Sunday, December 17, 2017

Why many fail

There are many who begin, yet they never reach the end.

I believe this is due mainly
to a failure to embrace the cross
– from the beginning.

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Sturmi

Sturmi was the son of Christian parents in Bavaria. He was placed under the direction of St. Boniface, the great apostle of the Germans, who, in turn, entrusted the youth’s education to St. Wigbert in the abbey of Fritzlar.

In due course ordained a priest, Sturmi was a missionary in Westphalia for three years, after which he took to an eremitical life.

Later, when St. Boniface founded the monastery of Fulda in 744, he appointed Sturmi abbot. The favorite foundation of St. Boniface, Fulda became a point from which Germany could be effectively evangelized and the pattern-seminary of priests for all Germany.

Soon after the foundation, Sturmi traveled to Italy to study Benedictine observance at Monte Cassino. There seems to be evidence that Pope St. Zachary granted the Abbey of Fulda to be subject directly to the Pope, free from episcopal jurisdiction. After the martyrdom of St. Boniface, St. Lull as his successor, acted differently toward the abbey claiming it should be subject to his jurisdiction as bishop. In the ensuing struggle, Sturmi was banished and another appointed abbot, but the monks did not accept him and expelled him, threatening to appeal to the king.

Eventually, Sturmi returned to the helm of Fulda Abbey, but his efforts to evangelize the Germans was somewhat truncated by Charlemagne’s conquests and his rather truculent enforcement of religion. When Charlemagne turned to Spain to fight the Moors, the Saxons drove out the monks from Fulda.

In 779 when Charlemagne returned, incurring some victories against the Saxons, St. Sturmi was in a better position but he did not live to continue his missions.

The saintly abbot fell gravely ill, and despite the efforts of Charlemagne’s own physician, he died on December 17, 779.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Ready for prayer?

Although one is not bound to pray at all hours,
one is bound throughout the day to keep oneself fit for prayer.

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Adelaide of Italy

Adelaide was the daughter of Rudolph II of Burgundy and Bertha of Swabia. In a political settlement between her father and Hugh of Provence when she was but a year old, she was promised in marriage to Hugh’s son, Lothair.

Fourteen years later the young princess married Lothair II, then nominal King of Italy. Supported by the Italian nobility, real power in the kingdom was held by Berengar of Ivrea. The couple had a daughter, Emma who later married Lothair of France.

Lothair II died under suspicious circumstances in 950 and was succeeded by Berengar who tried to cement his usurped power by forcing a marriage between the young widow and his own son, Adalbert, whom he had crowned as his co-ruler. At her refusal, Adelaide was shut up in a castle on Lake Garda from which she made her escape with the assistance of a priest who dug a subterranean passage.

Through an emissary, Adelaide appealed to Otto I of Germany for protection. He attacked and conquered Berangar and, on Christmas day in 951, married Adelaide who was twenty years his junior. They had four children. In 962, Otto was crowned emperor in Rome and Adelaide empress.

When her son, Otto II, succeeded his father in 973, Adelaide at first exercised a powerful influence at court. But when Otto married the Byzantine princess, Theophano, the latter turned her husband against his mother, and the dowager was alienated from court. She sought refuge with her brother, Conrad, King of Burgundy, who, eventually, reconciled them.

At Otto II’s death in 983, both Theophano and Adelaide were appointed regents for his infant son, however, Theophano once more drove the Dowager Empress from the royal court into exile. But upon her daughter-in-law’s death in 991, Adelaide was again restored to the regency for her eleven-year-old grandson. Her energy being at this time of life much reduced, she was assisted by Willigis, Archbishop of Mainz. When the young Emperor Otto III came of age in 995, she was free to dedicate herself to works of charity, especially the foundation and restoration of religious houses.

Queen Adelaide had been a friend of Sts. Majoulos and Odilo, abbots of the great monastery of Cluny, then the center of monastic and clerical reform. She retired to the convent of Selta, near Cologne, which she had founded around 991, and though never professed, spent her last days in prayer. She died on December 16, 999.
Second Photo by: Vitold Muratov

Friday, December 15, 2017

Impossible to reach the height of grace without this

Without the burden of afflictions
it is impossible to reach the height of grace.
The gift of grace increases as the struggle increases.
St. Rose of Lima

St. Mary di Rosa

Mother Maria Crocifissa was born Paolina Francesca di Rosa, the sixth of nine children of Clement di Rosa and the Countess Camilla Albani. The di Rosas were a wealthy family of Brescia, Italy.

Losing her mother to a terminal illness at age eleven, her education was entrusted to the Visitation Sisters. At seventeen Paolina left school to assist in the running of her father’s estate and household. To these duties she soon added the care and spiritual welfare of the girls working at her father’s mills and other factories in the city. She also founded a woman’s guild and arranged retreats and special missions. When the cholera epidemic devastated Brescia in 1836, she and a widow, Gabriela Bornati, served the victims in the hospital with such dedication that Paolina was next asked to undertake the supervision of a workhouse for penniless girls, which she did for two years.

She continued to engage in social work, always giving signs of ability and a perspicacious intelligence with a surprising grasp of theology. In 1840, with Gabriela Bornati, she started a congregation with the purpose of serving the ill and suffering in hospitals. Taking the name of Handmaids of Charity, they started with four members and soon grew to number twenty-two.

The name she took upon her profession of religious vows was a synthesis of her whole life: Maria Crocifissa. Her spiritual life was firmly grounded on the imitation of Christ’s suffering on the Cross. This was the foundation of her life, her teaching and her contemplation. Her love for Christ Crucified was reflected in her unstinting and total dedication to the suffering members of his Mystical Body.

As the community expanded, Clemente di Rosa provided a commodious house in Brescia, and their rule of life was provisionally approved by the bishop in 1843. Anticipating Florence Nightingale by several years, the Handmaids of Charity ministered to the wounded in the war which ravaged the region in 1848. After a meeting with Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1850, the constitutions of the Handmaids of Charity of Brescia were approved.

A second cholera epidemic hit northern Italy and pushed the growing order to its limit. After a flurry of foundations in Spalato, Dalmatia and Verona, Mother Maria collapsed, and was brought home to Brescia to die. She passed away peacefully on December 15, 1855 at the age of forty-two.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Secret, peaceful, and loving

Contemplation is nothing else than a secret, peaceful, and loving
infusion of God, which
if admitted,
will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.


St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross

John’s father, Gonzalo de Yepes, was of a prominent family in Toledo, Spain. At his marriage to a poor girl, Catherine Alvarez, he was disinherited, and tried his hand at the silk-weaving trade. When Gonzalo died young, Catherine was left destitute with three young sons, John being the youngest.

Sent to a poor school in Medina, John found work at the city’s hospital, and there labored for seven years.

Already given to the practice of prayer, and to bodily austerities, he studied with the Jesuits. It was revealed to him that he was to serve God in an Order, the ancient perfection of which he would help to renew.

At twenty-one he took the Carmelite habit as John of St. Matthias. Though meaning to be a lay brother, he excelled in theology and was ordained in 1567. Early on, he obtained permission to follow the original Carmelite rule, without the mitigations allowed by various popes.

When St. Teresa of Avila, the great reformer of Carmel, met John in Medina-del-Campo, she knew he was the man for the reform of the male branch of the order.  Though John was small in stature, Teresa sensed his courage and commitment. With all the proper backing and credentials, she and John proceeded to found reformed branches of the Carmelite Order in Duruelo, Pastrana, Mancera and Alcalá. As a reformed Carmelite, John took the name of John of the Cross, indeed a prophetic title.

Around this time in his life, after tasting the joys of contemplation, John entered a period of aridity, scruples, and interior desolation. While assaulted with terrible temptations, he was also persecuted with calumnies. His book, Dark Night of the Soul is the child of these trials. But in the calm that followed the storm, St. John became a great mystic, writer, and is deemed one of the best poets that ever lived.

