Thursday, March 22, 2018

The key to Heaven

Holiness without suffering is just a dream.
The Cross is the key to Heaven.

St. Magdalena of Canossa

St. Nicholas Owen

Perhaps no single person did more for the preservation of the Catholic Faith when its practice was forbidden in England than Nicholas Owen.

A “diminutive man” according to one report, and called “Little John” on that account, Nicholas Owen was possibly a builder by trade. He worked for eighteen years with the clandestine Jesuit missionaries Fathers Henry Garnet and John Gerard and built expertly concealed hiding places for priests and Catholic fugitives.

In an age of license, Nicholas led a singularly innocent life, untainted by the allurements of the world. His confessor affirms that he preserved his baptismal innocence unto death.

Every time Nicholas was about to design a hiding place, he began the work by receiving the Holy Eucharist, accompanied the project by continuous prayer and offered the completion of the work to God alone. No wonder his hiding places were nearly impossible to discover.

After working in this fashion for some years, he was received into the Society of Jesus by Father Garnet as one of England’s first lay brothers. For reasons of concealment, his association with the Jesuits was kept a secret.

He was arrested with Father John Gerard on St. George’s day in 1584. Despite terrible torture, he never revealed the least information about the whereabouts of other Catholics. He was released on a ransom paid by a Catholic gentleman, as his services in contriving hiding places were indispensable.

The unique and successful escape of Father Gerard from the Tower of London was most certainly planned by Owen, although the escape itself was carried out by two others.

Finally, on January 27, 1606, after a faithful service of twenty years, Nicholas Owen fell once more into the hands of his enemies. Closely pursued by government officials, he and three other Jesuits successfully avoided detection for eight days, hidden in a couple of priest holes at Hindlip Hall in Worcester- shire. Concealed in the two small cramped spaces in which they could neither stand upright nor stretch their legs, they received nourishment through small drinking straws hidden in the building’s own structure. Attempting to protect the two priests by drawing attention to himself, Owen left his hiding place first. His fellow lay brother was arrested with him as soon as he emerged from hiding; Fathers Garnet and Oldcorne were seized soon after.

His enemies exulted when they realized they finally had their hands on the great builder of hiding places. Father Gerard wrote of him: "I verily think no man can be said to have done more good of all those who labored in the English vineyard. He was the immediate occasion of saving the lives of many hundreds of persons, both ecclesiastical and secular.”

Brother Nicholas was hung upon a wall; during “interrogation” periods, iron gauntlets were fastened about his wrists from which he hung for hours on end, day after day. When this torture proved insufficient to make him talk, weights were added to his feet. Finally, the pressure caused his entrails to burst forth, causing his death. He revealed nothing.
First Photo by: Quodvultdeus

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mother Of Fair Love

As a mother loves her children, and watches over
their welfare, so thou, oh our most sweet queen,
lovest us, and dost procure our happiness.

The second time in which Mary brought us forth to grace was when, on Calvary, she offered to the eternal Father, with so much sorrow of heart, the life of her beloved Son for our salvation. Wherefore, St. Augustine asserts, that, having then co-operated by her love with Christ in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, she became also by this co-operation the spiritual mother of us all, who are members of our head, Jesus Christ.
This is also the meaning of what is said of the blessed Virgin in the sacred Canticles: “They have made me the keeper in the vineyards; my vineyard I have not kept.” Mary, to save our souls, was willing to sacrifice the life of her Son, as William the Abbot remarks. And who was the soul of Mary, but her Jesus, Who was her life and all her love? Wherefore St. Simeon announced to her that her soul would one day be pierced by a sword of sorrow; which was the very spear that pierced the side of Jesus, Who was the soul of Mary.
And then she, in her sorrow, brought us forth to eternal life; so that we may all call ourselves children of the dolors of Mary. She, our most loving mother, was always and wholly united to the divine will; whence St. Bonaventure remarks, that when she saw the love of the eternal Father for men, who would have his Son die for our salvation, and the love of the Son in wishing to die for us, she too, with her whole will, offered her Son and consented that He should die that we might be saved, in order to conform herself to that exceeding love of the Father and Son for the human race.
It is true that, in dying for the redemption of the world, Jesus wished to be alone. “I have trodden the wine-press alone.” (“Torcular calcavi solus.”) But when God saw the great desire of Mary to devote herself also to the salvation of men, He ordained that, by the sacrifice and offering of the life of this same Jesus, she might co-operate with Him in the work of our salvation, and thus become mother of our souls.
And this our Savior signified, when, before expiring, He saw from the cross His mother and the disciple St. John both standing near Him, and first spoke to Mary: “Behold thy son,” (“Ecce filius tuus.”); as if He said to her: Behold the man who, by the offering thou hast made of My life for his salvation, is already born to grace.
And then turning to the disciple, He said: “Behold thy mother,” (Ecce mater tua.”); by which words, says St. Bernardine of Sienna, Mary was then made mother not only of St. John, but of all men, for the love she bore them.
On this account, as Silveira observes, St. John himself, when recording this fact in his Gospel, wrote, “After that He said to the disciple: ‘Behold thy mother.’” Let it be remarked that Jesus Christ did not say this to John, but to the disciple, to signify that the Savior appointed Mary for common mother of all those who, being Christians, bear the name of His disciples.
I am the mother of fair love, (“Ego sum mater pulchrae dilectionis.”); said Mary; because her love, as an author remarks, which renders the souls of men beautiful in the eye of God, prompts her, as a loving mother, to receive us for her children.
And as a mother loves her children, and watches over their welfare, so thou, oh our most sweet queen, lovest us, and dost procure our happiness, says St. Bonaventure.
Oh, happy those who live under the protection of a mother so loving and so powerful! The prophet David, although Mary was not yet born, besought of God salvation, by dedicating himself to Mary as her son, and thus prayed; “Save the son of thy handmaid.” “Whose handmaid?” asks St. Augustine; “she who says: Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”
And who, says Cardinal Bellarmine, who would dare to snatch these children from the bosom of Mary, where they have taken refuge from their enemies? What fury of hell or of passion can conquer them, if they place their trust in the protection of this great mother?
It is narrated of the whale, that when she sees her young in peril, from the tempest or their pursuers, she opens her mouth and receives them into her bowels. Just so, says Novarino, does this compassionate mother of the faithful, when the tempest of the passions is raging…She then, with maternal affection, protects them, as it were, in her bowels, and continues to shelter them until she has placed them in the secure haven of paradise.
Oh, most loving mother! Oh, most compassionate mother, be ever blessed! and may that God be ever blessed, Who has given us thee as a mother, and as a secure refuge in all the dangers of this life.
The Blessed Virgin herself revealed this to St. Bridget, saying: “As a mother who sees her son exposed to the sword of the enemy makes every effort to save him, thus do I, and will I ever do, for my children, sinful though they be, if they come to me for help.”
Behold, then, how in every battle with hell we shall always conquer, and certainly conquer, if we have recourse to the mother of God and our mother, always repeating: “We fly to thy protection, oh holy mother of God; we fly to thy protection, oh holy mother of God.”
Oh, how many victories have the faithful obtained over hell, by having recourse to Mary with this short but powerful prayer! That great servant of God, Sister Mary of the Crucifixion, a Benedictine nun, by this means always conquered the evil spirits.
Be joyful then, all ye children of Mary; remember that she adopts as her children all those who wish her for their mother.
Joyful; for what fear have you of being lost when this mother defends and protects you? Thus says St. Bonaventure: Every one who loves this good mother and trusts in her protection should take courage and repeat: What do you fear, oh my soul? The cause of thy eternal salvation will not be lost, as the final sentence depends upon Jesus, who is thy brother, and upon Mary who is thy mother.
And St. Anselm, full of joy at this thought, exclaims, in order to encourage us: Oh, blessed confidence! Oh, secure refuge! The mother of God is my mother also. With what certainty may we hope, since our salvation depends upon the sentence of a good brother and of a kind mother! Hear, then, our mother who calls us, and says to us; “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me.”
Little children have always on their lips the word mother, and in all the dangers to which they are exposed, and in all their fears, they cry “Mother!”; Ah, most sweet Mary! Ah, most loving mother! this is exactly what thou dost desire; that we become little children, and always call upon thee in our dangers, and always have recourse to thee, for thou wishest to aid and save us, as thou hast saved all thy children who have had recourse to thee.

