Saturday, December 31, 2016

A bad state

Truly, matters in the world are in a bad state;
but if you and I begin in earnest to reform ourselves,
a really good beginning will have been made.

St. Peter of Alcantara

Pope St. Sylvester I

Little is historically known about Pope Sylvester, though legend adds a few anecdotes.

It is known that his father was a Roman by name of Rufinus. He succeeded Pope Miltiades in 314 and reigned for twenty-one years.

With Emperor Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 313, Christianity was finally granted freedom. Legend has it, that having contracted leprosy, Emperor Constantine was healed after receiving baptism at the hand of St. Sylvester, and that afterwards, he made many gifts to the Church.

In any case, with the Edict of Milan, things certainly became easier for the Church. It was during the reign of St. Sylvester that several great basilicas were built by Constantine: The Lateran, Santa Croce, St. Peter in the Vatican, and several cemetery churches over the graves of the martyrs. No doubt, St. Sylvester was involved in the construction of these churches.

St. Sylvester also contributed to the development of the Roman liturgy, and it was during his reign that the first martyrology was drawn up. Sylvester also established a Roman school of singing, and built a church over the Catacomb of St. Priscilla.

Pope Sylvester took part in the Council of Nicaea at which the heresy of Arianism was condemned. He also sent legates to the First Ecumenical Council.

St. Sylvester died possibly on December 31 or was buried on that day of the year 335. At first buried in the church of St. Priscilla, his relics now rest in the church of English Catholics in Rome.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Satisfy your longings

You have everything when you have within you the One who made all things,
the only One who can satisfy the longings of your spirit.

St. Anthony of Padua

St. Egwin of Worcester

Egwin of Worcester was of a noble family, possibly a descendant of the Mercian kings.

Devoted to God since his youth, he succeeded to the see of Worcester in 662. Though a good bishop, protector of orphans and widows, and a fair judge, he incurred the animosity of people who resisted his insistent teaching on marital morality and clerical celibacy.

The resentment of some found its way to his ecclesiastical superiors, and Egwin undertook a pilgrimage to Rome to place his case before the Pope. One account relates that on crossing the Alps with a few companions, there was no water. Parched, those who did not appreciate his sanctity, mockingly suggested that he ask for water, like Moses. But others, who knew him well, reverently beseeched him to, indeed, pray for water. As Egwin prostrated himself in prayer, a stream of crystalline water issued forth from a rock.

On his return to England, Egwin founded the famous abbey of Evesham under the patronage of Mary Most Holy.

Around 709, he again journeyed to Rome, this time in the company of Kings Cenred of Mercia, and Offa of the East Saxons, and received many privileges for his monastery from Pope Constantine. In the tenth century Evesham became one of the great Benedictine abbeys of Medieval England.

St. Egwin died on December 30, 717 and was buried at the monastery he had founded.

10 Tips for Better New Year's Resolutions

1. Be honest. Know yourself. What is your strongest virtue? What is your worst vice? Therefore, tailor your resolution so it strengthens your good side and fights your bad one. A one-size fits all resolution is useless. 

2. Be specific. Don't use generalities. They don't work. For example, if you need to be more humble, just saying "I am going to be more humble," is useless. You need to zero in on one situation where you need to practice humility and resolve to improve in that one situation.

3. Be simple. Don't make it complicated. Focus on something you can see and measure easily and that does not overwhelm you each time you try to obtain it. Otherwise, you will become distracted and your energy will be dispersed and misdirected.

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4. Be reasonable. Don't try to do too much at once. You won't become a saint in one day. Remember: you have one MAJOR point upon which is hinged your entire fidelity to God and His Holy Laws. This is a called your primordial light. Find out and work on improving it. Everything else will improve if you improve on that one major point.

5. Be consistent. It's far better to do something small everyday to improve on that one key point in your soul than to make a big resolution that you cannot keep for more than a week or two. Slow and steady wins the race!

6. Be humble. Recognize that you cannot do any good action which has value in the supernatural order without God's grace and the intercessory help of the Blessed Mother. Beg God's grace through Our Lady's intercession constantly in all your thoughts, desires and actions.

7. Be disinterested. Remember that God wants us to defend His rights and interests, and to share His thoughts and ways. And therefore, to focus on things, happening and events that are very close to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary that are not necessarily linked to our own personal interests.
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8. Write it down. It's important to write down your resolution so you can refer back to it often during the year. Also, by writing it down, you will be able to review it when the year is over, and to evaluate your progress since the time the resolution was made.

9. Public expressions of faith. Don't hide your faith. That's just what the devil wants. He knows when you express your faith publicly, others see you and are encouraged to follow your good example. Say grace openly and proudly before meals in a restaurant so people can see. You'll be surprised with the good reactions you will get.

10. Devotion to Our Lady. Have more devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Devotion to the Mother of God is a panacea. Saint Louis de Montfort said that devotion to Holy Mary is the easiest, safest, fastest, most secure, and surest path to Jesus and to our own salvation. If you can do nothing else, resolve to say the Rosary everyday. Saint Louis de Montfort wrote:
"If you say the Rosary faithfully until death, I do assure you that, in spite of the gravity of your sins 'you shall receive a never-fading crown of glory.' Even if you are on the brink of damnation, even if you have one foot in hell, even if you have sold your soul to the devil as sorcerers do who practice black magic, and even if you are a heretic as obstinate as a devil, sooner or later you will be converted and will amend your life and will save your soul, if-- and mark well what I say-- if you say the Holy Rosary devoutly every day until death for the purpose of knowing the truth and obtaining contrition and pardon for your sins."

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Pure, radiant, and useful

Mary is a most pure star, a most radiant star, and a most useful star.
She is a most pure star by living most purely;
a most radiant star by bringing forth Eternal Light;
a most useful star by directing us to the shores of our true home country.

