Mar 19 – Solemnity of St Joseph: O felicem virum! O happy man!

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O FELICEM virum, beatum Ioseph, cui datum est Deum, quem multi reges voluerunt videre et non viderunt, audire et non audierunt, non solum videre et audire, sed portare, deosculari, vestire et custodire!

V. Ora pro nobis, beate Ioseph.
R. Ut digni efficiamur promissionibus Christi.

DEUS, qui dedisti nobis regale sacerdotium: praesta, quaesumus; ut, sicut beatus Ioseph unigenitum Filium tuum, natum ex Maria Virgine, suis manibus reverenter tractare meruit et portare, ita nos facias cum cordis munditia et operis innocentia tuis sanctis altaribus deservire, ut sacrosanctum Filii tui Corpus et Sanguinem hodie digne sumamus, et in futuro saeculo praemium habere mereamur aeternum. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum.
Amen.

O BLESSED Joseph, happy man, to whom it was given not only to see and to hear that God Whom many kings longed to see, and saw not, to hear, and heard not; but also to carry Him in your arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, and guard and defend Him.

V. Pray for us, O Blessed Joseph.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ
O GOD, Who has given us a royal priesthood, we beseech You, that as Blessed Joseph was found worthy to touch with his hands, and to bear in his arms, Your only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary, so may we be made fit, by cleanness of heart and blamelessness of life, to minister at Your holy altar; may we, this day, with reverent devotion partake of the Sacred Body and Blood of Your Only-begotten Son, and may we in the world to come be accounted worthy of receiving an ever-lasting reward. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Father’s Prayer

Father in Heaven,
I thank you for the gift of my family
for whom I now pray
and upon whom I now ask you
to shower Your blessings.
With St. Joseph as my guide,
may I always be ready
to spend my life for them.

Bless my wife whom You have given to me as my spouse,
sharing in your wondrous work of creation.  May I see her as my equal and treat her with the love of Christ for his Church.  May Mary be her guide and help her to find Your peace and Your grace.

Bless my children with Your life and presence.  May the example of Your Son be the foundation upon which their lives are built, that the Gospel may always be their hope and support.

I ask you, Father, to protect and bless my family.  Watch over it so that in the strength of Your love its members may enjoy prosperity,
possess the gift of your peace and, as the Church alive in this home,
always bear witness to Your glory in the world.  Amen.

Saint Joseph, guardian of Jesus and chaste husband of Mary, you passed your life in loving fulfillment of duty. You supported the holy family of Nazareth with the work of your hands. Kindly protect those who trustingly come to you. You know their aspirations, their hardships, their hopes. They look to you because they know you will understand and protect them. You too knew trial, labor and weariness. But amid the worries of material life, your soul was full of deep peace and sang out in true joy through intimacy with God’s Son entrusted to you and with Mary, his tender Mother.  Assure those you protect that they do not labor alone. Teach them to find Jesus near them and to watch over Him faithfully as you have done. Amen.
-Bl Pope John XXIII

Glorious St Joseph, Foster Father of our Lord, pray for fathers!

Love,
Matthew

Mar 25 – Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord – what if she had said “no”?

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-Fra Angelico, Annunciation, 1450

“The question may strike you as irreverent.  How dare I suggest that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven, Co-Redemptrix of mankind, could have left us in the lurch like that?

But what if she had?

Could she have said no?  You might say that of course she couldn’t, she was far too holy — but you would be guilty of demeaning and dangerous sentimentality.

It is demeaning because it turns Our Lady from a free human being into a sanctified automaton.  The whole glory of the Annunciation is that Mary, the second Eve, could have said “no” to God but she said “yes” instead, as can we all. Love is only love if it is freely given from a free will.  Anything less is just simply not love.  That is what we celebrate, that is what we praise her for; and rightly so.

This sentimental view is dangerous too.  If we believe that the most important decision in the history of the world was in fact inevitable, that it couldn’t have been otherwise, then that means it was effortless. Now we have a marvelous excuse for laziness.  Next time we’re faced with a tough moral decision, we needn’t worry about doing what is right.  Just drift, and God will make sure that whatever choice we make is the right one.  If God really wants us to do something he’ll sweep us off our feet the way he did Mary, and if he chooses not to, it’s hardly our fault, is it?

So Mary could have said “no” to Gabriel.  What if she had?  He couldn’t just go and ask someone else, like some sort of charity collector.  With all the genealogies and prophecies in the Bible, there was only one candidate.  It’s an alarming thought.

Ultimately, of course, God would have done something: the history of salvation is the history of Him never abandoning His people however pig-headed they were.  But God has chosen to work through human history. If the first attempt at redemption took four thousand years to prepare, from the Fall to the Annunciation, how many tens of thousands of years would the next attempt have taken?

Even if the world sometimes makes us feel like cogs in a machine, each of us is unique and each of us is here for a purpose: just because it isn’t as spectacular a purpose as Mary’s, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. When we fail to seek our vocation, or put off fulfilling some part of it, we try to justify ourselves by saying that someone else will do it better, that God will provide, that it doesn’t really matter.  But we are lying. However small a part I have to play, the story of the Annunciation tells me it is my part and no-one else can do it.

Faced with the enormity of her choice, how was Mary able to decide?  If she said “no”, unredeemed generations would toil on under the burden of sin.  If she said “yes”, she herself would suffer, and so would her Son; but both would be glorified.  Millions of people not yet born would have Heaven open to them; but millions of others would suffer oppression and death in her Son’s name.  The stakes were almost infinite.

You might say that Mary didn’t worry about all this, just obeyed God; but I don’t believe it. It was clear from Scripture she was no dummy.  What God wanted was not Mary’s unthinking obedience but her full and informed consent as the representative of the entire human race.  The two greatest miracles of the Annunciation are these: that God gave Mary the wisdom to know the consequences of her decision, and that he gave her the grace not to be overwhelmed by that knowledge.

When we come to an important decision in our lives, we can easily find our minds clouded by the possible consequences, or, even more, by partial knowledge of them.  How can we ever move, when there is so much good and evil whichever way we go?  The Annunciation gives us the answer.  God’s grace will give us the strength to move, even if the fate of the whole world is hanging in the balance. After all, God does not demand that our decisions should be the correct ones (assuming that there even is such a thing), only that they should be rightly made.

There is one more truth that the Annunciation teaches us, and it is so appalling that I can think of nothing uplifting to say about it that will take the sting away: perhaps it is best forgotten, because it tells us more about God than we are able to understand.  The Almighty Father creates heaven and earth, the sun and all the stars; but when He really wants something done, He comes, the Omnipotent and Omniscient, to one of His poor, weak creatures — and He asks.

And, day by day, He keeps on asking us.”

-by Martin Kochanski, Universalis Publishing, www.universalis.com

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-Philippe de Champaigne, The Annunciation, ca.1644, oil on panel, 28 x 28.75 inches (71 x 73 cm.), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Blessed Solemnity of the Annunciation!
Love,
Matthew

Mar 26 – St Margaret Clitherow, (1556-1586), Wife, Mother, Martyr, “Pearl of York”

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Margaret was born in York and lived there all her life. Her parents were Thomas and Jane Middleton.  She was one of five children.  Her father was a candle maker and had been sheriff of York for two years.  Like other young girls of the time, she was intentionally not taught to read or to write.

