Saints: January 2012 Archives


A Preacher Unlike Any Other

Would that Saint John Chrysostom, the Patron Saint of Preachers, could stand here in my place today and preach with the golden-mouthed eloquence given him by the Holy Ghost! How would we respond to his preaching? Saint Chrysostom's preaching disturbed the placid, inflamed the tepid, woke up the drowsy, exposed corruption, frightened the indifferent, unsettled the comfortable, and caused the pious to squirm.

His preaching also inspired confidence in the Blood of Christ, gave hope to the hopeless, caused sinners to weep with sorrow for their faults, inspired the rich to give abundantly of their wealth, moved people to detachment from earthly goods, humbled the haughty, brought fornicators to chastity, converted swindlers to justice, and endowed the ignorant with the science of Jesus Christ.

Immersion in the Word of God

The secret of Saint John Chrysostom's eloquence was his total immersion in the Word of God. Centuries later, Blessed Abbot Marmion would say that nothing imparts a penetrating unction to preaching as much as a continual reference to the Word of God. On this point the greatest preachers are of one mind: their task is to repeat the Word in other words, to deliver not their own wisdom, but the wisdom of God revealed in the "Word of the Cross" (1 Cor 1:18).

Take to heart Saint Chrysostom's admonition:

Listen carefully to me, I entreat you. . . . Procure books that will be medicines for the soul. . . . At least get a copy of the New Testament, the Apostle's epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If you encounter grief, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from them comfort for your trouble, whether it be loss, or death, or bereavement over the loss of relations. Don't simply dive into them. Swim in them. Keep them constantly in your mind. The cause of all evils is the failure to know the Scriptures well.

The Cause of All Evils

The cause of all evils is the failure to know the Scriptures well. Why does the Golden-Mouthed Doctor say this? Because he who fails to know the Scriptures well fails to know the mind and heart of Christ. He who knows not the mind and heart of Christ receives the Body and Blood of Christ with little fruit. It is the Word, the "Word of the Cross" (1 Cor 1:18), that prepares us for the Holy Sacrifice.

Lectio Divina

It is the Word heard (lectio), repeated (meditatio), prayed (oratio), and held in the heart (contemplatio) that prepares the soul to receive the Sacred Body and Precious Blood of Christ, and prolongs the effects of Holy Communion throughout the day.

The Word of the Cross and the Fruits of the Precious Blood

The intensity of our Eucharistic life is directly proportionate to our immersion in the Word of God. Ask Saint John Chrysostom today to pray that we may cleave to the "Word of the Cross" (1 Cor 1:18) and so experience the lasting fruits of the Precious Blood of Christ.

Saint Ildephonsus of Toledo

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Doctor of the Virginity of Mary

Today is the feast of Saint Ildephonsus, Archbishop of Toledo (+ 23 January 667). Dom Guéranger calls him the Doctor of the Virginity of Mary. Saint Ildephonsus established the feast of the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is still kept in some places on December 18th.

At the Altar

It is recounted that on this feast of the Mother of God, Archbishop Ildephonsus, together with some of his clergy, hastened to church before the hour of Matins to honour Our Blessed Lady with their songs. Arriving close to the church, they found it all ablaze with a heavenly radiance. This so frightened the little band that all fled, except for Archbishop Ildephonsus and his two faithful deacons. Deacons, take note! With wildly beating hearts, these entered the church and made their way to the altar. A great mystery was about to unfold.

A Chasuble from the Treasury of Heaven

There, seated on the Archbishop's throne, was the august Queen of Heaven surrounded by choirs of angels and holy virgins. The chants of paradise filled the air. Our Blessed Lady beckoned Ildephonsus to approach her. Looking upon him with tenderness and majesty, she said: "Thou art my chaplain and faithful notary. Receive from me this chasuble, which my Son sends you from His treasury." Having said this, the Immaculate Virgin clothed Ildephonsus in the chasuble, and instructed him to wear it for the Holy Sacrifice on her festivals.


The account of this apparition, and of the miraculous chasuble, was deemed so certain and utterly beyond doubt, that news of it spread through the Church, even reaching the Ethiopians. The Church of Toledo honoured the event with a special proper Mass and Office. What was the miraculous chasuble like? Artists through the ages have sought to depict it, more often than not in rich brocades of gold and blue.

Gifts from Heaven

Sceptics may smile condescendingly and dismiss the story as a pious fabulation. Serious studies of the various gratiae gratis datae -- graces freely given -- are not without evidence of the phenomenon of material gifts brought from heaven. One finds examples of it as recently as in the life of Mother Yvonne-Aimée of Malestroit (1901-1951). A classic example of the phenomenon would be the cincture of the Angelic Warfare with which angels girded Saint Thomas Aquinas after his victory over a temptation of the flesh.

The Prayer of Saint Ildephonsus

I used the celebrated prayer of Saint Ildephonsus this past January 1st to renew my total consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I am thy slave, because Thy Son is my Master. Therefore thou art my Lady, because thou art the handmaid of my Lord. Therefore I am the slave of the handmaid of my Lord, because thou, my Lady, didst become the Mother of my Lord. Therefore I have become thy slave, because thou didst become the Mother of my Maker.

