Saints: July 2012 Archives

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The Communion of the Saints

We live in the company of the saints. We are in communion with them, and communion implies communication. There is, at every moment, a mysterious exchange taking place between us and the saints who surround us. The Letter to the Hebrews says that we are "watched from above by such a cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1).

Naming Your Baby

New Catholic parents used to consult a little booklet, often supplied by the parish, entitled, Is it a Saint's Name? The names of saints are more and more rarely being given to Catholic babies, especially to little girls. While there is a part of ignorance here -- today's parents were the victims of the disastrous lack of catechesis that followed the Second Vatican Council -- there is something more. The pressure to secularize every area of life is picking up momentum. Change what people say, and you will change what they think. The modification of vocabulary -- and in this case the suppression of the glorious heritage of Catholic saints' names -- will lead to a modification of values and, ultimately, of morality.

Living With the Saints

Monasteries have the splendid custom of attributing a saint's name or a biblical name to every room and place -- from the cells to the workrooms to the storage rooms. The significance of this age-old custom is as beautiful as it is profound: the monastery is inhabited not only by the visible people who live within its walls, but also by its invisible residents, the angels and the saints. The naming of a room for a saint is a confession of faith; it flies in the face of secularist ideologies that would have us believe that reality stops with what is visible.

Recovery of the Sacred

The movement to secularize every thing and every place is as pernicious as it is aggressive. It is part of the "smoke of Satan" that Pope Paul VI saw penetrating the Church to foment confusion. It is crucial that we respond to the crisis with courage and with conviction. The invasion of the secular must be countered by a concerted recovery of the sacred, and by re-claiming all things for Christ under the patronage of his saints and his mysteries: our cities, our towns, our homes, our institutions, our rooms, and, yes, our children.

The Saints in the Ordinary of the Mass

Pope Benedict XVI's Apostolic Letter, the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum has generated some very helpful comparative studies of the Rite of Blessed John XXIII (the Mass actually celebrated during the Second Vatican Council) and the 1970 Rite of Pope Paul VI. One of the observations made is that the newer rite, in a misguided attempt to render the Mass less offensive to Protestant sensibilities, removed several key allusions to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the saints, and to their intercession. I am thinking specifically of the Confiteor, the prayer while kissing the relics in the altar, the Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas at the end of the Offertory rite, and the Libera nos after the Our Father. In no way was this manipulation of the texts authorized by the Conciliar Fathers. It grieves and alienates the venerable Orthodox Churches, who interpret it as a rejection of the patrimony of the undivided Church.

Orthodox and Protestants

Already under the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, and now under Pope Benedict XVI, it is clear the ecumenical efforts and loving attention of the Church of Rome are turned Eastward, toward those true Churches having Apostolic Succession with whom the Church of Rome shares the Most Holy Eucharist and the other sacraments. Protestant communities, while having some elements of the true Church and certain means of salvation derived from her, are objectively defective. Catholics gain nothing, and lose much, by seeking to resemble them, especially by minimizing the intercession of the Mother of God and of the saints. This does not mean that the Church of Rome abandons the Protestant communities. On the contrary, she seeks to dialogue with them -- as would a loving mother with an alienated child -- correcting them when necessary, and waiting for them to return to the fullness of the faith held in her heart.

Under the Protection of the Saints

The feast of Saints Joachim and Anna invites us to consider all these things. Joachim and Anna arrived in North America with the first colonizers from France and Spain, those who named every new place for the saints of Christ. By this, they made it clear that the Kingdom of Heaven was also expanding and that all places and peoples were invited to live in communion with the saints, and under their protection.

Grandparents of the Lord

In seventeenth century France devotion to the Holy Family became a mark of the renewal that, following the Council of Trent, blew through the Church like a refreshing breeze, a mystical invasion. The Holy Family was understood, at that time, to refer to the entire extended family of Jesus, including his grandparents, Joachim and Anne.

National Shrine of Saint Anne in Ireland

The Normans brought devotion to Saint Anne to Ireland and established a shrine in her honour in a chapel dedicated to their sainted Bishop of Rouen, Saint Audoen, at Cornmarket in Dublin. Devotion to St. Anne on this site dates from 1169-1170. The focus of the devotion was the precious relic of a finger bone of Saint Anne brought by the Normans.

Such was the level of devotion that by 1352 the festival of Saint Anne on 26th July was declared a Holyday of Obligation and in 1431, King Henry VI granted letters patent establishing the Guild of Saint Anne - "to the praise of God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary and in honour of Saint Anne". Six priests were necessary to tend to the needs of pilgrims from within Ireland, from Britain and from the Continent. The Church contained a chapel to Saint Mary (the Lady Chapel) and Saint Anne, with altars to Saint Catherine, Saint Nicholas, Saint Thomas and Saint. Clare. Excavations carried out in 1967 to 1972, at the thirteenth century layer, yielded a pewter pilgrim-badge and a small bronze pilgrim's flask. The Seal of the Guild can be seen today in the medieval church.