He later, along with St. Teresa, suffered much by confusions generated within their order, as a result of the reforms. He was imprisoned by his own brothers, as he was pressured to abandon the reform. He also suffered a severe beating at the hands of the Vicar General, which marks he bore until his death. After nine months of incarceration, he managed to escape, and fled to a reformed friary.

In 1579 he became head of the college at Baeza, and in 1581 was chosen prior at Granada. It is around this time that he began the writings on mystical theology that made him a Doctor of the Church.

But troubles within the order followed him. At one point he was stripped of all status and was sent to a remote friary. Another time there was a threat of expulsion of the holy reformer from the order. Ultimately, he died in a friary whose superior was hostile to him though, ultimately, repentant.

But John of the Cross had reached that level of sanctity where crosses were welcomed and gladly embraced in union with his crucified Lord. After suffering acutely for three months, he rendered his sterling soul to God on December 14, 1591.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ask Our Lady to put an end to so much suffering

The more somber circumstances become
and the more excruciating sundry pains grow,
the more we should ask Our Lady to put an end to so much suffering — not merely
for our own relief, but for the greater benefit of our souls.
Sacred theology says that Our Lady's prayers
anticipated the moment of the world's redemption by the Messiah.
At this anguished moment in history, let us turn our eyes to Our Lady with confidence,
asking her to hasten the great moment we all await,
when a new Pentecost will kindle beacons of light and hope in this darkness and
restore the kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ on earth.
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

St. Lucy

Lucy is one of the martyrs mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, and she is regarded as the glory of the island of Sicily.  A native of Syracuse, she was the daughter of wealthy Christian parents. Her father died when she was a child, and her mother, Eutychia, raised her with the utmost care, teaching her the path of Christian virtue. Lucy so took to the path of virtue that, wishing to belong to God alone, she vowed her virginity to Him.

Her mother, unaware of this vow and afflicted with an unrelenting illness, betrothed Lucy to a wealthy young pagan.

As Eutychia’s illness persisted, they visited the shrine of St. Agatha at Catania, close to Syracuse. There, St. Agatha, who had been martyred about fifty years earlier, appeared to Lucy granting her mother’s cure and predicting that she, Lucy, would be the glory of Syracuse as she, Agatha, was of Catania.

After this experience, Lucy revealed her plans to her mother and convinced her to distribute their fortune to the poor.

Furious at this turn of events, Lucy’s fiancé, now certain she was a Christian, denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse. Lucy was ordered to offer incense to the idols, but at her refusal, her enemies tried to take her to a brothel for defilement. This proved impossible as she became so heavy she could not be moved.

They then tried to burn her, but the flames parted leaving the maiden untouched. She finally met her death by the sword.

She is portrayed holding a pair of eyes on a platter. Some accounts say that her eyes were tortured, others that she gouged them out to discourage her suitor. In any case, she is particularly invoked for ailments of the eyes, or eyesight problems.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anything else that you need?

“Am I not here who am your mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your fountain of life?
Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?
Is there anything else that you need?”

Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In February of 1519, Hernán Cortéz, a Spanish General, landed in Aztec Mexico with a contingent of armed men. By August of 1521, with the help of native allies, he had conquered the country.

Putting an end to the horrific practice of extensive human sacrifice to satanic idols, he sent for Spanish missionaries to begin the work of evangelizing Mexico. Coming up against the natural obstacles, the work was arduous, and progress slow. The fact that some Spaniards suppressed the natives did not help. As a revolt brewed, the saintly Don Juan de Zumárraga, first bishop of Mexico, appealed to heaven for help.

On December 9, 1531, one of Mexico’s first converts to Christianity, a middle-aged native named Juan Diego, was making his usual way into Mexico City to attend Holy Mass. As he passed a hill called Tepeyac, he heard music, then a sweet voice that called his name, “Juan, Juan Dieguito…”

Following the sound of the voice calling to him, he climbed the hill and came face to face with a beautiful lady in an aura of light who said she was “the ever Virgin, Mother of the true God”. Speaking in Nahuatl, she asked him to convey to the bishop that she wished a church built on the spot where she stood.

Juan Diego obeyed but Don Zumárraga did not believe him. Two more times the lady appeared with the same request, and, finally, the prelate asked for a sign as a proof of the apparition’s authenticity.

On relating the bishop’s request, the Blessed Virgin bid Juan Diego climb to the top of the hill, and to gather the flowers he would find there. Doing so, the good man was amazed at seeing an abundance of Castillian roses, unseasonal in December.

Gathering the blooms in his tilma (a whitish cape), he returned to the lady who re-arranged them with her own hands.

When Juan released the flowers before the bishop and his retinue, a brilliant image of the Blessed Virgin appeared on his tilma before the astonished eyes of all.  On his knees, Bishop Zumárraga contemplated the wonder, also moved at the sight of the Castillian Roses, the sign for which he had secretly asked.

In an apparition where Our Lady healed Juan Diego’s dying uncle, she referred to herself as, “she who crushes the serpent,” in Nahuatl, “Coatlaxopeuh”, interpreted as “Guadalupe”. Though there are other interpretations, the latter seems most plausible as the cult of “Quetzalcoatl”, the “Serpent-god” was prominent in pre-Christian Mexico.

As news of the stupendous miracle spread, so did the Catholic Faith.  As the natives flocked to Juan Diego’s tilma with their sorrows and joys, plaints and petitions, Mary’s silent sweetness, love and purity effectively won over the hearts of the Mexican people.

To them, she was – and is to this day – “their queen”, La Guadalupana.

Not only had the exalted lady appeared to one of them, but she had also adopted their own ruddy semblance, conveying to them that she was queen by wearing the Aztec royal turquoise, yet not divine as her head was bowed. That she was of the faith of the Spaniards they knew by the small black cross at her neck, the same as on Cortéz’ soldiers’ helmets.   So, once more, led by the Mother, all of Mexico came to the Son. In a few years, nine million accepted Baptism.

The sacred tilma is venerated to this day in the shrine built on the site of Tepeyac in Mexico City. The icon has miraculously defied the test of time, as the natural fibers of the cloak normally last twenty years. Not only are image and cloth intact, but other inexplicable facts continue to astonish science.

December 12 - Our Lady of Guadalupe

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira


Note: Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared on 9th December 1531 to St. Juan Diego (1474–1548, canonised in 2002 by Pope John Paul II) on Tepyac Hill.  The Blessed Virgin spoke in his native tongue, Náhuatl.  The indian was 57 years old and had been baptised.  The third and last apparition took place on 12th December of the same year.  As a proof of Her appearance, Our Lady left Her image miraculously impressed on St. Juan Diego’s tilma.



Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  In the book written by Edésia Aducci, Mary and Her Glorious Titles, one can read the dialogue between Our Lady and Juan Diego:

During the first apparition, Our Lady, speaking in the Mexican language, said, “Listen, you whom I tenderly love as a small and delicate son, where are you going?”  He answered, “My noble Lady, I am on my way to your house at Mexico-Tlatilulco; I will attend Holy Mass celebrated by the minister of God and your subject.”

Our Lady: “Know, my dear son, that I am the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, and it is my desire that they erect a temple to me in this place from where, as a loving Mother of you and your people, I will show my loving clemency and compassion that I have for the natives and those that love and seek me.  I will hear their prayers and supplications to give them consolation and relief.  And so that my will be done, you should go to Mexico City to the bishop’s palace and you will tell him that I sent you and that it is my will that he build a temple in this place.  You will tell him what you saw and heard.  I will thank you for this you do for me and I will give you prestige and exalt you.”

Juan Diego: “I will go immediately, most noble Lady of mine, to execute your commands as you humble servant.”