You will find the full text of the prayer here together with Murillo's depiction of Our Lady's bestowal of the chasuble from heaven.

Emerging from the shadows

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Lo Spagnoletto, José de Ribera (1591-1652) here depicts Saint Irene of Rome (+288 A.D.) ministering to Saint Sebastian (+288 A.D.)

Left for Dead

There are mortal sufferings from which human beings are not expected to recover. There are torturers of the soul who leave their victims for dead, certain that they will not recover their strength and revive. There are people who, having suffered the cruel assaults of evildoers, astonish those who know them, by going on to live and give witness to the love of Christ.

Saint Sebastian, Martyr

I am thinking today of the Christian soldier Saint Sebastian, condemned to death for comforting persecuted Christians; then bound to a tree, shot through with arrows, and left for dead. And I am thinking of Saint Irene of Rome, the wife of Saint Castulus, who sought out Saint Sebastian and washed his wounds, applying healing balms and medicines, until with strength renewed, Saint Sebastian appeared in the presence of Diocletian to bear witness to Christ.

The Sexually Abused Child

I am thinking today of the small child who was sexually abused. Having had his innocence taken from him; having suffered a confusion of emotions too terrible for him to sort out; having lost all sense of security and safety; and locked into a silence born of fear, the odds are against such a child ever emerging from the shadows and fully living the life he was meant to live.

The Battered Wife

I am thinking today of the woman who, after having given herself to a man in marriage, finds that he is possessed of an uncontrollable rage. She suffers violence at the hands of the very man who pledged to cherish and protect her. The odds are against such a woman ever emerging from the shadows and recovering the ability to love again, and to trust.

The Forsaken Priest

I am thinking today of the man, the priest, who, after having pledged his life, his energies, and his all to the Church, the Body and the Bride of Christ, finds himself accused of a weakness, a sin, or a crime, and then, utterly forsaken, cast aside, and declared untouchable by those who profess to be in the service of the all-merciful Saviour. The odds are against such a priest ever emerging from the shadows and finding repentance, healing, and reconciliation in the heart of the Church.

But They Do Not Die

These are but three examples of innumerable the soul-killing aggressions from which the perpetrators walk away, leaving their victims for dead. But the victims do not die. They suffer. They bleed. Their wounds become infected and even putrid, but they do not die.

Saint Irene the Healer

Somehow -- often by the ministrations of one mortally wounded like themselves, but come back to life, life in abundance -- such victims can and sometimes do recover and, in a certain sense, return from the dead. Someone stops to tend to their wounds, to disinfect them, and bind them up. "A certain Samaritan," says the Lord, "being on his journey, came near him; and seeing him, was moved with compassion. And going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine: and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. " (Luke 10:33-34).

Into the Light

Saint Sebastian is an icon of souls left for dead, but brought back to life in order to give their witness to Christ. Saint Irene is an icon of those who minister to the mortally wounded, often risking their security and their reputation to do so. Today I ask the intercession of both saints, that those who are mortally wounded in their souls may emerge from the shadows to contemplate in the light the Face of Him who says, "I am come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).


January 4
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Widow and Religious

William Magee Seton gave this lithograph of Christ the Redeemer to his beloved wife, Elizabeth Ann Seton, sometime between 1774 and 1803. Its Eucharistic theme prophetically reflected the profound devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist that would characterize her piety as a Catholic.

Below is a photograph of a copy of a variant of the Memorare handwritten by Elizabeth Ann Seton. At the end of text she added the touching plea, "Love me, my Mother.

The Italian Experience

The conversion of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton began in 1803 while she, a twenty-nine year old widow with one of her five children, were the guests of the Filicchi family in Livorno, or Leghorn, Italy. The Catholic Filicchis, Antonio and his wife Amabilia, offered her a gracious hospitality and unfailing emotional support in a time of crisis.


The Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin

In one of Signora Filicchi's prayer books, Mrs. Seton came upon the text of Saint Bernard's Memorare; she found in the Virgin Mary the tenderness and the pity of a mother. "That night," she writes, "I cried myself to sleep in her heart."

The Tabernacle

The Filicchi home contained a private chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was reserved. Elizabeth was drawn to the tabernacle. Even before her mind had been instructed in the mysteries of the Catholic faith, her heart recognized the living presence of the Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist. Her American Protestant sensibility was perplexed and, yet, she could not deny her heart's fascination with the Lamb of God hidden beneath the sacramental veils.

Return to New York

Elizabeth's long personal memoir, The Italian Journal, recounts the intimate details of her inner struggle and conversion to Catholicism. Elizabeth and her ten year old daughter, Anna Maria, returned to New York on June 3, 1804, accompanied by Antonio Filicchi -- a man to whom Elizabeth had become deeply attached. He had become for her a friend and a spiritual counselor.

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