Oh, my most holy mother, how is it possible that, having so holy a mother, I should be so wicked? A mother so inflamed with love of God, and that I should so love creatures? A mother so rich in virtue, and that I should be so poor? Oh, my most amiable mother! I no longer deserve, it is true, to be thy son, because by my bad life I have rendered myself unworthy.
I am content if thou wilt accept me as thy servant. I am ready to renounce all the kingdoms of the earth, to be admitted among the lowest of thy servants. Yes, I am content, but do not forbid me to call thee my mother. This name wholly consoles me, melts me, and reminds me of my obligation to love thee. This name encourages me to confide in thee. When I am the most terrified at the thought of my sins and of the divine justice, I feel myself comforted by the remembrance that thou art my mother.
Permit me, then, to call thee my mother, my sweetest mother. Thus I call thee, and thus I will ever call thee. Thou, next to God, shalt always be my hope, my refuge, and my love, in this valley of tears. And thus I hope to die, commending my soul, at the last moment, into thy sacred hands, saying: “My mother, my mother Mary, help me, have pity on me.” Amen.

 “Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

Without temptation, virtue is nothing

Virtue is nothing
without the trial of temptation, for
there is no conflict without an enemy,
no victory without strife.

Pope St. Leo the Great

St. Enda of Aran

In the land evangelized by St. Patrick, there emerged in subsequent centuries a number of saints, who by the sanctity of their lives firmly established Christianity in Ireland. Among these is to be numbered the great St. Enda of Aran.

Enda was born in the sixth century to Oriel of Ulster, son of Conall Derg of Ergall, to whose principality he succeeded upon his death. One of his sisters was married to Oengus the king of Munster; another, the holy Fanchea, was abbess of a monastery. It was the pious exhortations of the latter that compelled him to leave the world and embrace the monastic life. He embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome to venerate the relics of the Apostles and was there ordained a priest.

Upon his return to Ireland, he built a church in Drogheda along the River Boyne and founded a religious community. From his brother-in-law, King Oengus of Munster, he obtained the grant of the wild and barren isle of Aran (Aranmore) in the Bay of Galway, where he founded the famous Monastery of Killeaney. Such was the fame acquired by this monastery and its abbot, that the island was called “Aran of the Saints”. Many of the great Irish saints had some connection with Aran and St. Enda: St. Brendan the Voyager, St. Kiaran of Clonmacnoise, St. Columba of Iona, St. Finnian of Clonard and others. So numerous were the pilgrims to Aran that St. Columba called it “The Rome of Pilgrims”.

Enda divided the island into ten parts, in each of which he built a monastery and over which he set superiors. His monastic settlement was known for its austerity, holiness and learning, and became a burning light of sanctity for centuries in Western Europe.

This father of Irish monasticism died in advanced old age and was buried on Aran Mor.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Her Servants Call Her Mother

How Much Greater
Should Be Our Confidence
In Mary Because She Is Our Mother.

Not by chance, nor in vain, do the servants of Mary call her mother, and it would seem that they cannot invoke her by any other name, and are never weary of calling her mother; mother, indeed, for she is truly our mother, not according to the flesh, but the spiritual mother of our souls and of our salvation. Sin, when it deprived our souls of divine grace, also deprived them of life. Hence, when they were dead in misery and sin, Jesus our Redeemer came with an excess of mercy and love to restore to us, by his death upon the cross, that lost life, as he has Himself declared: “I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly.”
More abundantly, because as the theologians teach us, Jesus Christ by His redemption brought us blessings greater than the injury Adam inflicted upon us by his sin; He reconciled us to God, and thus became the Father of our souls, under the new law of grace, as the prophet Isaiah predicted: “The Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace.” But if Jesus is the Father of our souls, Mary is the mother; for, in giving us Jesus, she gave us the true life; and offering upon Calvary the life of her Son for our salvation, she then brought us forth to the life of divine grace.
At two different times then, as the holy Fathers show us, Mary became our spiritual mother; the first when she was found worthy of conceiving in her virginal womb the Son of God, as the blessed Albertus Magnus says.
St. Bernardine of Sienna more distinctly teaches us that when the most Holy Virgin, upon the annunciation of the angel, gave her consent to become mother of the eternal Word, which He awaited before making Himself her Son, she, by this consent even from that time, demanded of God, with lively affection, our salvation; and she was so earnestly engaged in obtaining it, that from that time she has borne us, as it were, in her womb, as a most loving mother.
St. Luke says, speaking of the birth of our Savior, that Mary “brought forth her first-born son.” Therefore, says a certain writer, if the evangelist affirms that Mary brought forth her first-born, is it to be supposed that she afterwards had other children? But the same author adds; “If it is of faith that Mary had no other children according to the flesh except Jesus, then she must have other spiritual children, and these we are.”
Our Lord revealed this to St. Gertrude, who, reading one day the passage of the Gospel just quoted, was troubled, not knowing how to understand it, that Mary being mother of Jesus Christ alone, it could be said that he was her first-born. And God explained it to her by telling her that Jesus was her first-born according to the flesh, but men were her second-born according to the spirit.
And this explains what is said of Mary in the holy Canticles: “Thy belly is as a heap of wheat, set about with lilies.” St. Ambrose explains this and says: “Although in the pure womb of Mary there was only one grain of wheat, which was Jesus Christ, yet it is called a heap of grain, because in that one grain were contained all the elect, of whom Mary was to be the mother.” Hence, William the Abbot wrote, Mary, in bringing forth Jesus, Who is our Savior and our life, brought forth all of us to life and salvation.

In the history of the foundations of the Company of Jesus, in the kingdom of Naples, is related the following story of a noble youth of Scotland, named William Elphinstone. He was a relation of King James. Born a heretic, he followed the false sect to which he belonged; but enlightened by divine grace, which showed
him his errors, he went to France, where, with the assistance of a good Jesuit father, who was like himself a Scotchman, and still more by the intercession of the blessed Virgin, he at length saw the truth, abjured heresy, and became a
He went afterwards to Rome, where a friend of his found him one day very much afflicted, and weeping. He asked him the cause, and he answered that in the night his mother had appeared to him and said: “My son, it is well for thee that thou hast entered the true Church; I am already lost, because I died in heresy.”
From that time he became more fervent in his devotion to Mary, chose her for his mother, and by her was inspired to become a religious. He made a vow to do so, but being ill, he went to Naples to restore his health by a change of air. But the Lord ordered it so that he should die in Naples, and die a religious; for, having become dangerously ill soon after his arrival there, he, by prayers and tears, obtained from the superiors admittance, and when about to receive the viaticum, he made his vows in presence of the Blessed Sacrament, and was enrolled in the society.
After this, in the tenderness of his feelings, he gave thanks to his mother Mary for having rescued him from heresy, and brought him to die in the true Church, and in a religious house in the midst of his brethren.
Therefore, he exclaimed: “Oh! how glorious it is to die in the midst of so many angels!” Being exhorted to take a little rest, he answered: “Ah, this is not the time to rest when the end of my life is drawing near.” Before dying, he said to the persons present: “Brethren, do you not see the angels of heaven around me?”
One of the religious, having heard him murmuring something to himself, asked him what he had said. He answered that his angel-guardian had revealed to him that he should be in purgatory but a short time, and would soon enter paradise.
Then he began again to talk with his sweet mother Mary, and repeating the word, mother, mother, he tranquilly expired, like a child falling asleep in the arms of its mother. Soon after, it was revealed to a devout religious that he had already entered paradise.

