Saints: November 2012 Archives

In My Gallery of Heavenly Heroes

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December 1st is the dies natalis of four holy priests who figure in my personal gallery of heavenly heroes.

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Saint Ralph Sherwin, Priest and Martyr, (1550-1 December, 1581)
Saint Edmund Campion, Priest and Martyr (1540-1 December 1581)

Saint Ralph Sherwin and Saint Edmund Campion were both martyred for the Catholic faith at Tyburn under Elizabeth I on 1 December, 1581.

The last words of Saint Ralph Sherwin were: Iesu, Iesu, Iesu, esto mihi Iesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, be to me a Jesus. For many souls this invocation has been a means to the ceaseless prayer of the heart.

The invocation is inscribed above the altar in the crypt chapel of Tyburn Convent of the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart in London.

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Blessed Charles de Jésus (de Foucauld), Priest and Martyr (1858-1 December 1916)

Blessed Charles de Jésus, the hermit of the Sahara, was martyred on 1 December 1916. The Prayer of Abandonment of Blessed Charles of Jesus has helped souls the world over to walk in the path of confidence and spiritual childhood.

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

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The Servant of God Jean-Edouard Lamy, Priest (1853-1 December 1931)

Père Lamy, a priest greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary and the founder of the Cistercian-inspired Congregation of the Servants of Jesus and Mary, died on 1 December 1931. Père Lamy touched countless souls, among them the French Catholic author Julian Green, and Jacques and Raïssa Maritain. Père Lamy used to say:

The Blessed Virgin can bring down the mercy of God on almost anything. What matters is to go on praying. The Blessed Virgin offers our prayers to God. She touches them up. She makes them into something pleasing. She gilds them when they are only wretched tin pots. She is a rag-picker, divinely clever. . . . Prayer even made without great attention is none the less prayer and our holy Mother finishes off what is lacking. . . . She is busy perpetually lessening our weakness before the face of God. What works in her is her kindness, her charity.

Towards Advent

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Late November Saints

The saints of these last days of the liturgical year incite us to look beyond the conditions of this present life and to set our hope on the things that God has prepared for us in "the holy city, new Jerusalem" (Ap 21:2), "what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived" (1 Cor 2:9).

Saint Cecilia of Rome

On the 22nd, Saint Cecilia was set before us: an icon of the Church, Virgin and Bride, "carrying the Gospel always on her heart and meditating therein day and night, talking with God in prayer" (Responsory).

Saint Columbanus

On the 24th, we monks remember Saint Columbanus, the Irish missionary monk who demonstrated that the search for God and zeal for the extension of His kingdom go hand in hand. Monastic implantations, be they ancient or new, are an indispensable part of the New Evangelization.

O God who, in Saint Columbanus,
wonderfully joined the work of evangelization
to the practice of the monastic life,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that through his intercession and example,
we may seek Thee above all things
and work to increase the number of those who believe.

Holy Martyrs of Vietnam

Also on the 24th the Church commemorates the Holy Martyrs of Vietnam, that "great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) put to death "for their testimony to Jesus and for the Word of God" (Ap 20:4).

Saint Sylvester Gozzolino, Abbot

Today, November 26th, marks the feast of Saint Sylvester, a holy Benedictine abbot of the thirteenth century who, according to legend, was shocked into a conversion of life while gazing into an open tomb.

All-merciful God,
who, when the holy abbot Sylvester
stood before an open grave,
called him from the vanity of perishable things
to a life of shining holiness in the wilderness,
we humbly entreat Thee
that, like him, we may prefer nothing to the love of Christ
and live, already in this world,
with our hearts fixed on the joys of heaven.

Death Daily Before One's Eyes

Saint Sylvester is well suited to these last days of November. Together with Saint Benedict, he calls us "to fear the Day of Judgment, to dread hell, to yearn for eternal life with all possible spiritual desire, and to keep death daily before one's eyes" (RB 4:44-46).

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Dies Irae

The feast of Saint Sylvester puts me in mind of the sequence of the Requiem Mass, the powerful and poignant Dies Irae. The place of the Dies irae in Western civilization is immense. For centuries, it has gripped the imaginations of poets, artists, and composers.

As a small boy I knew only the plainchant setting of the Dies Irae, from having heard it sung so frequently in my parish church. I often hummed it to myself, fascinated by its dramatic First Mode intervals. In 8th grade, however, I sang as a treble in Britten's stupendous War Requiem. The experience gave me quite another impression of the Dies Irae.

