Saints: April 2008 Archives

Catherine in My Life

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Today's feast of Saint Catherine brought to mind how she has moved about in my life at various times. Having grown up in a city graced with a magnificent Dominican church, I knew of Saint Catherine from having seen her in a stained glass window. As a little boy I was profoundly affected by pictures, especially "holy pictures." Images engraved themselves in my memory. I remember having seen Saint Catherine crowned with thorns, and clutching the cross. In my "Lives of the Saints for Children" there was a romantic picture of Christ the King of Glory appearing in the sky over a young Catherine's head. If I recall rightly, her little brother was with her.

The Fire of Love

I must have read about Saint Catherine in my Missal or in The Church's Year of Grace by Pius Parsch, one of my favourite books from about age ten on. Years passed. I entered the monastery. One day I began reading the autobiographical notes of Cardinal Charles Journet. He described his own encounter with Catherine. He related how she erupted into his life as a seminarian, irrigating the dessicated theology of the "manuals" then in use, with a river of fire and of blood. Seminarians at the time were not allowed to read the mystics. They were deemed distractions from "serious theology." The young Abbé Journet read Saint Catherine of Siena in secret. She saved him from the banalization of the Mystery and invited him to surrender not only his mind to the light of God, but also his heart to the Fire of Love.

In the Train to Lourdes

Several years later I was in a train going from Paris to Lourdes. Across from me in my compartment was an elderly Dominican Father engrossed in reading and in telling his beads. I had just finished saying part of the Office, when the Dominican smiled and offered me a "holy picture" from his own breviary. It depicted Saint Catherine of Siena reciting the breviary with Our Lord as they walked side by side. The elderly Dominican turned out to be Père Henri-Marie Manteau-Bonamy, the famous Mariologist.

Praying With Christ

There again, the image from Père Manteau-Bonamy's breviary affected me deeply. I don't know what has become of it. Someday perhaps I shall find it between the pages of a book. The truth it portrayed still challenges and comforts me. When I pray the Divine Office alone in my tiny domestic oratory, I softly sing my verse and then read the following one silently, allowing Our Lord to sing it. Thus do we form a single choir, a single body praising the Father together in the Holy Spirit. I never pray the Office alone. Christ is always present, singing His part, sustaining my weakness, and making my poor prayer all His. Had Père Manteau-Bonamy never given me that "holy picture" of Saint Catherine reciting the breviary with Our Lord, I would not, I think, be praying in quite the same way all these years later.

Saint Catherine and the Church

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A Church Ever Youthful

Looking at Saint Catherine of Siena we see a woman fully alive, a woman who, in spite of intense and prolonged sufferings, prodded, poked, and prayed the world-weary, decadent clergy of her own day into the perennial youthfulness that ever manifests the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Catherine cried out the renewing power of the Blood of Christ with every fiber of her being. The vitality and energy of the Church, the Body of Christ, were for her, evidence of the Blood of Christ that circulates eucharistically in all her veins.

Her Sweet Christ on Earth

For Catherine, the Pope was “her sweet Christ on earth.” In The Dialogue, she hears the Eternal Father saying to her: “Consider the gentle Gregory, Sylvester, and the other successors of the chief pontiff Peter, to whom my Truth gave the keys of the heavenly kingdom when he said: ‘Peter, I am giving you the keys of the heavenly kingdom; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.’”

The Mystic Wine Cellar

Catherine’s insight into the mystery of the teaching Church and her glad reception of that teaching led her to see the Successor of Peter as the “keeper of the keys to the Blood,” the Precious Blood of Christ. For Saint Catherine, the Church is a mystic wine-cellar to which the Pope holds the key. Those who follow Peter into the mystic wine-cellar, those who are eager for the Church’s teaching, those who drink deeply of the Blood of Christ, allowing its fire to enliven and rejuvenate them, are able to say with Saint Catherine: “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Ct 2:4).

And Tasting of His Roseate Blood

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Saint Catherine of Siena
Virgin and Doctor of the Church

The Precious Blood

The image — and the adorable mystery — of the Precious Blood has been with us since Ash Wednesday. On that first day of the Lenten fast, what did Pope Saint Clement I say to us in the second reading at Vigils? “Let us fix our thoughts on the Blood of Christ; and reflect how precious that Blood is in God’s eyes” (Letter to the Corinthians). We began the Paschal journey with our eyes fixed on the Blood of Christ, just as Joshua’s envoys in Jericho fixed their eyes on the scarlet cord suspended in the window of the harlot Rahab. The scarlet cord was the pledge of their salvation (cf. Jos 2:21).