 “Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

Love of Neighbor

He alone loves the Creator perfectly
who manifests a pure love for his neighbor.

St. Bede the Venerable

St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne

Orphaned early in life, Cuthbert was brought up by a widow who loved him like a son. According to St. Bede, he was a Briton. One night, while working as a shepherd, he had a marvelous vision of angels carrying the soul of St. Aidan to heaven. This occurrence seems to have impressed him deeply, though he went on to soldiering and possibly fought against the Mercians.

It was as a soldier that he knocked at the gate of Melrose Abbey. As a monk, he went on to become prior of the abbeys of Melrose and Lindisfarne. After some years at Lindisfarne, wishing to grow even closer to God, he retired as a hermit first to Holy Island, today named after him, and then to an even more remote location among the Farne Islands. Still, people persisted in following him even to this isolated place, and he graciously built a guest house near the landing stage of the isle to accommodate them.

Illustrations taken from the Venerable St. Bede’s Life of Cuthbert
Later, at the insistence of the Abbess St. Elfleda, a daughter of King Oswiu, he reluctantly accepted a bishopric and was consecrated Bishop of Lindisfarne. The two years of his episcopate were spent visiting his diocese preaching, teaching, distributing alms and working so many miraculous cures that during his lifetime he was known as the Wonderworker of Britain.

Weakened by his labors and austerities, Cuthbert sensed death approaching and again retired to his beloved retreat in the Farne Islands. He received the last sacraments and died peacefully, seated, his hands uplifted and his eyes raised heavenward. The Venerable St. Bede also records in his life of the saint that when Cuthbert's sarcophagus was opened nine years after his death, his body was found to have been perfectly preserved or incorrupt.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Disproportionate Love In Return

For The Simplest Devotion
To Her, She Gives Such A
Disproportionate Love
In Return!
It is narrated by Father Auriemma, that a poor shepherdess loved Mary so much that all her delight was to go to a little chapel of Our Lady, on a mountain, and there in solitude, while her sheep were feeding, to converse with her beloved mother and pay her devotion to her.
When she saw that the figure of Mary, in relief, was unadorned, she began, by the poor labor of her hands, to make a drapery for it. Having gathered one day some flowers in the fields, she wove them into a garland, and then ascending the altar of that little chapel, placed it on the head of the figure, saying: “Oh, my mother, I would that I could place on thy head a crown of gold and gems; but as I am poor, receive from me this poor crown of flowers, and accept it as a token of the love I bear thee.” Thus this devout maiden always endeavored to serve and honor her beloved Lady.
But let us see how our good mother, on the other hand, rewarded the visits and the affection of her child. She fell ill, and was near her end.

It happened that two religious passing that way, weary with travelling, stopped to rest under a tree; one fell asleep and the other watched, but both had the same vision. They saw a company of beautiful virgins, and among them there was one who, in loveliness and majesty, surpassed the rest. One of the brothers addressed her, and said: “Lady, who art thou? and where art thou going?”
“I am the mother of God,” she replied, “and I am going to the neighboring village, with these holy virgins, to visit a dying shepherdess, who has many times visited me.” She spoke thus and disappeared.
These two good servants of God proposed to each other to go and visit her also. They went towards the place where the dying maiden lived, entered a small cottage, and there found her lying upon a little straw. They saluted her, and she said to them: “Brothers, ask of God that He may permit you to see the company that surrounds me.”
They were quickly on their knees, and saw Mary, with a crown in her hand by the side of the dying girl, consoling her. Then those holy virgins began to sing, and with that sweet music the blessed soul was released from the body. Mary crowned her, and took her soul with her to paradise.

Oh Lady, Ravisher of hearts! I would exclaim with St. Bonaventure; who, with the love and favor thou dost bestow upon thy servants, dost ravish their hearts; take my miserable heart also, which desires so earnestly to love thee.
Thou, oh my mother, with thy beauty, hast enamored a God, and hast drawn Him from heaven into thy bosom, and shall I live without loving thee? No. I will say to thee with thy loving child John Berchmans: “I will never rest until I have attained a tender love for my mother Mary.” No, I will not rest until I am certain of having obtained a love – a constant and tender love for thee, my mother, who hast loved me with so much tenderness even when I was so ungrateful towards thee.
And where should I now be if thou, oh Mary, hadst not loved me, and obtained so many favors for me? If then thou hast loved me so much when I did not love thee, how much more may I confide in thy goodness, now that I love thee?
I love thee, oh my mother, and would wish for a heart capable of loving thee, for all those unhappy beings who do not love thee. Would that my tongue could praise thee with the power of a thousand tongues, in order to make known thy greatness, thy holiness, thy mercy, and thy love, with which thou lovest those who love thee.
If I had riches, I would employ them all for thy honor; if I had subjects, I would make them all thy lovers; for thee and for thy glory I would give my life, if it were required. I love thee, oh my mother, but at the same time I fear that thou dost not love me, for I have heard that love makes lovers like those they love. If then I find myself so unlike to thee, it is a proof that I do not love thee.
But this, oh Mary, is to be thy work; since thou lovest me, make me like unto thyself.
Thou hast the power to change the heart; take then mine and change it.
Let the world see what thou canst do for those who love thee. Make me holy; make me worthy of thy Son.
Thus I hope; thus may it be.

"Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As a direct descendant of King David, Joseph was of royal lineage. Although of noble birth and ancestry, this heir of the throne of David was circumstantially poor and a carpenter by trade.

Chosen by God as the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the protector of her honor, Joseph respected her vow of virginity as evidenced in the Virgin’s response to the Archangel Gabriel when he announced that she was to bear a son, “How shall this be done, because I know not man?”(Luke 1:34)

Though the Gospels reveal little about Joseph, the simple eulogy of the Holy Scriptures, “being a just man,” (Matt. 1:19) encompasses his greatness.

It was this “just man” who perceiving the expectant state of his wife, and knowing not the origin, trusting in her holiness against the evidence of his eyes, refused to denounce her. God rewarded his heroic faith: an angel appeared to Joseph in the night and revealed to him that his holy spouse had conceived “the expectation of nations” (Gen. 49:10) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We next read of this “just man,” now in the role of protector of both the mother and the divine Son in Bethlehem, looking for suitable lodgings for the birth of the incarnate Word, and being systematically refused. We read of him offering two turtle doves, again evidence of his poverty, as a ransom for the Child at the Temple. Then, again, an angel appears in his dream and warns him of the envy of King Herod. Immediately taking to the dusty road, this “just man” braves the frightful desert on foot, leading a donkey bearing the Creator of the Universe and His mother to safety in Egypt.

Though there is no scriptural record of Saint Joseph’s death, we know he was absent at Jesus’ crucifixion, which points to his having died before.

The Roman Martyrology commemorates March 19 as the feast of St. Joseph.  Blessed Pope Pius IX, acceding to the universal desire and prayers of the Catholic world declared the holy patriarch Patron of the Universal Church. It is only fitting that he who protected the mother and the Son, also protect the bride.

When sinners come to Jesus

When sinners come to Him, Jesus hurries to meet them.
Like the father of the prodigal son,
He is waiting for the return of the ungrateful ones.
Like the good shepherd, He seeks after the lost sheep; and
when He finds it, He places it on His divine shoulders and
restores it to the fold.