While in the traditional liturgy the Dies Irae continues to be sung in the Requiem Mass, the post-Conciliar reformed liturgy designates it for use in the Divine Office throughout the week immediately preceding the First Sunday of Advent. The Dies irae was originally composed for Advent, trumpeting the One who comes come to judge the world.

The Trump that Wakes the Dead

In Canto VI of his Lay of the Last Minstrel, Sir Walter Scott condenses the Dies irae into twelve lines. We do well to ponder them this week.

That day of wrath, that dreadful day,
When heaven and earth shall pass away,
What power shall be the sinner's stay?
How shall he meet that dreadful day?

When, shriveling like a parchèd scroll,
The flaming heavens together roll;
When louder yet, and yet more dread,
Swells the high trump that wakes the dead:

Oh, on that day, that wrathful day,
When man to judgment wakes from clay,
Be thou the trembling sinner's stay,
Though heaven and earth shall pass away.

Monks no longer have the custom of keeping an open tomb at the ready as the salutary destination of a daily stroll. We do well nonetheless to bend ourselves to the wisdom of Saint Benedict and the example of Saint Sylvester by "keeping death daily before our eyes." And we do well to ruminate the poetry of the Dies irae.

The Right Perspective

If anything, these practices will place all other things in the right perspective, disposing us to detachment, showing us how narrow and petty are the things that hold us in their grip. In the end, heaven and earth will pass away, but the words of Christ our Lord and merciful Judge will remain.

Cecilia

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Wishing a very blessed feastday to our Oblate sister Cecilia of Rome in Connecticut!

A Veiled Face

I never tire of looking at the statue of Saint Cecilia which lies over the tomb in her church in Rome’s Trastevere. Cecilia is lying on her side, looking almost as if she had been flung there. Her lovely face is hidden and her head is covered with the veil of virgins. The slash of the cruel blade across her neck is visible.

Faith

Even in death Cecilia declares her Catholic faith: the finger of one hand is extended, signifying her faith in the one true God. With three fingers of the other hand she confesses the Most Holy Trinity. Her knees are drawn up, making her look like a sleeping child. Her dress falls in graceful folds about her body. The whole composition is marked by purity and grace.

Found Incorrupt

In 1599, when Pope Clement VIII disinterred Saint Cecilia’s body, it was found to be incorrupt. The Pontiff engaged Stefano Maderno to carve Cecilia just as she was discovered. The artist inscribed his testimony on the statue’s base: “Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed for thee the same saint in the very same posture of body.”

A Masterpiece

Stefano Maderno was only twenty-three when he carved his Saint Cecilia; though he lived be forty, Saint Cecilia is his masterpiece. Reposing in death, Cecilia illustrates the truth of the psalmist’s words: “God gives to His beloved in slumber” (Ps 127:2).

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Thérèse

Maderno’s Saint Cecilia reminds me also of the young Thérèse Martin who lingered before it while on pilgrimage to Rome with her father in 1887. Later on, Thérèse was inspired to write this prayer:

Cecilia, lend to me thy melody most sweet:
How many souls would I convert to Jesus now.
I fain would die, like thee, to win them to His feet;
For him give all my tears, my blood. Oh, help me thou!
Pray for me that I gain, on this our pilgrim way
Perfect abandonment that sweetest fruit of love.
Saint of my heart! Oh, soon, bring me to endless day;
Obtain that I may fly, with thee, to heaven above!

April 28, 1893

The Nightingale of Helfta

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In Sinu Patris

In the monastic calendar today is the feast of Saint Mechtilde of Hakeborn. Known as "the nightingale of Helfta" for her beautiful voice, Saint Mechtilde was fascinated by what she called the cor Dei, the heart of God. The Beloved Disciple speaks of it in his Prologue: "No man has ever seen God; but now His only-begotten Son, who abides in the bosom of the Father, has brought us a clear message" (Jn 1:18). (The same theme of the Son abiding in sinu Patris -- in the bosom of the Father -- runs through all the writings of Blessed Abbot Marmion.) For Mechtilde, as for Saint Gertrude, her student and friend in the thirteenth century Abbey of Helfta, there was but one way into the bosom of the Father: through the pierced side of the Son. Both saints would have us know that the soul who desires to abide in the bosom of the Father must enter through "the narrow gate that leadeth to life" (Mt 7:14), that is, the sacred side of the Crucified, opened by the soldier's lance (Jn 19:24).