The Spring of the Master's Side

On Good Friday what did Saint John Chrysostom ask us? “Do you wish to know the power of Christ’s Blood? See where it began to flow, from what spring it flowed down from the cross, from the Master’s side. . . . As a woman feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too Christ continually feeds those whom he has begotten with his own Blood” (Catechesis 3:13–19). The Church responded with the very words of Saint John given us in today’s first reading: “The Blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, purifies us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).

Ad Coenam Agni

And what does the Church make us sing daily in the hymn at Vespers during Paschaltide?

Upon the Altar of the Cross
His Body hath redeemed our loss;
And tasting of his roseate Blood,
Our life is hid with him in God.

The Sober Drunkenness of the Saints

One must be very careful to respect the patterns and repetitions of the liturgy by which the Church teaches us. We are to honour and preserve what has been handed on, lest elements that are arbitrary and subjective come to dilute the strong wine of tradition and so deprive us of the sober drunkenness of the saints! If you were to underline in red all the references to the Blood of Christ in the liturgy of Lent and Paschaltide, you would be astonished. The Blood of Christ courses like a torrent through the liturgy of these days. It is “the river whose streams make glad the city of God” (Ps 45:4).

A Mystic of the Blood

It is evident, I think, that today’s feast of Saint Catherine of Siena is a further invitation, a pressing exhortation, to fix our gaze on the Blood of the Lamb, to adore that Precious Blood, to yield every impurity and sin of ours to the torrent that gushes from Christ’s pierced side, and to drink of the Chalice of Salvation. Saint Catherine is one of the great blazing mystics of the Blood. One could also speak of Julian of Norwich and, again, of Blessed Marie of the Incarnation. The Blood of Christ is sprinkled over every page of Catherine’s writings. The Blood of Christ opens and seals her correspondence. The Blood of Christ is on her lips and in her heart.


Today, April 25th, is my nameday. How many readers besides Terry N. remember that great little book by Helen McLoughlin, "My Nameday — Come for Dessert"? Liturgical Press 1962! It was great fun.

I am very happy that my parents christened me Mark Daniel, thereby giving me the patronage of both an evangelist and a prophet. At Confirmation I added the name of Saint Michael for the glorious Archangel, and my monastic patrons are the Blessed Virgin Mary and Blessed Columba Marmion, with the title "of the Heart of Jesus." As far as I can determine, I am the first Mark in the family while being one of a very long line of Daniels.

Saint Mark's Gospel has been described as a "hastening to the Cross." It is Saint Mark who gives us the confession of faith of the centurion Saint Longinus, while Saint John tells us that the same centurion opened the side of Jesus with a lance. A link with the mystery of the Pierced Heart! And this year my nameday falls on a Friday.

Saint Mark, Evangelist

1 Peter 5: 5b-14
Psalm 88: 2-3, 6-7, 16-17
Mark 16: 15-20

Mark and Peter

Tradition calls Saint Mark the interpreter of Saint Peter; clearly the relationship between Peter and Mark was both strong and tender. In today’s first reading, Saint Peter calls Mark “his son” (1 P 5:13), suggesting the gift and mystery of the Fisherman’s spiritual fatherhood in Christ. Mark was a son to Peter. Personally, I find in this a compelling reason to look confidently to Peter and his successors, and to remain attached to Peter and to his successor, today Pope Benedict XVI, as a son to his spiritual father. Mark laboured at Peter’s side, preaching the Gospel in Rome before carrying it to Venice and then to Alexandria where he gave his life for Christ. To this day the Churches of Rome, Venice, and Alexandria rejoice in the protection of Saint Mark and seek his intercession.

Be Not in Doubt for I am with Thee

Some of you may remember the coat of arms of Blessed John XXIII as Patriarch of Venice. It bore the inscription: Pax tibi, Marce, evangelista meus, “Peace to you, Mark, my evangelist!” I have always taken comfort in these words. They are personal, a kind of message to the heart. My great-great-grandmother was Venetian and would have known this motto well; to this day it is displayed with Saint Mark’s lion on the coat of arms and flag of Venice, La Serenissima. The text is not found in Sacred Scripture; it comes rather from the ancient “passion” of Saint Mark, the account of his martyrdom. The story goes that on the day of Pascha, after singing Mass, Saint Mark was seized, a rope was attached to his neck, and he was dragged through the city of Alexandria until his blood ran upon the stones. After this, he was imprisoned. An angel came to comfort him, and after the angel, the Lord Jesus himself came to visit and comfort Mark, saying, “Peace be to thee, Mark, my evangelist! Be not in doubt for I am with thee and shall deliver thee.” The following day Mark was put to death, thanking God, and repeating the words of the Crucified: “Into thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit” (cf. Lk 23:46).