The Change in Religion

During the protestant reformation, the Norman Church was taken over and so lost to its Catholic congregation and to the Guild of Saint Anne. The Guild itself continued until the early seventeenth century, despite the dissolution of Abbeys, Priories and other religious houses. In 1912 the Irish devotion to Saint Anne was revived in the new Catholic Saint Audoen's Church. The beautiful statue of Saint Anne, there enshrined, was made by Deghini's of Fishamble Street, Dublin, and was the gift of one Mrs. Kelly in 1919.

In the New World

From France, Jesuit missionaries, Ursuline and Hospitaller nuns, and devout layfolk carried the devotion to the Holy Family to New France. A sanctuary dedicated to Saint Anne was built in 1658 between the Saint Laurence River and the Beaupré coast in Québec. Other smaller shrines to Saint Anne, in Isle La Motte, Vermont, in Sturbridge and in Fall River, Massachusetts, and in Waterbury, Connecticut, mark the "Catholic geography" of New England.

The Patronage of the Holy Family

After the French Revolution, the Church enjoyed an extraordinary burst of energy characterized by the foundations of hundreds of new religious communities of women; many of these nineteenth century foundations were dedicated to the Holy Family and, again, the grandparents of the Lord were not excluded. Some of these French communities came, in turn, to America where they taught generations of Catholics to reverence the human family of Christ and to live in communion with the saints.

The Vocation of Grandparents

Saint Anne and Saint Joachim have a special message for grandparents.
Grandmothers and grandfathers have a particular vocation in the order of grace. Grandparents are called to foster the supernatural life of their grandchildren, to pray for them, to pray with them, and to model holiness for them. Grandparents can reach places in a child's heart that no one else can reach. Grandparents can introduce their grandchildren to the joy of living with the saints.

The Things That Call to Mind the Saints

We are the spiritual descendants of the saints. We profess our faith in the communion of the saints and acknowledge their presence in our homes and in our lives. We renounce the evil ideologies of secularization that, by suppressing the things that call to mind the saints, aim at erasing the supernatural from daily life.

Eucharistic Intercession

In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, heaven descends to earth and earth is assumed into heaven. Around the altar there is infinitely more than what meets the eye. Saints Joachim and Anne are present to us; their most holy Daughter, the Virgin Mary, is present to us. We ask them to join their intercession to ours, imploring peace for the whole world, and blessings upon our families. This too is the communion of the saints: the Holy Sacrifice offered here can bring peace and blessings to thousands of hearts and places. Live, then, as if you were seeing the invisible! There is nothing more real than that.

Prayer to Saint Anne

O glorious Saint Anne,
filled with compassion for those who invoke thee,
and with love for those who suffer,
heavily laden with the weight of my troubles,
I cast myself at thy feet and humbly beg thee
to take the present affair, which I recommend, under thy special protection.
Here mention request.
Vouchsafe to recommend it, to thy daughter the Blessed Virgin Mary
and lay it before the throne of Jesus,
so that He may bring it to a happy issue.
Cease not to intercede for me until my request is granted.
Above all, obtain for me the grace
of one day beholding my God, face to face
and with you and Mary Most Holy and all of the Saints,
praising Him for all eternity. Amen.


2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Psalm 125: 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6
Matthew 20:20-28

Treasure in Earthen Vessels

“We have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor 4:7). Another translation puts it this way: “We have a treasure, then, in our keeping, but its shell is of perishable earthenware; it must be God, and not anything in ourselves, that gives it its sovereign power.” The contrast is striking: treasure held in earthen vessels. But what is the treasure? In verse 6, Saint Paul says, “It is the God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the Face of Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). The treasure, then, is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shining in the Face of Christ.

An Eye-Witness of the Transfiguration

When one considers that James was an eye-witness of the Transfiguration, the deeper meaning of today’s First Reading comes into focus. While James looked on, together with Peter and with his brother John, Jesus “was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light” (Mt 17:2). The splendour of Jesus’ Face burned itself indelibly into the heart of James. Contemplating the Face of the transfigured Jesus, James was filled with “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6). This is the treasure that Saint James carried in a shell of fragile earthenware: his own human weakness.


The Transfiguration reveals the treasure; the agony in the garden of Gethsemani reveals to us the fragility of the earthen vessels. To Peter, James, and John, Jesus said, “Remain here and watch with me” (Mt 26:38), but after His prayer to the Father, he found them sleeping. Again, a second time, He asked these, his intimate companions, to watch and pray, warning them of the weakness of the flesh, and again He came and “found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy” (Mt 26:43). And so it happened a third time but, by then, the hour of Jesus’ betrayal was already at hand (Mt 26:45). The radiant memory of Jesus transfigured, “the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6), was held in earthen vessels: in the hearts of men who could not watch even one hour with their Master in his agony.

