Friday, January 19, 2018

Enough exhortations!

We’ve had enough of exhortations to be silent!
Cry out with a hundred thousand tongues.
I see that the world is rotten
because of silence.

St. Catherine of Siena

St. Wulfstan of Worcester

Wulfstan (Wulstan) was a native of Warwickshire, England.  After his priestly ordination, he became a novice at the monastery of Worcester where he edified all by the innocence and sanctity of his life. He was assiduous at prayer, often watching all night in church.

The first task assigned to him at the monastery was the instruction of children, then treasurer and eventually - though against his fierce resistance - he was made prior. In 1062, he was elected Bishop of Worcester.

Wulfstan was a powerful preacher, often moving his audience to tears.

To his vigorous action is particularly attributed the suppression of the heinous practice among the citizens of Bristol of kidnapping men into slavery and shipping them over to Ireland. St. Patrick who became the great apostle and patron of the Irish was such a slave in his youth.

After the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror was initially uncertain about Wulfstan. But acknowledging his capacity and uprightness, Wulfstan was the only bishop William retained at his post under the new rule.

For the next thirty years Wulfstan rebuilt his cathedral, cared for the poor and put forth great effort in alleviating the harsh decrees of the Normans upon the vanquished Saxons. Whenever the English complained of the oppression of the Normans, Wulfstan told them: “This is a scourge of God for our sins, which we must bear with patience.”

The saintly bishop died on January 19 at eighty-seven years of age after washing the feet of a dozen poor men, a humble ritual he performed daily. He was canonized in 1203.
Photo by: Christopher Guy

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Life without struggle

To live without faith,
without a patrimony to defend,
without a steady struggle for truth,
that is not living, but existing.

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassatti

St. Prisca

There are actually three St. Priscilla’s who lived in the first few centuries of the Church – all of whom were martyrs – and two of them share the same feast day of January 18! It is the virgin martyr St. Prisca that the Church primarily celebrates today though.

Prisca was born of a noble family in Rome during the reign of Claudius II. Most likely a Christian from birth, she was arrested during the persecutions when she was a young teenager and brought before the Emperor for questioning. Despite her youth, Prisca courageously proclaimed and upheld her Catholic Faith, even though she knew that by doing so in those days was ultimately the pronouncement of her own death sentence.

She suffered terrible tortures, one of which was being taken to the arena to be devoured by wild beasts. Rather than devour her though, the lions are said to have licked her feet! Finally, she was taken outside the city walls and beheaded. Legend tells us that when she was martyred, a great eagle appeared above her and protected her body for several days until the Christians were able to retrieve it.

The young martyr was buried in the Catacomb of St. Priscilla - the catacomb named after the St. Priscilla, wife of a Roman senator, who shares the same feast day of January 18 with the child-martyr, Prisca. She is said to have opened her home near the catacomb to Christians and to have befriended St. Peter who used her home as his headquarters in Rome. She was martyred during the reign of Emperor Domitian. As an interesting fact, there is probable speculation that this St. Priscilla was a family relation of the child-martyr St. Prisca, who is buried in her catacomb.

The third  St. Priscilla was a disciple of St. Paul and wife of the Jewish tentmaker, Aquila.

St. Margaret of Hungary

Margaret of Hungary was the daughter of King Bela IV, a champion of Christendom, and Maria Laskarina, a pious Byzantine princess. Bella IV being the brother of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Margaret was the saintly Queen of Hungary’s blood niece.

King Bela and his queen, worried about an impeding Tartar invasion, vowed to dedicate to God the child they were expecting. Bela was victorious over the Tartars, and little Margaret was taken to the Dominican monastery at Vezprem at the age of three.

The child thrived in her new surroundings. By age four she had memorized the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At age ten she was moved to a convent built for her by her father on an island – today named Margaret Island – on the Danube near Buda and there she professed her vows at age twelve.

King Ottokar II of Bohemia having seen Margaret at eighteen years of age, ignoring her religious habit, sought her in marriage. A dispensation would have been possible in this case, and King Bela seemed to favor the prospect for political reasons. Yet, Margaret adamantly refused declaring she would have no other bridegroom than Jesus Christ, and would rather cut off her nose and lips.

Margaret’s was a life of astounding penance, prayer and charity toward the poor. To avoid preferential treatment in the convent because of her royal rank, she sought the most menial tasks to the point that a maid once said that she was humbler than a servant.
Her body worn out by the fatigue of long hours of labor, fasting and prayer, Margaret died at the age of twenty-eight on January 18, 1270. The virtuous princess was universally venerated as a saint from the time of her death.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rachel, Why Do You Cry?

By Andrea F. Phillips

A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and great mourning;
Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted... Matt 2:18

Watching a pro-life documentary the other day, I was deeply moved as girl after girl, woman after woman, and professional after professional gave heart-wrenching testimonies of the emotional, spiritual and psychological devastation our women, our modern “Rachels,” undergo in this culture of abortion.
How did we get here? Why in the name of freedom, liberation, rights and choice are girls and women so battered?

“It Wasn’t My Choice”
One professional said, “Women are offered abortion in the name of ‘choice,’ yet the overwhelming answer to the question, “Why did you do it?” is, “It wasn’t my choice.”
And another young woman, her face a torrent of tears said, “Everyone pushed me. And, in the end, I killed my child so everyone else could feel free.”

What We Have Lost
As a young girl, Dad took me out to the garden bench one morning. It wasn’t every day that I got to have a private interview with my father, so I fixed my brown eyes on his face, and missed nothing of what he said. He spoke of young womanhood, and of beauty as something proceeding from the soul, rather than from a lot of make-up, clothes and trinkets. He spoke of the Blessed Mother as a model for girls, a woman true to her inner star, contrary to what the world promoted.
Child that I was, I only captured fragments of his meaning, except that I knew that some things in my life were about to go the way of the TV–out the window. But I wasn’t worried. Dad knew best.
As it turned out, my sisters and I were homeschooled. We painted paper dolls, studied art and music, learned cooking and baking, raised a garden, loved the library, read lots of books, put on marionette shows, watched select movies, played with friends, learned our Catholic Faith inside out, and frequented the Sacraments–a life-style the world called “restrictive.”

Meeting the World
And then the time came to start driving and working.
At my first job, I worked with women who wore little, swore plenty, and headed for bars after work. There were the stories of boyfriends, and sex, and cheating, and divorce, and drugs and alcohol, and hangovers.
Then little sister came home one day wide-eyed from nursing school.
“We studied STDs today, and you will not believe the amount of such diseases every single one of those girls have had. I felt like an angel.”
And then there was another sister taking English in college. One day the professor showed the class pictures of obscene sculptures claiming that these were the artist’s way of dealing with the “Catholic Church’s obsession with sex.” Up shot her hand, “Sorry, Sir, but it seems to me that you are, rather, talking of the artist’s obsession with the subject?”

Thanks, Mother Church!
In our “sheltered” Catholic home, while we were taught about the “birds and the bees,” the subject was only one among many. Though in our “restrictive” lifestyle we learned the moral code that regulated sexual behavior, we handled rising hormones by steering our thoughts and desires to positive, engaging activities, prayer and the Sacraments.
Interaction with boys was always in familial, communal settings, and while marriage was a great, exciting ideal, we were taught that it was the most serious commitment we’d ever make–and thus we must prepare.
We dressed modestly not out of prudishness but because there was nothing more precious than a girl’s body, latent seat of life–and what was sacred was veiled. Yet mother, in her common sense and good taste, taught us style, and to use make-up to enhance, rather than to cover; jewelry to add, rather than to glare.
Far from “sheltered” or “restricted,” I remember at fifteen feeling cherished, respected – free. To arrive at my wedding aisle anything but a virgin was unthinkable. I had a mind full of ideals, a heart full of God’s life-giving principles, and a soul on fire with idealism. I wanted to be an asset to the world, to use my talents to help build something beautiful.

