Saints: June 2009 Archives

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This is the homily that I preached this evening at First Vespers of Saints Peter and Paul in our Cathedral of the Holy Family in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Spiritually in Rome

This evening, with the Church's evening sacrifice of praise, we enter into the festival of the Apostles Peter and Paul and bring the Pauline Year to a close. The Vespers hymn given us by the Church would have sing: "The beauteous light of God's eternal majesty / Streams down in golden rays to grace this holy day (Aurea luce). We find ourselves on pilgrimage to the Eternal City; spiritually we are in Rome at the tombs of Peter, the Keeper of Heaven's Gate, and of Paul, the Teacher of the Nations. Describing Rome as the eyes of faith see her, the hymn goes on to say:

O happy Rome! who in thy martyr princes' blood,
A twofold stream, art washed and doubly sanctified.
All earthly beauty thou alone outshinest far,
Empurpled by their outpoured life-blood's glorious tide.

Grace Abounds All the More

The mere tourist on a Roman holiday, rushing from one attraction to another, and distracted by a wildly delicious assault of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, misses the city's most precious secrets: the mortal remains of Saints Peter and Paul, and the immortal holiness of streets, and stones, and earth soaked in the blood of a host of other martyrs. "But Father," you may object, "I have been to Rome" -- it is rife with sin and thievery." Saint Paul, addressing the Romans, answers, saying: "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:20).

A Cascade of Graces

Mystically transported to the tombs of Saints Peter and Saint Paul and enveloped by the liturgy of the feast, we are already standing under a cascade of graces coming down from the Father of lights (Jas 1:17). Every feast in the Church's calendar, indeed every Hour of the Divine Office of every feast, is the vehicle of a particular grace: one coloured by the saint or mystery being celebrated and divinely adapted to whatever our present needs may be.

First Antiphon

The first antiphon, taken from Mathew 16:16-17, is composed of a word pronounced by Peter, and of Jesus' reply. Peter confesses his faith: "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." Straightaway Our Lord confirms him in his faith: "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona." This first antiphon framed Psalm 116 for us: the shortest psalm in the Bible. Psalm 116 has but two verses: a clarion call summoning all the nations to praise the Lord because His mercy over us is confirmed, and because His truth will abide forever.

Blessed Art Thou

If you would enter into the grace of the first antiphon and psalm, make Peter's confession of faith your own, and then listen to Our Lord say to you, "Blessed art thou." If your own faith is beset with doubts, and uncertain in the face of suffering, lean on the faith of Peter and of the Church. Persevere in repeating Peter's prayer -- "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." Say it even if you feel nothing. Say it even if you think that your prayer is going nowhere. Say it even if you think no one is listening. The mercy of Christ will, at the appointed hour, break through the darkness that surrounds you, and you will hear Him say to you, as He said to Peter, "Blessed art thou."

Second Antiphon

The second antiphon is taken from Matthew 16:18. Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks, saying: "Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church" (Mt 16:18). These words, once addressed to Simon Bar-Jona have been repeated to each of his 265 successors as Bishop of Rome. This is the antiphon sung to greet the Pope every time he solemnly enters Saint Peter's Basilica. And this is the text written in monumental letters around the base of the great dome of Saint Peter's.

Pray for the Pope and for the Church

Today, this antiphon opens and closes Psalm 147, a hymn in praise of the Lord who so loves His Church that He blesses her children, places peace in her borders, and fills her with the wheat of the Most Holy Eucharist, the swift-running efficacy of His Word, and the very Breath of His mouth, the Holy Spirit. Both the antiphon and the psalm invite us to pray fervently and gratefully for Pope Benedict XVI and for the Church. Prayer for the Pope is as old as the Church herself. We read in Acts 12:5: "But prayer was made without ceasing by the Church for him [Peter]" (Ac 12:5).

Third Antiphon

The third antiphon is addressed to Saint Paul. It is an artfully crafted composition, made up of Acts 9:15 and 1 Timothy 2:7. This illustrates, incidentally, that the Church is sovereignly free in her use of Sacred Scripture in the liturgy. Guided by the Holy Ghost, she so grasps the unity of the Bible, that she knows how to lift out first one verse and then another. She then reassembles them in such a way that they become a fitting expression of her prayer for all times.

