Saints: August 2011 Archives

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Our Contemporary

The Benedictine calendar of the saints, like that of the Universal Church, grows as the Church makes her pilgrim way through history. In recent years a number of holy Benedictines have been glorified by the Church and Christ has been glorified through them.

I have the impression that as we all advance in age the saints are coming closer and closer to our own lifetimes. This is certainly the case of the Blessed Ildefonso Cardinal Schuster, the Benedictine monk and archbishop of Milan whom we remember today. He died on August 30th, 1954.

If you were to look at photos of Cardinal Schuster -- and there are many of them -- you would see the serene face of a gentle ascetic. In his eyes there is something that suggests that he saw the invisible; his gaze is that of a man whose life was profoundly interior.

Essentially Adorers

Ildefonso Schuster, the son of a Roman tailor, the Abbot of Saint Paul-Outside-the-Walls, and the Cardinal-Archbishop of Milan, was at the same time a scholar learned in the Church’s liturgy, in history, in art, in catechesis, spirituality, and archeology; he was a shepherd of souls, a diplomat, and a peace-maker. Beneath the scarlet robes of a Prince of the Church, he remained a monk, a child of Saint Benedict. Thus was he able to say:

Before all other things, and even above all things, O Venerable Brothers, we are essentially adorers. “This is how one should regard us, as ministers of Christ” (1 Cor 4:1). After that we must also be ministers of the people, the salt of the earth, and fishers of men, etc. but first, it is absolutely necessary that we be true servants of God: Ministers of Christ . . . appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God (Heb 5:1).

The Devil Is Afraid of Holiness

As Cardinal-Archbishop, Blessed Schuster never failed to direct the energies of his priests toward the One Thing Necessary. A few days before his death he withdrew to the seminary he had built and there he delivered a final message to his seminarians, warning them of the futility of an apostolate without personal holiness:

I have no memento to give you apart from an invitation to holiness. It would seem that people are no longer convinced by our preaching; but faced with holiness, they still believe, they still fall to their knees and pray. People seem to live ignorant of supernatural realities, indifferent to the problems of salvation. But when an authentic saint, living or dead passes by, all run to be there. . Do not forget that the devil is not afraid of our [parish] sports fields and of our movie halls: he is afraid, on the other hand, of our holiness.

At the Altar

When Blessed Schuster celebrated Holy Mass, his entire being was absorbed in the Divine Mysteries. There are many eyewitness accounts of the impact of his priestly devotion on the faithful. Benedictine to the core, Blessed Schuster was a humble master of the prayer of the Church, manifesting through his body, and extending into all of daily life the spirit drawn from the celebration of the sacred liturgy. Cardinal Giacomo Biffi says: “The simple folk ran to contemplate this slight and frail man who, in his liturgical vestments, became a giant.” Seeing him at the altar people recognized a man in communication with the invisible power of God.

There is no doubt that, if Cardinal Schuster were alive today, he would greatly rejoice in the Holy Father’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. One of Cardinal Schuster’s great works is his three volume Liber Sacramentorum, Historical and Liturgical Notes on the Roman Missal. He loved the Church of Rome, loved the Church of Milan, and loved their ancient liturgies because in them he recognized the heartbeat of the Bride of Christ and the true sound of her voice.

A Vocation's Unexpected Turns

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Birth, Passion, Death

Each year the Church gives us two feastdays of Saint John the Baptist: the first on June 24th to mark his nativity, and today’s feast to mark his passion and death. We celebrate the nativity of Saint John the Baptist because, unlike everyone else with the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, John was born in holiness. Our Lord Jesus Christ sanctified John when both of them were still hidden in the wombs of their mothers.

Appearance and Disappearance

Jesus hidden in Mary approached John hidden in Elizabeth and, when the voice of the Holy Mother of God reached the ears of Elizabeth, the babe in her womb leaped for joy (cf. Lk 1:44). Although John, like all men, was conceived marked by Adam’s sin, he was born already touched by the saving grace of Christ mediated by His Immaculate Mother. Clearly, a child born in such extraordinary circumstances was destined by the Lord for even greater things. At the peak of summer on June 24th we celebrated the appearance of John the Baptist. Today, as summer begins to fade, we celebrate his disappearance.

More Than A Prophet

“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways” (Lk 1:76). John the Forerunner is a prophet and he is more than a prophet. By his preaching he speaks truth in the breath of the Holy Spirit. By his captivity, passion and death, he prefigures the Suffering Servant, the immolated Lamb who takes away the sins of the world, the Victim “by whose wounds we are healed” (1P 2:24). Our Lord Himself says: “A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (Lk 7:27-28).

