Saints: October 2008 Archives

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Bienheureux Monsieur et Madame

This morning, for the first time in the history of the Church: a married couple, the parents of a daughter who is a saint and a Doctor of the Church, were beatified in Lisieux, France. 15000 faithful attended the celebration. Louis and Zélie Martin were not beatified because of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. They were beatified in recognition of the virtue and holiness displayed, by the grace of Christ, in their own life. Two months before her death, Saint Thérèse wrote to the Abbé Bellière: "God gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth; they asked the Lord to give them many children and to let them all be consecrated to Him." (July 26th, 1897).

The Challenges of Life

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The Martins had nine children, four of whom died in infancy. Of their five daughters, one of them -- Léonie -- was a very difficult child, furrowed by the emotional complexities that would follow her even into adulthood.

Louis, a watch and clock maker and Zélie, an expert artisan of lace, operated their own businesses. They were familiar with the challenges inherent in dealing justly and patiently with employees and with customers. In the Martin household the needs of the poor were never forgotten.


Both Louis and Zélie were stricken by disease. Zélie died of breast cancer on August 28, 1877. Louis, a widower with five dependent children, was afflicted with a humiliating brain disease and confined in a psychiatric hospital. During occasional periods of remission, he devoted himself to his fellow patients. He died at home in 1894 at the age of 71.


Les Bienheureux Monsieur et Madame Martin prove to married couples that a great holiness is possible, even in the midst of a family life marked by difficulties and sorrows.

Intent on what lies before me

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I really do love praying Matins in the pre-dawn darkness while, in their own way, the crickets, and cicadas, and birds sing their Nocturns outside. This morning, as I read the First Lesson from Philippians 3:7-12, the words were Paul's but the voice I heard was Teresa's:

Mastered by Christ

Not that I have already won the prize,
already reached fulfilment.
I only press on, in hope of winning the mastery,
as Christ Jesus has won the mastery over me.

With the Goal in View

No, brethren, I do not claim to have the mastery already,
but this at least I do;
forgetting what I have left behind,
intent on what lies before me,
I press on with the goal in view,
eager for the prize, God's heavenly summons in Christ Jesus.

The Same Mind, the Same Rule

All of us who are fully grounded must be of this mind,
and God will make it known to you,
if you are of a different mind at present.
Meanwhile, let us all be of the same mind,
all follow the same rule, according to the progress we have made.

Follow My Example

Be content, brethren, to follow my example,
and mark well those who live by the pattern we have given them;
I have told you often, and now I tell you again with tears,
that there are many whose lives make them enemies of Christ's cross.
Perdition is the end that awaits them,
their own hungry bellies are the gods they worship,
their own shameful doings are their pride;
their minds are set on the things of earth;
whereas we find our true home in heaven.

Effective is His Power

It is to heaven that we look expectantly
for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to save us;
he will form this humbled body of ours anew,
moulding it into the image of his glorified body,
so effective is his power to make all things obey him.

As if that were not enough, the Second Nocturn gave me the splendid Psalm 72. There again, the words were King David's, but the voice was that of "La Madre."

The Companionship of Christ

Thou art at my side, ever holdest me by my right hand.
Thine to lead me in a way of thy own choosing,
thine to take me up to thyself in glory.

What else does heaven hold for me, but thyself?
What crave I on earth but thy companionship?

This frame, this earthly being of mine must come to an end;
still God will be my heart's stronghold, eternally my inheritance.

Lost those others may be, who desert thy cause,
lost are all those who break their troth with thee;

I know no other content but clinging to God,
putting my trust in the Lord, my Master.

Thank you to Fray Javier de Santa Teresa, O.C.D. for the beautiful photo.


One of the things I most love about the prayers of the Roman Rite is their compassionate realism. Today's succinct Collect (in the traditional liturgical books) illustrates this perfectly. There is no masking of human weakness, no pretense of virtue, and no want of confidence in Divine Mercy.

Deus, qui nos conspicis ex nostra infirmitate deficere:
ad amorem tuum nos misericorditer per Sanctorum tuorum exempla restaura.

Monsignor Knox translates it thus:

O God, who seest how we fail by reason of our weakness,
have mercy, and through the examples of thy saints,
renew our love of thee.

The Marquess of Bute gives this translation:

O God, Who seest that in our own weakness we do continually fall,
make, in Thy mercy, the ensamples of Thy holy children
a mean whereby to renew in us the love of Thyself.

