Saints: January 2008 Archives

Saint Marcella of Rome

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The Glory of the Ladies of Rome

January 31st is not only the feast of Saint John Bosco, the gentle spiritual father of countless children and young people, it is also the feast of Saint Marcella of Rome. Saint Jerome called Marcella “the glory of the ladies of Rome.”

Fascinated by Monks

As a small girl Marcella heard Saint Athanasius speak; his stories of the Desert Fathers of Egypt enthralled her, planting deep in her heart the seeds of a future marked by asceticism and devoted to the Word of God. Marcella married but was widowed after only seven months. She resisted the social pressure to remarry. When an elderly Roman consul proposed to leave her all his money if she would marry him, Marcella replied, “If I wished to marry, I should look for a husband, not an inheritance.”

A School of Prayer

The young widow’s home became an academy for the study of Sacred Scripture and a school of prayer. Saint Paula and other Roman ladies, eager for the pursuit of holiness, joined her. Marcella frequently visited the shrines of the Roman martyrs, seeking their intercession. She distributed her considerable wealth, “preferring to store her money in the stomachs of the needy rather than hide it in a purse.”

A Mind of Her Own

Marcella was a woman of no mean intellectual prowess. While she respected her spiritual father Saint Jerome, the crusty ascetic did not intimidate her. More than once she challenged him with difficult and subtle questions concerning the Scriptures. It was for Marcella that Saint Jerome wrote his explanation of the Hebrew words Amen and Alleluia.

Girded by Angels

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"If Saint Thomas had not been victorious when his chastity was in peril, it is very probable that the Church would never have had her Angelic Doctor."
Pope Pius XI

The Confraternity of the Angelic Warfare

How many readers of Vultus Christi know about the Confraternity of the Angelic Warfare? I first read of it when I was a lad in a booklet my Dad brought home from a parish mission preached by Dominicans. I was happy to discover that the Confraternity is not defunct. In fact it has become a thriving youth movement in Nigeria. Do visit their attractive Angelic Warfare Confraternity website. They present chastity in a wonderfully appealing way. Their motto is, “Purity in the heart produces power in life.” Bravo!

A Program for Chaste Living

What are the advantages of the Confraternity of the Angelic Warfare? First, one realizes that one needn't engage in spiritual combat alone. There are others — in heaven and on earth — who are ready and willing to fight the good fight with us and on our behalf. In some places the Confraternity holds regular meetings: a Catholic support group for chaste living. Second, members of the Confraternity make use of blessed sacramentals, the cincture and the medal, in conjunction with a life of prayer (notably the Rosary), mortification, and the Sacraments. Third, the Confraternity has a tradition of linking holy continence with intellectual development and with the study of the mysteries of the faith. "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8).

The obligations of the members of the Confraternity are: 1) to guard holy purity; 2) seek the truth; 3) honor Our Lady of the Rosary under the patronage of St. Thomas; 4) have one’s name enrolled on the official register; 5) wear the cord or medal of the confraternity.

Information

New Hope Publications offers several pamphlets on the Confraternity of the Angelic Warfare. For more information about it, contact Theo Stearns at Saint. Martin de Porres Lay Dominicans, New Hope, KY 40052, or call 270-325-3061. Say that Vultus Christi sent you!

Saint Thomas Aquinas

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Fond of Asking Questions

Saint Thomas Aquinas was very fond of asking questions. And he laboured mightily at finding answers. The questions of Thomas proceeded not from a vain curiosity, but from thirst for the truth. Thomas asked the great questions, the questions about the meaning of life and death, sin and grace, time and eternity.

Saint Thomas is the friend of all who ask questions. He is the friend of all who thirst for life-giving knowledge. The Invitatory Antiphon of the Common of Doctors is: “The Lord is the wellspring of wisdom; come, let us adore.” Behind the text of the Invitatory are the words of the prophet Isaiah (Is 55:1), placed in the mouth of Our Lord Himself: “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters, and you who have no money, come, drink with joy.” Must certain conditions be met in order to drink of the waters of wisdom? Must one be naturally gifted with a probing and incisive intellect? Must one have made great strides in moral perfection, acquired virtue, and rooted out vice?