The Book of Confidence – Fr. Thomas de Saint-Laurent

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Too Ashamed To Confess

Mary, Touches Hearts
 Of Even The Impure!
Various Examples pertaining to Holy Mary

Some persons, boasting of being free from prejudices, take great credit to themselves for believing no miracles but those recorded in the Holy Scriptures, esteeming all others as tales and fables for foolish women.
But it will be well to repeat here a just remark of the learned and pious Father John Crasset,[1] who says that the bad are as ready to deride miracles as the good are to believe them; adding, that as it is a weakness to give credit to all things, so, on the other hand, to reject miracles which come to us attested by grave and pious men, either savors of infidelity, which supposes them impossible to God, or of presumption, which refuses belief to such a class of authors.
We give credit to Tacitus and Suetonius, and can we deny credit without presumption to Christian authors of learning and probity? There is less risk, says Father Canisius, in believing and receiving what is related with some probability by honest persons, and not rejected by the learned, and which serves for the edification of our neighbor, than in rejecting it with a disdainful and presumptuous spirit.

A certain man in Germany had committed a great sin, and was ashamed to confess it, yet on the other hand he could not endure the remorse which he felt, and went to cast himself into the river; but just as he was on the point of doing so, he stopped, and bursting into tears, prayed God to pardon him without confession.
One night in his sleep he felt some one waking him, and heard a voice saying: Go and make your confession. He went to the church, but yet did not make his confession.
He heard the same voice a second night; again he went to the church, but after he had entered it, said that he would rather die than confess that sin.
He was about to return home when he thought he would go and recommend himself to the most holy Mary, before her image which was in the church.
He had hardly kneeled before it, when he felt himself entirely changed. He immediately arose, called for a confessor, and weeping bitterly, through grace received from the Virgin, made a sincere confession; and he afterwards said that he felt greater satisfaction than if he had gained all the gold in the world.[2]

A young nobleman was reading one day, while at sea, an obscene book, in which he took great pleasure. A religious said to him: “Now come, would you give something to our Lady?”
“Yes,” he answered; and the religious said, “I wish that, for love of the Holy Virgin, you would tear that book in pieces and cast it into the sea.”
“Here it is, Father,” said the young man. “No,” said the religious, “I wish that you yourself would make this offering to Mary.”
He did so, and when he returned to Genoa, his native place, the Mother of God so inflamed his heart with the love of God that he became a religious.[3]

1 To. 2, tr. 6, prat. 20. t L. 8, de Deip. c. 18.
2 Annal. Soc. 1650, Ap. Auriem. Aff. Scamb. t. 8, C. 7.
3Annal. Soc. 1650, Ap. Auriem. Aff. Scamb. t. 8, C. 7.
“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

Three reasons to work

The first end I propose in our daily work is
to do the will of God;
secondly, to do it in the manner He wills it; and
thirdly to do it because it is His will.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Though Cyril’s birthplace is unknown, he was certainly brought up in Jerusalem. His parents, very probably Christians, gave him an excellent education.

St. Jerome relates that Cyril was ordained to the priesthood by St. Maximus, the Bishop of Jerusalem, who thought so highly of Cyril's teaching that he was charged with the important duty of instructing the catechumens. Nineteen of these catechetical discourses, delivered without a book, have come down to us. These are invaluable as an exposition of the teaching and ritual of the Church in the fourth century.

Upon the death of St. Maximus, Cyril was elected to his episcopal see. Not long after his consecration as Bishop of Jerusalem, however, misunderstandings arose between Cyril and Bishop Acacius because of the latter’s leanings to Arianism – a heresy that denied the divinity of Christ. He was summoned before a council convened by Acacius but refused to appear. Accused of rebellion, and of distributing Church goods to the poor – which he justifiably did – Cyril entered a crucible of suffering through persecution.

His life as bishop was plagued with charges by the Arians and consequent exiles by Arian-supporting emperors. Sixteen of the thirty-five years of his episcopate were spent in exile. With the accession of Emperor Theodosius he was recalled and ruled undisturbed for the last eight years of his life.

Cyril participated in the great Council of Constantinople, when the Nicene Creed was promulgated in its amended form. He is thought to have died in 386 around the age of seventy. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1882.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

How much does Our Lady love us?

Our Lady of Mercy!
It is thus that the faithful people call upon Our Lady when they contemplate her seated
with the divine corpse of her Son on her lap.
Mercy, because her whole being is nothing but compassion:
compassion for her Son, and compassion for her children, because she has not only one son.
His Mother became the Mother of all men, and she has compassion
not only on her Son, but also on her children.
She sees our pains, our sufferings and our struggles. She smiles upon us in danger;
she weeps with us in sorrow. She relieves our sadness and sanctifies our joy.
Proper to the heart of a mother is the intimate participation in everything that stirs the hearts of her children.
Our Lady is our Mother.
She loves each of us individually even the most miserable and sinful  much more
than the combined love of all the mothers of the world.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

