09 August 2020

St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr

Saint Lawrence was one of seven deacons in Rome in charge of giving help to the poor and the needy. In fact, during the first centuries of the Church, the number of deacons for any bishop was limited to seven, following the precedent of Jerusalem. It was said of Lawrence that he was to Rome, what Stephen was to Jerusalem.

When a persecution broke out, Pope St. Sixtus was condemned to death. As he was led to execution, Lawrence followed him weeping, "Father, where are you going without your deacon?" he said. "I am not leaving you, my son," answered the Pope. "in three days you will follow me." Full of joy, Lawrence gave to the poor the rest of the money he had on hand and even sold expensive vessels to have more to give away.

The Prefect of Rome, a greedy pagan, thought the Church had a great fortune hidden away. So he ordered Lawrence to bring the Church's treasure to him. The Saint said he would, in three days. Then he went through the city and gathered together all the poor and sick people supported by the Church. When he showed them to the Prefect, he said: "This is the Church's treasure!"

In great anger, the Prefect condemned Lawrence to a slow, cruel death. The Saint was tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little, but Lawrence was burning with so much love of God that he almost did not feel the flames. In fact, God gave him so much strength and joy that he even joked. "Turn me over," he said to the judge. "I'm done on this side!" And just before he died, he said, "It's cooked enough now." Then he prayed that the city of Rome might be converted to Jesus and that the Catholic Faith might spread all over the world. After that, he went to receive the martyr's reward. Saint Lawrence's feast day is August 10th.

Almighty God, who didst endue blessed Lawrence with power to overcome the fires of his torments: give us grace, we beseech thee, to quench the flames of our sins; 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.



The Holy Deacon Lawrence before the Emperor Valerius.



The grill on which St. Lawrence was martyred.



The stone on which the body of St. Lawrence was laid after his martyrdom.

08 August 2020

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
- St. Matthew 14:22-33 

The beautiful hymn, “Sweet Sacrament divine” was written by Fr. Francis Stanfield (1835-1914). Beloved by Catholics throughout the English-speaking world, the first verse says this:
Sweet Sacrament divine,
hid in thine earthly home,
lo, round thy lowly shrine,
with suppliant hearts we come;
Jesus, to thee our voice we raise
in songs of love and heartfelt praise:
sweet Sacrament divine,
sweet Sacrament divine.
It is in the third verse that Fr. Stanfield takes us to the Gospel account of the fearful disciples in the boat, being buffeted by the storm, and reminds us of the experience of St. Peter, and of the safety which our Lord gives:
Sweet Sacrament of rest,
ark from the ocean's roar,
within thy shelter blest
soon may we reach the shore;
save us, for still the tempest raves,
save, lest we sink beneath the waves:
sweet Sacrament of rest,
sweet Sacrament of rest.
In the Gospel account of this storm we see Peter sinking into the waves, and he cries out, “Lord, save me.” That is what shows us the way forward. When we live in the confidence that the Lord can banish fear and that He is present with us to help us – it is then that we can accomplish things we never could have done by ourselves. We should not pay so much attention to the threats of wind and wave, that we stop paying attention to the Lord Jesus Christ.

God is constantly asking us to go beyond ourselves. He invites us to rise above whatever rough seas we have in our lives. But He is not asking us to do it by ourselves. As He did with St. Peter, so He bids us, “Come.” Christ holds out His hand to us to support us – and if we should happen to forget, and we start to sink, then all we need to do is cry out, “Lord, save me.”

In this Gospel is a picture of faith – a faith which gets strengthened by the constant summons from our Lord to surpass our human limitations. We can overcome tragedies. We can overcome sorrows. We can overcome evil – if we walk with Christ.

Jesus comes to us in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in the Sacred Host He holds out His hand to each one of us. And He asks us to “come.” In the confessional, He holds out His hand, and asks us to “come.” There is nothing – no power, no trial, no suffering – that can separate us from Christ’s love, if we keep our confidence in His mercy, and our faith in His power. And it is in this knowledge that we can join our voices with the apostles, and with countless saints throughout the ages, in saying to Him, “Truly, you are the Son of God!”

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Painting: "Jesus and Peter on the Water" (Jesus et Pierre sur les eaux), 1863 
by Gustave Brion (1824–1877)

07 August 2020

St. Dominic, Priest and Founder


St. Dominic Guzman was used mightily by God to strengthen the cause of orthodoxy in the medieval Church by founding the Order of Preachers, also known as Dominicans. 

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said of him: “This great saint reminds us that in the heart of the Church a missionary fire must always burn. The search for God's glory and the salvation of souls must go hand in hand.” 

Dominic was born in Spain around the year 1170, and he received his early education from his uncle, who was a priest. He then entered the University of Palencia where he studied for ten years. An indication of his holiness took place while he was a student, when he sold his entire collection of books to provide for the relief of the poor.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Dominic was asked by his bishop to assist him with various ecclesiastical reforms. While he was traveling in France with the bishop, Dominic observed the bad effects of the Albigensian heresy, which had taken hold in southern France during the preceding century. The Albigensians believed in a good spirit who created the spiritual, and in an evil spirit who created the material world, including the human body, which is therefore under its control. The good spirit created the soul but the evil one imprisoned it in the body, which is evil from its source. Due in great part to the preaching and holy example of St. Dominic, this heresy eventually was virtually eradicated.

The time of Dominic was much like our own – the heresies may have been different, but it was a time when the world needed a new evangelism, and St. Dominic would have a major role of evangelizing through his Order of Preachers, who would come to be known as the Dominicans.

It was in 1214 that Dominic's extreme physical asceticism caused him to fall into a coma, during which the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to him and instructed him to promote the prayer of the Rosary. Its focus on the incarnation and life of Christ directly contradicted the Albigensian attitude towards matter as evil.

That year, Dominic received his bishop's approval to found an order dedicated to preaching. He and a group of followers gained local recognition as a religious congregation, and the Order of Preachers expanded throughout Europe with papal help in 1218.

The founder spent the last several years of his life building up the order and continuing his preaching missions, during which he is said to have converted some 100,000 people. After several weeks of illness, St. Dominic died in Italy on August 6, 1221.