Christ Made Me His Own

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In the fall of 2006 the Holy Father gave five General Audiences on Saint Paul the Apostle. These five teachings are a marvelous preparation for the forthcoming Year of Saint Paul: there is one for each of the five months between now and June 29, 2008.

"It was precisely on the road to Damascus at the beginning of the 30s A.D. that, according to his words, "Christ made me his own" (Phil 3: 12). While Luke recounts the fact with abundant detail - like how the light of the Risen One touched him and fundamentally changed his whole life -, in his Letters he goes directly to the essential and speaks not only of a vision (cf. I Cor 9: 1), but of an illumination (cf. II Cor 4: 6), and above all of a revelation and of a vocation in the encounter with the Risen One (cf. Gal 1: 15-16).

In fact, he will explicitly define himself as "apostle by vocation" (cf. Rom 1: 1; I Cor 1: 1) or "apostle by the will of God" (II Cor 1: 1; Eph 1: 1; Col 1: 1), as if to emphasize that his conversion was not the result of a development of thought or reflection, but the fruit of divine intervention, an unforeseeable, divine grace.

Henceforth, all that had constituted for him a value paradoxically became, according to his words, a loss and refuse (cf. Phil 3: 7-10). And from that moment all his energy was placed at the exclusive service of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. His existence would become that of an Apostle who wants to "become all things to all men" (I Cor 9: 22) without reserve.

From here we draw a very important lesson: what counts is to place Jesus Christ at the centre of our lives, so that our identity is marked essentially by the encounter, by communion with Christ and with his Word. In his light every other value is recovered and purified from possible dross."

Pope Benedict XVI
General Audience, 25 October 2006

Abide in My Love

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Deus Caritas Est and the Treatise on the Love of God

Two years ago, on January 23, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the participants of a meeting of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum on the theme “But the Greatest of These is Love” (1 Cor 13:13). “Today,” he said, “the word love is so tarnished, so spoiled, and so abused, that one is almost afraid to pronounce it with one's lips. And yet it is a primordial word, an expression of the primordial reality; we cannot simply abandon it, we must take it up again, purify it and give back to it its original splendor so that it might illuminate our life and lead it on the right path. This awareness led me to choose love as the theme of my first encyclical.” Pope Benedict XVI gave us Deus Caritas Est; Saint Francis de Sales gave us the Treatise on the Love of God.

Attraction, Union, and Fruition

Even as I study the Holy Father’s second encyclical, Spe Salvi, bits and pieces of Deus Caritas Est continue to echo in my heart. It occurs to me that the proper Gospel (John 15:9-17) given us in the lectionary today for the feast of Saint Francis de Sales engages us directly with the core message of Deus Caritas Est: a love that is at once desire (eros) and sacrificial self-gift (agápe), a love that is attraction, union, and fruition.

The Human Face and Heart of God

The Holy Father found some of his inspiration for Deus Caritas Est in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Poetry, and indeed all the arts, are rightly valued and used as the handmaids of theology. Such has always been the Catholic attitude toward the arts. Saint Francis de Sales knew well the distance separating the sensibility of Rome from that of Geneva. The Church of Dante, of Francis de Sales, and of Benedict XVI knows nothing of Calvinism’s cold disdain for the beauty that engages the senses. In the Catholic world-view, that which engages the senses with “the bands of love” (Hos 11:4) and draws the heart “with cords of compassion” (Hos 11:4) leads to the faith-vision of “the God who has assumed a human Face and a human Heart” (Benedict XVI, 23 January 2006).

Love Is Movement Toward the Good

In the Treatise on the Love of God Saint Francis de Sales speaks of the effect of what is loved on the one who loves. He calls it complaisance, meaning the pleasure or delight taken in something or someone. “Delight,” says the gentle bishop, “is the awakener of the heart, but love is its action; delight makes it get up, but love makes it walk. The heart spreads its wings by delight but love is its flight. Love then, to speak distinctly and precisely, is no other thing than the movement, effusion, and advancement of the heart towards good” (Treatise on the Love of God, Chapter XIV).

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Psalm 22: 1b-3a, 4, 5, 6
Matthew 13:44-46

A Winter Constellation

The wintertime liturgy sparkles with a constellation of virgin martyrs and holy women. The Roman Canon enshrines their names: Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia and Anastasia. In the darkest months of the year, they shine like so many little flames taken from the Paschal Candle in the great and holy night of the Resurrection. Today, we fix our gaze on Agnes.