Mary At The Death of Jesus

Ah, True Mother! Loving Mother!
For Not Even The Terror Of Death
Could Separate Thee From Thy Beloved Son.
But, Oh God, What A Spectacle Of Sorrow,…
Therefore, at the same time that the Son was sacrificing his body, the mother, as St. Bernardino says, was sacrificing her soul.
AND now we have to admire a new sort of martyrdom, a mother condemned to see an innocent son, whom she loved with all the affection of her heart, put to death before her eyes, by the most barbarous tortures. There stood by the cross of Jesus his mother: “Stabat autem juxta crucem mater ejus.”
There is nothing more to be said, says St. John, of the martyrdom of Mary: behold her at the foot of the cross, looking on her dying Son, and then see if there is grief like her grief. Let us stop then also today on Calvary, to consider this fifth sword that pierced the heart of Mary, namely, the death of Jesus.
As soon as our afflicted Redeemer had ascended the hill of Calvary, the executioners stripped him of his garments, and piercing his sacred hands and feet with nails, not sharp, but blunt: “Non acutis, sed obtusis” as St. Bernard says, and to torture him more, they fastened him to the cross.
When they had crucified him, they planted the cross, and thus left him to die. The executioners abandon him, but Mary does not abandon him. She then draws nearer to the cross, in order to assist at his death.
“I did not leave him,” thus the blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bridget, “and stood nearer to his cross.” But what did it avail, oh Lady, says St. Bonaventure, to go to Calvary to witness there the death of this Son? Shame should have prevented thee, for his disgrace was also thine, because thou wast his mother; or, at least, the horror of such a crime as that of seeing a God crucified by his own creatures, should have prevented thee.
But the saint himself answers: “Thy heart did not consider the horror, but the suffering: Non considerabat cor tuum horrorem, sed dolorem.” Ah, thy heart did not then care for its own sorrow, but for the suffering and death of thy dear Son; and therefore thou thyself didst wish to be near him, at least to compassionate him.
Ah, true mother! says William the Abbot, loving mother! for not even the terror of death could separate thee from thy beloved Son. But, oh God, what a spectacle of sorrow, to see this Son then in agony upon the cross, and under the cross this mother in agony, who was suffering all the pain that her Son was suffering!
Behold the words in which Mary revealed to St. Bridget the pitiable state of her dying Son, as she saw him on the cross: “My dear Jesus was on the cross in grief and in agony; his eyes were sunken, half closed, and lifeless; the lips hanging, and the mouth open; the cheeks hollow, and attached to the teeth; the face lengthened, the nose sharp, the countenance sad; the head had fallen upon his breast, the hair black with blood, the stomach collapsed, the arms and legs stiff, and the whole body covered with wounds and blood.”
Mary also suffered all these pains of Jesus. Every torture inflicted on the body of Jesus, says St. Jerome, was a wound in the heart of the mother. Any one of us who should then have been on Mount Calvary, would have seen two altars, says St. John Chrysostom, on which two great sacrifices were consummating, one in the body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary.
But rather would I see there, with St. Bonaventure, one altar only, namely, the cross alone of the Son, on which, with the victim, this divine Lamb, the mother also was sacrificed. Therefore the saint interrogates her in these words: Oh Lady, where art thou? Near the cross? Nay, on the cross, thou art crucified with thy Son.
St. Augustine also says the same thing: The cross and nails of the Son were also the cross and nails of the mother; Christ being crucified, the mother was also crucified.
Yes, because, as St. Bernard says, love inflicted on the heart of Mary the same suffering that the nails caused in the body of Jesus. Therefore, at the same time that the Son was sacrificing his body, the mother, as St. Bernardino says, was sacrificing her soul.
Mothers fly from the presence of their dying children; but if a mother is ever obliged to witness the death of a child, she procures for him all possible relief; she arranges the bed, that his posture may be more easy; she administers refreshments to him; and thus the poor mother relieves her own sorrows.
Ah, mother, the most afflicted of all mothers! oh Mary, it was decreed that thou shouldst be present at the death of Jesus, but it was not given to thee to afford him any relief. Mary heard her Son say: I thirst: “Sitio;” but it was not permitted her to give him a little water to quench his great thirst.
She could only say to him, as St. Vincent Ferrer remarks; My Son, I have only the water of my tears: “Fili, non habeo nisi aquara lacrymarum.”
She saw that her Son, suspended by three nails to that bed of sorrow, could find no rest. She wished to clasp him to her heart, that she might give him relief, or at least that he might expire in her arms, but she could not.
She only saw that poor Son in a sea of sorrow, seeking one who could console him as he had predicted by the mouth of the prophet: “I have trodden the winepress alone; I looked about and there was none to help; I sought and there was none to give aid.”
But who was there among men to console him, if all were his enemies? Even on the cross they cursed and mocked him on every side: “And they that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads.”
Some said to him: “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Some exclaimed: “He saved others, himself he cannot save.” Others said: “If he be the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross.”
The blessed Virgin herself said to St. Bridget: “I heard some call my Son a thief; I heard others call him an impostor; others said that no one deserved death more than he; and every word was to me a new sword of sorrow.”
But what increased most the sorrows which Mary suffered through compassion for her Son, was to hear him complain on the cross that even the eternal Father had abandoned him: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Words which, as the divine mother herself said to St. Bridget, could never depart from her mind during her whole life. Thus the afflicted mother saw her Jesus suffering on every side; she desired to comfort him, but could not. And what caused her the greatest sorrow was to see that, by her presence and her grief, she increased the sufferings of her Son.
The sorrow itself, says St. Bernard, that filled the heart of Mary, increased the bitterness of sorrow in the heart of Jesus. St. Bernard also says, that Jesus on the cross suffered more from compassion for his mother than from his own pains: he thus speaks in the name of the Virgin: I stood and looked upon him, and he looked upon me; and he suffered more for me than for himself.
The same saint also, speaking of Mary beside her dying Son, says that she lived dying without being able to die: Near the cross stood his mother, speechless; living she died, dying she lived; neither could she die, because she was dead, being yet alive.”
Passino writes that Jesus Christ himself, speaking one day to the blessed Baptista Varana, of Camerino, said to her that he was so afflicted on the cross at the sight of his mother in such anguish at his feet, that compassion for his mother caused him to die without consolation. So that the blessed Baptista, being enlightened to know this suffering of Jesus, exclaimed: “Oh my Lord, tell me no more of this thy sorrow, for I can not bear it.”
Men were astonished, says Simon of Cassia, when they saw this mother then keep silence, without uttering a complaint in this great suffering. But if the lips of Mary were silent, her heart was not so; for she did not cease offering to divine justice the life of her Son for our salvation.
Therefore we know that by the merits of her dolors she co-operated with Christ in bringing us forth to the life of grace, and therefore we are children of her sorrows: Christ, says Lanspergius, wished her whom he had appointed for our mother to co-operate with him in our redemption; for she herself at the foot of the cross was to bring us forth as her children!
And if ever any consolation entered into that sea of bitterness, namely, the heart of Mary, it was this only one; namely, the knowledge that by means of her sorrows, she was bringing us to eternal salvation; as Jesus himself revealed to St. Bridget: “My mother Mary, on account of her compassion and charity, was made mother of all in heaven and on earth.”
And, indeed, these were the last words with which Jesus took leave of her before his death; this was his last remembrance, leaving us to her for her children in the person of John, when he said to her: Woman, behold thy Son: “And from that time Mary began to perform for us this office of a good mother; for, as St. Peter Dainian declares, the penitent thief, through the prayers of Mary, was then converted and saved: Therefore the good thief repented, because the blessed Virgin, standing between the cross of her Son and that of the thief, prayed her Son for him; thus rewarding, by this favor, his former service.
For as other authors also relate, this thief, in the journey to Egypt with the infant Jesus, showed them kindness; and this same office the blessed Virgin has ever continued, and still continues to perform.
A young man in Perugia once promised the devil that if he would help him to commit a sinful act which he desired to do, he would give him his soul; and he gave him a writing to that effect, signed with his blood. The evil deed was committed, and the devil demanded the performance of the promise.
He led the young man to a well, and threatened to take him body and soul to hell if he would not cast himself into it. The wretched youth, thinking that it would be impossible for him to escape from his enemy, climbed the well-side in order to cast himself into it, but terrified at the thought of death, he said to the devil that he had not the courage to throw himself in, and that, if he wished to see him dead, he himself should thrust him in. The young man wore about his neck the scapular of the sorrowing Mary; and the devil said to him: Take off that scapular, and I will thrust you in.
But the youth, seeing the protection which the divine mother still gave him through that scapular, refused to take it off, and after a great deal of altercation, the devil departed in confusion. The sinner repented, and grateful to his sorrowful mother, went to thank her, and presented a picture of this case, as an offering, at her altar in the new church of Santa Maria, in Perugia.
Ah, mother, the most afflicted of all mothers, thy Son, then, is dead; thy Son so amiable, and who loved thee so much! Weep, for thou hast reason to weep. Who can ever console thee? Nothing can console thee but the thought that Jesus, by his death, hath conquered hell, hath opened paradise which was closed to men, and hath gained so many souls. From that throne of the cross he was to reign over so many hearts, which, conquered by his love, would serve him with love.
Do not disdain, oh my mother, to keep me near to weep with thee, for I have more reason than thou to weep for the offences that I have committed against thy Son. Ah, mother of mercy, I hope for pardon and my eternal salvation, first through the death of my Redeemer, and then through the merits of thy dolors. Amen.

“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

St. Patrick of Ireland

Patrick of Irish fame was born in Kilpatrick, Scotland in 387 to Christian parents of means and position. At the age of sixteen Patrick was abducted and sold into slavery. In Ireland he worked as a shepherd in the service of the chieftain Milchu of Dalriada, who was also a Druid high priest. Alone with the sheep, young Patrick developed a deep prayer life. Referring to this period of his life in his “Confessio” he writes: “… and the faith grew in me, and the spirit was roused …”

Patrick became acquainted with the Celtic language, and with the ways of the Druids, a knowledge that was to be crucial to his effectiveness in ridding Ireland of pagan Druidism.

Led by an angel, after six years Patrick fled captivity, walked 200 miles to the sea and boarded a ship, ultimately returning to his people.  They begged him to remain, but Patrick felt the call to dedicate his life to God. He spent time in the monastery of St. Martin de Tours and on the island sanctuary of Lérins and was ordained a priest by his mentor, the great St. Germain.