St. Bonaventure

St. Thomas Becket

Also known as St. Thomas of Canterbury, he was born in London on December 21 about the year 1118. His parents had come from Normandy and settled in England some years previously. His early education at Merton Abbey was followed by further studies in Paris. He initially employed himself in secretarial work, first with Sir Richer de l’Aigle and then with his kinsman, Osbert Huitdeniers, who was “Justiciar” of London. About the year 1141, he entered the service of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury, and so won his master’s favor that he became the most trusted of all his clerks.

Theobald recognized his capacity and made use of him in many delicate negotiations. After studying civil and canon law at Bologna and Auxerre, the Archbishop ordained Thomas a deacon in 1154 and bestowed on him several preferments, the most important of which was the Archdeaconry of Canterbury.

When Henry II came to the throne upon the death of King Stephen, he took “Thomas of London”, as Becket was then most commonly called, for his chancellor, and in that office Thomas at the age of thirty-six became one of the most powerful subjects in Henry’s dominions. Although twelve years his junior, the sovereign “had but one heart and one mind” with his chancellor. Both had the prosperity of the kingdom deeply at heart and in many matters they saw eye to eye. The king’s imperial views and love of splendor were quite to the taste of his minister. When Thomas went to France in 1158 to negotiate a marriage treaty, he traveled with such pomp that the people said: “If this be only the chancellor what must be the glory of the king himself?”

Thomas took a leading role in most operations, be they civil or military. Deacon though he was, he unhorsed knights like the best of them and lead the most daring attacks in person. But although, as men then reported, “he put off the archdeacon”, in this and other ways, he was very far from assuming the licentious manners of those around him. No word was ever breathed against his personal purity. Foul conduct or foul speech, lying or unchastity were hateful to him, and on occasion he punished them severely.
He seems at all times to have had clear principles with regard to the claims of the Church, and even during this period of his chancellorship he more than once risked Henry’s grievous displeasure. But to the very limits of what his conscience permitted, Thomas identified himself with his master’s interests.

Archbishop Theobald died in 1161, and in the course of the next year Henry seems to have decided that it would be good policy to prepare the way for further schemes of reform by securing the advancement of his chancellor to the primacy. From the first Thomas drew back in alarm. “I know your plans for the Church,” he said, “you will assert claims which I, if I were archbishop, must needs oppose.” But Henry would not be denied, and Thomas at the instance of Cardinal Henry of Pisa, who urged it upon him as a service to religion, yielded in spite of his misgivings. He was ordained priest on Saturday in Whit Week and consecrated bishop the next day, Sunday, 3 June, 1162.

A great change took place in the saint’s way of life after his consecration as archbishop. Even as chancellor he had practiced secret austerities, but now in view of the struggle he clearly saw before him he gave himself to fastings and disciplines, hair shirts, protracted vigils, and constant prayers. Before the end of the year 1162 he stripped himself of all signs of the lavish display which he had previously affected. On August 10 he went barefoot to receive the envoy who brought him the pallium from Rome. Contrary to the king’s wish he resigned the chancellorship. Whereupon Henry seems to have required him to surrender certain ecclesiastical preferments which he still retained, notably the archdeaconry, and when this was not done at once showed bitter displeasure. Other misunderstandings soon followed. The archbishop, having, as he believed, the king’s express permission, set about to reclaim alienated estates belonging to his see, a procedure which again gave offence. Still more serious was the open resistance which he made to the king’s proposal that a voluntary offering to the sheriffs should be paid into the royal treasury.The saint’s protest seems to have been successful, but the relations with the king only grew more strained.

Soon after this the great matter of dispute was reached in the resistance made by Thomas to the king’s officials when they attempted to assert jurisdiction over criminous clerks. The saint himself had no wish to be lenient with criminous clerks. It was with him simply a question of principle. St. Thomas seems all along to have suspected Henry of a design to strike at the independence of what the king regarded as a too powerful Church. With this view Henry summoned the bishops at Westminster (1 October, 1163) to sanction certain as yet unspecified articles, one of the known objects of which was to bring clerics guilty of crimes under the jurisdiction of the secular courts. The other bishops, as the demand was still in the vague, showed a willingness to submit, though with the condition “saving our order”, upon which St. Thomas inflexibly insisted. The king’s resentment was thereupon manifested by requiring the archbishop to surrender certain castles he had hitherto retained, and by other acts of unfriendliness. In deference to what he believed to be the pope’s wish, the archbishop in December consented to make some concessions by giving a personal and private undertaking to the king to obey his customs “loyally and in good faith”. But when Henry shortly afterwards at Clarendon sought to draw the saint on to a formal and public acceptance of the “Constitutions of Clarendon”, under which name the sixteen articles, the avitæ consuetudines as finally drafted, have been commonly known, St. Thomas, though at first yielding somewhat to the solicitations of the other bishops, in the end took up an attitude of uncompromising resistance.