Second Apparition: Juan Diego returns from the bishop’s palace that afternoon.  The Most Holy Virgin was waiting for him.  “My very dear Queen and noble Lady, I did what you requested and, even though it was a long time before I could speak to my lord bishop, I communicated to him your message as you commanded.  He heard me amiably and attentively, but his manner and questions led me to understand that he did not believe me.  Therefore I ask you to give this charge to another … more worthy of respect who will be believed, because you know, my Lady, … that this is not something for me to do.  Forgive me, my Queen, my boldness if I in any way lacked respect to your grandeur; may I not deserve your indignation, nor may my answer have displeased you.”

The Most Holy Virgin insists with Juan Diego.  He then returns to the bishop and the prelate demands a sign of the apparition.  The Indian returns and Our Lady tells him to return the next to this same place, at which time She will satisfy the wish of the bishop.  But Juan Diego, having the need to call a priest for his uncle who had fallen ill, deviates from the accustomed route, certain that the Most Holy Virgin would not see him.  But behold, Our Lady appears to him in another place.

“Where are you going, my son, and why did you take this way?”

Juan Diego: “My very beloved Lady, may God keep you!  How are you this morning?  How is your health?...  Do not be irritated with what I will tell you: Your servant, my uncle, is sick and I am going quickly to the church of Tlatltelolco to get a priest to hear his confession and anoint him.  After doing this task, I will return to this place to obey your command.  Forgive me, my Lady, be patient with me and I will return tomorrow without fail.”

Our Lady: “Listen, my son, to what I will tell you: Do not be afflicted about anything, not even with illness or any other harmful things.  Am I not here, am I not your Mother?  Are you not under my protection and care?  Am I not life and health?  Are you not in my lap and walk under my care?  Do you need anything else? . . .  Worry no longer about your uncle’s health, as he will not die now, and have the certainty that he has been cured.”

                            *   *   *

One could make several commentaries on this event.  One of the more interesting commentaries is that which has not been emphasised: Juan Diego’s attitude towards Our Lady and the language he uses to address Her.

I mention this because the other aspects—that is, how Our Lady likes to appear to the humble and simple people to send messages to the great, how She seeks pure souls to be Her spokesmen—have been dealt with in so many apparitions that I believe there is no special purpose to insist upon it tonight.

However, the language and attitude of the Our Lady towards the Indian is extraordinarily beautiful.  She treats him like the son of a nation that is decadent and about to disappear, but who has a pure and simple soul.  So, She treats him with extraordinary tenderness, almost as if he were a child.  On the one hand, we see the predilection that Our Lady not only has for great and heroic souls that perform historic deeds, but, on the other hand, how She loves all forms of beauty, all forms of virtue.  She also loves simple, small souls who are entirely turned to Her and even are unaware of their own virtue.  She speaks to these souls with a unique tenderness.

Then we have the attitude of Juan Diego towards Our Lady.  He speaks to Her as a courtesan greeting Our Lady, asking how She is doing, if She is well.  After having told of the failure of his mission, he acts like a true diplomat and explains to Her the human reason for his failure.  At the same time, he manifests his desire not to boast and put himself in the centre.  You see how many qualities of soul are manifest here.

As a result, Our Lady appreciates his attitude, smiles upon his diplomatic suggestion, but does not accept it.  On the contrary, She demands that he return.  Juan Diego, always obedient, returns because he is not lazy and does not resist Her.  He is the son of obedience.  This was an order.  Our Lady really wants it, so he returns once again!...

Our Lady reproduced Her image on Juan Diego’s tilma and he died in the odour of sanctity.

Here is a principle I wish to emphasize: Wherever there is virtue, there is also tact, courtesy, noble manners.  Contrariwise, where virtue is dead, noble manners, tact, and courtesy gradually disappear.

Through baptism Juan Diego had a great delicateness of soul and thus was tactful in his manners and knew how to treat Our Lady with respect, with true nobility.  On the contrary, if he had not had this delicateness of soul, he could even have been noble, but would not have treated Our Lady with true nobility.

This proves that Western Christian civilization developed good manners, nobility of treatment, gentlemanliness, gallantry, and aristocratic tone to a degree no other civilisation had ever attained.  This was because there had been a Middle Ages where these things were born and continued to develop even after the end of this period.  There was an era of intense virtue, intense piety, during which souls yearned for nobility of treatment, delicateness, and grandeur.  Since customs are born from intense desires of good and even bad souls, Western courtesy is the fruit of Christian piety and virtue.

When the revolutionary process began with the Renaissance, Europe’s spiritual life was tarnished with egalitarian principles.  As a result decadence began.  Why?  Because from this point of view, revolution, egalitarianism, lack of delicate sentiments and nobility are entirely correlated.  The egalitarian person cannot have nobility of manners, cannot be delicate in his sentiments, but rather is egotistical, brutal, tends towards the masses, does not want to acknowledge another’s merits and qualities.  He would prefer to subject the whole social life and human relations, in a word, deal with every soul in a hard, cold, and crude egalitarian manner.

This is the extreme opposite of that delicateness that germinated in the virginal, supernatural, and so delicate soul of our good Juan Diego.

Here we can see the extent to which courtesy and aristocratic tone are daughters of the Holy, Roman, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and how the contrary—that which is vulgar, brutal and egalitarian manners—is precisely the fruit of the Revolution and the devil.

Here you have a commentary on the manners and soul of good Juan Diego.  Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

_____________________


 Britain Needs Fatima Members’ Newsletter, Issue 55, February 2013
 © February 2013, Britain Needs Fatima Members’ Newsletter. Permission is granted to reproduce this newsletter, in whole or in part, provided credit is given.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Miracle

