Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Saint in the U.S. Capital

Father Damien was born Joseph de Veuster in Tremeloo, Belgium, on January 3, 1840. The son of well-to-do parents, he entered the Sacred Hearts Congregation at Louvain in January 1859 and five years later was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

While in Kohala, Father Damien wrote to the Father General that many of his parishioners had been shipped to a leper colony on Molokai and that he had "an undeniable feeling that soon I shall join them." On May 10, 1873, Father Damien traveled with Bishop Maigret and a shipload of lepers to Molokai. After two days Damien was willing to devote the rest of his life to the leper settlement. The bishop replied that he could stay as long as his devotion dictated. Father Damien accomplished amazing feats while residing on Molokai. Six chapels were built by 1875. He constructed a home for boys and later a home for girls. He bandaged wounds, made coffins, dug graves, heard confessions, and said Mass every morning. In December 1884, Father Damien noticed severe blisters on his feet without the presence of pain. As he suspected, the disease was leprosy.

Father Damien died peacefully on April 15, 1889, on Molokai after sixteen years of undaunted dedication.

On October 11, 2009, Father Damien was canonized (i.e., elevated to sainthood) by Pope Benedict XVI in a ceremony at the Vatican, thus becoming Saint Damien.

The bronze statue is based on photographs taken of Father Damien near the end of his life, with the scars of his disease visible on his face and his right arm in a sling beneath his cloak. His broad-brimmed hat was traditionally worn by missionaries. His right hand holds a cane.

Hawaii’s Statuary Hall Commission received offers from sixty-six artists to create the statue of Father Damien for the Capitol and selected seven to submit models. New York sculptor Marisol Escobar’s contemporary design was chosen over more classically styled representations. Aware of Damien’s fondness for carpentry as a recreation, she first created a full-size model in wood, her preferred medium. The plaster model that she then created for casting was broken on its voyage to the foundry in Viareggio, Italy; a second plaster model reached Italy but was then lost. Finally, a wax impression of the statue reached the foundry. The bronze statue was shipped to New York, where it lingered because of a longshoremen’s strike, so a second statue was sent directly to Washington, D.C. This statue and that of King Kamehameha I, Hawaii’s other gift to the National Statuary Hall collection, were unveiled in the Capitol Rotunda on April 15, 1969, eighty years after Father Damien’s death.

The statue’s design is typical of the sculptor’s work; she is known for her portraits with faces, hands, and feet attached to large blocks of wood. In this case in particular, it reflects her decision “to undertake the work directly and simply in much the same way Father Damien did his work.”


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Saint Martin of Tours

Saint Martin of Tours' Feast Day is November llth. As patron saint of soldiers, it is any co-incidence that the US Veterans' Day is also November 11? I don't think their are coincidences in God's plan.

Saint Martin of Tours

When Sulpicius Severus first met Martin of Tours he was stunned. Not only did the bishop offer him hospitality at his residence -- a monk's cell in the wilderness instead of a palace -- but Martin washed Sulpicius' hands before dinner and his feet in the evening. But Sulpicius was just the kind of person Martin showed the greatest honor to -- a humble man without any rank or privilege. People of nobility and position were turned away from his abbey by chalk cliffs, out of fear of the temptation to pride. From that visit, Sulpicius became Martin's disciple, friend, and biographer. Little is known of many of the saints who died in the early years of Christianity but thanks to Sulpicius, who wrote his first biography of Martin before the saint died and who talked to most of the people involved in his life, we have a priceless record of Martin's life.

Born in 315 or 316 in Pannonia, a Roman province that includes modern Hungary, Martin came into a world in transition. Christians were no longer persecuted by the Roman empire but Christianity was still not accepted by all. Martin's father, an Roman army officer who had risen through the ranks, remained faithful to the old religion and suspicious of this new sect, as did Martin's mother. Therefore it was Martin's own spiritual yearning and hunger that led him to secretly knock on the door of the local Christian church and beg to be made a catechumen -- when he was ten years old. In contemplative prayer, he found the time to be alone with God that he ached for. In the discussion of the mysteries, he found the truth he hoped for.

