Saints: February 2011 Archives

A Life Offered for Priests

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Commemoration of Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil Martiny, Virgin

Although today is Sexagesima Sunday, I cannot let it pass without remembering Blessed Marie de Jésus, a woman whose charism of Eucharistic adoration, reparation, and zeal for the sanctification of priests makes her a significant figure for the Monastery of our Lady of the Cenacle.

Adoration, Reparation, and Spiritual Motherhood

Blessed Marie de Jésus Deluil Martiny (1841-1884) shines among the models of holiness proposed in the Congregation for the Clergy's remarkable Letter of 8 December 2007, Adoration, Reparation, and Spiritual Mother for Priests. Her liturgical commemoration today marks her bloody martyrdom at the hands of a French anarchist, on 27 February 1884.

Zélatrice of the Sacred Heart

Blessed Marie de Jésus was graced with a burning awareness of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Love. So ardent was her zeal to draw souls close to the Heart of Him who draws near to us in the Blessed Sacrament, that she became known, while yet a young woman living in the world, as the Zélatrice of the Sacred Heart.

The Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart

Even before founding the Congregation of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, Marie Deluil Martiny spent herself promoting a movement known as the Guard of Honour of the Sacred Heart. The movement still exists today with its international headquarters at the Visitation Monastery in Paray-le-Monial, France.

The Divine Wound

Marie de Jésus explained the movement in these words:

"The Guard [of Honour of the Sacred Heart], the Work in itself, was placed by the Infinite Love of our Master at the entrance of the Wound of His Divine Heart. There, it calls souls, unites them, calls them together, preaches to them, if one may say so, pushes them, and draws them into the interior of the Divine Wound . . . it leads them there, and introduces them therein, after having, so to speak, opened to them the door of this sacred refuge . . . Souls, entering this safe abode are sprinkled, washed, whitened, purified, healed, and supernaturalized by a most efficacious application of the Blood and Water that came forth from the Divine Wound.

But Jesus wants even more: this is the new step that Our Lord desires to make the souls He has chosen to this end take: they must enter by the gate of the City of God, that is into the Heart of Jesus by the Divine Wound; therein will be their world, their dwelling, their place of rest."

The Daughters of the Heart of Jesus

The second phase of Marie Deluil Martiny's life was a flowering of the first. After a long preparation in prayer, she opened the first house of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus at Berchem near Anvers in Belgium on June 20, 1873. The new foundation was characterized by a burning desire to console the Heart of Jesus, and by a mystical participation in His victimal priesthood, patterned after that of His Holy Mother at the foot of the Cross.

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Divine Jealousy for Sacerdotal and Consecrated Souls

Mother Marie de Jésus wrote: "They will live from that life of suffering love that was the intimate life of the Heart of Jesus; they will penetrate the most tender secrets of His love: the Eucharist, the Church, His divine jealousy for sacerdotal and consecrated souls."

Priests: Sacrificers and Victims

"What a calling! The Work must give to Christ souls who offer themselves as a sacrifice of Love, these will be "the victims of Love that Jesus asks for," by the Holy Eucharist. The Host has become indispensable to my life; I should wish never to leave it for the sake of sacerdotal souls [priests]. Too many of them are satisfied with being Sacrificers and exercise their sacred functions without steeping them enough in the Priestly Spirit, that is, without themselves becoming truly Victims at the same times as Sacrificers, and so God wills that legions of souls who are truly Victims offer themselves as humble supplements for what certain priests are lacking in the Priestly Spirit. Their example is Mary, the Mother of Jesus."

Offering for Priests

"To offer yourself for souls is beautiful and great," wrote Mother Deluil Martiny, "but to offer yourself for the souls of priests is so beautiful, so great, that you would have to have a thousand lives and offer your heart a thousand times. . . . I would gladly give my life if only Christ could find in priests what he is expecting from them. I would gladly give it even if just one of them could perfectly realize God's divine plan for him."

