12 November 2018

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first American citizen to be canonized. She was a naturalized citizen, having been born in Italy. Her parents were simple farmers, accustomed to hard work and little money, but always ready to welcome another child. In fact, St. Frances was the thirteenth child, and her mother was fifty-two years old when she was born. It was a devout Catholic family in which she was raised, and at night after the day’s work was done, the children would listen to their father read them stories of the saints. Young Frances was especially fascinated by the saints who went on missions to foreign countries.

St. Frances had a great desire to help others, and after she finished school she assisted in the local parish by teaching catechism, and visiting the sick and the poor. She also taught school, and supervised the running of an orphanage, where she was assisted by a group of young women. Their work became so well-known that the bishop in a neighboring diocese heard of their work, and he asked Frances to establish a missionary institute to work in the area of education. Frances did as the bishop requested, and she called this new community the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. They opened an academy for girls, and before long the work spread with the establishment of new houses.

One day Frances was contacted by Bishop Scalabrini, an Italian bishop who had a great concern for the many immigrants who were leaving Italy for a new life in the United States. It was not easy for these immigrants, and upon their arrival in America they would endure tremendous hardships, and were not being given adequate spiritual care. As Bishop Scalabrini described the situation to Frances, she was very moved by what he said, but it did not occur to her that she might have a part in the solution. It was not until she had an audience with Pope Leo XIII about the future of her religious foundation that she changed her plans. It was her intention to receive papal permission to go to the missions of the orient, but the Holy Father had another suggestion. “Not to the East, but go to the West,” he said to her. “Go to America.”

Now known as Mother Cabrini, she had no hesitation when she heard the Pope’s words. To America she went, and she landed in New York in 1889, immediately establishing an orphanage, and then set about her life’s work – that of seeing a need, and then working for a solution. She built schools, places for child care, medical clinics, orphanages, and homes for abandoned babies. The poor had no place to go when they became seriously ill, so she built a number of hospitals for the needy. At the time of her death, there were more than five thousand children receiving care in the various institutions she built, and her religious community had grown to five hundred members in seventy houses throughout North and South America, France, Spain, and England.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was a frail woman, of a very small stature, but she amazed others with her energy and imagination. She was constantly traveling, sailing the Atlantic twenty-five times to visit her various religious houses and institutions. It was in 1909 that she adopted the United States as her country and formally became a citizen.

As she reached the end of her life, she had given thirty-seven years to the works of charity she loved so much. In her final illness she was admitted to a hospital in Chicago, Illinois. She died while making dolls to be given to orphans at an upcoming Christmas party, her last activity a simple act of charity. Mother Cabrini was beatified in 1938, and canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XI.

God our Father, who didst call Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini from Italy to serve the immigrants of America: by her example, teach us to care for the stranger, the sick, and all those in need; and by her prayers help us to see Christ in all whom we meet; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

11 November 2018

St. Josaphat, Martyr for Unity


St. Josaphat was born about the year 1580 in what was the Polish province of Lithuania and was raised as an Eastern Rite Catholic. He had a deep devotion to the suffering of Christ, and looked at the schism between East and West as a wound in the Church as the Sacred Body of our Lord. As a young man in his mid-twenties he entered religious life, joining the Ukrainian Order of Saint Basil (known as the Basilians), and as a monk he gave himself over to penance and mortification, going barefoot even in winter, and eating only the poorest food.

In 1618, after living as a monk for nearly fifteen years, he was appointed to be archbishop of the Eastern Rite Diocese of Polotzk, and he devoted his energies to work for the reunion of the Church, all the while deepening the faith of his people through his preaching and his example. There were those in the Orthodox Church, not in union with Rome, who were very much against his work towards unity, and a group of them decided he must be stopped, making plans to assassinate him. In fact, St. Josaphat knew there were many who did not want unity, and he knew his life was in danger; however, he pressed forward in his work to heal the rift between East and West.

One day when he was visiting part of his diocese in territory which is now in Russia, his enemies made an attack on the place where he was staying, and many of those who were traveling with St. Josaphat were killed. Quietly and with humility, St. Josaphat went toward the attackers and asked them why they had done such a thing, saying to them, “If you have something against me, see, here I am.” The crowd screamed at him saying, “Kill the papist!” They ran towards him with their weapons, killing him with an axe-blow to his head.

St. Josaphat's body was thrown into the river, but it remained on the surface of the water, surrounded by rays of light, and was recovered. Those who had murdered him, when they were sentenced to death, repented of what they had done. Through the gentle example of St. Josaphat and helped by his heavenly intercession, through the grace of God they became Catholics.

Stir up in thy Church, we pray, O Lord, the Spirit that filled Saint Josaphat: that, as he laid down his life for the sheep; so through his intercession we, too, may be strengthened by the same Spirit and not fear to lay down our life for our brethren; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

A Prayer for Veterans Day


Veterans Day (known originally as Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I) is a day on which we honor all military veterans living today, which should not be confused with Memorial Day which we keep in May, when we remember all those who gave their lives in defense of our nation.

O Lord, we give You thanks for our veterans, for their willingness to risk all so that our nation might dwell in peace and safety. May they receive the honor and recognition they deserve. We pray for those who suffer from physical, spiritual, and psychological wounds, that they might know Your healing presence. We pray for our nation, that it may treasure the freedoms which have been won through the sacrifices and courage of those who have given themselves for the protection of others. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

10 November 2018

Pope St. Leo and Attila the Hun


Pope St. Leo reigned twenty-one years as pope in the 5th century, and is the first pope to be titled "the Great." He truly was a great Pope, defending the Faith, and confirming the primacy of the Successors of St. Peter. But perhaps the most exciting thing Pope Leo did was when he had a confrontation with the infamous and cruel military leader, Attila the Hun. This is the story.

The Huns were a nomadic people, originating probably in Mongolia, but they migrated westward, sacking and pillaging whatever cities or towns that were in their way. Until the time of Attila in the 5th century, the Huns were comprised of a loose confederation of tribes, not really a unified people at all – that is, until Attila came on the scene. He unified them, and they were making their sweep across Europe. By the time of Pope Leo, Attila the Hun was busy ransacking most of Italy, and his plan included the sack of Rome. Attila hoped to add it to his possessions, not only for the riches it would give him, but he was also trying add to his number of wives, and the young woman he had his eye on would be impressed with his taking Rome, or so he thought.

Pope Leo, of course, wanted to protect Rome and keep its citizens alive, but here was Attila, looking to attack and plunder the city, and destroy the Church. With the approach of Attila and his mob of soldiers, Pope Leo went into prayer, committing his papacy to the patronage and protection of St. Peter, the apostle and first pope, and then Leo did a very brave thing – he arranged a meeting with Attila just outside the city of Rome. Nobody thought this was a very good idea – in fact, everyone in Rome was sure that Pope Leo would be immediately martyred by this conqueror who never hesitated to murder and destroy anything or anyone who got in his way.

Nonetheless, Pope Leo went to meet Attila. And then, one of the most dramatic moments in Christian history takes place: Attila calls off the sack of Rome. And Leo goes safely back to Rome. What happened? What made Attila retreat?

This is the account of that meeting: while Attila and Leo were conversing, Attila was shaking in his boots, because that during that conversation, Attila saw a vision like he had never seen before! Attila saw St. Peter himself hovering over Leo's head . . . with a huge sword drawn and pointed directly at him! Attila was certain he would be immediately killed if he didn’t withdraw and leave the area, so to save his own skin, Attila ran away from the Pope, who was armed only with the Truth.

