jesus’ disciples objected to the idea that they should eat his body and drink his blood. They said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” (6:60). Many were so repelled that they stopped following him altogether: “[they] returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (6:66). But Jesus did not run after them trying to explain that he was only speaking symbolically. Still less did he open the doctrine up for negotiation. He simply turned to the Twelve and asked, “Do you also want to leave?” (6:67).

Perhaps the defectors thought Jesus was proposing a straightforward cannibalism, such as one might imagine about the worst pagans, such as might have existed among neighboring pagans. Maybe some would object that Jesus was too concerned about “externals.” Today people might say that they don’t go to Church because they go to God “directly,” from home or from anywhere. The Christian claim is that God has already come to us directly in Christ, who declared, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (6:53). Now, ingesting the Son of Man is not normally something people can do at home. So Jesus is inviting us to Church: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (6:54). These are the options he gives us: no life or eternal life.

The Eucharist contains “the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324). This great gift is offered to us as a sacrament, that is, as a sacred, saving sign. But unlike some other signs (for instance, a photo of a loved one), in the case of the Eucharist, the sign literally involves the real presence of Christ in his humanity and divinity. This is why Catholics genuflect and kneel in the presence of the Eucharist. And this is the reason for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which is characteristic of celebrations of Corpus Christi. After the consecration, there is no longer any bread or wine on the altar. Jesus is there under the appearances of bread and wine, offering Himself for the life of the world.”

“I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, “A Charmed Life.”) She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. . . . Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.

Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the most portable person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, Well, if it’s a symbol, to hell with it.

That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.” -Flannery O’Connor, in a letter to Elizabeth Hester

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

Love,
Matthew

Jun 20 – Bl Dermot O’Hurley, (1530-1584) & Companions, (d. 1579-1654), “What of Ireland & her martyrs?”

blessed-dermot-o-hurley-execution
-please click on the images for greater detail.

blessed-dermot-o-hurley-birthplace

-by Fr. Robert F. McNamara

“During the English Reformation and the anti-Catholic centuries that followed. Many British who died for their Catholic faith in these years have been declared Venerable; others, Blessed; and 42, beginning with St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, have been canonized saints. Since some 600 Catholics in all suffered martyrdom in England and Wales during those times, it is safe to say that in the future, other names will be added to the church calendar by the popes.

But, what of Ireland and her martyrs?  The campaign against Catholicism in Ireland differed somewhat from that in England, over 250 Irish women and men have been singled out as possible candidates for beatification and canonization. A few of them have already received the honors of the altar. Oliver Plunkett, Archbishop of Armagh, has been declared a saint; and three natives of Ireland have been beatified along with the English martyrs because they met death on English soil: Bl. Charles Meehan, a Franciscan priest; and two Irish laymen, BB. John Carey and Patrick Salmon, who were servants of an Anglo-Irish Jesuit.

The reason why the cause for beatification of the Irish martyrs is so slow is an interesting one. To qualify as a martyr, a candidate’s death for the faith must be clearly documented. That was rather easy to do with most of the English martyrs, because British law required the careful preservation of court records. It was different in Ireland. As often as not, those executed for Catholicism were not even put on trial, so the circumstances of their death were not preserved. Church investigators would therefore have to search elsewhere for information – a long, and perhaps fruitless task.

When Pope John Paul II, on September 27, 1992, declared blessed seventeen Irish martyrs, he did the next best thing. He made a start on the process of selecting, from among those whose martyrdom had been verified, a group who represented a cross section of Irish Catholics: men and women, bishops, priests and lay brothers, laity from both higher and lower walks of life.

While there is still not much known about many of these, let me list them with their years of death and with brief comments:

Bl. Patrick O’Healy, bishop of Mayo, and Bl. Conn O’Rourke, both Franciscans (1579). Bl. Matthew Lambert, a baker, and three sailors: BB. Robert Mayler, Edward Cheevers, and Patrick Cavanaugh (1581). Mrs. Margaret Bermingham Ball, a widowed housewife who died in prison (1584). (She had been jailed at the insistence of her own son, who abandoned the Catholic faith and handed her over to the British officials. Bl. Margaret lived out her remaining life in patient suffering rather than disown the pope.)

