Saints: April 2009 Archives

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The 2002 editio typica of the Missale Romanum contains the following Collect for the memorial of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort, Priest. The Collect is an admirable synthesis of the charism of Saint Louis-Marie. Every line of the text alludes to an element characteristic of his spirituality. The English translation is my own.

O God, who willed to guide the steps
of your priest, saint Louis-Marie,
into the way of salvation and of delight in Christ
in the company of the Blessed Virgin,
grant that we, by following his example,
may meditate the mysteries of your love
and devote ourselves tirelessly to the upbuilding of your Church.

By His Wounds Holy and Glorious

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Third Sunday of Paschaltide

Acts 3:13-15.17-19
Psalm 4:2.4.7.9.
1 John 2:1-5
Luke 24:35-48

Today's image shows the tabernacle door of the Church of Saint Anna, Andogno, Tavodio, Italy. Notice the little keyhole on the bottom of the right side.

The Incendiary Gospel

"Lord Jesus, open the Scriptures to us. When Thou speakest, make our hearts burn with love" (cf. Lk 24:32). Who but the Word can open the Word to us? In His light we see light; only in the light of the Paschal Candle -- that is, of the Risen Christ -- does the light of the Scriptures become apparent. The breath of Christ fills the words of the Holy Gospel with spirit and life (Jn 6:63). The liturgic Gospel -- the Gospel proclaimed in the midst of the Church and making Christ present -- fills the heart with fire. "Behold," He says through the prophet Jeremiah, "I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall devour them, says the Lord, the God of hosts" (Jer 5:14). The disciples at Emmaus said, "Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Lk 24:32). The proclamation of the Holy Gospel is always incendiary: a devouring fire in the heart of the Church.

The five new saints whose canonization was celebrated in Rome this morning: Bernard Tolomei (1272--1348), Nuno de Santa Maria of Portugal (1360-1431), Caterina Volpicelli (1839-1894), Gertrude Comensoli (1847-1903), Saint Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912) were men and women set ablaze with the Divine Fire of the Gospel. Two of them touch me in a special way: Saint Bernard Tolomei for his renewal of Benedictine life, and Saint Gertrude Comensoli for her charism of Eucharistic adoration.

The Gift of Peace

In today's Gospel Our Lord offers us two gifts, and He expresses two desires. The first gift is peace. "Jesus Himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be upon you!'" (Lk 24: 36). We ask for this peace in every Mass before Holy Communion: "O Lord Jesus Christ, who said to Thy apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you, look not on my sins, but on the faith of Thy Church and graciously grant her peace and unity in accordance with Thy will." This is the peace that comes over a troubled heart when the words of sacramental absolution are pronounced. The peace that Christ offers is His very own: a peace that flows out of His life of communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Christ's peace carries us upward; it flows back towards its origin and source in the bosom of the Father. In the Second Reading Saint John said: "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous" (1 Jn 2:1). Every advocate seeks to win peace for those whom he represents. Peace, then, is the first gift of the Risen Christ.

The Holy and Glorious Wounds of Christ

After this first gift, Our Lord expresses His desire: "See My hands and My feet" (Lk 24:39). Jesus would have us contemplate His holy and glorious wounds. The wounds of the Risen Christ are the glory of the Father and the joy of the Church. The wounds of Christ are the indelible sign of His everlasting priesthood and the remedy for our wounds, fountains of healing for us, springs of salvation. "Repent, therefore," says Saint Peter, "and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out" (Ac 3:19). Turn again? Turn whereto? To the holy and glorious wounds of Jesus Christ. There is a very simple form of contemplative prayer in which the risen Christ applies His wounds to the wounds of the soul. It is an operation of naked faith, a wordless contact in the darkness. It touches the secret unexposed places deep within, concealed well below feelings and concepts.

Rest in Wounds of the Saviour

Listen to Saint Bernard: "Where shall the weak find a safe rest or a secure refuge except in the wounds of the Saviour. I have sinned most grievously but I am not confounded because I will call to mind the wounds of my Saviour. For He was wounded for our sins. What sin can be so much 'unto death' as that it cannot be 'loosed' by the death of Christ? Therefore no disease however desperate, shall have power to drive me to despair, if only I keep in mind so powerful and effective a remedy."

Christ Our Priest

The wounds of Christ are not only our healing; they are the glorification of the Father as well, and this, throughout all eternity. Our Eternal High Priest presents Himself before the Father's face. He says to the Father exactly what He says to us: "See my hands and my feet." The Father, reads the immensity of His love in the depths of His wounds, and in the wounds of the Son the Father is glorified.

Our Lord to Sister Marie-Marthe Chambon, Visitandine (1841-1907)
My daughter, recognize the world's treasury. . . the world does not want to recognize it. If anyone is in need, let him come with faith and confidence, let him draw constantly from the treasury of My Passion. Here is all that is need to pay one's debts.
One must not be afraid to display My Wounds to souls. My Wounds are the simple and easy way that leads to heaven. In the contemplation of My Wounds one finds everything for oneself and for others.
My daughter, where are saints made if not within My Wounds? The fruits of holiness come forth from My Wounds. Just as gold purified in the crucible becomes more beautiful, so too must you put your soul and the souls of your sisters in My Sacred Wounds; there they will be made perfect like gold in the furnace.
The sinner who will say the following prayer: Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Wounds of Our Lord to heal the wounds of our souls, will obtain his conversion.

This then is the first desire that Our Lord expresses today: that we should contemplate His glorious wounds, even as the Father contemplates them in the heavenly sanctuary where Christ is living forever to intercede for all who come to God through Him (Heb 7:25).