Almighty God, whose Priest Dominic grew in the knowledge of thy truth, and formed an order of preachers to proclaim the faith of Christ: by thy grace, grant to all thy people a love for thy word and a longing to share the Gospel; that the whole world may be filled with the knowledge of thee and of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

06 August 2020

St. Sixtus II and His Deacons

The Emperor Valerian (253-60) had a hatred for the Church, and he didn’t hesitate to vent his rage. He mandated that all Christians had to take part in state religious ceremonies, and not only that, he forbade them to assemble for any worship whatsoever in the catacombs. Although the catacombs were constructed as places for the burial of the dead, because even the pagans had respect for burial places, they did become locations where Christians could assemble in relative safety during times of persecution.

So it was that during the reign of Valerian, he issued a decree ordering the execution of all bishops, priests and deacons. The Bishop of Rome at this time was Sixtus II, who had been elected to succeed Stephen I. For nearly a year after the emperor’s decree, Sixtus managed to evade the Roman authorities. Pope Sixtus found that it was a bit safer to gather with his clergy and people in the small private cemetery of Praetextatus. Although it was near the better-known and larger cemetery of Calixtus, the authorities tended not to watch it as closely; however, that could last only for so long.

Early in August of 258, while Sixtus was teaching from his episcopal chair, surrounded by four of his seven deacons and with a congregation of the faithful gathered to hear him, Roman soldiers burst in, arresting Sixtus and the deacons who were there. They dragged him off to force him to offer incense to the pagan gods, which of course he would not do. He was then returned to the place where he had been arrested, thrust brutally onto his chair, and was beheaded on the spot. The four deacons who were with him, Januarius, Vincentius, Magnus, and Stephanus, also were martyred, and very soon afterwards (probably that same day) two other deacons, Felicissimus and Agapitus, were put to death – leaving only the chief deacon, Lawrence, whom the Romans spared temporarily in the hope of having him turn over anything in the Church’s treasury.

When we get to the story of St. Lawrence in a few days, we’ll see how that worked out for the Romans!

Almighty and Everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyrs Pope St. Sixtus and his Holy Deacons: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in their triumph may profit by their example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

05 August 2020

The Transfiguration of our Lord


It was an astonishing sight for Peter, James, and John, when they saw the Lord Jesus Christ radiating His divine glory, talking with Moses and Elijah. He manifested His glory, the glory that was His as the only begotten Son of the Father - God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God. 

His face shone like the sun. His clothing became blinding and brilliant, whiter than any bleach on earth could bleach them. His divine nature shone through His humanity, making it clear that our Lord Jesus Christ is at once true God and true man. But He isn't like two things that are mixed together to form a third thing. He isn’t a hybrid of God and man. He is neither a “super man” nor is He a lesser god. He is the God-man, the unique Person in whom the fullness of the Deity dwells in human flesh and blood. That's what the disciples glimpsed on the mountain that day. They saw Jesus in His glory as God shining through His humanity. 

And this is an important point about Jesus. His divine nature is never without His human nature. So, when we say that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament, we mean that He is present as the God-man.  Both His divine and human natures are present. Of course, there are some who deny this. They say that His presence is simply symbolic or spiritual – but what God has joined we must not separate. We must leave Jesus whole, and not try to pull Him apart. We cannot have a human Jesus sometimes, and a divine Jesus at other times. Either He is the God-man in the crib, on the Mount of Transfiguration, on the cross, at the right hand of the Father, and in the Blessed Sacrament, or else He is not the One who mediates between God and man. He touches our humanity and the Father's divinity, and He does it without dividing Himself. 

In Christ, God was born of a virgin mother. In Christ, a man shone with the glory of God on the mountain. In Christ, God suffered on the cross. In Christ, a man reigns over all things at the right hand of the Father. 

This means when Jesus deals with us, He deals with us according to our humanity, in a flesh and blood way. He comes to us under the outward signs of simple bread and wine. He speaks to us through words spoken by a human mouth which enter our hearts and minds by way of our physical ears. He uses things like water and oil to give us eternal life and healing. He deals with us in earthy and ordinary ways. He honours our humanity by becoming human and engaging us as human beings, as the creatures of God that we are. It is through the human flesh of Jesus that God has chosen to reveal Himself to us. 

Jesus is the true Light that shines into the darkness of this world. He is the Light that shines into the darkness of death, the Light that shines into the darkness of everything that we fear.  It is the very same Jesus who was laid in a manger, who was carried in Simeon's arms in the temple, who was changed in appearance before His three disciples, who hung on the cross, who died and was buried, who was raised from the dead and now lives and reigns. It's all one and the same Jesus, whether He is gloriously gleaming like the sun or ingloriously dying in the darkness. 

And at every single Mass we come into that same glorious presence of Jesus Christ together with the angels and the archangels and all the company of heaven. At every Mass we are setting foot on the mountain with Jesus. At every Mass we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. At every Mass Christ comes to preach His Word of forgiveness to us and to feed us with His Body and Blood. At every Mass something greater than the transfiguration takes place. The same Jesus is present for us as He was for His disciples on the mountain. The only difference is that we cannot see Him as the apostles did that day. 

Nor would we want to see Him, really. The sight of Jesus in His glory would be too much to bear. Peter was left talking about making booths. In the Book of the Revelation, St. John the Divine saw Christ in all His glory and fell at His feet like a dead man. As Scripture says, "no one may look on God and live." But Jesus is kind and gentle toward us. He reserves His full blast glory for the Last Day. 

For now, He comes hidden in humility. He is so hidden that sometimes people pass Him by without noticing. But the voice from the cloud draws our attention on where it needs to be: namely, on Jesus. "This is my beloved Son. Hear Him." As great as was this vision of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus in His glory, the center and focus is always Jesus alone. The voice of the Father declares Him to be His beloved Son, just as He did at His Baptism. He directs our ears to His voice. "Listen to Him." Listen to Him because He alone has the words of eternal life. Listen to Him because His words are Spirit and they are life. Listen to Him because He is God's word of undeserved kindness to us. In the former times God spoke by the prophets, by Moses and Elijah. But now in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son Jesus Christ. 