Finally, the Anglican Monastic Diurnal has:

O God, who seest that we fall by reason of our infirmity:
mercifully restore us to thy love by the example of thy Saints.

Dealing with Sinners

There were some contemporaries of Pope Callistus I who found him lax and overly generous in dealing with public sinners, notably with clergy who had fallen into sin. Hippolytus, for example, groused that Callistus was unwilling to depose a bishop who had sinned grievously and then done penance for his sin.

Copious Redemption

Callistus, however, was personally acquainted with penitence of heart, and had suffered much at the hands of rigorists. If Mother Church has made the compassion of Christ the Good Shepherd the measure of her own pastoral practise in dealing with sinners, it is perhaps due, in some way, to the merciful magnanimity of Pope Saint Callistus I.

The Mercy That Restores to Love

From this one sees that today's Collect is perfectly adapted to the feast. The Church cannot but imitate the mercy of God, Who, while He sees us fail in our infirmities and fall in our weakness, sets before us the example of those forgiven sinners who are the saints, and desires only to restore us to His love.

A Fruitful Love

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Saint Daniel Comboni

Today is the liturgical memorial of Saint Daniel Comboni, founder of two missionary institutes, tireless worker for the abolition of slavery, and zealous apostle of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope John Paul II canonized him on October 5, 2003.

Friendship in the Heart of Jesus

It often pleases Our Lord to bring chosen souls together in friendship and in mutual support. This was the experience of Saint Daniel Comboni (1831-1881) and Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny (1841-1884). Before founding the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny propagated the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart, a movement of reparation and of perpetual adoration of the Heart of Jesus present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar.

Marie du Sacré-Coeur, a Visitandine of the monastery of Bourg-en-Bresse had launched the Guard of Honour on March 13, 1863. The following year the bishop of Belley recognized the movement as a confraternity, and in 1878 Pope Leo XIII elevated it to the rank of an archconfraternity in France and Belgium.

In the beginning, the Guard of Honour obliged its members to spend an hour in adoration and reparation to the Heart of Jesus before the tabernacle. The hours of the day and night were so distributed among the members as to offer the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus an uninterrupted presence of reparation and adoring love. Later on, the manner of carrying out one's assigned hour was modified: no longer was a physical presence before the tabernacle required. One could participate in the Guard of Honour without interrupting one's daily activities, simply by offering an hour of one's day in the spirit of adoration and reparation to the Sacred Heart.

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Offering of the Hour of Presence

O Lord Jesus, present in the Tabernacle,
I offer Thee this Hour
to glorify Thy Heart with my love and reparation.
Accept to this end my thoughts, my words, my actions,
my joys and my sorrows.
Receive, above all, my heart.
I give it to Thee without reserve,
and beg Thee to consume it in the fire of Thy pure love.

Most Precious Offering of the Blood and of the Water

Eternal Father, receive as a sacrifice of propitiation
for the needs of the Church
and in reparation for the sins of the world,
the precious Blood and Water that flowed from the Heart of Jesus,
and have mercy upon us.

Saint Daniel Comboni and Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny met at the Visitation Monastery of Bourg-en-Bresse in June 1865. Inspired to make of covenant of mutual support, Father Comboni became the promoter of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart in Africa, and Mother Marie de Jésus became the hidden root of the immense Combonian apostolate. A remarkable correspondence ensued.

In 1865, Saint Daniel Comboni wrote to Mother Marie de Jésus:

Love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I read your dear letter of 13th June during my journey from Bourg to Geneva. It expresses so vividly the tender love you have for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is only now that I can answer because as soon as I reached Verona I had to go to Vienna in Austria and then to Rome, which I reached on the eve of the feast of St Peter, and then on to Naples. In that period I had too many things to do, which prevented me from writing to you. In the first place I am extremely grateful for the kindness with which you sent me in several parcels one large and one small Cadron, the "Notizia", some news sheets, holy pictures and a few medals of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and above all for having granted me the diploma of Special Director of the Association.