And that's the story of how Pope Leo the Great saved Rome from being destroyed.

O Lord Jesu Christ, who didst strengthen thy holy Bishop and Doctor, Pope Leo, to maintain both by word and deed the verity of thy sacred Humanity: grant, we beseech thee; that guided by the light of his doctrine, we may earnestly defend the faith of thy holy Incarnation; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.


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08 November 2018

Dedication of St. John Lateran


On November 9th the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the anniversary of the consecration of the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour in the city of Rome, known also as St. John Lateran. On the façade is carved the proud title “Omnium Urbis et Orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput” – “The Mother and Head of all Churches of the City and of the World.” It is the cathedral of Rome – it is the Pope’s Cathedral, and so is, in a sense, the Cathedral of the world – senior in dignity even to St. Peter’s Basilica.

One of the reasons we celebrate this Feast is because the Church wants us to remember the importance of consecrated places in which the worship of God takes place. It reminds us of the importance of the consecration of every Catholic Church throughout the world. It is a reminder to us of the Incarnational principle on which our faith is based – that God extends His spiritual blessings to us through the use of physical things. He took human flesh upon Himself. He has instituted seven sacraments which use outward forms to communicate inward grace. He has established a hierarchical Church, with a physical presence in the world, to be a sign of His own presence with us.

O Most blessed Saviour, who didst vouchsafe thy gracious presence at the Feast of Dedication: be present with us at this time by thy Holy Spirit, and so possess our souls by thy grace; that we may be living temples, holy and acceptable unto thee; who livest and reignest with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

05 November 2018

This is one tough girl...


Over the years I have collected a number of icons, and among them are some which depict particularly interesting saints. The one pictured here shows a young virgin-martyr known as St. Margaret of Antioch-in-Pisidia in the West, and as St. Marina the Great-Martyr in the East. Although she was an actual martyr, almost all the stories about her are apocryphal. In fact, in the year 494 Pope Gelasius I cautioned the Faithful about some of the fantastic stories which had grown up around her.

What is historical is that she was a native of Antioch-in-Pisidia, and was the daughter of a pagan priest. Her mother died soon after giving her birth, and she was then nursed by a pious Christian woman. Margaret embraced the Christian faith and was disowned by her father, after which her Christian nurse adopted her. She was asked by a local official to marry him, but she would have to renounce her Christian faith. Refusing to do so, she was tortured and eventually beheaded in 304.

Although many of the stories which grew up around the accounts of her torture were fanciful, (including a story of her being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards), nonetheless there is still spiritual truth to be gained from these wondrous accounts.

The icon pictured here illustrates the story of a demon approaching her in her prison cell, attempting to convince her to renounce her faith. According to the story, a hammer was at hand, which she picked up and beat the demon senseless.  I like this picture, and I think it serves as an icon of where we are now.  Demons are nipping at us, and we can either give in or we can take the revealed Truth which has been given to us and we can use it to beat the stuffing out of satan and his demonic little friends.

Devotion to St. Margaret of Antioch was greatly strengthened during the crusades, when soldiers would hear stories of local saints and then bring them back to their homelands. Devotion to her became widespread in England, where more than 250 churches are dedicated to her, most famously St. Margaret's, Westminster, the church of the British Houses of Parliament in London. St. Margaret is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and is one of the saints who spoke to Joan of Arc.

Even though this remarkable young woman is no longer commemorated in the general liturgical calendar, we can still look to her as a marvelous example and as an intercessor for us in these difficult days.

St. Margaret's Church, Westminster,
dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch

04 November 2018

Friendship


In my reading I happened across this passage from St. Mark's Gospel, and my mind flashed back to sixty years ago...

And when Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!"  - St. Mark 2:1-12

This is one of the Gospel stories that has captured my imagination from the time I was a child. I can still hear my old Sunday School teacher reading it to us. As she explained it to us, there wasn't any question about the miraculous healing itself -- Jesus had, of course, healed the man. The lesson she drew out of it (and this was what impressed my child's mind) was the obvious love the friends had for this man. They were so persistent! They couldn't get through the crowd, so they willingly put in the great effort of carrying their paralyzed friend up to the roof-top, making an opening large enough, and then letting him down into the presence of Jesus.

It was such a simple lesson she was imparting to us about friendship, as our young minds considered the effort these men were willing to make. I remember she asked us about how we treated our friends. Did we become impatient when someone couldn't keep up with us in a game? Were we cruel toward someone because they weren't part of our close circle of friends? Did we go out of our way to show kindness to others?

As those of us in that class of very young children listened to her, it formed new and unaccustomed thoughts of unselfishness in us (you know how self-centered children can sometimes be!) and I believe it was one of those moments that brought us a deeper idea of friendship. Suddenly in our minds we began considering the importance of befriending people not for what we could get, but rather, for what we could give.

02 November 2018

St. Martin de Porres


St. Martin de Porres was born in very difficult circumstances. His mother was a woman who had been a slave, but now freed, and was of African background. His father was of Spanish nobility who was living in Peru. St. Martin’s parents were not married, but lived as common law man and wife, and they had two children, Martin and his sister. The children inherited the dark complexion and African features of their mother, and the father, who was cruel and shallow in his attitude towards race, left the family, and they were reduced to poverty. Because they were of mixed race, this meant that Martin and his sister were considered to be on the lowest level of Lima’s society.

When Martin was 12, his mother apprenticed him to a barber-surgeon. He learned how to cut hair and also how to give basic medical care, which was usual for barbers at that time. After a few years in this medical apostolate, St. Martin applied to the Dominicans to be a "lay helper," not feeling himself worthy to be a religious brother. After nine years, the example of his prayer and penance, charity and humility led the community to request him to make full religious profession. Many of his nights were spent in prayer and penitential practices; his days were filled with nursing the sick and caring for the poor. He treated all people regardless of their color, race or status. He was instrumental in founding an orphanage, took care of slaves brought from Africa and managed the daily alms of the priory with practicality as well as generosity. He became the procurator for both priory and city, whether it was a matter of "blankets, shirts, candles, candy, miracles or prayers!" When his priory was in debt, he said, "I am only a poor mulatto. Sell me. I am the property of the order. Sell me."

Side by side with his daily work in the kitchen, laundry and infirmary, Martin's life reflected God's extraordinary gifts: ecstasies that lifted him into the air, light filling the room where he prayed, bilocation, miraculous knowledge, instantaneous cures and a remarkable rapport with animals. His charity extended to beasts of the field and even to the vermin of the kitchen. He would excuse the raids of mice and rats on the grounds that they were underfed; he kept stray cats and dogs at his sister's house.

Many of his fellow religious took him as their spiritual director, but he continued to call himself a "poor slave." He was a good friend of another Dominican saint of Peru, Rose of Lima.

O God, who didst lead Saint Martin de Porres by the way of humility to heavenly glory: grant that we may so follow the example of his holiness; that we may be worthy to be exalted with him to heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

01 November 2018

Indulgence for the Holy Souls


One of the spiritual works of mercy is to pray for the Faithful Departed, who can do no more for themselves. There are plenary indulgences assigned to this season, outlined in the Enchiridion, which you may obtain for the Holy Souls in Purgatory:

1. A plenary indulgence, applicable ONLY to the souls in purgatory, may be obtained by those who, on All Souls Day, piously visit a church, public oratory, or for those entitled to use it, a semi-public oratory. It may be acquired either on the day designated as All Souls Day or, with the consent of the bishop, on the preceding or following Sunday or the feast of All Saints. On visiting the church or oratory it is required that one Our Father and the Creed be recited.

