Saints: April 2013 Archives

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In the following passage from The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena with the Eternal Father, God the Father addresses the clergy wallowing in sin. He contrasts the body of the priest with the Body of Christ. Notice how the text echoes the Reproaches (Improperia) of the Good Friday liturgy. "I did this for you . . . and you have done this in return." The focus on the wounds of Jesus and on His Precious Blood are characteristic of Saint Catherine.

The Flesh of the Priest, Anointed and Consecrated
O despicable, wretched man, not man but beast! That you should give your flesh, anointed and consecrated to Me, to prostitutes and worse! By the wounded Body of My only-begotten Son on the wood of the most holy cross, your flesh and that of the whole human race was healed of the wound Adam dealt it by his sin. O wretch! He honored you and you disgrace Him! He healed your wounds with His Blood, and more, He made you His minister, and you persecute Him with your lustful dishonorable sins! The Good Shepherd washed the little sheep clean in His Blood. But you defile those who are pure. You use your power to hurl them into the dung heap. You who ought to be a mirror of honor are a mirror of dishonor. You have yielded all your members to the works of wickedness, doing the opposite of what My Truth did for you.
The Eyes of the Priest
I allowed them to blindfold His eyes to enlighten you, and you with your lustful eyes shoot poisoned arrows into your own soul and the hearts of those you look on so miserably.
The Tongue of the Priest
I let them give Him vinegar and gall to drink, and you like a perverse beast find your pleasure in delicate foods, making a god of your belly. On your tongue are dishonorable empty words. It is your duty with that tongue to admonish your neighbors, to proclaim My word, and to say the Office with your heart as well as your tongue. But I smell nothing but filth coming from your tongue as you swear and perjure yourself as you were a swindling hoodlum, blaspheming me right and left.
The Hands of the Priest
I let them bind My Sons hands to free you and the whole of mankind from the bondage of sin, and anointed and consecrated your hands for the ministry of the Most Holy Sacrament, and you use your hands for wretched obscene touching. All the actions you express through your hands are corrupt and directed to the devil's service. O wretch! And I appointed you to such dignity so that you might serve Me alone--you and every other rational creature.

The following section is especially beautiful. The Father presents the Body of His Son as stairway leading to Himself. He speaks of the open Side of Jesus through which one sees His inmost Heart. The Heart of Jesus is a hostelry open to those who seek to taste the Father's unspeakable love.

The Feet of the Priest

I willed that my Son's feet should be nailed, and made His Body a stairway for you. I let them open His Side so that you might see His inmost Heart. I set Him like an open hostelry where you could see and taste My unspeakable love for you when you found and saw My divinity united with your humanity. There you see that I have made the Blood-- of which you are a steward for Me--to be a bath to wash away your sins. And you have made of your heart a temple for the devil! And your will, of which your feet are a symbol, you use to offer me nothing but filth and abuse. The feet of your will carry you nowhere except to the devil's haunts. So with your whole body you persecute My Son's Body by doing the opposite of what He did and what you and everyone else are bound and obligated to do.

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A Litany of Patrons

I am very happy that my parents christened me Mark Daniel, thereby giving me the patronage of both an evangelist and a prophet! At Confirmation I added the name of Saint Michael for the glorious Archangel, and my monastic patrons are the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint John the Evangelist, and Blessed Columba Marmion, with the title "of the Heart of Jesus." As far as I can determine, I am the first Mark in the family while being one of a very long line of Daniels.

Hastening to the Cross

Saint Mark's Gospel has been described as a "hastening to the Cross." It is Saint Mark who gives us the confession of faith of the centurion Saint Longinus, while Saint John tells us that the same centurion opened the side of Jesus with a lance. A link with the mystery of the Pierced Heart!

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Mark and Peter

Tradition calls Saint Mark the interpreter of Saint Peter; clearly the relationship between Peter and Mark was both strong and tender. Saint Peter calls Mark "his son"; (1 P 5:13), suggesting the gift and mystery of the Fisherman's spiritual fatherhood in Christ. Mark was a son to Peter. Personally, I find in this a compelling reason to look confidently to Peter and his successors, and to remain attached to Peter and to his successor today, Pope Francis. Mark laboured at Peter's side, preaching the Gospel in Rome before carrying it to Venice and then to Alexandria where he gave his life for Christ. To this day the Churches of Rome, Venice, and Alexandria rejoice in the protection of Saint Mark and seek his intercession.