Where Jesus is, Moses and Elijah slip into the background. When Jesus speaks, Moses and Elijah become silent. With the Father's voice having spoken from the cloud, the gospel says that the disciples "saw no one but Jesus only." 

Only Jesus. That's what the Mount of Transfiguration is all about. That's what the sacraments are all about. Only Jesus. Only He is God's beloved Son. Only He shines with the glory of God through human flesh and blood. Only He bore our sins in His own body nailed to the tree. Only He sits at the right hand of the Father to pray for us, to forgive us, to give us life in His Name. Only He reveals the glory of God to save us and deliver us. 

And as Jesus has His way with us, we too are being transfigured, changed from the inside out, changed to be like Him. For now, that work is hidden under weakness. But on the Day when Jesus again appears in glory for all the world to see, He will change our bodies to be like His glorious body. 

And what a Day of Transfiguration that will be! Our weakness will be transformed into strength. Every tear will be wiped away, and there will be no sorrow which is not turned to joy, as He brings about a “new heaven and a new earth,” restoring all things to Himself. 



Behold our Lord transfigured,
In Sacrament Divine;
His glory deeply hidden,
'Neath forms of Bread and Wine.
Our eyes of faith behold Him,
Salvation is outpoured;
The Saviour dwells among us,
by ev'ry heart adored.


No longer on the mountain
With Peter, James and John,
Our precious Saviour bids us
To walk where saints have gone.
He has no lasting dwelling,
Save in the hearts of men;
He feeds us with His Body,
To make us whole again.


With Moses and Elijah,
We worship Christ our King;
Lord, make our souls transfigured,
Let us with angels sing.
Lead us in paths of glory,
Give tongues to sing thy praise;
Lord Jesus, keep us faithful,
Now and for all our days.


Text: Fr. Christopher G. Phillips, 1990
Music: "Ewing" by Alexander C. Ewing, 1853

The Mount of the Transfiguration

Having visited the site of the Transfiguration many times, I must say that if you haven't visited the top of Mt. Tabor, I hope you'll have the opportunity. There's a cliché which says "getting there is half the fun," but that might not refer to the site of our Lord's transfiguration. I'm sure the taxi drivers have great fun at the pilgrims' expense, and no matter how many times I made the trip, taking hair-pin turns at break-neck speed was always nerve-wracking. When you finally get to the top, the terra is reassuringly firma, and the walk to the basilica is a joy. The only dark cloud is remembering that what goes up must come down... that pesky return trip! No wonder St. Peter wanted to build three booths and stay there.

This basilica, built in 1924 over the ruins of more ancient churches, marks the traditional site of the transfiguration of Christ in the presence of Peter, James and John, along with the appearance of Moses and Elijah. There are depressions in the shape of two footprints in the rock. I'm not sure if this was the work of Jesus, or of some over-eager monks in an earlier age. But Mt. Tabor is the spot. It's been attested to from the earliest days of the Church. It's an inspiring place to visit and a most peaceful place to pray.

O God, who on the holy mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine Only Begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty; who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

04 August 2020

Dedication of St. Mary Major


From The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch:

The Basilica of St. Mary Major is important to Christendom for three reasons.

- It stands as a venerable monument to the Council of Ephesus (431), at which the dogma of Mary's divine Motherhood was solemnly defined; the definition of the Council occasioned a most notable increase in the veneration paid to Mary.

- The basilica is Rome's "church of the crib," a kind of Bethlehem within the Eternal City; it also is a celebrated station church, serving, for instance, as the center for Rome's liturgy for the first Mass on Christmas. In some measure every picture of Mary with the divine Child is traceable to this church.

- St. Mary Major is Christendom's first Marian shrine for pilgrims. It set the precedent for the countless shrines where pilgrims gather to honor our Blessed Mother throughout the world. Here was introduced an authentic expression of popular piety that has been the source of untold blessings and graces for Christianity in the past as in the present.

The beginnings of St. Mary Major date to the Constantinian period. Originally it was called the Sicinini Basilica; it was the palace of a patrician family by that name before its transformation into a church by Pope Liberius. The story of its origin is legendary, dating from the Middle Ages. The Breviary gives this version: "Liberius was on the chair of Peter (352-366) when the Roman patrician John and his wife, who was of like nobility, vowed to bequeath their estate to the most holy Virgin and Mother of God, for they had no children to whom their property could go. The couple gave themselves to assiduous prayer, beseeching Mary to make known to them in some way what pious work they should subsidize in her honor.

Mary answered their petition and confirmed her reply by means of the following miracle. On the fifth of August — a time when it is unbearably hot in the city of Rome — a portion of the Esquiline would be covered with snow during the night. During that same night the Mother of God directed John and his wife in separate dreams to build a church to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the site where they would see snow lying. For it was in this manner that she wanted her inheritance to be used.

John immediately reported the whole matter to Pope Liberius, and he declared that a similar dream had come to him. Accompanied by clergy and people, Liberius proceeded on the following morning in solemn procession to the snow-covered hill and there marked off the area on which the church in Mary's honor was to be constructed.

Under Pope Sixtus III (432-440) the basilica was rebuilt, and upon the occasion of the definition of Mary's divine Motherhood by the Council of Ephesus, consecrated to her honor (432). He decorated the apse and walls with mosaics from the lives of Christ and His blessed Mother, which even to this day beautify the church and belong to the oldest we possess. As early as the end of the fourth century a replica of the Bethlehem nativity grotto had been added; on this account the edifice became known as "St. Mary of the Crib." To the Christian at Rome this church is Bethlehem. Other names for the basilica are: Liberian Basilica, because it dates to the time of Pope Liberius; St. Mary Major (being the largest church in Mary's honor in Rome); Our Lady of the Snow, because of the miracle that supposedly occasioned its erection.

We could point out how the divine Motherhood mystery dominates all Marian liturgy; for the Theotokos doctrine has kept Mariology Christo-centric in the Church's worship. Although recent popular devotion to Mary has become to a certain extent soft and sentimental and has, one may say, erected its own sanctuary around Mary as the center, devotion to our Blessed Mother in the liturgy has always remained oriented to Christ. In the liturgy the divine Motherhood has always been the bridge from Mary to Jesus. One need only examine Matins in honor of Mary or the Masses from her Common to be reassured. Everywhere Christ takes the central position, and Mary is the Christbearer.