Clusters of Holiness

We keep the feast of Saint Mechtilde only a few days after that of Saint Gertrude (November 16th), the friend with whom she shared her quest for God and her experience of fruitful union with the Divine Bridegroom. This suggests that holiness, like grapes, grows in clusters. It pleases the Holy Spirit to communicate His graces from one heart to another. There are no saints in isolation. Saints Mechtilde and Gertrude were not alone in their passion for Christ. They burned with the same love for the Word of God. They hastened to the same abbey church, day after day, to exercise their baptismal priesthood by singing the monastic liturgy they so loved.

Laboring at Charity With Chaste Love

The holiness of Saints Mechtilde and of Gertrude flourished within a Eucharistic organism: a living body assembled by the Holy Spirit around one Altar, for the offering of one Victim, by one Priest. Their holiness flourished in a community of women who were not only mothers and sisters by virtue of the same monastic consecration, but also friends. For them, fraternal charity took on the very human expression countenanced by Saint Benedict in the Holy Rule: "making allowance for one another's weaknesses, whether physical or moral; laboring with chaste love at the charity of the brotherhood; loving their abbot with sincere and humble charity" (RB 72:5, 8, 10).

The Gift of Friendship in Christ

The monastery of Helfta, assisted by the friars of the mendicant Orders, radiated the charism of "friendship in Christ" well beyond its enclosure walls into the wider Church, giving holiness a human face. Friendship forged in the praise of God, in listening to His Word, and in partaking of the adorable Body and Blood of Christ from the same altar, is not the friendship of perfect agreement on all things, nor is it the friendship of sentimental attraction. It is, rather, a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Body of Christ, making the voice of the Body sweeter, and making the face of the Body lovelier. It creates a lasting bond among souls: the bond of a single-hearted passion for Christ.

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Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
+ 9 November 1906

Blessed Elizabeth's Elevation to the Most Holy Trinity, written by the young Carmelite on 21 November 1904, has touched thousands of souls. For many it is has opened the door of an interior life of adoration and of love.

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O my God, Trinity whom I adore; help me to forget myself entirely that I may be established in You as still and as peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing trouble my peace or make me leave You, O my Unchanging One, but may each minute carry me further into the depths of Your mystery. Give peace to my soul; make it Your heaven, Your beloved dwelling and Your resting place. May I never leave You there alone but be wholly present, my faith wholly vigilant, wholly adoring, and wholly surrendered to Your creative Action.
O my beloved Christ, crucified by love, I wish to be a bride for Your Heart; I wish to cover You with glory; I wish to love You...even unto death! But I feel my weakness, and I ask You to "clothe me with Yourself," to identify my soul with all the movements of Your Soul, to overwhelm me, to possess me, to substitute yourself for me that my life may be but a radiance of Your Life. Come into me as Adorer, as Restorer, as Savior.
O Eternal Word, Word of my God, I want to spend my life in listening to You, to become wholly teachable that I may learn all from You. Then, through all nights, all voids, all helplessness, I want to gaze on You always and remain in Your great light. O my beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may not withdraw from Your radiance.
O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, "come upon me," and create in my soul a kind of incarnation of the Word: that I may be another humanity for Him in which He can renew His whole Mystery.
And You, O Father, bend lovingly over Your poor little creature; "cover her with Your shadow," seeing in her only the "Beloved in whom You are well pleased."
O my Three, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to You as Your prey. Bury Yourself in me that I may bury myself in You until I depart to contemplate in Your light the abyss of Your greatness.

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Missionary Monk and Archbishop

Saint Willibrord, whom we remember today, was educated at the monastery of Ripon in England under the direction of Saint Wilfred. In the year 678 he went to a monastery at Clonmelsh (Garryhundon) in County Carlow, Ireland where he remained for twelve years and was ordained a priest. Pope Sergius consecrated him missionary archbishop of the Frisians in 695.

Fostering a Eucharistic Culture

Saint Willibrord's approach to evangelization needs to be rediscovered in our own day. What exactly did he do? First, he erected an altar. Over the altar he set up the cross. And around the altar and the cross he built a monastery, giving primacy to the praise of the Divine Majesty. Saint Willibrord preached the Gospel by modeling a society centred in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and by fostering a Eucharistic culture. This is the mission of every monastery: to illustrate what the family can be, and to demonstrate the fruitfulness of a culture of life rooted in the sacrificial love of the Most Holy Eucharist.

