Saints: December 2010 Archives

S. Ioannis Didaci Cuahtlatoatzin

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Yes, that would be the much loved Saint Juan Diego of Guadalupe as he is designated in the new Solesmes Antiphonale Monasticum for December 9th. Here is the official Collect for his feast with my English translation:

Deus, qui per beatum Ioannem Didacum,
sanctissimae Virginis Mariae dilectionem
erga populum tuum ostendisti:
eius nobis intercessione concede,
ut, Matris nostrae monitis Guadalupae datis obsequentes,
voluntatem tuam iugiter adimplere valeamus.

O God, Who, through Saint Juan Diego,
didst show forth the special love of the Most Holy Virgin Mary
toward Thy people,
at his intercession, grant us
so to obey the admonitions given by our Mother of Guadalupe,
that we may ever be able to fulfil Thy will.

The painting of Saint Juan Diego is by Mexican artist Martha Orozco.

Saint Nicholas

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Saint Nicholas Between East and West

The Church in East and West commemorates today Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker. The very first journey of Pope Benedict XVI as Supreme Pontiff in May 2005 was to the southern Italian port city of Bari, home to the relics of Saint Nicholas. At the time, few American Catholics realized the profound significance of that gesture. Orthodox Christians, however, were sensitive and attentive to the presence of the Pope in a city that John Paul II had called “a bridge to the East.”

Saint Nicholas at the Altar

To my mind, the most important thing to remember about Saint Nicholas is the spirit of godly fear and adoration with which he stood before the Holy Altar at the moment of the Divine Liturgy. Everything else in his life -- including the countless miracles attributed to him -- flowed from the Holy Mysteries. The Divine Liturgy served by Saint Nicholas must have been like the Mass of Padre Pio. While the holy gifts were being carried in procession to the altar, the people sang of Our Lord’s Eucharistic advent among them: “We who mystically represent the Cherubim, who sing to the life-giving Trinity the thrice holy hymn, let us now lay aside all earthly cares, that we may receive the King of all who comes escorted invisibly by Angelic hosts. alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

The Saints in Advent

Saint Nicholas and the other saints of Advent surround the Eucharistic Advent of the Lord just as they will surround Him with the angels in the glory of His Advent at the end of time. How important it is to acknowledge the saints of Advent, to seek their intercession, to rejoice in their lives. Those who would banish the saints from the celebration of the Advent liturgy are misled and mistaken. The mission of the saints of Advent is to prepare us for the coming of Christ: for His final advent as King and Judge, yes, but also for His humble daily advent hidden under the species of bread and wine. In no way do the saints detract from the intensity of the Advent season. Each of them is given us as a companion and intercessor, charged with making ready our hearts for the advent of the Bridegroom-King.

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Saint Nicholas in New Amsterdam

Saint Nicholas arrived in America with the Protestant Dutch settlers in 1624 in what was then called New Amsterdam. As much as the gloomy Protestant Reformation in Holland tried to suppress the cult of the Saints, the Dutch would not give up their beloved Saint Nicholas. Dutch customs, expressions, and even language persisted in New York right into the opening years of the last century, but by that time others had come through Ellis Island, New York’s port of entry -- Italians, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, and Greeks. They came bringing icons of Saint Nicholas lovingly wrapped in the trunks that contained all their worldly possessions. They came bringing prayers to Saint Nicholas learned as little children, and armed with a confidence in the intercession of Saint Nicholas that withstood poverty, prejudice, hunger, sickness, and all the vicissitudes of a new life in a strange land.

Saint Nicholas the Glorious Patron and Wonderworker

Saint Nicholas has always had enormous appeal. He is recognized as the patron saint of more causes than of any other saint, of classes of people, cities, churches, and whole nations. He is the patron saint of thieves -- not because he helps them to steal -- but because he helps them to repent and change; of pawnbrokers and bankers because he knew how to use gold in the service of compassion and charity; of pharmacists, fisherman, lawsuits lost unjustly and the lawyers who lost them, prisoners, orphans, prostitutes, unmarried men, scholars, haberdashers, and bishops. He is best known as the patron saint of children, especially children who are threatened by the circumstances of a troubled family life, or by abuse.

Saint Nicholas and Priests

I like to think of Saint Nicholas also as a patron and friend of priests. More than ever before it is crucial that priests place themselves under the protection of the saints and live in their friendship. Saint Nicholas has much to teach priests: passionate devotion to Christ true God and true Man; compassion for the poor; and the courage to defend children from all dangers of body and soul. Pray to Saint Nicholas today for all priests, but especially for those who have grown fainthearted and weary, and for those attacked by the noonday devil.

Saint Nicholas and the Eucharistic Advent of Christ

Saint Nicholas is present to us today. He will accompany me to the altar, taking his place there among the other saints and angels invisibly present in every Holy Mass. More than anything else, I would ask Saint Nicholas to open the eyes of our souls to the Eucharistic advent of Christ. If we are prepared for Christ’s coming in the Holy Mysteries, we will be prepared for His final coming in glory. One who lives from one Holy Mass to the next need not fear the Day of the Lord. Glorious Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, pray for us that we may be made worthy of the advent of Christ.

