Saints: July 2008 Archives

Le père humilié

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Saint Thérèse and Her Father

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face, reflecting on Isaiah's prophecy of the Servant, related it to the humiliation of her own father's suffering. When Thérèse was seven years old she had a vision of a man in the garden, dressed like her father, but going about with his head veiled. Only later did she realize that this was a mysterious prophecy of her father's mental illness. Profoundly affected by her father's suffering, Thérèse lived it as an opportunity to deepen her understanding of the humiliation of Christ in His Passion. Thérèse made some profound connections: she related her father in his sufferings to the humiliation of Christ in His Passion, and related the humiliation of Christ in His Passion to the Fatherhood of God.

The Holy Face

The violence against the Face of Christ in His Passion was, at the deepest level, an attempt by the Evil One to disfigure the Fatherhood of God. Our Lord says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?" (Jn 14:9-10). From the beginning, the Evil One has sought to discredit the Fatherhood of God by sowing suspicion and doubt in the hearts of His children. The cruel disfiguration of the Face of Christ with blows, bruises, spittle, and thorns was the Evil One's mad attempt to vilify the Father.

War on the Family

The Evil One pursues the same agenda today. He seeks by every means to humiliate the father and to disfigure the face of fatherhood in society. John Saward, in his splendid book, The Way of the Lamb, The Spirit of Childhood and the End of the Age, writes: "The modern western world seems to have declared war on the family in all its members. It is destructive of the child, disparaging of the mother, and derisive of the father. Feminism, now complacently installed as the worldly wisdom of the West, tends to regard fathers as oppressive monsters . . . . All that is male, even the masculine pronoun, offends the feminist rulers of this age. Sometimes it seems as if the head of every father is veiled in shame, un père humilié."

The Father Under Attack

Every attack on the father is an attempt from below to undermine the headship of Christ, "the image of the invisible God" (Col 1:15) in Whom, "all things hold together" (Col 1:17). Just as Christ holds all things in the universe together, so too does the father hold all things together in the family. Abandoned by the father, the family disintegrates. Nothing so damages the wholeness of the family as the absence of the father.

Forty Years After Humanae Vitae

While pursuing the disgrace of the father, the Evil One continues to pursue the degradation of the mother. The widespread rejection in 1968 of Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Humanae Vitae drove a wedge between conjugal union and openness to the gift of life. As a result, the bride was no longer seen as a woman honouring within herself that most radiant of gifts: potential motherhood. The image of the mother was separated from that of the faithful spouse. By disfiguring the woman -- an image of the Church in her dignity of virgin, bride, spouse, and mother -- Satan seeks to discredit the Church, the Spouse of Christ and ever-fruitful Mother of the faithful.

Dissent from the teaching of Humanae Vitae paved the way for the widespread acceptance of artificial birth control, casual sexual relations, abortion, and the militant homosexual agenda that, seeking to parody marriage between one man and one woman, replaces conjugal fruitfulness with a self-indulgent sterility. The acceptance of abortion leads, inexorably, to the acceptance of parricide (the killing of parents) and infanticide. The society that kills its children becomes patricidal and matricidal. The society that discredits fatherhood and motherhood becomes sterile and dies.

The Consecrated Life

The poisonous trends of the culture of death have not spared the consecrated life itself. The crisis around Humanae Vitae corresponded exactly to the moment when religious began to speak naïvely of "openness to the world." The spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil seeped through the cracks in the cloister and, in the most pernicious and subtle ways, infected religious and monastic life with the prejudices of the age against the father, the mother, and the child.

The Abdication of the Fathers

Rejection of the father began to manifest itself in the contestation of all paternal authority, focusing on that of the Pope. This was just another manifestation of what Von Balthasar so aptly calls Der Antirömische Affekt, "The Anti-Roman Complex." The very name of Father, in use from the Apostolic Age and honoured in the monastic deserts of Egypt and Palestine, fell into disaffection. Superiors felt the need to be "a brother among brothers," failing to see that by doing so they were abdicating the very grace of state constitutive of their spiritual authority.