An Anti-Woman Culture
Unfortunately, “beautiful” is not what awaited the majority of my gender, for the culture of “emancipation” is, ultimately, battering to women.
As my life went on, with everything “free,” from free love to women’s lib, I witnessed the breakdown of the last vestiges of modesty and dignity in fashions; the destruction of the last ethical barricades. With these trends came teen pregnancy, failed contraception, abortion, STDs, anorexia, bulimia, substance abuse, and suicide.
As a result of all this “liberation,” countless girls became the sad victims of the “culture of emancipation” turned “culture of death”–many as young as eleven or twelve–about the age I was when Dad talked to me on that garden bench.
Generous souls started organizations such as Rachel’s Vineyard and countless other institutions. Their goal: to either convince single moms to have their babies, or to provide support for them, after family, friends or boyfriends dropped them off at abortion clinics, and the psychological, emotional trauma of the aftermath threatened to engulf them.
Gently, with heart-warming charity, these organizations seek to pick up the crushed, crumpled, tear-stained forms and, speaking to them of love and forgiveness, endeavor to return them to their beautiful, confident, glowing selves.

Woman’s Nature v. Lies of the Culture
A woman is made amazing. Hers is a nature so lofty that she instinctively understands that love is nurturing, and is, therefore, sacrificial. All she asks is to love and be loved so she can love forever. And what is greater, more selfless, stronger, more inspiring and propulsive than sacrificial love?
Hers is a mind so quick and intuitive, that she perceives things way before they’ve been spelled out. A true woman has the natural combination that is the spark of genius: heart and intuition.
But the culture lies to today’s growing girl. The culture tells her she must be ashamed of her femininity, and of her maternal instinct. She is told that compared to men, her femininity is weakness, and in light of the culture, her maternal instincts misguided. Unless she succeeds in the corporate world, she is a failure, and homes and children are only for the under-achieved woman.
Logically thus, since her body is not necessarily or primarily made to give life, but for pleasure and sexual satisfaction, she is told to show it off, to use it to her maximum “advantage”– out with the blushing bride, in with the voyeur.
But what the culture never tells the growing girl today is that the blushing bride calls man to his noblest; the “voyeur” to his basest. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “So goes the dignity of women, so goes the dignity of a nation.”
My mother’s version was, “Girls, sit on your mountain top and if he is worth his salt, he will climb it.”
What has more power–the ability to command or the ability to influence? Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand, eminent Catholic philosopher and lady, answers genially: “Command changes actions. Influence changes beings.”
And what is a woman’s greatest genius but that of influence? And what is the greatest secret of that genius but true, disinterested, sacrificial love that doesn’t care for recognition but for results: the good of those she loves.

To Dry Rachel’s Tears
It is time fathers again become teachers, guides and protectors of their daughters and give them the religious/philosophical principles that will aid them to choose husbands wisely. It is time fathers take their daughters to the garden bench; better still, on occasional dates to show how a gentleman treats a lady. It is time fathers take the initiative of countering the culture of death with the life-giving culture of Christ.
This Christ-centered enculturation must be done intelligently, insightfully, with common sense, but also with strength. Above all, it is time fathers give their daughters the supreme example of faith and virtue, first by example and then by doctrine. To a girl, a godly father is indeed, next to God. Brown, blue or green eyes will be raised to his face unflinchingly seeking to be convinced by his conviction.
It’s time mothers teach their girls modesty, purity, culture, manners, the arts of the home, and their priceless worth as the pearls of great price of society. It’s time the “lady” (layman’s term for “princess”) returns. It’s time that again a nation follows the dignity of its women. It’s time that knights again climb mountain tops to meet their ladies.
It’s time that we teach our daughters and sons how to prepare for founding Christian homes, homes where every baby is welcomed, cherished and raised, and yes, then yes, no child will be left behind.
It’s time that we stand in the gap for the preciousness of our young women, and teach our girls to see through the great LIE, and then, only then will our Rachels no longer cry.

Truth must be loved

People hate the truth
for the sake of whatever it is they love more than the truth.
They love truth when it shines warmly upon them
and hate it
when it rebukes them.

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Anthony of Egypt

Anthony was born in 251 in the village of Koman, south of Memphis in Egypt. Anthony’s well-to-do parents died before he was twenty leaving him in charge of a younger sister, and the owner of a considerable estate.

In 272, wishing to leave all to follow Christ, after securing his sister’s support and upbringing, he distributed his holdings among the poor, and retired to a life of solitude. He lived a life of penance, sleeping on a rush mat on the bare floor, eating and drinking bread and water. The devil was allowed to attack him grievously, on one occasion subjecting him to a beating that left him for dead, only to be saved by friends.  Anthony emerged victorious from all these trials.

At the age of thirty-five, the holy hermit moved from his solitude in the vicinity of his native village, to a location across the eastern branch of the river Nile where he made his abode in some ruins on the summit of a mountain. There he lived for twenty years, rarely seeing any man except one who brought him bread every so often.

St. Athanasius, his friend and first biographer, speaks of Anthony as not only spending his time in prayer and meditation but also in making mats. He also gardened.

At fifty-four, being sought out by men who wanted to follow his way of life, Anthony founded his first monastery in Fayum in a series of scattered caves, which he visited occasionally.

In 311 as religious persecution again broke out under Emperor Maximinus, Anthony left his solitude to give courage to the martyrs in Alexandria. When the persecution abated, he returned to his previous solitude. He later founded another community of monks near the Nile called Pispir, though he continued to live on his mountain.

Years later, at the request of the bishops, Anthony again journeyed to Alexandria to confute the Arians, who denied the divinity of Christ. All ran to hear the holy hermit, and even pagans, struck by the dignity of his character, flocked around him. Heathen teachers and philosophers often sought him out, and were astounded at his meekness and wisdom.

Anthony died at age 101 surrounded by his spiritual sons in his hermitage on Mount Kolsim. His last words were, “Farewell, my children, Anthony is departing and will no longer be with you.” Thus saying, he stretched out his feet and calmly ceased to breathe.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The first step to loving Jesus

If you really want to love Jesus, first
learn to suffer, because
suffering teaches you to love.

St. Gemma Galgani

St. Honoratus of Arles

Honoratus was born into a patrician Roman family that had settled in Gaul, present-day France. As a young man, he renounced paganism and won his elder brother Venantius over to Christ.

Although their father objected and placed obstacles before them, the two brothers decided to leave the world. Under the tutelage of the hermit St. Caprasius they sailed from Marseilles with the intention of leading a secluded life in a Grecian desert.

In Greece, illness struck and Venantius died in peace. Also ill, Honoratus was obliged to return to Gaul with his instructor. At first, he lived as a hermit in the mountains near Fréjus.  Later, he settled on the island of Lérins off the southern coast of France. Followed by others, he founded a monastery on the island about the year 400. The monastic community is active to this day. St. Patrick, the great apostle of Ireland is said to have studied at Lérins.

In 426 Honoratus was pressed upon to accept the bishopric of Arles, where he reestablished Catholic orthodoxy, challenged by the Arian heresy. He died three years later exhausted from his apostolic labors.
The island of Lérins, today the island of Saint Honorat just south of Cannes, is home to Cistercian monks who live in a majestic monastery and produce fine wines and liqueurs which are well-known throughout the world.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Why God sends us trials and afflictions

God sends us trials and afflictions
to exercise us in patience and
teach us sympathy with the sorrows of others.

St. Vincent de Paul

St. Ita of Killeedy

Among the women saints of Ireland, St. Ita holds the most prominent place after St. Brigid. She is sometimes called Deirdre.

Though her life is overlaid with a multitude of legendary and mythical folklore, there is no reason to doubt her historical existence.