At the age of 15 she married a butcher, John Clitherow, July 8, 1571, and three years later became a Catholic. Together, they had three children:  Henry, Anne, and William, William having been born while Margaret was in prison.  She helped run her husband’s butcher shop.  According to her confessor, spiritual director, and biographer, Fr. John Mush, Margaret became a Catholic because she “found no substance, truth nor Christian comfort in the ministers of the new church, nor in their doctrine itself, and hearing also many priests and lay people to suffer for the defense of the ancient Catholic Faith.”

When speaking of her husband Margaret said, “”Know you, I love him next to God in this world. . . . If I have offended my husband in any way, save for my conscience, I ask of God and him forgiveness.” John said that he could wish for no better wife, “except only two faults, and these were, she fasted too much and would not go with me to church.”

Laws were passed which included a 1585 law that made it high treason for a priest to live in England and a felony for anyone to harbor or aid a priest. The penalty for breaking such laws was death. Despite the risk, Margaret helped and concealed priests. Margaret said “by God’s grace all priests shall be more welcome to me than ever they were, and I will do what I can to set forward God’s Catholic service.”  Imprisoned for her non-attendance at Anglican services, she taught herself to read, and on her release ran a small school for her own and her neighbors’ children. It is said that she used to visit the Knavesmire (the Tyburn of the North, a place of execution) to pray for those who had been martyred there.

She saw that her children were all educated in the faith through the services of a young man, Stapleton, who had been imprisoned for his faith in York Castle. She knew this prison well having been detained there several times for non-attendance at Church of England services.

Margaret wanted her son Henry to receive a Catholic education so she endeavored that her son be sent outside the England to Douai, France for schooling. Such an act was considered a crime.  On March 10, 1586, the council summoned the Chamberlain of York, John Clitherow and demanded that he explain the absence of his son abroad. This was a bold move because the chamberlain was a well respected member of the Protestant community. He was outraged and refused to give them any information about the whereabouts or activity of his son Henry who had enrolled in the seminary in France.

Margaret was not upset to find out that her husband was summoned. She was sure that the authorities would use the occasion to search their home but she was certain that they would find nothing that would incriminate her or her husband. Mass had been said that morning and the priest had escaped. The faithful Mr. Stapleton was conducting class for a group of children. When the alarm was sounded, the teacher escaped through a window. When the searchers burst open the schoolroom door, they found nothing but a group of children studying their lessons. Had it been only the Clitherow children and their Catholic neighbors involved, the authorities would not have learned very much. The Yorkshire children were strong in their faith and were not easily intimidated.

There was in the group a weak spot. There was an older student whom the children considered a foreigner. He was older than all the rest-about 14 years of age. He was Flemish and a stranger to the ways of England and its anti-Catholic laws. Fear showed on his face and the authorities recognized it. They stripped him and threatened him with a flogging. He quickly gave in and told them everything he knew.

He showed them everything—where the Mass was said and where the vestments and altar breads were kept. This was more than the searchers had even hoped for. It clearly proved that Mass was being celebrated in the house despite the law. The Flemish boy told them everything he knew and even some things he did not know. He was only too willing to speak and not too accurate in what he said.

Quickly the authorities ransacked the house. They carried off all of the incriminating evidence. The two Clitherow children were taken to loyal Protestant families and Margaret was never allowed to see her children again. The servants were arrested and thrown into prison because they were loyal to their mistress. Once again Margaret found herself in prison.

When she was brought before the council, she astonished everyone. She was not only fearless, she had a smile on her face. She seemed relieved at being arrested. It was as if she had foreseen the danger and it may have been a relief to have the suspense end when the outcome was known to be inevitable. She was confined with her friend Anne Tesh who was being held for hearing Mass. The two were supportive of each other and confounded their captors with their continued good humor in their jail cell.

On the third day of her confinement, the authorities allowed her husband John to visit her briefly. The visit took place in the presence of the jailer. She was never to see her husband again. The meeting had a sobering effect on both.

Early in the evening of Monday, March 14, Margaret Clitherow was brought before the judges at Common Hall in the city of York. A large crowd was in the streets and in the court for she was dearly loved by many of the citizens. Her indictment was read and she was asked how she pleaded. In answer she said, “I know of no offense whereof I should confess myself guilty. Having made no offense, I need no trial.”

Following her refusal to plead guilty the judges tried to convince her to stand trial. For hours they tried to discredit her but she refused to be shaken. Judge Clinch warned her that if she refused to stand trial, the law would sentence her to a far more painful death than a jury could. The other judges on the panel accused her of crimes of every kind including having intercourse with the priests she harbored. Nothing seemed to move her and the presiding judge sent her back to prison for the night hoping that the solitary confinement would alter her thinking and bring her to her senses.On the next day she was taken back to the Common Hall in the early morning. Judge Clinch reminded her that under the law of Queen Elizabeth, when an accused person refused to make a plea and stand trial before a jury, the accused would be sentenced to what was called “peine forte et dure.” The person was laid naked on the stone floor of an underground cell with a door laid over him and on the door heavy stones were piled. Further weights were piled upon him until he was pressed to death.

Margaret refused to make a plea and to stand trial because she did not want her young children called to court. She told her friend Mrs. Tesh that she knew she would be executed in any case and she did not want to have her children forced to give evidence against their mother. Many at the court pleaded with her to change her mind. Even the judge tried to persuade her to no avail.

Finally the judge passed sentence that she should be crushed to death as a punishment for having “harbored and maintained Jesuits and seminary priests, traitors to the Queen’s majesty and her laws.”  “You must return from whence you came, and there, in the lowest part of the prison, be stripped naked, laid down, your back on the ground, and as much weight laid upon you as you are able to bear, and so to continue for three days without meat or drink, and on the third day to be pressed to death, your hands and feet tied to posts, and a sharp stone under your back.”
– words of condemnation spoken by the British magistrate of her majesty Queen Elizabeth, on Tuesday, March 15, 1586, in the Court of York, Judge George Clinch condemned to death St Margaret, pregnant with her fourth child. Her crime was sheltering Roman priests who were “traitors and seducers of the queen’s subjects.”  The stone under the condemned’s back was to be the size of a fist, intended to break the spine as weight was applied.

When John Clitherow heard of his wife’s sentence, ‘he fared like a man out of his wits, and wept so violently that blood gushed out of his nose in great quantity, and said, “Alas, will they kill my wife? Let them take all I have and save her, for she is the best wife in all England, and the best Catholic also.”‘ She had already sent her hat to her husband ‘in sign of her loving duty to him as to her head’; her shoes and stockings she sent to her twelve-year-old daughter Anne, ‘signifying that she should serve God and follow in her steps’.

Ten days were allowed to pass between her sentencing and execution. On Good Friday morning of March 25, 1586, after sewing her own shroud the night before and after praying for the Pope, cardinals, clergy, and the Queen, Margaret was executed.  She lay sandwiched between a rock and a wooden slab while weights, 800 pounds, were dropped upon her, crushing her to death. She did not cry out but prayed “Jesu, Jesu, Jesu, have mercy upon me.” On the day of her execution she was calm and forgiving. When asked to pray for the Queen, she asked God to turn Her Majesty to the Catholic faith. Within a quarter of an hour she was dead. The sheriffs left the body under the door from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon. They then buried her body in some waste ground, where they hoped it would never be found, but was later discovered by friends, who buried her privately elsewhere; though the place of her burial has not yet been found. Her daughter Anne was imprisoned for four years for refusing to attend a Church of England service, and finally became a nun at Louvain. Two of Margaret’s sons became priests.