Bl. Dermot O’Hurley, (Diarmaid Ó hUrthuile) Archbishop of Cashel, was suspected of knowing of a plot by the pope and the Spanish. His feet were therefore put into metal boots, filled with oil, and roasted over a fire.

Since he had nothing to confess, this brilliant man was finally given a choice between denying the pope or hanging. He was hanged in 1584.

A secular priest, Bl. Maurice McKenraghty was executed in 1585. Bl. Dominic Collins, a Jesuit lay brother, died in 1602. Bl. Conor O’Devany, a Franciscan, bishop of Down and Connor in Ulster, and Bl. Patrick O’Loughran, a priest, both died in 1612.

Bl. Francis Taylor was a prominent merchant and alderman of Dublin, where he was martyred in 1642. Bl. Terence O’Brien, the Dominican bishop of Emly, was executed in 1651. The last two of the group were Bl. John Kearney, a Franciscan priest (1654), and Bl. William Tirry, an Augustinian priest (1654).

Today, Ireland is torn apart by strife, largely religious in background. In declaring these seventeen “blessed”, the Holy Father pointed out how they had died for love, forgiving their persecutors. And he prayed God to “sustain those who work for reconciliation and peace in Ireland today.””

blessed dermot ii

blessed dermot i

-marker at the tomb of Bl Dermot, Archbishop of Cashel, St. Kevin’s Church, Camden Row, Dublin, Ireland

“Be it therefore known unto you…that I am a priest anointed and also a Bishop, although unworthy of soe sacred dignitites, and noe cause could they find against me that might in the least deserve the paines of death, but merely for my funcon of priesthood wherein they have proceeded against me in all pointes cruelly contrarie to their own lawes …and I doe injoin you (Deere Christian Brethren) to manifest the same to the world and also to beare witness on the Day of Judgment of my Innocent death, which I indure for my function and profession of the most holy Catholick Faith.” -last words of Bl Dermot at his execution.  In the process of his beatification, one of the most valuable resources was found to be the documents and letters written by the men who tortured and executed him, attesting to his constancy, fortitude, and sanctity of his death.

Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
-Luke 6:22-23

Love,
Matthew

Who is God?

HelloMyNameIsGod-Graphic-1024x576


-by Br Humbert Kilanowski, OP (Br Humbert earned his PhD in mathematics at Ohio State University before joining the Order.)

“Speaking about God, or even thinking of Him, is perhaps the most difficult and lofty task that man can undertake. While God made us in His image, endowing us with minds and free choice, the capabilities to know and love Him, we naturally fall short of understanding Who, or even what, God is. Because of these natural limitations and the effects of sin, we have a tendency to remake God in our image.

Some faulty attempts to understand God, while based in truth to certain extent, can be exaggerated to the point that they drive people away from Him, leading many to reject Him or even deny that He exists. Let’s examine some of them more closely, and look at how speaking of what God is not sheds light on Who He is.

The Cosmic Clockmaker: In trying to understand the mystery of creation, we try to picture God in terms of things we already know and can see on earth. One idea, most popular in the 18th century, is that of an Intelligence who crafts the universe according to deterministic physical laws. The problem with this idea is that it reduces creation to an isolated event in the distant past and disregards God’s action in the world today. God does not ignore His works, but rather, in His loving providence, draws all things back to Himself, and even acts in our own free choices when we cooperate with His grace.

The God of the Gaps: Our scientific understanding of the world has increased to a level unforeseen to the pagans of ages past, who posited deities in charge of every aspect of nature. If any natural event escaped human knowledge, it was attributed to a divine cause. The problem then is relegating God to only the unknown, which makes his role shrink as our knowledge of science expands, leaving no gaps. Some conclude, then, that the world has no need for God, with some contemporary physicists even claiming that the universe can create itself from nothing. However, God is not the natural cause that they seem to look for. Rather, just as the act of creation transcends the order within creation, God is the supernatural First Cause that sustains us all in existence, and instead of ruling out God’s existence, modern science has merely proven the (true) conclusion that God is not part of nature.