Then followed a period of unworthy and vindictive persecution. When opposing a claim made against him by John the Marshal, Thomas upon a frivolous pretext was found guilty of contempt of court. For this he was sentenced to pay £500; other demands for large sums of money followed, and finally, though a complete release of all claims against him as chancellor had been given on his becoming archbishop, he was required to render an account of nearly all the moneys which had passed through his hands in his discharge of the office. Eventually a sum of nearly £30,000 was demanded of him. His fellow bishops summoned by Henry to a council at Northampton, implored him to throw himself unreservedly upon the king’s mercy, but St. Thomas, instead of yielding, solemnly warned them and threatened them. Then, after celebrating Mass, he took his archiepiscopal cross into his own hand and presented himself thus in the royal council chamber. The king demanded that sentence should be passed upon him, but in the confusion and discussion which ensued the saint with uplifted cross made his way through the mob of angry courtiers. He fled away secretly that night (October 13, 1164) sailed in disguise from Sandwich (November 2), and after being cordially welcomed by Louis VII of France, he threw himself at the feet of Pope Alexander III, then at Sens, on November 23. The pope, who had given a cold reception to certain episcopal envoys sent by Henry, welcomed the saint very kindly, and refused to accept his resignation of his see. On November 30, Thomas went to take up his residence at the Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny in Burgundy, though he was compelled to leave this refuge a year later, as Henry, after confiscating the archbishop’s property and banishing all the Becket kinsfolk, threatened to wreak his vengeance on the whole Cistercian Order if they continued to harbor him.
The negotiations between Henry, the pope, and the archbishop dragged on for the next four years without the position being sensibly changed. Although the saint remained firm in his resistance to the principle of the Constitutions of Clarendon, he was willing to make any concessions that could be reasonably asked of him, and on January 6, 1169, when the kings of England and France were in conference at Montmirail, he threw himself at Henry’s feet, but as he still refused to accept the obnoxious customs, Henry repulsed him. At last in 1170 some sort of reconciliation was patched up. The question of the customs was not mentioned and Henry professed himself willing to be guided by the archbishop’s council as to amends due to the See of Canterbury for the recent violation of its rights in the crowning of Henry’s son by the Archbishop of York. On December 1, 1170, St. Thomas had brought with him, as well as over the restoration by the de Broc family of the archbishop’s castle at Saltwood. How far Henry was directly responsible for the tragedy which soon after occurred on December 20 is not quite clear. Four knights who came from France demanded the absolution of the bishops. St. Thomas would not comply. They left for a space, but came back at Vesper time with a band of armed men. To their angry question, “Where is the traitor?” the saint boldly replied, “Here I am, no traitor, but archbishop and priest of God.” They tried to drag him from the church, but were unable, and in the end they slew him where he stood, scattering his brains on the pavement. His faithful companion, Edward Grim, who bore his cross, was wounded in the struggle.

A tremendous reaction of feeling followed this deed of blood. In an extraordinary brief space of time devotion to the martyred archbishop had spread all through Europe. The pope promulgated the bull of canonization, little more than two years after the martyrdom, February 21, 1173. On July 12, 1174, Henry II did public penance, and was scourged at the archbishop’s tomb. An immense number of miracles were worked, and for the rest of the Middle Ages the shrine of St. Thomas of Canterbury was one of the wealthiest and most famous in Europe.

In 1220, St. Thomas Becket’s remains were relocated from this first tomb to a shrine, where it stood until it was destroyed in 1538, by orders of Henry VIII. The king also destroyed St. Thomas Becket’s bones and ordered that all mention of his name be obliterated. The pavement where the shrine stood is today marked by a lit candle.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Feast of the Holy Innocents

When the Magi arrived in Judea seeking the newborn “king of the Jews” (Matt. 2:1-2), King Herod was worried. After ascertaining in Scriptures that Bethlehem was the likely birthplace of the Child, he met with the Wise Men. The crafty king bid them go to Bethlehem and bring him back details so he could also adore the new king.

But God Who sees into the hearts of men, warned the three Magi in a dream not to return by way of King Herod. Far from wishing to adore Christ Jesus, the tetrarch wished to destroy Him.

Realizing that he had been found out, Herod raged and ordered all little boys, two years of age and under, to be slaughtered in Bethlehem and its surroundings, hoping thus, to also destroy the Child Jesus.

But warned in time by an angel, St. Joseph had gathered the mother and child and fled to Egypt. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of the Prophet Jeremiah: “A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning, Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” (Matt.2:17-18).

The Church considers those slaughtered babes, the first martyrs, since they shed their blood because of Christ. The Church officially honors their martyrdom on December 28. Several churches in Rome and throughout Europe claim to house their relics.

Daily He comes down from His royal throne

… day after day He humbles Himself,
as when He came down from His royal throne into the Virgin’s womb.
Day by day He comes to us personally in this lowly form.
Daily He comes down from the bosom of His Father, onto the altar, into
the hands of the priest.

St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It burns

I would wield the sword, I would be a Priest,
an Apostle, a Martyr, a Doctor of the Church,
I would fain accomplish the most heroic deeds
— the spirit of the Crusader burns within me,
and I would gladly die on the battlefield in defense of the Church

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

St. John the Evangelist

John was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. In the Gospels, the brothers are often called “the sons of Zebedee”. Our Lord also called them “Boanerges” or “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).  The fact that John is usually mentioned after James seems to indicate that he was younger than his brother.

Originally, John fished with his father and brother in the lake of Genezareth.  He was probably among the disciples of John the Baptist, when the Lord attached him to His apostolic college.

John is mentioned numerous times in the Scriptures, in Acts 1:13 as second after Peter. He seems to hold a prominent position among the apostles. Peter, James and he were the only witnesses to the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37), of the Transfiguration (Matt.17:1), and of the Agony in the Garden (Matt.26:37). At the Last Supper, he was the one that leaned his head on the Lord’s chest. According to pious tradition and private revelation, he was the first recipient of the devotion to Our Lord’s Most Sacred Heart.

Of all the apostles, John was the only one that was not married, and a virgin.

At the foot of the cross, he was the only one of the apostles standing with Mary Most Holy, and it was to him that the dying Savior entrusted His beloved Mother’s keeping and protection.

After the Lord’s death, John seems to have labored with the other apostles for several years in Palestine until the persecution of Herod Agrippa led to the scattering of the apostles throughout the Roman Empire. John went to Asia Minor, including to Ephesus, where a pious tradition holds that he took the Blessed Mother to live.

One of the four evangelists, St. John is the author of the fourth and last Gospel. He wrote the Apocalypse on the Island of Patmos and was the only apostle not to suffer martyrdom but to die of natural causes around the age of 100.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Holy Family in Egypt

People were talking...