On July 31, 2002 the Holy Father canonized Juan Diego, a humble Indian to whom the Mother of God appeared in Mexico in 1531 and on whose cloak she left her image as Our Lady of Guadalupe. With this canonization, the Church has placed one more seal on the authenticity of the apparitions that changed the course of the history of Mexico and gave all the Americas a great patroness. Alongside our invoking the intercession of the Virgin of Guadalupe, we may now also say, “Saint Juan Diego, pray for us.” We dedicate the following article to him.
"Eagle that speaks"
In the year 1474, a boy was born in Aztec Mexico in the village of Cuautitlan, about seven miles from the capital of the Empire, then known as Tenochtitlan, today Mexico City.
He was named, Quauhtlatoatzin, or “Eagle that speaks.” His origin was humble and poor, yet this boy had been chosen by God to convey one of the greatest messages ever delivered to any nation.
Despite having reached the first degree of civilization with its cities and writing system, Mexico’s religion was satanically barbarous. In the words of one historian: “Nowhere else in human history has Satan so formalized and institutionalized his worship with so many of his own actual titles and symbols.” This was the old Empire of Mexico worshiping the “Lord of the Dark” and the “Stone Serpent,” requiring a quota of, at least, 50,000 human sacrifices each year.
When “Eagle that speaks” was thirteen years old, a sacrifice of no less than 80,000 victims was offered to inaugurate the greatest of all pyramids. As he witnessed these horrors, maybe the young boy sent up a prayer for the accomplishment of an old Mexican prophecy that, one day, a God who hated human sacrifice would reach Mexico. Oddly enough, this prophecy even specified the year and the date on which this God would arrive.
Sails on the horizon
The year by the Christian calendar was 1519; the day was a Good Friday. Montezuma II, then Emperor, a superstitious man, was on high alert because that was also the date in the Mexican prophecy.
If any Aztecs scanned the horizons of Mexico on that Good Friday morning, they saw eleven ships bearing great white sails marked by a black cross heading for their shore.
Commanded by the thirty-three-year-old Spaniard Hernan Cortes, the fleet anchored. Soon, at the captain’s orders, a cross was planted in the sand.
Hernan Cortes and his six hundred warriors were descendants of men who had battled Muslims for eight hundred years to free their beloved Spain from the dominion of Islam. It took all that bravery seething in their veins to tackle the monumental task that lay ahead of them: namely, to snatch fifteen million people from the darkness and oppression of a satanic regime and introduce them to the sweet yoke of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sinking his ships in a gesture of unparalleled bravery so as to spare his men the temptation to flee, Cortes set his face and his small army to conquer Mexico for the Faith. The next year saw a series of battles of biblical proportions, terrible defeats, renewed attacks, great feats of diplomacy resulting in solid alliances with certain native tribes, and daring coups. The odds were those of one against ten thousand but, like Emperor Constantine of old, Cortes launched his mission under the banner of the cross, telling his men: “Brothers and companions, let us follow the sign of the Cross with true faith and in it we shall conquer.”
At the end, Montezuma was dead, Mexico City had been conquered, a new government was established and churches began to rise in place of the old pagan temples.
Twelve Apostles
By this time, “Eagle that speaks” was a man entering middle age. He was married to a good woman and worked at farming, weaving mats, making furniture and anything else that would support them. He had an innate sweetness and compliant nature and a very humble disposition coupled with a quiet dignity.
One day, a few barefooted men in brown habits entered his village. They were Franciscans, a few from a group of twelve sent by Emperor Charles V of Spain for the evangelization of Mexico. These brave and zealous men had arrived in 1521, only two years after Cortes.
“Eagle that speaks” attentively listened to all they had to say and was soon bowing his head before one of them to receive the redeeming waters of Baptism. He was Christened Juan Diego. Baptized alongside him were his wife and uncle, who received the Christian names of Maria Lucia and Juan Bernardino. Juan Diego and his family were among the first natives to accept the Catholic Faith in Mexico. It was the year 1525.
After baptism, Juan Diego and Maria Lucia often continued to walk to Mass and instructions to the new church in Tlatelolco near Mexico City, about fifteen miles from their village.
Tepeyac Hill
On December 9, 1531, which was then the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Juan Diego again made his way among cactus plants and mesquite bushes to the Church at Tlatelolco near Mexico City as was his custom. He now covered the distance alone since his good wife had died two years before. He must have missed her sorely for he had moved to Tepotzotlan to be with his uncle.
Nearing Mexico City, Juan Diego always passed a hill called Tepeyac. Its summit had been the site of a former temple to the pagan “Mother God.”
This morning as he neared Tepeyac, he suddenly stopped, hearing ineffable music that seemed to come from the top of the hill. Juan strained his bewildered eyes as he looked upward in hopes of discovering the source of so delightful a melody. It was then that he saw a dazzling cloud, emblazoned by a brilliant rainbow. Suddenly the melody ceased altogether and he heard the sweetest of all feminine voices calling his name in his native Nahuatl: “Juantzin…”
The voice used the diminutive of his name and it is impossible to convey what that meant as far as affectionate expression. Maybe, in our English it would be something like: “My dear little John.”
Without fear, Juan Diego clambered up the 130-foot-high summit and found himself facing a lady of dazzling beauty. Her garments shone like the sun and the light streaming from her person transformed all nature around her into a play of color as if seen through a stained glass window. Even the smallest leaves looked like sparkling emeralds and turquoises and the tiniest branches as if dipped in gold.
The lady motioned for Juan Diego to approach and as he did so, she spoke:
“Listen, my dearest little son, Juan, where are you going?”
“My lady, my queen, my little girl,” answered the happy Indian, “I am going to your little house in Mexico-Tlatelolco, to follow the things of God that are taught to us by those who are the images of Our Lord, our priests.”
“Know for certain, my little son,” said the lady, “that I am the perfect ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the one true God…. I am your merciful mother, yours and of all the people who live united in this land, and of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry to me, of those who seek me and of those who trust in me. Here I will hear their weeping, their sorrow and will remedy and nurse all their troubles, their miseries, their suffering.”
Then she went on to ask Juan Diego to go to the Bishop of Mexico, Don Juan de Zumarraga, to ask him to build her a house on the hill. She finished by thanking him for his trouble and promising to reward him abundantly.
After some difficulty, Juan Diego saw Bishop Zumarraga who listened to him attentively but did not take him very seriously. The bishop dismissed him kindly, promising to think about all he had said and to see him again.
Knowing he had not convinced the prelate, Juan Diego returned to Tepeyac Hill and found the Mother of God waiting for him. At her feet, he told her all about the interview and begged her to send someone of more renown, of a higher station in life, one who would be more readily believed.
Our Lady replied affectionately: “Listen, my little son, I have many servants, many messengers… but it is most necessary that you go personally to plead, and that, through you, my will be realized… So, go and tell him once more, that it is I, the ever-virgin Holy Mary, I who am the Mother of God, who sends you.”
On the next day, a Sunday, Juan Diego returned to the bishop’s house. After much difficulty with the servants, he was received. Juan Diego again delivered his message. Bishop Zumarraga questioned him closely and finished by asking for a sign.
“Señor Governador,” answered Juan Diego, “think about what the sign you ask for will be, because then I will go to ask for it of the Queen of Heaven who sent me.”
Once Juan Diego left, Bishop Zumarraga had him followed. But near Tepeyac, his followers lost sight of him. Quite upset, they returned to the Bishop convinced that the Indian was only making up stories. So it was decided that when he returned he would be punished.
Meanwhile Juan Diego was with the Virgin explaining to her the bishop’s request for a sign.
“That’s fine, my little son, return here tomorrow so you may take to the bishop the sign which he asks. With this he will believe you and no longer doubt this and no longer suspect you. And know well, my little son, that I will reward you all the trouble and fatigue that you have undertaken for me. Go now. I will be waiting for you tomorrow.”
Juan evades the Virgin
But the next day, Juan Diego did not return. His uncle had sickened and was dying, so Juan spent all of Monday with him. On Tuesday, before dawn, the good Indian made his way to Mexico City to call a priest to give his uncle the last rites. Passing Tepeyac hill, he thought of skirting it so the Lady would not see him and stop him.
As he did so, however, he saw her coming down the hill to meet him.
“What’s wrong, my little son? Where are you going?”
Bending low, Juan Diego greeted her and wished her a good morning as he explained his uncle’s predicament.
“Listen, and place it deeply in your heart, my littlest son,” spoke the Queen of Heaven. “What frightens and worries you is nothing. Do not let it disturb you. Do not fear this sickness, or any other sickness, or any sharp and hurtful thing. Am I not here, your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you or disturb you; do not let your uncle’s illness upset you, because he will not die of it now. You may be certain that he is already well.”
Juan Diego, greatly comforted at these words, begged her, instead, to send him to the bishop with her sign. Then the Blessed Virgin told him to go to the top of the hill and gather the flowers he would find there.
Astonished at the beauty of the blooms miraculously growing in that spot, he gathered them all and returned to where the Lady awaited him. With feminine touch, she arranged them with her own hands inside his tilma, a cloak he wore to shield him from the cold, and bade him go to the bishop again.
The miracle
The servants at the gates of the bishop’s residence would not listen to the poor Indian’s entreaties to see Don Zumarraga. Juan Diego, having no other recourse, waited patiently for a long time. Seeing him standing there holding something in his tilma, the doorkeeper and servants became curious and began to harass him so that he let them have a peek.
Great was their amazement at the sight of the exquisite flowers, their perfume, and the fact that this was not at all the season for these blooms. Three times they tried to grab a few out of Juan Diego’s tilma but, as they attempted to do so, the flowers became as if painted on the cloth, thus evading their grasp.
The servants then ran to tell the bishop what they had seen. Hearing this, Don Zumarraga realized that here was the sign he had requested and had Juan Diego brought in immediately.
As soon as he entered the bishop’s chamber, Juan Diego prostrated himself in his presence and related to him all that had happened and how he had found these beautiful flowers blooming out of season on top of the hill at the Lady’s command.
The humble Indian then held out his tilma and just as the flowers cascaded to the floor, before all present, O marvel, there appeared on the cloth an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary just as Juan Diego had seen her.
Weeping and falling to his knees, Don Zumarraga, asked the Mother of God’s forgiveness for not having immediately carried out her will.
Then, untying the tilma from around Juan Diego’s neck, Bishop Zumarraga had the miraculous icon placed in his private chapel. 
Guadalupenos
As Juan Diego returned home, he found his uncle cured and ecstatic with joy because the Lady of Tepeyac had also appeared to him. On delivering him of his illness, she had also revealed her name: “Coatlaxopeuh,” or “she who crushes the serpent.” It soon was to be understood as Guadalupe.
Meanwhile, as Bishop Zumarraga prayed fervently before the miraculous image of the resplendent Virgin of Guadalupe, his heart overflowed with gratitude as he remembered a prayer of some time before.
Two of the first Spanish governors appointed to Mexico were cruel to the Indians. Other Spaniards in authority also had more heart for gold than the welfare of the natives. He, Zumarraga, eventually had these men ousted but, meanwhile, the Indians threatened to revolt. The Indians also felt that they had lost their identity on accepting the religion of the Spaniards. Before, despite the horrors of paganism, they were Aztecs. But now, what were they?
In his affliction, Bishop Zumarraga had asked for a sign of the Mother of God that she would protect the new colony. He had asked for Castillian roses not native to Mexico. And Castillian roses were the very flowers that had cascaded onto the floor as Juan Diego opened his tilma! And then the Mystical Rose herself had left her wondrous portrait.
Our Lady, by appearing to an Indian in the turquoise robes of Aztec royalty with their own brown features, had sent the whole of Mexico the message: “I am your Queen, your Mother and you are my very own.” The natives now had a place and a name: the place was the very heart of God’s own Mother and the name, Guadalupenos.
A chapel was soon built on Tepeyac Hill, to be followed by a great basilica. Former Aztec Indians began to flock there by the thousands with the result that in seventeen years the number of baptisms had catapulted from two hundred thousand to nine million.
Juan Diego spent the rest of his life by his beloved Virgin. He died in 1548 venerated by his people for his untiring service and solid virtue. To this day the greatest blessing of Mexican parents on their children is: “May God make you like Juan Diego.”
By A. F. Phillips