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Three Saints

Three saints -- all three educators, founders, and spiritual fathers to children and young men -- share a common feastday on July 20th in the Benedictine calendar: Saint Jerome (Girolamo) Emiliani, 1481-1537; Saint Joseph Calasanctius (José de Calasanz), 1557-1648; and Saint Jean-Baptiste de LaSalle, 1651-1719.

Saint Jerome Emiliani

The first of these, Saint Jerome (Girolamo) Emiliani, was born in Venice. After a military career that included imprisonment and a miraculous liberation, he went on pilgrimage to the Madonna of Treviso in fulfillment of a vow and, for a time served as a local magistrate, all the while attending to the education of his nephews and studying theology on his own.

Father of the Poor

In 1528, a year marked by plague and famine, Jerome discovered his true vocation: total fatherly devotion to the poor, the sick, and orphans. He established orphanages, administered one hospital, and saw to the building of another. In 1532, together with two priests, Saint Jerome founded a religious congregation, the Servants of the Poor, at Somasca in northern Italy; members of the congregation came to be called Somascans, after the place of this first house. The principal mission of the Somascan Fathers is the fatherly care of orphans, of the poor, and of the sick.

The State of Holiness

As a member of the Oratory of Divine Love -- a veritable school of holiness inspired by Saint Catherine Fieschi Adorno (+1510) in Genoa -- Saint Jerome entered into the Counter-Reformation's renewal of the Church with a burning zeal. He longed to see the faithful of Christ restored to the state of holiness that marked the Church in the time of the Apostles, and even composed a prayer to this end:

O our gentle father, Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray Thee, of thine infinite bounty,
to reform the Christian people in that state of holiness
that was theirs in the time of Thine Apostles.
Hear us, O Lord, because Thy mercy is kind,
and in Thine immense tenderness, turn Thyself towards us.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on us.

May I be guided and protected in the way of peace, of charity, and of prosperity
by the power of God the Father, the wisdom of the Son,
and the strength of the Holy Spirit, and of the glorious Virgin Mary.

May the Angel Raphael, who was always with Tobias
also be with me in every place and road.

O good Jesus, O good Jesus, O good Jesus,
my love and my God,
in Thee do I trust, let me not be disappointed.

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Religious Life Today

As I offered Holy Mass this morning, I thought of the need here in Ireland for religious congregations that are reformed, revitalized and ready to engage in the restoration of the faithful to "a state of holiness." When one takes the measure of the bountiful harvest of holiness, priestly discipline, monastic reform, liturgical consolidation, service of the poor, instruction of the ignorant, care for the sick, and zeal for the glory of God that renewed the Church of the Counter-Reformation after the Council of Trent, and compares it with the paltry, disappointing, and bitter fruits that mark the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, one is left with the impression of a massive failure at many levels.

Outdated Religious

It is paradoxical that the very religious congregations that resolutely embraced "renewal" fifty years ago have become outdated, sterile, and moribond. Their one common characteristic appears to be an unwillingness to change (again) and an irrational attachment to the failed experiments of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

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Heritage Rooms

The 2009 C.A.R.A. report on religious life documents what young people of the Benedict XVI generation are looking for in religious life: community life; daily liturgical prayer (Divine Office), Eucharistic adoration, and Marian devotions; a common unified apostolate; the clear visibility of the religious habit, etc. Aging protagonists of the Vatican II generation, in Ireland, in the U.S.A., and elsewhere, wring their hands about the dearth of vocations to their congregations and, at the same time, would rather die than embrace corporate reform, renewal, and revitalization. Their opportunity for reform -- and for choosing life -- will soon have passed them by, leaving their spiritual patrimony sealed in "heritage rooms."

The People in Charge Now

It would seem, at least from anecdotal evidence, that the greatest (and often most strident) resistance to the reform of religious life comes, not from those who made profession sixty, or seventy years ago, but from those who made profession early in the late 1960s, and in the 1970s and 80s. These would be people who entered religious life and committed themselves to it shortly after or during the seismic changes of the 1960s and 70s. They adjusted, sometimes with heroic generosity, to the changes imposed or legislated by their elders, and were, for the most part, content to serve Christ and His Church in a kind of hybrid model of religious life marked more by compromise with the world than by the resolve to reform. Having attained positions of responsibility and, often, of power, they are unwilling to risk a new wave of change that would, necessarily, call into question the very principles that they suffered and worked hard to implement and maintain.


Reform and Revitalization?