Saint Mark the Preacher


The word “preaching” occurs in each of the three Proper prayers, the Collect, the Prayer Over the Offerings, and the Postcommunion. Mark was an Evangelist, not only as a writer of the second Gospel, but also as a preacher, spending himself, pouring himself out for Christ. In the Collect we beg for the grace to “deepen his teaching.” The Latin text says proficere which means to gain ground or to advance. This is what lectio divina is all about: gaining ground in the Gospel, penetrating ever more deeply the inexhaustible riches of the Word.


In the Prayer Over the Gifts we ask that the Church may “ever persevere in preaching the Gospel.” The Church, like Saint Mark in his passion, needs the comforting presence of Christ who says, “Be not in doubt for I am with thee,” and she has that comforting presence always in the mystery of the Eucharist. The words of Christ to Saint Mark echo those given us in today’s Communion Antiphon: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).

The Eucharist: Christ in Us

In the Postcommunion, we ask that what we have received from the altar may “sanctify us, and make us strong in the faith of the Gospel preached by Saint Mark.” This prayer instructs us on the dynamic relationship between the altar and the ambo or, if you will, between the Eucharist and the Gospel. We ordinarily think of the preaching of the Gospel as sending us to the altar, and preparing our hearts for the Holy Sacrifice, and rightly so. But today’s Postcommunion suggests something else as well. The Eucharist fulfills what the Gospel announces: the mystery of holiness, that is, “Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).

The Eucharist makes us strong in the faith of the Gospel; it is our viaticum, food for the journey of faith, a remedy for every infirmity. The seed sown by holy preaching is made fruitful by the mysteries of Christ’s Body and Blood. Take away the altar, and the ambo stands in a void. The altar is the guarantee of that abiding presence of the comforting Christ who says to each of us today, as to Saint Mark, “Peace be to thee. . . . Be not in doubt, for I am with thee and shall deliver thee.”

Saint George and the Dragon

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Venerated in East and West

April 23rd is the feast of Saint George the Martyr. In the reformed Roman Missal he is honoured with an optional memorial. (It's a pity, but true, that as soon as anything is made optional in the liturgy it tends to disappear altogether. What is made optional is, in the end, suppressed. I loathe options in the liturgy. They do not "foster a greater pastoral sensitivity to the spiritual needs of local communities" — what a lot of balderdash! — they foment chaos and liturgical minimalism! But I digress.) Saint George is venerated with a special cultus in Belgium, Bulgaria, Brazil, England, Georgia, Greece, India, Italy, Lebanon, and Russia.

The Dragon

Among the Proper Offices for Matins of the feast of Saint George the Martyr one finds several "dragon" responsories drawn from the Apocalypse of Saint John. Think what you will of Saint George and the dragon, I find it salutary to recall the old legend. We are all, in one way or another, locked in spiritual combat with the ancient dragon, our hateful foe.

The Weapons of Humility and Prayer

The iconography of Saint George is fabulously rich. I chose two images. In the first, a Byzantine icon, we do not see the dragon. Though real, the ancient dragon is invisible. Saint George is defeating the dragon through prayer alone. His hands are raised in supplication, his head is bowed in humility, and he carries no earthly weapon.

Spiritual Warriors

In the second image, the work of Pisannello (1445) Saint George is shown in the company of another spiritual warrior, Saint Anthony of the Desert. The dragon slithers defeated at Saint George's feet. Saint George is decked out in a gorgeous suit of armour with a plumed chapeau. Saint Anthony wears another kind of armour: the monastic habit. Both spiritual warriors stand under the protection of the Woman clothed with the sun, the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Victory over the ancient dragon comes to those who trust in the all-powerful supplication of the Queen of Heaven and in her Divine Son.

Liturgical Texts

R. Out of the bottomless pit cometh forth the beast, * Against them that do bear their testimony, alleluia. V. The same maketh war against them to overcome them and kill them. Against them that do bear their testimony, alleluia.