The collapse of the religious or monastic family ensued, just as the collapse of the natural family would follow any father's abdication of his paternal authority. The most extreme manifestation of this disaffection for the Father is the kind of cultural patricide we see in society today. The same patricide holds sway in the religious community bent on eradicating every vestige of fatherhood in the name of liberty, fraternity, and equality.

The Mother Under Suspicion

Rejection of the mother was, if anything, even more vicious. The years immediately following the Second Vatican Council saw a widespread critique of the consecrated woman as sponsa Verbi -- bride of Christ -- and a decline in practices of devotion to the Virgin Mother of God. The anti-motherhood propaganda of radical feminism, based on the lie that motherhood limits a woman's freedom to be herself, combined with the rejection of Humanae Vitae to cast suspicion on every expression of maternal authority and spiritual motherhood.

Virtual Matricide

The failure of a few women religious to live the grace of spiritual motherhood wisely and tenderly became an excuse for the extermination of the mother, setting in motion a matricidal revolution. Immature religious women dealing with unresolved emotional conflicts within themselves found in this trend a justification for the expression of an anti-maternal animosity. Superiors were coerced into abdicating their maternal authority or, deceived by the lies of the age, did so willingly, contributing thereby to the disintegration of the spiritual families entrusted to them and to their inexorable descent into sterility.

The anti-maternal lies perpetrated by the culture of death were received uncritically by many religious. The name of Mother, like that of Father, had to be erased at all costs. Meanwhile, Satan laughed in scorn, knowing full well that the extinction of the mother leads to the extinction of life itself and not just to sterility, but ultimately to death.

The Wasteland of the Fatherless and Motherless

A Church without spiritual fathers and mothers will become like a society without fathers and mothers: a barren wasteland populated by an angry people, strewn with the aborted remains of lives that could have been, and defiled by every manner of abuse and by the triple sin of patricide, matricide, and infanticide.

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July 24th to August 1st 2008


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. (Leviticus 21:6)

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

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.

The Friendship of the Saints

I invite the readers of Vultus Christi to join me in making this Novena to Saint Peter Julian Eymard, the Apostle of the Eucharist. I have chosen Saint Peter Julian as one of the patron saints of the Cenacle of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus in the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma. It would be more accurate to say that in some mysterious way, Saint Peter Julian Eymard has chosen to help me.

Years ago, while reading the biography of Père Jean-Baptiste Muard, the founder of the Benedictine abbey of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, I came upon a line that so struck me that I have never forgotten it. Père Muard said something like this: "It is not we who choose this or that saint to be our friend; it is, rather, the saints who choose those whom they wish to befriend. The saints choose us, and this, in the light of God's wisdom and providence."

The Priest, an Adorer

Saint Peter Julian is sympathetic, I am sure, to my new Eucharistic mission in the Diocese of Tulsa. His own Eucharistic vocation unfolded amidst sufferings of the heart and painful detachments. God called him out of the religious family he loved -- the Marist Fathers -- to begin a new work, a Cenacle entirely devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. From the beginning Saint Peter Julian Eymard's Eucharistic work comprised priests, consecrated women adorers, and laity. He challenged his little family of adorers to set souls ablaze with Eucharistic fire.

O Taste and See

Bishop Slattery has asked me to help his clergy rediscover that "the secret of their sanctification lies precisely in the Eucharist . . . The priest must be first and foremost an adorer who contemplates the Eucharist." (Pope Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, 18 September 2005). My essential work in Tulsa will be to abide before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus in adoration, reparation, thanksgiving, and intercession, and to share with my brothers in the priesthood and diaconate the fruits of my own contemplation by saying, "O taste and see!" (Psalm 33:9).

The Gift Accompanied by the Gift of All Else

A number of very concrete questions arise. For example: Will sufficient funds be donated for the construction of the Cenacle? Will the necessary support be forthcoming? To all of my questions, Our Lord has but one answer, the only one necessary: "Trust me." Does He not say in the Sermon on the Mount, "Make it your first care to find the Kingdom of God, and His approval, and all these things shall be yours without the asking. Do not fret, then, over to-morrow; leave to-morrow to fret over its own needs; for to-day, to-day's troubles are enough"? (Matthew 6, 33-34). My intention is to make this Novena with confidence, in thanksgiving and in peace. To adapt the words of Saint Paul in Romans 8, 32: "The Father gives us His own Son in the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist; must not that gift be accompanied by the gift of all else?"