In Acts 9:15, Our Lord appears to Ananias in a vision. When Ananias protests to Him that he wants nothing to do with this hateful Saul, Our Lord answers, "Go thy way, for this man is to me a vessel of election" (Ac 9:15). That is the first part of the antiphon. In the second part -- 2 Timothy 2:7 -- Paul boasts of his divinely conferred credentials: "I am appointed a preacher and an apostle, (I say the truth, I lie not,) a doctor of the Gentiles in faith and truth."

Grace

This antiphon opens and closes a canticle that Saint Paul either composed or learned from hearing it sung in the assemblies of the Church. It is a song of praise and thanksgiving, glorifying God the Father for having chosen us in Christ, His Beloved Son, for the praise of His glorious grace. In this canticle, grace is the keyword. Grace is the graciousness of God in action, through the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Grace is what changed Saul into Paul, making him God's vessel of election, and the preacher of the truth in the world. Grace is what will change us from what we are -- frail, broken sinners -- into the saints God wants us to be forever. Hold fast to the Our Lord's own words to Saint Paul: "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my power is made perfect in infirmity" (2 Cor 12:9).

The Reading

It comes as no surprise that the short lesson this evening should be from Saint Paul's Epistle to the Romans. It is, in fact, the salutation from the very beginning of his letter: "To all that are at Rome -- and, spiritually, we are there this evening -- the beloved of God called to be saints. Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom 1:7). This is a greeting that delivers what it wishes. It is the word of God uttered in the midst of the Church: no vapid sentimentality here, but rather the efficacious Word of God sent like a flaming arrow into the hearts of those who hear it.

The Responsory

The Reponsory tells us that the Apostles spoke the Word of God with confidence and boldness, bearing witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Latin text has cum fiducia, with assurance, confidence, and trust. Trust in whom? Trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. "I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you forever" (Jn 14:16). There is no reason then to be timid and shrinking about our Catholic faith, even in an intimidating culture that mocks it, rejects the hope it offers, and would have us dilute it. Apostolic Catholic Christianity is to be lived cum fiducia, with confidence, and boldly.

Magnificat Antiphon

The Magnificat Antiphon will have us sing: "The glorious Apostles of Christ, just as they loved each other in life, so too, are they not separated in death." Did Peter and Paul love each other? Yes. Did they always agree about everything? No. It is this that makes their fraternal love credible, even more compelling. What was this charity with which they loved each other? It is the charity that Saint Paul describes in First Corinthians: a charity that is patient, is kind, that envieth not, that dealeth not perversely, and that is not puffed up; a charity that is not ambitious, that seeketh not her own, that is not provoked to anger; a charity that beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, and endureth all things" (1 Cor 13:4-7).

The Collect

The Collect, in its own way, tells us quite a lot about God and about ourselves. It is proper to this evening and different from the one that we will hear at Mass and at the Hours tomorrow:

Give us, we beseech Thee, O Lord our God,
to be lifted up by the intercession of the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul,
so that through them to whom Thou gavest Thy Church
the first proofs of heavenly gifts,
Thou wouldst provide us with helps for everlasting salvation.

We pray to God as a people in need of being lifted up. We are fallen and falling . . . but God is ever ready to lift us up. Today He does so by the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul. Both of them knew what it is to fall. . . and to fall in a spectacular way. Now, in the glory of heaven, they are well placed to help us rise from the sin that, again and again, knocks us down. In the beginning, God gave Saints Peter and Paul signs and demonstrations of His heavenly protection; what He did for them in the first days of the Church, He is ready to do for us in 2009, at this end of the Year of Saint Paul and beginning of the Year of the Priest.

A Lamp to Our Feet

Under Saint Peter's watchful eye, Saint Paul is handing the torch to Saint John Mary Vianney, the Curé d'Ars. Pray that this torch be for all of us, but especially for the priests of our diocese of Tulsa, "a lamp to our feet, and a light to our paths" (Ps 118:105).

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Today is the birthday of the Bridegroom’s friend:
an inbreaking of joy,
wild joy, reckless joy, heaven-sent joy.
the joy of a divine surprise.
A baby boy has come into the world.
“His name is John” (Lk 1:63).
Nothing will ever again be the same.

