Saints: August 2008 Archives

For my first entry from the little "provisional" Cenacle of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus in Tulsa, Oklahoma: a piece from the archives for the feast of Saint Augustine. Details on the move and on my new life here to follow!

This is a most unusual depiction of Saint Augustine washing the feet of Christ. A Capuchin friar named Strozzi painted it in 1629. Augustine, wearing an apron over his black monastic habit, is assisted by an angel. A tonsured monk looks on from a distance. With his right hand Augustine clasps the foot of Our Lord. His gaze is wholly turned towards the Face of Christ, who appears to be instructing him on what he is doing.

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1 John 4:7-16
Psalm 118: 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Matthew 23; 8-12

The Doctor of Charity

The words of Saint John in today's First Lesson are the perfect expression of Saint Augustine's own experience. Augustine is called the "Doctor of Charity," and with good reason. Saint John speaks of the discovery of charity that grounds every Christian life:

"Dearly beloved, let us love one another, for charity is of God. And every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity. By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by Him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because He hath first loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:7-10).

He Hath First Loved Me

For Saint Augustine, however, the words of the Beloved Disciple became intensely personal: "By this hath the charity of God appeared towards me, Augustine, because God hath sent His only begotten Son into the world, that I may live by Him. In this is charity: not as though I had loved God, but because He hath first loved me, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for my sins."

The discovery of the love of God came late in Augustine's life. It is always late. One cannot discover the love of God too soon. And so, the Doctor of Charity laments his tardy discovery of the One Thing Necessary:

Late have I loved Thee, O Beauty so ancient and so new!
Too late have I loved Thee.
And lo, Thou wert inside me and I outside,
and I sought for Thee there, and in all my unsightliness
I flung myself on those beautiful things which Thou hast made.
Thou wert with me and I was not with Thee.
Those beauties kept me away from Thee,
though if they had not been in Thee, they would not have been at all.
Thou didst call and cry to me and break down my deafness.
Thou didst flash and shine on me and put my blindness to flight.
Thou didst blow fragrance upon me and I drew breath,
and now I pant after Thee.
I tasted of Thee and now I hunger and thirst for Thee.
Thou didst touch me and I am aflame for Thy peace....

(Confessions, Book X:38)

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Collect

God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
who led your martyr Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
to the knowledge of your crucified Son
in her imitation of him even unto death,
grant, by her intercession,
that all people may know the Saviour Christ
and, through him, come to the vision of you in eternity.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

or

Lord God of our fathers,
who brought Saint Teresa Benedicta
to the fullness of the science of the Cross
at the hour of her martyrdom,
fill us with that same knowledge
and, through her intercession,
allow us always to seek after you, the Supreme Truth,
and to remain faithful until death
to the covenant of love, ratified in the Blood of your Son
for the salvation of all men and women.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

Give Us Priests Who Are On Fire

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Our friends at WorldPriest offer the following reflection on this prayer dear to Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face:

Saint Thérèse's devotion to the Priesthood is to be found in all its fullness in a prayer which she used to say daily and which she learnt off by heart; this is all the more remarkable in view of her known distaste for lengthy set forms of prayer.

O Holy Father,
may the torrents of love
flowing from the sacred wounds of Thy Divine Son
bring forth priests like unto the beloved disciple John
who stood at the foot of the Cross;
priests: who as a pledge of Thine own most tender love
will lovingly give Thy Divine Son to the souls of men.

May Thy priests be faithful guardians of Thy Church,
as John was of Mary, whom he received into his house.
Taught by this loving Mother who suffered so much on Calvary,
may they display a mother's care and thoughtfulness
towards Thy children.
May they teach souls to enter into close union with Thee
through Mary who, as the Gate of Heaven,
is specially the guardian of the treasures of Thy Divine Heart.

Give us priests who are on fire, and who are true children of Mary,
priests who will give Jesus to souls
with the same tenderness and care
with which Mary carried the Little Child of Bethlehem.

Mother of sorrows and of love,
out of compassion for Thy beloved Son,
open in our hearts deep wells of love,
so that we may console Him
and give Him a generation of priests formed in thy school
and having all the tender thoughtfulness of thine own spotless love.
Amen.

Il est là!

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L'abbaye aux puces

Twenty-nine summers ago, my dear friend Père Jacob, O.P. (not yet a Friar Preacher) and I were on a kind of back-packing pilgrimage in France that allowed us to discover all sorts of holy people, places, and things. At one point we stayed in the "hôtellerie" of a certain famous monastery only to discover that the beds were inhabited by . . . fleas! I should have guessed as much when I noticed that there were cats lolling about on most of the beds and freely roaming the hallways.

One of the goals of our pilgrimage was to seek the intercession of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney at Ars. For both of us, the priesthood we so desired seemed an almost unattainable dream. We wanted Saint Jean-Marie Vianney on our side.

The Baron with the Purple Hair

We hitchhiked (in the rain) from "l'abbaye aux puces" (the Abbey of the Fleas) to Ars. At one point a shiny black sedan stopped for us; the youngish driver, being frightfully avant-garde, had a bright purple streak of hair. He was very "sympathique," and drove us right to the door of the basilica of Ars. As I extended my hand to thank him for the lift, he gave me his card. He was the Baron de R., a scion of one of Europe's most famous banking dynasties. Who would have known?

Guitars at Ars

We washed our clothes in Ars and, once liberated from the fleas, were able to make our devotions to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. Oh, one more thing -- there was a "rock" Mass going on in the basilica. Very upsetting. I looked at the Curé of Ars reclining in his glass reliquary, fully expecting him to turn over at any moment. But he didn't.

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The Preacher Belongs to the Word

The Word does not belong to the preacher; the preacher belongs to the Word. This was true of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, it was true of Saint Peter Julian Eymard, and it is true of today's saint, the holy parish priest Jean-Marie Vianney. The Curé of Ars stands in a long line of preachers possessed by the Word, and compelled to speak it without compromise.

Incendiary Preaching

Jean-Marie Vianney was not particularly eloquent; he preached in a cracked and broken voice, but his words communicated the fire of the Holy Spirit. Even the greatest preacher of the nineteenth century, the Dominican Père Lacordaire, fell silent before the charism of holy preaching in Jean Marie Vianney.

John Paul and Jean-Marie

When the Curé of Ars spoke of the Sacrament of the Altar, he glowed. He communicated to his hearers the Eucharistic fire that burned in his own heart. Twenty-two years ago, Pope John Paul II devoted his Holy Thursday Letter to Priests to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney. I think that today we can read that letter as one saint talking about another. This is what Pope John Paul II said:

The Eucharist was at the very center of Saint Jean Vianney's spiritual life and pastoral work. He said: "All good works put together are not equivalent to the Sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the works of men and the Holy Mass is the work of God." It is in the Mass that the sacrifice of Calvary is made present for the Redemption of the world. Clearly, the priest must unite the daily gift of himself to the offering of the Mass: "How well a priest does, therefore, to offer himself to God in sacrifice every morning!" "Holy Communion and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are the two most efficacious actions for obtaining the conversion of hearts."

Recollection and Adoration

Thus the Mass was for John Mary Vianney the great joy and comfort of his priestly life. He took great care, despite the crowds of penitents, to spend more than a quarter of an hour in silent preparation. He celebrated with recollection, clearly expressing his adoration at the consecration and communion. He accurately remarked: "The cause of priestly laxity is not paying attention to the Mass!"

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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