Saints: February 2008 Archives

And Many Have Wondered at Him

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February 27 is also the feast of the young Passionist Saint Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin, known in the world as Francesco Possenti. He is known in Italy as il santo dei giovani, il santo dei miracoli, il santo del sorriso: the saint of youth, the saint of miracles, the saint of the smile. I first heard of Saint Gabriel when I was lad in grammar school. Boys were encouraged to read a biography of the youthful saint. I think it was called "Boy in a Hurry." (Monsignor ABC, or Father Gregory O., or Father Martin F., or Terry N. would know. We seem to have read all the same books as boys!)

Last November when I preached a retreat to the Benedettine Riparatrici del Santo Volto at Carsoli in Italy, I was delighted to discover in their church a side altar dedicated to Saint Gabriel. This is the photo I took of the painting above the altar.

Introit

The Proper Mass for Saint Gabriel is one of those that, in my youth, I used to love to meditate — and still do. The Introit, for example:

The eye of God hath looked upon him for good
and hath lifted him up from his low estate,
and hath exalted his head;
and many have wondered at him,
and have glorified God (Ecclus 11:13).
V. How good God is to Israel,
to them that are of a right heart. (Ps 72:1)

Read the whole of Psalm 72 to get a very good portrait of Saint Gabriel's soul.

Collect

The Collect is addressed to Our Lord Jesus Christ, as many modern Collects are, and alludes to the miracles worked by Saint Gabriel. He is a veritable thaumaturge.

O God, who didst teach the blessed Gabriel
diligently to ponder the sorrows of Thy most sweet Mother,
and who hast exalted him to the glory of sanctity and the working of miracles;
grant us, through his intercession and example,
so to share in thy Mother's weeping,
that we may be saved through her maternal care.

A Heart to Hear God's Voice

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In the 1927 biography of "Holy Ann" Preston of Thornhill, a poor Irish Methodist known for her intimacy with God the Father, I found this bit:

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Communion is the highest form of intercourse; it implies that not only do we talk to God, but that He also speaks to us. When the Lord would destroy the cities of the plain, as described in Genesis 18: 17-33, He said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do?' Then there begins a conversation between the Lord and Abraham, and after earnest pleading on the part of Abraham that the city should be spared, if if only ten righteous men were found in it, the Lord replied, 'I will not destroy it for the ten's sake.' Then follows the significant statement, 'And the Lord went His way as soon as He had left communing with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.' Communion consisted this in the Lord talking to Abraham and Abraham talking to God. Our beloved sister Ann knew what it was thus to hold converse. Is not that what is meant when the Lord Jesus says, 'My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me'? Ours is the privilege to speak to the Master and to have the Master speaks to us. Solomon prayed for a hearing heart, a heart to hear God's voice.

Holy Ann Preston reminds me of what Our Lord said to my old friend, Soeur Marie de la Trinité, the Poor Clare of Jerusalem:

I speak to each soul. I attract all souls to Myself. I invite them . . . . Many do not hear; many do not listen. . . . Make all souls know that I am in them, so close, speaking to them. I, the friend, the consoler, the guide, the source, the God of their destiny. . . . It is sufficient for them to be very silent to discover the voice of Jesus.

The desire to hear the Word of God and adhere to it is the fundamental attitude of the interior life, the life of intimacy with God. "If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Apoc 3:20).

Bernadette

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Her Feast

Before the close of the day, I want to recall that February 18th is the feast of Saint Bernadette. Given that we are in the Jubilee Year of Lourdes, I cannot let the occasion pass unnoticed. Every Lent I choose one or more saints to be my companions and intercessors on the way to Holy Pascha. This year Saint Bernadette is among them. I have long cherished the Collect for her feast:

O God, protector and friend of the humble,
Who filled Thy servant, Mary Bernard, with joy
by the apparition and conversation of the Immaculate Virgin Mary:
grant, we pray, that by the simple way of faith
we may be counted worthy to see Thee face to face in heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
Who, with Thee, liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

When Saints Are Lovers

My book on the flight to Ireland a little over a fortnight ago was "When Saints Are Lovers, The Spirituality of Maryknoll Co–Founder, Thomas F. Price" by John T. Seddon III. Father Price was very taken with Saint Bernadette. The little Saint of Lourdes and Nevers became his confidante and intimate companion. His relationship to Jesus and Mary was inextricably bound up with his love for Bernadette.

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Father Price "met" Saint Bernadette on the occasion of his first visit to Lourdes in July 1911. He passed through various stages in his relationship with Saint Bernadette; these might be compared to what a man and woman experience in friendship, courtship, betrothal, and marriage. Father Price went so far as to wear a wedding band inscribed with his name and that of Bernadette. The culmination of this mystical relationship was in the marriage of Father Price and Bernadette together to the Divine Bridegroom, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Death in China

In 1918, Father Thomas Price left the United States with the first three Maryknoll missionaries to China. A year later Father Price died there. His body was laid to rest in China but his heart was, as he requested, removed from his body to be placed close to his dear Bernadette in Nevers, France.

Mary's Priest

Father Price's life was profoundly marked by devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He attributed his survival from a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina in 1876 to a miraculous intervention of Our Lady. In 1908, Father Price adopted the practice of writing a daily "letter" to the Mother of God. It became a kind of written conversation with her, a complement to the daily Rosary and Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary to which he remained faithful all his life.

The Journey of a Heart

In 1923, Father Price's heart was carried from China to Nevers by a French missionary and placed next to the body of Saint Bernadette. His body was exhumed in 1936 and returned to Maryknoll in Ossining, New York.

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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