R. There is a wonder in heaven, a Woman who is clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars, * For the dragon is wroth with the Woman, and persecuteth the remnant of her seed upon earth, alleluia. V. And he maketh war with those who keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus Christ. For the dragon is wroth with the Woman, and persecuteth the remnant of her seed upon earth, alleluia.

R. And man may overcome the dragon * By the blood of the Lamb and the word of testimony, alleluia. V. Blessed George, defend us in the hour of battle, and help us to gain the victory over our hateful foe. By the blood of the Lamb and the word of testimony, alleluia.


A Little Soul

Readers of Vultus Christi, who missed what I posted last year for the feast of Blessed Maria Gabriella, may want to know a little more about her. She was "a little soul." She has affinities with Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Blessed Charles de Jésus, Saint Thérèse Couderc, and the young Trappist priest, Blessed Marie–Joseph Cassant.

Grateful Confidence
and Surrender to the Will of God

Maria Gabriella's life was marked by two characteristics:

1) Gratefulness to the Mercy of God. She compared herself to the prodigal son of Saint Luke's Gospel. She was full of thanksgiving for her monastic vocation, for her community, and, above all, for the Mercy of God which called her, set her apart, and sustained her. Even in her final agony, Maria Gabriella was full of gratefulness.

2). The desire to respond to the Grace of God with all her strength, offering herself to the perfect fulfillment of His Will in her.

In her grateful confidence in the Mercy of God and surrender to His Will, Blessed Maria Gabriella's holiness participates in and reflects that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although she lived first in a remote village of Sardinia, then in a Cistercian cloister, and finally in a hospital room, Maria Gabriella's holiness is universal, because it shines with the light of the Beatitudes and of the Gospel of Saint John.

Blessed Maria Gabriella's body, found intact in 1957, reposes in a chapel at the Trappist Cistercian Abbey of Vitorchiano. Since her beatification the abbey has been blessed with numerous vocations and has founded new monasteries in Italy, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Her Own Words

"In simplicity of heart I gladly offer everything, O Lord."

"The Lord put me on this path, he will remember to sustain me in battle."

"To His mercy I entrust my frailty."

"I saw in front of me a big cross..., I thought that my sacrifice was nothing in comparison to His."

"I offered myself entirely and I do not withdraw the given word."

"God's will whatever it may be, this is my joy, my happiness, my peace."

"I will never be able to thank enough."

"I cannot say but these words: 'My God, your Glory.'"


Last Thursday, 18 April 2008, Pope Benedict XVI spoke at the Ecumenical Prayer Service held in Saint Joseph’s Church in New York City. Tomorrow the monastic calendar will commemorate a woman whose life illustrates much of what the Holy Father said. Celebrating the saints is integral to what Pope Benedict XVI calls “diachronic koinonia — communion with the Church in every age” that saves us from the narrow uncatholic perspective of the immediate here and now of a given local community.

An Offering to the Father

Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagghedu, a Cistercian nun of Grottaferrata in Italy, died on April 23rd in 1939. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1983. In his encyclical on Christian Unity, Ut Unum Sint, he presented her again to the whole Church as a model of “the total and unconditional offering of one’s life to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit."

Pope Benedict XVI said last Thursday that, “we must first recall that the unity of the Church flows from the perfect oneness of the triune God. In John’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus prayed to his Father that his disciples might be one, “just as you are in me and I am in you” (Jn 17:21). This passage reflects the unwavering conviction of the early Christian community that its unity was both caused by, and is reflective of, the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Blessed Maria Gabriella offered her life that the unity of the Three Divine Persons might one day be manifested perfectly in the community of believers that is the Church.

Silence Turned to Praise

Blessed Maria Gabriella is one of those who, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, having heard the Word, held it in silence: in the silence of awe; in the silence that confesses God present; in the silence that allows the Word to sink into the deep and secret places of the heart. For Maria-Gabriella, this silence turned to praise: a praise that she found expressed in the priestly prayer of Christ given in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. At the end of her life she murmured: “I cannot say but these words, ‘My God, your Glory.’”