Be Not in Doubt for I am with Thee

Some of you may remember the coat of arms of Blessed John XXIII as Patriarch of Venice. It bore the inscription: Pax tibi, Marce, evangelista meus, "Peace to you, Mark, my evangelist!" I have always taken comfort in these words. They are personal, a kind of message to the heart.

My great-great-grandmother, Edvige Maierotti Onoratelli, was Venetian and would have known this motto well; to this day it is displayed with Saint Mark's lion on the coat of arms and flag of Venice, La Serenissima. The text is not found in Sacred Scripture; it comes rather from the ancient Passion of Saint Mark, the account of his martyrdom. The story goes that on the day of Pascha, after singing Mass, Saint Mark was seized, a rope was attached to his neck, and he was dragged through the city of Alexandria until his blood ran upon the stones. After this, he was imprisoned. An angel came to comfort him, and after the angel, the Lord Jesus himself came to visit and comfort Mark, saying, "Peace be to thee, Mark, my evangelist! Be not in doubt for I am with thee and shall deliver thee." The following day Mark was put to death, thanking God, and repeating the words of the Crucified: "Into thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit" (cf. Lk 23:46).

Saint Mark the Preacher

The word "preaching" occurs in each of the three Proper prayers of the Mass of Saint Mark: the Collect, the Prayer Over the Oblations (Secret), and the Postcommunion. Mark was an Evangelist, not only as a writer of the second Gospel, but also as a preacher, spending himself, pouring himself out for Christ. In the Collect we beg for the grace to "deepen his teaching." The Latin text says proficere which means to gain ground or to advance. This is what lectio divina is all about: gaining ground in the Gospel, penetrating ever more deeply the inexhaustible riches of the Word.

Perseverance

In the Prayer Over the Oblations we ask that the Church may "ever persevere in preaching the Gospel." The Church, like Saint Mark in his passion, needs the comforting presence of Christ who says, "Be not in doubt for I am with thee," and she has that comforting presence always in the mystery of the Eucharist. The words of Christ to Saint Mark echo those given us in today's Communion Antiphon: "Behold, I am with you always, even to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20).

The Eucharist: Christ in Us

In the Postcommunion, we ask that what we have received from the altar may "sanctify us, and make us strong in the faith of the Gospel preached by Saint Mark." This prayer instructs us on the dynamic relationship between the altar and the ambo or, if you will, between the Most Holy Eucharist and the Gospel. We ordinarily think of the preaching of the Gospel as sending us to the altar, and preparing our hearts for the Holy Sacrifice, and rightly so. But the Postcommunion suggests something else as well. The Most Holy Eucharist fulfills what the Gospel announces: the mystery of holiness, that is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27).

The Most Holy Eucharist makes us strong in the faith of the Gospel; it is our viaticum, food for the journey of faith, a remedy for every infirmity. The seed sown by holy preaching is made fruitful by the mysteries of Christ's Body and Blood. Take away the altar, and the ambo stands in a void. The altar is the guarantee of that abiding presence of the comforting Christ who says to each of us today, as to Saint Mark, "Peace be to thee. . . . Be not in doubt, for I am with thee and shall deliver thee."

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

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Buon compleanno, caro santo Padre Benedetto!

April 16th is the 86th birthday of dear Pope Benedict XVI. He has the same age as my own father, something that always made me feel especially close to him. Joseph Ratzinger was born on April 16, 1927. It was Holy Saturday. He was baptized on the same day. One-hundred-forty-four years earlier, on April 16, 1783 a poor man, who prayed always, died in Rome. His name: Benedict Joseph Labre. It is strange and wonderful that a man named Joseph, born on the feast of Saint Benedict Joseph, should take the name Benedict upon his election to the papacy. It is as if a providential indication of his destiny had been given from the beginning.

A Pilgrim

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, born on March 26, 1748 in northern France, exemplifies a very particular kind of holiness found in both East and West. He was a wanderer who prayed ceaselessly, a pilgrim walking from one holy place to another, a fool for Christ.