She is said to have been of royal descent and that she had been born near Waterford in the southeastern Irish province of Munster.

There was a royal suitor but through prayer and fasting she was able to convince her father to let her live a consecrated life of virginity. She migrated to Hy Conaill, in the western part of County Limerick where, at Killeedy, she founded a community of maidens.

It appears that St. Ida also led a school for small boys, and that St. Brendan was her student there for five years.

St. Ida died, probably in the year 570.
Photo by: Andreas F. Borchert

Sunday, January 14, 2018

People will notice

Be sure that you first preach
by the way you live.
If you do not, people will notice that … 

St. Charles Borromeo

St. Sava of the Serbs

Sava, born in 1174, was the youngest of the three sons of Stephen I, founder of the Nemanyde dynasty, of the independent Serbian State. At the age of seventeen he became a monk on Mount Athos, on the Greek peninsula. Abdicating the throne in 1196, his father joined him and together they established the thriving monastery of Khilandari.

Sava returned to Serbia in 1207 to help settle an inheritance dispute between his two brothers.

As his brother Stephen took the throne, Sava set to work to revamp the faith in his country which was lax and mixed up with paganism.

With the help of missionary monks from Khilandari, he established several important monasteries in Serbia. He also convinced the Eastern Emperor Theodore II, a relative, to establish Serbia’s own bishopric in order that its clergy might be better managed. The emperor established the prince-monk Sava as Serbia’s first Metropolitan of the new hierarchy.

Under Sava, his brother, Stephen II was duly recognized by the Holy See and though already crowned by a papal legate in 1217, was again crowned by his brother as Archbishop in 1222 with a crown sent by Pope Honorius III.

Thus, the retiring young prince, who left home to become a monk, succeeded before the age of fifty in consolidating, both civilly and religiously, the country founded by his father.

St. Sava died with a smile on his face on January 14, 1237 and is the patron saint of Serbia.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

How to Find True Happiness



Today, the number of Americans who suffer from depression, anxiety and despair is growing. The organization Mental Health America reports that:
Depression is a chronic illness that exacts a significant toll on America's health and productivity.  It affects more than 21 million American children and adults annually and is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals ages 15 to 44.
Lost productive time among U.S. workers due to depression is estimated to be in excess of $31 billion per year.  Depression frequently co-occurs with a variety of medical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and chronic pain and is associated with poorer health status and prognosis.  It is also the principal cause of the 30,000 suicides in the U.S. each year.  In 2004, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, third among individuals 15-24.
Moreover, there is the self inflicted pain that comes from failed suicide attempts.  Some experts say that the state of mind of a person who has experienced a failed suicide attempt is even worse than before.
The skyrocketing depression and suicide troubles in America stem from the same, common root: a great unhappiness and a basic, fundamental misunderstanding about what happiness is and where we can find it on this earth.
As Catholics, we know that we can never be completely happy on this earth.  That complete happiness is only reserved for those who go to Heaven to be with God for all eternity.  While on earth, humans are happy to the degree they accept and carry out God’s Holy Will in their lives.
However, since the problem of happiness and unhappiness is getting more acute today, we ought to delve deeper into finding the solutions that lead to happiness, and to offer people a Catholic and comprehensive explanation on this crucial issue.

For this purpose, we offer an insightful piece written by the French priest, Father Henri Ramiere, which is taken from his book The Reign of Christ in History.
Going Deeper: The Search for True & False Happiness
Before leaving this topic, it is still necessary to delve a little deeper into the depths of our nature so as to discover the reason for support or resistance that it would offer to divine action in the different stages of its moral life.
The inclinations that drag the human will are very different and opposed, but have a common source. The movements that lead us to good and those that lead us to bad, the most reprehensible disorders and the most heroic virtues have the same motive, a desire for happiness.
We all want – and necessarily so – to be happy.  If this happiness could be present and complete at the same time, we would not hesitate at all to choose it. We would rush to it simply for its pleasure with all the impetus of our will.

But it is not so, and in this is our trial.  God, the sole entire and infinite good, hides and denies us at present the pleasure of His beauty; forbids us a love so filled with pleasure that we would be able to find in creatures.  And that’s where men divide themselves.
They let themselves be taken by the same desire for happiness but towards opposite directions: some want to satisfy that desire in the present life at any price, revolted against God, who denies them this satisfaction.  Others accept the time in which God deigns to satisfy them.
Here is the point of separation between two inimical societies that St. Augustine called “the City of God” and “the City of the sons of men.” The former is composed of those who want to be happy with God and the latter by those who pretend to be happy without God and in spite of God.
The former’s motto is “love of God even at the scorn of oneself” while the latter’s motto is “love of oneself even at the scorn of God.” But it is not only in one act that the majority of men take a definitive stand in either of these societies.
Normally, a man begins to act well or badly according to the way he is brought up. Obliged to receive from outside the greater part of his knowledge, he receives his inclinations from it as well. It would be, therefore, either good or bad depending on the influences he receives; and following them, he will look for his happiness in the service of God or in violation of his laws.
While receiving outside influences with docility, he will not be able to settle firmly either in the good or in the bad. That settling will only come from the fight. If his upbringing made him good, the fight will come from the attraction to evil; from the awakening of his passions; from the present pleasures whose allures he feels; from the immediate satisfaction that the thirst for happiness will exert upon him. It would seem fascinating to him to be the master of his own destiny and not depend on any superior authority.
If, on the contrary, man was taken to evilness prior to knowing the disorder it causes, the bitter consequences of such disorder will soon be felt. Virtue, in turn, will present its charms; and true happiness will put forward its solid hopes against the illusions of false happiness. In the two situations, there will be a fight and this fight will last for a long time through a succession of defeats and victories, attained now by the good, now by the bad.
To whom will definitive victory go? Only freedom will decide. But this is what happens many times: a man who lets himself be swept away by the most shameful disorder through a poorly understood desire for happiness; who is convinced by his experience of the impossible satisfaction of such a desire far removed from God; and who is crushed by shame and remorse; turns to the sovereign good and unites himself with it with as much strength as was his deplorable falling away from God.
We can therefore distinguish three periods in the moral life of man that correspond to the three primary ages of his physical life. The age of infancy, one of docile ingenuity and little self-consciousness; the age of youth, one of passions and fight; and the age of maturity, one of disappointments and fully deliberate resolutions.
In all these ages, man is either free to unite himself with God or to revolt against Him, but his freedom attains fullness only in maturity, which is the age wherein God has the most influence on human souls and in which He oftentimes redirects towards Himself those who did not shun very sad transgressions in their youth.
But, while the trial endures, be it in infancy, be it in youth, be it in maturity, God always has a great influence over hearts, even among those that have fallen farthest away from Him. The reason for this influence is the same that takes hearts away from Him: a desire for happiness.
There exists, therefore, between men and God, a great misunderstanding, for the happiness which they want can only be obtained with the help of God.  Provoking and maintaining this misunderstanding is the constant objective of Satan and his agents. Overcoming it is the priority of the indefatigable efforts of God and his friends.
The Word of God, upon descending on Earth, had no other objective than to gather in his heart and place within men’s reach all the goods they were unsuccessfully seeking for many centuries. After the Holy Redeemer ascended into Heaven, the Church did nothing but encourage successive generations to go drink from that divine source.
In the preceding chapters, we studied the divine plan in relation to God. We have just finished considering it in relation to men, and will now go on to study it in society and in the ensemble of creation.


 *The second part of this article is taken from the book The Reign of Jesus Christ in History by Father Henri Ramiere.