Elizabeth, having already faded into old age, flowers and bears fruit.
All the neighbours talked.
Our God is the Lord of the impossible.
Our God is astonishing,
amazing in all that he does.
He gives hope to the hopeless,
sends his mercy like a river into every dry and barren wasteland,
and fills the womb of one long past childbearing
with the energy of a infant kicking
and leaping for joy.

Zechariah astonished, loses his speech,
and regains it in a flood of praise.
Zechariah’s canticle: a priestly prayer of blessing
rising to meet the Dayspring that rises over the darkness.
Dazzling Dayspring dealing death to death,
giving light to those who sit in darkness!
Rays of mercy kissing every uplifted face,
beams of brightness for uncertain steps,
and in every heart long chilled by fear
a strange and wondrous warming.

The smell of incense hangs about Zechariah:
the fragrance of the Temple.
In his eyes one sees the glimmer of what he saw:
Gabriel who stands in the presence of God.
The vision of an angel is something not erased.
It leaves one with a perpetual look of surprise.
It causes one to utter blessings
and, at every moment, to break into bits of eucharistic song.
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel!”

The Church finds nothing better than to repeat
Zechariah’s canticle
day after day, morning after morning,
making it her unchanging sunrise Gospel,
her preparation for the Great Thanksgiving:
the tender mercy of God
given for our eating and drinking
in the Holy Bread and in the Precious Chalice.
The brightness that rises like the dawn
over every altar.

John is here today.
He is present at every advent of the Word.
He was there when first the Word came.
He is there when the Word comes
uttered in the syllables of poor human language
and veiled by bread and wine.
He is there at every secret advent of the Word:
the visitations of which we dare not speak,
lest in disclosing them
we lose something of their healing virtue.

He will be there when,
at the end of time the Word returns,
all-glorious,
to judge the living and the dead.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel
who has made John indispensable
for Israel,
for us,
for the Church.
To each of you today,
Mother Church wishes nothing less
than the joy of John.

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This lengthy entry is not entirely new, but it does contain some new autobiographical elements. I decided to share with you, dear readers, the development of my call to live under the Rule of Saint Benedict, in Eucharistic adoration, while offering spiritual support to my brother priests and deacons here in the Diocese of Tulsa.

A continuity with the earliest glimmers of my Benedictine vocation is evident to those who have learned to read events -- even when they are marked by suffering, twists, and uncertainties -- with the eyes of the heart. There is much here that I would have preferred to keep as "the secret of the King," but there are also details that may well redound to His glory and, at the same time, respond to the queries and (not always accurate) speculations of those who want to know the details of my mission as it unfolds.

The Beginning of a Friendship

How did I first come to know Marie-Adèle Garnier? (See the previous entry for details about her life.) I was introduced to her by Blessed Columba Marmion! In order to reconstruct the genesis of our “friendship” -- for one can have a friendship with the saints in heaven -- I must return to my first exposure to monastic life in 1969.

Young Men and the Books They Read

I discovered Abbot Columba Marmion’s writings when I was fifteen years old. I was visiting Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Father Marius Granato, O.C.S.O., charged at that time with helping young men -- even very young men -- seek God, put Christ, the Ideal of the Monk into my hands. He even let me take the precious green-covered volume home with me. With all the ardour of my fifteen years I devoured it. No book had ever spoken to my heart in quite the same way.

My Spiritual Father

I read and re-read Christ, the Ideal of the Monk. At fifteen one is profoundly marked by what one reads. The impressions made on a soul at that age determine the course of one’s life. As I pursued my desire to seek God, I relied on Dom Marmion. I chose him not only as my monastic patron, but also as my spiritual father, my intercessor, and my guide.

Dom Denis Huerre, O.S.B., in his biography of Père Muard, the founder of the Abbey of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, discusses Père Muard's extraordinary spiritual kinship with Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. (She is, in fact, the secondary patron of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire.) Dom Denis concludes that it is not we who choose the particular saints with whom we desire to cultivate a special friendship; it is, rather, these particular saints who choose us. This, I am convinced is part of God's plan for the holiness of each one.