A Misfit

As a young man, Benedict Joseph made a number of unsuccessful attempts at monastic life. He tried his vocation with the Trappists, with the Cistercians, and with the Carthusians, but, in every instance, after a few months or a few weeks, he was rejected as being unsuitable. Benedict Joseph was endearing in his own way. He was a gentle young man, tortured by scruples of conscience, and sensitive. He was completely honest, humble, candid, and open. He was cheerful. But, for all of that, he was a misfit. There was an oddness about him. He was drawn irresistibly to monastic life and, at the same time, rejected from every monastery in which he tried his vocation.

The Road

When he was twenty-two years old, Benedict Joseph left the Abbey of Sept-Fons, still wearing his Cistercian novice's habit, with a rosary around his neck, and a knapsack on his back. His only possessions, apart from the clothes he wore, were his two precious rosaries, a New Testament, a Breviary for reciting the Divine Office, and The Imitation of Christ.

The Divine Office

I have always found Benedict Joseph's attachment to the Divine Office wonderfully compelling. Deprived of choir and choir-stall, of sonorous abbey bells calling to prayer at regular intervals, and of the support of chanting in unison with others, Saint Benedict Joseph carried the Hours into the highways and byways of Europe, into the shadows of the Roman Colosseum, into humble parish churches, and into the occasional barns where he rested upon the hay. His love for the Divine Office made him a worthy namesake of the great Patriarch who ordered, "that nothing be put before the Work of God."

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There was a similar love for the Divine Office among the joyful, homespun sort of folks who belonged to the forward-looking lay movements of the post-war period: The Catholic Worker, Madonna House, the Grail Girls, the Legion of Mary, and the leading people in the Catholic Rural Life Conference in the United States. The breviary, in one of the many attractive presentations available during that time, was deemed indispensable to a thriving Catholic life. I remember Adé Béthune telling me how she and her young friends, working as apprentices in the John Stevens stone carving business in Newport, Rhode Island, would interrupt their labours, morning and evening, to say Prime and Compline . . . in Latin! They were Benedictine Oblates.

Catholics of the pre-conciliar 1950s discovered the Divine Office and savoured it like a new wine, capable of rejoicing souls with a kind of sober inebriation in the Holy Spirit: Christ the Head praying in His members. The magnificent Collegeville Short Breviary,, complete with notes by Pius Parsch; The Little Breviary originally edited in The Netherlands; Frank Duff's abridged Breviary for members of the Legion of Mary; and the Collegeville edition of Lauds, Vespers, and Compline were among the more popular editions in circulation.

I would guess that the inroads of the Charismatic Movement had something to do with the abandonment of the Divine Office among ordinary work-a-day Catholics. Later editions of the "Liturgy of the Hours" were poor in content and in presentation. They failed to enchant and captivate souls the way earlier editions of the Divine Office had.

I rather suspect that if The Liturgical Press (Collegeville) were to re-issue the classic Short Breviary today, it would mark a renaissance of authentic liturgical prayer, but I digress.

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Saint Benedict Joseph visited the shrine of Our Lady of Einsieldeln in Switzerland.

Bound to God Alone

Walking all the way to Rome, begging as he went, Saint Benedict Joseph became a vagabond bound to God alone, a pilgrim vowed to ceaseless prayer. He walked from one shrine to another, visiting the Holy House of Loreto, Assisi, Naples, and Bari in Italy. He made his way to Einsiedeln in Switzerland, to Paray-le-Monial in France, and to Compostela in Spain. Saint Benedict Joseph lived on whatever people would give him, and readily shared what little pittance he had. He observed silence, praying constantly. He was mocked, abused, and treated like a madman. Cruel children pelted him with garbage and stones.

Rome

After 1774, apart from an annual pilgrimage to the Madonna at the Holy House of Loreto, Benedict Joseph remained in the Eternal City. At night he would sleep in the Colosseum. During the day he would seek out those churches where the Forty Hours Devotion was being held, so as to be able to adore the Blessed Sacrament exposed. So striking was his love for the Blessed Sacrament that the Romans came to call him "the beggar of Perpetual Adoration." He was graced with a profound recollection in church. More than once he was observed in ecstasy, ravished into the love of God and shining with an unearthly light. It was on one of these occasions that the artist Antonio Cavallucci painted the beautiful portrait of Saint Benedict Joseph that allows us, even today, to see his handsome face illumined by union with God.