“God be thanked, I am not worthy of so good a death as this.”
– Saint Margaret, when advised of her sentence

“I die for the love of my Lord Jesu.”
– Saint Margaret, when asked to confess her crimes before execution

“The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise.”
– St Margaret Clitherow, to a friend upon learning of her condemnation

“I am fully resolved in all things touching my Faith, which I ground upon Jesu Christ, and by Him I steadfastly believe to be saved . . . and by God’s assistance I mean to live and die in the same Faith; for if an angel come from heaven, and preach any other doctrine than we have received, the Apostle biddeth us not believe him.”  – St Margaret Clitherow, (see Gal 1:8)

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THE PEARL OF YORK

A girl, a lady,
Wife, a mother,
From church of England
She saw the other.

The other where
Her church came from.
The other where
The fruit was plumb.

The other where
Her church beat down
And looted jewels
For earthly crown.

And watching she
Was irritated
And slowly grew
Sophisticated.

Sitting silent
In her shell
Her home a place
Where priests could dwell

Confect the Mass
Many saved
For this their limbs
And lives were braved.

Because a woman
Kept her shell
A jealous fortress
Barring hell.

And then the weak
Pried open wide
Exposing truth
The shell’s inside

Where mother, wife,
Lady, girl,
Had turned into
York’s royalist pearl.

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On Saturday, 26 March 2011, a pilgrimage in honor of St Margaret Clitherow was held in York.  Mass was offered at York Minster, the Anglican cathedral in York, previously a Catholic church dating back to before the time of the English Reformation.  The dean of York Minster, the Anglican prelate, was most gracious and hospitable accommodating and inviting the worshippers in use of the worship space.  Followed by a procession from the minster, via The Shambles @#s 10 & 11, where St Margaret lived, and Ouse Bridge to the Church of the English Martyrs in Dalton Terrace, where Benediction and veneration of the relic of St Margaret Clitherow took place.

Love,
Matthew

Mar 22 – St Nicholas Owen, SJ, (d. 1606) – Religious, Martyr, Artist, Builder of Hiding Places for Priests

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Nicholas, familiarly known as “Little John,” was small in stature but big in the esteem of his fellow Jesuits.  Born at Oxford, this humble artisan saved the lives of many priests and laypersons in England during the penal times (1559-1829), when a series of statutes punished Catholics for the practice of their faith.

Over a period of about 20 years he used his skills to build secret hiding places for priests throughout the country. His work, which he did completely by himself as both architect and builder, was so good that time and time again priests in hiding were undetected by raiding parties. He was a genius at finding, and creating, places of safety: subterranean passages, small spaces between walls, impenetrable recesses. At one point he was even able to mastermind the escape of two Jesuits from the Tower of London. Whenever Nicholas set out to design such hiding places, he began by receiving the Holy Eucharist, and he would turn to God in prayer throughout the long, dangerous construction process.

Nicholas enrolled as an apprentice to the Oxford joiner William Conway on the feast of the Purification of Blessed Mary, February 2nd, 1577. He was bound in indenture and as an apprentice for a period of eight years and the papers of indenture state that he was the son of Walter Owen, citizen of Oxford, carpenter. Oxford at the time was strongly Catholic. The Statute of artificers determined that sons should follow the profession into which they were born. If he completed his apprenticeship it would have been in 1585. We know from Fr. John Gerard, SJ, a biographer of Nicholas’, that he began building hides in 1588 and continued over a period of eighteen years when he could have been earning good money satisfying the contemporary demand for well-made solid furniture.

St Henry Garnet, SJ, Jesuit Superior in England at the time, in a letter dated 1596 writes of a carpenter of singular faithfulness and skill who has traveled through almost the entire kingdom and, without charge, has made for Catholic priests hiding places where they might shelter the fury of heretical searchers. If money is offered him by way of payment he gives it to his two brothers; one of them is a priest, the other a layman in prison for his faith.

Owen was only slightly taller than a dwarf, and suffered from a hernia caused by a horse falling on him some years earlier. Nevertheless, his work often involved breaking through thick stonework; and to minimize the likelihood of betrayal he often worked at night, and always alone. The number of hiding-places he constructed will never be known. Due to the ingenuity of his craftsmanship, some may still be undiscovered.

After many years at his unusual task, he entered the Society of Jesus and served as a lay brother, although—for very good reasons—his connection with the Jesuits was kept secret. After a number of narrow escapes, he himself was finally caught in 1594. Despite protracted torture, he refused to disclose the names of other Catholics. After being released following the payment of a ransom, “Little John” went back to his work. He was arrested again in 1606. This time he was subjected to horrible tortures, suffering an agonizing death. The jailers tried suggesting that he had confessed and committed suicide, but his heroism and sufferings soon were widely known.

Why should priests need hiding places? From 1585 it was considered treason, punishable by a traitor’s death, to be found in England if a priest had been ordained abroad. Of Owen, the modern edition of Butler’s Lives of the Saints says: “Perhaps no single person contributed more to the preservation of Catholic religion in England in penal times”.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605, in earlier centuries often called the Gunpowder Treason Plot or the Jesuit Treason, was a failed assassination attempt against King James I of England and VI of Scotland by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby.  The last hope for the Catholics collapsed when peace was made with Spain. They had hoped that Catholic Spain, as part of the bargain, would have secured freedom for them to practice their religion. Relief of Catholics was discussed, but James said that his Protestant subjects wouldn’t stand for it.  So there was to be no relief. In fact the screw was tightened again.

Anglican bishops were ordered to excommunicate Catholics who would not attend Anglican services – this meant that no sale or purchase by them was valid, no property  could be passed on by deed or by will.  The level of persecution was higher than ever it had been under Elizabeth.

In the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, 1605, the result of the frustration of a group of young Catholics when, after dropping hints of toleration, James I made it clear that there would be no relaxation of anti – Catholic legislation, the hunt for priests accused of complicity centered on Hindlip House. This had been provided with hiding places by Nicholas Owen which proved undetectable. He himself was there and when he emerged after four days of hiding he was arrested.

At daybreak on Monday, 20th November, 1605, Hindlip House was surrounded by 100 men. They began to rip the house to pieces.  In the dark, early on Thursday morning, two men, Owen and Bl Ralph Ashley, SJ, another lay-brother and cook, were spotted stealing along a gallery.  They said they were no longer able to conceal themselves, having had but one apple between them for four days. They would not give their names.

It was hardly likely that Nicholas Owen, of all people, would not have been better provided.  They had twice been tipped off during the previous week that a search was imminent. Possibly they hoped that in giving themselves up they would distract attention from the two priests still in hiding, Fr Garnet, SJ, and Fr Oldcorne, SJ, still hiding in Hindlip House, even to being mistaken for them.  It was a ruse that had worked before. It didn’t work now.  The search was intensified.  The priests were in a hide which had been supplied with a feeding tube from an adjoining bedroom, but the hiding place had not been designed to be lived in for a week. After 8 days they emerged, were arrested and identified. All four were taken to London.

Nicholas Owen, SJ, had been in prison before; he had been tortured before.  He was now taken to the torture room, for the first time, on the 26th of February 1606. His identity as a hide-builder seemed to have been betrayed. “We will try to get from him by coaxing, if he is willing to contract for his life, an excellent booty of priests”.  Realizing just whom they had caught, and his value, Secretary of State, Robert Cecil exulted: “It is incredible, how great was the joy caused by his arrest… knowing the great skill of Owen in constructing hiding places, and the innumerable quantity of dark holes which he had schemed for hiding priests all through England.”