Peering Through the Windows

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Collect

Almighty and everlasting God,
who for the defence of the veneration of sacred images,
didst endue blessed John with heavenly doctrine
and wonderful strength of spirit:
grant unto us by his intercession and example,
that we may imitate the virtues and experience the protection
of those whose images we venerate.

Secret

May the gifts we offer be rendered worthy in thy sight
through the loving advocacy of blessed John
and of the Saints whose images, by his labour,
are exposed for veneration in our temples.

Postcommunion

We beseech Thee, O Lord, that the gifts of which we have partaken
may shield us with heavenly armour,
and may the advocacy of blessed John,
together with the prayers of the Saints,
the veneration of whose images
he victoriously upheld in the Church,
plead with one voice on our behalf.

Saint John Damascene, Champion of the Veneration of Icons

The feast of Saint John Damascene (happily moved from March 27th, where, more often than not, it fell in Holy Week or in Paschal Week) reminds us of the place of sacred images in the Christian life. I cannot conceive of a Christian life devoid of images. How bleak our churches would be, how dreary our homes, our empty our rooms without the blessed sacramentals that are the images of Our Lord, of Our Lady, of the Angels, and of the Saints!

Saint Barbara

Saint Barbara, Virgin and Martyr, who shares this date with Saint John Damascene, was imprisoned in a tower by her father until she should renounce Christ. Barbara, taking advantage of her father's absence, summoned the servants and directed them to pierce three windows in her tower prison, so that, through three windows, One Single Light might shine in her solitude: an image of the Adorable and Undivided Trinity. In her own way, Saint Barbara fashioned an image of the Most Holy Trinity, one that only the eyes of faith could recognize.

A Company of Friends

Even in prisons, Christians, suffering for the faith, are known to etch a cross or sacred image on a wall, or to fashion objects of piety from the limited materials at hand. Sacred images preserve us from the existential loneliness that would have us think that, in all the universe, there is no one looking after us, no one caring for us, no one interceding for us. A sacred image is an invitation to peer into heaven, all the while receiving the reflection of the Deifying Light. The images of the saints remind us that we have "so great a cloud of witnesses over our head" (Heb 12:1), and that we are surrounded by company of friends, all of whom take the liveliest interest in our journey through this vale of tears.

There is something sad and cold about a church devoid of sacred images. If a church is a representation of heaven on earth, how can it not be populated with images of those whose voices are one with ours in adoring, praising, thanking, and pleading before the throne of God and of the Lamb?

A Diabolical Revolt

The iconclasm that ravaged so many churches in the wake of the Second Vatican Council was, at the core, a diabolical revolt against the whole sacramental economy of the Incarnation. It will take creative vision and courage to reclaim such churches for things heavenly, to re-order sanctuaries, and restore what was, in effect, stolen from Christ's faithful.

Many of those responsible for the so-called renovation of churches over the past fifty years took their models from an angst-ridden, post-World War II, northern European, liberal Protestant sensibility. They dismissed the noble traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the joyful exuberance of the Catholic Baroque, and the magnificent Spanish Colonial imagery that flourished in Latin America. How often did I hear (especially in France) that one wanted things to be sober, simple, and dépouillé . . . by that, understand dull, uninspiring, and bleak. The sanctuary itself had to be indistinguishable from the "place of the assembly"; the tabernacle was relegated to a place of insignificance, and all honour paid to the "presider's chair." Enough.

Churches resembling vast empty warehouses, athletic centres, or meeting halls effectively extinguish the flame of the orthodox catholic faith because, they constitute an affront to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the whole sacramental economy that flows from it. They invite to the building of a social order deformed and stunted by secular humanism, to the tired and moribond values of the French Revolution and of the Enlightenment; they obscure any glimpse of the glory that is promised us and that reaches our souls, even now, filtered through the complexus of sacred signs that constitutes the liturgy.

In the Monastery

I've not counted the number of sacred images that grace this little monastery. There are a multitude of them: the Holy Face of Jesus in several places, the Child Jesus in my cell and in the library, the Mother of God in every room, Saint Joseph in the entrance hall, Saint Benedict in the oratory, Saints John and Benedict in the sacristy . . . and there are more. Each one is an invitation to communion with Our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Mother of God and with all the Saints. In an environment of faith, it is well nigh impossible to see a sacred image and not raise one's heart and mind to God. How many acts of love, how many aspirations of hope, of adoration, and of faith are generated by the sight of sacred images!

As Through a Window

A sacred image is a window through which the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem peer into the times and spaces of our lives. It is, at the same time, a window through which, we are given a glimpse, however fleeting and obscure, of "what things God hath prepared for those that love him." (1 Cor 2:9) Who would not want to stand before such a window?

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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