2. You may make a visit to a Cemetery or Columbarium. A plenary indulgence is applicable to the souls in Purgatory when one devoutly visits and prays for the departed. This work may be done each day between November 1 and November 8.

To obtain a Plenary Indulgence, one must fulfill the following requirements:

1. Make a Sacramental Confession,
2. Receive Holy Communion,
3. Offer prayer for the intention of the Holy Father.

All these are to be performed within days of each other, if not at the same time.

31 October 2018

Solemnity of All Saints

The Pantheon, built originally in 27 B.C. and rebuilt by the Emperor Hadrian c. 126 A.D. to honor pagan Roman gods, was consecrated by Pope Boniface VI and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and All Martyrs ca. 609, thus beginning the commemoration of All Saints.

O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, in glory everlasting.   Amen.

26 October 2018

"Thy will be done..."


In the Lord's Prayer we pray for God to reign in our lives and in our world: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

What do we mean when we pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? We are praying that something will come about, but which has not yet fully happened. We are praying that God will bring about his heavenly purpose on earth. We are praying that God would use us to do his will. We are making ourselves available to do the will of our heavenly Father, to fulfill his purpose.

This was the prayer of Mary after the angel Gabriel had revealed to her the will of God in bearing the Incarnate Word, Jesus. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word.” Mary prayed that God’s divine will might be done in her life, and the world was transformed because of her “yes” to God’s will.

Even our Lord Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, when He was in agony in Gethsemane, prayed to His Father, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.”

When we pray, “Thy will be done” we are not simply resigning ourselves to whatever happens; rather, we are praying for triumph – that is, the triumph of God’s divine will. That prayer is not an invitation to passively stand by, to acquiescence to prevailing circumstances; rather, it is a means to buttress our resolution to fight for what is right, noble and true, for whatever is pure, lovely and admirable. It is to pray for the spirit of victory, the victory of God’s will, of God’s reign, of God’s kingdom – here on earth, as it already is in heaven.

23 October 2018

St. Anthony Mary Claret


Known as the "spiritual father of Cuba," St. Anthony Mary Claret was a missionary, a religious founder, a social reformer, Chaplain to the Queen of Spain, a writer and publisher, and an archbishop. Born in Spain, his work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and he was one of the Fathers of the First Vatican Council.

As a young man he worked as a weaver in the textile mills of Barcelona, and he was always looking for ways to improve himself. He learned Latin, and he also learned the printing trade – two things he would use during his ministry. He was ordained at the age of 28, but ill-health prevented him from entering religious life as he thought he wanted to, as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but nonetheless, he went on to become one of Spain’s most dynamic and well-known preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then at the age of 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. In fact, after his death, a group of his Claretians eventually came to San Antonio where they served in San Fernando Cathedral, and also continue to staff the parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

St. Anthony Mary Claret was appointed to be the archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, which had been very much neglected by previous archbishops. The Catholic faith was at a low point there when he arrived. He began to reform things by almost constantly preaching and hearing confessions. He became hated because he told men and women that they needed to marry, rather than just live together, and he was also hated because he gave Catholic instruction to the many black slaves in the area. In fact, his enemies even hired an assassin who tried to stab him to death, and when he failed, St. Anthony forgave him, and managed to get the death sentence commuted to a prison term. Many of the Cubans were living in poverty, and he encouraged family-owned farms which could produce a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This made enemies out of the large sugar crop owners, who depended on the poor to work in the fields for them at very low pay.

He eventually returned to Spain to do a job he didn’t like — that of being chaplain for the queen, but in the revolution of 1868, he fled with the rest of the royal court to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At the First Vatican Council, he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, and he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.

O God, who for the evangelization of peoples didst strengthen the Bishop Saint Anthony Mary Claret with admirable charity and long-suffering: grant, through his intercession; that, seeking the things that are thine, we may earnestly devote ourselves to winning our brethren for Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 October 2018

Pope St. John Paul II


Karol Josef Wojtyla was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. His mother died when he was just a young boy, and he was raised by his father. Even as a boy he was known for his athletic ability, and was in addition to his studies, he was active in all kinds of sports. As a young man, Karol worked as a laborer in factories and at a variety of physically demanding jobs. It was after the death of his father, in 1942, that he felt the call to ordination. The Nazis had come to power, and seminaries were suppressed, but he studied in secret, and after the liberation of Poland by Russian forces in January of 1945 he was able to study openly at the University. He graduated with distinction, and was ordained on All Saints Day in 1946.

After his ordination to the priesthood and theological studies in Rome, he returned to his homeland and resumed various pastoral and academic tasks. He became first auxiliary bishop and, in 1964, Archbishop of Krakow and took part in the Second Vatican Council. On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope and took the name John Paul II. His exceptional apostolic zeal, particularly for families, young people and the sick, led him to numerous pastoral visits throughout the world. Among the many fruits which he has left as a heritage to the Church are above all his rich teaching on the human person and the promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church and for the Eastern Churches. In Rome on 2 April 2005, the eve of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy), he departed peacefully after whispering "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you."

O God, who art rich in mercy and who didst will that Saint John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over thy universal Church: grant, we pray; that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

20 October 2018

Blessed Charles of Austria


Blessed Charles of Austria was a remarkable man – someone who was at the very center of 20th century history, but who treasured his Catholic faith above all else. He was born in 1887 to Archduke Otto and Princess Maria Josephine of Saxony. The Emperor of Austria, Emperor Franz Joseph I was Blessed Charles' Great Uncle. Charles was given an excellent Catholic education, and he developed a deep devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He was raised in such a way that he would always turn to prayer before making any important decisions. In 1911 he married Princess Zita of Bourbon and Parma. The couple was blessed with eight children during the ten years of their happy and exemplary married life.

In 1914, an event happened that affected the whole world. The man who was the heir to the Emperor, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated, which was a trigger for the First World War. This assassination meant that very unexpectedly, Blessed Charles became heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. World War I was underway and in 1916, the Emperor Franz Joseph died. Blessed Charles became Emperor of Austria, and he was crowned on December 30th as the apostolic King of Hungary. Blessed Charles took his position as King very seriously, and he understood it as a way for him to follow Christ more closely – he would do that through the love and care of the peoples over whom he ruled, and he dedicated his life to caring for the people of his kingdom.

He also considered most sacred the duty of a king to be committed to peace. If a ruler couldn’t provide a peaceful life for his people, then Blessed Charles considered that to be a failure in ruling a kingdom justly. With the terrible First World War raging around him, he was the only political leader to give his support to the peace efforts of the reigning Pope, Benedict XV.

In his own kingdom, even though there was widespread suffering because of the war, Blessed Charles began reforming the social legislation, basing it completely on Catholic social teaching and justice. In spite of his efforts, and his deep love for his people, when the war was over there was an effort by some to banish him from his country, and that’s exactly what happened. He had done the right thing, but there were those who were stronger than he was, who hated him for his goodness, and they wanted him to abdicate his position.