If I Love Him

The Office of Saint Agnes is one of the most beautiful in the Roman Liturgy. Meditate it. Take it to heart today. It expresses all the sentiments of the little virgin martyr’s pure and passionate heart. “Christ is my Lover,” she sings in the Third Responsory at Matins, “and I am entering with Him into the marriage-chamber. . . . The instruments of His music sound sweetly in my ears. If I love Him I shall be chaste, if I touch Him I shall be clean, if I embrace Him I shall be a virgin indeed.”

A Christian Child

Agnes was a mere child, a little girl of twelve. The year was 304, during the persecution of Diocletian. According to Roman law, a child of twelve was not held responsible for her choices and could not therefore be subject to trial and judgment. But Christians fell outside the pale of Roman law, and Agnes was a Christian.

What are we to make of these child saints and of others like them? Our Lord places them before us, saying, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:2). “To the boastful, I say: ‘Do not boast,’ to the wicked: ‘Do not flaunt your strength, do not flaunt your strength on high. Do not speak with insolent pride’” (Ps 74:5-6).

The Triumph of Truth

Yesterday, over two hundred thousand young people thronged Saint Peter’s Square to demonstrate their support for the Holy Father. It was the triumph of the truth of Christ and of His Church over the machinations of those confused by the tiresome falsehoods of the godless. It was, in some way, the spirit of Saint Agnes and of all the martyrs of Christian Rome defying the spirit of the age

Our Lady of Sion

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"I cannot explain it. All I know is, that I entered the church knowing nothing, and I left it seeing clearly." (Marie–Alphonse Ratisbonne)

Today, January 20th, the Feast of Our Lady of Sion, is the 166th anniversary of the miraculous conversion of the 28 year old French Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne . The Immaculate Virgin Mary appeared to him in the Roman Church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte on January 20, 1842. Ratisbonne was baptized, and confirmed, and received his First Holy Communion, eleven days later on January 31st. He was ordained a priest in 1847 and later assisted his brother Theodore, also a priest, in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion.

To read full accounts of the apparition of the Mother of God and of Ratisbonne's conversion, see Roy Schoeman's remarkable books, Salvation Is From the Jews, and Honey From the Rock.

The Votive Mass of Saint Joseph

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On this first Wednesday after the Octave of the Epiphany, I will celebrate a Votive Mass of Saint Joseph. (Votive Masses are celebrations in honour of a particular mystery of Our Lord or in honour of Our Lady or the saints. They are not linked to a particular date in the calendar and may be celebrated on any ferial day.) Votive Masses of Saint Joseph began to appear in various missals as early as the thirteenth century. In the nineteenth century the Votive Mass of Saint Joseph was assigned to Wednesday.

Apart from the Votive Mass of Saint Joseph, the Roman Missal provides priests with two daily prayers to Saint Joseph, one as part of the preparation for Mass, and the other as part of the thanksgiving after Mass:

O Felicem Virum

O blessed Joseph, happy man whose privilege it was,
not only to see and hear that God
whom many a king has longed to see, yet saw not,
longed to hear, but heard not:
but also to carry Him in thy arms and kiss Him,
to clothe Him and watch over Him!

V. Pray for us, blessed Joseph.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

God, who hast conferred upon us a royal priesthood,
we pray thee give us grace to minister at Thy holy altars
with hearts as clean and lives as blameless as that blessed Joseph
who was found worthy to hold in his arms
and with all reverence to carry Thy Only-Begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary.
Enable us this day to receive worthily the sacred Body and Blood of Thy Son,
and fit us to win an everlasting reward in the world to come:
through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Virginum Custos et Pater

Saint Joseph, father and guardian of virgins,
to whose faithful keeping Christ Jesus, innocence itself,
and Mary, the virgin of virgins, were entrusted,
I pray and beseech thee by that twofold and most precious charge,
by Jesus and Mary,
to save me from all uncleanness,
to keep my mind untainted, my heart pure, and my body chaste;
and to help me always to serve Jesus and Mary in perfect chastity. Amen.