Will the people currently in charge of the great apostolic congregations of men and women that were founded in the 19th century, and came to maturity in the 20th, rise to the challenge of a vigorous reform? Or will they stay the course taken over the past 50 years and await the inevitable extinction of their species? These are questions that go beyond than the internal affairs of aging religious communities; they pertain to the present and future revitalization of the Church, especially here in Ireland.

Not Too Late to Choose Life

It may be the Eleventh Hour, but it is not the Twelfth; it is not too late for a few brave religious to choose life and, like Abraham and Sarah, to revel in the joy of a wondrous generativity. Saints like Jerome Emiliani make me long to see this happen. The "state of holiness" that he saw in the Church of the Apostles can yet be restored to the faithful of Ireland, and may be coming soon to a monastery or convent near you.


Portrait of Saint Vincent de Paul by Daniel Dumonstier (1574 - 1646)

Thank You, Saint Vincent de Paul

A Supplica is a prayer of supplication composed according to a certain literary genre that remains popular in Italy to this day. The most famous of these prayers would be the Supplica to the Queen of the Holy Rosary of Pompei composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo. Nearly every parish or chapel in southern Italy has a Supplica to its patron saint recited by all the people in unison on the saint's feast.

Last year on this very day, 19 July, I was inspired to write a Supplica to Saint Vincent de Paul. I asked his intercession for my monastery, trusting that he would find us a suitable permanent home. He did. One year later we are in Silverstream Priory, Stamullen, County Meath. Thank you, Saint Vincent de Paul. Here, then, is the Supplica to Saint Vincent that I wrote and first prayed one year ago today

O glorious Saint Vincent de Paul,
priest of Jesus Christ,
servant of the poor,
consoler of the sorrowful,
father of orphans,
providence of the homeless,
giver of alms to the destitute,
enlightened guide of souls,
compassionate visitor of the imprisoned,
attentive nurse of the sick,
comfort of the dying,
zealous teacher of the clergy,
who can describe the innumerable works of thy charity,
and who can measure the hospitality of thy heart?

The weak and the infirm,
the wounded and the needy,
the unloved and the shamed
all find a place in the folds of thy great protecting mantle.
Never did one of Christ's poor turn to thee in distress
without receiving from thee the alms of thy mercy
for soul and body.

O thou, Apostle of Charity,
O thou, Image of Jesus Christ,
thou in whom the Heart of Christ burns
with an inextinguishable fire,
look upon us in our present need.
Consider that we too are poor, weak, and without earthly resources.
We cast ourselves upon the infinite mercy of Divine Providence,
and place our trust in thy pleading on our behalf.
We know that thou wilt obtain for us
an answer to our prayer,
a solution to our pressing plight
and, above all else,
the grace of entire abandonment to the adorable Will of God,
outside of which we desire nothing.

Resplendens Stella

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Here is a translation of the message our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI sent to the bishop of Avila, Spain, Mons. Jesús Garcia Burillo, on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the convent of Saint Joseph in Avila and the beginning of the Carmelite Reform. The subtitles and commentary in italics are my own. I dedicate my own little commentary to my dear friend here in Ireland, Father John of Jesus Hogan, a true son of Saint Teresa.

To the Venerable Brother

Monsignor Jesus GARCIA BURILLO
Bishop of Avila

What is a Saint?

1. Resplendens stella. "A star that would give of itself great splendor" (Book of Life, 32, 11). With these words the Lord encouraged Saint Teresa of Jesus to found in Avila the convent of Saint Joseph, beginning of the reform of Carmel, whose 450th anniversary will be observed next August 24. On the occasion of this happy circumstance, I wish to unite myself to the joy of the beloved Avila diocese, of the Order of Discalced Carmelites, of the People of God on pilgrimage in Spain and of all those in the universal Church who have found in Teresian spirituality a sure light to discover that man obtains the true renewal of life through Christ. Enamored of the Lord, this illustrious woman wished to please Him in everything. In fact, a saint is not one who carries out great feats based on the excellence of his human qualities, but one who allows Christ to penetrate his soul, to act through his person, He being the real protagonist of all their actions and desires, who inspires every initiative and sustains every silence.

"A saint is not one who carries out great feats based on the excellence of his human qualities, but one who allows Christ to penetrate his soul." Christ alone is the life of the soul. Saint Teresa of Jesus is not a private possession of Carmel, nor is she a treasure held in reserve for a select few; she is a gift to the whole Church Catholic. Her message brings fire and light to Benedictines as much as to her own Carmelite sons and daughters. Blessed Abbot Marmion, for example, quotes Saint Teresa often and refers to her teaching. I find it especially significant that the Holy Father writes that Christ sustains every silence in the life of His saints. A silence sustained by Christ cannot but be the silence created by the Word, the silence of unitive love, the silence of adoration, and the silence of repose in the bosom of the Father.