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

Like Saint Peter Julian, I cannot conceive of this Cenacle of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus without the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first Adorer of the Eucharistic Face, the Mother of Priests, and the Mediatrix of All Graces. Saint Peter Julian called her Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. "Eucharistic souls," he wrote, "who wish to live only for the Blessed Sacrament, who have made the Eucharist your centre and His service your only work, Mary is your model, her life your grace. Only persevere with her in the breaking of the bread (Acts 2, 42)."

Prayer Ever on Your Lips

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I first read the life of the heroic Father Willie Doyle, S.J. by Alfred O'Rahilly forty years ago. It was the summer of 1968, and the summer of Humanae Vitae. By God's sweet Providence, I am reading it again, this time with the experience of more than half a lifetime behind me. Father Doyle amazes me, comforts me, enlightens me, sets me straight on certain things, and confirms me in others.

One has to grow into certain books, and there is no growth without groaning. Now and then I will be sharing bits and pieces of this remarkable spiritual biography with you, dear readers of Vultus Christi. Father Willie Doyle was made of the stuff of the Desert Fathers. He is above all a master in the practice of the ceaseless prayer of the heart.

Do nothing without consulting Him in the Tabernacle. But then act fearlessly, if you see it is for His honour and glory, never minding what others may think or say. Above all, 'cast your care upon the Lord and He shall sustain you.' (Psalm 54, 23). Peace and calm in your soul, prayer ever on your lips, and a big love in your heart for Him and His interests, will carry you very far. (November, 1914)

Non in commotione Dominus. ('The Lord is not in the earthquake.' III Kings 19, 11). Labour, then with might and main to keep your soul in peace, but an unbounded trust in His loving goodness. If you live in Jesus and Jesus in you, striving to make each little action, each morsel of food, every word of the Office, etc., an act of love to be laid at His feet as dwelling in your heart, you will certainly please him immensely and fly to perfection. (January, 1912)

This morning during Mass I felt strongly that Jesus was pained that you do not trust Him absolutely, that is, trust Him in every detail of your life. You are wanting in that childlike confidence He desires so much from you, the taking lovingly and trustfully from His hands all that He sends you, not even wishing things to have happened otherwise. He wants you to possess your soul in peace in the midst of the many troubles, cares and difficulties of your work, looking upon everything as arranged by Him, and hence something to welcome joyfully. Jesus will not dwell in your soul as He wishes unless you are at peace. This is the first step towards that union which you desire so much -- but not so much as He does. Don't keep Him waiting, my child, but by earnest and constant efforts empty your heart of every care that He may abide with you for ever. (May, 1913)

Nihil Amori Christi Praeponere

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Saints Benedict and Paul

This Solemnity of Our Father Saint Benedict, falling in the Pauline Year, invites us — I want to say, compels us — to reflect on the relationship between the Apostle of the Nations and the Patriarch of Monks. Saint Benedict was imbued with the Epistles of Saint Paul; he quotes the Apostle 23 times in the Holy Rule.

Saint Benedict’s choice of Pauline texts reveals a knowledge of the Apostle that could only have come from years of assiduous lectio divina: the words of the Apostle heard, repeated, prayed, and held in the heart. One finds a similar knowledge of Saint Paul in the writings of Blessed Columba Marmion. The author of Christ the Life of the Soul, Christ in His Mysteries, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, and Christ the Ideal of the Priest was steeped in the writings of the Apostle.

This Year’s Lectio Continua

The Pauline Year offers each of us a unique opportunity to become, like Saint Benedict, imbued with the message of the Apostle Paul. This is the year to let Saint Paul make a difference in your life. This is the year to hear his message with the ear of the heart as if for the first time. This is the year to undertake a lectio continua of his thirteen Epistles, adding for good measure the Letter to the Hebrews, which by an ancient ecclesiastical and liturgical tradition, was also attributed to the Apostle.