Winsome Saint Willibrord

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Energetic in Everything He Undertook for God

Saint Willibrord is the patron saint of The Netherlands. He was also a Benedictine, one of the companions of Saint Boniface and Saint Lioba in the English evangelization of Northern Europe. Alcuin, in his Life of Willibrord, describes him as "comely of face, cheerful in spirit, wise in counsel, pleasing in speech, grave in character and energetic in everything he undertook for God. Willibrord's ministry was one of zealous preaching shaped by the psalmody of the Hours and by the practice of lectio divina.

Willibrord Changes Water Into Wine

Alcuin relates a number of miracles performed by Saint Willibrord. I especially like one having to do with wine. It shows a fully human and compassionate Willibrord. On one occasion, Willibrord came with his companions to the house of a friend of his and wished to break the fatigue of the long journey by taking a meal there, but it came to his ears that the head of the house had no wine. He gave orders that four small flasks -- all that his companions carried with them for their needs on the journey -- should be brought to him. He blessed them in the name of Christ who at the marriage feast of Cana changed water into wine. After Willibrord's gracious blessing about forty people drank their fill from the small bottles. With great thanksgiving and joyful hearts, they said one to another: " The Lord Jesus has in truth fulfilled His promise in the Gospel: 'He who believes in me will do the deeds I do, and greater than these shall he do.'"

Plant the Cross and Build A Monastery Around It

Saint Willibrord illustrates for us, in this time of the New Evangelization, the enduring value of the monastic mission. To plant the Cross and to build a monastery around it remains, even today, an act of evangelization, an effective way of preaching the gospel. Monasteries open and monasteries close but wherever men and women truly seek God and prefer nothing to the love of Christ the seed of the Gospel is planted in the earth to bear a fruit that will abide (Jn 15:16).

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Here (once again) is the homily I preached in French five years ago at the Monastère Saint-Benoît in Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne, France. Richard Chonak's fine translation follows. Thank you, Richard.

« Voici le peuple immense de ceux qui t'ont cherché ».

Oui, Seigneur Jésus, tous ils ont cherché ton Visage.
Tous, ils ont pris à cœur cette parole
que ton Esprit Saint a fait chanter le roi prophète :
« Mon cœur t'a déclaré : je cherche le Seigneur. . .
c'est ta Face, Seigneur, que je rechercherai.
Ne détourne pas de moi ton Visage » (Ps 26, 8-9).

Tous, ils sont devenus miroirs vivants de ta Sainte Face,
selon ce que dit ton Apôtre :
« Et nous tous qui, le visage découvert,
réfléchissons comme en un miroir la gloire du Seigneur,
nous sommes transformés en cette même image,
toujours plus glorieuse,
comme il convient à l'action du Seigneur, qui est l'Esprit » (2 Cor 3, 18).

Seigneur Jésus, la beauté de la gloire de tes saints nous ravit
parce qu'elle est le reflet sur leurs visages de la beauté de la gloire de ta Face !
Aujourd'hui tu nous révèles,
aujourd'hui tu nous redis le secret de toute sainteté :
la recherche de ta Face.

À quiconque cherche ta Face, Seigneur Jésus, tu la révèles,
et celui à qui tu révèles ta Face ne peut que l'adorer.
Cette adoration de ta Sainte Face est transformante,
C'est toujours le roi prophète qui nous donne de chanter chaque nuit :
« Sur nous s'est imprimé, Seigneur, la lumière de ta Face » (Ps 4, 7).

Parmi tous ces visages illuminés par la beauté de ta Face,
il y a un visage qui rayonne d'une splendeur qui fait pâlir le soleil.
C'est le visage de ta Mère, la toute belle, la toute pure.
Tu es toute belle, ô Marie, car sur ton visage nous voyons
le reflet éblouissant de Celui
qui est « le resplendissement de la gloire du Père
et l'effigie de sa substance » (Hb 1, 3).

Toi, la reine de tous les saints,
tu es le signe grandiose qui apparaît dans le ciel :
la Femme revêtue du soleil,
ayant la lune sous ses pieds,
et portant une couronne sertie de douze étoiles.