Pope Liberius tracing the outline of the basilica in the August snowfall.

The High Altar.
Reliquary containing the major relic of the Manger.

03 August 2020

"Was ever a command so obeyed..."


A towering figure in our patrimony is the Anglican Benedictine, Dom Gregory Dix (4 October 1901 – 12 May 1952), who was a liturgist of some repute. His major work, The Shape of the Liturgy (published in 1945), continues to be influential in our understanding of prayer and liturgical life.

There is a passage in that work which, if he had never written another thing, would have been enough to have made us remember him, especially in the times in which we are now living. Especially over these past months many have come to a deeper understanding of the Holy Eucharist as a life-line. Even for those unable to attend in person, the objective grace flowing from the Mass being celebrated is as the blood flowing through our veins. Think of that when reading what Dom Gregory wrote of Christ's command to "do this, in memory of me…”

"Was ever a command so obeyed? For century after century, spreading slowly to every continent and country and among every race on earth, this action has been done, in every conceivable circumstance, for every conceivable human need from infancy and before it to extreme old age and after it, from the pinnacles of human greatness to the refuge of fugitives in the caves and dens of the earth. Men have found no better thing than this to do for kings at their crowning and for criminals going to the scaffold; for armies in triumph or for a bride and bridegroom in a little country church; for the proclamation of a dogma or for a good crop of wheat; for the wisdom of the Parliament of a mighty nation or for a sick old woman afraid to die; for a schoolboy sitting an examination or for Columbus setting out to discover America; for the famine of whole provinces or for the soul of a dead lover; in thankfulness because my father did not die of pneumonia; for a village headman much tempted to return to fetich because the yams had failed; because the Turk was at the gates of Vienna; for the repentance of Margaret; for the settlement of a strike; for a son for a barren woman; for Captain so-and-so, wounded and prisoner-of-war; while the lions roared in the nearby amphitheatre; on the beach at Dunkirk; while the hiss of scythes in the thick June grass came faintly through the windows of the church; tremulously, by an old monk on the fiftieth anniversary of his vows; furtively, by an exiled bishop who had hewn timber all day in a prison camp near Murmansk; gorgeously, for the canonisation of S. Joan of Arc -- one could fill many pages with the reasons why men have done this, and not tell a hundredth part of them. And best of all, week by week and month by month, on a hundred thousand successive Sundays, faithfully, unfailingly, across all the parishes of Christendom, the pastors have done this just to make the plebs sancta Dei -- the holy common people of God."


It is my privilege to offer each day, quietly, the Holy Sacrifice in our family’s private Chapel dedicated to the Martyr St. George. Each day it is in union with those countless Masses being offered throughout the world, obeying our Lord’s command to "do this, in memory of me…” It is here that your intentions are prayed for, remembering the living and the dead, and giving thanks for the blessings of daily life and for the hope of eternal glory.

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Pictured: The Chapel of the Martyr St. George

St. John Vianney, Priest and Confessor


St. John Vianney, also known as the Holy Curé de Ars, was born May 8, 1786 in Dardilly, near Lyon, France to a family of farmers. He was an unremarkable student and his bishop was reluctant to ordain him.  He did so in 1815 only because there was a shortage of priests.  He was then sent to the remote French community of Ars in 1818 to be a parish priest.

Upon his arrival, the priest immediately began praying and working for the conversion of his parishioners. Although he saw himself as unworthy of his mission as pastor, he allowed himself to be consumed by the love of God as he served the people.

St. John Vianney slowly helped to revive the community’s faith through both his prayers and the witness of his life. He gave powerful homilies on the mercy and love of God, and it is said that even staunch sinners were converted upon hearing him. In addition, he restored his church, formed an orphanage, and cared for the poor.

His reputation as a confessor grew rapidly, and pilgrims traveled from all over France to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Firmly committed to the conversion of the people, he would spend up to 16 hours a day in the confessional.

Plagued by many trials and besieged by the devil, St. John Vianney remained firm in his faith, and lived a life of devotion to God. Dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, he spent much time in prayer and practiced much mortification. He lived on little food and sleep, while working without rest in unfailing humility, gentleness, patience and cheerfulness, until he was well into his 70s.

St. John Vianney died on August 4, 1859. More than a thousand people attended his funeral, including the bishop and priests of the diocese, who already viewed his life as a model of priestly holiness.

The Holy Curé of Ars was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925. He is the patron saint of priests. Over 450,000 pilgrims travel to Ars every year in remembrance of his holy life.

Almighty and merciful God, who didst wonderfully endue Saint John Vianney with pastoral zeal and a continual desire for prayer and penance: grant, we beseech thee; that by his example and intercession, we may win the souls of our brethren for Christ, and with them attain glory everlasting; 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.

01 August 2020

Eighth Sunday after Trinity


At that time: When Jesus heard [of the death of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. 
-St. Matthew 14:13-21 

 O God, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth: we humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; 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.

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Painting: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes (La multiplicité des pains), 1886-1896. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper.

31 July 2020

St. Alphonsus Liguori


Alphonsus Liguori, born in 1696, was the son of an ancient Neapolitan family. His father was an officer in the Royal Navy. At the age of sixteen, Alphonsus received his doctorate in both canon and civil law and for nearly ten years practiced at the bar. When he found that one of the legal cases he was defending was not based on justice but on political intrigue, he gave up the practice of law and dedicated his life to God.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1726, St. Alphonsus Liguori joined a group of secular priests dedicated to missionary activities. He involved himself in many kinds of pastoral activities, giving missions and organizing workers, and had a part in the founding of an order of contemplative nuns.

In 1732, he founded the Redemptorists, a congregation of priests and brothers, to work especially among the country people of Italy who often lacked the opportunity for missions, religious instruction, and spiritual retreats. Strangely, his first companions deserted him; but Alphonsus stood firm, and soon vocations multiplied and the congregation grew.