St. Hilary of Poitiers

Hilary was born into an illustrious family in Poitiers, Gaul, in present-day France. Although he was brought up in idolatry, its tenets and beliefs did not satisfy his spiritual thirst. Chancing upon a copy of the Sacred Scriptures one day, after years of searching and studying, Hilary opened the Book of Exodus to God's words to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"
"I was frankly amazed at such a clear definition of God, which expressed the incomprehensible knowledge of the divine nature in words most suited to human intelligence," he wrote later.

The pursuit of meaning for his own existence, which had consumed all his thoughts up until then, had found its answer and he converted to Christianity. By this time he was married and had a daughter named Apra.

His eminent qualities attracted not only the attention of Gaul but of the Church, and in 350, against his humble protests, he was chosen, by clergy and laity alike, and consecrated Bishop of Poitiers.

He went on to wisely and valiantly combat the Arian heresy. The Arians did not believe in the divinity of Christ and they exerted much power and enjoyed the support of the emperor. This led to many persecutions. When Hilary refused to support the Arians in their condemnation of St. Athanasius in 356, he was himself exiled by Emperor Constantius. However, he continued his courageous fight from exile. "Although in exile we shall speak through these books, and the word of God, which cannot be bound, shall move about in freedom," he challenged them. Doctrinal works flowed from his pen during this period, the most renowned and esteemed of these being On the Holy Trinity. The earliest writing of Latin hymns is also attributed to him.

Returning to Gaul from exile, Hilary strengthened the weak in the Faith and convoked a synod to condemn that of Rimini in 359. He fought Arianism to his very death in 368.

St. Hilary was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1851.
Photo by: Wolfgang Sauber

When in desolation...

Though in desolation
we must never change our former resolutions,
it will be very advantageous to intensify
our activity against the desolation.
We can insist more
upon prayer, upon meditation, and on much examination of ourselves.
We can make an effort in a suitable way to do some penance.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Marguerite Bourgeoys

Marguerite Bourgeoys was born the sixth child of twelve children in Troyes, France in 1620. At the age of twenty, touched by a special grace from Our Lady, and feeling called to the religious life, she applied to the Carmelites and the Poor Clares but was unsuccessful in both ventures.  A priest friend suggested that perhaps God had other plans for her.

When Marguerite was thirty-four, she was invited by the visiting governor of the French settlement in Canada to start a school at Ville-Marie, today Montreal. She generously accepted and traveled to the French colony then numbering two hundred people. Ville-Marie also had a hospital and a Jesuit mission chapel.

Marguerite started a school, but soon realized her need for help. Returning to Troyes, she recruited a friend, Catherine Crolo, and two other young women. In 1667 they added classes in their school for Indian children.  Six years later, on a second trip to France, Marguerite was joined by six other young women, and had her school approved by King Louis XIV.

The congregation of Notre Dame de Montreal was established in 1676 but their rule and constitutions were only approved in 1698, as orders of non-cloistered religious sisters were then a novelty.

Marguerite and her sisters worked untiringly for the establishment and growth of the French settlement, and when she died in 1700 she was known as “Mother of the Colony”. Marguerite Bourgeoys was canonized in 1982.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Go ahead, scandalize the Pharisees

We must not stop doing good
even if it scandalizes the Pharisees.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

St. Theodosius the Cenobiarch

Theodosius was born in Garissus, Cappadocia in 423. He took to the road as a pilgrim, and, in his travels visited the famous St. Simeon the Stylite on his pillar.

Eventually, he retired as a hermit to a cave on a mountain near Bethlehem, but his sanctity and miracles attracted many who wished to serve God under his direction. A spacious monastery was built on a place called Cathismus, which became a haven of saints in the desert.

Persecuted by Emperor Anastasius who favored the Eutychian heresy, Theodosius traveled extensively through Palestine exhorting the faithful to remain strong in the faith of the four general councils. The Emperor ordered the saint’s banishment, which was executed, but Theodosius died soon after in 529 at the advanced age of one hundred and five.

His funeral was honored by miracles, and he was buried in his first cell, called the Cave of the Magi, because the wise men who visited the Infant Christ were said to have lodged in it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Infant of Prague: The Little King


by Plinio Solimeo

The Infant of Prague is perhaps the most famous representation of the Child Jesus, eliciting devotion throughout the Catholic world. Nevertheless, it seems that few Catholics know very much about the history of the statue and the invocation. One of our correspondents who visited Europe, including Prague, sent us this enlightening account of the Infant of Prague, beginning with its origins and tracing its story up through the time of the Nazi and Communist invasions of Prague.


Devotion to the Infant Jesus
Shortly after the Church’s founding, many saints, notably Pope Saint Leo the Great, had already spoken of the Child Jesus and His birth. But devotion to the Infant Jesus truly began to flourish in the Middle Ages, thanks to the ardor of various saints. Saint Francis of Assisi was moved while meditating on the fact that God became a child and was laid in a manger. It was he who set up history’s first nativity scene to represent this divine mystery. Saint Anthony of Padua, following the example of his founder and master, likewise marveled at the Infant-God, and was often granted the privilege of holding Him in his arms, this being the way Saint Anthony is generally depicted. Other saints have also received this ineffable favor.
It was in Spain in the 1500’s, Spain’s “Golden Century,” that the Child Jesus began to be depicted standing, rather than laying in a manger or in Our Lady’s arms. The great Saint Teresa of Avila introduced this devotion into her convents. From there it spread throughout Spain and the world. Her disciple and co-founder of the reformed branch of the Carmelite Order, the great Saint John of the Cross, bore such enthusiasm for the mystery of God-made-man that he often carried the image of the Child Jesus in procession during the Christmas season and composed touching poems about the Nativity. Many invocations of the Child Jesus thus began to circulate in the Carmelite houses, such as “the Little Pilgrim,” “the Founder” and “the Savior.”
Devotion to the Child Jesus was not limited to the cloister. For example, Ferdinand Magellan had with him an image of the Child Jesus when he discovered the Philippines. This very same statue is venerated to this day on the Philippine island of Cebu.
Nevertheless, it would fall to a daughter of Saint Teresa to be both a propagator of the devotion to the Child Jesus and His confidante.
Venerable Marguerite of the Blessed Sacrament (1619-1648) was a Carmelite in the King of Glory convent in Beaune, France, having entered the convent as a boarder when she was eleven. She enjoyed great familiarity with the angels and saints and the privilege of participating in the great mysteries of Our Savior’s life. Hers was the special mission of venerating and propagating devotion to the infancy of Christ. As she prayed before His image in her convent, the Infant God spoke to her, “I choose to honor you and make visible in you My infancy and innocence as I lay in the manger.” She received many extraordinary graces by which the Child Jesus gave her a deeper understanding of this mystery.
Among her other apostolic labors, Sister Marguerite founded the “Family of the Child Jesus,” inviting all to fervently celebrate the twenty-fifth of every month in remembrance of the Holy Nativity and to pray the “Little Crown of the Child Jesus” — three Our Fathers and twelve Hail Marys — in honor of the first twelve years of Our Lord’s life.
Centuries later, another Carmelite, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, honored the Child Jesus in a special way, not only choosing this as her name in religion, but also by initiating the way of “Spiritual Infancy.” It was, she said, on Christmas night of 1886 that she received the greatest grace of her life, the grace of forsaking childish immaturity and entering the great way of the saints. She abandoned herself to the Child Jesus with all docility, like a ball in the hands of a child. When she received the responsibility of dressing the convent’s little image of the Child Jesus, she did so with true devotion. She also enjoyed prolonged colloquies with the image of the Infant of Prague in the choir of the novitiate.