Because he considered his duty as king to be something mandated by God, he refused to abdicate, and Blessed Charles was exiled to the island of Madeira. He and his family were reduced to a life of poverty, and they ended up living in a very poor house in very unhealthy conditions. He became seriously ill, but he accepted this as a sacrifice for the peace and unity of his people. Blessed Charles suffered terribly during his final sickness, but endured it without complaining. He forgave all those who had conspired against him and he died on April 1st 1922 with his eyes turned toward the Blessed Sacrament, giving adoration to God with his final breath.

In his homily at the beatification of Blessed Charles on October 3, 2004, Pope St. John Paul II said,
The decisive task of Christians consists in seeking, recognizing and following God's will in all things. The Christian statesman, Charles of Austria , confronted this challenge every day. To his eyes, war appeared as "something appalling". Amid the tumult of the First World War, he strove to promote the peace initiative of my Predecessor, Benedict XV. 
From the beginning, the Emperor Charles conceived of his office as a holy service to his people. His chief concern was to follow the Christian vocation to holiness also in his political actions. For this reason, his thoughts turned to social assistance. May he be an example for all of us, especially for those who have political responsibilities in Europe today!

O God, who didst call thy servant Blessed Charles of Austria to an earthly throne that he might advance thy heavenly kingdom, and didst give him zeal for thy Church and love for thy people: Mercifully grant that we who commemorate him this day may be fruitful in good works, and attain to the glorious crown of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

19 October 2018

St. Paul of the Cross

St. Paul of the Cross was born at Ovada in the Republic of Genoa, January 3, 1694. When he was still young he was inspired by God to found a religious congregation that would be dedicated to the Passion of Christ as we see it in the Cross.  In fact, God allowed him, in a vision, to see the habit which he and his companions were to wear. He spoke humbly to his bishop about this, and the bishop understood that this was an inspiration from God. On November 22, 1720, the bishop vested him with the habit that had been shown to him in a vision, the same that the Passionists wear at the present time.

St. Paul of the Cross traveled throughout the Italy, preaching missions, and directing people’s attention to Jesus upon the Cross. His saintly death occurred at Rome in the year 1775, at the age of eighty-one. He was canonized by Pope Pius IX in 1867.

The Passionists continue their work, and a number of the members of this order have been beatified, perhaps the most famous being Blessed Dominic Barberi, notable for having received John Henry Newman into the Catholic faith.

May the Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us thy grace, O Lord: so that, urged on more strongly by his example, we may each embrace our own cross with courage; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

18 October 2018

The North American Martyrs


There are eight men whom we know as the Martyrs of North America (known also as the Canadian Martyrs), and they worked in the area of upstate New York and neighbouring Canada. St. Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. Isaac Jogues was a man of learning and culture, and he taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work amongst the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of St. John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly being attacked by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed.

An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands, saying "It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ." Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues could have retired, thanked God for his safe return, and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his vocation to this missionary work. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons.

In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country, thinking that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18 Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at a village near Albany, New York.

The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who, with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children.

Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and laboured there for 24 years. He went back to France when the English captured Quebec (1629) and expelled the Jesuits, but returned to his missions four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with them. He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture.

Father Anthony Daniel, Brother Gabriel Lalemant, Father Charles Garnier, and Father Noel Chabanel, were tortured and killed at different times, but all for the same reason – their love for God, their love for the Indians as God’s children, and their desire to bring them the love of God through life in the Church.

O God, who amongst the peoples of North America didst hallow the first-fruits of the Faith both in the preaching and in the blood of many holy Martyrs: graciously grant by the intercession of Saints Jean de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and Companions; that everywhere from day to day the harvest of souls may abound to the increase of thy faithful people; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

17 October 2018

St. Luke the Evangelist

 "St. Luke" by Master Theodoric (14th cent)
painted on the upper section of wall in the
Chapel of the Holy Cross in Karlstein Castle near Prague.

St. Luke is the writer of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, and was referred to by St. Paul as our "beloved physician.” We know a few other facts about Luke's life from Scripture and from early Church historians.

Luke was most likely born a Greek Gentile. In his writings we can see an emphasis on Gentiles, and on the fact that Jesus came for Jew and Gentile alike. It is only in his Gospel that we hear the parable of the Good Samaritan, that we hear Jesus praising the faith of Gentiles such as the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian, and that we hear the story of the one grateful leper who is a Samaritan.

In our day, it would be easy to assume that someone who was a doctor would be fairly well to do, but it is more likely that Luke had been born as a slave, and later was able to secure his freedom. It was very common for families to educate slaves in medicine so that they would have a resident family physician.

In the Acts of the Apostles we see that St. Luke was very often a companion to St. Paul in the missionary journeys, and in Acts he uses language from time to time which says “We did so and so,” indicating that he was there. Luke was a loyal friend who stayed with St. Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. After everyone else had deserted Paul in his final imprisonment and sufferings, it was Luke who remained with Paul to the end: "Only Luke is with me" (2 Timothy 4:11).

St. Luke's inspiration and information for his Gospel and Acts came from his close association with St. Paul. St. Luke also had a special connection with the Blessed Virgin Mary, and there are many things in his Gospel that could have come only through conversations with her. For instance, it is only in Luke's Gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, of Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, of the Presentation in the Temple, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is in Luke’s Gospel that we hear the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail, full of grace," which was spoken at the Annunciation, and "Blessed are art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb," which was spoken by her cousin Elizabeth – all recorded by St. Luke.

Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners – Jew and Gentile alike – is the theme that runs through Luke’s Gospel. It’s only from St. Luke that we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's Gospel, we see Jesus welcoming those who seek God's mercy.

He is often shown with an ox or a calf because these are the symbols of sacrifice -- the sacrifice Jesus made for all the world. St. Luke is the patron of physicians and surgeons.

Almighty God, who didst call Saint Luke, whose praise is in the Gospel, to be an Evangelist and physician of the soul: may it please thee; that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

16 October 2018

St. Ignatius of Antioch


St. Ignatius was the second Bishop of Antioch, and had been a disciple of the Apostle St. John. There is a tradition which says that he was the young child whom Christ put in the midst of his disciples and said, “Unless you become as this little child, you cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” Ignatius was consecrated bishop about the year 69 by the Apostle Peter. He was a holy man who was deeply loved by the Christian faithful, he always made it his special care to defend “orthodoxy” (right teaching) and “orthopraxy” (right practice) among the early Christians.

In 107, during the reign of the brutal Emperor Trajan, St. Ignatius was sentenced to death because he refused to renounce the Christian faith. He was taken under guard to Rome where he was to be publicly executed by being devoured by wild beasts. During his journey from Antioch to Rome, he was taken through Asia Minor and Greece. As he traveled he wrote seven letters to encourage, instruct, and inspire the Christians in the communities along the way, and the texts of these letters survive to this day. They outline the orthodox Christian faith, and in them we find the term “catholic” being used to describe the whole Church. These letters connect us to the early Church and to the unbroken, clear teaching of the Apostles which was given to them directly by Jesus Christ.