A Discerning Abbess


The Trappist Cistercian monastery of Grottaferrata (moved to Vitorchiano in 1957) was governed by Mother Maria Pia Gulini (1892–1959), an intelligent and discerning abbess with a broad vision of all things Catholic. She corresponded with the Abbé Paul Couturier (1881–1953), the Apostle of Christian Unity. The Italian abbess nurtured a passion for Christian Unity and communicated that passion to her community. Maria Gabriella was receptive to Mother Gulini's spiritual teaching. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, she asked permission of her abbess to offer her life for the Unity of Christians. The Father accepted her offering, drawing her into the prayer of Christ and into His sacrifice.

The Priestly Prayer of Christ

Blessed Maria Gabriella’s monastic life was brief; she entered the abbey of Grottaferrata in 1935 and died in 1939. She suffered from tuberculosis for fifteen months. The Bridegroom Christ came for her at the hour of the evening sacrifice on Good Shepherd Sunday. The Gospel of Mass that day had been from Saint John: “There will be one fold, and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). After her death, her little New Testament, worn from use, opened by itself to the seventeenth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel. The pages of Jesus’ priestly prayer, so often touched by Madre Maria Gabriella’s feverish hands, had become almost transparent.

Immolated on the Altar

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Third Friday of Paschaltide
Memorial of Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr

Acts 9:1-20
John 6:52-59

Saint Stanislaus

We celebrate today the feast of Saint Stanislaus, patron of Poland. Like the young Karol Wojtyla, his successor as Bishop of Krakow, Stanislaus wished to embrace monastic life. Divine Providence, however, disposed otherwise. Stanislaus was appointed a canon of the cathedral of Krakow, and later, in 1071, named bishop of the same see by Duke Boleslaus. It was Boleslaus, become King of Poland, who with his own hand murdered Bishop Stanislaus on May 8, 1079, as he was celebrating Holy Mass.

Stanislaus had publicly reproved Boleslaus for his evil life and, as a last resort, excommunicated him. Boleslaus, instead of humbling himself and repenting of his sins, became enraged. One of the surest signs of the capital sin of pride is the inability to accept correction. Pride gives birth to rage. Rage either simmers below the surface, poisoning the soul, or expresses itself in violence. Had Boleslaus imitated the repentance of King David, he might have become a saint. Instead, he grew hard in his pride, and to his other sins added murder.

Saint Gemma

Today is also the dies natalis of Saint Gemma Galgani. When she was twenty years old, Gemma developed meningitis. Mystically befriended by the young Passionist Saint Gabriel of the Mother of Sorrows, Gemma was miraculously cured through his intercession. Sufferings, both physical and emotional, refined Gemma’s soul until her configuration to Jesus Crucified was confirmed by the wounds she bore in her flesh. Gemma died at the age of twenty-five on April 11, 1903. She was beatified in 1933, and canonized in 1940. Like Saint Gabriel, her spiritual brother, Saint Gemma is a powerful intercessor for young people. In Rome, I would sometimes go to pray at the altar dedicated to her in the Basilica of Saints John and Paul.

The Altar

What did the tenth century Saint Stanislaus and the twentieth century Saint Gemma have in common? They ate the Flesh of the Son of Man and drank His Blood. They anticipated the life of heaven by living on earth a life of Eucharistic grace. Saint Stanislaus died at the altar, perfectly identified with Jesus, Victim and Priest. Saint Gemma, worn out by sufferings, died on the altar of her bed, identified in her own way with Jesus, Victim and Priest.

Keeping Company With Mary

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Another Joseph

Reading the Martyrology this morning I discovered that today is the dies natalis of Saint Hermann Joseph, one of my cherished heavenly friends and models. I related this anniversary to a question put to me today by another good friend, this one earthly — the irrepressible Jeron: "How does one keep the Blessed Mother company?" Saint Hermann Joseph shows us how. Hermann Joseph, a twelfth century Premonstratensian Canon, lived in such intimacy with the Virgin Mary that his relationship with her was compared to that of Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.

Her Chaplain and Her Spouse

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that, "After Hermann had been ordained priest, it was remarkable with what reverence and devotion he offered the Holy Sacrifice. He was known for his gentle demeanour and affability, his humility, his extraordinary mortifications, but, above all, for his affection for the Mother of God, before whose altar he remained for hours in pious intercourse and ecstatic visions, and in whose honour he composed wonderful prayers and hymns. Mary, in turn, showed him her predilection, called him her chaplain and her spouse, and confirmed his surname Joseph, given to him by his brothers in religion. Hermann was sometimes sent out to perform pastoral duties and was in frequent demand for the making and repairing of clocks. He had under his charge the spiritual welfare of the Cistercian nuns at Hoven near Zulpich. Here he died and was buried in the cloister."

