Saints: August 2010 Archives

A claritate in claritatem

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The Martyrology

We are, at every moment, surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) who encourage us by their example and support us by their prayers. This is why the Church, in her wisdom, invites us every day to open her Martyrology and to become familiar with those whose intercession is an unfailing pledge of divine assistance.

Opening to the first entry for August 31st in the Roman Martyrology, we read:

At Jerusalem, the commemoration of Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who received the body of Jesus taken down from the cross, wrapped it in a shroud and placed it in the sepulchre. Joseph, a noble official and disciple of the Lord, was seeking the Kingdom of God; Nicodemus, for his part, a member of the Pharisees and a ruler among the Jews, came to Jesus by night to inquire of his mission and defended him in the presence of the high priests and Pharisees who sought to arrest him.

One also reads in the 2004 edition of the Roman Martyrology the following provision at Article 30:

The Mass and also the Office of any Saint inscribed in the Roman Martyrology . . . may with just cause be celebrated on the day whereupon the name is inserted, when that day is a feria or when an optional memorial is permitted.

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Holy Men

We have just cause and good reason to celebrate Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus today. The Gospels associate them with the Mother of God and those other saints so dear to us, who in sorrow and compassion stood by the Cross of Jesus and who, after His death, looked upon the Prince of Life’s wounded hands and feet and side. Some of the most poignant iconography of Our Lord depicts His removal from the cross and burial. We see the Body of Jesus carried in the winding sheet, the shroud of linen prepared by Joseph. We see the Blessed Virgin, Saint John, Mary Magdalene, and the other holy women. And with them we see two noble men with expressions of tenderness and grief: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

In the Gospels

There is more written about Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in the Gospels than there is about most of the Apostles. Meditating on the Gospel texts that speak of them we discover two men intimately bound to Our Lord, not only during His active life but also in the mysteries of His death and burial. We see two men who actively sought the Kingdom of God, two men who came to the Son because they were drawn to Him by the Father in the Holy Spirit. “No man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father” (Jn 6:66).

Saint Nicodemus

Read again the dialogue of Our Lord with Saint Nicodemus in Chapter 3 of Saint John’s Gospel. It is to Nicodemus that Jesus reveals the mystery of the Cross, saying: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish; but may have life everlasting.” (Jn 3:14). Again, it is to Nicodemus that He reveals the Father’s redeeming love, saying: “For God so loved the world, as to give His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” (Jn 3:15).

These inexhaustible sayings of Our Lord were first sown in the heart of Nicodemus in the course of that extraordinary secret conversation by night. Where did the Fourth Evangelist obtain knowledge of these sayings if not from Nicodemus himself? If we would penetrate these sayings and allow them to transform us, we do well to seek the intercession of the man to whom they were first addressed: Saint Nicodemus.

Saint Joseph of Arimathea

Saint Joseph of Arimathea is named in all four Gospels. Saint Luke calls him “a good and just man” (Lk 23:50). Saint John tells us that he was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews” (Jn 19:38). How extraordinary then, that after the death of Jesus, Joseph should overcome his fear and become so bold as to ask Pilate “that he might take away the body of Jesus” (Jn 19:38). Saint John goes on to say that, “And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus also came, (he who at the first came to Jesus by night,) bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” (Jn 19:38-42).

Shroud and Napkin

According to the Gospel accounts of the burial of Our Lord, we are indebted to Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for those precious relics of the Passion of the Lord: the Sacred Shroud, and the Veil of the Holy Face that Pope Benedict XVI venerated with such piety on the occasion of his pilgrimage to Manoppello on September 1, 2006. It is fitting then that we should ask through the intercession of Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, that we may learn to contemplate those mysterious images of the Holy Face of Jesus imprinted on “shroud and napkin.”

The Holy Face

One cannot gaze upon the beauty, the majesty, the serenity, and the tenderness of the Face of Christ without being inwardly changed. This is the secret of sanctification. We do become what we contemplate. “But we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). Saints Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, pray for us that, with eyes of faith and tears of compunction, we may gaze upon the Face of Christ!

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Friends in High Places

At certain times in one's life, a particular saint will begin, in so many ways, to say, "Will you too be my friend?" This generally happens when the saint in question starts turning up again and again in books, articles, letters, pictures, and conversations. One mustn't be too quick to discount such things as mere coincidence. From their places in the glory of heaven, the saints are continually widening their circles of friends and clients. It pleases Our Lord to allow this because He wishes, through a given saint, to draw us to a particular virtue, to assist us in a trial, to bestow upon us certain graces, or to make us aware of certain mysteries of the faith.

Saint Gemma Galgani

For some time now, a young Italian saint, who was born in 1878 and who died in 1903, has been making discreet overtures to me. She seems to be saying, "I want to include you in the circle of my friends." Her name is Gemma Galgani. Saint Gemma is one of those mystics of the Passion of Jesus who are given to the Church whenever hearts are in danger of growing cold, and when indifference, ingratitude, and a practical denial of the supernatural threaten the vitality of the Catholic faith.

I would invite readers to invoke Saint Gemma, the patron of those suffering from infirmities of the back, for our dear brother Vincent Uher, who, at this time, is in special need of her intercession. Also, in your kindness, please ask Saint Gemma's help for my mother, Emma, who suffers from back pain. With two rhyming Italian names, that should be easy to do: Santa Gemma, prega per Emma! Saint Gemma, pray for Emma!

The Website

Glenn Dallaire of Bristol, Connecticut has prepared a marvelous website devoted to Saint Gemma. It is well worth visiting. You will find his homepage here.