St. Ignatius was not afraid of death, because he knew it had been defeated by Christ. He wrote to the disciples in Rome: "Permit me to imitate my suffering God ... I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”

Feed us, O Lord, with the living Bread and make us drink deep of the cup of salvation: that, following the teaching of thy Bishop Ignatius, and rejoicing in the faith with which he embraced the death of a Martyr, we may be nourished for that eternal life which he ever desired; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

15 October 2018

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque


St. Margaret Mary was born on July 22, 1647 in Burgundy, France, and was the fifth child of seven in her family. When she was eight years old, her father died suddenly, and her mother had to be away from home quite often, so Margaret Mary went away to attend school and came under the care of nuns. At the age of nine, she received her first Holy Communion. Right after that she wrote, "This Communion made all the small pleasures and amusements so repellent to me, that I could no longer take pleasure in any . . . just when I wanted to begin some game with my companions, I would always feel something drawing me, calling me to some quiet corner, giving me no peace till I had followed and then setting me to pray.” It was at that time that she became seriously ill, and she was bedridden with paralysis. For four years she suffered, but she prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary for healing. The time stretched on, and she continued to pray, finding more and more comfort in receiving and adoring the Blessed Sacrament, as Christ made His presence known to her. At the age of fifteen, she was cured and was no longer bedridden.

Back at home with her family, Margaret Mary continued to grow in her spiritual life, and she experienced private visions of Christ, with an increasing sense of His overwhelming love. During this time her mother had been urging her to marry, but there was a developing vocation to religious life stirring within her.

In 1671, at the age of twenty-three, Margaret Mary entered the Convent of the Visitation Nuns, and it was there just two years later, when she was kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, that she experienced a vision in which the Lord told her that He had a particular work for her to do. She later described what she saw in the vision, how our Lord’s Heart appeared to be on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns. Our Lord told her that the flames represented His love for humanity, and the thorns represented man’s sinfulness and ingratitude. Jesus revealed to her that her mission was to establish the devotion to His Most Sacred Heart.

Over the next year and a half, she had three more visions. In those visions, Jesus explained to her the spiritual exercises that have become part of devotion to Christ’s Sacred Heart. St. Margaret Mary informed her Mother Superior about the visions, who did not know what to think about them. St. Margaret Mary was examined by priests and other experts, who tried to convince her that these experiences were illusions.

All of this led to another time of serious sickness, but her Superior promised that if Margaret Mary were healed, she herself would believe the visions were real. So Margaret Mary prayed and was healed, and her Mother Superior believed her. However, many others did not. Nonetheless, she received some encouragement from a priest who served as her spiritual director, and St. Margaret Mary was given the confidence she needed to encourage others to see in the Sacred Heart of Jesus the great symbol of His love for mankind. The devotion began to spread, first among the nuns in her community, and gradually it was accepted throughout the world.

On October 17, 1690, St. Margaret Mary was approaching death. As she received the last rites of the Church, her final words were, “I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus.”

O Lord Jesus Christ, who unto thy holy Virgin Margaret Mary Alacoque didst reveal the unsearchable riches of thy Sacred Heart: grant us, by her merits and example, to love thee in all things and above all things, and so find in thy loving Heart an everlasting habitation; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

14 October 2018

St. Teresa of Avila


St. Teresa of Avila was born in 1515, and she lived at an exciting time in history. Columbus had sailed to the new world only about twenty years before. Things were happening in the Church, and during her life, Martin Luther started the movement of protestants out of the Church – and in the midst of all this change and turmoil, Teresa developed her great spirituality which leads to God’s peace.

Teresa's father was honest and pious, but very strict. Teresa's mother loved romance novels but because her husband objected to what he considered to be trashy books, so she hid the books from him. This put Teresa in the middle -- especially since she liked the romances too. Her father told her never to lie but her mother told her not to tell her father. Later she said she was always afraid that no matter what she did she was going to do everything wrong. When she was five years old she convinced her older brother that they should, as she later wrote, "go off to the land of the Moors and beg them, out of love of God, to cut off our heads there." They got as far as the road from the city before an uncle found them and brought them back. After this incident she led a fairly ordinary life, though she was convinced that she was a horrible sinner. As a teenager, she cared only about boys and clothes and flirting and rebelling -- like other teenagers throughout the ages. When she was 16, her father decided she was out of control and sent her to a convent. At first she hated it but eventually she began to enjoy it -- partly because of her growing love for God, and partly because the convent was a lot less strict than her father.

Still, when the time came for her to choose between marriage and religious life, she had a tough time making the decision. She'd watched a difficult marriage ruin her mother. On the other hand being a nun didn't seem like much fun. When she finally chose religious life, she did so because she though that it was the only safe place for someone as prone to sin as she was.

Once installed at the Carmelite convent permanently, she started to learn and practice mental prayer. Teresa prayed this way off and on for eighteen years without feeling that she was getting results. Part of the reason for her trouble was that the convent wasn’t really as it should have been. Many women who had no place else to go wound up at the convent, whether they had vocations or not. They were encouraged to stay away from the convents for long period of time to cut down on expenses. Nuns would arrange their veils attractively and wear jewelry. Prestige depended not on piety but on money. There was a steady stream of visitors in the parlor and parties that included young men. Everyone liked Theresa and she liked to be liked. She found it too easy to slip into a worldly life and ignore God. For years she hardly prayed at all because she thought it showed humility. She thought as a wicked sinner she didn't deserve to get favors from God.

When she was 41, a priest convinced her to go back to her prayer, but she still found it difficult. As she started to pray again, God gave her an increasingly deep spirituality.

At the age of 43, she became determined to found a new convent that went back to the basics of a contemplative order: a simple life of poverty devoted to prayer. There was great resistance to this – everybody liked things the way they’d been. But she was determined, and going against all the resistance, she persevered. She died on October 4 at the age of 67, having brought about the Order of Discalced Carmelites. In 1970 she was declared a Doctor of the Church for her writing and teaching on prayer.

Merciful God, who by thy Spirit didst raise up thy servant Saint Teresa of Jesus to reveal to thy Church the way of perfection: grant that her teaching may awaken in us a longing for holiness until, assisted by her intercession, we attain to the perfect union of love in Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

12 October 2018

St. Edward, King and Confessor


Born c. 1003, St. Edward was the last Saxon king to rule for any meaningful length of time in England. The Saxons were a Germanic people who had moved into Britain around the 5th century and took over the rule of the people. He is called "Edward the Confessor," which distinguishes him from another King of England, who was his grandfather, St. Edward the Martyr (c. 962-979).

Edward was the son of a very difficult father, known as King Ethelred the Unready. This gives us a hint about Ethelred's temperament – “unready” does not mean that he was unprepared, but rather it means that he was stubborn and willful. "Rede" means “advice” or “counsel,” so “un-rede” indicates that Ethelred was unwilling to take anyone’s advice or counsel.

Ethelred was followed in quick succession by several Danish kings of England, and during that time young Edward and his mother took refuge in Normandy, but the last Danish king decided to name Edward as his successor, and he was crowned in 1042. Some historians consider him to have been a weak king, but that would be to misunderstand him. Edward took his Catholic faith seriously. He always sought to settle things peacefully, and he was concerned for the religious practice of his people. He provided priests and churches throughout his kingdom. His holy example and solid leadership meant that there were more than twenty years of peace and prosperity, with freedom from foreign domination, at a time when powerful neighbors might well have dominated a less capable ruler. He himself was very faithful in public and private worship. He was generous to the poor, and he made himself accessible to his people whenever they had some grievance that needed to be settled.