But the “voices” of Ireland called out to Patrick to return. Commended to Pope St. Celestine by St. Germain, Patrick received the commission to bring the green isle into the fold of Christ.

Returning to Ireland, Patrick proceeded to win over the pagan chieftains, druids and ultimately the king by his daring, meekness, miracles and inspired teaching. The tradition of a three-leafed shamrock originated in  the fact that he held the shamrock up before the Irish chieftains as he explained the doctrine of the Holy Trinity of three divine Persons in one God.

Before the apostle’s faith, ardent fervor and miracles, druid magic melted away and druid strongholds succumbed. As Patrick and his companions announced the glad tidings of Redemption, Ireland was cloaked in the green mantle of new hope and faith.

After wrestling with paganism, Patrick wrestled with God in prayer and penance, obtaining from Him great blessings for Ireland and was granted to be the judge of Ireland on the Last Day. Before his death, he was also granted a vision in which he saw the light of the Catholic faith shining in Ireland for many centuries, then dimming to the point of only prevailing in certain areas, then growing and glowing again.

Patrick died on March 17 having spent forty years in preaching the Gospel in Ireland.
First Photo by: Andreas F. Borchert
Shamrock Emblem by: Setanta Saki

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mary Assists Her Servants In Purgatory

Too happy are the servants of this most kind mother, since not only
in this world they are aided by her, but also in purgatory
they are assisted and consoled by her protection.
Mary Assists her Servants in Purgatory
Too happy are the servants of this most kind mother, since not only in this world they are aided by her, but also in purgatory they are assisted and consoled by her protection.
For succor being there more needed, because they are in torment and cannot help themselves, so much the more does this mother of mercy strive to help them.
Father Eusebius Nierembergh relates that there lived in the city of Aragona a girl, named Alexandra who, being noble and very beautiful, was greatly loved by two young men.
Through jealousy, they one day fought and killed each other. Their enraged relatives, in return, killed the poor young girl, as the cause of so much trouble, cut off her head, and threw her into a well.
A few days after, St. Dominic was passing through that place, and, inspired by the Lord, approached the well, and said: “Alexandra, come forth,” and immediately the head of the deceased came forth, placed itself on the edge of the well, and prayed St. Dominic to hear its confession. The saint heard its confession, and also gave it communion, in presence of a great concourse of persons who had assembled to witness the miracle.
Then, St. Dominic ordered her to speak and tell why she had received that grace.
Alexandra answered, that when she was beheaded, she was in a state of mortal sin, but that the most holy Mary, on account of the rosary, which she was in the habit of reciting, had preserved her in life. Two days the head retained its life upon the edge of the well, in the presence of all, and then the soul went to purgatory.
But fifteen days after, the soul of Alexandra appeared to St. Dominic, beautiful and radiant as a star, and told him, that one of the principal sources of relief to the souls in purgatory is the rosary which is recited for them; and that, as soon as they arrive in paradise, they pray for those who apply to them these powerful prayers.
Having said this, St. Dominic saw that happy soul ascending in triumph to the kingdom of the blessed.
Oh Queen of heaven and of earth, oh mother of the Lord of the world, oh Mary, creature most great, most exalted, most amiable, it is true that many on the earth do not love thee and do not know thee; but there are innumerable angels and
saints in heaven who love and praise thee continually. On this earth, too, how many souls burn with love of thee, and live enamored of thy goodness.
Ah, if I, too, might love thee, my most lovely Lady! Oh, that I might always be engaged in serving thee, in praising thee, in honoring thee, and in striving to awaken love of thee in others.
A God hath been enamored of thee, who, by thy beauty, if I may so speak, hast drawn him from the bosom of the eternal Father, to come upon the earth and become man and thy Son; and I, a miserable worm, shall I not be enamored of thee?
Yes, my most sweet mother, I also will love thee, love thee much, and do all in my power to make thee loved by others.
Accept, then, oh Mary, the desire I have to love thee, and help me to fulfill it: I know that thy lovers are regarded with much favor by thy God. Next to his own glory, he desires nothing more than thy glory, in seeing thee honored and loved by all.
From thee, oh Lady, I await all my blessings. Thou must obtain the pardon of all my sins, thou must obtain for me perseverance, succor in death, deliverance from purgatory, in a word, thou must conduct me to paradise.
All this thy lovers hope from thee, and they are not deceived. This I also hope, who love thee with all my heart, and above all things next to God.
St. Bernardine of Sienna says, that in that prison of souls who are spouses of Jesus Christ, Mary has a certain dominion and plenitude of power to relieve them, as well as deliver them from their pains. And, in the first place, as to relieving them, the same saint, applying the words of Ecclesiasticus: I have walked in the waves of the sea: adds, visiting and relieving the necessities and sufferings of my servants, who are my children.
St. Bernardine says, that the pains of purgatory are called waves, because they are transitory, unlike the pains of hell, which never end: and they are called waves of the sea, because they are very bitter pains. The servants of Mary tormented by those pains are often visited and succored by her.
See, then, how important it is, says Novarino, to be a servant of this good Lady; for she never forgets such when they are suffering in those flames. And although Mary succors all the souls in purgatory, yet she always obtains more indulgences and alleviations for those who have been especially devoted to her.
This divine mother, in her revelations to St. Bridget, said: I am the mother of all the souls in purgatory; and all the sufferings which they merit for the sins committed in life are every hour, while they remain there, alleviated in some measure by my prayers.
This kind mother sometimes condescends even to enter into that holy prison, to visit and console these her afflicted children. I have penetrated into the bottom of the deep: as we read in Ecclesiasticus;* and St. Bonaventure, applying these words, adds: I have penetrated the depth of this abyss, that is, of purgatory, to relieve by my presence those holy souls.
Oh, how kind and beneficent is the holy Virgin to those who are suffering in purgatory! says St. Vincent Ferrer; through her they receive continual consolation and refreshment.
And what other consolation have they in their sufferings than Mary, and the help of this mother of mercy? St. Bridget one day heard Jesus saying to his mother: Thou art my mother, thou art the mother of mercy, thou art the consoler of those who are in purgatory.
And the blessed Virgin herself said to St. Bridget, that as a poor sick person, suffering and deserted on his bed, feels himself refreshed by some word of consolation, so those souls feel themselves consoled in hearing only her name.
The name alone of Mary, a name of hope and salvation, which these beloved children often invoke in that prison, is for them a great comfort.
But, then, says Novarino, the loving mother, on hearing herself invoked by them, adds her prayers to God, by which these souls receive comfort, and find their burning pains cooled as if by dew from heaven.
But not only does Mary console and succor her servants in purgatory; she also releases them from this prison, and delivers them by her intercession.
From the day of her glorious assumption, in which that prison is said to have been emptied, as Gerson writes; and Novarino confirms this by saying, that many weighty authors relate that Mary, when about to [be assumed] to paradise, asked this favor of her Son, that she might take with her all the souls that were then in purgatory; from that time, says Gerson, the blessed Virgin has possessed the privilege of freeing her servants from those pains.
And this also is positively asserted by St. Bernardine, who says that the blessed Virgin has the power of delivering souls from purgatory by her prayers and the application of her merits, especially if they have been devoted to her.
And Novarino says the same thing, believing that by the merits of Mary, not only the torments of these souls are assuaged, but also abridged, the time of their purgation being shortened by her intercession: and for this it is enough that she presents herself to pray for them.
St. Peter Damian relates, that a certain lady, named Marozia, after death, appeared to her god mother, and told her that on the day [feast day] of the Assumption of Mary she had been released by her from purgatory, with a multitude of souls exceeding in number the whole population of Rome.
St. Denis the Carthusian relates, that on the festivals of the birth and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Mary descends into purgatory, accompanied by troops of angels, and releases many souls from their torments. And Novarino believes that the same thing happens on every solemn festival of the holy Virgin.
Every one has heard of the promise made by Mary to Pope John, to whom she appeared, and ordered him to make known to all those who should wear the sacred scapular of Carmel, that on the Saturday after their death they should be released from purgatory.
And this was proclaimed by the same pontiff, as Father Crasset relates, in a bull which he published. It was also confirmed by Alexander V., Clement VIL, Pius V., Gregory XIII. , and Paul V., who, in 1612, in a bull said: “That Christians may piously believe that the blessed Virgin will aid by her continual intercession, by her merits and special protection, after death, and principally on Saturday, which is a day consecrated by the Church to the blessed Virgin, the souls of the members of the confraternity of holy Mary of Mount Carmel, who shall have departed this life in the state of grace, worn the scapular, observing chastity according to their state of life, recited the office of the Virgin, and if they have not been able to recite it, shall have observed the fasts of the Church, abstaining from flesh meat on Wednesdays, except on Christmas-day.
And in the solemn office of the feast of holy Mary of Mount Carmel, we read that it is piously believed, that the holy Virgin, with a mother’s love, consoles the members of the confraternity of Mount Carmel in purgatory, and by her intercession conducts them to their heavenly country.”
Why should we not also hope for the same graces and favors, if we are devoted to this good mother? And if with more special love we serve her, why cannot we hope to obtain the grace of going immediately after death to paradise, without entering into purgatory? as we read that the holy Virgin said to the blessed Godfrey, through brother Abondo, in these words: “Go and tell brother Godfrey to advance in virtue, for thus he will be a child of my Son, and mine also; and when his soul quits the body, I will not permit it to go to purgatory, but I will take it and present it to my Son.”
And if we would assist the holy souls in purgatory, let us endeavor to remember them in all our prayers to the blessed Virgin, applying to them especially the holy rosary, which procures for them great relief.