The Redemptorists were approved by Pope Benedict XIV in 1749, and Alphonsus was elected superior general. In 1762, he was appointed bishop of Sant' Agata near Naples, and as bishop he corrected abuses, restored churches, reformed seminaries, and promoted missions throughout his diocese. During the famine of 1763-64, his charity and generosity were boundless, and he also carried on a huge campaign of religious writing.

In 1768, he was stricken with a painful illness and resigned his bishopric. During the last years of his life, problems in his congregation caused him much sorrow and when he died on August 1, 1787, at Pagani, near Salerno, the Redemptorists were a divided society. He was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1871.

(Excerpted from the The One Year Book of Saints by Rev. Clifford Stevens)


O God, who didst inflame blessed Alphonsus, thy Confessor and Bishop, with zeal for souls, and didst through him enrich thy Church with a new offspring: we beseech thee; that being taught by his wholesome precepts and strengthened by his example, we may be enabled to attain in gladness unto thee; 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.

30 July 2020

St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Shrine of St. Ignatius
at the Church of the Gesu in Rome.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born at Loyola in the mountains of northern Spain in 1491. A member of the minor nobility, Ignatius spent his youth and early adulthood as a courtier and soldier. He occasionally vowed to dedicate himself more fully to God, but never quite followed through. It was only after he read the lives of the saints while convalescing from a leg wound incurred during a battle that he finally began his spiritual pilgrimage with real intent at the age of 30.

Soon after this, St. Ignatius began to experience ecstatic visions, but within a year suffered a period of intense spiritual dryness (what St. John of the Cross termed the “dark night of the soul”), which nearly drove him to despair. He persevered, however, and out of this was born Spiritual Exercises, one the most important Catholic spiritual works of all time. Ignatius was a true mystic. He centered his spiritual life on the essential foundations of the Faith - the Trinity, Christ, the Eucharist. His spirituality is expressed in the Jesuit motto, Ad majorem Dei gloriam - “for the greater glory of God.” 

In spite of his noble origins, St. Ignatius lived an astonishingly humble lifestyle, which others often resented. Yet he attracted several followers (including St. Francis Xavier), and in 1540 received approval from Pope Paul III for his new order, The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits. In a very short time, this order would go on to become one of the best known of all Catholic religious orders, taking the Gospel to the four corners of the world.

O God, who for the greater glory of thy Name, didst endue thy Church militant with an increase of strength through the life and labours of blessed Ignatius: grant us, by his help and example, so to wage our earthly warfare; that with him we may be found worthy of a heavenly crown; 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.

Church of the Gesu, Rome.

29 July 2020

St. Peter Chrysologus


In the fifth century it was Ravenna, and not Rome, which was the capital of the Roman Empire in the West, and Ravenna itself became a major metropolitan See. St. Peter Chrysologus was one of the most distinguished archbishops of that See.


Peter was born in Imola about the year 400 and studied under Cornelius, bishop of Imola, who ordained him deacon. In 433, the archbishop of Ravenna died, and when a successor had been chosen by the clergy and people of Ravenna, they asked Bishop Cornelius to obtain confirmation of their choice from Pope Sixtus III. On his trip to Rome, Cornelius took his deacon, Peter, as his companion for the journey to Rome. For some reason known only to God, when the Pope met Peter, he chose him for the See of Ravenna instead of the one who had been selected by the clergy and people of Ravenna.


Peter was consecrated and was accepted somewhat grudgingly at first by both the clergy and the people. Peter, however, soon became the favorite of Emperor Valentinian III, who resided at Ravenna and was also highly regarded by Pope St. Leo the Great, the successor of Pope Sixtus.


There were still traces of paganism in Peter's diocese, and his first effort was to establish the Catholic faith everywhere, rooting out abuses and carrying on a campaign of preaching and special care of the poor. Many of his sermons still survive, and it is on the basis of these that he came to be known as Chrysologus, or "the golden word." In his concern for the unity of the Church, Peter Chrysologus opposed heresy wherever he found it.


When he knew his death was near, Peter returned to his own city of Imola and after urging great care in the choice of his successor he died at Imola about the year 450 and was buried in the church of St. Cassian. In 1729, Pope Benedict XIII declared him a Doctor of the Church.


O God, who madest the Bishop Saint Peter Chrysologus an illustrious preacher of thy incarnate Word: grant, through his intercession; that we may constantly ponder in our hearts the mysteries of thy salvation and faithfully manifest them in our lives; 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.

28 July 2020

St. Martha of Bethany


Our first thought upon hearing the name of St. Martha is probably the recollection of a woman preparing a meal for the Lord Jesus, upset that her sister Mary is not helping her, and who then is gently rebuked by Christ when He told her that “Mary has chosen the better portion.” What we should more readily recall, however, is her exchange with the Lord when He came to her house after the death of her brother Lazarus.


Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."


Here is Martha, the woman of great faith; the woman who professes Jesus as the Christ; the woman who professes the power of God in the coming resurrection. Is there any doubt that in her heart, Martha, too, had chosen “the better portion,” as Christ urged her to do?


Almighty and most merciful God, whose Son did vouchsafe to be welcomed in the home of blessed Martha: grant, we beseech thee, by the merits of her who lovingly served him; that we of thy mercy may be received into our heavenly home; 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.

24 July 2020

St. James the Greater, Apostle


St. James the Greater (meaning the Elder) and his brother John were partners in the fishing business with two other brothers, Peter and Andrew.  They all lived in Bethsaida, a village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. His mother was a sister of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and he would have known Jesus from childhood. He is one of those that Jesus called Boanerges, "sons of thunder," the brother of St. John the Evangelist and the son of Zebedee the fisherman from Galilee.

Along with Peter and John, James was part of the inner circle of Jesus, the ones who witnessed the Transfiguration, and who were witnesses to certain of His miracles, such as the raising of the daughter of Jairus. Like his brother, James was active in the work of evangelization after the death of Jesus, and there is some evidence that he went to Spain after our Lord's resurrection.  In fact, the great Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela witnesses to that probably

St. James' prominence and his presence in Jerusalem was well known.  Scarcely a dozen years after the Resurrection he was arrested and executed by King Herod Agrippa. This was followed by the arrest of Peter also, so his death must have been part of a purge of Christian leaders by Agrippa, who saw the new Christian movement as a threat.