Spiritual Affinities

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I became an avid reader of everything written by or about Abbot Marmion. In one of these books I encountered Marie-Adèle Garnier, Mother Mary of St. Peter, the foundress of the Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Tyburn, O.S.B. The little bit I read about her was very compelling: her focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and on adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, her love of the Mass and the Divine Office, and her profound attachment to the Church. We were, without any doubt, united by a certain spiritual affinity.

Dom Marmion's Letters

Blessed Marmion's Letters of Spiritual Direction, edited by Dom Raymond Thibaut under the title Union With God, contain several pages of the Abbot's correspondance with Mother Mary of St. Peter. Among other things, Dom Marmion wrote:

"The very real imperfections which you confess to me do not make me doubt the reality of the grace you receive. God is the Supreme Master, and He leaves you these weaknesses in order that you may see that these great graces do not come from you, and are not granted to you on account of your virtues, but on account of your misery. You are a member of Jesus Christ, and the Father truly gives to His Son what He gives to His weak and miserable member. Do not be astonished, do not be discouraged when you fall into a fault, but draw from the Heart of your Spouse -- for all His riches are yours -- the grace and virtue that are wanting to you."

Saint Luke Kirby and Mother St. Thomas More Wakerley

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In 1972, during my frightfully precocious initial experience of traditional Benedictine life, I wrote to the Tyburn Benedictines for the first time. (In photos from that period I am a very thin bespectacled 20 year old, looking rather like a young Pius XII in a Benedictine habit!) My purpose in writing to Tyburn was to learn more about Mother Mary of St. Peter, and also to request information on Saint Luke Kirby, one of the Tyburn martyrs whose surname I bear. I received a lovely reply written in what appeared to be a frail and trembling hand: a letter from Mother M. St. Thomas More Wakerley. Mother St. Thomas More sent me the information I had requested on Saint Luke Kirby as well as the red-covered biography of Mother Mary of St. Peter by Dom Bede Camm, O.S.B. The book was re-edited in 2006 by Saint Michael's Abbey Press.

Friends of the Sacred Heart

I read and re-read the book, finding that Marie-Adèle Garnier and I moved, so to speak, within the same constellation of mysteries: the Heart of Jesus, the Eucharist, the Sacred Liturgy, the Priesthood, and the Church. Blessed Abbot Marmion’s writings continued to nourish me, as did those of Saint Gertrude the Great and other Benedictine and Cistercian friends of the Sacred Heart. Dom Ursmer de Berlière’s book (in the “Pax” Collection) on the Sacred Heart within the monastic tradition added kindling to the fire. At about the same time, I read the life of other Benedictine mystics of the Sacred Heart: among them were Père Jean-Baptiste Muard, founder of La-Pierre-Qui-Vire, Mère Jeanne Deleloë, and Blessed Giovanna Bonomo.

Stability in the Heart of Jesus

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In 1975, having wisely taken time out from the cloister, I made a pilgrimage to the cradle of Benedictine life at Subiaco. There I met a wise old monk who had been Master of Novices at La-Pierre-Qui-Vire. When I asked him for counsel concerning my monastic journey, he said to me, “Frère, tu dois faire ta stabilité dans le Coeur de Jésus -- Brother, you must make your stability in the Heart of Jesus.” These words were to sustain me in the years ahead. I know that Marie-Adèle Garnier would have understood them perfectly.

The Open Heart of Jesus Crucified

On August 4, 1979, together with Father Jacob, now a Dominican, and another brother, now a Franciscan, I went on pilgrimage to Montmartre in Paris. There, in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, at the altar of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and trusting in her intercession, we consecrated ourselves to the Heart of Jesus and to His designs on our life. Within me the desire was growing for a simple Benedictine life, characterized by the worthy celebration of the Divine Office and by adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist. The wounded Side of Our Lord exercised a supernatural power of attraction over me. The text of our Act of Consecration was printed on a leaflet with a drawing depicting a monk being drawn to the open Heart of Jesus Crucified. The attraction to the pierced Heart of Jesus and to His Holy Face was constant and undeniable.