“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

Only the first step is painful

On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children,
only the first step is painful.
Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses …
We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken;
for, whatever we do,
the cross holds us tight  we cannot escape from it.
What, then, have we to lose?
Why not love our crosses, and
make use of them to take us to heaven?

St. John Vianney

St. Abraham Kidunaia

Abraham was born near Edessa in Mesopotamia, in present-day Iraq, into an extremely wealthy family. Though he preferred the celibate life, his parents chose a bride for him but on the seventh day of the customary festivities preceding the marriage, Abraham disappeared.

After searching for seventeen days the family found the fugitive groom in the desert, leading a life of intense prayer. Oblivious to threats and entreaties, he built a cell and walled himself in with only an orifice through which food could be passed. After his parents’ death, Abraham commissioned a friend to distribute his wealth among the poor.

As people began to flock to Abraham for council and guidance, the Bishop of Edessa ordained him a priest against his humble protests. He then asked him to leave his hermitage to preach to the nearby colony of Beth-Kiduna, a seat of idolaters who had resisted every attempt at evangelization.

Reluctant but obedient, the hermit settled in Beth-Kiduna where he built a church and, after earnest prayer, set out to destroy pagan altars and topple idols. Needless to say, the infuriated villagers beat him and expelled him from their midst. In the morning he was back praying in his church and from there went out to harangue the people urging them to give up their superstitions and abominations. This time he was stoned and left for dead, but recovering, again returned and bearing insults, isolation and mistreatment, he persevered.

After three years, the inhabitants of Beth-Kiduna realized that there was something to this man’s meekness and patience, and began to listen to him.  After baptizing and confirming the many converts in the region, Abraham passed his apostolic work onto another and returned to the desert where he lived for many years until his death at the age of seventy.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hope for the Worst of Sinners

What, then, must a sinner do who finds himself so unhappy as to have become an enemy of God?

Mary is the Peace Maker between Sinners and God
What, then, must a sinner do who finds himself so unhappy as to have become an enemy of God? He must find a mediator who will obtain pardon for him and enable him to recover the lost friendship of God. 
But if ever, adds the saint [Saint Bernard], you fear to have recourse to Jesus Christ because his divine majesty alarms you, since when he became man he did not cease to be God, if you ever wish for another advocate with this mediator, invoke Mary, for she will intercede for you with the Son, who will surely graciously listen to her, and the Son will intercede with the Father, who can refuse nothing to this Son.
And so, concludes St. Bernard, this divine mother, oh my children, is the ladder of sinners, by which they ascend anew to the height of divine grace. This is my greatest confidence; this is the whole ground of my hope.
For this end, says St. John Chrysostom, the Virgin Mary was made mother of God, that those sinners who, by reason of their wicked life, could not be saved according to the divine justice, might obtain salvation through her sweet compassion and powerful intercession.*
St. Anselm confirms this when he says that Mary has been exalted to be mother of God for sinners rather than for the just, since Jesus Christ announced that he came not to call the just, but sinners.
And so the holy Church sings: Sinners thou dost not abhor, since but for them thou never wouldst have been worthy of such a Son; St. Bernard takes up the subject, and says: Give then thanks to him who has provided thee with such a mediatrix.*
Whoever thou art, oh sinner, plunged in the mire of guilt, hoary in sin, do not despair; thank thy Lord, who in order to show mercy to thee, has not only given thee his Son for an advocate, but, to increase thy confidence and courage, has provided thee with such a mediatrix, who, by her prayers, obtains whatever she wishes. Have recourse to Mary, and thou wilt be saved.
It is related by Rupensis (Ros. Sacr. p. 5, c. 60.), and by Boniface (Stor. Virg. 1. 1, c. 11.), that in Florence there lived a young girl, named Benedetta (the blessed), although she might better have been called Maladetta (the cursed), from the scandalous and wicked life she led.
Happily for her, St. Dominic happened to preach in that city, and she, from mere curiosity, went one day to hear him. But the Lord touched her heart during the sermon, so that, weeping bitterly, she went to make her confession to the saint.
St. Dominic heard her confession, gave her absolution, and directed her to say the rosary. But the unhappy girl, by the force of her evil habits, returned to her wicked life. The saint heard of it, and going to her, induced her to confess once more.
God, in order to confirm her in her good life, one day showed hell to her, and some persons there who had been already condemned on her account.
Then opening a book, he made her read in it the frightful record of her sins. The penitent shuddered at the sight, and, full of confidence, had recourse to Mary, asked her help, and learned that this divine mother had already obtained from God for her time enough to mourn for her numerous sins.
The vision disappeared, and Benedetta devoted herself to a good life; but seeing always open before her eyes that dark catalogue, she one day prayed in these words to her consoler: “Oh mother, it is true that for my sins I should now be deep in hell; but since thou, by thy intercession, hast liberated me from it, by obtaining for me time for repentance, most merciful Lady, I ask of thee one other favor. I will never cease to weep for my sins; but do thou obtain for me that they may be cancelled from that book.”
After this prayer, Mary appeared to her, and told her that in order to obtain what she asked, she must preserve an eternal remembrance of her sins, and of the mercy of God towards her; and still more, that she must meditate on the passion of her Son, which he suffered for love of her; and also that she must bear in mind that many had been damned who had committed fewer sins than she had done.
She also revealed to her that a child of only eight years of age, one mortal sin only, had been that day condemned to hell.
Benedetta, having faithfully obeyed the most holy Virgin, one day beheld Jesus Christ, who showed her that book, and said to her: Be hold, thy sins are cancelled; the book is white, inscribe on it now acts of love and of virtue. Benedetta did this, led a holy life, and died a holy death.
Then, oh my most sweet Lady, if thy office is, as William of Paris says, to interpose as a mediatrix between the sinner and God, I will say to thee with St. Thomas of Villanova: Ah, then, oh our advocate, fulfill thy office.
Fulfill at once thy office also in my behalf. Do not tell me that my cause is too difficult to be gained; for I know, and all tell me, that no cause, how ever desperate, if defended by thee, was ever lost; and will mine be lost? No, I fear not this. I have only to fear, when I behold the multitude of my sins, that thou wilt not undertake my defense; but considering thy vast compassion and the great desire that fills thy most loving heart to help the vilest sinners, I no longer fear even this.
And who was ever lost that had recourse to thee? I invoke, then, thy aid, oh my great advocate, my refuge, my hope, and my mother Mary. To thy hands I commit the cause of my eternal salvation. To thee I consign my soul; it was lost, but thou must save it.
I always thank the Lord that he gives me this great confidence in thee, which, notwithstanding my unworthiness, I believe will secure my salvation. One fear alone remains to afflict me, my beloved queen: it is, that I may one day lose, through my neglect, this confidence in thee.
Therefore I pray thee, oh Mary, by all thy love for thy Jesus, to preserve and increase more and more in me this most sweet confidence in thy intercession, by which I certainly hope to recover the divine friendship, which I have hitherto so foolishly despised and lost; and once having recovered it, I hope by thy means to preserve it and preserving it, I hope finally, through thee, to go one day and thank thee for it in paradise, and there to sing the mercies of God and thine through all eternity. Amen.
Thus I hope, so may it be, and so it shall be.