The Divine Dictator: This one concerns the transmission of Sacred Scripture. We hear that the Bible is divinely inspired, and we conjure up pictures of winged cherubs whispering in the authors’ ears, telling them precisely what to write down, as it comes straight from the mind of God. In fact, other notable belief traditions have just this theory of inspiration. This can also cause trouble and doubt: if the Scriptures are a download from the mind of God, what do we think of passages that appear to contradict one another, or do not pass scientific or historical muster? But the Catholic tradition understands biblical inspiration in a radically different way. Biblical revelation operates on an incarnational principle: God does not simply dictate, but writes through human instruments, acting as the principal cause in the people who write the sacred texts, compile and edit them, or who ratify them by using them in worship of God. Each human author is partially conditioned to a specific place, time, culture and level of understanding, and we can even notice how the writers’ conceptualizations of God mature over time, evolving from a seemingly anthropomorphic deity among many national gods to the unique Creator who is totally Other from the universe. Despite the human character in which biblical revelation is offered to us, the Sacred Scriptures offer us objective truth that transcends any one historical period, indeed truth essential for our salvation. The process of revelation occurs throughout the Old Testament period and reaches its culmination in the Incarnation of the Son in Jesus Christ.

The Man Upstairs: Speaking of anthropomorphism, this common idea tries to picture God as having human attributes (including a long, white beard), sitting on a throne on high, and ready to smite us whenever we break one of his laws and ignite his wrath. One can readily see how this notion, which describes the thunderbolt-wielding Zeus more closely than the God of Scripture, drives seekers away and even disposes believers to rebel against God. However, God is not subject to human emotions; rather in his providential plan, He wills the salvation of the whole human race through our free cooperation. It is not God, but human beings who typically wield thunderbolts, human beings who sin by breaking the bond of friendship with God.

All of these ideas of God have a basis in truth, but are warped as our frail and finite minds try to comprehend the divine mystery. Rather than retreat from God when He turns out not to match our image of Him or when our conceptions of him become twisted and troubling, let us turn to Him, asking him for understanding. God is not, as John Lennon once said, “a concept by which we measure our pain,” but rather the source of our being and the only One who can satisfy our deepest search.”

Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam.”                  –St Anselm (1033-1109)

Love,
Matthew

Jun 15 – Bls Peter Snow, Priest, & Ralph Grimston, Husband, (d. 1598), Martyrs

In 1845, two skulls (Peter Snow and Ralph Grimston) were discovered under the stone floor of the ancient chapel of Hazlewood Castle, near Tadcaster, UK.

Father Snow and Ralph Grimston were captured while journeying together to York. Father Snow was condemned to death by hanging, drawing, and quartering for being a priest. Ralph Grimston had previously been imprisoned for opening his home to priests.  Ralph Grimston was condemned to death by hanging for having assisted Father Snow and for having attempted to prevent the priest’s arrest when they were caught.

The Catholic Cathedral at Leeds, dedicated to St. Anne, has their skulls as relics, installed there when the new altar was consecrated. And, the University of Dundee reconstructed their faces based on their skulls.

aasnow

Nov 22, 2009, -Rev. Robert Barron, Cardinal Francis George Professor of Faith & Culture, University of St Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary, IL & Founder, Word on Fire.

“…Bishop Roach took me to the far more modest cathedral of Leeds, led me to the main altar and then invited me to examine a treasure.

We crouched down and the bishop pulled out two heavy stones from the front of the altar, revealing a pair of well-preserved human skulls. These, he explained, were the remains of Blessed Peter Snow and Blessed Ralph Grimston.

Peter Snow was a Yorkshireman who had left Elizabethean England in order to study for the Catholic priesthood in France. At the time, of course, it was an offense to be a Catholic and a capital crime to be a priest. Snow had been ordained in Reims and subsequently smuggled into England, where he successfully ministered for two or three years, clandestinely celebrating the Mass, encouraging Catholics in their faith and instructing children in their catechism.

Like many other priests in England at that time, he was protected by Catholic families who hid him away in cellars, attics and hiding-holes concealed behind walls. In May of 1598, he was making his way to York in the company of Ralph Grimston, a layman who was travelling with him for protection. The two Catholics were waylaid by authorities. Grimston drew his sword and shouted at the young priest to ride off, but they were captured.