On March 2nd it was announced that Nicholas Owen had committed suicide.  People were simply incredulous. It would have been impossible for one who had been tortured as he had.  The Venetian Ambassador reported home:  “Public opinion holds that Owen died of the tortures inflicted on him, which were so severe that they deprived him not only of his strength but of the power to move any part of his body”.

It seems certain that the suicide story was a fiction concocted by a Government deeply embarrassed to find itself with a corpse in its custody as a result of torture.

For those few grim days in February, writes a historian, as the Government tried to break him, the fate of almost every English Catholic lay in Owen’s hands.

In life he had saved them, in death he would too: not a single name escaped him.

In opposition to English law, which forbade the torture of a man suffering from a hernia, as he was, he was racked day after day, six hours at a time. He died under torture without betraying any secret – and he knew enough to bring down the entire network of covert Catholics in England.

“Most brutal of all was the treatment given to Nicholas Owen, better known to the recusants as Little John. Since he had a hernia caused by the strain of his work, as well as a crippled leg, he should not have been physically tortured in the first place. But Little John, unlike many of those interrogated, did have valuable information about the hiding places he had constructed; if he had talked, all too many priests would have been snared ‘like partridges in a net’. In this good cause the government was prepared to ignore the dictates of the law and the demands of common humanity. A leading Councillor, on hearing his name, was said to have exclaimed: “Is he taken that knows all the secret places? I am very glad of that. We will have a trick for him.”

The trick was the prolonged use of the manacles, an exquisitely horrible torture for one of Owen’s ruptured state. He was originally held in the milder prison of the Marshalsea, where it was hoped that other priests would try to contact him, but Little John was ‘too wise to give any advantage’ and spent his time safely and silently at prayer. In the Tower he was brought to make two confessions on 26 February and 1 March.

In the first one, he denied more or less everything. By the time of the second confession, long and ghastly sessions in the manacles produced some results (his physical condition may be judged by the fact that his stomach had to be bound together with an iron plate, and even that was not very effective for long). Little John admitted to attending Father Garnet at White Webbs and elsewhere, that he had been at Coughton during All Saints visit, and other details of his service and itinerary.  However, all of this was known already. Little John never gave up one single detail of the hiding places he had spent his adult life constructing for the safety of his co-religionists.

The lay brother died early in the morning of 2 March. He died directly as a result of his ordeal and in horrible, lingering circumstances. By popular standards of his day, this was a stage of cruelty too far. The government acknowledged this in its own way by putting out the story that Owen had ripped himself open with the knife given him to eat his meat – while his keeper was conveniently looking elsewhere – rather than face renewed bouts of torture. Yet Owen’s keeper had told a relative who wanted Owen to make a list of his needs that his prisoner’s hands were so useless that he could not even feed himself, let alone write.

The story of the suicide was so improbable that neither Owen’s enemies nor his friends, so well acquainted with his character over so many years, believed it. Suicide was a mortal sin in the Catholic Church, inviting damnation, and it was unthinkable that a convinced Catholic like Nicholas Owen should have imperiled his immortal soul in this manner.”

Father Gerard wrote of him:  “I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who laboured in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.”  -Autobiography of an Elizabethan

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-statue of St Nicholas Owen, SJ

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-St Nicholas Owen, SJ, being tortured in the Tower of London, 1606. Engraver Melchior Kusell“Societas Jesu ad sanguinis et vitae profusionem militans”

Edward_Oldcorne;_Nicholas_Owen_by_Gaspar_Bouttats

-engraving, “Torture of Blessed Edward Oldcorne, SJ & St Nicholas Owen, SJ, by Gaspar Bouttats, National Portrait Gallery, London.  The Jesuit hanging from his wrists with weights tied to his feet is suffering the “Topcliffe rack”.  This method of torture was ultimately what killed Nicholas  Owen, as due to his hernia, “his bowels gushed out with his life”.

Catholic stage magicians who practice Gospel Magic, a performance type promoting Christian values and morals, consider St. Nicholas Owen the Patron of Illusionists and Escapologists due to his facility at using “trompe l’oeil”, “to deceive the eye”, when creating his hideouts and the fact that he engineered an escape from the Tower of London.  Many Catholic builders, if they are familiar with him, may say a prayer of intercession to St Nicholas Owen prior to beginning a new project.

“May the blood of these Martyrs be able to heal the great wound inflicted upon God’s Church by reason of the separation of the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Is it not one — these Martyrs say to us — the Church founded by Christ? Is not this their witness? Their devotion to their nation gives us the assurance that on the day when — God willing — the unity of the faith and of Christian life is restored, no offence will be inflicted on the honour and sovereignty of a great country such as England.”

–from the Homily of Pope Paul VI at the canonization of Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, including St. Nicholas Owen, SJ, 25 October 1970.

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-Saint Nicholas Owen, SJ, Felt Softie by SaintlySilver on Etsy, $19.00

Love,
Matthew

Mar 10 – St John Ogilvie, SJ, (1579-1615) – Priest, Martyr of Scotland

John Ogilvie’s noble Scottish family was partly Catholic and partly Presbyterian. His father raised him as a Calvinist, sending him to the continent to be educated. There John became interested in the popular debates going on between Catholic and Calvinist scholars.

Confused by the arguments of Catholic scholars whom he sought out, he turned to Scripture. Two texts particularly struck him: “God wills all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth,” 1 Tim 2:4, and “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you” Mt 11:28.

Slowly, rejecting Calvinist predestination, John came to see that the Catholic Church could embrace all kinds of people. Among these, he noted, he was particularly impressed with the faith of many Catholic martyrs. He decided to become Catholic and was received into the Church at Louvain, Belgium, in 1596 at the age of 17.

John continued his studies, first with the Benedictines, then as a student at the Jesuit College at Olmutz. He joined the Jesuits and for the next 10 years underwent their rigorous intellectual and spiritual training.

Ordained a priest in France in 1610, he met two Jesuits who had just returned from Scotland after suffering arrest and imprisonment. They saw little hope for any successful work there in view of the tightening of the penal laws. But a fire had been lit within John. For the next two and a half years he pleaded to be missioned there.

It was a time of great persecution of Catholicism in Scotland. “Send only those,” wrote the Earl of Angus to the Jesuit General, “who wish for this mission and are strong enough to bear the heat of the day, for they will be in exceeding danger.”

Wholesale massacres of Catholics had taken place in the past, but by this point the hunters concentrated on priests and those who attended Mass. The Jesuits were determined to minister to the oppressed Catholic laity, but when captured, they were tortured for information, then hanged, drawn, and quartered.

Having grown a beard, learned a little about horse breeding, John was sent by his superiors, and secretly entered Scotland posing as a horse trader or a soldier, named ‘John Watson’, returning from the wars in Europe.

Unable to do significant work among the relatively few Catholics in Scotland, John made his way back to Paris to consult his superiors. Rebuked for having left his assignment in Scotland, he was sent back.

He warmed to the task before him and had some success in making converts and in secretly serving Scottish Catholics. But he was soon betrayed by a false Catholic, arrested and brought before the court.

His trial dragged on until he had been without food for 26 hours. He was imprisoned and deprived of sleep for eight days and nights. For eight days and nights he was dragged around, kept awake being prodded with sharp sticks and having his hair pulled out. His legs were crushed.  His finger nails were pulled out with pliers.  Still, he refused to reveal the names of Catholics or to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the king in spiritual affairs. He underwent a second and third trial but held firm.