Feelings - with or without?

One single act done with aridity of spirit
is worth more
than many done with feelings of devotion.

St.  Francis de Sales

Pope St. Damasus I

Damasus is said to have been of Spanish origins, though he was born in Rome. Never married, he was a deacon until the death of Pope Liberius in 366 when his name was put forth for bishop of Rome.

Although his nomination was violently opposed, he was elected. As late as 378 he still had to clear himself of malicious slanders leveled at him by the opposition. He did so before Emperor Gratian and the Roman Synod.

Pope Damasus had to fight many heresies, but in 380 he had the satisfaction of seeing Theodosius I of the East and Gratian of the West proclaim Christianity, as professed by the bishops of Rome and Alexandria, the religion of the Roman State. Gratian, on the petition of the Christian Senators, and with the support of the Pope, had the altar of Victory removed from the senate. The young Emperor also laid aside the title of "Pontifex-Maximus" bestowing it upon Pope Damasus I, who became the first Pope in history to hold this title of "Supreme Pontiff."

St. Damasus is also remembered for his special care of the relics of the martyrs and of the catacombs of Rome that housed those relics. Dying on December 11, 384, he was, at first laid to rest in the cemetery of St. Callixtus. He had an epitaph placed on his tomb which ends thus:

I, Damasus, wished to be buried here,
but I feared to offend the ashes of these holy ones.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Our Lady of Loreto

The title "Our Lady of Loreto" is associated with the Holy House of Loreto in Italy, the house of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, miraculously transported by the angels from Palestine to Europe.

The house of the Holy Family in Nazareth has always been the object of Christian veneration. Shortly after 313, St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, built a basilica over this holy abode. The Saracens invaded the Holy Land in 1090, plundering and destroying Christian shrines, including Constantine’s basilica. Under the ruble, the Holy House was found intact. During the twelfth century, another basilica was built to protect the holy dwelling. In 1219 or 1220 St. Francis of Assisi visited the Holy House in Nazareth. So did King St. Louis IX of France, when he was leading a crusade to liberate the Holy Land. In 1263, when the Muslims overpowered the crusaders, the basilica was again destroyed but, once more, the Holy House was found intact.

When the crusaders where completely driven out of the Holy Land in 1291, the Holy House disappeared.

On May 10, 1291 a parish priest, Fr. Alexander Georgevich in the town of Tersatto, Dalmatia, (present-day Croatia) noticed the sudden appearance of a small building resting on a plot of land. Puzzled, he prayed about it, and in a dream saw the Blessed Virgin Mary, who explained that the structure was the house of the Holy Family, brought there by the power of God.

In 1294, with the Moslem invasion of Albania, the house disappeared again. According to the testimony of shepherds, it was seen on December 10 of that year born aloft by angels over the Adriatic Sea. This time the Holy House came to rest in a wooded area four miles from Recanati, Italy. As the news spread fast, thousands flocked there, and many miracles took place at the site.

Due to contrary circumstances, twice again the house was moved, finally coming to rest in the town of Loreto, Italy, its present location.

As miracles continued to occur in connection with pilgrimages to the house, deputations were sent to Nazareth to determine its origins in 1292, in 1296, and in 1524. All three declared that the measurements of the house corresponded to the visible foundations of the house of Nazareth.

In 1871 at the suggestion of Cardinal Bartolini, Professor Ratti of the University of Rome was given mortar and stones from the house at Loreto, and similar materials from houses in Nazareth. Ignorant of which was which, Prof. Ratti ascertained that the composition of the material from the house of Loreto while not original to Italy was identical to that of the material from Nazareth.

Other striking facts about the house in Loreto are that it has no foundations. The walls rest on a plot that was part field and part road, a sure indication that it was not built there but placed there. The style of the house of Loreto is not Italian but Eastern. And the original door was on the long side of the house, indicating that it was a dwelling and not a church.

Today a great basilica houses the dwelling of the holiest of families.  From 1330, practically all the Popes have considered Loreto the greatest shrine of Christendom. Bulls in favor of the shrine were issued by Pope Sixtus IV in 1491 and by Julius II in 1507. While the miracle of the translation of the house is not a matter of faith, Innocent XII, in the seventeenth century, appointed a special Mass for the Feast of the Translation of the Holy House. Numerous saints have visited the house-relic.

As pilgrims enter the small precinct, they read on the threshold, “Hic Verbum caro factum est” – “Here the Word became flesh”. Above the altar inside the holy house is an ancient statue of Our Lady holding the Infant Jesus, known as Our Lady of Loreto.

Surrender

To surrender oneself is more than to devote oneself,
more than to give oneself,

it is even something more than to abandon oneself to God.
In a word, to surrender oneself is to die to everything and to self,
to be no longer concerned with self
except to keep it continually turned toward God.


St. Marie-Victoire Couderc

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Beautiful Season of Advent




Advent, beginning with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew, November 30, is a season of preparation for the birth of Our Lord Jesus. Advent comprises four Sundays.
Just as Lent prepares us for the Passion of the Lord and Easter, Advent prepares us for the birth of the Lord, Christmas.
As opposed to Lent, which prepares our hearts focusing on the sufferings of Christ Jesus, Advent is a time of preparation that focuses on His birthday, the greatest ever. So although the liturgical season of Advent is still penitential in the sense of making our spirits ready, it carries a marked note of joy.




Any form of penitence or penance, which includes contrition, atonement and reparation, only has one purpose: to prepare the house (our hearts) for divine visitation. It’s what we call, “cleaning house”. We do it for any guest, and certainly for a divine Guest.
So the idea is to spiritually prepare for Christmas by a closer focusing on the marvelous mystery of the Nativity, by reading, meditation, prayer and the reception of the Sacraments: Confession and Holy Communion.