The Centre of Communication Between Us: the Heart of Jesus

I must tell you the joy it gave me to find in you a worthy Sister who bestowed upon me the high honour of promoting the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the countries of Central Africa, and also the joy I feel at corresponding by letter with you regarding the interests of the glory of the Sacred Heart which is the centre of communication between us, which must be burning for the salvation of these souls. Providence seems to have chosen me for the most difficult and dangerous apostolate to the Africans. I shall try to respond to this high mission with every possible effort. I am prepared to sacrifice my life for the salvation of Africa. But what good fortune you bring me, my dear Sister, with the help of the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart! It is with ineffable joy that I admire the pious instigator of the beloved Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart whose glorious apostolate is the powerful strength which encourages me in the huge undertaking with which the great God of Israel has charged me, his unworthy servant.


Africa Consecrated to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary

The Work I am about to found, and that I hope to start already this year with the erection of two great Apostolic Vicariates in Central Africa, which the Holy See will open following my Plan for the Regeneration of Africa, and that I will consecrate to the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, links up closely with the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of which you are the fervent instigator. You see, dear Sister what an intimate union there must be between you and me. It is for this reason that I shall keep you informed of all the progress made by this great Work which must also be yours, as yours is mine. Recommend this Work to the members so as to propagate prayer for the conversion of Africa, as I shall promote the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart, not only in Africa, but in the whole world. May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be with us and may we be faithful and joyful in consecrating our lives for the sake of his Glory.

Fear Not

As soon as I have had my Plan for the Regeneration of Africa printed in French I shall send it to you: I want you to know it to multiply the prayer intentions. His Eminence Cardinal De Angelis, Archbishop of Fermo relegated to Turin, who at the 1846 Conclave received the most votes, after Pius IX, in the Papal election, told me: "If you have placed your Work under the protection of the Sacred Heart, fear not: you will succeed". The ardent love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will burn up the paganism and the fetishism of the African race and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ will be built. However, hoping to introduce the Society of the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart in the Slav countries, please send me in Rome a diploma of Special Director of the Society for the Very Reverend Fr Vicenzo Basile of the Society of Jesus, a famous missionary who has spent 25 years in the Slav countries, so that he may introduce the devotion and the Society in those vast lands.

A Mission to Fulfill

On December 3, 1867 Mother Marie de Jésus wrote to a Visitandine of Bourg-en-Bresse:

When Don Comboni went to take leave of the Pope and asked of him a special blessing for the Zelatrice of the Sacred Heart, the Holy Father said, "Oh! Tell her that I bless her with all my heart!"

In the same letter, Mother Marie de Jésus writes:

On Friday, November 29th Don Comboni came to say goodbye to me; he said to me these singular words: "Propagate the Guard of Honour. I tell you this because I sense something in my soul about this. You have a mission to fulfill; you must always consider yourself unworthy of it; but you have a mission and you have begun to fulfill it by propagating the Guard of Honour.

La fornace d'Amore

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Dom Eugène Vandeur, O.S.B. gives this prose in his meditations entitled, Les voies à la fournaise d'amour, and attributes it to the seraphic Saint Francis. I rather suspect it came from the pen of Jacopone da Todi. It puts me in mind of Saint John of the Cross and, even more, of the words of Our Lord sung at First Vespers of the Sacred Heart: "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled" (Luke 12, 49). The translation from the French is my own.

The Canticle of Saint Francis

Love put me
in a furnace.
Love put me
in the furnace.
He put me
in the furnace of Love.


In a furnace of Love He put me
my new Spouse, my very own
when He slipped the ring onto my finger,
this loving little Lamb.
And then, He cast me into prison
and struck me with a blade,
splitting my heart wide open;
Love put me in a furnace.


He split my heart in two,
and my body fell to the ground.
The bolt of Love
ripping from its crossbow,
struck me, as it embraced me.
Out of peace He has made war;
I am dying of the sweetness.
Love put me in a furnace.


I am dying of the sweetness,
be not astonished.
Such a blow was dealt me
by love's lance.
Its point of iron is long and wide
as a hundred arms' lengths. Know this:
it went right through me .
Love put me in a furnace.


And then, the arrows rained down tightly
and the crossbows thrust me down.
So, did I take up a shield,
and the blows came fast and heavy,
until nothing more could defend me.
They broke me into pieces,
so strong was the arm delivering them.
Love put me in a furnace.


He shot them with such force;
I despaired of fending them off.
And to escape death,
I cried out with all my strength:
"You are breaking the laws of combat."
But then, He raises an instrument of warfare
that overwhelms me with fresh blows.
Love put me in a furnace.



The arrows that He aimed at me
were of stone set in lead;
each of them weighed at least a thousand pounds.
He launched them in a hailstorm so thick
that I could not count them.
Not one of them missed me.
Love put me in a furnace.