The Infant of Prague
Prague is rightfully considered one of the most beautiful capitals of Europe. Those who visit her never tire of strolling her streets, always discovering new features and unexpected marvels. Her topography contributes greatly to her beauty, and the Moldau River, which divides the city, is almost legendary. Her various historical periods are reflected in her architecture, from Romanesque foundations to beautiful examples of religious and civic Gothic architecture , to buildings of the Renaissance, the Baroque and Classical styles, all the way to an example of Modern “art,” a concession to the spirit of the times.
Among the innumerable buildings worthy of interest in this privileged city is the church of Our Lady of Victory, the first Baroque sanctuary of the locale, built between 1613 and 1644. Belonging to the Discalced Carmelites, it shelters the great marvel of Prague, the charming statue of the “Little King,” as the Infant of Prague is known.
 

How the devotion began
Venerable Brother Dominic of Jesus Maria, prior-general of the Discalced Carmelites, had distinguished himself in exhorting the Catholic armies in the Emperor’s victory over the Elector Palatine, the Calvinist Frederick V, in the bloody Thirty Years’ War. In 1624, as a gesture of gratitude, Emperor Ferdinand II called the Carmelites to Prague and gave them a church that was renamed Holy Mary of Victory in recognition of Our Lady’s help during the battle.
In 1628 Brother John Louis of the Assumption, prior of the Carmelites of the city, communicated to his religious an inspiration he had felt that they should venerate the Child Jesus in a special way. He assured them that if this was done, the Child Jesus would protect the community and the novices would learn from Him how to be “like little children” to enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Almost simultaneously, Providence inspired Princess Polyxena of Lobkovice, a widow who was retiring to the castle of Roudnice, to donate to the monastery a wax-covered statue of the Child Jesus. He was represented standing, vested in royal garments, holding a globe in His left hand while giving a blessing with His right. The statue had been a wedding present to her mother, Maria Manriques de Lara, when she married Vratislav of Pernstyn, and she had in turn presented it to her daughter as a wedding gift.
On presenting the statue to the prior, Princess Polyxena said to him, “I offer you, dear Father, what I love most in this world. Honor this Child Jesus and be certain that as long as you venerate Him you will lack nothing.”
Brother John Louis thanked her for this present that had so miraculously come to fulfill his desire and ordered that it be placed on the altar of the novices’ oratory. There the Carmelite friars assembled every day to praise the Divine Infant and recommend their needs to Him.
In time, after an initial period of prosperity in Prague, the friars were reduced almost to misery. The prior and his subjects had recourse to the Child Jesus, and their prayer was soon answered. Emperor Ferdinand II, king of Bohemia and Hungary, knowing the hardships of the Carmelite community, granted them an annuity of a thousand florins, as well as assistance from the imperial income.
Shortly thereafter, another extraordinary event took place that provides a measure of the Infant of Prague’s unfailing assistance to those who turn to Him. There was a vine in the convent garden that had long been barren. Suddenly, in a most unforeseen manner, it began to flower and bear the sweetest and most splendid fruit one could imagine.


The apostle of the Child Jesus
In this convent there was a young priest, Friar Cyril of the Mother of God, who had left the relaxed branch of the Carmelite order to embrace Saint Teresa’s reform. Rather than finding the peace he had so hoped for, however, he felt like a reprobate suffering the pains of Hell. Nothing consoled or appeased him.
The prior, seeing him sullen and depressed, asked what was wrong. Friar Cyril opened his heart and told him of all his pains. “As Christmas approaches,” suggested the prior, “why not kneel at the feet of the Holy Child and confide all your sufferings to Him? You will see how He will help you.”
Obeying the prior, Friar Cyril went to the image of the Child Jesus. “Dear Child, behold my tears! I am at Thy feet; have pity on me!” At that very moment he felt as if a beam of light had penetrated his soul, dispelling all his anguish, doubts, and sufferings. Moved and extremely grateful, Friar Cyril resolved to become a true apostle of the Divine Infant.

Besieged by heretics
Meanwhile, the Protestants regrouped and in November of 1631, under the command of the Prince Elector of Saxony, besieged Prague anew. Panic gripped the imperial troops, and many of the city’s anguished inhabitants fled.
Friar John Maria prudently sent his friars to Munich, remaining with just one friar to look after the convent.
Prague surrendered. The Protestant soldiers invaded churches and convents, profaning and destroying the objects of Catholic worship. They imprisoned the two Carmelites and began to loot the convent. Seeing the statue of the Child Jesus in the oratory of the novitiate, they began to ridicule it. One of the soldiers, wanting to impress the others, severed the little hands from the image with his sword, and then cast the image amidst the rubble to which the altar had been reduced. There the Child Jesus remained, forgotten for many years.
When a truce was signed in 1634, the Carmelites were able to return to their convent. Friar Cyril did not return at this time, and no one else remembered the image of the Child Jesus. When Friar Cyril finally returned three years later, he quickly noticed its absence. He searched for the precious statue, but in vain.
Unfortunately, the peace was not lasting. The Swiss, breaking the accords, again besieged Prague, burning castles and villages as they came. The prior advised his friars to pray, seeing that prayer alone could save them this time. Friar Cyril suggested that they recommend themselves to the Little King, and he renewed his search for the image. After much effort, he found it, dusty and dirty, and joyfully took it to the prior. The friars prayed fervently before the handless image for the salvation of the city. Their prayers were heard; the Swiss raised the siege.
When the image was newly enthroned in the oratory of the novitiate, the benefactors of the convent, who had disappeared in those years that the image was missing, returned and renewed their assistance.
Despite his fervor, Friar Cyril had not noticed that the hands of the Child Jesus were missing. One day, as he prayed before the Infant on behalf of the community, the statue said to him sadly, “Have pity on Me and I will have pity on you. Return my hands that the heretics cut off. The more you honor Me the more I will favor you.”
Friar Cyril immediately ran to the prior to tell him what had taken place. The prior seemed not to believe and, because of the privation the convent was enduring, said that it was necessary to await better days before making the restoration, since there were more pressing needs.
Profoundly afflicted, Friar Cyril asked God to provide the means to restore the statue. Help came in an unexpected way. A foreign noble, having asked Friar Cyril to hear his confession, told him, “Reverend Father, I am convinced that the good God led me to Prague to prepare me for death and to do you some small favor.” He then gave Friar Cyril an alms of a hundred florins.
The friar sought out the prior and handed him the alms, requesting at least a single florin for the restoration of the statue. Despite this small miracle, the prior still replied that the restoration was not so important and could wait. To make matters worse, he commanded Friar Cyril to remove the statue from the oratory and take it to his cell until it could be repaired. Friar Cyril, not without sadness, obeyed his superior, asking the Little King to pardon his disbelief. The Most Holy Virgin then appeared to Friar Cyril and gave him to understand that the Child Jesus ought to be restored as soon as possible and exposed for the veneration of the faithful in a chapel dedicated to Him.
Favorable circumstances arose when a new prior was elected shortly thereafter. Friar Cyril renewed his request, to which the prior replied, “If the Child first gives us His blessing, I will have the statue repaired.” Soon there was a knock at the door, and an unknown lady handed Friar Cyril a sizable donation. Yet the prior allowed him only a half florin for the restoration, saying that it must suffice. That insignificant amount was soon augmented by a generous donation from Daniel Wolf, a court official who had received a favor from the Child Jesus.
At last, the little statue was refurbished. It was then placed in a crystal urn near the sacristy, thus fulfilling the express desire of Our Lady that the Child be exposed for public veneration.