He had wanted to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but his advisors told him that it would not be good for him to be gone so long out of the country. Accordingly, he spent his pilgrimage money instead on the relief of the poor and the building of Westminster Abbey, which stands today (rebuilt in the thirteenth century) as one of the great churches of England, burial place of her kings and of others who have been deemed worthy of special honor.

He died on 5 January 1066, leaving no children, and he was buried in the great abbey church which he had founded.

O God, who hast crowned thy blessed Confessor King Edward with eternal glory: grant that we who venerate him on earth, may be found worthy to reign with him in heaven; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

11 October 2018

St. Wilfrid, Bishop and Confessor


St. Wilfrid was born in Northumberland in 634. We know something of his life from the writings of the Venerable Bede in the early eighth century. Wilfrid was born into a wealthy Christian family. His mother died when he was thirteen and he was sent to Lindisfarne to be educated under the Celtic St Aidan. Queen Enflaed of Northumbria was his patron. So, the young Wilfrid had a very good education, impressive connections and, having chosen a religious career, he was sent off to Rome to continue his education. He returned to England in 658 and settled with the Benedictine monks in Ripon Abbey.

It wasn’t long before Wilfrid was caught up in a power struggle in the church between those who favoured the new Roman practices and ideas brought by Augustine rather than some of the older Celtic traditions. There was something of a north-south divide, with the Roman practice centred at Canterbury and the Celtic tradition in the north. There were great arguments about the timing of Easter and whether monks should shave a tonsure, for example. Wilfrid was instrumental in a victory for the Roman view at the Conference of Whitby in 664. Shortly afterwards, he was appointed Bishop of York.

In the following years Wilfrid built magnificent stone churches at Hexham, Ripon and York. However, he was soon at the centre of conflict again, having fallen out with Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, over plans to divide York diocese into two. Wilfrid had to leave York for a while between the years 681 and 686 and it was during this time that he came to the Meon Valley to evangelise the Jutes and Saxons who had recently settled in the area. Wilfrid lived at an extraordinary time for the church. He encountered great controversy, accumulated huge landholdings, befriended kings and rulers across Europe and travelled to Rome three times on horseback and on foot. He suffered shipwreck and was nearly murdered several times – once by natives off the coast of Sussex. He had been a bishop for forty-five years and a pillar of the church during one of the most turbulent periods of its history as it sought to establish itself in a pagan land. Wilfrid died on 12th October 709 at the Minster church of St Andrew’s, Oundle.

St. Wilfrid is often shown holding fishing nets. According to St. Bede, the men of South West Sussex and the Meon Valley were “ignorant of the name and faith of God”. Just before Wilfrid’s arrival there had been the most terrible famine and the distress was so acute that often "forty or fifty, being spent with want, would go together to some cliff, or to the seashore, and there, hand-in-hand, miserably perish by the fall or be swallowed by the waves."

Although there were fish enough to eat in the rivers and sea, the poor country folk did not know how to catch them and could only fish for eels. Wilfrid borrowed these nets and, casting them into the sea, "by the blessing of God immediately took three hundred fishes of different kinds, which they divided into three parts, giving a hundred to the poor, a hundred to those who had lent them the nets and keeping a hundred for their own use. By this act of kindness the Bishop gained the affections of them all and they began more readily, at his preaching, to hope for heavenly goods; seeing that, by his help, they had received those which are temporal."

And so, Wilfrid followed the teaching of Christ himself, as he first fed the people of the Meon Valley and then went on to tell them all about God’s love and grace.

Almighty God, who didst call our forebears to the light of the Gospel by the preaching of thy servant Wilfrid: grant us, who keep his life and labour in remembrance, to glorify thy Name by following the example of his zeal and perseverance; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

10 October 2018

Pope St. John XXIII


On November 25, 1881 a baby was born to a very large and very poor family of sharecroppers in a little town in northern Italy. His name was Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII. As I said, the family was poor, and everyone including the children had to work, but their Catholic faith was central to their lives. The parish priest saw in young Angelo something outstanding, and so eventually the young boy was able to continue his education, eventually entering seminary.

From the time he was 10 or 11 young Angelo began the habit of making spiritual notes, kind of like a diary of his spiritual thoughts. Now, lots of people might begin a diary, but they don’t very often keep it going. He kept his going all his life, and these notes have been gathered together in a collection called “Journal of a Soul.” It shows the growth of faith from being a young boy, all the way to being pope.

In 1904 he was ordained a priest, and so he began a whole new phase in his life, including at time during World War I when he was near the front lines of the war being chaplain to the wounded soldiers.

Eventually the Pope at that time, Pope Benedict XV, recognized in this young priest not only a great pastoral heart, but also a great talent for getting things organized, and also a wonderful ability to bring people together, so he was put into a life of diplomacy. He was consecrated as a bishop and began serving as the pope’s delegate to different countries.

Upon the death of Pope Pius XII, in October 1958, he was elected pope, and took the name of John, the 23rd pope to take that name. He was gentle and devout, and is especially known for convoking the second Vatican Council. He died in 1963, having been pope for only five years.

How does a young boy working in the fields become the Successor of St. Peter? By taking his faith seriously, by being faithful in his prayers, by studying hard and taking advantage of every opportunity God put in his path. His vocation eventually led him to the Chair of St. Peter because that was where God needed him. Of course, God needs each one of us for some particular work in some particular place, which is why each of us must look for God’s Will in our own lives.

Almighty and eternal God, who in Pope Saint John the Twenty-third didst give to the whole world the shining example of a good shepherd: grant, we beseech thee; that, through his intercession, we may with joy spread abroad the fulness of Christian charity; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

08 October 2018

Blessed John Henry Newman

The Shrine of Blessed John Henry Newman
in the Baptistry at Our Lady of the Atonement Church.

John Henry Newman, the 19th century's most important English-speaking Roman Catholic theologian, spent the first half of his life as an Anglican and the second half as a Roman Catholic. He was a priest, popular preacher, writer and eminent theologian in both Churches.

Born in London, England, he studied at Oxford's Trinity College, was a tutor at Oriel College and for 17 years was the Anglican vicar of the university church, St. Mary the Virgin.

After 1833, Newman was a prominent member of the Oxford Movement, which emphasized the links which the Church today must have with the Church at the beginning.

His study and research eventually convinced John Henry Newman that the Roman Catholic Church was indeed in continuity with the Church that Jesus established. He stopped his work in Oxford and retired to Littlemore. It was there, on October 9, 1845, he was received into full communion as a Catholic. Two years later he was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome and joined the Congregation of the Oratory, founded three centuries earlier by St. Philip Neri. Returning to England, Newman founded Oratory houses in Birmingham and London and for seven years served as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland.

Newman eventually wrote 40 books and 21,000 letters that survive. Most famous are his book-length Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine, Apologia Pro Vita Sua (his spiritual autobiography up to 1864) and Essay on the Grammar of Assent.

When Newman was named a cardinal in 1879, he took as his motto "Cor ad cor loquitur" (Heart speaks to heart). He was buried in Rednal (near Birmingham) 11 years later. After his grave was exhumed in 2008, a new tomb was prepared at the Oratory church in Birmingham.

Three years after Newman died, a Newman Club for Catholic students began at the University of Pittsburgh. In time, his name was linked to ministry centers at many public and private colleges and universities in the United States.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified Newman on September 19, 2010, at Crofton Park (near Birmingham). The pope noted Newman's emphasis on the vital place of revealed religion in civilized society but also praised his pastoral zeal for the sick, the poor, the bereaved and those in prison.