“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

The reason for confidence

Our Lord showed even greater evidence of His love
in the conversion of sinners
than in the continuation of His graces to the just.
This is seen in the case of the Samaritan woman where
everything He said and did was a manifestation of love.
This should lead me to place
great confidence and trust in His goodness,
knowing that He will grant me His holy love at the end.
However, I must work for this and listen to His Word.

St. Louise de Marillac

St. Louise de Marillac

Louise was the daughter of Louis de Marillac, the Lord of Ferrières, a French nobleman. She never knew her mother who died shortly after her birth. Ordinarily there is something wanting in a child not brought up in a mother’s care; in Louise, however, this privation in her own childhood made her better understand the love necessary for the little motherless beings that she would one day snatch from death. She was raised partially by her father and partially by her aunt, for whom she was named, a Dominican religious at Poissy.

Intelligent, ardent and pious, she first wished to become a religious but at twenty-two, under her confessor’s advice, she accepted marriage to Antoine Le Gras, a young secretary to Queen Marie de Medicis. The couple was happily married in February of 1613 and had an only son, Michel.

In 1619, Mlle. Le Gras came to know Francis de Sales who was to provide her with great support and consolation in her future trials. Around 1621, Antoine contracted a chronic illness, believed to have been a form of tuberculosis, and eventually became bedridden. Troubled by the thought that she had rejected an early call to the religious life, Louise took a vow in 1623 never to remarry should her husband die before her. Antoine’s illness did, in fact, accompany him to his deathbed and he died on December 21, 1625.

Francis de Sales, the Bishop of Geneva, had introduced her to the spiritual director of his religious of the Visitation in Paris, Monsieur Vincent de Paul. Under his cautious and prudent direction after her husband’s death, Louise gradually became involved in Monsieur Vincent’s works of charity in the French capital. These charitable works were funded by wealthy and pious aristocratic ladies; however, Monsieur Vincent and Mlle. Le Gras both saw the need for a more formalized organization of charity. In 1633 Louise invited four young women into her home where she began to train them to serve the poor and the infirm. “Love the poor and honor them as you would honor Christ Himself,” she instructed them. The small group practiced in local hospitals where they were soon in demand. This first nucleus developed into the religious institute of the Daughters of Charity which received official approval in 1655.

Louise, who had struggled with ill health all her life, led the Daughters of Charity until her death on March 15, 1660, a mere six months before the death of her beloved mentor, Monsieur Vincent. She was sixty-eight, and left more than forty houses of charity throughout France. The order was to spread throughout the world, her spiritual daughters universally recognized by their “winged” white headdress.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mary Sings

Daily, daily sing to Mary,
Sing, my soul, her praises due:
All her feasts, her actions honor
With the heart's devotion true.

Oesarius relates that a certain Cistercian monk, who was a devoted servant of our blessed Lady, desired very earnestly a visit from his dear Lady, and was praying [to] her continually to grant him this favor.
He went one night into the garden, and while he stood there looking up to heaven, breathing forth to his queen in ardent sighs his desire to see her, a beautiful and radiant virgin descended, and said to him: “Thomas, wouldst thou like to hear me sing?”
“Certainly,” he answered, and then she sang so sweetly that it seemed to the devout religious that he was in paradise. Having finished her song, she disappeared, leaving him absorbed with an ardent desire to know who it could have been; and, soon after, another extremely beautiful virgin appeared to him, who, like the other, allowed him the pleasure of hearing her sing.
He could not refrain from asking this one who she was, and the virgin answered: “She whom you saw a little while ago was Catherine, and I am Agnes, both martyrs for Jesus Christ, sent by our Lady to console you. Give thanks to Mary, and prepare for a greater favor.”
Having said this she disappeared, but left the religious with a greater hope of finally seeing his queen. Nor was he deceived, for shortly afterwards he saw a great light and felt a new joy flowing into his heart, for in the midst of that light the Mother of God appeared to him surrounded by angels, and of a beauty far surpassing that of the other two saints who had appeared to him.
She said to him, “My dear servant and son, I have been pleased with the devotion which you have offered me, and have graciously heard your prayers: you have desired to see me; look on me, and I too will sing to you.”
Then the most holy Virgin began to sing with so great sweetness, that the devout religious lost his senses, and fell with his face upon the ground.
The matin-bell sounded, the monks assembled, and, not seeing Thomas, searched for him in his cell and other parts of the convent, and at last, going into the garden, found him apparently lifeless. The superior commanded him to tell what had befallen him. And coming to himself, by the power of obedience, he related all the favors which the Mother of God had bestowed upon him.

Commentary: It seems evident from this story that Our Lady’s voice is so sweet that even those holy souls privileged to hear it must first have their senses prepared for the “shock” by first hearing less holy heavenly voices. - - - And even then, the sweet impact of Our Lady’s voice can leave us senseless…just one more reason to fight for Our Lady’s cause so we can listen to her sing God’s praises forever.

“Stories of Mary” are taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888 by P.J. Kennedy

Actions vs. words

Actions speak louder than words.
Let your words teach
and your actions speak.

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Leobinus of Chartres

Lubin’s parents were peasants from the region of Poitiers in France. As a young boy, Lubin had an aptitude for learning and applied to a monastery where he was employed in menial tasks. His work occupied him the entire day, and he was obliged to do most of his studying at night, screening his candle as best he could. The monks complained that the light disturbed their slumbers, but by much humility and perseverance Lubin advanced in knowledge.

He eventually joined the monastery and, probably at the suggestion of St. Carilef, for a time lived as a hermit under the guidance of St. Avitus. Later, after some misadventures, he settled in an abbey near Lyons, remaining for five years.

In a war between the Franks and the Burgundians this monastery was raided and all the monks fled with the exception of Lubin and an old monk. The enemy, unable to extort from Lubin the location of the monastery’s "treasure", tortured him by first strangling him with a rope and then by tying his feet and dipping him, head first, into the river. Left for dead, he recovered, and was received in the monastery of Le Perche.

Bishop Aetherius of Chartres nominated Lubin the Abbot of Brou and had him ordained to the priesthood. His responsibility as abbot weighed so heavily upon him that he begged – although in vain – to be relieved of it. Instead, upon the death of the bishop, he was elevated and consecrated in his place. He brought about various reforms and became renowned for his miracles. Lubin participated in the Fifth Council of Orleans and in the Second Council of Paris, and died on March 14, about the year 558, after a long illness.
Photo by: Chatsam