The Custom of the Advent Wreath
A great way to make Advent visual, palpable, and to involve children, is to make an Advent Wreath, a European custom that has lately grown popular in the US. The wreath includes four candles, one for each Sunday of Advent. Three of the candles are purple, symbol of penitence, and one is pink, symbol of joy.
The wreath is a symbol of God, because a circle has no beginning and no end. The decorations attached to the wreath symbolize the joy of the divine birth and salvation that approaches.
For the first week of Advent, one purple candle is lit every day before the evening meal and an accompanying prayer said. The flame, symbol of Christ, the Light of the World, stays lit during the meal.
All these symbolisms should be explained to children, as symbols are visual signs that make an invisible reality easier to grasp, take in, and make their own.
For the second week of Advent, another purple candle is lit, and the same procedure followed.
For the Third week of Advent the pink candle is lit in sync with the liturgical Gaudete Sunday or “Sunday of Joy” a kind of “break” the Church takes from the penitential spirit, as Christmas draws near. The same procedure follows.
And for the Fourth week of Advent the fourth purple candle is lit, in a last penitential gesture as the great day becomes imminent. The same procedure is kept.
An Advent wreath can be made or bought at any Catholic book/devotionals store, or googled for several options. The wreath can be decorated in a thousand ways, as simply or as creatively as wished.  Only make sure the holders are safe and each candle is extinguished after the meal and prayers.


By Andrea F. Phillips
References: Catholic Online, Wikipedia
Photo: by Andrea F. Phillips

How to obtain happiness

Happiness is secured through virtue;
it is a good attained by man’s own will.

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin

Juan Diego was born in Cuautlitlán – today part of Mexico City – in the year 1474 and given the name "Cuauhtlatoatzin" or "Eagle that speaks". He was a gifted member of the Chichimeca people, one of the more culturally advanced indigenous groups living in the Anáhuac Valley.

In 1524, at fifty years of age, Juan Diego was baptized with his wife Maria Lucia by one of the first Franciscan missionaries to arrive in Mexico, Fray Pedro de Gante. His religious fervor, his simple artlessness, and his respectful but gracious demeanor are among his defining characteristics. It is said that after their baptism, he and his wife, inspired by a sermon on the virtue of chastity, mutually decided to embrace this evangelical counsel by living celibately afterwards. After the 1529 death of his wife, Juan Diego moved to be near his aged uncle Juan Bernardino in Tolpetlac. Thereafter, the pious widower was in the habit of walking to the Franciscan mission at Tlatelolco for religious instruction and to perform his religious duties. His frequent journeys took him close by the hill at Tepeyac.

At daybreak on Saturday, December 9, 1531, Juan Diego was on his way to morning Mass as usual, when he suddenly heard the exquisite sound of many birds singing. The beautiful melody came from higher up the hill, and thinking himself transported to heaven, his whole being attracted by the sound, he let it draw him up the Tepeyac. When the birdsongs suddenly ceased, he heard his name called in his native Náhuatl language and he beheld a beautiful young maiden. She called him to come closer and Juan Diego, “filled with admiration for the way her perfect grandeur exceeded all imagination,” prostrated himself in her presence. With unutterable sweetness, she revealed her identity to him “… the ever-virgin Mary, Mother of the true God who gives life and maintains its existence. He created all things. He is in all places. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth.” She asked him to go to the bishop in Mexico City, Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga, and to request in her name that a shrine be built at Tepeyac, where she promised to pour out abundant graces upon those who invoked her.

After some difficulty in gaining admission to the bishop, the humble messenger recounted the marvels he had witnessed and delivered the lady’s message. However, the prelate’s response was discouraging and Juan Diego left downcast and disappointed.

The Queen of Heaven was waiting for him at the top of Tepeyac on his return that evening, and casting himself down he told her of his heart’s sorrow at meeting with incredulity on the part of the bishop and adds: “I beg you, my Lady, Queen, my little girl, to have one of the nobles who are held in esteem, one who is known, respected, honored, [have him] carry, take your dear breath, your dear word, so that he will be believed. Because I am really [just] a man from the country, I am a [porter’s] rope … a man of no importance: I myself need to be led, carried on someone’s back. That place you are sending me to is a place where I’m not used to going or spending any time in, my little Virgin, my Youngest Daughter, my Lady, Little girl.”

With great gentleness, she tells him that he is the one that must carry out this commission. And Juan Diego promises that he will return to the bishop the following day with her request.

Despite the obstacles posed by the bishop’s attendants, Juan Diego was again admitted into his presence. Don Juan de Zumárraga questioned the Indian kneeling before him thoroughly but remained unmoved by the man’s account. Not on his word alone would he believe, he told him, a sign must be given to prove that the apparition was indeed from heaven.

Undaunted by the prelate’s request, he returns to Tepeyac to convey it to Our Lady, who asks him to return in the morning that she might give it to him. During the night, however, Juan Diego’s sick uncle worsens and it is clear that he is dying. Shortly after midnight, his nephew sets off for Tlatilolco to summon one of the priests that he might confess and prepare for death.

Not wanting to meet the beautiful Lady, who would surely want to send him to the bishop with the “proof” he had requested, he hurried along, set on his task. But the Queen of Heaven came down to meet him and gently chiding him she asked, “What is happening, youngest and dearest of all my sons? Where are you going, where are you headed?” Humbling himself before her, he told her of his uncle’s grave illness and his need for a priest to assist him. She assured him that the illness was not grave and that he had nothing to fear on that account. Her solicitude filled him with joy and consolation: “Am I not here, I, who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you; do not let your uncle’s illness pressure you with grief, because he will not die of it now. You may be certain that he is already well…” And, as they later found out, his uncle became well at that very moment.

Full of confidence, Juan Diego begged her to send him immediately to the bishop with the sign she had promised. The Blessed Mother told him to climb the hill and to pick the flowers that he would find there. He obeyed, and although it was winter time and the frost at that time of year was very harsh, he found flowers of many kinds, in full bloom. Astonished, he cut and gathered the fragrant blossoms and took them to Our Lady who carefully arranged them in his mantle – the rough-woven “tilma” worn by his people – and told him to take them to the bishop as "proof". When he opened his tilma to show the bishop the profusion of blooms, the flowers fell to the ground, and there remained impressed upon his cloak an image of the Blessed Mother, the apparition at Tepeyac.

With the Bishop's permission, Juan Diego lived the rest of his life as a hermit in a small hut near the chapel where the miraculous image was placed for veneration. Here he cared for the church and the first pilgrims who came to pray to the Mother of Jesus. He died in 1548 and was buried in the first chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. He was beatified on May 6, 1990 by Pope John Paul II in the Basilica of Santa Maria de Guadalupe in Mexico City and canonized by him on July 31, 2002.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Not changeable, fretful, scrupulous or timid

True devotion to our Lady is constant.
It strengthens us in our desire to do good and
prevents us from giving up our devotional practices too easily.
It gives us the courage to oppose the fashions and maxims of the world,
the vexations and unruly inclinations of the flesh
and the temptations of the devil.

Thus a person truly devoted to our Blessed Lady
is not changeable, fretful, scrupulous or timid.

St. Louis de Montfort

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

The Catholic Church teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived, that is, from the time of her conception in her mother’s womb, she was free from the stain of the original sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. This is a singular privilege of Mary Most Holy, applicable to no other human being.

By disobeying God’s command to refrain from eating of the tree of knowledge, Adam and Eve forfeited their original holiness, their innocence and integrity (Genesis 2-3). They lost sanctifying grace, and human nature became “wounded”. Whereas before original sin our nature’s lower powers, passions and instincts were easily ruled by reason and the spirit, after original sin these same powers, passions and instincts became weakened and rebellious (CCC 396-309). Because Adam and Eve were the “seed” of the great human tree, every human being’s nature is tainted in that seed, although without personal guilt.

But it was only right that one human creature, the one chosen to be the New Ark of the Covenant, the tabernacle of the living God, should be sinless from the start. Two passages in Scriptures support this claim: Genesis 3:15 and Luke 1:28.