The Friendship of Christ

2. To let oneself be led by Christ in this way is possible only for one who has an intense life of prayer. In the words of the Saint of Avila, this consists of "friendship, being very often alone with Him whom we know loves us" (Book of Life 8, 5). The reform of Carmel, whose anniversary fills us with inner joy, was born of prayer and tends to prayer. On promoting a radical return to the original Rule, moving away from the mitigated Rule, Saint Teresa of Jesus wished to foster a way of life that favored a personal encounter with the Lord, for which it is necessary "to be in solitude and to gaze at Him within oneself, and not to be surprised by such a good guest" (Way of Perfection 28, 2). The convent of Saint Joseph was born precisely so that her daughters would have the best conditions to find God and establish a profound and intimate relationship with Him.

The friendship of Christ is a theme dear to the heart of Pope Benedict XVI. He returns to it again and again. For this friendship to develop there must be not only silence, but also solitude. Monastic life in all its expressions is ordered to the "heart-to-heart and face-to-face" encounter with Christ. All monastic life is "born of prayer and tends to prayer." For the Carmelite, the privileged form of this prayer will be oraçion; for the Benedictine it will be the choral celebration of the Divine Office, and lectio divina, and in Silverstream Priory, adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament. In every monastery the focus must be on creating and sustaining "the best conditions to find God and establish a profound and intimate relationship with Him."

Strong Friends of God

3. Saint Teresa proposed a new way of being a Carmelite in a world which was also new. Those were "harsh times" (Book of Life 33, 5). And in such times, said this Teacher of the spirit, it is necessary "to be strong friends of God to support the weak" (Ibid., 15, 5). And she insisted eloquently: "The world is burning, they want to sentence Christ again, they want to knock down his Church. No, my Sisters, it is not the time to treat with God matters of little importance"! (Way of Perfection 1, 5). Is not this luminous and challenging reflection, made more than four centuries ago by the mystic Saint, familiar to us in the circumstance in which we are living?

These too are harsh times for Christ and for His Church, especially here in Ireland. Strong friends of God are indeed needed to support the weak; the wonder of God's condescending mercy is, however, that he chooses his strongest friends among the weakest of all. The grace of Christ is deployed in weakness, and the strength of Christ shines most brightly in those marked by infirmity and failure in the eyes of the world.

Genuine Personal and Ecclesial Reform

The ultimate end of the Teresian Reform and of the creation of new convents, in the midst of a world lacking in spiritual values, was to protect with prayer the apostolic task; to propose a way of evangelical life that would be a model for those seeking the way of perfection, stemming from the conviction that all genuine personal and ecclesial reform is affected by reproducing increasingly in ourselves the "way" of Christ (cf. Galatians 4:19). The Saint and her daughters had no other commitment. Neither did her Carmelite sons, who did no more than try "to advance in all the virtues" (Book of Life 31, 18). In this connection, Teresa wrote: Our Lord "appreciates more a soul won, through his mercy, by our industry and prayer than all the services we can render Him" (Book of the Foundations, 1, 7). In face of forgetfulness of God the Holy Doctor encouraged praying communities, which with their prayer protect those proclaiming the Name of Christ everywhere, supplicating for the needs of the Church, and taking to the Savior's heart the clamor of all peoples.

The agenda promoted by the ACP in Ireland, and by similar groups elsewhere, is fatally flawed in its principles, its means, and its goals. The true reformers of the Church begin with the reform of themselves in prayer and in the cultivation of the virtues. Reform is the fruit of prayer, of suffering, and of union with the oblation of Christ, Priest and Victim, by whose intercession the Holy Spirit falls anew upon the Church to purify her in the living flame of love. Curiously, the method and discourse of the ACP bears all the marks of the Americanist movement condemned by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical, Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae.

The Heart of the Apostolate

4. Today also, as in the 16th century, amid rapid transformations, it is necessary that confident prayer be at the heart of the apostolate, so that the message of the Redeemer Jesus Christ will resound with crystal clarity and forceful dynamism. It is urgent that the Word of life vibrate harmoniously in souls, with sonorous and attractive notes.

"In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love" wrote Saint Teresa's worthiest daughter, Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face. Dom Chautard, O.C.S.O., writing of the same reality, called it The Soul of the Apostolate. Without confident prayer no one can do anything of enduring value. In his Prologue to the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict enjoins his monks to begin every good work with a most instant prayer. Persevering and humble prayer is the wellspring of apostolic fecundity.