At his final trial he assured his judges: “In all that concerns the king, I will be slavishly obedient; if any attack his temporal power, I will shed my last drop of blood for him. But in the things of spiritual jurisdiction which a king unjustly seizes I cannot and must not obey.”  “Your threats cheer me; I mind them no more than the cackling of geese,” he told his captors. Asked if he feared to die Father John replied, “No more than you do to dine.”

After three trials he was convicted of treason for being loyal to the Pope, and denying the king’s supremacy in spiritual matters. Finally taken to the scaffold, Fr. John’s last words were “If there be here any hidden Roman Catholics, let them pray for me but the prayers of heretics I will not have”.  His final prayers were a litany of the saints in Latin and then in English.

Condemned to death as a traitor, he was faithful to the end, even when on the scaffold he was offered his freedom and a fine living if he would deny his faith. After he was pushed from the stairs and began to hang, he threw his concealed rosary beads out into the crowd. The tale is told that one of his enemies caught them and subsequently became a lifelong devout Roman Catholic.  St John Ogilvie, SJ, was hanged and disemboweled 10 March 1615 at the age of 36.

The customary beheading and quartering were omitted owing to undisguised popular sympathy, and his body was hurriedly buried in the churchyard of Glasgow cathedral, in a place reserved for criminals.  No relic of his body has survived.  His courage in prison and in his martyrdom were reported throughout Scotland.

John Ogilvie was canonized in 1976, becoming the first Scottish saint since 1250.

John came of age when neither Catholics nor Protestants were willing to tolerate one another. Turning to Scripture, he found words that enlarged his vision.

Ogilvie (Ref 04)

Prayer to St John Ogilvie, SJ

God our Father, Fountain of all blessing, we thank You for the countless graces that come to us in answer to the prayers of Your saints.  With great confidence we ask You in the name of Your Son and through the prayers of St John Ogilvie, SJ to help us in all our needs.

Lord Jesus, You chose Your servant St John Ogilvie, SJ to be Your faithful witness to the spiritual authority of the chief shepherd of your flock.  Keep Your people always one in mind and heart, in communion with Benedict our Pope, and all the bishops of your Church.  May Your ordained ministers always be exemplars of Your virtue, humility, service, self-sacrifice and love as they tend Your flock.

Holy Spirit, You gave St John Ogilvie light to know Your truth,  wisdom to defend it, and courage to die for it.  Through his prayers and example bring our country into the unity and peace of Christ’s kingdom.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Feb 27 – St Anne Line (1567-1601), Wife, Mother, Martyr, Protector of Priests

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Anne Heigham was born at Dunmow (Essex), England, around 1565, the second daughter.  Her father was a strict and wealthy Calvinist.  In her teens she and her brother, William, became Catholics and were disinherited and disowned by their family.  In 1585 she married another disinherited convert, Roger Line. Her husband  and her brother were both arrested and imprisoned while attending Mass together.  They were fined and eventually banished.  This left Anne destitute.  Roger Line went to Flanders, where he received a small allowance from the King of Spain, part of which he sent regularly to his wife until his death around 1594.  To support herself, Anne taught, embroidered, made vestments and kept house for priests.

Around the same time, Father John Gerard, S.J. opened a house of refuge for hiding priests, and put the newly-widowed Anne Line in charge of it, despite her ill health. By 1597, this house had become insecure, so another was opened, and Anne Line was, again, placed in charge. On 2 February 1601, Fr. Francis Page, SJ, was saying Mass in the house managed by Anne Line, when men arrived to arrest him, having seen a large number of people congregating at the house (for Mass). The priest managed to slip into a special hiding place, prepared by her and afterwards to escape, but she was arrested, along with two other laypeople.

She was tried at the Old Bailey on 26 February 1601. She was so weak that she was carried to the trial in a chair. She told the court that she was so far from regretting having concealed a priest, she only grieved that she “could not receive a thousand more.” Sir John Popham, the judge, sentenced her to hang  the next day at Tyburn.

Anne Line was hanged on 27 February 1601. She was executed immediately before two priests, Fr. Roger Filcock, nSJ , her confessor, and Fr. Mark Barkworth, OSB, , though, as a woman, she was spared the disemboweling  that they endured. At the scaffold she repeated what she had said at her trial, declaring loudly to the bystanders: “I am sentenced to die for harbouring a Catholic priest, and so far I am from repenting for having so done, that I wish, with all my soul, that where I have entertained one, I could have entertained a thousand.”

It has been argued (by John Finnis and others) that Shakespeare’s poem The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) was written shortly after her death to commemorate Anne and Roger Line and that it allegorically takes the form of a Catholic requiem for the couple.  The poem is secretly a Catholic eulogy. This argument is linked to claims that Shakespeare was a secret Catholic sympathizer.  Like Shakespeare’s couple the Lines had no children.

The Phoenix and the Turtle (Dove) -by William Shakespeare

Let the bird of loudest lay,
On the sole Arabian tree,
Herald sad and trumpet be,
To whose sound chaste wings obey.

But thou, shriking harbinger,
Foul pre-currer of the fiend,
Augur of the fever’s end,
To this troop come thou not near.

From this session interdict
Every fowl of tyrant wing,
Save the eagle, feather’d king:
Keep the obsequy so strict.

Let the priest in surplice white,
That defunctive music can,
Be the death-divining swan,
Lest the requiem lack his right.

And thou, treble-dated crow,
That thy sable gender mak’st
With the breath thou giv’st and tak’st,
‘Mongst our mourners shalt thou go.

Here the anthem doth commence:
Love and constancy is dead;
Phoenix and the turtle (dove) fled
In a mutual flame from hence.

So they lov’d, as love in twain
Had the essence but in one;
Two distincts, division none:
Number there in love was slain.

Hearts remote, yet not asunder;
Distance, and no space was seen
‘Twixt the turtle (dove) and his queen;
But in them it were a wonder.

So between them love did shine,
That the turtle saw his right
Flaming in the phoenix’ sight:
Either was the other’s mine.

Property was thus appall’d,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature’s double name
Neither two nor one was call’d.

Reason, in itself confounded,
Saw division grow together;
To themselves yet either-neither,
Simple were so well compounded

That it cried how true a twain
Seemeth this concordant one!
Love hath reason, reason none
If what parts can so remain.

Whereupon it made this threne
To the phoenix and the dove,
Co-supreme and stars of love;
As chorus to their tragic scene.

THRENOS.

Beauty, truth, and rarity.
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.

Death is now the phoenix’ nest;
And the turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:–
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.

Truth may seem, but cannot be:
Beauty brag, but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.

To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

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St Anne Line Societies are being formed in parishes around the globe for both men and women to assist, support, and pray for our priests.
St Anne Line, pray for married couples.  St Anne Line, pray for c
hildless couples.  St Anne Line, Protector of Priests, pray for us!

When condemned for harboring a priest, St Anne retorted to the judge, “Pity it wasn’t a thousand!”

Love,
Matthew

Lent 2012: …for the sake of Love.