A trial was held in York, and Snow was convicted of being a priest and Grimston of harboring an enemy of the state. On June 15, they were executed. Grimston was hanged and then beheaded; Snow suffered the far worse fate of being hanged, slowly eviscerated and then cut into four pieces. Afterward, their heads were placed on pikes over the gate of the city in order to dissuade any who might be tempted to imitate them.

The heads were taken down and for many centuries were hidden away, eventually coming to rest at a Carmelite monastery. When that monastery was sold, Bishop Roach, who knew of the existence of the skulls, asked that they be transferred to the Leeds cathedral and placed in the new altar.

Before they were ensconced in the altar, the bishop allowed them to be examined by a forensic scientist in London who was able to reconstruct facsimiles of the faces, letting us see, after all of these centuries, what these men looked like. When I saw the photographs, I was deeply moved, especially by the face of the young priest (only 32 when he was killed). He looked for all the world like one of the students that I teach at the seminary.

It just broke my heart to think that this courageous kid could have been treated with such brutality and inhumanity, simply for saying Mass and administering the sacraments. I mused on the depths of human cruelty, on a wickedness that beggars the imagination and is, nevertheless, on full display up and down the centuries to the present day.

But above all, I found myself edified by his witness. During his years of study in France, he knew that he was preparing for a desperately dangerous mission. He was fully aware that many of his colleagues had already been arrested or killed, and yet he persevered.

His ministry in his home country was grim, haunted, and fearsome. How many terrible days and nights he must have endured, and yet he pressed on. Looking at his placid face, I thought about the transforming quality of God’s amazing grace, what God’s love can do with our frail and deeply compromised humanity.

Part of the genius of Catholic theology is that it clearly articulates both sides of the human condition. There is nothing naïve or blandly “optimistic” in Catholic anthropology. It takes original sin and its consequences with utter seriousness, arguing that human beings are weakened, twisted even, in both body and soul.

No moral outrage — Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Cambodian killing fields or Elizabethan totalitarianism — really surprises the Catholic mind, for as Chesterton said, “we’re all in the same boat and we’re all seasick.” At the same time, Catholic teaching holds that we are made in the image and likeness of God and destined, ultimately, to share in the very dynamics of the divine life, loving as effortlessly and radically as God himself. This Catholic hope outstrips even the fondest dreams of any humanist philosophy.

Those two skulls in the altar at Leeds silently speak of the best and the worst in us human beings. Peter Snow and Ralph Grimston, pray for us.”

Father Snow, Holy Priest!  Ralph Grimston, Defender of Priests!  Ora pro nobis!

Love,
Matthew

 http://www.wordonfire.org/WoF-Blog/WoF-Blog/September-2010/Spirituality-Two-English-Martyrs.aspx

Jun 10 – Bl John Dominic, OP, (1356-1419) & Our Irrelevance

giovanni dominici convent of san marco

Blessed John Dominic

dominicbouckop
-by Br John Dominic Bouck, OP

“My guess is that this morning when you woke up, you probably turned off the alarm and thanked God for the feast of Bl. John Dominic. Wait … you didn’t? You mean, you’ve never even heard of him?

John Dominic met St. Catherine of Siena, OP, when he was young, entered the Order of Preachers, and was an integral part of a major reform movement. This reform helped to revitalize the Order after its decimation by the plague and general laxity of observance. Not only was he a major force in the Dominican Order, but he became a cardinal in the Church, and an official legate for the Pope. Most importantly, he worked to resolve the Great Western Schism. He also brought Fra Angelico, the world famous painter, and St. Antoninus, a brilliant theologian and reformer, into the Order.

So if he was such a major player in the world and in the Church, then it seems like we would hear more about him today. On the other hand, I think our collective ignorance of an important figure like Bl. John Dominic is not necessarily a tragedy, but rather is typical to all but a small group of people. We are not remembered for very long after our death. And even for those select few who are remembered, the details that we “know” about their lives are limited.

With the fact of our transience so clearly evident, what then should we make of the common cry these days for being on the right side of history? How can we ensure our historical justification before men and women who have not yet been born and who are likely never to hear our names?