A mysterious star had appeared, shepherds spoke of an angel in the night, and of a royal babe in a manger, kings from the East had come, and gone, and now Holy Simeon and Anna rejoiced at having seen the promised of the Lord, and God’s salvation.
On his throne, King Herod seethed with envy, and squirmed with anxiety lest a Child take his crown. And his evil mind conceived one of the most heinous crimes in history, the murder of all male children ages two and under, just so he could be sure one Child died.
Holy FamilyWarned by an angel, the young family left in the dead of night. Once more Saint Joseph led the donkey that had brought Blessed Mary to Bethlehem. But now, the happy beast carried the Creator of the Universe as well.
Into 180 miles of wilderness went Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus to face frightful perils and hazards. And it was the time of year when the desert is frigid by night. At times, all the Holy Family had in the way of shelter was the side of a hill, with Joseph’s cloak propped on his staff for a bit of respite against the cold.
The holy travelers also suffered hunger. One day, having run out of their meager provisions, they had nothing to eat all day.  And God allowed the weather to try them further, so that the wind and rain picked up in fury. And though Mary held the Child close, little Jesus felt the inclemency of the weather and shed tears and shivered like any baby would. And He also already offered His Father all these trials for our salvation.
Finally, after much suffering, the Virgin Mother lifted her heart in prayer, asking nothing for herself but for her God in the flesh. And using her power as queen of the universe, commanded the elements to no longer afflict their Creator. And, immediately the storm abated.
In return, the Child God rejoiced at His mother’s solicitude, and ordered the angels to shelter them from the weather. The angels immediately built a resplendent dome over the travelers, so that now they travelled as if in the plushest RV.
The angels also brought them delicious bread, sweet fruit and a fortifying drink, so that they were amply consoled for all their suffering and labor.
And so, the Holy Family came into Egypt. And then another marvel happened.
The Egyptians were much given to idolatry, and superstitions, and built temples and statues to idols in which demons took up residence. As the holy threesome travelled through the towns of Egypt, the Infant God raised his eyes and small hands to His Heavenly Father, and begged Him for the salvation of the inhabitants held captive by Satan.
Immediately making use of His sovereign power, He drove the demons from the idols and temples, hurling them into the infernal abyss. To which the idols and temples, one after another crashed to the ground leaving the air lighter and the atmosphere freer. The people of Egypt were astounded, though they ignored the source of these blessings.
One demon dwelt in a great tree, which the people worshipped. Once this demon was ousted, the tree, as if in deep gratitude, bowed to the ground before the Holy Family.
And so Jesus, Mary and Joseph took up their abode near the city of Heliopolis, today in the North/East of Cairo, and there did much good for several years until the Angel again appeared and told them it was safe to return home.
(Based on the private revelations of Venerable Maria of Agreda)

Joy which I cannot make others comprehend

To withdraw from creatures and repose with Jesus in the Tabernacle
is my delight; there I can hide myself and seek rest.
There I find a life which I cannot describe,
a joy which I cannot make others comprehend,
  a peace such as is found only under the
hospitable roof of our best Friend.

St. Ignatius Loyola

St. Stephen Martyr

Stephen was a Jew, possibly of the Hellenist Dispersion who, therefore, spoke Greek.

His election and that of six other men as deacons is related in the Acts of the Apostles: “And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 6:5)

Stephen spoke with such wisdom and fire that his listeners could not resist his words. Thus a plot was begun in certain synagogues against him. At first, they tried to debate with the young deacon but could not withstand his inspired logic. Wanting to silence him by any means, they then conspired to put him to death.

Brought before the Sanhedrim, he delivered a marvelous defense of the New Order established by Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Order (recorded at length in the Acts of the Apostles),and finished with the stinging words: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you also. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them who foretold of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” (Acts 7:51-54)

The whole assembly raged at Stephen, but he, full of the Holy Ghost, looked up and saw our Savior standing at the right hand of God the Father, and exclaimed: “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7: 55)

At which words those assembled loudly protested, and stopping their ears, fell upon him and seized him. Dragging the deacon outside the city, they stoned him. Standing by, watching, was a man named Saul, and those hurling the stones laid their cloaks at his feet for safe keeping.
As the martyr felt himself dying under the awful blows, he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling on his knees he cried out, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:58-59). After which he fell asleep in the Lord.

St. Stephen is the first to have shed his blood for the Name of Christ Jesus.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

On December 25 the Church celebrates the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity made man, Who taking flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary through the power of the Holy Spirit, was  born nine months later in a stable in Bethlehem as predicted in the Scriptures: "And Thou, Bethlehem Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Juda: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity" (Micah, 5:2). The Gospels of St. Luke and St. Mathew cover the marvelous story. St. Luke writes of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem for the census of Caesar Augustus and Jesus being born there and laid in a manger.  He tells of the appearance of an angel to shepherds nearby announcing the birth of the Child as the awaited Savior, Christ the Lord, and how these same shepherds found Him in the humble stable just as the angel had foretold.

In the account of St. Matthew, wise men follow a mysterious star to Bethlehem and lay gifts at the feet of the Divine Child. He also recounts the massacre, ordered by the envious Herod, of all little boys two years old and under, and the flight of the holy family into Egypt to save the Child Jesus. They later settle in Nazareth.

Though there are records of the feast of the Nativity of Jesus being celebrated as early as the third century in Egypt, the celebration of this feast did not spread throughout the Christian world until the middle of the fourth century. It was at first celebrated along with the feast of Epiphany on January 6, the feast of the arrival of the Wise Men or Magi. Little by little, Christmas became its own feast. Many of the early Church Fathers regarded December 25 as the actual date of Christ’s birth.

Historically and traditionally, Christmas is deemed one of the greatest Christian feasts along with the solemn, grateful remembrance of the Lord’s death on Good Friday, and the joyful celebration of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In all Christian countries, Christmas gives rise to a multitude of cultural expressions of colorful, sparkling joy, in remembrance and thanksgiving for this most charming of divine gifts, a God made a babe for our salvation. Countless songs, and ballads through the ages sing of this Gift of gifts, and people, in turn, have recourse to gift giving as a visible overflow of their gratitude and joy – or so it should be.