Christ: The Only Way to Attain the Glory of God

In this passionate task, the example of Teresa of Avila is of great help to us. We can affirm that, in her time, the Saint evangelized without lukewarmness , with ardor that was never extinguished, with methods that were far removed from inertia, with expressions radiant all around with light. This keeps all its freshness in the present circumstance, centered also following the dictate of the Avila mystic, on contemplation of the Most Sacred Humanity of Christ as the only way to attain the glory of God (cf. Book of Life 22, 1; The Abodes [Las Moradas] 6, 7). Thus genuine families will be able to be formed, which discover in the Gospel the fire of their abode, living and united Christian communities, cemented on Christ as their cornerstone and thirsting for a life of fraternal and generous service. Also to be desired is that incessant prayer promote the urgent cultivation of vocational pastoral care, stressing particularly the beauty of consecrated life, which must be properly supported as the treasure that it is of the Church, as torrent of Graces, both in its active as well as in its contemplative dimension.

"Contemplation of the Most Sacred Humanity of Christ is the only way to attain the glory of God." This was the teaching of Saint Paul before it became that of Saint Teresa: "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus" (2 Cor 4:6). This too is the teaching of the whole Benedictine tradition beginning with Saint Benedict and Saint Gregory, and continuing through Saint Anselm, Saint Bernard, Saint Gertrude and a host of other saints and mystics including Ireland's own Blessed Columba Marmion.

Friends of the Master, Putting Nothing Before His Love

The strength of Christ will also lead to redoubling initiatives so that the people of God recover their vigor in the only way possible: making room in our interior for the sentiments of the Lord Jesus (cf. Philippians 2, 5), seeking in every circumstance a radical living of his Gospel. This means, above all, to allow the Holy Spirit to make us friends of the Master and to configure us with Him. It also means accepting his mandate in everything, and adopting in ourselves criteria such as humility in conduct, giving up the superfluous, not wronging others, acting with simplicity and lowliness of heart. Thus, those around us will perceive the joy that stems from our adherence to the Lord, putting nothing before his love, always being ready to give a reason for our hope (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) and living, as Teresa of Jesus, in filial obedience to our Holy Mother the Church.

Our thoroughly Benedictine Pope could not resist quoting Saint Benedict here: "Thus, those around us will perceive the joy that stems from our adherence to the Lord, putting nothing before his love, always being ready to give a reason for our hope." The wisdom of the saints cannot be divided into closed academies. The friends of the Master are also friends among themselves, humbly receiving a diversity of gifts from the Lord, and sharing His gifts across time, and place, language, and culture. Saint Teresa emphasized filial obedience to the Church; any movement of reform that does not bear the mark of filial obedience to the Church comes not from the Spirit of God but from the spirits of darkness and confusion who ceaselessly incite men to rebelliousness, pride, and disobedience.

Totally to Jesus, Only to Jesus and Always to Jesus

5. We are invited today to that radicalism and fidelity by this illustrious daughter of the diocese of Avila. Taking up her beautiful legacy, at this moment of history, the Pope calls all the members of that particular Church, but in an intimate way young people, to take seriously the common vocation to sanctity. Following in Teresa of Jesus' footprints, allow me to say to those who have the future before them: aspire also to belong totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus. Fear not to tell Our Lord as she did: "I am yours, for you I was born, what do you want me to do?" (Poem 2). And I ask Him to enable you to respond to his calls illumined by divine grace, with "determined determination," to offer the "little" that is in you, trusting that God never abandons those who leave everything for His glory (cf. Way of Perfection 21, 2; 1, 2).

The Holy Father provides young people with the perfect prayer of vocational discernment: "I am yours, for you I was born, what do you want me to do?" One who makes this prayer sincerely will aspire to belong "totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus." In much contemporary promotional material for religious vocations it is precisely this that is conspicuously absent: "totally to Jesus, only to Jesus and always to Jesus."

The Most Holy Virgin and Saint Joseph

6. Saint Teresa knew how to honor the Most Holy Virgin with great devotion, whom she invoked under the sweet name of Carmel. I place under her maternal protection the apostolic endeavors of the Church in Avila so that, rejuvenated by the Holy Spirit, she will find the appropriate ways to proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm and courage. May Mary, Star of evangelization, and her chaste spouse Saint Joseph intercede so that the "star" that the Lord lighted in the universe of the Church with the Teresian reform, will continue to radiate the great brilliance of the love and truth of Christ to all men.

Just as the Word of God became flesh by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and under the protection of Saint Joseph, so too will the rejuvenation of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, take place by the Holy Spirit, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary and under the protection of Saint Joseph. Wheresover the Blessed Virgin Mary is present, there one will find newness of life, and a shining star to guide one in the darkness of the night.

With this yearning, Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, I send you this message, which I pray you to make known to the flock entrusted to your pastoral vigilance, and very especially to the beloved Discalced Carmelites of the convent of Saint Joseph of Avila, that they may perpetuate in time the spirit of their Founder, and of whose fervent prayer for the Successor of Peter I have grateful certainty. To them, to you and to all the faithful of Avila I impart with affection the Apostolic Blessing, pledge of copious heavenly favors.

