Saints: November 2006 Archives

Recommended Reading

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I have never made a secret of it: Blessed Abbot Marmion has been for me a spiritual master, a father, and a friend from the time I was fifteen years old. I am thrilled to see a new edition of his spiritual letters.

Zaccheus Press is pleased to announce the release of Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion.

One of Mother Teresa's favorite books, Union with God is a collection of letters written by Blessed Columba Marmion to the many persons who sought his spiritual counsel -- with questions about prayer, faith, temptation, suffering, and the struggles of daily life. Marmion excelled in the art of letter-writing -- his advice was always simple and direct, yet profound. In his letters we see him bringing to bear his great depth of theological knowledge in a practical and human way.

Union with God: Letters of Spiritual Direction by Blessed Columba Marmion
ISBN 0-9725981-6-2
233 pages • $14.95 (paperback)

Read Father David L. Toups' Foreward to the new edition of Union with God:

Mon cher Théophane

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I have some personal reasons for being very fond of Saint Théophane Vénard. Many years ago when I was serving as Master of Novices, I had in my care a Vietnamese novice who had taken the name of Marie–Théophane. While in France to preach a retreat I had the opportunity to stop at the Missions Étrangères de Paris. I asked if it might be possible to obtain a first–class relic of Saint Théophane for my young confrère. The kind priest who welcomed me was a retired missionary. He radiated a gentle, sturdy holiness. He explained that no relics were available. "But," he said, "we do have here in this glass case the soutane worn by Saint Théophane when he was beheaded." With that, he unlocked the case, pulled scissors out of his pocket and cut off a generous piece of the black soutane. "Take this to your petit frère vietnamien," he said. I was astonished. And tears came to my eyes. You can imagine Frère Marie–Théophane's joy when he received the precious relic.

The second thing that moves me is Théophane's utter fidelity to the Divine Office, even in the most trying conditions. Any priest who has difficulty being faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours should invoke Saint Théophane Vénard. Right up until his martyrdom, even while imprisoned in a bamboo cage, he prayed his breviary, the only book that remained in his possession.

The third and last thing I want to mention is that in 1860, the year before his death, with his bishop's permission, Saint Théophane offered himself to God as a victim for the Church in Tonkin. He offered himself by the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, consecrating himself to her according to the formula of Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort. That, it seems to me, is the perfection of the eucharistic and priestly life: total identification with Christ, the immolated Lamb. It is not fashionable in some circles to speak of "victimhood." It makes the learned and the clever sniff and grimace. Tant pis! One who approaches the altar day after day "in spirit and in truth" will, if he surrenders to the Mystery and allows himself to be formed by the Blessed Virgin, realize in his own flesh not only the priesthood of Christ, but also His victimhood. This mystical identification with Christ Priest and Victim is the secret of all sacerdotal fecundity.

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Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face (1873–1897)
Saint Théophane Vénard (1829–1861)

It is true that the Lord chooses the little ones to confound the strong of this world. I do not rely on my own strengths, but on the strength of Him who, on the Cross, conquered the powers of hell.
(Saint Théophane Vénard quoted by Saint Thérèse)

Speaking to French pilgrims on the day after the canonization of the Martyrs of Vietnam, Pope John Paul II said, "Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus was on intimate terms with Saint Théophane Vénard whose picture never left her as she suffered the pangs of death."

Thérèse wrote, "I like Théophane Vénard even more than Saint Aloysius Gonzaga because the life of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was extraordinary and Théophane Vénard's was quite ordinary. . . . My soul is like his. He is the one who has best lived my way of spiritual childhood." The young Carmelite pinned a picture of Théophane Vénard to her bed curtains, together with one of the Blessed Virgin and photos of her little siblings who had died.

Thérèse had read the young martyr's biography and his correspondence. She composed a poem in his honour and, at the end of her life, expressed the deepest sentiments of her soul by copying out passages from Théophane's letters. "Théophane is a little saint," she wrote. "As a parting souvenir I have copied for you certain passages of the last letters he wrote to his parents; these are my thoughts. My soul resembles his."