"God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another."

"I have a mission; I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons; He has not created me for naught."

"I shall do good — I shall do his work. I shall be an angel of peace while not intending it if I do but keep his commandments. Therefore, I will trust him."

O God, who didst bestow upon thy Priest Blessed John Henry Newman, the grace to follow thy kindly light and find peace in thy Church: graciously grant that, through his intercession and example, we may be led out of shadows and images into the fulness of thy truth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

07 October 2018

St. Denis and Companions, Martyrs



St. Dionysius (Denis, as he is known to us) was born someplace in Italy, sometime during the 3rd century. In fact, for years he was confused with another Dionysius, the Aereopagite who was converted when St. Paul visited Athens. As little as we know about St. Denis, it's evident that he had become known for living a virtuous and faithful life, because he was chosen by Pope Fabian (236-250) to be one of the missionary bishops to Gaul (modern-day France). It was a difficult mission. The Church of Gaul had suffered terribly under the persecution of the Emperor Decius, and these men were sent to do all they could to bring the Catholic faith to the people there. Denis was sent to the area of present-day Paris, along with his companions, the priest Rusticus and the deacon Eleutherius. When they arrived, they settled on an island in the Seine.

It was on this island that Denis built a church, and he and his clergy provided regular worship, with the Daily Offices and the Mass. He was a very powerful preacher, and there were many conversions to the faith. A great number of these converts came from local pagan religions, and when the pagan priests saw so many of their people being baptised, they started to make plans to get rid of the bishop Denis, along with his priest and deacon. They carried out their plan by going to the local Roman governor, Sisinnius, to convince him that what Denis was teaching was actually stirring up the people against the Roman Empire. Sisinnius believed what these pagan priests told him, so he had Denis and his companions arrested. They were told to stop preaching, or they would pay with their lives. Denis and his companions had no intention of stopping, so they were tortured horribly. First, they were scourged and stretched on the rack; finally they were tortured with fire and then thrown to wild beasts. Before they were actually killed by the wild animals, they were dragged away and beheaded, and their bodies thrown into the river. The bodies of the martyrs were retrieved by a holy Christian woman named Catulla. She buried them, and erected a small shrine to mark the graves. Over the years the people came to the site, asking for God's blessings through the intercessions of the three martyrs. Eventually this shrine was expanded and made more beautiful, and today it is a great basilica, one of the most famous churches in Europe. But it still marks the simple graves of these three brave men, who died willingly because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

O God, who didst strengthen blessed Denis, thy Martyr and Bishop, with the virtue of constancy in his suffering, and didst vouchsafe to join unto him Rusticus and Eleutherius, for the preaching of thy glory to the heathen: grant us, we beseech thee, by their example, to despise the prosperity of this world, and to fear none of its adversities; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

06 October 2018

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary


The commemoration of Our Lady of the Rosary, also known as Our Lady of Victory, recalls a very important event which took place on October 7, 1571. For some time the Muslims had attempted to conquer Europe, not only for political reasons, but also in an attempt to destroy the Church and impose Islam throughout the known world.

On that clear October morning a huge gathering of ships appeared in the Mediterranean Sea, near the Greek port of Lepanto -- 280 Turkish ships, and 212 Christian ships. For years the Muslims had been raiding Christian areas around the Mediterranean and had carried off thousands of Christians into slavery. In fact, all of the ships gathered on that morning were powered by rowers – and the Muslim ships had nearly 15,000 Christian slaves in chains, being forced to pull the oars to guide the ships into battle. The Catholic fleet was under the command of Don Juan of Austria, but the Catholic fleet was at a great disadvantage in its power and military ability. This was a battle that would decide the fate of the world – either the Turks would be victorious and the Church destroyed, or the Catholics would be victorious and would put down the Muslim threat.

Pope St. Pius V knew the importance of victory. He called upon all of Europe to pray the rosary, asking for the intercession of Our Lady, that God would grant a Catholic victory. Although it seemed hopeless, the people prayed. Don Juan guided his battleships into the middle of the Turkish fleet; meanwhile, many of the Christian slaves had managed to escape their chains and poured out of the holds of the Muslim ships, attacking the Turks and swinging their chains, throwing the Muslims overboard. The combination of the attack by the Catholic fleet and the uprising of the Christian slaves meant that there was a great victory by the Catholics fleet over the mighty Turkish fleet.

We know today that this victory was decisive. It prevented the Islamic invasion of Europe at that time, and it showed the Hand of God working through Our Lady. At the hour of victory, St. Pope Pius V, who was hundreds of miles away in his Papal residence, is said to have gotten up from a meeting, went over to a window, and through supernatural knowledge exclaimed, "The Christian fleet is victorious!" and he wept tears of thanksgiving to God.

This day has been remembered throughout the Church, first as Our Lady of Victory, and then as Our Lady of the Holy Rosary – remembering the victory God granted, and also remembering the means by which that victory was achieved – that it was an intervention by God through the prayers offered by praying the Rosary... something we might consider in our own generation.

O God, whose Only Begotten Son by his life, death, and Resurrection, hath purchased for us the rewards of eternal salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that meditating upon the mysteries of the Rosary, our devotion may bud forth as the rose in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and that we may so follow the pattern of their teaching, that we may finally be made partakers of thy heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

04 October 2018

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos


The priestly zeal of Francis Xavier Seelos took him to many places, but always with the same purpose; namely, to help people know the great love and compassion of God. And not only did he preach, but he put his words into practice, even to the point of risking his own life in caring for the sick and the dying.

Francis Xavier Seelos was born in southern Bavaria in the year 1819. He studied philosophy and theology in Munich as part of his preparation for the priesthood, but while still a student he became fascinated with the missionary work of the Redemptorists, which they were carrying out amongst the German-speaking immigrants in the United States. He arrived in America in 1843 and was ordained in the Redemptorist Church of St. James in Baltimore at the end of 1844. He was assigned for six years to the parish of St. Philomena in Pittsburgh, where he served as an assistant to St. John Neumann, who would become one of our great missionary bishops.

During the several years he was engaged in parish ministry throughout the state of Maryland, Fr. Seelos also had the responsibility of training Redemptorist students for the priesthood. In fact, during this time the Civil War broke out, and he went went to Washington, D.C. to appeal to President Lincoln that his students not be drafted for military service, although eventually some were.

For several years Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos preached in English and in German throughout the Midwest and in the Mid-Atlantic states. Eventually he was assigned to St. Mary of the Assumption Church in New Orleans, where he served faithfully as pastor. In 1867 he died of yellow fever, being only forty-eight years old, having contracted the disease while visiting the sick in his parish. He was described as a priest with a constant smile and a generous heart. He was beatified in 2000, and his cause for canonization is moving forward.

O God, who makest us glad with the yearly feast of blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, thy Priest and Confessor: mercifully grant that, as we now observe his heavenly birthday; so we may follow him in all virtuous and godly living; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

03 October 2018

St. Francis of Assisi


St. Francis of Assisi was actually baptized with the name Giovanni (John), but his father, who was a cloth merchant and who had lots of business in France, called him Francis. That's the name that stuck, although it's really a nickname. Francis was born in 1182 in the town of Assisi, and because his father was rather successful, Francis was raised with a love of fine clothes and good times. He led the other young men of the town in enjoying good food and drink, singing, and dancing.