The Communion of the Saints

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For bedtime reading over the weekend in New Hampshire, I chose Maurice and Thérèse, The Story of a Love, by Bishop Patrick Ahern. The following passage struck me. It is from a letter of Saint Thérèse to her spiritual brother, Maurice Bellière:

I have to tell you, little brother, that we don't understand Heaven in the same way. You think that, once I share in the justice and holiness of God, I won't be able to excuse your faults as I did when I was on earth. Are you then forgetting that I shall also share in the infinite mercy of the Lord? I believe that the Blessed in Heaven have great compassion for our miseries. They remember that when they were weak and mortal like us, they committed the same faults themselves and went through the same struggles, and their fraternal tenderness becomes still greater than it ever was on earth. It's on account of this that they never stop watching over us and praying for us.

Saint Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx

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Jocelin of Furness, a contemporary of Saint Aelred, gives the following account of the saintly abbot in his Life of St Waldef:

"He was a man of fine old English stock. He left school early and was brought up from boyhood in the court of King David with Henry, the king’s son, and Waldef. In the course of time he became a monk, afterwards abbot of Rievaulx. His school learning was slight, but as a result of careful discipline in the exercise of his acute natural powers, he was cultured above many who had been thoroughly trained in secular learning. He drilled himself in the study of the Holy Scripture and left a lasting memorial behind him in writings distinguished by their lucid style, and wealth of edifying instruction, for he was wholly inspired by a spirit of wisdom and understanding. Moreover, he was a man of the highest integrity, of great practical wisdom, witty and eloquent, a pleasant companion, generous and discreet. And, with all these qualities he exceeded all his fellow prelates of the Church in his patience and tenderness. He was full of sympathy for the infirmities, both physical and moral, of others."

The photo below shows the ruins of the Abbey of Rievaulx in Yorkshire as they stand today. The Abbey was founded in 1132 at the direction of Saint Bernard. Three of its monks are acclaimed as saints: William, the founding abbot; Aelred, the third abbot; and Waldef, founder of the daughter-house of Melrose.

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Preface of Saint Aelred, Abbot

Truly it is right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.

Tenderly you drew Saint Aelred
to the school of your service
where, having tasted of the sweetness of your love,
he became the gentle father of many sons,
a merciful shepherd to the weak,
and a model of spiritual friendship.

Inflamed by the love of Christ,
he embraced the Cross as the pattern of monastic conversion,
and so attained the repose of those who love you,
the true and eternal Sabbath of the blessed.

And so, on his feast day, we join with him to adore you,
and with all the company of Angels and Saints,
sing the ageless hymn of your praise:

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It was on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 1857 that Saint Peter Julian Eymard inaugurated the solemn exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament by which the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament came to life. The movement of Thursdays of Adoration and Reparation for Priests, begun on October 29, 2007, compels me, in some way, to offer the following novena for those who care to make it with me.

You may remember that on October 26, 2007 I wrote that, "The desire of the Heart of Jesus is that there should be priest adorers and reparators: priests who will adore for those who do not adore, priests who will make reparation for those who do not. Our Lord asks me — and will ask other priests as well — to remain in adoration before His Eucharistic Face, offering all the priests of the Church to His Open Heart present in the Sacrament of His Love."

This inspiration seems to have been confirmed by the splendid letter of Cardinal Hummes, published last December 7th, inviting to adoration and reparation for priests.

Epiphany Novena in Honour of Saint Peter Julian Eymard
January 6 — 14, 2008

Antiphon: And when they were come into the house,
they found the Child with Mary His Mother,
and fell down and adored Him.

V. Arise, shine, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come.
R. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

Let us pray.

O God, who by the leading of a star,
didst manifest Thine Only-Begotten Son to the Gentiles,
mercifully grant that we,
having been led unto Him by the light of faith,
may, with grateful hearts,
ceaselessly adore Him present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar,
Who is our Mighty King, our Great High Priest, and our Immaculate Victim,
and Who liveth and reigneth with Thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

Antiphon: The Priests shall be holy;
for the offerings of the Lord made by fire,
and the bread of their God, they do offer,
therefore they shall be holy.