Jesus had foretold this kind of fate when He prophesied that James and his brother John would "drink of the same chalice" of suffering as Himself. Along with their mother's request, the two brothers had asked to be seated at the right of Jesus and at His left in His kingdom, and Jesus told them that they would be with Him, but it turned out to be in a far different way than they expected.

Grant, O merciful God, that as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him: so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; 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.

23 July 2020

St. Sharbel Makhluf


St. Sharbel Makhluf is a Maronite saint, a member of the ancient Eastern Catholic Church of Antioch.  It was in Antioch that Christ's followers were first called Christians, and St. Peter ministered there before going to Rome.  The Maronites have their own liturgy and discipline, and have always been in full communion with the See of Peter.  They take their name from St. Maron, a fifth century monk and patriarch of Antioch.


Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra where he was born, his influence has spread widely.


Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853, and was ordained six years later.


Following the example of the fifth-century Saint Maron, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875, until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.


He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. He was beatified in 1965, and canonized 12 years later.


O God, who didst call the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhluf to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion: grant us, we pray thee; that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion, we may merit to be coheirs of his kingdom; 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.

22 July 2020

St. Bridget of Sweden


On July 23rd the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Bridget of Sweden. Bridget was a mystic and a visionary, and she received visions of Christ’s suffering many times throughout her life. She was born in 1303 and her parents were highly respected people, her father being a local governor and provincial judge.


When Bridget was only ten, it is recorded that she had a vision of Jesus on the cross and heard him say, “Look at me, my daughter,” to which she responded, "Who has treated you like this?" The answer she heard from Jesus was, "Those who despise me and refuse my love for them.” From that moment on, Bridget perceived it as her mission to try and stop people from offending Jesus.


When she was 14, Bridget married an 18-year old man named Ulf. Like Bridget, Ulf had set his heart on serving God. They had eight children, and their marriage of twenty-eight years was a very happy one. Bridget and Ulf also served the Swedish court, Bridget as the queen's personal maid.


All her life, Bridget had marvelous visions and received special messages from God. In obedience to them, she visited many rulers and important people in the Church. She explained humbly what God expected of them.


After her husband died, Bridget put away her rich clothes and lived as a poor nun. Later, in 1346, she began the order of the Most Holy Saviour, also known as Bridgettines. She still kept up her own busy life, traveling about doing good everywhere she went.


Shortly before she died, Bridget went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. At the shrines there, she had visions of what Jesus had said and done in each place, and all of her revelations on the suffering of Christ were published after her death.


St. Bridget died in Rome on July 23, 1373, and was proclaimed a saint by Pope Boniface IX just eighteen years later in 1391.


O God Most High, the Creator of all mankind: we bless thy holy Name for the virtue and grace which thou hast given unto holy women in all ages, especially Saint Bridget; and we pray that her intercession and the example of her faith and purity may inspire many souls in this generation to look unto thee, and to follow thy blessed Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

21 July 2020

St. Mary Magdalene


Mystery surrounds St. Mary Magdalene. Was she one and the same as Mary of Bethany? Had she been an immoral woman in her past life, or simply a woman from Magdala who was delivered from evil spirits? Whatever the case, we know she stood with the Blessed Mother and St. John at the foot of the cross; we know she was the first witness of the risen Lord Jesus Christ; and it was St. Mary Magdalene who ran to tell the apostles this Good News.


When Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and did not find the Lord’s body, she thought it had been taken away and so she told the disciples. After they came and saw the tomb, they too believed what Mary had told them. The text then says: The disciples went back home, and it adds: but Mary wept and remained standing outside the tomb.


We should reflect on Mary’s attitude and the great love she felt for Christ.  Even though the disciples had left the tomb, she remained. She was still seeking the one she had not found, and as she looked, she wept.  Burning with the fire of love, she longed for him whom she thought had been taken away. The woman who stayed behind, was the only one to see him. Perseverance is essential to any good act, as the Scriptures tell us: Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved.


At first she sought but did not find, but when she persevered it happened that she found what she was looking for. Even in our own lives, when our desires are not satisfied, they grow stronger, and becoming stronger those feelings make us try even harder. Holy desires likewise grow with anticipation. Anyone who succeeds in attaining the truth has had to burn with such a great love for the truth.


O Almighty God, whose blessed Son did call and sanctify Mary Magdalene to be a witness to his Resurrection: mercifully grant that by thy grace, and assisted by her prayers, we may be healed of all our infirmities, and always serve thee in the power of his endless life; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

-----------------------------------

 Painting: “The Sorrows of Mary Magdalene” by Jules Joseph Lefebvre (1836-1911)

20 July 2020

St. Lawrence of Brindisi


Born on 22 July 1559, and dying on 22 July 1619, St. Lawrence of Brindisi lived exactly sixty years. In that time he became a brilliant scholar, a devout and holy priest, a renowned linguist, an outstanding diplomat – and for many of those years he served as the Minister General of the Franciscan Order of Capuchins.


His writings fill fifteen volumes, and his knowledge of Hebrew allowed him to preach so effectively to the Jewish people in Italy that the rabbis were certain that Lawrence must have been a Jew who had become a Christian. His skills in dealing with people meant that he served as a papal emissary to many countries, but he never forgot that he was first and foremost a priest.


There is a very special title accorded by the Church to certain saints, who are named “Doctor of the Church,” and this title indicates that the writings and preaching of such a person are useful to Christians "in any age of the Church." Such men and women are also particularly known for the depth of understanding and the orthodoxy of their theological teachings. St. Lawrence of Brindisi was given this title, and he is one of the thirty-six saints to be named “Doctor.”


For some reason, his father insisted that his baptismal name was to be Julius Caesar, and that was done shortly after his birth at Brindisi in the kingdom of Naples in 1559. Educated in Venice at the College of St. Mark, he entered the Capuchins, and it was upon entering the monastery that he was given the name Lawrence. During his studies at the University of Padua, he showed an aptitude for languages, mastering Hebrew, Greek, German, Bohemian, Spanish, and French, and he also showed an extraordinary knowledge of the text of the Bible.