Historical scholarship can be a fickle thing. Winston Churchill was to have said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it!” Real events happen in history, but our historical recording of those events can be less than fully accurate. The project of historical research is a human endeavor to reach into the past, and as such, it is subject to the contingencies and finitude that humans must confront. We don’t have access to a great deal of evidence. We can know certain historical truths of black and white, but in between there is often a lot of gray. Persons of the past can get lost in the proverbial historical fog. What’s more, even the very choice of what persons and events to research and write about can signify some sort of bias. The historian must always seek to be objective and impartial, removing himself from any motive of propaganda.

The desire to be on the “right side of history” can presume the myth that history just keeps getting better every day. According to this view, creation is on a constant upward trajectory. The reality has been quite different. A simple survey of the horrors of the 20th century overwhelms the soul. Technological mastery in the hands of adolescent spirits has just allowed greater acts of destruction. This was the greatest age of technological progress and simultaneously the age of the most sinister manifestation of “man’s inhumanity to man.”

Why should we worry what future generations think of us? That seems pretty insecure, to worry about what others who don’t even exist yet think. It seems much better to worry about whether or not we are doing the right thing. That’s not easy in our culture, because there is not widespread agreement on precisely what that right thing is.

Most of us will fade into the past without much comment by future generations. That shouldn’t frighten us; it should motivate us. Doing the right thing for people of faith–acting according to the demands of our human nature and according to the commands of God–should be the primary motivation: not some imagined stamp of approval down the road, but the approval of our loving Maker. For people who don’t believe in God or an afterlife, it is even more critical to do what is right, because it doesn’t seem like being on the right side of history matters much if you’re not going to exist.

Historical hindsight can be 20/20, but too often our rearview mirror gives a picture that is not so clear. Bl. John Dominic knew not to worry about the vicissitudes of human chroniclers, agonizing about his place in the historical annals. Instead, he acted according to his well-formed conscience and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is why he is a great saint. He was a world-famous celebrity, now mostly forgotten, except by the One Who truly matters.”

Is 49:15

First Vespers:
Ant. Strengthen by holy intercession, O John, Confessor of the Lord, those here present, that we who are burdened with the weight of our offenses may be relieved by the glory of thy blessedness, and may by thy guidance attain eternal rewards.
V. Pray for us, Blessed John.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Lauds:
Ant. Well done, good and faithful servant, because Thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will set thee over many, sayeth the Lord.
V. The just man shall blossom like the lily.
R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord.

Second Vespers:
Ant. I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock..
V. Pray for us. Blessed John.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, the giver of charity, who dist strengthen Blessed John, Confessor and Bishop, in the work of preserving the unity of the Church and establishing regular discipline, grant, through his intercession, that we may be of one mind and perform our actions in Christ Jesus our Lord, who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

Pascal Time
First Vespers:
Ant. Come, O daughters of Jerusalem, and behold a Martyr with a crown wherewith the Lord crowned him on the day of solemnity and rejoicing, alleluia, alleluia
V. Pray for us, Blessed John with thy companions, alleluia
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ, alleluia.

Lauds:
Ant. Perpetual light will shine upon Thy Saints, O Lord, alleluia, and an eternity of ages, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia
V. The just man shall blossom like the lily, alleluia.
R. And shall flourish forever before the Lord, alleluia

Second Vespers:
Ant. In the city of the Lord the music of the Saints incessantly resounds: there the angels and archangels sing a canticle before the throne of God, alleluia.
V. Pray for us, Blessed John with thy companions, alleluia
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. alleluia

Prayer:
Let us Pray: O God, the giver of charity, who dist strengthen Blessed John, Confessor and Bishop, in the work of preserving the unity of the Church and establishing regular discipline, grant, through his intercession, that we may be of one mind and perform our actions in Christ Jesus our Lord, who with Thee liveth and reigneth world without end. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

The Mind of God

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways My ways—says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are My ways higher than your ways,
My thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
-Is 55:8-9

cradle-of-galaxies-hubble-space-telescope

– by Br Thomas Davenport, OP, (Br Thomas graduated with a PhD in Physics from Stanford University before joining the Order.)

“When most people think of Albert Einstein’s contribution to physics, the theory of relativity is what comes to mind, and rightly so. What most don’t realize is that his Nobel Prize was actually awarded for explaining the photoelectric effect, a result which contradicted the classical understanding of light and helped lead to the development of Quantum Mechanics. Despite his major contributions to its development, Einstein was famously uncomfortable with the way randomness and uncertainty became so integral to the understanding of that new theory, often summed up in his quote, “God does not throw dice.”