-by Br. Raphael Forbing, O.P. (and MPM…I added “a little”)

“Recently I had the opportunity to speak with a class of third graders about Lent. Focusing on Jesus’ forty-day fast in the desert, I compared it to the Israelites’ forty years in the wilderness and to the “forty days and forty nights” of the Flood. My time with the class was brief, but toward the end I was able to take two questions. The first was, “Why does God allow people to do bad things?” and the second, “If Jesus was God, how come He had to come down to earth and die on the Cross?” Out of the mouths of babes … come tough questions. It didn’t hit me until I had left the classroom that these two particular questions are profoundly connected.

The first question involves the mystery of free will. (An MPM favorite!  Do you accept the responsibility?) God creates us out of love, and He wants us to love Him in return. We know from our own experience, however, that love cannot be forced. Even if the external signs of love are present, it’s not really love unless it comes from within, from the mind and heart, from the whole of one’s being. If God forced us to love him, our “love” would not be free and, therefore, wouldn’t be love at all. In fact, the very idea of forced love is a contradiction in terms, a non-idea, like a square circle or a round triangle. In order to love, we must be free, and, for those of us who do not yet enjoy the Beatific Vision, being free entails the possibility of choosing not to love, of sinning, of doing “bad things.”

This helps us to answer the second question, “If Jesus was God, why did He have to come down to earth and die on the Cross?” The simple answer is, He didn’t have to. He did it freely, out of love, and in so doing he both showed us the depth of his love and set us an example. After all, the greatest sign of love is suffering for another, sacrificing oneself for another, (such husband & wife, parents for children, sibling for sibling, friend for friend, ordained for laity, laity for ordained, one for another, the martyrdom of service): “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Indeed, it is not suffering as suffering that has meaning, but suffering for the sake of love. Jesus’ suffering was for our sake, and the great sign of this is that, although He was free to turn down suffering, to escape, to save us in some other way, instead He embraced the Cross and suffered death.

(I love, sardonically, “supposed Christian” strains whose theology is happy-happy, joy-joy.  No Hell.  No “negativity”, per se.  No truth either.  You know who I mean.  I love to ask,”Explain the Cross to me?”  They can’t.  Because their theology is heresy, it is not possible for them to do so.  Maybe it’s wrong, but it FEELS so right to love to watch them squirm!    Ah, the truth.  I like it too much!  STOP asking us questions, Matt!   You can deny the truth.  By definition, you cannot change the fact it is the truth.

Adam & Eve’s sin was to desire wrongly to be “like God”(Gen 3:5).  Instead, for the sake of love of us, God desired to redeem us by becoming one of us, in all things but sin, to teach us that we might not suffer in and of ignorance, and to suffer bodily for us as a living sacrifice for our sins and to redeem us from condemnation and eternal death, for the sake of and out of Love for us.  Wow!  If that’s not love, I don’t know what is:  the humiliation of the Divine in becoming mortal, the total gift of Self, for the sake of Love, for us. Wow!  In Catholic-speak, a mystery is not something which cannot be known, it is a reality which can never be fully comprehended by mortals-it is infinitely knowable.  Wow. No?  And how disappointed must God be some couldn’t be bothered.  How disappointed, after all that?  What has God not done, in our wildest imaginations and fantasies, to save us from ourselves?  Our perversion of His gift of free will?  Our willful choice to disobey?  To disregard?  What is a just reaction to that by the Almighty?  Truly?  Kyrie eleison.)

Another way of putting this is to say that, although Christ’s death on the Cross was not, strictly speaking, necessary, it was eminently fitting. And it was fitting in more ways than one. For example, just as, in the beginning, a tree was the occasion of our death through the disobedience of Adam, so now another tree—the Cross—is the occasion of new life through the obedience of Christ. Jesus, the new Adam, true God and true man, makes all things new. No longer are we bound by sin, to labor through this life, only to reach its end in darkness and death. Now we have new life in Christ, if only we choose to live in Him, with Him, and through Him.  (Again, just as God freely chose, we are given the mystery and the gift of free will to freely choose, on His terms, always, or not.  To not choose life would seem highly irrational, but people do irrational things always.)

It is true that we do not get to choose the cross that is ours to bear in this life, but whether or not we accept our cross for love of Jesus Christ and for love of the people he has given us, is our choice. We can embrace it or reject it; we can resent it or be healed by it. If this choice makes us sad or afraid, let us take consolation in the fact that a God who has himself suffered so much for us will not abandon us in our suffering. He will be with us and help us, even when we do not perceive it: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).”

“And still under the sun in the judgment place I saw wickedness, and wickedness also in the seat of justice. I said in my heart, both the just and the wicked God will judge, since a time is set for every affair and for every work.  I said in my heart: As for human beings, it is God’s way of testing them and of showing that they are in themselves like beasts. For the lot of mortals and the lot of beasts is the same lot: The one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life breath. Human beings have no advantage over beasts, but all is vanity. Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:16-20

(Remember, no “alleluias” until Easter.  Our Lenten exile.)

Blessed & fruitful Lent.
Love,
Matthew

Feb 21 – St Peter Damian, OSB, (1007-1072), Doctor of the Church, Great Catholic Reformer

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St Peter Damian was one of the forerunners of the Gregorian Revolution/reformation in the Church of the late 11th century, a revolution marked by the effort to centralize Church governance, establish a distinction between lay and clerical states, and proper revulsion against sexual vice, especially within the clergy and the general reform of the clergy.  Dante placed St Peter Damian in one of the highest circles of his Divine Comedy’s Paradiso.

St. Peter Damian must be numbered among the greatest of the Church’s reformers in the Middle Ages, yes, even among the truly extraordinary persons of all times. In Damian the scholar, we admire wealth of wisdom: in Damian the preacher of God’s word, apostolic zeal; in Damian the monk, austerity and self-denial; in Damian the priest, piety and zeal for souls; in Damian the cardinal, loyalty and submission to the Holy See together with generous enthusiasm and devotion for the good of Mother Church. He was a personal friend of Pope St Gregory VII.  In his lifetime, he served seven Popes, there were sixteen during his lifetime.

St Peter Damian was a monk, a lover of solitude, and at the same time a fearless man of the Church, committed personally to the task of reform, initiated by the Popes of the time. He was born in Ravenna in 1007, into a noble family but in impoverished circumstances.  The family was large, Peter was the youngest, and it was reported Peter’s mother was overwhelmed by the care of so many children such that she was not an affectionate or dutiful mother.

Peter had a difficult childhood, he lost both parents at an early age, as well. Put in the care of a brother who mistreated him, Peter’s brother used him more as a slave than loved him as a sibling.  Peter never forgot his poverty and was always kind to the poor he encountered throughout his life thereafter.  Another brother, Damian, the eldest, was a priest in the city of Ravenna and took pity on his younger sibling and took him in.  Damian could see Peter’s intellectual gifts and sent him to be educated at Parma and Faenza.  Peter was so grateful he took his brother Damian’s name.

The Cross was the Christian mystery that was to fascinate Peter Damian more than all the others. “Those who do not love the Cross of Christ do not love Christ”, he said (Sermo XVIII, 11, p. 117); and he described himself as “Petrus crucis Christi servorum famulus Peter, servant of the servants of the Cross of Christ” (Ep, 9, 1). Peter Damian addressed the most beautiful prayers to the Cross in which he reveals a vision of this mystery which has cosmic dimensions for it embraces the entire history of salvation: “O Blessed Cross”, he exclaimed, “You are venerated, preached and honored by the faith of the Patriarchs, the predictions of the Prophets, the senate that judges the Apostles, the victorious army of Martyrs and the throngs of all the Saints” (Sermo XLVII, 14, p. 304). The example of St Peter Damian should always spur us, too, always to look to the Cross as to the supreme act of God’s love for humankind.  St Peter Damian also had a very special devotion to the Blessed Mother.