He Took Her to His Own

Keeping company with the Blessed Virgin Mary has to do with living in her presence. One who shares with the Mother of Jesus every moment of his day and night, keeping no secrets from her and confiding every struggle, every sorrow, and every joy to her Immaculate Heart becomes a companion of Mary, walking in the footsteps of Saint Joseph, and of Saint John the Beloved Disciple. We read in John 19:26-27:

"When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own."

A Blessed Risk

"The disciple took her to his own." There you have it, dear Jeron. Take Mary to your own; that means, into everything that is yours. No secrets. No compartments. No mental reservation. There is, of course, a blessed risk in doing this. Once Mary is taken "to one's own," she sets about setting all things in order. She cleanses. She beautifies. She turns all things to the glory of her Son.

Little Practices

There are humble little practices that can concretize the heart's desire to keep company with Our Lady. I recommend having a special image of the Blessed Virgin in a prominent place. Whenever you pass by that image, kiss it, say an Ave, say with Pope John Paul II, Totus tuus, "I am all thine." (Jeron knows how much I love the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It is my favourite image of the Queen and Mother of Mercy who is to me life, sweetness, and hope.) Saint Alphonsus Liguori recommends a daily visit to the Madonna. It is enough to kneel before her image, or sit quietly in her company saying one Ave after another. It goes without saying that the Rosary leads to the highest Marian contemplation, that is, to an abiding awareness of living in the company of the Blessed Virgin.

Total Consecration

Whatever little practices you adopt, persevere in them with the freedom born of love. The "great act" that contextualizes every other expression of Marian devotion is total consecration to Mary. For this, there is no better school than that of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. Our Immaculate Mother desires nothing more than to gather us to her Heart. She offers us the grace of her company.

On This First Friday

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Home Again

I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma for two days, and returned this morning, abundantly blessed and full of thanksgiving. No sooner was I in the door than I was asked to go to the bedside of a dying man to reconcile him to the Father of Mercies. I recommend this man and his family to your prayers.

The Little Boy and the Old Man

Today, apart from being the First Friday of the month, is the dies natalis of two souls enamoured of the Rosary and of the Most Holy Eucharist: one, an eleven year old boy Blessed Francisco Martos of Fatima (1908-1919); and the other, an eighty-four year old priest, Saint Gaetano Catanoso (1879-1963). The liturgical memorial of Blessed Francisco is celebrated together with that of his sister, Blessed Jacinta, on February 20th, and that of Saint Gaetano Catanoso on September 20th, the anniversary day of his ordination to the priesthood.

Adoration and Reparation

After the apparitions of the Angel, followed by those of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, little Francisco was drawn, above all, to "console the Hidden Jesus." Having been told by the Mother of God that he needed to pray many rosaries, he used every opportunity to do so. He loved to pray before the tabernacle in his parish church, repeating the prayer of adoration and reparation that the Angel had taught him, his sister Jacinta, and his cousin Lucia:

My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee.
I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, and do not love Thee.

The Prayer of Children

The Angel taught the children to pray with their bodies by bowing down low, their foreheads touching the ground. This heavenly pedagogy of prayer was perfectly adapted to the capacity and the need of little children to converse with God using the repetition of a few words, and gestures engaging their senses. Children love to kneel, prostrate, bow, genuflect, make the sign of the cross, kiss holy images, and . . . above all . . . light candles.

An Adorer of the Eucharistic Face of Christ

Saint Gaetano Catanoso, a Calabrian parish priest, deserves to be better known. I have already written about him on Vultus Christi. Saint Gaetano often said, "Il Volto Santo è la mia vita — The Holy Face is my life." He preached the mystery of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, 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." Pope Benedict XVI canonized Saint Gaetano on October 23, 2005.

A Model for Priests

Saint Gaetano is a radiant model of priestly holiness. You can listen to a recording of the saint's voice, made on his 80th birthday, here. Until now there has been little about him available in English. That is about to change. An American relative of the saint, journalist Justin Catanoso of Greensboro, North Carolina, has written a book entitled, "My Cousin the Saint, A Search for Faith, Family, and Miracles." The book, edited by William Morrow, will be released on May 20, 2008. You can also listen to Justin Catanoso talk about "his cousin, the saint" in a very moving NPR interview from 2005.

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