On 6 September 1867, twenty–four days before her death, Thérèse was presented with a relic of Théophane Vénard. She caressed it and asked to hold it close that she might kiss it. It was the life and death of Théophane that inspired Thérèse to say that after her death she would return to work on earth until the end of the world.

Mother Clelia Merloni

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Today is the anniversary of the death of Mother Clelia Merloni (1861–1930), the foundress of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart. Mother Clelia’s life was marked by the betrayal of her confidence, by financial ruin, calumny, plotting, and the loss of her good name. In 1911 the Holy See removed Mother Clelia from the office of superior of the institute she had founded. She accepted the humiliation with quiet courage, never losing her confidence in the Heart of Jesus.

In 1916, after an agonizing struggle, she requested and obtained a dispensation from her vows, preferring to withdraw from her community rather than be an obstacle to its growth. In 1928, two years before her death, she was readmitted into the congregation she had founded and welcomed back at the house in Rome. She spent the time that remained in solitary prayer, in reparation, adoration, and silence. As a very young woman she had desired the cloistered life; in the end it was given her, not in a monastery, but in a simple “upper room” on the Via Germano Sommeiller in Rome. There Mother Clelia became a flame of love burning itself out for the love of Christ, the mystery of his Sacred Heart, the Eucharist, the priesthood, and the institute to which she gave birth. Mother Clelia died on Friday, November 21, 1930. The cause for her canonization was opened in 1989.

Mother Clelia is close to those who suffer rejection and apparent failure. She understands the plight of those who are misunderstood and judged. She has a maternal sympathy for those who make false starts in life and for those who, in spite of obstacles and hardships, persevere in searching for the will of God. She is a faithful friend of priests. Pray to her.

My Elizabethan Friend

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I happen to have a friend who — quite apart from the fact that she is of Hungarian descent — reminds me of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. She is not a queen. She is a wife, the mother of two teen–agers, and a nurse. She offers friendship, comfort, help in need, and good counsel. She accompanies insecure, inept, and frightened people to the doctor's office, visits the sick at home, runs to the assistance of families in distress, and occasionally looks after injured animals in her neighbourhood. On Thanksgiving she opens her home to those without family. For all of that, she finds time to pray, often slipping into church for a time of Eucharistic adoration or a rosary. She goes to Mass during the week. Like Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, she practices the Seven Corporal and Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy.

I mused in my homily this morning that an artist should paint a series of fourteen panels showing Saint Elizabeth of Hungary practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Adé Béthune did her own series for The Catholic Worker many years ago. At Santa Croce in Gerusalemme we have enormous canvases depicting them all over the abbey; I wish I had photos of them to post here.

A Passion for Holiness

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Laus Crucis introduces us to yet another holy young Passionist: Blessed Pio (Campidelli) of Saint Aloysius. In many ways, Blessed Pio reminds me of Blessed Marie–Joseph Cassant, the young Trappist of Sainte–Marie–du Désert. Pio Campidelli was born at Poggio Berni (Forli) in Italy on April 29, 1868. He entered the Passionists in his fourteenth year. The young Pio was drawn to the Mother of God, to the mystery of the Eucharist, and to Jesus Crucified. His way of holiness was fidelity to ordinary things with an extraordinary love. Pio received the Minor Orders and, after offering his life for his beloved native region of Romagna, died on November 2, 1889. He was twenty–one years old.

Pope John Paul II beatified Pio on November 17, 1985. The Passionists celebrate his liturgical memorial on November 3rd. Here is the Collect for the Mass and Office of Blessed Pio:

O God,
who reveal yourself in a marvelous way
to the little ones and to the pure of heart,
manifest yourself to us, we beseech you,
as you did to Blessed Pius,
and grant that we may follow you unceasingly,
our one and true God, in purity and sincerity of life,
loving you above all things and loving others with your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

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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