Begin with the Letter to the Romans and make your way through the Apostle’s writings. It is better to read several short passages a day, and one before falling asleep. You may want to read a passage before or after each of the Hours of the Divine Office. Find the system that works best for you, but do not let this Pauline Year pass you by without receiving the grace it offers you.

Saint Paul in the Rule of Saint Benedict

Prologue

1. Romans 13:11 And that knowing the season; that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light.

2. 1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and his grace in me hath not been void, but I have laboured more abundantly than all they: yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

3. 2 Corinthians 10:17 But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

4. Romans 2:4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering? Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to penance?

Chapter 2: What Kind of Man the Abbot Should Be

5. Romans 8:15 For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father).

6. Romans 2:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

7. 2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine.

Chapter 4: The Tools of Good Works

8. 1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.

Chapter 5: Obedience

9. 2 Corinthians 9:7 Every one as he hath determined in his heart, not with sadness, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

Chapter 7: Humility

10. Philippians 2:8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.

11. Romans 8:36 As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

12. 1 Corinthians 4:12 And we labour, working with our own hands: we are reviled, and we bless; we are persecuted, and we suffer it.

Chapter 25: Very Serious Faults

13. 1 Corinthians 5:5 To deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 27: The Concern the Abbot Must Have for the Excommunicated

14. 2 Corinthians 2:7 So that on the contrary, you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.

Chapter 28: The Incorrigible

15. 1 Corinthians 5:13 Put away the evil one from among yourselves.

16. 1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbeliever depart, let him depart. For a brother or sister is not under servitude in such cases. But God hath called us in peace.

Chapter 31: What Kind of Man the Cellarer of the Monastery Should Be

17. 1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

Chapter 40: The Measure of Drink

18. 1 Corinthians 7:7 For I would that all men were even as myself: but every one hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that.

Chapter 49: The Observance of Lent

19. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but justice, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

Chapter 53: The Reception of Guests

20. Galatians 6:10 Therefore, whilst we have time, let us work good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Chapter 63: The Order of the Community

21. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

Chapter 70: That No May Hit One Another

22. 1 Timothy 5:20 Them that sin reprove before all: that the rest also may have fear.

Chapter 72: On the Good Zeal Which Monks Ought to Have

23. Romans 12:10 Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

The Experience of Being Loved by Christ

What exactly do Saint Paul and Saint Benedict have in common? A personal experience of the love of Jesus Christ. The Apostle himself could have counseled his spiritual children to “set nothing before the love of Christ” (RB 4:21). He could have instructed his disciples “to prefer nothing whatever to Christ” (RB 72:11). Saint Benedict, for his part, surely said with Paul, “I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

The apostolic vocation of Saint Paul and the monastic vocation of Saint Benedict spring from the same experience of the love of Christ. Allow me, then, to borrow from the Holy Father’s homily for the opening of the Pauline Year, modifying it to bring home my point:

“In the Letter to the Galatians, Saint Paul gives a very personal profession of faith in which he opens his heart to readers of all times and reveals what was the most intimate drive of his life. "I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2: 20). All Paul's actions and all Benedict’s begin from this centre. Their faith is the experience of being loved by Jesus Christ in a very personal way. It is awareness of the fact that Christ did not face death for something anonymous but rather for love of him - of Paul, and of Benedict - and that, as the Risen One, he still loves Paul and still loves Benedict; in other words, Christ gave himself for each of them. Paul's faith, Benedict’s faith is being struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that overwhelms them to their depths and transforms them. The faith of the Apostle, like the faith of our glorious Patriarch, is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. Their faith is the impact of God's love in their hearts.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at Vespers for the Opening of the Pauline Year, Saturday, 28 June 2008)

The Most Holy Eucharist

Through the adorable Sacrament of Our Lord’s Most Holy Body and Blood, may it be given each of us to participate today in the experience of Saint Paul and of Saint Benedict. It is in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that Jesus Christ loves us still, and gives Himself anew, inviting us, inciting us to set nothing before His love.