Vatican, July 16, 2012



This is the view tonight from my window at the Monastère Sainte-Anne-de-Montmahoux in France. Although I planned to remain until Friday, I received news this morning of the death in County Leitrim of my dear old Cousin John McKeon. I last saw John on the occasion of his 89th birthday only a few weeks ago. I am John's next-of-kin in Ireland, and so must return there tomorrow to make arrangements for his funeral and burial. I would ask the readers of Vultus Christi to say a prayer for the happy repose of his soul.

Meeting the Saints

How and when did Saint Benedict come into my life? He was not among the saints whom I came to know as a small boy in my parish church. Little children readily engage with images. The statues that graced my parish church -- I can still see them in my mind's eye from left to right -- were of Saint Anthony of Padua, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Patrick, Our Blessed Lady, the Sacred Heart, Saint Joseph, Saint Thérèse, and Saint Anne. There were five stained glass windows: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Stigmatization of Saint Francis. These were the images that, at a very early age, drew me into the mysteries of the faith, bringing heaven very close to earth, and making it possible for me to hold conversation with the saints in glory.

Enter Abbot Marmion

Saint Benedict came into my life when I was about fifteen years old. The monastic ideal had already laid hold of my soul, and my search was well underway. Visiting Saint Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts, U.S.A., I was introduced to Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, by Blessed Abbot Columba Marmion. Heavy reading for a fifteen year old in the torment of the 1960s! I remain grateful to Father Marius Granato for putting Dom Marmion's classic into my hands, It was in Christ, the Ideal of the Monk that I came to know Saint Benedict in the best way possible: by coming to know his Holy Rule.

Saint Benedict and the Holy Rule

Blessed Abbot Marmion and Saint Benedict joined me on my journey, then, at the same time. I still remember the fire that burned in my heart as I turned the pages of Christ, the Ideal of the Monk, and received the impression of its teaching, like letters engraved on a clean wax tablet. In reading Saint Benedict, as transmitted by Blessed Abbot Marmion, I could almost hear the sound of the Master's voice. The Rule began to fascinate me and to fashion me. For me, as for Bossuet, it was un mystérieux abrégé de l'Évangile, "a mysterious abridgment of the Gospel".

Stormy Years

By the time I had turned eighteen -- a mere three years later -- I had resolved to become a monk, a son of Saint Benedict. These were, of course, frightfully stormy years in the Church: not at all a good time for a young man desirous of engaging with an ideal in all its shining purity. The very things that I thrilled to discover in my reading were, at the same time, being contested and rejected by those to whom they had been given in heritage.

The storms unleashed in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and by the tumultuous events of 1968, tore through the cloisters of nearly every monastery in North America and, in so doing, tore through the very hearts of those who dwelt in them. One had the impression that nothing was absolute, nothing immutable, nothing sacred. The tyranny of relativism replaced the tyrannies of legalism and rubricism that the reformers decried so bitterly. Things happened and attitudes prevailed that were in no way compatible with the vocation that Thomas Merton had described so eloquently in The Silent Life.

Stranger in Babylon

These years corresponded, as well, with the emergence of the charismatic renewal among Catholics. It was, as I remember it, rather Protestant in ethos and in sensibility. While I saw many souls opened to a deeper experience of prayer, I saw just as many distance themselves from the sacraments, from the liturgy in all its richness, and from devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady. (Some of these elements later came back into focus in charismatic circles.) Having found my soul's true voice in Gregorian Chant as a small boy, and having been nourished from my adolescence on the Divine Office in English, and on Pius Parsch's The Church's Year of Grace, the experience of the charismatic renewal left me feeling like a stranger in Babylon. I was far more interested in the grace that, for me, seeped out of the antiphons at First Vespers of a particular feast than in what I experienced at prayer meetings. It was all very disconcerting.

The Threshold Once Crossed

At nineteen I had my first experience of Benedictine life, completing a novitiate of two years, wrestling, like Jacob, with angels in the night, and humbled by recurrent health problems. During that time my love for Saint Benedict and the Holy Rule grew exponentially. It was clear, in spite of all the halts and detours, that Saint Benedict had taken me into his family, that he recognized me as his son, and that he would not abandon me.


All these many years later, I can say that Saint Benedict has been a patient companion and loving father through my life. Amidst the choices, changes, and challenges that have marked my route, one phrase from the Holy Rule, the last of the Instruments of Good Works in Chapter IV has kept me on course: Never to despair of the mercy of God. For this alone I am grateful to Saint Benedict this evening, and for this I hope to thank him one day in paradise.