The Blessed Virgin Mary United to the Victimal Priesthood of Her Son

Marie Deluil Martiny presents the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of Christ the Victim Priest and of all who are called to follow Him in the way of His Victimal Priesthood. By her most intimate and perfect participation in the Victimal Priesthood of her Son, the Blessed Virgin Mary is both Coredemptrix and Mediatrix. She is the Virgo sacerdotalis, sacerdotal, not by virtue of sacramental ordination, but by virtue of her unique and entire adhesion to the Sacrifice of Christ.

Violent Death and Glory

When on February 27, 1884, Mother Marie de Jésus was murdered in the garden of the monastery she had founded at La Servianne, her family property, her last words were, "I forgive him . . . for the Work, for the Work for Priests," that is, for the Institute she founded.

"Our Lord," she said, "has put into my soul that the souls of the future institute will be like that parcel of the Host that melts in the chalice; they will all melt and disappear in the Blood of Jesus." The Congregation she founded, the Daughters of the Heart of Jesus, continue her charism of liturgical prayer, reparation, and adoration, with a particular maternal solicitude for priests. Pope John Paul II beatified Mother Marie de Jésus Deluil Martiny on October 22, 1989.

Bernadette

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Although the Roman Martyrology commemorates the anniversary of Saint Bernadette's death on April 16th, her liturgical memorial is kept on February 18th at Lourdes itself, at Nevers where her body rests, and in all of France. Saint Bernadette has a way of making herself close to those who seek her intercession.

The liturgical texts provided for her feast provide us with a portrait of the little saint of Lourdes. I give here the Latin text and my own translation, with a few words of commentary.

Ad Laudes matutinas

V. Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis.
R. Propterea benedixit te Deus in aeternum.

V. Grace is poured out upon thy lips.
R. Therefore hath God blessed thee forever.

Yes, when one reads the words of Saint Bernadette, one is struck by her simplicity, a simplicity that is the fruit and sign of Divine Grace at work in her soul.

Ad Benedictus

Libenter gloriabor * in infirmitatibus meis,
ut inhabitet in me virtus Christi. (2 Cor 12:9)

Gladly will I glory in my infirmities
that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

The liturgy places the words of the Apostle Paul in the mouth of Saint Bernadette. Like the Apostle, she experienced the power of Christ in her infirmity, her poverty, and her littleness. Her whole life -- from the hovel where she lived as a girl with her family in Lourdes to the infirmary of the Sisters of Charity at Nevers -- displays the power of Christ in weakness.

Oratio

Humilium, Deus, protector, amator, et corona,
qui beatam Mariam Bernardam, virginem
mira patientia et caritate clarescere fecisti,
praesta, quaesumus, eius intercessione et exemplo,
per simplices fidei semitas,
ad tuam in caelis visionem pervenire mereamur.
Per Dominum.

O God, protector, lover, and crown of the humble,
who didst make the virgin, blessed Mary Bernard
shine with a wondrous patience and charity,
grant, we beseech Thee, by her intercession and example,
that [walking] in the simple paths of faith,
we may at length be found worthy
of beholding Thee in heaven.
Through Our Lord.

What a beautiful Collect! It begins by addressing God the Father with three titles: He is the protector of the humble, of the lowly in heart; He is the One who loves them; and He is their crown in the glory of heaven. He caused Bernardette to shine, clarescere, like a lamp in a dark place, by means of a the virtues of a wondrous patience and charity. The petition of the prayer alludes not to the singular grace of the apparitions of the Immaculate Virgin at Lourdes, but rather to the simple paths of faith that Bernadette trod after the apparitions, especially in the monotony of daily life at Nevers. These the same paths of faith, quite empty of all that is extraordinary, become our way to the vision of God in heaven.