Dominus meus et Deus meus

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Where deep the spear had pierced,
there Thomas searched thy side,
Whence for the nations' health,
poured forth the healing tide;
By this and each blest wound
thy glorious Body bears,
We suppliants thee entreat,
regard our contrite prayers.

I intended to post something for the beginning of the Pauline Year, but didn't get to it, and now I've just finished singing Vespers of Saint Thomas! I will get to the Pauline Year, that I promise, but for the moment I want to share the splendid antiphons given in Volume III of the Liber Antiphonarius (2007).

The feast of Saint Thomas surprises us at the beginning of July with the delights of Paschaltide. (It reminds me of the petites madeleines of Marcel Proust. One begins to sing the liturgy of Saint Thomas and, straightaway, the palate of the soul tastes anew something of the Second Sunday of Easter. )

Each of the six proper antiphons runs with alleluias like liquid diamonds.

Benedictus

At the Benedictus (John 20, 29), it is Our Lord Himself who speaks:

Quia vidisti me, Thoma, credidisti;
beati qui non viderunt et crediderunt, alleluia.

Thou hast learned to believe, Thomas, because thou hast seen me.
Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have learned to believe, alleluia.

In the last incise the tonic accent (credidérunt) falls on la; it is literally a note of triumph, the triumph of faith over seeing.

Tierce

The antiphon at Tierce (Luke 24, 36) again evokes the presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of His own:

Stetit Iesus in medio discipulorum suorum.
et dixit eis: Pax vobis, alleluia, alleluia.

Jesus stood in the midst of his disciples,
and said, Peace be upon you, alleluia, alleluia.

The chant of the Church is possessed of a certain sacramental quality. When one sings it with one's voice attuned to one's mind and heart, it is a channel of grace. The sanctifying power of the Word of God is released as that Word is sung in the assembly of the faithful. Here one is not singing about an event that happened two-thousand years ago in a locked room in Jerusalem: the liturgy brings the historical "there and then" into the sacramental "here and now." Our Lord is present to His Church now. He stands in the midst of His disciples in the liturgical hodie, and says, Peace be upon you. The response of the Church is the double alleluia that resolves the antiphon.

Sext

At Sext the antiphon (John 20, 24, 25) interprets the witness of the other disciples to Thomas:

Thomas, qui dicitur Didymus, non erat cum eis quando venit Iesus;
dixerunt alii discipuli: Vidimus Dominum, alleluia.

Thomas, who is also called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples told him, We have seen the Lord, alleluia.

Vidimus Dominum begins on a si bémol and cascades down to do, before coming to rest on the final alleluia. There is wonder and amazement in the last incise of the antiphon: it is the whole Church's confession of faith: We have seen the Lord, alleluia.

None

The antiphon at None (John 20, 27) is textually the same as the glorious Communion Antiphon for the Second Sunday of Easter, but the melody is different.

Mitte manum tuam et cognosce loca clavorum, alleluia;
et noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis, alleluia.

Put forth thy hand and know the place of the nails, alleluia;
Cease thy doubting and, believe, alleluia.

Again, it is Our Lord who speaks, inviting Thomas to the "knowledge" of His glorious wounds, wellsprings of peace for souls troubled by doubt. The second half of the antiphon is a command; it causes the very thing it enjoins. One who receives the Word of the Lord humbly, receives, at the same time, all its inward effect.

Magnificat

Finally, at the Magnificat, Thomas himself — the Thomas in each of us — sings the antiphon (John 20, 25.28).

Misi digitum meum in fixuram clavorum et manum meam in latus eius et dixi:
Dominus meus et Deus meus, alleluia.

I put my finger in the print of the nails and my hand into his side and said:
My Lord and my God, alleluia.

When I was last in Ireland a friend related how, when he was a small boy hearing Mass with his father, at the elevation of the Sacred Host a great groan of faith would go up from all the menfolk as they thumped their breasts, saying, "My Lord and my God." In singing this antiphon tonight, something in me made it leap toward the Most Holy Eucharist. Faith does more than believe; a lively faith adores.

Painting: John Granville Gregory, ca. 1990.

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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