V. Pray for us, Saint Peter Julian.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray.

O God, Who through the preaching and example of Saint Peter Julian Eymard,
didst renew the priesthood of Thy Church in holiness
and inflame many souls with zeal
for the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar;
we beseech Thee, through his intercession,
to gather priests of one mind and one heart,
from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof,
to keep watch in adoration before the Eucharistic Face
of Thine Only-Begotten Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ
and to abide before His Open Heart,
in reparation for those who forsake Him, hidden in the tabernacles of the world,
and in thanksgiving for the mercies that ever stream
from the Sacred Mysteries of His Body and Blood.
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.
Amen.

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An Adorer of the Blessed Sacrament

Saint John Nepomucene Neumann (1811–1860), Bishop of Philadelphia from 1852–1860, was graced with an intense devotion to Our Lord in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist. His personal experience as a boy in Bohemia (modern Czech Republic), then as a priest in the United States, and finally as a Redemptorist, — a spiritual son of the incomparable Saint Alphonsus Liguori — impelled him to promote prolonged prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance. No sooner had he become bishop of Philadelphia than he sought to introduce the Quarant’ Ore, or Forty Hours Devotion, already practiced for three hundred years in Europe, to the Church in the United States.

Clerical Resistance

The good priests of Philadelphia were, for the most part, opposed to the introduction of the Forty Hours Devotion, fearing that, given the prevailing climate of violent anti-Catholicism nurtured by the Know Nothing Movement, it might exacerbate hostilities against the Church and even expose the Most Holy Sacrament to profanation.

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Heaven Gives a Sign

Bishop Neumann had very nearly renounced his project when, overcome by exhaustion late one night, he fell asleep while writing at his desk. A burning candle ignited the papers lying before him. He awoke to smoke rising from the incinerated papers. One document alone remained unscathed; it was the letter he had written to propose the Forty Hours Devotion. Bishop Neumann fell to his knees to give thanks for having been preserved from harm and, as he did so, he experienced a kind of locution. God spoke to him inwardly saying, “As the flames are burning here without consuming or injuring this writing, so shall I pour out My grace in the Blessed Sacrament without prejudice to My honor. Therefore, do not fear profanation, and do not hesitate any longer to carry out your designs for My glory.”

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For this feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen: Part I of the Holy Father's teaching on Saint Basil, given on 4 July 2007. The painting is "The Mass of Saint Basil" by Pierre Subleyras (1699–1749). An altarpiece painted in 1743, and originally destined for Saint Peter's in Rome, it is now in The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Let us remember today one of the great Fathers of the Church, St Basil, described by Byzantine liturgical texts as "a luminary of the Church".

He was an important Bishop in the fourth century to whom the entire Church of the East, and likewise the Church of the West, looks with admiration because of the holiness of his life, the excellence of his teaching and the harmonious synthesis of his speculative and practical gifts.

He was born in about 330 A.D. into a family of saints, "a true domestic Church", immersed in an atmosphere of deep faith. He studied with the best teachers in Athens and Constantinople.

Unsatisfied with his worldly success and realizing that he had frivolously wasted much time on vanities, he himself confessed: "One day, like a man roused from deep sleep, I turned my eyes to the marvellous light of the truth of the Gospel..., and I wept many tears over my miserable life" (cf. Letter 223: PG 32, 824a).

Attracted by Christ, Basil began to look and listen to him alone (cf. Moralia, 80, 1: PG 31, 860bc). He devoted himself with determination to the monastic life through prayer, meditation on the Sacred Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers of the Church, and the practice of charity (cf. Letters 2, 22), also following the example of his sister, St Macrina, who was already living the ascetic life of a nun. He was then ordained a priest and finally, in the year 370, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia in present-day Turkey.

Through his preaching and writings, he carried out immensely busy pastoral, theological and literary activities.

With a wise balance, he was able to combine service to souls with dedication to prayer and meditation in solitude. Availing himself of his personal experience, he encouraged the foundation of numerous "fraternities", in other words, communities of Christians consecrated to God, which he visited frequently (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 43, 29, in laudem Basilii: PG 36, 536b).

He urged them with his words and his writings, many of which have come down to us (cf. Regulae brevius tractatae, Proemio: PG 31, 1080ab), to live and to advance in perfection.

Various legislators of ancient monasticism drew on his works, including St Benedict, who considered Basil his teacher (cf. Rule 73, 5).

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.

Donations for Silverstream Priory

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