A miraculous cure and the growth of the devotion
Another unexpected event greatly influenced the devotion rendered the Little King. One day in 1639, Friar Cyril, already considered a saint by many, was sought out by Henry Liebsteinski, Count of Kolowrat, whose spouse was gravely ill. The count asked the Carmelite friars to take the statue to the bedside of the sick woman, a cousin of the Princess Polyxena who had given the statue to the convent. As various physicians already considered her case lost, her sole remaining hope was the Holy Child.
Friar Cyril could not help but answer such a just request. When he arrived at the bedside of the dying woman, her husband said to her, “My dear, open your eyes. See, the Child Jesus is here to cure you.” With much effort the sick woman opened her eyes and her face lit up. “Oh!” she exclaimed, “the Child is here in my room!” She raised her arms toward the statue to kiss it. Seeing this, her husband exclaimed jubilantly, “A miracle! A miracle! My wife is cured!”
Hardly had she been restored to health when the countess went to the convent and offered the Child a crown of gold and other precious objects in gratitude. This is one of the most celebrated miracles attributed to the Little King.
Knowledge of this prodigy soon spread beyond the court, reaching the people of the city and the surrounding area. An ever greater number of pilgrims from all locales began to come to see the Child Jesus. Such was His renown that one rich lady of the court, moved by imprudent zeal, made off with the statue. God punished this sacrilege, however, and the Little King was returned to the Carmelites.
With the faithful giving many monetary and other offerings in gratitude for graces received from the Divine Infant, it was finally possible to construct a chapel specifically for the miraculous statue.
The Archbishop of Prague, Ernst Cardinal Adalbert von Harrach, was invited for the solemn consecration in 1648. He granted the friars the more ample faculty of celebrating Mass in the Holy Child’s chapel.
This solemn episcopal confirmation transformed the chapel of the Little King of Peace into a place of official devotion, and it was visited extensively.

A new trial, and a definitive altar
In 1648, during another battle of the Thirty Years’ War, Swiss Protestant troops invaded the city once again. This time they transformed the Carmelite convent into a field hospital, but none of the 160 wounded soldiers treated there dared to ridicule the Holy Child. On the contrary, during an inspection, the commander of the invaders, General Konigsmark, prostrated himself before the miraculous statue and said, “O Child Jesus! I am not Catholic, but I also believe in Your infancy, and am impressed seeing the faith of the people and the miracles You perform in their favor. I promise that, inasmuch as I find it possible, I will end the billeting of the convent.” And he gave the friars a donation of thirty ducats.
Shortly afterwards, the Swiss occupation of Prague ended, and everyone attributed the return of peace to the Little King.
With the return of normality, the Superior General of the Carmelite Fathers, Friar Francis of the Most Blessed Sacrament, arrived in Prague in 1651. He approved the devotion to the Divine Infant and recommended that the friars spread it to the Carmelite houses in Austria and among the faithful. In recognition of the legitimacy of devotion to the hallowed statue, he had a letter affixed to the door of the Child Jesus’ chapel.
In 1655, thanks to a contribution of the Baron of Tallembert, the miraculous image was placed upon a magnificent altar in the church of Our Lady of Victory and solemnly crowned by Archbishop Joseph von Corti of Prague.
To this day a solemn memorial of this coronation is celebrated on Ascension Day.
Devotion to the Divine Infant continued to spread throughout every social level. In 1743 the great Empress Maria Theresa of Austria herself aspired to make a rich garment for the Little King with her own hands.
In 1744, Protestant troops, this time Prussian, once again surrounded Prague.
The city authorities hastened to the Carmelite convent to ask the prior to carry the Little King in solemn procession throughout the city in order to free it from the onslaught of the heretics.
An honorable surrender, without any battles, was achieved; a few months later the Prussians left Prague, and the residents of the city hastened to Our Lady of Victory to thank the Child Jesus for yet another grace.
Not long thereafter, yet another and even greater danger threatened devotion to the Divine Infant. In 1784, Emperor Joseph II, disdainful of monastic life and especially of contemplative life, suppressed the Carmelite convent, as he did many others, and gave the church of Our Lady of Victory to the Order of Malta.
Without the continued dedication of the Carmelites, devotion to the Child Jesus declined.
In the twentieth century, during the Second World War, the Nazis occupied Prague, after which the scourge of Communism fell upon the country for almost 50 years. Neither one nor the other enemy of the faith of Christ, however, made any attempt against the miraculous statue itself, which remained upon its throne in the church of Our Lady of Victory.


The Communists prohibit the devotion in Prague
The communist regime in Czechoslovakia’s capital forbade the free exercise of the devotion as they propagated State atheism. In the “Prague Spring” of 1968, an attempt by the people of Czechoslovakia to free themselves from the impious regime was bloodily suffocated.
Devotion to the Child Jesus continued to be restricted to the church where the statue was exposed. The Carmelite friars, expelled far from Prague, continued their apostolate by making prints of the Holy Child and sending them clandestinely to other European convents.
Finally, in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the communist dictatorship in Czechoslovakia fell and the country was divided into Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Religious and civil liberties were reestablished in the Czech Republic, and the new Archbishop of Prague, who had also been a victim of the communist repression, decided to give a new impulse to the devotion of the Child Jesus. At his invitation, two Carmelite friars went to Prague to reopen the convent and stimulate devotion to the Divine Child Jesus.
Devotion to the Child Jesus had already extended from Prague to the rest of Europe. From there it spread to Latin America, India, and elsewhere. In the United States the devotion owes much to that great apostle of the immigrants, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, who wanted a statue of the Little King in every house of the institute she founded.

Efficacious prayer to the Holy Child Jesus
O Child Jesus, I have recourse to Thee by Thy Holy Mother; I implore Thee to assist me in this necessity, for I firmly believe that Thy Divinity can assist me. I confidently hope to obtain Thy holy grace. I love Thee with my whole heart and my whole soul. I am heartily sorry for my sins, and I entreat Thee, O good Jesus, to give me strength to overcome them.
I firmly resolve never to offend Thee again and to suffer everything rather than displease Thee. Henceforth, I wish to serve Thee faithfully. For love of Thee, O divine Child, I will love my neighbor as myself. O Jesus, omnipotent Child, I entreat Thee again to come to my assistance in this necessity. (Here mention the necessity.) Grant me the grace of possessing Thee eternally with Mary and Joseph, and of adoring Thee with Thy Holy Angels and Saints. Amen.
Prayer from a revelation said to have been made by the Blessed Mother to the Ven. Servant of God, Father Cyril of the Mother of God, who died in the odor of sanctity in 1675.


(*) The author is indebted to the excellent work El Pequeno Rey, by Sorella Giovann della Croce, C.S.C.

When the devil wishes to make himself master

When the devil
wishes to make himself master of a soul, he
seeks to make it give up devotion to Mary.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

St. Peter Orseolo

St. Peter Orseolo’s is an unusual life. He was born in 928 of a prominent Venetian family. At twenty he was appointed to the command of the city’s fleet and defeated the Dalmatian pirates who infested the Adriatic Sea.

In 976 there was a revolution in Venice that ended with the violent death of Doge Peter Candiani IV and the partial burning of the city. Although there are allegations that Orseolo was involved in the popular outbreak, the testimonies are inconclusive.

Peter Orseolo was elected doge in place of Candiani and, reputedly, ruled with energy and tact. Still, one night in 978, he secretly left Venice and sought admittance to the Benedictine Abbey of Cuxa, in Rousillon, on the border of France and Spain. Though married for thirty-two years and having an only son who was destined to become one of the greatest Venetian doges, there is early evidence that Peter and his wife had lived as brother and sister since their son’s birth.  As early as 968 there is also evidence that he wished to become a monk.

At Cuxa, Peter Orseolo led a life of the strictest asceticism, and then wishing for an even greater solitude, built a hermitage for himself. He died in 987 and many miracles were said to have taken place at his tomb.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Join the March for Life even if you can’t be there in person!




    Will you please join us at the National 2018 March for Life on Friday, January 19th in Washington, D.C.?

    Will you stand with us, and hundreds of thousands more, on the Supreme Court steps and say “Enough!”?

    But, with only a few days left, how can you possibly set aside all your duties and obligations to do what you know is right?

    To stand up for those innocent babies who are denied a voice in “the land of the free.”

    The good news is – you can join us right from where you are!

    Simply sign up here and your name will be added to our banner displaying the names of thousands of like-minded pro-life people just like you.