How foolish it is

Our Lord could have ordered the angels to embellish the
            Holy Grotto with the most delicate silks, the most aromatic
            perfumes, and the most celestial symphonies. He could have
            enjoyed every legitimate material delight from the first
            moment of His human life.

               Instead, He chose the very opposite. His delicate body lay
            not on soft silk, but on coarse straw. His crib was a feeding
            trough which, however diligently scoured by Our Lady, did not
            exude the sweet smells of exquisite perfumes. Born at midnight
            in the middle of winter, the Holy Infant trembled in the cold
            night air, warmed only by the breath of beasts. His cradle song
            was the lowing of cows.

               Thus, Our Lord Jesus Christ showed us how foolish it is
            to make this world’s delights the end of our lives. To the
            contrary, Christ taught us to disdain them for the glory of
            God and the good of souls, in the measure that they distract
            and even deviate us from our ultimate end the eternal
            delight of unending life with Him.

                                            Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

In Search of Christmas

One Christmas night, Our Lord, denying Himself the comfort of visiting those households where He knows He is loved, came down into the midst of a modern city to see what sinners were doing.
Christmas!... Christmas!... Joy was universal.
Everyone was celebrating. Christ encountered a policeman completely engrossed in directing traffic in a busy plaza.
Christ stepped up to him and asked, “What does this holiday of Christmas mean?”
The policeman eyed Him: “Where do you come from?”
“From Bethlehem.”
“Oh? Wherever that is. Anyway, don’t you know that Christmas is a holiday for kids? It’s a holiday for everybody. On Christmas, everybody is somebody’s kid!”
“What is the origin of this holiday?”
“Look, you ask too many questions. Can’t you see I’m very busy? If you want to know more, go ask the chief.”

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Christmas!... Christmas!...
Every store glittered with worldly displays. Really, what was behind it?
Christ paused by a restaurant advertising “Christmas Party — $50.00.”  Ladies and gentlemen in elegant evening attire were entering the place.
He stepped inside.
Tables, covered with white linen and lighted with red and green candles, were arranged in rows. Bottles of champagne, with gilded foil about their necks, nestled in ice-filled silver pails.
A woman, turning around and seeing Our Lord, gestured indignantly at one of the waiters: “What is this? You let panhandlers in here?”
The waiter, a young man of twenty or so, rushed over to Him. “What are you doing in here?” he demanded. “Begging is permitted only out on the sidewalk!”
Christ studied the young man. “If only you knew what it is that I am ‘begging’ for...”
But He was already being shoved out into the street — as the woman playing the piano sang, “Peace on earth and mercy mild.” Not even the Roman soldiers had been so hasty.
Outside, Christ allowed Himself to be swept along by the throng that flowed like a river between the stores and markets. He saw toys, and more toys, everywhere, and a few Santa Clauses, but rarely a manger scene.
Our Lord then caught sight of a married couple carrying a few small, precious bundles. They seemed to be good, middle-class, peace-loving souls, hurrying somewhere to celebrate Christmas.
Christ followed them, invisible to their eyes. They entered their home and climbed the staircase to their apartment, where others had already gathered. He watched as they opened bottles, served pastries, and then as they ate and drank.
“Imagine,” said one, “just for a change of pace, I went to Midnight Mass!”
“Oh?” said another,” barely considering the remark, “And how was it?”
“Well, it wasn’t as pleasant as a good concert, but quite amusing nevertheless. Saw a number of friends there...”
The apartment had neither a crucifix nor a manger scene. Christ could not long endure the senseless conversation, so He turned away and slowly descended the staircase.
A short distance down the road, Our Lord found Himself near the playground of a large school. Above the gate a prominent sign proclaimed, “Christmas Party for the Children of District 10.”
Ah, children, little children! Our Lord went in. There were hundreds of children inside, receiving toys, candy, and books. As they noisily ran and tumbled about, important looking women hurried under the gaze of a headmistress.  Again, neither a manger scene nor a crucifix could be seen, and nobody mentioned the name of the Child Jesus.
As Christ stood there, a feeling of isolation grew in His heart. He was a trespasser. Finally, He approached a young boy whose arms overflowed with toys. The boy reminded Him of His little friends of bygone days in Bethlehem.
“Do you love the Child Jesus who has given you so many nice toys?”
The boy stared at Him with a puzzled air: “Child Jesus?”
“Don’t you know Him?”
The headmistress, as if sensing some danger afoot, rushed over.  “What did this Man say to you?” she frantically asked the boy. Upon learning what Our Lord had asked and what Name He had dared mention, her eyes glared with annoyance.  “Be so kind as to leave... At once!”

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Christ again walked through the streets, no longer entering any of the places He passed. He wandered as His mother had in Bethlehem, on a night like this and on the same date so long ago. He roamed through the endless streets, passing innumerable places where His creatures celebrated Christmas without knowing its true meaning. He hesitated to return to Heaven with such observations, for they would sadden the saints.
Weary, He came to the edge of a neglected suburb. A white building ablaze with tiny lights caught His eye. Approaching and looking through one of the windows, He saw His own image prominently displayed on the wall. His eyes brightened, as if reflecting the hundreds of lights outside, when He noticed that in one corner of the room was a simple, but attractively arranged, manger scene.
Just then the door opened and a boy came out, a boy like those who not infrequently come under the care of a parish. The boy stopped abruptly at the sight of the golden-haired man shivering in the darkness. Icy gusts blew around them.
“Sir, you could freeze out here! You need to get out of the cold.”
“I am quite cold,” answered Our Lord.
“Come in, then. We have a good fire going.”
And so Our Lord entered.  Near the fireplace, a group of children were closely gathered around a young priest. As the fire crackled and filled the room with its warmth and light, the priest told the children about the infinite grandeur hidden within the little figure of the Child Jesus in the manger. He stopped his tale the moment Our Lord entered the room.
“Come in! Oh, you look cold! Warm yourself here.”
The children promptly offered the newcomer a place close to the fire.