He could not have missed me, never,
so perfect was His aim.
I was lying on the earth,
unable to move; my members failed me.
My whole being was utterly smashed.
Like a man already dead
I no longer felt anything.
Love put me in a furnace.


Dead, not by mortal death,
but by intoxication with the Beloved.
Then, I awoke so strong,
again taking possession of my heart,
and I was able to follow the guides
who led me on
even to the gate of heaven.
Love put me in a furnace.


After I regained consciousness,
I waged war against Christ.
Straightaway, I took up arms,
and rode my steed into His terrain.
And having come face to face with Him,
without delay, I came to blows,
and avenged myself on Him.
Love put me in a furnace.


When I had sated my vengeance,
I made my peace with Him;
For, from the very beginning
this Love had been true love.
Now, of Christ, the Lover,
I have become capable.
Ever and always does my heart carry Him.
Love put me in a furnace.

Love put me
in a furnace.
Love put me
in the furnace.
He put me
in the furnace of Love.

Ut gaudium meum in vobis sit

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At Today's Second Nocturn

This is what I read at the Second Nocturn of Matins this morning. It is a good example of what gives the writings of Blessed Abbot Marmion their distinctive unction. They have a comforting, penetrating quality that comes from His extensive use and repetition of the words of Sacred Scripture. In this brief passage of less than two pages, he quotes Sacred Scripture eleven times. Abbot Marmion had the habit of giving the same text twice, once in English (or French), and then in Latin, the language of the sacred liturgy in which the Word of God came to him by dint of repetition in the Mass and Divine Office.

Marmion and the Year of Saint Paul

Abbot Marmion is a worthy companion for this Year of Saint Paul. He, more than any other popular spiritual writer of the last century, made the teachings of Saint Paul come to life for his readers. Not surprisingly, Saint Paul and Saint John are the two biblical sources that appear most frequently in his writings; the Abbot knew them practically by heart.

A Reading from Christ in His Mysteries by the Blessed Columba Marmion, O.S.B.

Let us remain faithful to Jesus in spite of everything.
We have heard that He is the Son of God, equal to God;
His words do not pass away: He is the Eternal Word.
Now, He affirms that he that follows Him shall have the "light of life":
Habebit lumen vitae (Jn 8, 12).
Happy the soul that listens to Him, and Him only,
and listens always, without doubting His word,
without being shaken by the blasphemies of His enemies,
without being overcome by temptation or cast down by trial!
We know not, says Saint Paul, what a weight of glory is laid up for us
in return for the least suffering borne in union with Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Cor 4, 17).
"God is faithful" (1 Cor 1, 9; 10, 13, 2 Thess 3, 2);
and in all the vicissitudes through which a soul passes,
God infallibly leads her to this transformation
which makes her like unto His Son.

Thus our transformation into Jesus is inwardly brought about,
little by little, until the day comes when the soul will appear radiant
in that company of the elect who bear the mark of the Lamb,
those whom the Lamb transfigures because they are His own.

Our Lord Himself promised this to us.
"The world shall rejoice" (Jn 16, 20), He said before leaving us,
but here below you shall be in sorrow and trial as I was
before entering into my glory:
Opportuit pati Christum et ita intrare in gloriam suam (Lk 24, 26).

That is necessary, it is the way of My providence;
but remain steadfast.
"Have confidence," confidite (Jn 16, 33).
"I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Mt 28, 20).
Now your faith receives Me each day in the mystery of My self-abasement,
but I will come one day in the full revelation of My glory.
And you, My faithful disciples, shall share this glory,
for you are one with Me.
Did I not ask this of My Father when about to pay the price of it by My Sacrifice?
"Father, I will that where I am, they also whom Thou hast given Me
may be with Me; that they may see My glory which Thou hast given Me,
because Thou hast loved Me before the creation of the world":
Pater, VOLO ut ubi sum ego, et ill sint MECUM,
ut videant claritatem meam quam dedisti mihi (Jn 17, 24).

As for you whom I have called My friends,
to whom I have confided the secrets of My Divine life, as My Father ordained;
you who have believed, and have not left Me,
you shall enter into My joy, and live by Me.
Full life, perfect joy, because it will be My own life and My personal joy
that I will give you.
My life and My joy as Son of God,
Ut gaudium MEUM in vobis sit,
et gaudium vestrum
IMPLEATUR (Jn 15, 11).

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