When Francis was 20, he was taken prisoner in a war between Assisi and Perugia. For the year he was a prisoner, during which time he was very sick, he had some religious experiences which began to change him. After his release, he was praying in the decrepit little chapel of S. Damiano outside Assisi, and he heard a voice from the crucifix telling him, "Francis, repair my house, which is falling in ruins." He took the words literally, and he went quickly back to the city, sold his horse and some cloth from his father's shop, and came back to give some of the money to the priest at S. Damiano, and distributed some of it to the poor. Francis also, with his own hands, worked on repairing the little church.

His father was furious at Francis' squandering money on churches and beggars, and hauled him before the bishop to bring him to his senses. As he stood before the bishop, Francis calmly took off all his clothes, gave them to his father (the astonished bishop quickly covered Francis with a cloak), and said that he was now recognizing only his Father in heaven, not his father on earth. His life from this time on was lived without money or family ties.

The 13th century was also a time when the Christian religion was taken very much for granted, and Francis felt the need to return to the original spirit of Christ. This meant living in poverty, and it also meant showing Christ's love to other people. A number of the young men of Assisi, attracted by Francis' example, joined him in his new way of life. In 1209 Francis and his companions went to Rome, where they presented their ideas to Pope Innocent III and received his approval.

They found themselves influencing more and more people, including a young lady named Clare, whom Francis helped to enter a monastery of nuns, and who later began the "second order" of Franciscans, the order for women. Francis travelled to the Holy Land. He also went to Rome in 1223 to present the rule of his order to the Pope, who approved it wholeheartedly. Francis returned to Assisi and began to spend more and more time alone in prayer, leaving the decisions about his organization to others.

While he was praying on Mt. Alvernia in 1224, he had a vision of an angelic figure, and when the vision disappeared Francis felt the wounds of Christ in his hands, side, and feet. He was careful not to show the stigmata to others, but several close friends reported after his death that Francis had suffered in his body as Christ had suffered on the cross. His last 2 years were lived in almost constant pain and near-blindness. He died in 1226, and 2 years later he was canonized.

O God, who dost ever delight to reveal thyself to the childlike and lowly of heart: grant that, following the example of blessed Francis, and aided by his prayers; we may count the wisdom of this world as foolishness and know only Jesus Christ and him crucified; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

01 October 2018

Holy Guardian Angels


God shows His love to us in many ways, and one of the most comforting and constant expressions of this is that He entrusts each of us to a particular angel, who is our guide and our guardian. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that "the existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls 'angels' is a truth of faith” (n. 328), and it goes on to say (n. 336) "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."  Our Lord Himself tells us, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father" (Matthew 18:10).

From our birth until our death, we are surrounded by the protection and intercession of angels, particularly our guardian angel who remains beside each one of us and who stands as protector and shepherd leading us to life with God. We should ask our Guardian Angel for help, and when we are praying for others, we can ask our Guardian Angel to cooperate with the Guardian Angel of another person, to keep them safe and to guide them.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, in writing to his spiritual sons (and equally applicable to all of us) says this:
“Be alert in your every action as one should be who is accompanied by angels in all your ways, for that mission has been enjoined upon them. In whatever lodging, in whatever nook or corner you may find yourself, cherish a reverence for your guardian angel. In his presence do not dare to do anything you would not do in mine. Or do you doubt his presence because you do not see him? Would it really help if you did hear him, or touch him, or smell him? Remember, there are realities whose existence has not been proven by mere sight.
Brethren, we will love God's angels with a most affectionate love; for they will be our heavenly co-heirs some day, these spirits who now are sent by the Father to be our protectors and our guides. With such bodyguards, what are we to fear? They can neither be subdued nor deceived; nor is there any possibility at all that they should go astray who are to guard us in all our ways. They are trustworthy, they are intelligent, they are strong — why, then, do we tremble? We need only to follow them, remain close to them, and we will dwell in the protection of the Most High God. So as often as you sense the approach of any grave temptation or some crushing sorrow hangs over you, invoke your protector, your leader, your helper in every situation. Call out to him and say: Lord, save us, we are perishing.”

O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and constituted the ministries of angels and men in a wonderful order: Mercifully grant that, as thy holy angels always serve and worship thee in heaven, so by thine appointment they may help and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God, world without. Amen.

Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
to whom His love commits me here,
ever this day be at my side,
to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

30 September 2018

Follow Christ!

On October 1st, thirty-nine years ago, I was standing on the Boston Common with about 600,000 others. I was a young Episcopal cleric, and a Catholic priest friend of mine had encouraged me to go to Boston "to see the Pope." It rained for most of the day, and I was standing in it with no umbrella. An excited community of religious sisters was in front of me, screaming their heads off and waving their signs to no one in particular. I didn't know a single person around me, and after standing in the mud and rain for nearly seven hours, I didn't think I'd ever want to do this again.

But then... the Holy Father arrived. The Mass started. The memory of the long and uncomfortable wait we'd had melted away. I didn't hear anything but his voice.

When he began his sermon, my heart was ready. And when he repeated, "Follow Christ!" that's all I wanted to do. So I made my decision then and there. I would become a Catholic. I didn't know how, and I didn't know when, but to follow Christ meant that I had to become a Catholic.

Little did I know at the time that I was in the presence of a saint. I thank God every day that I heard his words, and that the Holy Spirit urged me to respond.

Follow Christ. That says it all.

St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus


Marie Thérèse Martin was born into a family of very faithful Catholics, and she was the youngest of five daughters. Her father was a watchmaker, and her mother, Zelie, who died when Thérèse was four, was a lace maker.

While still a child she felt the attraction of the cloister, and at fifteen obtained permission to enter the Carmel of Lisieux, taking the name of Sr. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. For the next nine years she lived a very ordinary religious life. There are no miracles or exceptional experiences recorded about her. She attained a very high degree of holiness simply by carrying out her ordinary daily duties with perfect faithfulness, having a childlike confidence in God's providence and merciful love and by being ready to be at the service of others at all times. She also had a great love of the Church and a zeal for the conversion of souls, and she prayed especially for priests.

She died of tuberculosis on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24, and was canonized in 1925. She has never ceased to fulfill her promise: "I will pass my heaven in doing good on earth." Her interior life is known through her autobiography called The Story of a Soul. Pope St. John Paul II declared her to be a Doctor of the Church in 1997.

O Lord Jesus Christ, who hast said, except ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven: grant us, we beseech thee, in meekness and lowliness of heart to follow the footsteps of blessed Thérèse thy Virgin; and so at last to come unto thine everlasting kingdom; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

On a personal note, with the Commemoration of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus - the Little Flower - come remembrances of occasions when she has sent a rose into someone's life at just the right time.

My own experience was several years ago, during a time of great trial, when I very much needed a sign of God's love and something which would indicate I was acting in accordance with His Divine Will. It was at about 4:45 a.m., when I was walking from my car to offer Mass at the Carmelite convent where I was chaplain. It was a winter morning, and the temperature was near freezing. I had been asking St. Thérèse and the Blessed Mother for their intercession. Just before opening the gate to the convent I looked down, and on the sidewalk was a fresh rose with some drops of water on the petals. When I got inside I asked the nuns if they had been bringing roses in from someplace, but they assured me that they hadn't. I took it as a sign of God's love, sent by the Little Flower, and it was all I needed at that important time.