This objection, however offhand it may seem, resonated with many physicists of the time. The glory of classical physics was how neat and tidy everything was. It offered the promise of determinism: if we could know perfectly the state of the universe at one moment and the laws that govern it, we could extrapolate forwards and backwards perfectly as far as we like. Despite the recognition that this ideal was well nigh impossible, there was comfort in the promise, and each step we took at least brought us closer to that perfection. The claim was that perfect knowledge of the natural world, the sort that is attributed to God, would ultimately be expressed in a deterministic mathematical formula.

The difficulty that Quantum Mechanics presented for Einstein and many others, physicists and non-physicists alike, is that the best picture of the physical world that it allows seems partial and incomplete. It implied that it is not just practically difficult but theoretically impossible to completely describe the current state of the world, let alone extrapolate forwards or backwards as we please. As bad as the loss of “perfect” knowledge of the world was for physicists, it further called into question the nature of God’s knowledge of the world. If some aspect of the natural order was inherently uncertain and unknowable what does this imply for God? Is God’s knowledge subject to this randomness, is he simply reacting to the whims of nature?

The image of God awaiting the results of a chance outcome is rightly viewed as absurd, but the solution was not a recovery of classical determinism. Even independent of the results of Quantum Mechanics, that view was philosophically flawed, and the attempt to understand God’s knowledge using it was even more so.

If physics could actually give us a complete description of the now and from that extrapolate forwards and backwards, then the past, present and future are logically the same and all equally “present.” In a sense, nothing “new” ever happens because everything is subject to absolute necessity. Every effect is completely defined by its cause, a picture of the world that is arguably static rather than dynamic, detracting from the very notion of time. There are a host of subtle problems this raises about necessity and contingency and what it even means to be a cause, but the most obvious difficulty with this view is that it leaves no room at all for free human activity.

Additionally, thinking of God’s knowledge in this way cripples the idea of His providence. If everything in nature simply happened necessarily based on what came before, it would seem reasonable to say that God’s knowledge is just the perfect working out of the complicated physics problem of the universe. As creator He knows how all things will work together and His providence simply becomes this human kind of foresight and His governance simply becomes setting things up to run perfectly. The danger inherent in this is to see God as the external Architect who only works on and understands the world on a natural level, more powerfully and perfectly than we ever could perhaps, but still on a natural level.

It took many years and much experimentation and calculation before the reality of the quantum world sunk in. Physicists eventually became comfortable with the success of Quantum Mechanics and settled into a new status quo that accepted a randomness and indeterminism underlying physics. Even those who sought alternative interpretations of Quantum Mechanics that might save determinism recognized that they had to bring in other phenomena that destroyed the crisp, clean classical worldview. Unfortunately, the damage done to the understanding of causality and of God’s providence by classical determinism remains.

Even if the natural world “throws dice” in its most fundamental interaction, this may simply be a physical manifestation of the inherent contingency of all material things. This idea would not have been so foreign to Aristotle and St. Thomas, who saw both necessary and contingent causes in the world around them. More importantly, this loss of absolute necessity does not threaten God’s absolute knowledge of the created order, for his knowledge is not limited to the particular mathematical and formal descriptions that we are able to develop in the sciences. God’s providence, His wise ordering of everything to its proper end, is above every natural cause. The certainty of God’s knowledge does not limit his power to create natural objects that can act in a truly contingent way. Einstein was right that “God does not throw dice,” but He knows perfectly the natural order that He created to do just that.”

Love,
Matthew

Aug 9 – Bl Franz Jagerstatter, (1906-1943) – Husband, Father, Martyr

jaegerstaetterr_468x679

Called to serve his country as a Nazi solider, Franz eventually refused, and this husband and father of three daughters (Rosalie, Marie and Aloisia) was executed because of it.

Born in St. Radegund in Upper Austria, Franz lost his father during World War I and was adopted after Heinrich Jaegerstaetter married Rosalia Huber.

As a young man, he loved to ride his motorcycle and was the natural leader of a gang whose members were arrested in 1934 for brawling.