While still a deacon, St. Lawrence of Brindisi became known as an excellent preacher and after his ordination captured the whole of northern Italy with his amazing sermons. He was sent into Germany by the pope to establish Capuchin houses. While there, he became chaplain to Emperor Rudolf II and had a remarkable influence on the Christian soldiers fighting the Muslims who were threatening Hungary in 1601. Through his efforts, the Catholic League was formed to unify Catholics for the purpose of strengthening the Catholic cause in Europe. Sent by the emperor to persuade Philip III of Spain to join the League, he established a Capuchin friary in Madrid. He also brought peace between Spain and the kingdom of Savoy.


His compassion for the poor, the needy, and the sick was legendary. Elected minister-general of his order in 1602, he made the Capuchins a major force in the Catholic Restoration, visiting every friary in the thirty-four provinces of the order and directing the work of nine thousand friars. He himself was a dominant figure in carrying out the work of the Council of Trent and was described by Pope Benedict XV as having earned "a truly distinguished place among the most outstanding men ever raised up by Divine Providence to assist the Church in time of distress."


Lawrence was canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1881 and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John XXIII in 1959.


O God, who didst bestow on blessed Lawrence of Brindisi, thy Confessor and Doctor, the spirit of wisdom and fortitude to endure every labour for the glory of thy Name and the salvation of souls: grant us, in the same spirit, both to perceive what we ought to do, and by his intercession to perform the same; 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.

St. Margaret of Antioch


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. 


She is commemorated on July 20th in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. Although she is 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.


Grant, O Lord, that, like as blessed Margaret, thy Virgin and Martyr, by the merits of her chastity and the godliness of her conduct, did ever walk acceptably in thy sight: so she may at all times effectually intercede for our forgiveness; 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.


St. Margaret's Church, Westminster,

dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch

19 July 2020

St. Apollinaris of Ravenna


St. Apollinaris was one of the great martyrs in the early years of the Church. He was made Bishop of Ravenna by St. Peter. The miracles he conducted in Ravenna soon attracted official attention, for they and his preaching won many converts to the faith. However, at the same time, his words and works brought upon him the fury of the pagan people, who beat Apollinaris viciously on several occasions.


During one beating, Apollinaris was cut with knives, and scalding hot water poured over his wounds.  In this state of suffering he was then put on a ship to be sent to Greece.


In Greece St. Apollinaris carried on the same course of preaching, and miracles, and sufferings. In fact, after a cruel beating by Greek pagans, he was sent back to Italy.


When Emperor Vespasian issued a decree of banishment against the Christians, Apollinaris was kept hidden for some time, but as he was leaving, passing through the gates of the city, he was attacked and savagely beaten. He lived for seven days, foretelling that the persecutions would increase, but that the Church would ultimately triumph.


Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyr St. Apollinaris triumphed over suffering and was faithful even unto death: Grant to us, who now remember him with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with him the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Basilica of St. Apollinaris in Ravenna, 6th century.

18 July 2020

Wheat and Weeds

Jesus put another parable before the crowds, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?' He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

- St. Matthew 13:24-30


God is the King of the whole universe, although at times such as these it seems that His kingship isn't all that evident. It's not the first time things have been at a low ebb, and it won’t be the last. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ is referring to these very times when He speaks about weeds which grow up, seeming to choke the good seed.

In the Gospel parable the servants couldn’t understand where the weeds had come from, and we ask the same question: How can it be that there seems to be so much evil in the world? How is it that God can be pushed out of public life? How can wickedness bare its teeth, gnawing on what is good and spitting it out before trampling on it?

As we ask those things, our immediate desire is like that of the servants.  We want to rip up the weeds immediately. We want to rush in and condemn and get even and make everyone and everything be the way we know it should be, and we want it now. But then, there are the words Jesus puts into the mouth of the householder in the parable: “Let both grow together until the harvest.”

One of the hardest things for us in this life is to have patience, particularly when we think God should be doing things according to our plan, rather than us attempting to conform ourselves to His plan. “Let both grow together until the harvest...” and Jesus explains that the harvest is “the close of the age” – the end of the world. It’s then that God will do the judging and the sorting. It’s His task, not ours. Until then, we’re called to use His grace for the transformation of our own lives, knowing that if others have fallen short of God’s requirements, so have we.

We get impatient and discouraged. And yet, those feelings come to us mainly when we forget that it’s God’s Kingdom that we’re supposed to be building, and not our own. It’s our task to take care of our own little corner of the garden, and we need to let the God of the Universe see to the whole field.

So what’s the message to us for today? Be faithful. Be vigilant. Be holy. And know that, in the end, God’s Kingdom will triumph.

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Painting: "Buckwheat Harvest: Summer" by Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)

17 July 2020

St. Camillus de Lellis


By almost any standard, Camillus de Lellis wasn’t a very likely candidate for sainthood. His mother died when he was a child, his father neglected him, and he grew up with an excessive love for gambling. At 17, he was afflicted with a disease of his leg that remained with him for life. In Rome he entered the San Giacomo Hospital for Incurables as both patient and servant, but after nine months he was dismissed for his constant fighting. With no other alternative he served in the Venetian army for three years.


Then in the winter of 1574, when he was 24, Camillus gambled away everything he had – his savings, his weapons, literally down to his shirt. He accepted work at a Capuchin friary. One day he was so moved by a sermon of the superior that he began a conversion that changed his life. He entered the Capuchin novitiate, but was dismissed because of the apparently incurable sore on his leg. He went back to the San Giacomo hospital, and he gave himself completely to the care of the sick. He was so dedicated to the work that he was eventually made superintendent of the hospital.


Camillus devoted the rest of his life to the care of the sick. Along with Saint John of God he has been named patron of hospitals, nurses, and the sick. With the advice of his friend Saint Philip Neri, he studied for the priesthood and was ordained at the age of 34. He founded a congregation of his own, dedicated to the care of the sick. Unlike many hospitals of the day, St. Camillus insisted on cleanliness and that those who served the sick were trained in the basics of medical care.