The Death of a Saint

On April 16, 1783 Benedict Joseph collapsed on the steps of the Church of Santa Maria dei Monti. It was the Wednesday of Holy Week. He was carried to a neighbouring house where he received the last sacraments, and died. He was thirty-five years old. No sooner did news of his death reach the streets than a huge throng gathered crying, "È morto il santo! -- The saint is dead!" Benedict Joseph was buried beneath the altar in a side chapel of Santa Maria dei Monti. I have gone there to pray, and knelt before the life-sized sculpture in marble that depicts him in the repose of a holy death.

Miracles

Benedict Joseph Labre was dead but a few months when more than 136 miraculous healings were attributed to his intercession. Present in Rome at the time of his funeral was an American Protestant clergyman from Boston, The Reverend John Thayer. The experience of Benedict Joseph's holy death converted Thayer. He was received into the Catholic Church, ordained to the priesthood, and died in Limerick, Ireland in 1815.

This is the prayer to which The Reverend John Thayer attributed his conversion to Catholicism:

Almighty and eternal God, Father of mercy, Saviour of mankind, I humbly intreat thee by thy sovereign goodness, to enlighten my mind, and to touch my heart, that by true faith, hope and charity I may live and die in the true Religion of Jesus Christ. I am sure that as there is but one true God; so there can be but one faith, one religion, one way of salvation, and that every other way which is opposite to this, can only lead to endless misery. It is this faith, O my God, which I earnestly desire to embrace, in order to save my soul. I protest therefore before thy divine Majesty, and I declare by all thy divine attributes, that I will follow that Religion which thou shalt shew me to be true; and that I will abandon, at whatever cost, that in which I shall discover error and falsehood : I do not deserve, it is true, this favour on account of the greatness of my sins, for which I have a profound sorrow because they offend a God so good, so great, so holy and worthy of my love; but what I do not deserve, I hope 'to obtain from thy infinite mercy, and I conjure thee to grant through the merits of the precious blood which was shed for us poor sinners by thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Intercessions

Father John Thayer's remarkable conversion and the witness of countless other miracles and graces attributed to Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, make me bold in presenting to him my own list of intentions and needs. And I invite you, dear reader, to add your intentions and needs to mine.

I, first of all, recommend to the intercession of Saint Benedict Joseph, our beloved Holy Father emeritus, who bears both his names: Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, eighty-six years ago today.

I ask the powerful intercession of Saint Benedict Joseph for all who suffer from depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other forms of emotional and mental illness.

I ask his intercession for a revival of liturgical prayer among ordinary Catholic laity, and for the world-wide extension of silent adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

I present to Saint Benedict Joseph Silverstream Priory. Were he to knock at our door, I would probably, after a few weeks or months, be obliged to suggest, as did so many others, that his place might be elsewhere. He would, however, take comfort, I think, as do I, in this excerpt from our Constitutions:

The real stability of the monk is both inward and ecclesial, insofar as it is fixed in the Sacred Host, that is, in Jesus Christ truly present as Priest and Victim upon the altars of the Church, whence He offers Himself to the Father as a pure oblation from the rising of the sun to its setting. Ubi Hostia, ibi Ecclesia.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, pray for us, that like you we may pass through this life as pilgrims, and as perpetual adorers, magnetized by the wondrous mystery of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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"Mary Magdalene went and said to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'; and she told them that He had said these things to her." (John 20:18

Women Apostles

I am thinking, on this eve of the feast of the Divine Mercy, of four women raised up by the Spirit of God in the course of the last century to deliver a message to the Church. Each one prophesied the mystery of the Divine Mercy in her own language, using her own vocabulary, images, and unique feminine sensibility.

Two were French: Thérèse and Yvonne-Aimée; one was Spanish: Josefa Menendez; and one was Polish: Maria Faustina Kowalska. Two were humble laysisters charged with the lowliest tasks in their convents, all the while receiving the secrets of Heaven: Josefa and Faustina. One, Thérèse, was a young Carmelite hidden away in her cloister, and dreaming of doing great deeds for France (like Jeanne d'Arc), for missionaries, and for the salvation of sinners. And one, Yvonne-Aimée, was a heroine of the French resistance during World War II, a spiritual mother to priests, a divinely-inspired risk-taker for love for her Jesus, and a bold and prudent renovator of religious life.