Life Together

For several years I lived with Father Jacob and others in a small monastic community where, every evening after Vespers, we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. In the end it was decided that we should be absorbed by the monastery that was sponsoring and guiding us: the Cistercian Abbey of Notre Dame de Nazareth in Rougemont, Québec. It was a painful detachment for all concerned. Again, Mother Mary of St. Peter would have understood.

Blessed Edouard Poppe

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My God, I forget all fear and all mistrust.
I melt away for joy and love, whenever I lay my eyes on the Tabernacle
and, in my soul, repeat these words:
"That Host is my God, my Creator. . My Master. . . My Bridegroom!
You see me. . . You think about me. . . You love me. . ."
What else could He do? For God is love.
I may not be worthy of it, but He is love!

(Spiritual Notebook of Blessed Edouard Poppe, July 17, 1917)
The ciborium in the photo belonged to Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, the Curé d'Ars.


A Young Priest for Priests

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A Holy Priest

Today is the memorial of Blessed Edouard Poppe, priest (1890-1924). The approach of The Year of the Priest makes the example of his short life particularly compelling. Born into a Belgian working family -- his father was a baker -- on December 18, 1890, the young Edouard heard Jesus calling him to the priesthood at an early age. In my own experience, this is not unusual. I have known priests who admit that they were first aware of their vocation between the ages of 3 and 7!

Children and the Eucharist

Ordained a priest on May 1, 1916, Edouard was assigned to a working class parish in Gand. Creative and enterprising, he devoted himself to the education of children in the faith. More than anything else, he worked to bring children to the Most Holy Eucharist, and the Most Holy Eucharist to children.

A More Hidden Life

At the close of World War I, Edouard's chronic poor health caused him to be named chaplain to the Sisters of Charity at Moerzeke, and to the residents of their home for the aged poor, sick, and orphans. Another priest shared his home at Moerzeke; they lived in a holy friendship, sharing the same table, praying, working, and recreating together. The two priests began a weekly hour of Eucharistic adoration on Thursday evenings; before long they were not alone before the Blessed Sacrament. Others, drawn by their example, asked to join them in adoration. The number of adorers grew until the chapel was filled to capacity.

Priestly Blessing and Daily Confession

Edouard and M. de Beukelaers, his priest-brother, blessed one another at the beginning of each day, and every evening they made their Confession one to the other, receiving from each other the grace of sacramental absolution. They referred to this as "the washing of the feet." Edouard said, "Try this daily Confession. You will feel better because of it." To a friend who objected, "But I would never know what to say!" Edouard replied, "In fact, that was my case too. It often happens that I cannot find in the actions of my day sufficient matter for confession. That's not important. The sacrament floods me with its healing power." Then, pinching his nose as if he were smelling a stench, he added, "I can always reopen the grave of my past."

Saint Thérèse and the Little Way

On September 15, 1920, after visits to Lourdes and to the tomb of Blessed Peter Julian Eymard in Paris, Edouard Poppe visited the tomb of the Venerable Thérèse de l'Enfant Jésus et de la Sainte-Face at the Carmel of Lisieux in France. This contact with Saint Thérèse marked a turning-point in his life. Her "Little Way" would become his path to holiness.

Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces

Marked by the teaching of Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and by Cardinal Mercier's energetic initiatives in favour of the solemn definition of the dogma of Our Lady's universal mediation of graces, Edouard's priestly life was profoundly Marian. Dispensed from the recitation of the Divine Office because of his poor health, he replaced it with the devout recitation of rosary upon rosary. The liturgical feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces was for him a moment of profound spiritual joy. "Give yourselves to Mary," he said to his spiritual sons. "You will know the magnificent power of her mediation in your life. You will see how your Mother watches over you and desires your sanctification."

The Sanctification of Priests

In 1922, Edouard was named Spiritual Father to the young priests and clerics preparing for obligatory military service at Léopoldsburg. The zeal for priestly holiness that had always burned in his heart became a consuming blaze. As priest and victim, and in spiritual communion with the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus founded by the Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil-Martiny, Edouard Poppe made the offering of his life for the sanctification of priests. "I burn," he wrote, "for the coming of the reign of God in priestly souls. I burn, but I am so poor that I will be consumed before the coming of the desired reign."