“Have you had anything to eat? Joseph, go ask your mother to prepare something hot for this gentleman.”
Christ’s gaze slowly passed over all of them, one by one, as if He were memorizing every little face. Above all, He gazed at the young priest.
“Are you alone, my friend?” asked the priest kindly.
Seized by soul-stirring curiosity, all eyes turned inquisitively upon the stranger, waiting.
Christ did not speak. Very slowly, regally, Jesus’ hand moved. He extended it over their heads, reaching beyond the humble cottages of that neighborhood and encompassing that immense city whose miseries He had witnessed close up. In a tone of voice that none of those present would ever forget, He exclaimed: “Misereor super turbas” – I have pity upon these people!
Then, slowly, before their astonished eyes He disappeared.
“It was Jesus!” cried one of the boys.
The young priest nodded solemnly. “Yes... it must have been...”

By Pierre L'Ermite
Illustrations by A.F.Phillips

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Free to approach

The Son of God was not satisfied with promising to redeem us or with becoming Man.
But He willed to come into this world in a manner not at all consistent with His grandeur.
He came as humbly as can be imagined so that we might be more free to approach Him.

St. Louise de Marillac

Sts. Irmina and Adela

Princesses Irmina and Adela were daughters of St. Dagobert II, King of the Francs. Their father had acceded to the throne at the age of seven but had been deposed soon after and had fled to Ireland for safety. During his exile he married the Anglo-Saxon princess, Matilda, and had five children, among them Adela and Irmina. He returned to the Frankish capital of Metz in 673 and reclaimed the throne.

Irmina was betrothed to Count Herman but he was assassinated shortly before they were to marry and she professed her desire to embrace the religious life instead. King Dagobert restored a convent at Horren in Trier where she founded a Benedictine community. When a deadly plague threatened her sisters, she sought the help of St. Willibrord. In gratitude for being preserved from this pestilence, she provided the manor where the monastery of Echternach was founded in 698. Her devotion to the poor led to her being honored as a saint after her death in the year 710.

Her sister, Adela, was married to Alberic and they had a son prior to her husband’s untimely death. Despite many marriage offers, the young widow chose to enter religion as well. She founded the convent of Palatiolum outside of Trier on lands that were then undeveloped and governed it as Abbess for many years until her death on December 24, 735. The monastic site later grew into the town of Pfalzel. Her son became the future father of St. Gregory of Utrecht.

The memory of the two royal sisters and foundresses is celebrated jointly on December 24.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Mutual attraction

The Blessed Sacrament is the magnet of souls.
There is a mutual attraction between Jesus and the souls of men.
Mary drew Him down from heaven. Our nature attracted Him rather than the nature of angels.
Our misery caused Him to stoop to our lowness.
Even our sins had a sort of attraction for the abundance of His mercy and the predilection of His grace.
Our repentance wins Him to us.
Our love makes earth a paradise to Him;
and our souls lure Him as gold lures the miser,
with irresistible fascination.

Fr. Frederick William Faber

St. John of Kanti

Born on June 23, 1390, John Cantius takes his name from the town of his birth, Kanti, Poland.

Country people of some means, his parents saw early on that John was as clever as he was good. At the right time, they sent him to the University of Cracow where he received degrees, was ordained a priest and appointed to a professorship.

Leading a strict ascetic life, when warned about his health, he was wont to reply that the fathers of the desert usually lived to a ripe old age.

Such was his success as a teacher and preacher that inevitably envy reared its ugly head against him. Removed from his post, he was appointed parish priest of Olkusz. Although he gave his all to his new assignment – not without some trepidation – his parishioners did not like him at first; however, he persevered for several years and won his people’s hearts.

Recalled to the University of Cracow, St. John was appointed professor of Sacred Scriptures, a post he held until his death.  He was as welcome a guest at the houses and tables of the nobility as he was well-known to all the poor in the city. Whatever he owned was always at their disposition.

A number of miracles were attributed to him during his life. When people heard that he was dying, their sorrow was genuine and general. To those who ministered to him on his death bed he said, “Never mind about this prison that is decaying, but think of the soul that is going to leave it.”

He died on Christmas Eve of the year 1473. He was eighty-three years of age. John of Kanti or Cantius, as he is sometimes called, was canonized in 1767.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How to be holy

Holiness is a disposition of the heart
that makes us humble and little in the arms of God,
aware of our weakness, and confident
– to the point of audacity –
in His Fatherly goodness.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Sts. Chaeremon, Ischyrion and other Martyrs

In his letter to Fabian, the Bishop of Antioch, St. Dionysius of Alexandria speaks of Christians who suffered martyrdom under the Emperor Decius. Many were driven to flee into the desert where they suffered hunger, exposure, and died prey to either wild beasts, or at the hand of men just as wild. A good number were also sold into slavery.

St. Dionysius particularly mentions a very old man, the Bishop of Nilopolis, by name of Chaeremon who, with a companion, disappeared into the mountains of Arabia. Though a search was carried out, not even their bodies were found.

In the same letter St. Dionysius also mentions the name of Ischyrion, the procurator of a magistrate of Egypt. When ordered by the Egyptian official to sacrifice to the idols, Ischyrion refused so steadfastly that neither abuse nor threats could make him change his mind. The enraged magistrate then had him mutilated and impaled.

Photo by: Roland Unger

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Could anyone ever have been able to imagine that the Word become flesh 
would take on the appearance of bread to become our food unless He Himself had already done so?
Even though we cannot see Him in the Eucharist, He sees us and is really present there.
He is present so that we can possess Him, but hidden in order that we might desire Him.
Until such time as we come to our homeland, Jesus wishes to give Himself completely to us 
and to remain completely united with us. 

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

St. Peter Canisius

St. Peter Canisius is rightly considered the second apostle of Germany after St. Boniface.

Peter Kanis – his name was later Latinized to “Canisius” – was born in Nijmegen, Holland, then a German province of the archdiocese of Cologne. He originally thought of becoming a lawyer to please his father, a wealthy public official, but after a retreat directed by St. Peter Faber, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the young Canisius decided to become a Jesuit.

Shortly after his ordination to the priesthood, he accompanied the Bishop of Augsburg to the Council of Trent and attended two sessions of the Council as a delegate. He was later summoned to Rome by St. Ignatius who retained him by his side for five months.

In response to an appeal by Duke William IV of Bavaria for Catholic professors capable of countering heretical teachings then permeating the schools, after his solemn profession, Peter Canisius was sent to Germany with two other brother Jesuits.

From then on Peter Canisius spent his life helping people in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia and Switzerland to hold firmly to their Catholic Faith in opposition to the errors of the Protestant reformation then spreading throughout those countries.  The restoration of the Catholic Faith in Germany is largely due to the work of the Jesuit fathers which Canisius led.

He combined powerful preaching, with teaching and ceaseless works of charity. In Austria, he at first preached to almost empty churches, partially due to his Rhineland German which grated on the ears of the Viennese.  But his tireless ministrations to the sick and dying during an outbreak of the plague, won the citizens’ hearts, after which his accent was of little importance.

The king, the nuncio and even the Pope wished to appoint him to the vacant see of Vienna, but St. Ignatius would only allow him to administer the diocese for a year without episcopal orders. It was at this time that St. Peter began work on his famous catechism, Summary of Christian Doctrine.

Appointed to Prague, he practically won the city back to the Faith. The college he established in the city was so highly regarded for its excellent academics that even Protestants sought to send their sons to it. During this time he was also made Provincial Superior of the Jesuit Order for an area covering Czechoslovakia, South Germany, Austria and Bohemia.

Not only did Peter Canisius found several colleges, but prepared the way for many others. He also wrote extensively throughout his life. His books were catechetical, instructional, historical and apologetic, refuting the errors of Protestantism.

Canisius was already advanced in age when he was instructed to found a college in Fribourg, Switzerland, capital of the Catholic canton, sandwiched between two powerful Protestant neighbors. Surmounting all obstacles, including numerous financial difficulties, St. Peter founded a university operative to this day. The preservation of the Catholic faith in Fribourg in a critical time of its history can be confidently attributed to him.

Increasing bodily illness obliged Peter Canisius to give up preaching. In 1591 he suffered a paralytic seizure which brought him near death, but recovering sufficiently, he continued writing with the help of a secretary until shortly before his passing on December 21, 1597.

Peter Canisius was simultaneously canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1925 by Pope Pius XI.
Second photo by: GFreihalter

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


I am afraid that if we begin to put our trust in human help,
some of our Divine help will fail us.

St. Teresa of Avila

St. Dominic de Silos

Dominic was born at Canas de Navarre, on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. From a family of peasants, at first he looked after his father’s flocks in the foothills of the beautiful mountains of that region.

Developing a taste for silence and solitude, he entered the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla. As he made great progress in the religious state, he was entrusted with works of reform and became prior of his monastery.

Refusing to hand over to King Garcia III of Navarre some of the monastery’s lands which the monarch coveted, he and two of his companions were forced into exile by the king. They were warmly received by Ferdinand I of Castille and León who entrusted to Dominic the monastery of San Sebastián de Silos, in a remote part of the diocese of Burgos. The ancient Benedictine monastery, however, was decaying – structurally and spiritually.

As Abbot of San Sebastian, Dominic restored order to both the physical structure of the edifice and the spiritual edifice of the souls within, and made Silos famous throughout Spain.

Dominic was a great miracle worker, and it was said that there was no disease that he had not, at one time or another, cured. His charitable solicitude embraced not only the poor and the infirm but Christians enslaved by the Moors. These he endeavored by all means within his powers to free from their cruel captivity.

About one hundred year after his death, a young woman, Blessed Juana de Aza de Guzmán, made a pilgrimage to his tomb, asking to conceive a child. The child she effectually conceived and bore, she named Dominic after the holy abbot of Silos. This Dominic became the great St. Dominic de Guzmán, founder of the Dominican Order.

Dominic of Silos died on December 20, 1073.

Monday, December 19, 2016

When the heart is pure

When the heart is pure, it cannot help loving,
because it has found the source of love,
which is God Himself.

St. John Vianney

December 19 - Pope St. Anastasius I

St. Jerome wrote of Pope Anastasius that he was a distinguished man of blameless life and apostolic solicitude, a man of great holiness, rich in his poverty.

Born a Roman, son of Maximus, Anastasius was the successor of St. Siricius, and was pope from 399 to 401.

During his short reign, he fought the heresy of Origen. In 400 he called a Council to discuss the man and his doctrines. The Council condemned Origin’s errors.

He also opposed Donatism, another heresy in Northern Africa.

Sts. Jerome, Augustine and Paulinus, were his friends and admirers.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Whence the Christmas Tree?

Who doesn’t love a Christmas Tree? 
What Christmas would be complete without the glittering fir, filling the house with color and warmth?
But whence the custom of the Christmas Tree? The pine fir certainly wasn’t present in Oriental Bethlehem, when Jesus was born. Rather, palm trees grow in the East, and are often depicted around the Crèche.
So, why don’t we decorate a palm tree, rather than a fir tree? Is the custom even Christian, we may ask?
Indeed, that Christmas tree standing in our living room has an ancient, wonderful history. And though the custom began pagan, it was “baptized” and adopted by the wisdom of a great saint.
St. Boniface was an English man who lived in the ninth century and who felt called to evangelize the German nation.
One of the pagan German gods was a great oak tree called “Thunder Oak” in honor of the god Thor. Every winter, the locals offered a sacrifice to Thor, usually a child, under the mighty oak.
One year, fired by holy anger, Boniface decided to do away with the barbaric custom and bravely showed up with an ax just in time to prevent the killing. Before the astounded revelers, he proceeded to hack away at the massive trunk.
Legend has it that a miraculous gust of wind pushed down the tree at the first blows. Impressed that the “god” did not strike down the daring priest, the pagans accepted Christianity.
As the giant oak collapsed, standing there was a small fir tree that, somehow, escaped destruction.

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Pointing to it, the holy man said:
“This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace… It is the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are ever green. See how it points upward to heaven. Let this be called the tree of the Christ-child; gather about it, not in the wild wood, but in your own homes; there it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and rites of kindness.”

Thus using strength, St. Boniface did away with an idol.
Yet, also showing amazing tact, he wisely filled the vacuum left by a cancelled custom with another tree, now used merely as a symbol or as a type of “sacramental” directing the new Christians to the true God.
So was the evergreen taken into homes at Christmas, from that time on becoming a loving sentinel to the birth of Christ, a symbol of hope, peace and good-will.
With time, small and large decorated evergreens were used as an actual backdrop to the holy Crèche, another custom begun by another great saint, Francis of Assisi.
So as you gather around the Christmas Tree this year, share its holy origins with your children, so they may not only love it’s lights and colors, but also the rich Catholic heritage that is theirs.

By Andrea F. Phillips
References: EWTN Online, Catholic Answers, Wikipedia
Christmas Tree: Dreamstime.

St. Boniface and Thunder Oak: Wiki Commons; attribution: Jdsteakley

Did Jesus respect false ideas?

While Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray,
He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared.
He loved them all, but
He instructed them in order to convert them and save them.

Pope St. Pius X

December 18 - St. Flannan

St. Flannan mac Toirrdelbaig, was the son of Turlough, the King of Thomond in Ireland.

He became a monk at the monastery of Killaloe, and at a certain point made a pilgrimage to Rome where Pope John IV consecrated him bishop. He was the first bishop of Killaloe, the diocese becoming one of twenty-four established at the Synod of Rathbreasail in 1111.  St. Flannan's diocese of Killaloe is operative to this day.

Following Flannan’s example of dedication and holiness, his devout father, King Turlough, retired in his old age and entered religion, becoming a monk in the Abbey of Lismore.

Renowned for the eloquence and ardor of his preaching, St. Flannan, also performed remarkable miracles. When he sensed death approaching, he instructed those present on the importance of observing natural and human justice, blessed his relatives and died on December 18.
First photo by: James Yardley
Second photo by: JJM

Friday, December 16, 2016

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

December 16 - St. Adelaide

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.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Meditation 1

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

On the Dignity of the Child Jesus and His Most Holy Mother
Approach with me the crib of the Child God.
As we consider the infinite greatness of His birthplace, we will imagine a spacious grotto as high as a cathedral, with some of the stones arranged, as if by angels, in such a way as to remind us of the arches of the gothic Cathedrals of the Middle Ages.
We can also imagine the manger that served as a cradle for the Child God, the roughness of the wood sanctified by His Divine Presence. It is placed at a majestic point of the grotto; and a heavenly, golden light hovers over Him at that moment.
While still a newborn, the Divine Child lay in His crib with the majesty of a true King: King of all majesty and all glory; Creator of Heaven and Earth; God incarnate made man. From the first moment of His being, while “cloistered” away in His Mother’s womb, He had more majesty, grandeur, strength and power than all men throughout the history of mankind.
Imagine we are seeing all this mysteriously expressed on that Boy’s face. At times, as He moves, that movement reveals His kingly bearing. When He opens His eyes, we know we are in the presence of the Wisdom of the Ages.
A whole atmosphere of holiness surrounds those who approach Him. The very air one breathes has such purity that people do not even approach the place without asking forgiveness for their sins; but at the same time, the holiness emanating from the manger makes them want to amend their lives.
Also imagine Our Lady at the foot of the Child Jesus. She is truly a Queen. Her dignity and grandeur are so naturally a part of her being that even without wearing noble-looking garments, her dignity shines throughout the grotto.

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Majesty Exuding from Sanctity
From where does all this majesty come? Sanctity.
Let us shift our meditation momentarily to consider a more recent example of this type of majesty. We will turn to Saint Therese, the Little Flower. It is written that even as a child she was so dear and imposing that her father called her “my little queen.”
During the process of her canonization, the gardener of the Carmel of Lisieux reported that he once saw a nun working with her back to him: she was Saint Therese. The devil’s advocate* then asked, “How could you know she was Sister Therese when she had her back to you?” The gardener’s response was very significant: “I knew it through the majesty of her bearing, for no other nun had such majesty.”
If Saint Therese was like that, what would Our Lady be like?
Imagine the Mother of God kneeling before her Child’s crib. She is so majestic, transcendent and pure, praying to the Child God. Invisibly, angels sing songs of glory and the whole atmosphere is permeated with so much sanctity as to transform the poverty of the stable into a royal court.
Now we approach the manger, feeling the greatness of the Divine Child. As Catholics, we are worshiping all that is noble, pure, holy and steadfast, to fight and sacrifice all for the glory of God. The Boy before us mysteriously draws to Him all the goodness and grandeur that flow from Him and yet are but reflections of Him. For is it not true that all forms of purity, all forms of holiness, only exist because of His holiness?
Thus, fending away from us sin, error, disorder and chaos, we do not even dare to raise our eyes to that magnificent scene of the Nativity in which order, hierarchy and splendor permeate everything.

*The term “devil’s advocate” refers to the popular title of the person appointed by the Roman Catholic Church to challenge a proposed beatification or canonization, according to the process used at the time of this writing.

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.

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

Monday, December 12, 2016

Is there 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.