    This impressive banner will be carried behind a statue of Our Lady of Fatima as well, bearing witness to the love you have for Our Blessed Mother and for the precious unborn children.

    Please come and join us in spirit; add your name to Our Lady’s banner.

    We will be printing up our banner in just A FEW SHORT DAYS!

    So please don’t wait…. Sign up now ….so that your name can be counted among those who love life, and above all, love Him Who is the Author and Finisher of all life.

    I hope and pray you will add your name to our banner. Join the March, and be part of the largest act of reparation in our country for the sin of abortion.
   
                                   I remain your friend,
                                   In Jesus and Mary,

                                   Robert E. Ritchie
                                   America Needs Fatima
                                   www.anf.org

PS:   Click here now to make sure that you will be on the banner that marches on Washington.

Maybe their last chance

The deeds you do may be
the only sermon some persons will hear today.

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Adrian of Canterbury

St. Adrian was North African Berber by birth.  Known for his virtue and learning, while Abbot of Nerida, near Naples, he was twice invited by Pope St. Vitalian to travel to England as the new Archbishop of Canterbury. In his humility, he first proposed a fellow monk for the position. When it was again offered to him, he recommended Theodore of Tarsus in his stead, finally accepting the Pope's condition that he accompany Theodore as his assistant and adviser.

St. Theodore made St. Adrian Abbot of the Monastery of Sts. Peter and Paul, later known as the Abbey of St. Augustine at Canterbury. Under his influence, the monastic school became a center of learning and virtue with far-reaching influence. Greek, Latin, Roman law and the ecclesiastical sciences were taught there.

After being a true beacon of sanctity and knowledge to England for thirty-nine years, St. Adrian died on January 9, 710.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Our Lady and the Three Dresses

Many centuries ago, three young nuns lived together in a convent. Day after day, they took their meals together, they went to chapel together, and they prayed and sang together.
One day, their priest-confessor advised them that, as a preparation for the feast of the purification of Mary, they should recite the whole Rosary every day for forty days. The three nuns obediently complied.
On the night before that holy feast day, the Heavenly Mother appeared to the three nuns as they gathered in the choir. To the first of these three sisters she handed a rich garment, embroidered with gold. Holy Mary thanked her and blessed her.
She then handed to the second nun a much simpler garment, and also thanked her. Noticing the difference in the two garments, the second sister asked, "Oh Lady, why have you brought my sister a richer garment?" Mary Most Holy lovingly replied, "Because she has clothed me more richly with her prayers than you have done."
Mary then approached the third nun with a canvas garment. Being an observant young lady, this sister at once asked pardon for the half-hearted way in which she had prayed her rosaries.
A full year had passed when all three fervently prepared for the same feast, each saying her Rosary with great devotion. On the evening preceding the festival, Mary appeared to them in glory, and said to them: "Be prepared, for tomorrow you shall come to paradise."
The following morning dawned, full of promise. Each nun wondered if this would be her last day in this vale of tears. When evening came, would they retire to their modest cells once more, or did Holy Mary have something else in store for them?
The sisters related to their confessor what had occurred, and received communion in the morning. At the hour of compline (evening prayers) they saw again the most holy Virgin, who came to take them with her. Amid the songs of angels, one after the other sweetly expired.
From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

Why Our Lord was baptized

Our Lord was baptized
not that He might be cleansed by the waters, but to cleanse them: 
that, being purified by the flesh of Christ, Who knew no sin,
they might possess the power of Baptism.

St. Ambrose of Milan

St. Thorfinn of Hamar

Some saints only come to light after their death. St. Thorfinn is one of these.

A Norwegian bishop, he lived the last years of his life at the Cistercian Monastery of Ter Doerst in Flanders, Belgium.

In this Flemish monastery the foreign bishop remained hidden and unknown until some fifty years after his death. It was in the course of some building operations within the monastery that his tomb was opened and his remains were found to exude a strong and sweet perfume.

Ruins of the Cathedral of Hamar, Norway
On inquiry, a monk by the name of Walter, remembered the exiled bishop as a person who had a quiet, kind, yet strong presence. He was then asked to write his recollections of him.

Still, little is known of St. Thorfinn except that he was Bishop of Hamar in Norway and had been outlawed, along with two other bishops, by King Eric of Norway over a dispute regarding rights granted to the clergy by the previous king.

After numerous hardships, including shipwreck, the holy bishop had made his way to the Abbey of Ter Doerst in Belgium.  St. Thorfinn died on Janurary 8, 1285.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Mary and the Muslim

Don Octavio del Monaco was a wealthy citizen of 17th century Naples. Like many of his class, Don Octavius had several Muslim slaves in his household. These children of Islam were amazed at the kindness of their “master.” He fed and clothed them better than they received in their native land. In return, his slaves attended to their tasks with diligence, as Don Octavius did not over work them, but assigned them duties in keeping with their dignity as children of God.
If these Muslim slaves had any reason for complaint, it was the gentle persistence with which their master and his wife exhorted them to give up their false religion and become Catholics. Don Octavius even went so far as to invite the slaves to join his family in the chapel to worship the one true God with them!
Our story today is about one young slave in particular. His name was Abel, like the slain son of Adam and Eve. He felt drawn in a peculiar way to a lamp that burned in front of a shrine to Holy Mary. Abel would purchase the oil needed to keep the lamp lit from his own meager stipend. As he continued to practice this humble devotion, he would say, “I hope that this Lady will grant me some great favor.”
One night, the Blessed Virgin appeared to him and told him he must become a Christian. At first the Turk resisted. But she placed her hand upon his shoulder, and said to him: “Now no longer resist, Abel, but be baptized and called Joseph,” conferring on him a name that was very dear to her Immaculate Heart indeed.
On August the 10th, 1648, there was much rejoicing in Heaven, for on that day “Joseph” and eleven other Muslims converted to the Christian faith and were baptized. Their conversion was brought about by the kindness shown by Don Octavius and the special intercession of the Mother of God.
Our story does not end here. Even once this son of hers was safely baptized, Mother Mary delighted in visiting him. Once, after having appeared to him, she was about to depart. But the Moor seized her mantle, saying, “Oh, Lady, when I find myself afflicted, I pray you to let me see you.” In fact, she one day promised him this and when Joseph found himself afflicted he invoked her, and Mary appeared to him again saying, “Have patience, “and he was consoled.
From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

What did they seek?

If the Magi had come in search of an earthly King, they would have been disconcerted
at finding that they had taken the trouble to come such a long way for nothing. 
Consequently they would have neither adored nor offered gifts. 
But since they sought a heavenly King,  
though they found in Him no signs of royal pre-eminence, yet,
content with the testimony of the star alone, they adored:
for they saw a man, and they acknowledged a God.

St. John Chrysostom

St. Raymond of Peñafort

Raymond of Peñafort was born in 1175 in Spain and was a relative of the king of Aragon.

By the age of twenty he was already a teacher of philosophy, and in his early thirties earned a doctorate in both Canon and Civil Law. At forty-one he joined the Dominican Order and was later called to Rome to be confessor to Pope Gregory IX.

At the Pontiff’s instance Raymond compiled all the laws and decrees of the popes and the Church Councils. For this work he is known as the patron of canon lawyers.

At the age of sixty, he was appointed Archbishop of Tarragona, but resigned within two years after becoming ill. He was thunderstruck when he was elected the third Superior General of the Dominicans. As such, he visited all the Dominicans on foot and reorganized their constitutions.

With King James of Aragon and St. Peter Nolasco he founded the Order of Our Lady of Ransom dedicated to rescuing Christian prisoners from their Muslim captors.