Genesis 3:15 mentions that “enmity” would be placed between the serpent and “the Woman”. Sin of any kind is subjection to Satan, and if “the Woman”, interpreted by the Church as Mary, was to have nothing in common with him, she had to be sinless.

In Luke 1:28, the angel calls Mary “full of Grace” pointing to the fact that she had never lacked grace.

Throughout the centuries, several were the antagonists and protagonists of this doctrine. There were saints and sages on both sides of the debate. In the thirteenth century, Venerable Duns Scotus was one of the most brilliant advocates of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. His is the beautiful argument that if Our Lord Jesus, as God, was capable of exempting his Mother from the original stain, He would certainly, as a loving Son, have done it.

In 1598 Pope St. Pius V included the feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Roman breviary. In 1846 the Sixth Provincial Council of Baltimore declared Mary Immaculate patroness of the United States.

But it was only in 1854 that Blessed Pope Pius IX solemnly proclaimed, as Church Dogma, the doctrine that Mary was, indeed, exempt from original sin and immaculately conceived.

In 1858 in Lourdes, in the final apparition to young Bernadette Soubirous, Our Lady electrified the world when she said,  “I am the Immaculate Conception”, thus echoing Blessed Pius IX’s infallible declaration.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Prayer to the Immaculate Conception


Allow me to praise Thee, O most holy Virgin Mary, with my personal commitment and sacrifice.
Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for Thee, just for Thee.
Allow me to bring the whole world to Thee.
Allow me to contribute to your ever-greater exaltation, to Thine greatest possible exaltation.
Allow me to give Thee such glory that no one else has ever given up to now.
Allow others to surpass me in zeal for Thine exaltation and me to surpass them, so that by means of such noble rivalry, your glory may increase ever more profoundly, ever more rapidly, ever more intensely as He Who has exalted Thee so indescribably, above all other beings Himself desires.   Amen

By Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe

Speaking of...

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. 
When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. 
When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. 
When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ.
When we speak about truth and life and redemption,
we are speaking of Christ.

St. Ambrose of Milan

St. Ambrose of Milan

Ambrose was born into a Christian family. His father was a Prefect of Gaul and his mother a pious lady. Both his brother, Satyrus, and his sister, Marcellina, are canonized saints.

By the age of thirty-three, Ambrose was an accomplished lawyer, the Governor of Milan and owner of a large estate. Though confessedly of Christian persuasion, he was not as yet baptized.

In the last quarter of the fourth century, many heresies harassed the Church. Perhaps, one of the most virulent was that of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. When the bishop of Milan, an Arian, died in 374, party strife broke out in the city. Some citizens demanded an Arian bishop be appointed to succeed him, others an orthodox Catholic one.

Walking into an angry assembly which had convened in a church, Governor Ambrose began to appeal that they settle things more peaceably. Suddenly a voice shouted, “Ambrose for bishop!” and the cry was taken up by the crowd.

Ambrose ran and hid in the house of a senator friend. The Emperor, however, insisted that the governor accept the responsibility and he ultimately submitted. Many expected him to rule as an Arian, but the same stubbornness with which he had resisted the ecclesiastical appointment, he now employed in serving the Truth.

He began by assiduously applying himself to the study of Holy Scriptures and theology, his knowledge of Greek greatly facilitating his studies. Eventually, he who had begun as a jurist succeeded as a theologian. A great orator, he influenced the conversion of St. Augustine of Hippo, who was impressed with his erudition on sacred themes, and mentions the illustrious bishop in his Confessions.

Adopting a personal life of simplicity and hard work, Ambrose devoted himself entirely to the service of his flock. Throughout his episcopate he was loving and strong, protecting his flock against Arianism, paganism, and the demands of rulers who gave their allegiance to the Arian heresy. Several times he heroically refused to hand over the churches to the Arian Empress Justina, regent for her young son, Valentinian II. He prevailed every time.

Despite his differences with the empress, as a statesman, he was called twice to advocate the cause of Justina with Magnus Maximus, a former military man, who had usurped the power in Gaul and who wished to take the reins of government in Italy as well. The first time Ambrose prevailed, the second time Maximus went ahead with the take-over. When he invaded Milan, Ambrose melted Church gold plate to relieve the sufferers.

Theodosius I, Emperor of the East came to the aid of Italy, and regained power from Maximus. Though St. Ambrose confronted him severely on some issues, they had a good relationship.

Ambrose ruled not only with great administrative ability, but also ranks with Sts. Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great as one of the greatest theologians and Doctors of the Church.

He died on April 4, 397 and his body is venerated in the Church of Sant'Ambrogio in his city of Milan.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

For fear

The people of this world are wary of evil-doing
for fear of temporal punishment.
How much more, then, should they be wary for fear of
the punishment of Hell, which is greater,
both in respect to its severity and in respect to its manifold nature:
Remember thy last end, and thou shall never sin.”

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Nicholas of Bari

Nicholas is thought to have been born in Patara, Lycia, a province of Asia Minor. Myra was the capital, close to the ocean, and an episcopal see. When the see became vacant, Nicholas was chosen bishop and became famous and beloved for his extraordinary piety, zeal and many astonishing miracles.

He suffered imprisonment for his faith and made a glorious confession during the persecution of Diocletian.

He was also present at the Council of Nicaea and there condemned Arianism. St. Methodius asserts that thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas, Myra alone was untouched by the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Legend has it that the tradition of gift giving attached to St. Nicholas comes from the fact that he once helped a father and his three daughters. Hearing that they were destitute, and therefore could find no husbands, he slipped a bag of gold through the family’s window under the cover of darkness. At intervals, he did the same for the second and third girl, saving all three from a life of want and shame.

Nicholas died and was buried in his city of Myra, and by the time of Justinian, there was already a basilica built in his honor in Constantinople. Later, his relics were moved to the city of Bari, Italy, and many miracles were attributed to his intercession.

The devotion to St. Nicholas spread not only in the East but also in the West, and his image was amply reproduced, second only to that of Our Lady. In the later Middle Ages, there were nearly four hundred churches in England alone dedicated to him. In the East, St. Nicholas is venerated as patron of sailors, and in the West, of children.

In several European countries he is beloved as the pre-Christmas “gift giver”. The modern “Santa Claus” is a secular corruption of the saint.

Impossible

It is impossible to save one's soul
without devotion to Mary
and without her protection.

Saint Anselm, Doctor of the Church

St. Sabas

Sabas was born in Cappadocia, the son of an army officer, who transferring to Alexandria, took with him his wife and left Sabas with his brother-in-law, who was also left in charge of the estate. His uncle’s wife treated Sabas so harshly that when he was eight he ran away to another uncle, Gregory, his father’s brother. As guardian of the boy, Gregory thought he should also run the estate, and trouble ensued. Upset, Sabas, who was of a quiet disposition, ran away again, this time to a monastery.

At the age of thirty, he obtained leave to live as a hermit five days of the week, and later retired into further solitude in the desert towards Jericho. After four years in the wilderness, hearing of his holiness, disciples began to flock to him, and, eventually, a monastery was established. St. Sabas was ordained a priest in 491 to minister the sacraments to his monks.

After the death of Sabas' father, his mother moved to Palestine and lived under her son’s direction. With the money his mother brought, he built three hospitals and a monastery.

In 511 when the holy abbot was seventy years old, Elias the Patriarch of Jerusalem sent him to Emperor Anastasius who was supporting the Eutychian heresy and persecuting the orthodox bishops.  But Anastasius was obdurate and contrived to have Elias deposed, exiled and replaced. For several years Sabas traveled, preaching and bringing those who had strayed back to the true faith and right living.

In his ninety-first year, he again traveled to Constantinople, this time to iron out trouble that had arisen in connection with a Samaritan revolt. This time he was successful and had the good will of Emperor Justinian who wished to lavish funds on his monastery. Instead, Sabas asked for a remission of taxes in favor of the Palestinians in consideration of what they had suffered on account of the Samaritans.

Back at his monastery, and feeling himself ailing, he appointed his successor and then spent four days in silence preparing to meet his Maker. On the evening of December 5, 532 he departed to Him Whom he had served since his boyhood.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The test of love

He who limits himself
to performing only what is his obligation
does not love. 

St. Peter Julian Eymard

St. John Damascene

John Damascene was born in Damascus, then under Muslim rule. Though imposing a poll tax and other conditions upon the Jews and Christians, the Muslims of Damascus were, for the most part, tolerant, allowing both Jews and Christians to occupy important posts, and amass fortune.

Among the officials at the khalif’s court in 675 was a Christian called John, chief of the revenue department. The father of our saint, he was surnamed al-Mansur by the Arabs, a name the family carried.

The younger John was born around 690, baptized in infancy, and, as he grew, had a tutor named Cosmas, a wise man of letters, whom the Arabs had brought back from Sicily among other captives. Young John had an adopted brother also called Cosmas, and both became the pupils of the Sicilian sage, who taught them the natural sciences and theology.

John succeeded his father in his office at the court and worked there, free to practice his Faith, and respected for his virtues. After some years, he resigned his post, and, with his brother Cosmas, joined the monastery of St. Sabas.

As monks, John and Cosmas used their spare time to write books and poetry, which occupation rather scandalized their brethren.

Better appreciated by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, John V, the brothers joined his clergy. Cosmas was eventually consecrated bishop of Majuma serving his flock admirably, and also reaching sainthood. John, after being ordained, served for a while in Jerusalem, but then returned to his monastery. He wrote extensively in defense of icons against the iconoclasts, incurring the ill will of upholders of the heresy in high places.

St. John wrote works of theology and poetry at St. Sabas where he died a very old man.

He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1890.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Prayer to the Immaculate Conception


Allow me to praise Thee, O most holy Virgin Mary, with my personal commitment and sacrifice.
Allow me to live, work, suffer, be consumed and die for Thee, just for Thee.
Allow me to bring the whole world to Thee.
Allow me to contribute to your ever-greater exaltation, to Thine greatest possible exaltation.
Allow me to give Thee such glory that no one else has ever given up to now.
Allow others to surpass me in zeal for Thine exaltation and me to surpass them, so that by means of such noble rivalry, your glory may increase ever more profoundly, ever more rapidly, ever more intensely as He Who has exalted Thee so indescribably, above all other beings Himself desires.   Amen
By Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe

Not the actual physical exertion

It is not the actual physical exertion that counts toward a man’s progress,
nor the nature of the task,
but the spirit of faith with which it is undertaken.

St. Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier

Francis Xavier was born in the Castle of Xavier, in Navarre, Spain. The youngest of a large noble family linked to Spanish royalty, he had ambitious dreams, and at eighteen set out to study law at the University of Paris. Good-looking, intelligent, charming and high born, young Xavier had the world at his feet.

Having earned his licentiate, he one day met a man, conspicuous for his age among such a young class; a man who had the look of a soldier, yet the air of a hermit. Like himself, he was a nobleman from Northern Spain. His name, Ignatius of Loyola.

Ignatius had recently made a profound conversion, had spent a long time in solitude and was now studying Latin in preparation for the priesthood. He was also feeling the call to found a new company of men, soldiers willing to fight for the kingdom of Christ on earth.

Detecting in Xavier the seeds of greatness, Ignatius endeavored to turn Xavier’s worldly ambition heavenward. Every time the two met, Ignatius commented, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, if, in the end he loses his soul?”

In the end, Xavier was among the first seven men who vowed themselves to the service of God at Montmartre in 1534, the first members of the Company of Jesus, or Jesuits.

Appointed as a missionary to the East Indies in 1541, Francis Xavier finally arrived in Goa after a grueling sea voyage lasting thirteen months. He had also been constituted by the Pope as Apostolic Nuncio to the East.

At his missionary post, Francis Xavier was untiring in the pursuit of souls, ministering not only to the natives of India and the Malabar Coast, but to the Portuguese colonizers of the area, who, at times, had lapsed into scandalous conduct. His unquenchable zeal was also full of charitable tact and he made people feel he was one of them. With the learned he was learned, with those in authority he was a statesman, with the simple he was simple, and with the poor he was poor.  His charity and charm were irresistible, and his power of miracles amazing. For people ignorant of the Faith, he fit the truths of religion to popular tunes that spread all over. He once baptized so many in a day, he could hardly lift his arms.

In 1549, hearing of the island of Japan, which had never been introduced to Christ, he set out with a Jesuit priest, a lay brother, and three Japanese converts. Learning Japanese in a short time, and realizing that evangelical poverty did not have the same appeal in Japan as in India, he presented himself and his retinue to the authorities as representatives of Portugal. They wore fine clothes and offered costly gifts, provided by the authorities of India. St. Francis Xavier planted in Japan the first seeds of Christianity.

In 1553 Xavier fulfilled another great dream, that of reaching China. Prevented by a fever from reaching the mainland itself, he died within sight of it, on the island of Sancian. He was only forth-six years old. His body, found incorrupt despite having been laid in lime, was brought back to Malacca where it was received with great honors. Later translated to Goa, it is incorrupt to this day.

Francis Xavier was canonized in 1622 with Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and Isidore the Farmer. In 1927, Pope Pius XI declared St. Francis Xavier and the then newly-canonized St. Thérèse of Lisieux, patron Saints of all Catholic foreign missions.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Where are they?

A society that needs healing and regeneration will receive it mostly
from the innocent.
The pure can look on the impure without contempt.
It was Divine Innocence Who asked of a sinful woman:
Where are they who accused you?” (John 8:10)

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

St. Chromatius of Aquileia

Chromatius was brought up in the city of Aquileia, at the head of the Adriatic Sea. In all likelihood, he was probably born here as well. His father died when he was young, and he lived with his widowed mother, older brother and unmarried sisters. His mother had the good opinion of St. Jerome, which the saint expressed in a letter to her in 374. His brother also became a bishop.

After his ordination, Chromatius took part in the synod against Arianism in 381. Later, as bishop, he rooted Arianism out of his diocese.

He baptized the monk, theologian, and historian, Rufinus in his early manhood.

On the death of St. Valerian in 388, Chromatius was elected bishop of Aquileia, and became one of the most distinguished prelates of his time.

Situated at one of the busiest crossroads of the Roman Empire, Aquileia was a major center of trade and commerce. Under Chromatius' care, guidance and influence it also became renowned as a center of learning and orthodoxy.

He kept up an extensive correspondence with both Sts. Ambrose and Jerome and also with Rufinus.  A scholarly theologian himself, Chromatius encouraged the Bishop of Milan to write exegetical works, and St. Jerome in his own writings. He helped St. Heliodorus of Altino to finance St. Jerome’s translation of the Bible.  It was also owing to Chromatius’ encouragement that Rufinus undertook the translation of Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History and other works.

He acted as mediator in a dispute that arose between St. Jerome and Rufinus concerning the writings of Origen. He also wrote to Emperor Honorius in defense of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, over his troubles with the bishop of Alexandria and the Empress Aelia Eudoxia, who resented Chrysostom’s denouncements of extravagance. Though Honorius wrote to his brother Emperor Arcadius in Constantinople, the intervention had no effect.

Chromatius was also an active exegete. Seventeen of his treatises on St. Matthew’s Gospel survive, as well as a fine homily on the Eight Beatitudes. Chromatius died about the year 407.

Photo Credit: GFreihalter

Friday, December 1, 2017

Something of a miracle

The world is so corrupt that it seems almost inevitable 
that religious hearts be soiled, if not by its mud, at least by its dust. 
It is something of a miracle for anyone to stand firm 
in the midst of this raging torrent and not be swept away... 
It is Mary, the singularly faithful Virgin over whom Satan had never
any power,
who works this miracle for those who truly love her. 


St. Louis de Montfort