Ad Vesperas

V. Elegit eam Deus et praeelegit eam.
R. In tabernaculo suo habitare facit eam.

V. God chose her and set her apart.
R. He made her dwell in His tabernacle.

The choice of God: "You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain." (Jn 15:16). God chose Bernadette and drew her into intimacy with Himself, hiding her in the secret of His tabernacle.

Ad Magnificat

Veni, electa mea, * et ponam in te thronum meum.

Come, my chosen one, and I shall set my throne within thee.

The Magnificat Antiphon expresses the call of the Bridegroom at each Holy Communion, and again at the viaticum given in the hour of our death.

February 15th is the liturgical memorial of Saint Claude La Colombière, Priest, S.J.

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My God, I believe most firmly
that Thou watchest over all who hope in Thee,
and that we can want for nothing
when we rely upon Thee in all things;
therefore I am resolved for the future to have no anxieties,
and to cast all my cares upon Thee.

People may deprive me of worldly goods and of honors;
sickness may take from me my strength
and the means of serving Thee;
I may even lose Thy grace by sin;
but my trust shall never leave me.
I will preserve it to the last moment of my life,
and the powers of hell shall seek in vain to wrestle it from me.

Let others seek happiness in their wealth, in their talents;
let them trust to the purity of their lives,
the severity of their mortifications,
to the number of their good works, the fervor of their prayers;
as for me, O my God, in my very confidence lies all my hope.
"For Thou, O Lord, singularly has settled me in hope."
This confidence can never be in vain.
"No one has hoped in the Lord and has been confounded."

I am assured, therefore, of my eternal happiness,
for I firmly hope for it, and all my hope is in Thee.
"In Thee, O Lord, I have hoped; let me never be confounded."
I know, alas! I know but too well that I am frail and changeable;
I know the power of temptation against the strongest virtue.
I have seen stars fall from heaven, and pillars of firmament totter;
but these things alarm me not.
While I hope in Thee I am sheltered from all misfortune,
and I am sure that my trust shall endure,
for I rely upon Thee to sustain this unfailing hope.

Finally, I know that my confidence cannot exceed Thy bounty,
and that I shall never receive less than I have hoped for from Thee.
Therefore I hope that Thou wilt sustain me against my evil inclinations;
that Thou wilt protect me against the most furious assaults of the evil one,
and that Thou wilt cause my weakness to triumph over my most powerful enemies.
I hope that Thou wilt never cease to love me,
and that I shall love Thee unceasingly.
"In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded."

Saint Claude La Colombière, Priest, S.J.

Temptation

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Saint Romuald Delivered From Evil

Guercino painted this scene from the life of Saint Romuald in 1640-41. The holy abbot is kneeling in prayer in his grotto, having just been delivered from a fierce diabolical temptation. One sees the devil, in the form of a swarthy, naked youth with pointed ears and long pointed fingernails and toenails. The Angel of the Lord, armed with a sturdy stick, is driving the tempter away. The face of the Angel is illumined by the same divine radiance that shines on Saint Romuald in prayer. The devil averts his face from the light and turns his back on the presence of God.

The Crucible

The greatest saints were subject to violent temptations and diabolical molestations. One has only to read Saint Athanasius' Life of Antony to get a clear perspective on the subject. The crucible of temptation is indispensable to holiness. It makes one aware of one's utter dependence on the grace of Christ. It obliges one to persevere in prayer. It exercises the theological virtues, especially that of hope. It is humiliating: that is, it makes one humble.

Keeping Souls from the Sacred Heart

Satan adapts his temptations to our particular weaknesses and circumstances. This is why people without a good self-knowledge (the ground of humility) so often fall prey to his strategies. That being said, one of Satan's classic ploys, always and with everyone, is to try to bar the way to the pierced Side of Christ. The Accuser seeks to intimidate, discourage, or distract souls from the Sacred Heart. This is one of the reasons why Satan, the original iconoclast, so hates representations of the Sacred Heart and of the Wounds of Christ, particularly of the Wound in His Sacred Side.