Je dois vous avouer, chères sœurs,
que dès que nous avons chanté l'antienne du Magnificat aux premières vêpres,
j'ai compris que la foi d'Abraham restait, en quelque sorte, inachevée,
tant qu'elle n'a pas trouvé en Marie sa plénitude.
Les fils et les filles d'Abraham, plus nombreux que les étoiles du ciel,
sont tous sans exception aucune, fils et filles de Marie,
de celle qui a cru « en l'accomplissement de ce qui lui fut dit
de la part du Seigneur » (Lc 1, 45).

C'est Marie qui entraîne tous les saints dans le chant qui, un jour,
déborda de son Cœur immaculé :
« Le Puissant a fait pour moi des merveilles » (Lc 1, 49).
Voici le chant de tous les saints.
Chacun le reçoit des lèvres de Marie pour le reprendre à son tour »
chacun avec sa voix, chacun avec son accent,
chacun avec la mélodie que lui inspire le Saint-Esprit.
C'est cela ce grand bruit qui remplit le ciel ;
c'est le chant de Marie repris par le chœur des saints.

Et qui sont ces saints, tous enfants de Marie ?
Ils sont les bienheureux de l'évangile que vous venez d'entendre.
À chacun des béatitudes correspond cette parole de Jésus crucifié,
ce testament d'amour confié au disciple bien-aimé : « Voici ta Mère » (Jn 19, 27).

Il me faut donc dire :
Vous, les pauvres de cœur, voici votre Mère,
la Vierge des pauvres telle qu'elle s'est manifestée à Banneux,
la Reine des anawim, de ceux qui attendent tout de Dieu.

Vous, les doux, voici votre Mère,
Marie, la bonne agnelle,
celle dont la mansuétude dépasse celle du roi David,
celle dont a douceur apaise tous nos conflits et calme toutes nos tempêtes.

Vous qui pleurez, voici votre Mère,
celle que l'Église, riche de l'expérience de deux millénaires,
appelle Consolatrix Afflictorum, la Consolatrice des Affligés.

Vous qui avez faim et soif de la justice, voici votre Mère,
la Mère de l'Eucharistie,
celle qui a donné de son corps et de son sang
pour que, de son sein virginal, fécondé par la puissance du Saint Esprit,
soient offerts au monde entier le Corps et le Sang du Christ
pour vous rassasier.

Vous les miséricordieux, voici votre Mère,
celle que l'Église, dans ce chant sublime qui s'élève des monastères de par le monde entier tous les soirs, appelle Mater misericordiae.
Marie ne s'effraie point à la vue de vos misères.
Elle les prend toutes dans son Cœur pour les tremper
dans l'huile et dans le vin du Saint Esprit.

Vous les cœurs purs, voici votre Mère,
l'Immaculée, la toute belle, celle qui opère dans le cœur dans pécheurs
des merveilles de pureté et de candeur.

Vous les artisans de paix, voici votre Mère, Regina pacis,
celle qui n'a jamais oublié le chant angélique qui a fait tressaillir les étoiles
en la nuit où elle a mis au monde le Prince de la Paix :
« Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des cieux, et paix sur la terre
aux hommes qu'il aime » (Lc 2, 14).

Vous les persécutés pour la justice, voici votre Mère,
la Regina Martyrum, celle dont l'âme fut transpercée d'un glaive de douleur.
Elle s'est tenue debout près de la croix de son Fils.
Elle a sondé toutes les amertumes et,
avec son Enfant crucifié, a bu le calice que le Père leur avait présenté.

Vous les insultés et les calomniés, voici votre Mère,
celle qui, rayonnante d'amour et de vérité, éclairera tous vos chemins.
C'est elle qui soutient les martyrs.
Rien de ce que vous souffrez ne lui est étranger.

Vous qui êtes dans la joie,
vous qui jubilez d'allégresse, voici votre Mère,
la Causa nostrae laetitiae.
Votre joie est la sienne, et sa joie à elle,
elle la déverse à flots dans les cœurs de tous les saints
jusque dans les siècles des siècles.

Sainte Marie, Mère et Reine de tous les saints,
nous voulons, comme l'apôtre Jean,
te prendre dès maintenant chez nous,
pour que tu nous apprennes les béatitudes
dont tu es l'icône parfaite.
Fais nous goûter au bonheur de tous les saints.
Et maintenant, accompagne-nous à l'autel du Saint Sacrifice.
Un jour, nous l'espérons fermement,
tu seras là pour nous accueillir au banquet qui déjà nous est préparé au ciel,
celui des Noces de l'Agneau.
Amen.

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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