Saints: July 2013 Archives

Prayer of Saint Birgitta

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I have long taken comfort in this prayer of Saint Birgitta of Sweden. Saint Birgitta shares July 23rd with Saint John Cassian.

O Lord, make haste and illumine the night.
Say to my soul
that nothing happens without Thy permitting it,
and that nothing of what Thou permittest is without comfort.
O Jesus, Son of God,
Thou Who wast silent in the presence of Thy accusers,
restrain my tongue
until I find what should say and how to say it.
Show me the way and make me ready to follow it.
It is dangerous to delay, yet perilous to go forward.
Answer Thou my petition and show me the way.
As the wounded go to the doctor in search of aid,
so do I come unto Thee.
O Lord, give Thou peace to my heart.

The Woman Robed in Red

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Saint Mary Magdalen, the Apostle to the Apostles, is one of the patron saints chosen by Mother Mectilde for her Institute. For this reason, we Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration have a special devotion to Saint Mary Magdalen. The Responsory at Lauds is Tibi dixit cor meum: Quaesivi vultum tuum: "My heart has said to Thee: I have sought Thy Face" (Psalm 26, 8). Here is something I wrote eight years ago on this feast:

Woman of fire,
woman of desire,
woman of great passions
woman of the lavish gesture,
Mary of Magdala!

The icons show you robed in red,
covered in the blood of the Lamb,
a living flame, a soul set afire.
You are there at the foot of the Cross:
kneeling, bending low, crushed by sorrow,
your face in the dust.

You love,
but in that hour of darkness,
dare not look on the disfigured Face of Love.
It is enough that you are there,
brought low with Him,
Enough for you
the Blood dripping from His wounded feet,
Blood seeping into the earth
to mingle with your tears.

You seek Him on your bed at night,
Him whom your heart loves.
David's song is on your lips:
"Of You my heart has spoken: Seek his face.
It is Your face, O Lord, that I seek;
hide not Your face from me" (Ps 26:8-9).

His silence speaks.
His absence is a presence.
And so you rise to go about the city,
drawn out, drawn on by Love's lingering fragrance.
"Draw me, we will run after you, in the odour of your ointments" (Ct 1:3).

You seek Him by night
in the streets and broadways;
you seek Him whom your soul loves;
with nought but your heart's desire for compass.
You seek Him but do not find Him.

In this, Mary, you are friend to every seeker.
In this you are a sister to every lover.
In this you are close to us who walk in darkness
and wait in the shadows,
and ask of every watchman,
"Have you seen Him whom my soul loves?"

Guide us, Mary, to the garden of new beginnings.
Let us follow you in the night.
Wake our souls before the rising of the sun.
Weep that we may weep
and in weeping become penetrable to joy.

The Gardener waits,
the earth beneath His feet watered by your tears.
Turn, Mary, that with you we may turn
and, being converted,
behold His Face
and hear His voice
and, like you, be sent to say only this:
"I have seen the Lord" (Jn 20:18).

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Thank You to 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.

On 19 July 2011 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. 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.
Amen.

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When Saints Help Saints

I have long believed that saints, like the fruit of the vine, grow in clusters. The history of the saints in every age bears this out. Saint Vincent de Paul was no exception. He was in relation with a myriad of other holy souls of France's Grand Siècle, the age of what Henri Brémond called her "mystical invasion."

Saint Vincent de Paul

The ravages of The Thirty Years War in Mother Mectilde's native Lorraine stirred Saint Vincent de Paul to an active compassion. As soon as Monsieur Vincent was informed of the woes that we desolating the Lorraine, he moved quickly to collect offerings everywhere. He sent to this unfortunate country twelve of his missionaries to whom he joined some brothers of his Congregation, who had secrets to treat the plague and knew medicine and surgery.

Thus did Saint Vincent's Congregation of the Mission bring relief to those distressed by the war, those turned out of their homes and reduced to a miserable poverty.

Homeless Benedictines

In 1639 Mother Mectilde and her Benedictines were among the many refugees of the War in wandering from place to place in search of a home. One of Saint Vincent's priests, a certain Julien Guérin, sought to arrange for hospitality at the Abbey of Montmartre in Paris. The Lady Abbess of Montmartre refused to receive the homeless Benedictines professed to the same Rule as herself and the nuns of her great abbey; she argued that the admission of strangers into religious houses caused disorder, and that it was better to refuse the nuns hospitality than to have to turn them out later for unsuitable conduct.

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Pilgrimage to Benoîte-Vaux

Mother Mectilde was saddened but undaunted. Five leagues away from Saint-Mihiel, towards the city of Verdun, a little to the left of the course of the Meuse, there was valley made famous by the miraculous revelation of a statue of the Blessed Virgin to a group of lumberjacks, and by the manifestation of Angels singing Ave Maria. (Interesting detail: Had Mother Mectilde followed the Meuse north, she would have arrived in Tegelen in The Netherlands where her daughters have a monastery to this day.)

The sanctuary built on the spot was a place of pilgrimage. Mother Mectilde, together with two other nuns, set out on foot for the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Benoîte-Vaux on 1 August 1641. Upon arrival there, they entrusted their written petition to a Premonstratensian in attendance, who placed it on the altar. Prostrate at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mectilde and her companions spent the whole night imploring her protection and assistance. They heard Holy Mass and received Holy Communion at 4:00 in the morning on the second day of August; it was the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. With all possible fervour they recommended their sorry plight again to the Mother of God.

To Paris

When they returned to Saint-Mihiel, it was obvious to all whom saw Mother Mectilde and her two companions that they had received extraordinary graces; they seemed transfigured. Much later, Mother Mectilde let slip a few words that intimated that, in the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, Our Lady revealed to her God's designs on her life.