The Eucharist

The glorious Heart of Jesus, opened by the soldier's lance on Calvary, remains open in the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist. By keeping souls from the Most Holy Eucharist, the Evil One keeps them from the Heart of Jesus, the fornax ardens caritatis, the burning furnace of charity. Separated from the Eucharistic Heart of Christ, souls grow lukewarm, then cold. Those who are deceived into remaining far from His Eucharistic Heart will find themselves frozen in their sin.

The grace of prayer, in all its forms, is an approach to Our Lord's wounded Side. All prayer has a Eucharistic finality. It is in the Eucharist, as on the Cross, that Christ is lifted up in His oblation to the Father. It is in the Eucharist, as on the Cross, that from His pierced Side flows the blood and water of redemption. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself" (Jn 12:32). The saints are those who, having yielded to the sacramental embrace of the Crucified, drink from His open Side and find refuge in His Sacred Heart. It is not by happenstance that souls devoted to the Sacred Heart are drawn to Eucharistic adoration.

One Who Prays Is Saved

Satan's first and last temptation will always be to keep one from praying. One who prays is saved. One who stops praying will be lost. One who prays is never far from the pierced Side of Christ. One who prays will experience the mysterious and sweet attraction of His Sacred Heart. One who stops praying will become cold and indifferent to the Eucharist and, by the same token, alienated from Our Lord's wounded Side.

Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

This is where consecration, or entrustment, to the Blessed Virgin Mary comes in. I have never known a soul consecrated to Mary who has altogether abandoned prayer. Even if, at certain moments, prayer is interrupted or ceases materially, during those moments the prayer of the Mother supplies for the weakness of the child; the outstretched mantle of her ceaseless intercession covers those who have entrusted themselves to her Immaculate and Merciful Heart. Souls consecrated to Mary are not spared temptation, but they are assured of mercy and "find grace in seasonable aid" (Heb 4:16).

The Intercession of the Spirit and the Bride

The Blessed Virgin Mary presents to the Sacred Heart all who present themselves to her. "Likewise the Spirit, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary His Spouse, also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Himself, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, asketh for us with unspeakable groanings. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because He asketh for the saints, through Mary, Mediatrix and Mother, according to God" (Rom 8:26-27).

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The Open Side of Jesus Crucified

Look at this remarkable painting of Jesus Crucified. The focus of the composition is the wound in His Sacred Side. An angel holding a chalice is hovering just beneath it to receive the outpouring of His Blood. There are also angels stationed beneath His wounded hands. A fourth angel stricken with astonishment and grief looks on.

Saint Francis of Assisi

At the foot of the Cross, close to the wounded feet of Jesus, kneels Saint Francis of Assisi, embracing the saving wood. Saint Francis is closest to the feet of Jesus because he was called to walk in lowliness, poverty, and humility, in imitation of the Son of Man who "had no where to lay His head" (Mt 8:20).

Saint Benedict

On the left is Saint Benedict with his hands crossed over his breast. This is the ritual gesture of the monk when, on the day of his profession, he sings the second part of the Suscipe me, Domine: "Let me not be confounded in my expectation" (Ps 118:116). Saint Benedict is gazing at the Face of the Crucified with an extraordinary intensity of compassion and love. One could draw a direct line from the Face of Jesus to the face of Saint Benedict. This is what he means when he says in his Rule that one desiring to become a monk must "truly seek God" (RB 58:7).

Saint Romuald

On the right one sees Saint Romuald, whose feast we celebrate today. He is seated -- rather like Mary of Bethany in Luke 10:39 -- with his hands hidden in the sleeves of his cowl. These are subtle allusions to the hidden life in which Saint Romuald sought the Heart of Jesus, not by much doing (the hidden hands) but, rather, in much listening (the "Marian" posture). You will notice that Saint Romuald is not looking at the Face of the Crucified; he is focused on the wound in Jesus' Sacred Side. Therein he seeks to hide himself like the dove in the cleft of the rock.

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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