For three years he worked in the mines in another city and then returned to St. Radegund, where he became a farmer, married Franziska and lived his faith with quiet but intense conviction.

In 1938 he publicly opposed the German Anschluss (annexation) of Austria. The next year he was drafted into the Austrian army, trained for seven months and then received a deferment. In 1940 he was called up again but allowed to return home at the request of the town’s mayor.

He was in active service between October 1940 and April 1941 but was again deferred. His pastor, other priests and the bishop of Linz urged him not to refuse to serve if drafted. In February 1943 he was called up again and reported to army officials in Enns, Austria.

When he refused to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler, he was imprisoned in Linz. Later he volunteered to serve in the medical corps but was not assigned there.

During Holy Week he wrote to his wife: “Easter is coming and, if it should be God’s will that we can never again in this world celebrate Easter together in our intimate family circle, we can still look ahead in the happy confidence that, when the eternal Easter morning dawns, no one in our family circle shall be missing–so we can then be permitted to rejoice together forever.”

In May he was transferred to a prison in Berlin. Challenged by his attorney that other Catholics were serving in the army, Franz responded, “I can only act on my own conscience. I do not judge anyone. I can only judge myself.” He continued, “I have considered my family. I have prayed and put myself and my family in God’s hands. I know that, if I do what I think God wants me to do, he will take care of my family.”

On August 8, 1943, he wrote to Fransizka: “Dear wife and mother, I thank you once more from my heart for everything that you have done for me in my lifetime, for all the sacrifices that you have borne for me. I beg you to forgive me if I have hurt or offended you, just as I have forgiven everything…My heartfelt greetings for my dear children. I will surely beg the dear God, if I am permitted to enter Heaven soon, that he will set aside a little place in Heaven for all of you.”

The prison chaplain was struck by the man’s tranquil character.  On being offered a New Testament he replied, “I am completely bound in inner union  with the Lord, and any reading would only interrupt my communication with my God.”

Franz was beheaded and cremated the following day. In 1946 his ashes were reburied in St. Radegund near a memorial inscribed with his name and the names of almost 60 village men who died during their military service. He was beatified in Linz on Occtober 26, 2007.  His “spiritual testament” is now in Rome’s St. Bartholomew Church as part of a shrine to 20th-century martyrs for their faith.

Franz Jaegerstaetter followed his conscience and paid the highest price possible. In December 2008 his widow and three daughters were introduced to Pope Benedict XVI in connection with the presentation of a new biography, Christ or Hitler? The Life of Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter. Many people first learned about him from Gordon Zahn’s book In Solitary Witness: The Life and Death of Franz Jaegerstaetter.

Franz_Jägerstätter

“I can say from my own experience how painful life often is when one lives as a halfway Christian; it is more like vegetating than living.” – Blessed Franz in a letter to a god-child

“Since the death of Christ, almost every century has seen the persecution of Christians; there have always been heroes and martyrs who gave their lives – often in horrible ways – for Christ and their faith. If we hope to reach our goal some day, then we, too, must became heroes of the faith.” – Blessed Franz in a letter to a god-child

“Everyone tells me, of course, that I should not do what I am doing because of the danger of death. I believe it is better to sacrifice one’s life right away than to place oneself in the grave danger of committing sin and then dying.” – Blessed Franz in a letter describing his moral dilemma over being drafted

“Just as the man who thinks only of this world does everything possible to make life here easier and better, so must we, too, who believe in the eternal Kingdom, risk everything in order to receive a great reward there. Just as those who believe in National Socialism tell themselves that their struggle is for survival, so must we, too, convince ourselves that our struggle is for the eternal Kingdom. But with this difference: we need no rifles or pistols for our battle, but instead, spiritual weapons – and the foremost among these is prayer. Through prayer, we continually implore new grace from God, since without God’s help and grace it would be impossible for us to preserve the Faith and be true to His commandments. Let us love our enemies, bless those who curse us, pray for Those who persecute us. For love will conquer and will endure for all eternity. And happy are they who live and die in God’s love.” – Blessed Franz, writing from prison

“I can say with certainty that this simple man is the only saint I have ever met in my lifetime.” –Father Jochmann, who ministered to Venerable Franz in prison

 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