To the Spiritual Mothers of Priests

To the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus at Berchem, called to the spiritual motherhood of priests, he wrote: "O my Sisters, if only you knew what it costs a secular priest to keep whole his ideal in the midst of his family, in the midst of his parish, in the solitude of aspirations that are misunderstood." Again he wrote, "Come, all the same, to the help of the body of the clergy; they have such good will. They are hungry and I have nothing to give them. Sisters, is there no one among you to show compassion in the face of such need, to accept the role of mediatress and mother? Your vocation attributes to you the role of Mary. I implore you, then, in the name of the entire priesthood, the mystical heart of Jesus; be generous, come to our aid."

Surrendered to Merciful Love

On the morning of June 10, 1924, Edouard Poppe, the most loved priest in Flanders, died at thirty-three years of age. His eyes were fixed on an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He had surrendered himself totally to His merciful love. "I never asked the Lord that I might live to an old age," he said, "but only that men might love Him and that priests might become holy."

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Yesterday, Dan P., a man preparing for the diaconate here in our diocese of Tulsa, wrote me asking if I might help him learn more about Saint Ephrem the Syrian, Deacon and Doctor of the Church (309-373). Dan, I recommend that you purchase The Doctors of the Church, Thirty-Three Men and Women Who Shaped Christianity, by Bernard McGinn. In that book, not only will you find an excellent introduction to Saint Ephrem's life and works, but also a presentation of the thirty-two other Doctors of the Church.

The Collect for today's feast of Saint Ephrem is noteworthy. Here it is in my own translation from the original Latin

Graciously pour forth into our hearts, O Lord,
the Holy Spirit, by whose breath
Thy deacon, Saint Ephrem,
rejoiced to proclaim Thy mysteries in song,
and by Whose power he served Thee alone
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, forever and ever.

A few years ago, for the feast of Saint Ephrem, in the place of a homily, I offered a commentary on some of his sayings. Dan and other readers may want to ponder these teachings today:

Saint Ephrem the Syrian on Prayer

Not to sin is truly blessed; but those who sin should not despair, but grieve over the sins they have committed, so that, through grief they may again attain blessedness.

It is good, then, to pray always and not to lose heart, as the Lord says, and again the Apostle says, 'Pray without ceasing', that is by night and by day and at every hour, and not only when coming into the church, and not bothering at other times. But whether you are working, lying down to sleep, travelling, eating, drinking, sitting at table, do not interrupt your prayer, for you do not know when he who demands your soul is coming. Don't wait for Sunday or a feast day, or a different place, but, as the Prophet David says, 'in every place of his dominion'.

Whether you are in church, or in your house, or in the country; whether you are guarding sheep, or constructing buildings, or present at drinking parties, do not stop praying.

When you are able, bend your knees, when you cannot, make intercession in your mind, 'at evening and at morning and at midday'.

If prayer precedes your work and if, when you rise from your bed, your first movements are accompanied by prayer, sin can find no entrance to attack your soul.

Prayer is a guard of prudence, control of wrath, restraint of pride, cleansing of malice, destruction of envy, righting of impiety.

Prayer is strength of bodies, prosperity of a household, good order of a city, might of a kingdom, trophy of war, assurance of peace.

Prayer is a seal of virginity, fidelity in marriage, weapon of travelers, guardian of sleepers, courage of the wakeful, abundance for farmers, safety of those who sail.

Prayer is an advocate for those being judged, remission for the bound, consolation for the grieving, gladness for the joyful, comfort for mourners, a feast on birthdays, a crown for the married, a shroud for the dying.

Prayer is converse with God, equal honour with the Angels, progress in good things, averting of evils, righting of sinners.

Prayer made the whale a house for Jonas, brought Ezechias back to life from the gates of death, turned the flame to wind of moisture for the Youths in Babylon. Through prayer Elias bound the heaven not to rain for three years and six months.

See, brethren, what strength prayer has. There is no possession more precious than prayer in the whole of human life. Never be parted from it; never abandon it.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian on Psalmody

Let psalmody be continually on your mouth, for when God is being named he puts the demons to flight and sanctifies the singer.

Psalmody is calm of soul, author of peace.

Psalmody is convenor of friendship, union of the separated, reconciliation of enemies.