A few days later, a commissary of Monsieur Vincent, named Mathieu Renard, asked to see the prioress and, with no preliminaries, said, "I have come, Mother, to take two of your religious to Montmartre, I have orders to do this, and Madame the Duchess of Aiguillon has provided me with money for the journey."

What happened at Montmartre that caused the Abbess to have so complete a change of heart? On the very night that Mother Mectilde and her companions were praying at the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, the Lady Abbess of Montmartre woke up all of a sudden and summoned the two religious her slept in her bedchamber to look after her in illness. The Abbess was in a dreadful state of fright. She said that it seemed to her that she saw the Most Holy Virgin and her Divine Son reproaching her for her lack of hospitality to the poor homeless Benedictines in the Lorraine; they threatened her with a rigourous judgment should they, through her fault, perish in their misery and need. The next day the Abbess convened her senior religious; all agreed that they had to execute the manifest will of God.

Paris, Saint Louise de Marillac and Saint Vincent de Paul

Mother Mectilde and Mother Louise were chosen to go to Montmartre. They began their journey on 21 August and arrived in Paris on August 28, 1642. Matthieu Renard led them to the home of Mademoiselle Legras (Saint Louise de Marillac) in the Faubourg Saint Martin. Saint Louise de Marillac received the homeless Benedictines with an exquisite charity. The next morning, Mother Mectilde and her companions were presented to Saint Vincent de Paul. The very same day the doors of the grand Abbey of Montmartre opened to welcome them. Once the Lady Abbess had met Mother Mectilde, she wanted nothing more than to keep her at the Abbey of Montmartre.

Towards a New Beginning

It was in uncertainty and poverty that Mother Mectilde de Bar arrived in Paris. After vicissitudes too many to be counted, it was in Paris that Mectilde de Bar laid the foundations of the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament.

Our Own Need

Three years ago, my own little Benedictine community was searching for a permanent home to allow our charism of Eucharistic adoration and intercession for priests to grow and flourish. We entrusted our need and our search to Saint Vincent de Paul. He who helped Mectilde de Bar was not indifferent to our plight. He guided us all the way to Silverstream in County Meath. For this, I want, today, to give public thanks to Saint Vincent.

Saint Oliver Plunkett

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Brother Alex and Saint Oliver

Today, we are keeping the feast of Saint Oliver Plunkett, grateful for the presence of our energetic and cheerful postulant, Brother Alex After beginning his monastic journey with us as an Oblate in Tulsa under the patronage of Saint Oliver Plunkett, Brother Alex crossed the Atlantic and began his postulancy here after several months as an aspirant.

Elsewhere Saint Oliver is kept on 1 July; as the feast of the Most Precious Blood occurs on the same day in our calendar, Saint Oliver is moved to 4 July. Saint Oliver was received as a Confrater or Oblate of Saint Benedict when the English Benedictine, Dom J. Corker, clothed him in his scapular. Saint Oliver Plunkett's head is venerated just down the road from us in Saint Peter's Church, Drogheda; his body rests at Downside Abbey in England.

Saint Oliver Plunkett (1 November 1625 - 1 July 1681) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland. He cared for the Church in Ireland in the face of English persecution. living in poverty, lowliness, and ceaseless apostolic labours. Betrayed by two disgruntled and libelous Franciscan Friars, John MacMoyer and Hugh Duffy, who had been nurturing a resentment against him, Dr Plunkett was eventually arrested and tried for treason in London.

Saint Oliver readily forgave his betrayers and, wearing a Benedictine scapular, the sign of his spiritual union with his friends, the sons of Saint Benedict, went to his death with serenity and good cheer, professing his loyalty to the Catholic Faith and to the Holy See until the end. On 1 July 1681 he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn, and became the last Roman Catholic martyr to die in England. Oliver Plunkett was beatified in 1920 and canonised in 1975, the first new Irish saint for almost seven hundred years.

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The Benedictine, Dom J. Corker, writes of his friend, Saint Oliver Plunkett:

In Prison

I cannot as yet pretend to give you, as you desire, a description of the virtues of the glorious archbishop and martyr, Dr Oliver Plunkett. After his transportation hither, he was, as you know, closely confined and secluded from all conversation, save that of his keepers, until his arraignment, so that I can only inform you of what I learned, as it were, by chance, from the mouths of the said keepers, that is, that he spent his time in almost continual prayer; that he fasted usually three or four days a week with nothing but bread; that he appeared to them always modestly cheerful, without any anguish or concern at his danger or strict confinement.; but that by his sweet and pious demeanour he attracted an esteem and reverence from the few that came near him.

His Countenance

The trial being ended, we had free intercourse by letters with each other. And now it was that I clearly perceived the Spirit of God in him and those lovely fruits of the Holy Ghost, charity, joy, peace, etc., transparent in his soul. And not only I, but many other Catholics who came to receive his blessing and were eye-witnesses, can testify, there appeared in his words, in his actions, in his countenance, something so divinely elevated, such a composed mixture of cheerfulness, constancy, love, sweetness, and candour, as manifestly denoted the divine goodness had made him fit for a victim, and destined him for heaven.

The Benefits of His Company

None saw or came near him but received new comfort, new fervour, new desires to please, serve, and suffer for Jesus Christ by his very presence. His love had extinguished in him all fear of death. Hence the joy of our holy martyr seemed still to increase with his danger, and was fully accomplished by an assurance of death.

He Divested Himself of Himself

After he certainly knew God Almighty had chosen him to the crown and dignity of martyrdom, he continually studied how to divest himself of himself, and become more and more an entirely pleasing and perfect holocaust; to which end he gave up his soul, with all its faculties, to the conduct of God; so, for God's sake, he resigned the care and disposal of his body to unworthy me.

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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