Touch Me

A second desire follows the first one: "Handle me," He says. Jesus wants us to touch Him eucharistically. It is not enough for Him that we should gaze upon His wounds, Our Lord would have us touch Him so as to sanctify our flesh by contact with His saving flesh. The most human of all desires is the desire to be touched. The newborn child seeks to be touched, so too in extreme old age one seeks comfort and healing in the touch of another. In the risen Christ, this most human of all desires -- the desire to be touched -- has become the most divine of all desires. "Handle me," says Jesus.

How are we to respond to this desire of the risen Christ? First, know that so often we open the book of the Scriptures, so often as we kiss the sacred page so full of His presence and open our hearts to His message, spiritually we touch Him, allowing Him inwardly to touch us by His words. Second, so often as we open our mouths to receive His Sacred Body and Precious Blood, we respond to His desire. "Touch me," He says, and so that we might really touch Him, day after day until His coming in glory, He said: "Take this, all of you and eat it: this is My Body, and take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of My Blood."

Third, what is true of the Eucharistic Body of Christ is equally true of His Mystical Body. So often as we stretch out our hands in compassion, in the act of giving, in reverent tenderness, in chaste affection, in humble service of the least among us, we touch the Body of Christ. We respond to his desire: "Touch me!" "I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did it to Me" (Mt 25:40). The Body of Christ, bruised and buffeted, disfigured and bloodied, waits to be touched in His members; the glorious and glorifying Body of Christ waits to be touched, taken and eaten in the Eucharist.

Peering Through the Trellis

And finally, a second gift: "He opened their minds to understand the scriptures" (Lk 24: 45). The words of the Scriptures form a kind of trellis, a lattice work behind which we discern the adorable Face of Jesus Christ radiant with the glory of the Father. "See where he stands behind our wall. . . he peers through the lattice" (Ct 2:9) says the bride in the Song of Songs. Scripture is the mysterious face of Christ turned towards all who seek Him. The Church is fascinated, magnetized, polarized by the Face of Jesus Christ shining in the Scriptures. Week after week, even day after day, in the liturgy we celebrate, in the psalms we sing, we learn to discover the Face behind the words. . . and the Heart beneath the Face, and this very discovery is His paschal gift to us. Do we not pray in today's Responsorial Psalm: "Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, O Lord" (Ps 4:6b).

Two Desires and Two Gifts

Two desires and two gifts. Have we opened our hearts to receive Our Lord's gift of peace? Have we risked encountering Him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms? Do we use the eyes of faith to gaze upon His wounds holy and glorious? Our hands, are they stretched forth to touch Him and to be touched by Him in the sacred mysteries of His Body and Blood and in the suffering members of His Mystical Body ? May this paschal celebration of two gifts and two desires enable us to say with Saint Augustine: "I tasted Thee and I feel but hunger and thirst for Thee. Thou didst touch me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is Thine" (Confessions X, xxvii).


Mio Dio, la tua gloria!

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Ut Unum Sint

Although the Roman Martyrology notes the day of her death on April 23, 1939, the Cistercian and Trappist calendars commemorate Blessed Maria Gabriella, a nun of Grottaferrata in Italy, on April 22. Pope John Paul II beatified Blessed Maria Gabriella dell'Unità in 1983 and in his Encyclical on Christian unity, Ut Unum Sint, 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." Her monastic life was brief: three and a half years. She died after fifteen months of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-five.

The Dilated Heart

Blessed Maria Gabriella is, in many ways, a woman to whom anyone touched by suffering and disability can relate, and for many reasons. The physical limitations that reduced her "doing" expanded her "being" until, at length, the Holy Ghost dilated her heart to the dimensions of the Heart of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. How can I not think here of my esteemed friend Vincent Uher at Tonus Peregrinus?

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Silence Turned to Praise

Blessed Maria-Gabriella is one of those who, having heard the Word, held it in silence: in the silence of wonderment, in the silence that confesses God present, in the silence that allows the Word to sink into the deep and secret places of the soul. For Maria-Gabriella, this silence turned to praise: a sublime praise uttered by Christ the Eternal High Priest in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John's Gospel. At the end of life, she confided: "I cannot say but these words, 'My God, your Glory.'"

Pages Become Transparent

Maria Sagghedù, leaving her native Sardinia for Grottaferrata, entered a monastery that was economically and culturally poor, although governed by Mother Maria Pia Gulini, an abbess who believed in keeping a window open onto the wider Church. Maria Gabriella lived a hidden life circumscribed by the cloister, by silence and by obedience. Her monastic life was short; she crossed the threshold of the Abbey of Grottaferrata in 1935 and died in 1939, a mere three and a half years later. It was Good Shepherd Sunday at the hour of Vespers, the Church's evening sacrifice of praise. The Gospel that day had been from Saint John: "There will be one fold, and one shepherd" (Jn 10:16). After Maria Gabriella's death, her sisters found that her little pocket edition of the New Testament, worn from use, opened by itself to the seventeenth chapter of Saint John's Gospel. Those few pages of Jesus' Priestly Prayer, so often touched by Mother Maria Gabriella's feverish hands, had become almost transparent.

The Unity of the Mystical Body

Blessed Maria Gabriella's offering for Christian unity witnesses to the fundamental thrust of every monastic life, both in its canonical form within the enclosure walls, or in its interior expression, without cloister or habit, in the world. Monastic conversion is a movement from the divided, fragmented self to the whole self, healed and unified in the love of Christ. The restoration of unity is the great monastic work; it is the end and fruit of every Eucharistic Sacrifice. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches the end proper to the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the unity of the Mystical Body. Let us then go to the altar, letting go of things that fragment that unity, and ready to receive the gifts by which unity is repaired.

Read more about Blessed Maria Gabriella dell'Unità here and here.

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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