This Joy of Mine

John the Baptist recognizes in Jesus the Light, the Christ, the Lamb of God and the Bridegroom. “Behold the Lamb of God!” (Jn 1:29). All John’s joy is to gaze upon His Face and to hear His voice. “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase but I must decrease”(Jn 329-30).

The Burning and Shining Lamp

The vocation of John was to be visible only for a time. “He was a burning and shining lamp,” says Jesus, “and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light” (Jn 5:25). John’s shining light was hidden away in the darkness of a prison cell. The Bridegroom had arrived; the Friend of the Bridegroom had to disappear.

Did anyone else notice this?

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The Modification of a Collect

A few days ago, on the feast of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, the holy Curé of Ars, I preached on the splendid Collect of the day as given in the 1962 Missale Romanum:

Omnipotens et misericors Deus,
qui sanctum Joannem Mariam
pastorali studio
et iugi orationis ac paenitentiae ardore
mirabilem efficisti;
da, quaesumus,
ut eius exemplo et intercessione,
animas fratrum lucrari Christo,
et cum eis aeternae gloriam consequi valeamus.

In English, this becomes:

Almighty and merciful God,
who didst make Saint John Mary wonderful
in his pastoral zeal
and constant prayer and penance,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that by his example and intercession,
we may be able to win the souls of our brethren for Christ,
and together with them attain to glory everlasting.

Later in the day, I had occasion to look at the Collect as it appears in the reformed Missale Romanum, Editio Typica Tertia (2008). Here is the text as given there:

Omnipotens et misericors Deus,
qui sanctum Joannem Mariam
pastorali studio
mirabilem efficisti;
da, quaesumus,
ut eius exemplo et intercessione,
fratres in caritate Christo lucremur,
et cum eis aeternae gloriam consequi valeamus.

In the New English Translation, this same Collect will, as far as I know, appear as:

Almighty and merciful God,
who made the Priest Saint John Vianney
wonderful in his pastoral zeal,
grant, we pray,
that through his intercession and example
we may in charity win brothers and sisters for Christ
and attain with them eternal glory.

Constant Prayer and Penance Deleted

The revised prayer of the 1970 Missal retains only one of the three priestly attributes mentioned in the older prayer, that of pastoral zeal. Constant prayer and penance, the two attributes that sustained Saint John Mary Vianney's pastoral zeal, are deleted from the 1970 version of the prayer. On the other hand, the phrase in caritate was added to the penultimate phrase of the text.

Pastoral Zeal

If one ascribes to the axiom, "Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi" it is clear that this manipulation of the Collect has far reaching consequences for one's understanding of how the priesthood is to be lived out. If what matters is "pastoral zeal" above all else, one risks becoming, and rather quickly, "as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." Constant prayer obtains an inpouring of divine charity; penance makes room for it in the heart. Constant prayer and penance are the context of a pastoral zeal that is supernaturally motivated and not a exercise in clerical narcissism.

Burnout

The post-Conciliar model of the priesthood placed the emphasis on pastoral zeal, while downplaying the importance of constant prayer and penance. These latter attributes were often dismissed as monastic and, as everyone knows, following the much-quoted worm-eaten old chestnut, "parish priests are not monks!" The difficulty is that pastoral zeal without constant prayer and penance leads to clerical burnout. This is something that I have seen all too often.

The Chicken or the Egg?

I'm left with a question. Did the model of diocesan priesthood change following the liturgical reforms because of the deletions and amendments made to liturgical texts such as the one looked at here? Or were the deletions and amendments to liturgical texts designed to reflect an activistic pastoral vision that had made inroads in the post-war period well before the Second Vatican Council?

A Revision of the Revised Texts?

I have already suggested elsewhere on Vultus Christi that the New English Translation of the Roman Missal, while a small step in the right direction, is far from being the solution to deeper underlying issues. One must be prudent, lest the popular canonization of the euchological texts in the New English Translation of the Roman Missal, appear to suggest that the said translation, and the Editio Typica from which it was made, are, in some way, flawless vehicles of the continuity of Tradition. Perhaps the Editio Typica Tertia itself needs to be revised and brought into a more generous textual conformity with the 1962 Missale Romanum.

The Transfiguration of the Lord

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Gazing on the Holy Face

One-hundred-fourteen years ago, on August 5th, 1897, the eve of the feast of the Transfiguration, a young Carmelite stricken with tuberculosis had a very special desire. She wanted an image of the Holy Face of Christ placed close to her bed. The image was brought from the choir and attached to her bed curtains. On the following September 30th, she died. Her name? Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Saint Thérèse, a Doctor of the Church, fixed her gaze on the Face of Christ disfigured by suffering, and found the transfiguration of her own suffering in its radiance.

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Preparation for the Mystery of the Cross

The Holy Face of Christ was a mystery familiar to Thérèse. As a result of the good works of the Venerable Léon Dupont, the "Holy Man of Tours," devotion to the Holy Face had spread throughout France. The Carmel of Lisieux honoured the Holy Face every August 6th, forty days before the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14th. Every August 6th, the Carmelites exposed the image of the Holy Face in their choir, anointed it with perfume, and prayed before it.

Hidden in the Secret of His Face

A year before her death on August 6, 1896, Thérèse and two of the novices entrusted to her consecrated themselves to the Holy Face of Jesus. They understood the mystery of the Transfiguration just as the liturgy presents it to us today: as a preparation for the Mystery of the Cross.

The three young Carmelites asked Our Lord to hide them "in the secret of His Face." They were drawn by the Holy Ghost into the abjection of Christ, the Suffering Servant described in chapters 52 and 53 of the prophet Isaiah. They desired to be Veronicas, consoling Jesus in His Passion, and offering Him souls. Their prayer concluded: "O beloved Face of Jesus! As we await the everlasting day when we will contemplate your infinite Glory, our one desire is to charm your Divine Eyes by hiding our faces too so that here on earth no one can recognize us. O Jesus! Your Veiled Gaze is our Heaven!"

Lectio Divina and Eucharistic Adoration

At the very center of the Transfiguration we see the Human Face of God, shining more brightly than the sun. Tradition gives us two privileged ways of seeking, of finding, and of contemplating the transfigured and transfiguring Face of Christ: the first is lectio divina in its two forms: the corporate choral lectio divina of the Sacred Liturgy, and the solitary lectio divina that prolongs the Sacred Liturgy and prepares it. One who seeks the Face of Christ in the Scriptures as dispensed to us by the Church will discover the Face of the Beloved peering through the lattice of the text, and will be changed by the experience. The second way is Eucharistic adoration. One who remains silent and adoring before the Divine Host, the "Veiled Gaze: of Jesus, will, almost imperceptibly, but surely, be transfigured and healed in its radiance.

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The Mercy of God

Saint Dominic would spend whole nights weeping and groaning in prayer before the altar. Over and over again he would say, "What will become of sinners? What will become of sinners?" Saint Dominic's great passion was to reconcile sinners by preaching the mercy of God.

The Power of Preaching

Dominic understood that the power of preaching comes from ceaseless prayer. His prayer had three characteristics:
-humble adoration,
-heartfelt pity for sinners,
-and exultation in the Divine Mercy.

Saint Dominic prayed constantly; he prayed at home and on the road, in church and in his cell. For Saint Dominic there was no place or time foreign to prayer. He loved to pray at night. He engaged his whole body in prayer by standing with outstretched arms, by bowing, prostrating, genuflecting, and kissing the sacred page. If you are not familiar with the extraordinary little booklet entitled The Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic, today would be a good day to find it and read it.

The Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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Saint Dominic had a tenth way of prayer too: the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary that today we call the rosary. The use of beads was widespread and the repetition of the Hail Mary were both widespread before the time of Saint Dominic. The Hail Mary prayed 150 times in reference to the 150 psalms was practiced in Carthusian and Cistercian cloisters before the time of Saint Dominic.

Irrigated by Grace

Saint Dominic understood that preaching alone was not enough. Preaching has to be irrigated by grace, and grace is obtained by prayer. Inspired by the Mother of God, Saint Dominic interspersed his sermons with the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He exhorted his hearers to continue praying the Psalter of 150 Aves as a way of prolonging the benefits of holy preaching. The rosary allows the seed of the Word sown by holy preaching to germinate in the soul and bear fruit.

Simple Means

Divine Wisdom has so ordered things that the simplest material means -- humble and adapted to our weakness -- produce the greatest spiritual effects. Father Raphael Simon, the saintly Trappist psychiatrist, said that, "five decades of the rosary or even three Hail Marys daily may mean the difference between eternal life and death." The effect of the rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. The fruits of the rosary are well known: among them are detachment from sin and from the occasions of sin, peace of heart, humility, chastity, and joy. The rosary, and all authentic prayer, is always realistic -- that is to say, honest about human weakness and sin -- and, at the same, full of hope -- that is to say, open to the glorious plan of God's mercy.


The Supplication of the Rosary

If Saint Dominic preached the rosary and prayed it, it was because he knew it to be a prayer capable of winning every grace. The rosary is a prayer of repetition. It is a prayer of confidence. It helps one to persevere in supplication, bead by bead, and decade by decade. Our Lord finds the rosary irresistible because His own Mother "subsidizes" it. She stands behind it. The rosary is the voice of the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, and the weak. Persevere in praying the rosary and one day you will hear Our Lord say to you what He said to the woman of the Gospel: "Great is thy faith! Be it done for thee as thou wilt" (Mt 15:28). Saint Dominic shows us that, with the rosary in hand, we will experience the triumph of grace.

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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