Psalmody attracts the help of the Angels, is a weapon in night-time fears, repose of the day's toils, safety for infants, adornment for the old, consolation for the elderly, most fitting embellishment for women. It make deserts into homes, market places sober.

Psalmody is the ABC for beginners, progress for the more advanced, confirmation for the perfect, the voice of the Church. It makes festivals radiant; it creates mourning that is in accordance with God, for psalmody draws tears even from a heart of stone.

Psalmody is the work of the Angels, the commonwealth of heaven, spiritual incense. Psalmody is enlightenment of souls, sanctification of bodies.

Let us, brethren, never stop making psalmody our meditation, both at home and on the road, both sleeping and waking, speaking to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

Psalmody is the joy of those who love God. It banishes idle chatter, brings laughter to an end, reminds us of the judgement, rouses the soul towards God, joins the choir of the Angels.

Where there is psalmody with compunction, there God is, with the Angels.
Where the songs of the opponent are, there is God's wrath, and 'woe!' is the reward of laughter.

Where sacred books and readings are, there are the joy of the just and the salvation of the listeners. Where there are harps and dances, there is the darkening of men and women, and a festival of the Devil.

Saint Ephrem the Syriam on Poverty and Hospitality

Be thou a lover of poverty, and be desirous of neediness. If thou hast them both for thy portion, thou art an inheritor on high.

Despise not the voice of the poor and give him not cause to curse thee. For if he curse whose palate is bitter, the Lord will hear his petition.

If his garments are foul, wash them in water, which freely is bought.

Has a poor man entered into thy house? God has entered into thy house; God dwells within thy abode. He, whom thou hast refreshed from his troubles, from troubles will deliver thee.

Hast thou washed the feet of the stranger? Thou hast washed away the filth of thy sins. Hast thou prepared a table before him? Behold God eating [at it], and Christ likewise drinking [at it], and the Holy Spirit resting [on it]: Is the poor satisfied at thy table and refreshed? Thou hast satisfied Christ thy Lord. He is ready to be thy rewarder; in presence of angels and men He will confess thou hast fed His hunger; He will give thanks unto thee that thou didst give Him drink, and quench His thirst.

Saint Ephrem the Syrian Proposes a Rule of Life

Have thou also a law, a comely law for thy household. Establish an order that is wise, that the abjects laugh not at time.

Be careful in all thy doings, that thou be not a sport for fools; be upright and prudent, and both simple and wise.

Let thy body be quiet and cheerful, thy greeting seemly and simple; thy discourse without fault, thy speech brief and savoury; thy words few and sound, full of savour and understanding.

Speak not overmuch, not even words that are wise; for all things that are over many, though they be wise are wearisome.

To them of thy household be as a father. Amongst thy brethren esteem thyself least, and inferior amongst thy fellows, and of little account with all men.

With thy friend keep a secret; to those that love thee be true.

See that there be no wrangling; the secrets of thy friends reveal not, lest all that hear thee hate thee and esteem thee a mischiefmaker.

With those that hate thee wrangle not, neither face to face nor yet in thy heart.

No enemy shalt thou have but Satan his very self.

Give counsel to the wife thou hast wedded; give heed to her doings; as stronger thou art answerable that thou shouldst sustain her weakness. For weak is womankind, and very ready to fall.

Be thou as a hawk, when kindled (to anger), but when wrath departs from thee, be gladsome and also firm, in the blending of diverse qualities.

Keep silence among the aged; to the elders give due honour.

Honour the priests with diligence, as good stewards of the household. Give due honour to their degree, and search not out their doings. In his degree the priest is an angel, but in his doings a man. By mercy he is made a mediator, between God and mankind.

Search not out the faults of men; reveal not the sin of thy fellow; the shortcomings of thy neighbours, in speech of the mouth repeat not.

Thou art not judge in creation, thou hast not dominion over the earth. If thou lovest righteousness, reprove thy soul and thyself. Be thou judge unto thine own sins, and chastener of thy own transgressions.

Make thou not inquiry maliciously, into the misdeeds of men. For if thou doest this, injuries will not be lacking to thee.

Trust not the hearing of the ear, for many are the deceivers. Vain reports believe thou not, for false rumours are not few.

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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