Pope Saint Pius X

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Itching Ears Among Us

Saint Pius X exemplified the words of the Apostle to Timothy: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (2 Tim 4:2-4). One hundred years after Pope Saint Pius X we have to ask ourselves if there are not still “itching ears” among us.

What causes one’s ears to itch? Curiosity. Lack of discernment. A weak background in Catholic doctrine. Faithful Catholics cannot permit themselves to read just anything. To read authors of dubious orthodoxy or authors critical of the Magisterium is like scratching an itch. It becomes worse. Why would one would even want to read such authors when one can choose from among the inexhaustible richness of the writings of the saints of every age?

Weeds Among the Wheat

We flatter and deceive ourselves by saying that we are adults, that we are discerning, that we are capable of recognizing error, and that we are not affected by being exposed to questionable teachings. But we are wrong. Error is pernicious. It is like a little seed that, after a time, takes root, and then grows up as menacing weed. You know the parable of Our Lord: “While men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ He said to them, 'An enemy has done this’” (Mt 13:25-28). Be watchful lest, while you sleep, an enemy sow weeds among the wheat of your field.

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Purity of Doctrine

Pope Saint Pius X was fearless in exposing error and he was selfless in sowing the seed of truth, of beauty, and of goodness in the field of the Church. “We had confidence in our God, to speak unto you the Gospel of God in much carefulness” (1 Th 2:2). Pope Pius X was an intrepid defender of the purity of Christian doctrine. He exposed and condemned the heresy of Modernism with energy and clarity.

Gregorian Chant

We remember Pope Saint Pius X especially for his famous Motu Proprio of November 22, 1903 on the reform of Sacred Music and the restoration of the Church’s plainchant. Like Pope Benedict XVI today, Pope Pius X was a musician; he was above all concerned that the faithful of the Catholic Church might pray in beauty. He recognized in Gregorian Chant the native idiom of the Roman liturgy. Gregorian chant shines with an evangelical poverty. It is chaste in its expression. It is entirely obedient to the Word of God that it clothes, carries, and delivers.

Worthy of the Temple

Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have reiterated his insistence on the primacy of Gregorian Chant and the value of the traditional Roman polyphony in the liturgy of the Church. On November 22, 2003, the anniversary of Pius X’s Motu Proprio, Pope John Paul II said, “With regard to compositions of liturgical music, I make my own the general rule that St Pius X formulated in these words: 'The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.’” On June 24, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI spoke in similar terms: “An authentic renewal of sacred music can only happen in the wake of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.”

The Holiness of Priests

Pope Pius X was also zealous for the holiness of the clergy. Writing to priests in 1908, he said, “Your sanctification has, indeed, first place in our thoughts and in our cares; therefore, with our eyes raised to heaven, we frequently pray for the whole clergy, repeating the words of Christ, our Lord: Holy Father . . . sanctify them (Jn 17:11, 17). Intercession for priests was integral to Pius X’s program for the restoration of all things in Christ.

Children

It was Saint Pius X who opened Holy Communion to little children. He invited the Catholic faithful to frequent, even daily Holy Communion. Pius X came to be known as the “Pope of the Eucharist,” a title that he now shares with Pope John Paul II, the author of Ecclesia de Eucharistia and of Mane Nobiscum, Domine.

Two Popes of the Eucharist

Divine Providence marked both the beginning and the end of the last century with Popes utterly devoted to the Most Holy Eucharist. Pray for us, Saint Pius X, that rejecting all that opposes the splendour of the truth, we may enter with pure hearts into the liturgy of the Church, and so "offer a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, to the praise and glory of His name, and to the benefit of all His Holy Church (Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum).

Saint Helena, Empress

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The feast of Saint Helena is August 18th. When I lived at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, it was celebrated with all due solemnity. Evelyn Waugh has a marvelous novel entitled Helena, based on her life. It is well worth reading.

A Relic of the True Cross

Our monastery is privileged to possess and venerate a little fragment of the True Cross. It is a direct link with Saint Helena who unearthed the wood of the Cross in Jerusalem in about the year 326. It is also a link with the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome from which fragments of the wood of the True Cross have been dispensed to Catholics the world over for centuries. It is, above all, a sign of the saving love of Our Lord Jesus Christ who, “lifted up from the earth, draws all men to himself” (Jn 12:32). This is the wood before which the Church sings on Good Friday, “Behold the wood of the Cross, on which hung the Saviour of the world.”

Most of the fragments of the True Cross that we venerate in our churches derive from the Wood of the Cross kept in Rome since the early fourth century. When one sees, as I have, the faith of pilgrims coming from all over the world to venerate the Wood of the Cross at the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, when one witnesses their tears and hears their prayers before the relics of the Passion and Cross, there is no doubt that we are in the presence of a great and holy sign, the pledge of a life-giving mystery.

Saint Ambrose Speaks

Saint Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, was already an old woman when she set out for Jerusalem intent on excavating the holy places of Christ’s Passion. Saint Ambrose relates Saint Helena’s discovery of the true Cross;

Helena burned with desire to touch the remedy of immortality, but feared to tread on the sacrament of salvation. Joyful in her heart, but fearful in her steps, she knew not what to do; she came nonetheless to the throne of truth. Helena began to visit the holy places and, from the Holy Spirit, had the inspiration to search for the Wood of the Cross. She arrived at Calvary and said, “Behold the place of the battle, where is the victory? I seek the standard of salvation and find it not. I am on the throne and the Cross of the Lord is in the dust? I am in the midst of gold and the triumph of Christ among the ruins? See the devil’s deed; he has buried the sword by which he was brought to nothing. Let the debris be cleared away so that life may appear; let the sword that severed the head of the true Goliath be brought to light; let the earth split open that salvation may shine forth.

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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