St. Raymond is often pictured sailing over water using his cloak as a sail. When accompanying King James to the island of Majorca, the latter, despite his qualities, was giving scandal. At the saint’s rebuke, the king promised to send the woman away but did not follow through on his word. On hearing of the saint’s threat to leave the island, the king forbade every captain in Majorca to grant him passage.
Laying his cloak upon the waves and holding one end of it over a staff, the saint prayed, made the sign of the cross, stepped onto his cloak and sailed for six hours back to the Spanish mainland – which fact converted the king.

St. Raymond was known as a great devotee of Our Lady, an ascetic, contemplative, lawyer, preacher, opposer of heresies and apostle to Muslims.

He died in 1275 at the age of one hundred.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Epiphany



by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

January 6th, we celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings to adore the Infant King and to offer Him their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Through the centuries,  others will also come to venerate Thy crib: from India,  Ancient Nubia,  Macedonia,  Rome,  Carthage, and Spain;  Gauls,  Franks,  Germans, Angles,  Saxons,  and Normans.
Both pilgrims and crusaders will come from the West to kiss the ground of the cave where Thou were born. Your manger will be venerated all over  the earth.  In the great Gothic or Romanesque cathedrals,  multitudes will gather around Thee,  offering Thee presents of gold,  silver,  incense,  and above all the piety and sincerity of their hearts.
Then will come the period of the Western discoveries in which the benefits of Thy Redemption will reach new lands.
Incas, Aztecs, natives of various tribes, blacks from African shores or further inland, bronze-skinned Indians, slender and pensive Chinese, short and agile Nipponese,  all will gather around Thy crib and adore Thee.
The star of Bethlehem now shines over the whole world.  The angelic promise has been heard by all peoples, and all across the earth hearts of goodwill have found the inestimable treasure of Thy peace. 
Overcoming all obstacles,  the gospel has finally spread to people all over the world. 
In the midst of contemporary desolation, this great gathering of people from all nations and races around Thee is our only consolation,  indeed our only hope. We are among them,  kneeling before Thee.  See us,  Lord,  and have pity on us.  There is something we would like to say.
Who are we?  We are those who will not kneel before the modern Baal. We carry Thy law engraved upon the bronze of our hearts and we do not allow the errors of our times to become engraved upon this bronze sanctified by Thy Redemption.

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We love the immaculate purity of orthodoxy above all else and reject any pact whatsoever with heresy, its wiles and infiltrations. We are merciful to the repentant sinner, and since - due to our unworthiness and infidelity - we count ourselves among that number, we implore Thy mercy.  We spare no criticism, either, of insolent and conceited impiety or of strutting vice that scorns virtue.
We pity all men,  particularly the blessed who suffer persecution for love of the Church,  who are oppressed everywhere because they hunger and thirst for virtue, who are abandoned,  ridiculed,  betrayed,  and disdained because they remain faithful to Thy commandments.
Many are those whose suffering is not celebrated in contemporary literature: the Christian mother who will pray alone before Thy crib because her children no longer practice the Faith;  the strong yet austere husband who is misunderstood or even loathed by his own due to his fidelity to Thy teachings;  the faithful wife who bears the solitude of both heart and soul because frivolous habits have led to adultery he who should be her support, her "other half";  the pious son or daughter who - while Christian homes are celebrating - sense how in their own home,  family life has been stifled by egotism,  hedonism,  and secularism;  the student who is shunned and mocked by his colleagues because of his fidelity to Thee;  the professor who is eschewed by fellow staff because he will not condone their errors;  the parish priest or bishop around whom a menacing wall of misunderstanding or indifference has been raised because he refuses to compromise the integrity of the doctrine entrusted to his care;  the honest man made penniless for refusing to swindle.
All of these isolated people,  scattered across the globe, ignorant of each other,  now gather around Thee with the Three Kings to offer Thee a gift and a prayer.
Their gift exceeds the sun and the stars,  the oceans with all its riches,  and the earth in all its splendour: they give themselves entirely and faithfully.
By preferring complete orthodoxy over approval, purity over popularity among the impure, honesty over gold;  by remaining faithful to Thy law even when this entails sacrificing career and fame,  they attain perfection in their spiritual life by practicing love of God above all things,  which is a sincere and lasting love.
Such love differs greatly from love as it is understood nowadays,  which predominantly consists of gushy and illogical feelings, senseless and blurry affections, obscure self-condescension and trite justifications to appease one's conscience.  Instead theirs is true love,  enlightened by Faith,  justified by reason,  serious,  chaste, upright and persevering - in a word,  theirs is love of God.
They also offer a prayer. Before all else - because they love it above all else in this world - for Thy holy and immaculate Church:  for both the pastors and the flock; foremost,  for the pastor of the pastors of the flock,  that is for Peter,  whom today we call Benedict.
May the Church,  which now moans as a captive in the dungeons of this anti-Christian "civilization",  finally triumph over this era of sin and implant a new civilization for Thy greater glory.
May the saints become ever holier,  may the good be sanctified,  may sinners become good,  and may the impious convert.  May the impenitent who have rejected grace and are jeopardising souls be dispersed,  humbled,  and their efforts frustrated.  May the souls in purgatory rise to heaven straight away.
They also pray for themselves:  may their orthodoxy be ever purer,  their purity ever more rigorous.
May they be more faithful amidst adversity,  stand ever taller amidst humiliations,  be more energetic in their struggles.
May they be more terrible to the impious,  yet more compassionate towards those who are ashamed of their sins,  seriously strive to overcome them and publicly acclaim virtue.
Finally,  they pray for Thy Grace,  without which no will can durably persevere in good,  and no soul can be saved;  may it be more abundant in proportion to the number of their miseries and infidelities.


 Originally published in O Legionário, Nº 750 - 12-22-46,  slightly adapted,  by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

No jealousy

We ought to be pleased to hear
that others are advancing in the service of God, especially
if they are our relations or friends; and
we ought to rejoice that
they share in whatever spiritual good we may have ourselves.

St. Philip Neri

St. André Bessette

André Bessette was born in 1845 in the province of Quebec, Canada, the eighth of ten children. An orphan at twelve, he was taken in by an aunt and uncle. Set to various trades, he was unable to hold a job for very long because of his frail health. For thirteen years he worked at various occupations: shoemaker, baker, blacksmith, and once at a factory in the United States during the Civil War.

From an early age he exhibited signs of a deep spirituality with a marked devotion to Saint Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.

Though he had little education, at twenty-five he applied to the Congregation of the Holy Cross, an order of educators. After a year’s novitiate his frail health again came between him and permanent admittance, but at Bishop Bourget’s urging, he was received and assigned the humble post of porter at Notre Dame College, Montreal. Later, he would say, “When I joined this community, the superiors showed me the door, and I remained forty years.”

In his small room near the entrance he spent much of the nights on his knees. As he kindly received people, listened to their life’s woes and heard of their physical complaints, he began to lightly rub sick persons with oil from a lamp burning in the college chapel before a statue of St. Joseph. Word of healings began to spread. “I do not heal,” he said simply, “St. Joseph heals”. A gentle man, he became enraged when people ascribed healings to him.

As the influx of pilgrims to Brother André’s door grew, he was allowed to build a chapel on Mount Royal with money he raised. There he continued his ministry. His reputation grew and soon he was known as the “Miracle Worker of Mount Royal”.

In 1924 construction for St. Joseph’s Oratory began on the side of the mountain near Brother André’s chapel. This shrine, the largest church outside of Rome was funded by Brother André’s supporters around the world.

Brother André died in 1937 at the age of ninety-one. He was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2010. Pope Benedict XVI said of St. André that he “lived the beatitude of the pure of heart.”

Friday, January 5, 2018

Real love?

Christian love bears evil, but it does not tolerate it.
It does penance for the sins of others, but
it is not broadminded about sin.
Real love involves real hatred:
whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and
the urge to drive the sellers from the temples
has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen