Saints: September 2006 Archives

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September 26th is also the feast of Saint Thérèse Couderc (1805–1885), an old friend of mine. Immensely humble, the foundress of the Religious of Our Lady of Retreat in the Cenacle suffered calumny, rejection, betrayal, and endless humiliations without becoming hard and bitter. Just look at that face! She remained serene and confident in God. Mother Thérèse Couderc was, to use her own favourite word, utterly livrée, that is, handed over to God. In her honour, I decided to translate a page of her writings today. Here it is:

What does it mean to hand oneself over? I understand the full extent of the meaning of the expression, to hand oneself over, but I cannot explain it. I know only that it is very vast, that it encompasses the present and the future.

To hand oneself over is more than to devote oneself, it is more even than to abandon oneself to God. To hand oneself over is, in fine, to die to all things and to oneself, to have no more preoccupation with self apart from keeping oneself always turned toward God.

Again, To hand oneself over is is to seek oneself no longer in anything, not in things spiritual, nor in things temporal; it is to seek no satisfaction for self, but only God's good pleasure.

I must add that to hand oneself over is also that spirit of detachment by which one holds onto nothing: not to persons, nor to things, nor to times, nor to places. It is to adhere to everything to accept everything, to submit oneself to everything.

You will perhaps think that this is very difficult to do. Get this straight. Nothing is easier to do. Nothing is sweeter to put into practice. The whole thing is to make once and for all a generous act, saying with all the sincerity of one's soul: "My God, I want to be all yours. Deign to accept my offering." That says it all. Be careful thenceforth to keep yourself in this disposition of soul and not to pull back from any of the little sacrifices which may serve to our advancement in virtue. Recall that you are handed over.

I pray Our Lord to give the intelligence of this expression to all the souls desirous of pleasing Him, and to inspire them [to practice] so easy a means of sanctification. Oh! If only one could understand ahead of time the sweetness and the peace that one tastes when one no longer places any reserve in the way of the Good God. How He communicates Himself to the soul who seeks Him sincerely and who has known how to hand herself over. Let one experience it and one will see that happiness is there and that, without it, one searches for happiness in vain.

The soul that is handed over has found paradise on earth, since she enjoys that gentle peace that is part of the happiness of the elect.

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The Priest of the Holy Face of Jesus

Gaetano Catanoso was born on 14 February 1879 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy. His parents, wealthy landowners, were exemplary Christians. Gaetano was ordained a priest in 1902, and from 1904 to 1921 he served in the rural parish of Pentidattilo.

The Holy Face of Jesus illumined Father Catanoso's life. He venerated the Holy Face as depicted in the image of Veronica's Veil diffused by the Carmel of Tours in France. He began "The Holy Face" Bulletin and established a local chapter of the "Archconfraternity of the Holy Face" in 1920. "The Holy Face," he wrote, "is my life." Saint Gaetano directed anyone seeking the Face of Christ to the Most Holy Eucharist, saying, "If we wish to adore the real Face of Jesus, we can find it in the divine Eucharist where, with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of our Lord is hidden under the white veil of the Host."

A Parish Priest

On 2 February 1921, Father Catanoso was transferred to the large parish of Santa Maria de la Candelaria. He served there until 1940. The daily celebration of Holy Mass and Eucharistic adoration were the soul of his priesthood and the sustenance of his apostolate.

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The liturgical memorial of Saint Gaetano Catanoso occurs on September 20th. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him on October 23, 2005. In the homily of the Mass of Canonization, the Holy Father said:

Saint Gaetano Catanoso was a lover and apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus. "The Holy Face", he affirmed, "is my life. He is my strength". With joyful intuition he joined this devotion to Eucharistic piety.

He would say: "If we wish to adore the real Face of Jesus..., we can find it in the divine Eucharist, where with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of Our Lord is hidden under the white veil of the Host".

Daily Mass and frequent adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar were the soul of his priesthood: with ardent and untiring pastoral charity he dedicated himself to preaching, catechesis, the ministry of confession, and to the poor, the sick and the care of priestly vocations. To the Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, which he founded, he transmitted the spirit of charity, humility and sacrifice which enlivened his entire life.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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