Saint Romuld

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Troparion of Saint Rumold

Having come from the mists of green Ireland,
to scatter the mists of impiety,
thou didst evangelize, O Father Rumold,
and didst receive the gift of miracles.
The wicked whom thou didst reproach
their misdeeds and their vices
in the end killed thy body,
but could not kill thy great soul,
which God received into the bosom of Abraham.

Ancient Collect

May the glorious intercession of the blessed Rumold,
Thy bishop and martyr, O Lord,
drawn down upon us the favour of Thy majesty,
so that our ceaseless faults of weakness
may be covered by his unceasing prayer.

From Dublin to the Continent

We commemorate today Saint Rumold (or Rumbold), sometime Bishop of Dublin. He is one of the multitude of Irish saints who left their homeland to labour for Christ in continental Europe. At an early age Saint Rumold renounced the world and its vanities to follow Christ in voluntary poverty, in chastity, humility, and persevering prayer.

Evangelization and Contemplation

Tradition has it that he served God in Ireland until a powerful inspiration from on high compelled him to journey as a missionary to the idolators of the Brabant region of Belgium. Having received the Apostolic Blessing in Rome, he was sent forth as a missionary bishop without a fixed see. Periodically, Saint Rumold withdrew into solitude and silence so as to immerse himself in the love of God, and so renew his holy zeal for souls.

A Denouncer of Vice

On 24 June 775, the feast of Saint John the Baptist, Rumold was murdered by two wicked men, one of whom was a depraved adulterer whom he had called to conversion of life. His body was thrown into a river and, according to the Collect of the feast, miraculously recovered after three days. His relics are in the cathedral of Mechlin (Malines).

In the Liturgy

The feast of St. Rumold was celebrated as a double festival with an office of nine lessons throughout the province of Dublin before the reformation. It was extended to the whole Kingdom of Ireland in the year 1741.

Yesterday's Antiphons

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Yesterday, in the traditional calendar, was the Commemoration of Saint Paul, a way of giving the Doctor of the Gentiles equal honour with Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. Whereas the antiphons of June 29th focused on Saint Peter, yesterday's antiphons focused on Saint Paul. I had great joy in singing them at Lauds. They give one an unshakeable hope in the all-sufficient grace of Christ.

Ant. I have planted, * Apollos watered, but God gave the increase, alleluia.

God gave Paul the seed that he planted: the living seed of the Word. "So shall my word be, which shall go forth from my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall do whatsoever I please, and shall prosper in the things for which I sent it." (Is 55:11). God gave Apollos the water by which he watered that seed. "You shall draw waters with joy out of the saviour's fountains" (Is 12:3). Finally, God gave the increase. So it is in all our undertakings. God works for us, in us, through us, and by us, as He works in all things turning them to the good of those who love Him. "We know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints" (Rom 8:28).

Ant. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory * in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

To glory in one's infirmities is to open them wide to the grace of Christ. Our Lord deploys His virtus -- HIs divine power -- in the arena of one's infirmities. Infirmities of body, mind, or spirit, are no obstacle to holiness, provided that one surrenders them to Christ. He enters them like a warrior to claim them for Himself. There is no infirmity -- no weakness, brokenness, or personal history -- in which the power of Christ cannot be unleashed to the greater joy of the Church and the greater glory of the Father.

Ant. The grace of God * which was bestowed upon me was not in vain, but his grace abideth ever in me.

The grace of God is the source of all fecundity. Where the grace of God is welcomed there remains nothing sterile, nothing cold, nothing lifeless. "I am come," says the Lord, "that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly" (Jn 10:10). In Christ, Saint Paul was fully alive, and this to the point of spiritual generativity. He call the Galatians, "my little children, of whom I am in labour again, until Christ be formed in you" (Gal 4:14). To the Corinthians he writes: "In Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you" (1 Cor 4:15).

Ant. In Damascus * the governor under Aretas the king was desirous to apprehend me ; by the brethren in a basket was I let down by the wall, and so escaped I his hands, in the Name of the Lord.

The fourth antiphon makes it clear that no one, not even the great Apostle of the Nations, can dispense with the help of the brethren. It was "the brethren" who planned and carried out Paul's escape from Damascus. The humble man will accept the care of the brethren. He will trust them to the point of allowing himself to be lowered over a wall in a basket! He who would minister alone, refusing the ministrations of others, remains a prisoner.

Ant. Thrice was I beated with rods, once was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, for the Name of Christ

Suffering is inherent to the Christian life. While some are called to endure great sufferings in the public eye, most of us are called to bear with little sufferings in the hiddenness of what Saint Thérèse called "the little way." Mingled into the Passion and Death of Christ as the drop of water is mingled into the wine of the chalice, the sufferings of ordinary folk, especially those sufferings that are hidden from the eyes of the world, become a participation in the Sacrifice of the Cross.

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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