Camillus himself suffered the disease of his leg through his life. In his last illness, he left his own bed to see if other patients in the hospital needed help. And so this unlikely saint was made holy by the grace of God, and he was able to bring that divine grace into the lives of countless people.


O God, who for the comfort of souls striving in their last agony, didst adorn Saint Camillus with singular gifts of charity: we beseech thee, by his merits, to pour upon us the spirit of thy love; that in the hour of our death, we may be worthy to overcome the enemy and to attain to the heavenly crown; 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 July 2020

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

"The Virgin of Carmel" by Alessandro Bonvicino ( c. 1498 –1554)

Mount Carmel is closely associated with the Prophet Elijah. Located in northern Israel, it was and remains a place of great beauty. There is still a chapel called the Grotto of St. Elijah, which is most likely where he sheltered

Hermits lived on Mount Carmel near the Fountain of Elijah in the 12th century. They had a chapel dedicated to Our Lady. By the 13th century they became known as “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” They soon celebrated a special Mass and Office in honor of Mary. In 1726 it became a celebration of the universal Church under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For centuries the Carmelites have seen themselves as specially related to Mary. Their great saints and theologians have promoted devotion to her and have often been at the forefront of explaining and defending the mystery of her Immaculate Conception.

St. Teresa of Avila called Carmel “the Order of the Virgin.” St. John of the Cross credited Mary with saving him from drowning as a child, leading him to Carmel, and helping him escape from prison. St. Therese of the Child Jesus dedicated her life to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and during the last days of her life she frequently spoke of her.

There is a strong tradition that Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a leader of the Carmelites, and gave him a scapular, telling him to promote devotion to it. The scapular is a modified version of Mary’s own garment. It symbolizes her special protection and calls the wearers to consecrate themselves to her in a special way. The scapular reminds us of the gospel call to prayer and penance—a call that Mary models in a splendid way.

O God, who didst adorn the Order of Mount Carmel with the especial title of thy most blessed Mother the Ever-Virgin Mary: mercifully grant; that as we do this day remember her in our solemn observance, so by the help of her succor we may be found worthy to attain to everlasting felicity; who livest and reignest with the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Flower of Carmel, vine blossom laden,
Joy of heaven, who yet a maiden,
Bore God's Holy One.
Gentlest Mother, who never man did know,
On Carmel's children your privilege bestow,
Star of Ocean.

Root of Jesse, flower in the cradling bud,
Take us to you, keep us with you in God,
His together.
All chaste lily, rising despite the thorn,
Strengthen, help us, so feeble and forlorn,
Great Protectress!

Be our armor, valiant for Christ when war
Rages round us, hold high the Scapular,
Strong and saving.
In our stumbling, guide us on God's wise way,
In our sorrow, comfort us when we pray;
Rich your mercy.

Holy Lady, Carmel's great Friend and Queen,
Feast your people from your own bliss, the unseen
Grace, God's goodness.
Key and Gateway, opening on Paradise,
Mother, win us a place with you in Christ
Crowned in glory.


Elijah's Cave atop Mt. Carmel, where I have offered Mass while on pilgrimage.

14 July 2020

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor


St. Bonaventure is known as "the seraphic doctor," was born in the Lazio region of central Italy in 1221. His baptismal name was John. He received the name of Bonaventure because of an exclamation which was made by St. Francis of Assisi, when little John’s mother took him to Francis, begging him to pray for her little boy who was very ill. Francis prayed, and little John recovered. When Francis foresaw the future greatness of the boy, he cried out "O buona ventura" - O good fortune! – and that was the name given to John when he entered the Franciscan order.

He was twenty-two when St. Bonaventure joined the Franciscans. Having made his vows, he was then sent to Paris to complete his studies. His main tutor was the celebrated doctor Alexander of Hales, who was an Englishman and a Franciscan. While he was in Paris, St. Bonaventure became a close friend of the great St. Thomas Aquinas. They received their doctoral degrees together, but St. Bonaventure – always a very humble man, insisted that at the ceremony Thomas Aquinas should have the honour of receiving it first. Both St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure became well known throughout the Church for their great scholarship and brilliance, and both even became quite close to the holy king of France, St. Louis.

At the age of thirty-five St. Bonaventure was chosen to be the General of the Franciscan Order. It was a difficult time for the Franciscans, because of internal dissension. The friars had argued about the meaning and practice of poverty – already they were straying from the vision and teaching of their Founder – but St. Bonaventure restored peace to the Order. He worked tirelessly for the Franciscan Order, and composed an important work, The Life of St. Francis. He was nominated Archbishop of York in England by Pope Clement IV, but he begged the pope not to force him to accept. The next pope, Gregory X, obliged Bonaventure to take upon himself an even more difficult position, that of the Cardinal Archbishop of Albano, one of the six suffragan Sees of Rome, while still being General of his Order. However, before his death he resigned his office of General of the Franciscan Order. He died while he was at the Second Council of Lyons, on July 15, 1274, working for the good of the Church until his very last breath. How right St. Francis was when he exclaimed “O buona ventura” – “O good fortune!” It was certainly good fortune for the Church when St. Bonaventure gave his life in service to Christ.

It was said of St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) that he was "...a unique personality. He was unsurpassed in sanctity, wisdom, eloquence, and gifted with a remarkable skill of accomplishing things, a heart full of love, a winning disposition, benevolent, affable, pious, charitable, rich in virtue, beloved by God and man. . . . The Lord endowed him with such a charming disposition that everyone who saw him was immediately attracted to him."

Considered to be a "second founder" of the Franciscans, he was an outstanding teacher and a spell-binding preacher.  He was known for his virtue and wisdom.  He is known as the "Seraphic Teacher" because of his deeply mystical understanding of the Faith.

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O God, by whose providence blessed Bonaventure was sent to guide thy people in the way of everlasting salvation: grant, we beseech thee; that as we have learned of him the doctrine of life on earth, so we may be found worthy to have him for our advocate 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.

Prayer of St. Bonaventure.

Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste.

May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God; may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen. 

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Painting: "St. Bonaventure holding the Tree of the Redemption"
by Vittorio Crivelli, born ca. 1440, died ca. 1502