However, the ideal image of “Holy Church” illustrated by Peter Damian does not correspond as he knew well to the reality of his time. The eleventh century was rife with corruption within the Church, especially among its clergy.  Peter wrote Liber Gomorrhianus (Book of Gomorrah), which described the vices of priests, including sexual sins, offenses against their vows of celibacy including sodomy, and mainly in their concern with worldly matters, with money, and the evil of simony, the buying and selling of church offices.

For this reason he did not fear to denounce the state of corruption that existed in the monasteries and among the clergy.  The practice of the conferral by the lay authorities of ecclesiastical offices was common, such that various Bishops and Abbots were behaving as the rulers of their subjects rather than as pastors of souls. Their moral life frequently left much to be desired. For this reason, in 1057 Peter Damian left his monastery with great reluctance and sorrow and accepted, if unwillingly, his appointment as Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. So it was that he entered fully into collaboration with the Popes in the difficult task of Church reform. He saw that to make his own contribution of helping in the work of the Church’s renewal contemplation did not suffice. He thus relinquished the beauty of the hermitage and courageously undertook numerous journeys and missions.

Because of his love for monastic life, 10 years later, in 1067, he obtained permission to return to Fonte Avellana and resigned from the Diocese of Ostia. However, the tranquility he had longed for did not last long: two years later, he was sent to Frankfurt in an endeavor to prevent the divorce of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV from his wife Bertha.

Henry IV was eventually excommunicated for other offenses, entanglements, and interferences in Church affairs, including conspiring and executing a plot to the kidnap and imprison the Pope.  He famously stood in the snow at Canossa for three days, 25-27 January 1077, wearing no shoes, taking no food or drink, wearing a hair shirt, The Walk of Canossa as it is called, as penance imploring that his excommunication by Pope St Gregory VII be lifted.  While meant as remedy to make clear the error of ways, excommunication absolves, it gets technical, the Christian community from Gospel obligations towards the excommunicated, including fealty to a sovereign.  Once having known the love of Christ in the bosom of the Church and having rejected it, Christian duty no longer applies towards the excommunicated.  Repent or lose your crown was the message.  The expression “going to Canossa/nach Canossa gehen”, as in doing penance of some type for some wrong, is still contemporary in Europe.

After another mission, on the journey home to his hermitage, an unexpected illness obliged St Peter Damian to stop at the Benedictine Monastery of Santa Maria Vecchia Fuori Porta in Faenza, where he died in the night between 22 and 23 February 1072.

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Ercole_de'_Roberti_007
-Saint Peter Damian (far right), depicted with Saints Augustine, Anne, and Elizabeth, by Ercole de’ Roberti (ca 1451–1496)

“Therefore, my brother, scorned as you are by men, lashed as it were by God, do not despair. Do not be depressed. Do not let your weakness make you impatient. Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face. Let the joy of your mind burst forth. Let words of thanks break from your lips.”
— St. Peter Damian

Prayer of St Peter Damian:

“Have mercy, Lord, on all my friends and relatives, on all my benefactors, on all who pray to You for me, and on all who have asked me to pray for them. Give them the spirit of fruitful penance; mortify them in all vices, and make them flower in all your virtues.  Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: “The Almighty has done great things for me…” Lk 1:49 (l’un des trois)

The battle for the cura animarum (care of souls) is joined.

by His Excellency, Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P.. Secretary in the Vatican Curia of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and Titular Archbishop of Oregon City http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Augustine_Di_Noia, to the Capitulars of the Provincial Chapter, Province of St Joseph, Order of Preachers, on the feast of Bl. John Dominic, O.P., commenting on the abundance of vocations to the priesthood in the Province of St Joseph, 10 June 2010, Providence College, Rhode Island, USA.

“…the post-modern culture of [relativism] leads to moral chaos, personally and socially, and they want no part of it. They see-probably by a pure grace of the Holy Spirit, for their family backgrounds and catechetical training surely cannot explain it!-that human authenticity is possible only by living in conformity to Christ, and, in this particular case, to Christ as the Dominicans know and preach him.

It is not only the practical moral relativism of our time that the 20- to 30-somethings reject. They are also acutely sensitive to the eclectic religiosity, with its doctrinal and theological relativism, that they perceive as a dominant feature of popular culture. It represents, in the eyes of some observers, the triumph of Protestant liberalism, whose core values of “individualism, pluralism, emancipation, tolerance, free critical inquiry, and the authority of human experience” have come to permeate American culture (Smith and Snell 2009, 288). The young men who are drawn to the Dominican Order reject the liberal faith which many of their peers have come accept in some form and which was described by Yale theologian H. Richard Niebuhr in 1937 as being about ‘a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross’” (ibid.). Many of the young men who are drawn to the Order today have a far more direct and intimate acquaintance than most of us with the moral relativism and eclectic religiosity that permeate popular culture. As I stated earlier, for them, with this culture no compromise is possible.

These young men are attracted by the clarity-if not always by the sophistication and subtlety-of the Dominican theological tradition, and by the Order’s recognition of the harmfulness of doctrinal error and its apostolic commitment to doctrinal preaching and theological education. They are repelled as much by the theological muddles that obscure the distinctiveness of the Catholic faith as they are by the moral relativism that thwarts many of their peers “from ever being able to decide what they must believe is really true, right and good” (ibid., 291).

But it is not just the clarity of the Dominican way of thinking, reasoning, teaching and preaching that attracts them. It is something much deeper: not just clarity, but the love that drives it. In the end, it seems to me that these young people are drawn to what Benedict XVI has called “the intellectual charity” and “pastoral yearning” that inspire Dominican apostolic zeal- “a ‘charity of and in the truth’…that must be exercised to enlighten minds and to combine faith with culture…”, the desire “to make ourselves present in the places where knowledge is tempered so as to focus the light of the Gospel, with respect and conviction, on the fundamental questions that concern Man, his dignity and his eternal destiny” (Benedict XVI 2010a, 11).

So, why is God calling all these outstanding young men to the Order, to our province, at this moment? In place of an answer, I have offered some perspectives within which to consider the question. God is drawing these unprecedented numbers of young men to us at this moment for reasons known only to him, even as we strive to be attuned to the signs and hints towards which this bounteous grace moves us.

To be honest with you, I am not certain that we-who did not so much leave modern culture behind when we entered religious life as discover and embrace it-are entirely ready for the kind of radical rejection of the ambient culture, on the one hand, and, on the other, a radical commitment to the Dominican-Catholic alternative way of life that we recognize in the young men being drawn to the Order.

Viewed in this perspective, these new vocations pose a great challenge to us and to our province: Will these young men find with us the fervent Dominican life that they are seeking, or will they find just a modified version of the popular culture that they have left behind? Will they find the apostolic zeal, the warm intellectual charity, the strong communal and liturgical life, the fidelity to the Church, and the radical commitment to Christ that they associate with the historic identity of the Dominican Order?

This is a moment of joy, surely, but it is also a moment of uncertainty. It may be that the vision of a crowded novitiate and studium prompts some concern and even anxiety: What will this cost us, and not just in economic terms, but personally and communally? How can we-I-relate to these young men whose way of thinking seems so different? Are these young friars going to try to change the province? Is God really doing this?