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Our Lord to Sister Josefa Menendez (1890-1923)

"I am He Who forgives thee thy sins, Who wipes out thy offences, and Who sustains thy weakness! The greater is thy nothingness, the more My power upholds thee: I will enrich thee with My gifts, and if thou art faithful I will take sanctuary in thy heart and fly to it when sinners repudiate Me. I will rest in thee, and thou shalt have life in Me."
"If thou art an abyss of wretchedness, I am an abyss of sweetness and of mercy. My Heart is thy refuge, come there to seek all thou has need of; even such things aas I require at thy hands."
"Instead of looking at thy nullity, look at the power of My Heart that upholds thee and have no fear. I am thy strength and shall heal thy wounds."
"What canst thou fear from Me? Never question My love for thee, or the clemency of My Heart. Thy misery draws me to thee . . . without Me what art thou? Never forget that I am all the closer to thee, in proportion to thy lowliness."
"Never grieve overmuch at thy falls --cannot I make a saint of thee? I will seek thee out in thy nothingness to unite Myself to thee, only never refuse Me anything."
"The void and misery in thee are as magnets that attract My love to thee. Yield not to discouragement, for my Mercy is honoured in thy infirmity."

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Saint Faustina Before the Blessed Sacrament

In her quest for Divine Mercy for herself, for poor sinners, for priests, for the dying, and for the whole world, Saint Faustina knew where to go. She was drawn to the tabernacle: the dwelling and fountainhead of Divine Mercy.

O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the infinite price of mercy which will compensate for all our debts, and especially those of poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the fountain of living water which springs from infinite mercy for us, and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the fire of purest love which blazes forth from the bosom of the Eternal Father, as from an abyss of infinite mercy for us, and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the medicine for all our infirmities, flowing from infinite mercy, as from a fount, for us and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom is contained the union between God and us through His infinite mercy for us, and especially for poor sinners.
O Blessed Host, in whom are contained all the sentiments of the most sweet Heart of Jesus toward us, and especially poor sinners.
Saint Faustina's Aspirations to the Most Blessed Sacrament

Surrendering to Mercy

Thérèse was inspired to make her Oblation to Merciful Love on Sunday, June 9, 1895:

"In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!
Time is nothing in Your eyes, and a single day is like a thousand years. You can, then, in one instant prepare me to appear before You.
In order to live in one single act of perfect Love, I OFFER MYSELF AS A VICTIM OF HOLOCAUST TO YOUR MERCIFUL LOVE, asking You to consume me incessantly, allowing the waves of infinite tenderness shut up within You to overflow into my soul, and that thus I may become a martyr of Your Love, O my God!
May this martyrdom, after having prepared me to appear before You, finally cause me to die and may my soul take its flight without any delay into the eternal embrace of Your Merciful Love."

To Josefa, Our Lord said, "Believe in My love and in My mercy." Faustina has taught the world to say, "Jesus, I trust in Thee." And Yvonne-Aimée's miraculous little invocation has changed the lives of thousands: "O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy merciful goodness."

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No Limitations to Trust in My Mercy

"I feel somehow that the time is at hand when Your Infinite Mercy will come to our aid." Yvonne-Aimée after a Gestapo search during World War II
"Do you know?" Jesus said to me, "that there are souls that don't dare to think of Me as their best Friend and don't realize that My Heart is always waiting to receive them . . . I am pure Love and I find my happiness in knowing them close to Me and giving them My Love in full measure. . . . They should approach Me with humility and respect, but I also want them to think of Me as their Father and feel at ease with Me. Affection and childlike trust are what they need to talk to God and it saddens Me to see them come to Me almost suspiciously, in fear and trembling, when all I want is their love."
"My Mercy is infinite," Jesus said; "all souls can reach My Divine Heart and rise to whatever heights they wish within that Heart. I make no distinction between the innocent and the guilty -- the more they love Me, the dearer they are to Me. No soul will ever find limitations to its trust in My Mercy, for I want that trust to go on growing for ever . . ." Mother Yvonne-Aimée's Diary -- 1922


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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