I have tried to address some of these concerns today. We need to acknowledge them-and the fear of the unknown, so to speak, that underlies them-even as we welcome the grace and faith to trust in the goodness and providence of God. But we must be confident that we will surely receive the grace to do great things for God who is already doing great things for us.

For this is the critical point. Certainly, we weren’t prepared for the astonishing grace of the novitiate and studium both bursting at the seams-even simply in logistical terms-but then, with our great devotion to the mystery of the Annunciation, who should know better than we that no one can ever be prepared for the arrival of a pure grace? And, for sure, that grace will bring with it whatever we need to rise to the occasion it affords and the challenges it poses. For this reason, the provincial chapter of 2010 should be full of hope for the future. Despite the particular problems that you will be facing in this chapter-decisions about provincial commitments, unease about the financial condition of the province, concern about the rising cost of health care, and so on-the divine “vote of confidence,” so to speak, has already been cast. If God is for us, who can be against us?  [Romans 8:31]

We need the new way of thinking and the spirit of courage that, according to St. Cyril of Alexandria, come from the Holy Spirit. Allow me to conclude with words from his commentary on the passage of St. John’s Gospel read at Holy Mass this morning: “You can see, then, that the Spirit re-creates…in a new pattern those among whom He is seen to dwell. He readily replaces their desire to think earthly thoughts with the desire to fix their gaze only on the things of heaven; He changes their unmanly cowardice into the spirit of courage. We can certainly see that the disciples experienced this: the Spirit became their armor, so that they did not yield to the attacks of their persecutors but held fast to the love of Christ.” (LH, Office of Readings, Thursday, week 7 of Eastertide).”

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-yPVTY6uvEHw/Tpr7eRdlPAI/AAAAAAAAJLk/7-k0w80FXuY/s928/Picture%2B4.png

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Separated from Thee let me never be.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee.
That I may praise Thee with Thy saints.
Forever and ever.   Amen.

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis eius:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.
Alleluia, Alleluia

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ becomes our food,
the memory of his Passion is celebrated,
the souls is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory is given to us.
Alleluia, Alleluia
-St Thomas Aquinas, O.P.


Love,
Matthew

The Dictatorship of Absolute Relativism: Its Cost (deux des trois)

1.  Relativism robs us of meaning.  It inflicts a crisis of meaning, a poverty of purpose.  According to Relativism, there is no point to it all.  None.  Nothing.  No point, whatsoever.  Pointless.  Sheer pointlessness.

        “A spiritual desert is spreading:  an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.” -BXVI, WYD, 2008.  Science can help us answer questions about the matter and energy of the Universe, but not its meaning.  The relativist has to admit he has not discovered the meaning of life, but invented his own.  Lack of a firm sense of purpose leads to either despair or the desperate attempt to avoid life’s most pressing questions through endless distraction or self-deception or self-medication.  It is torturous to be silent and reflective if it means facing the reality that underneath it all is nothing, a vacuum, a pure and absolute void.  Nothing at all.  Forever.  Some define Hell as such.  No Faith, no Hope, no Love, no Trust.  Nothing.  Forever.  Nihilism.

    “False teachers, many belonging to an intellectual elite in the worlds of science, culture, and the media, present an anti-gospel…When you ask them:  What must I do?, their only certainty is that there is no definitive truth, no sure path…Consciously or not, they advocate an approach to life that has led millions of young people into a sad loneliness in which they are deprived of reasons for hope and incapable of real love.” -JPII

2.  Relativism leaves it all up to us.  You are completely on your own.  All alone.  Forever.  Good luck.  (Yeah, right.)  In Relativism, there is no criterion for moral decision making save personal taste.

I love asking people the following question:  “In Genesis, what was the sin of Adam & Eve?”  Many will respond promptly, “They ate the apple!”  An apple is never mentioned, only the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”.  But, Adam and Eve’s sin was they desired, wrongly, to be “like God”(Gen 3:5).  Now, isn’t that always the case?  The root of every and all sin?  We prefer to be gods unto ourselves, so much easier, instead of realizing God.  That is the very definition of sin:  the perversion of our relationship as creatures to the Creator.  We pervert our relationship to our Creator by not loving Him nor our neighbor who is a reflection of Him.

When asked what sin is, then-President-elect Barack Obama gave a perfect relativist answer saying, ”Being out of alignment with my values.” http://cathleenfalsani.com/obama-on-faith-the-exclusive-interview/.  Many felons, at the time they committed their crime were acting in perfect alignment with their then values.  Many tragedies among youth and misguided adults occur through their own choices while being in perfect harmony with their then values.  So, clearly, this is a false, wrong, incorrect and misleading answer as to what sin is.

3.  Relativism deprives children of moral formation.

One of the heresies of relativism is the proposition to allow children to discover themselves; to be free.  Rather than freeing our children, we morally abandon them, with the abdication of parental responsibilities, leaving those responsibilities foisted on the child to fend for themselves.  Easier, much easier on the parent, even if they don’t freely, readily, or openly admit this themselves.  Relativist parents say they are acting in the child’s interest, when clearly, even if unconsciously, they are only acting in their own and to the detriment of their children.  If emotionally healthy and mature adults struggle with moral decision making on a daily basis, children cannot possibly sift the complex and confusing moral questions.  It is the abandonment of parental responsibility.  Nothing less.  Those are lazy parents.  God help their children.  Love without truth and truth without love are both forms of unique cruelty; child abuse.  “Only in truth does love shine forth, only in truth can love be authentically lived…Without truth, love degenerates into sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, a false pretense, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.” –Caritas in Veritate, 3.

4.  Relativism separates us from one another.

Relativism removes the notion that we need to conform to a reality that is bigger than our own opinions, values, and preferences.  It erodes the mortar that builds a society.  “…under the semblance of freedom [relativism] becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego.  Relativism retranslates “E pluribus unum = out of many, one” into “E pluribus pluribus = out of many, many”.

5.  Relativism denies the right to life/the dignity of the human person.

Thinking is important, just ask the Nazis, or their victims.  Bad thinking leads to bad action, and tragic results.  When human rights are based on subjective principles – such as relativism offers – life is reduced to an efficiency equation, a utilitarian economy of human life, a dehumanizing of the human person, like calculating the commercial value of the human person, its convenience or inconvenience.  And decided by whom?  Under what criteria?  If you consume more than you produce, you are a liability.  If you’re a fetus, a disabled person, dumb, lacking talent, unattractive, socially awkward, old, uneducated, the wrong whatever, etc.  The Nazis had an expression for it, “Unworthy of life.”  Based on that, at some point, all of us become “unworthy of life”.  Carried to a logical conclusion, a relativist would have to conclude and say, “nothing is ‘wrong’.”  Hey, but we would never imitate the Nazis, would we?  “There is no such thing as truth, either in the moral or in the scientific sense.”- Adolf Hitler.

6.  Relativism makes it easy for those in authority to manipulate others.

“To educate without a value system based on truth is to abandon young people to moral confusion, personal insecurity, and easy manipulation.”  JPII, WYD, 8/12/93.

7.  Relativism threatens freedom of speech.

We see more and more opinions expressed contrary to relativism labeled as “hate speech”, with serious consequences.  We have been here before.  There will be glorious martyrs and saints in our future, I fear and dare to say.  To be so privileged.

8.  Relativism destroys faith.

The main difference between God and us is God never thinks he IS us.

“Everything I have said and done in these last years is relativism, by intuition.  From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy  of which he is capable.” – Benito Mussolini, Il Duce

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


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