He was still an unbaptized catechumen when he was forced to join the army at 15. The Roman army apparently had a law that required sons of veterans to serve in the military. Still, Martin found this so far removed from his desire to be a Christian monk that he had to be held in chains before taking the military oath. Once the oath was administered he felt bound to obey. He was assigned to a ceremonial cavalry unit that protected the emperor and rarely saw combat. Like his father, he became an officer and eventually was assigned to garrison duty in Gaul (present-day France).

Even in the military Martin attempted to live the life of a monk. Though he was entitled to a servant because he was an officer, he insisted on switching roles with his servant, cleaning the servant's boots instead of the other way around!

It was on this garrison duty at Amiens that the event took place that has been portrayed in art throughout the ages. On a bitterly cold winter day, the young tribune Martin rode through the gates, probably dressed in the regalia of his unit -- gleaming, flexible armor, ridged helmet, and a beautiful white cloak whose upper section was lined with lambswool. As he approached the gates he saw a beggar, with clothes so ragged that he was practically naked. The beggar must have been shaking and blue from the cold but no one reached out to help him. Martin, overcome with compassion, took off his mantle. In one quick stroke he slashed the lovely mantle in two with his sword, handed half to the freezing man and wrapped the remainder on his own shoulders. Many in the crowd thought this was so ridiculous a sight that they laughed and jeered but some realized that they were seeing Christian goodness. That night Martin dreamed that he saw Jesus wearing the half mantle he had given the beggar. Jesus said to the angels and saints that surrounded him, "See! this is the mantle that Martin, yet a catechumen, gave me." When he woke, it was the "yet a catechumen" that spurred Martin on and he went immediately to be baptized. He was eighteen years old.

We don't know much about the two years that followed but his baptism must have fed his growing desire to make a total commitment to Christ, a commitment that was in conflict with his military role. This conflict came to a crisis when the nomad Franks and Allemanni invaded the empire.

It was the practice at the time to give money to soldiers before battle, in order to infuse the soldiers with a greater love of their country and desire to fight. When Julian lined up the soldiers in Gaul to give them their bounty, Martin refused to accept the money -- and to fight -- saying, "Put me in the front of the army, without weapons or armor; but I will not draw sword again. I am become the soldier of Christ." There seems to be no evidence that Martin had been in combat before so perhaps he never had to reconcile his Christian beliefs with war. In any case, it does seem an unfortunate time to make such a decision. Julian, furious at what he saw as cowardice, told Martin he would grant him his wish and put him right in the middle of battle the next day. Until that happened, he had Martin imprisoned. However, against all predictions and all explanation, the nomads sent word that they wanted to negotiate for peace and the battle was postponed. Martin was released from his prison and from the army.

Searching for direction in his new life, Martin wound up in Poitiers, seeking the guidance and example of Saint Hilary. Hilary wished to make this promising young man a priest but Martin, out of humility, refused even to be ordained a deacon. He finally agreed to be ordained an exorcist (someone who performed rituals for those who were sick or possessed) when Hilary told him his refusal meant that he thought he was too good for such a lowly job.

On a trip over the Alps to visit his parents, he was attacked by robbers who not only wanted to steal what he owned but threatened to take his life. Calm and unperturbed, Martin spoke to the robbers about God. One was so impressed he converted and became a law-abiding citizen who told his own story to Sulpicius years later.

But Martin was to find even more trouble in his own home town. Though his mother converted, his father stubbornly refused. When Martin began to denounce publicly the Arian heretics that were then in power throughout the empire -- even within the Church -- Martin was whipped and driven out of his own hometown!

He could not escape trouble by leaving. When he discovered that Hilary had been exiled from Poitiers as well for the same reason, Martin went to an island near Milan to live as a hermit. The Arians soon discovered that Hilary was even more trouble in exile, because of the writing he did, and let him come back. When Hilary returned to Poitiers, Martin was there to meet him and renew their old friendship. In order to fulfill Martin's call to solitude, Hilary gave Martin a wilderness retreat. As disciples came to Martin for direction, he founded a monastery for them called Ligug‚. It was there he performed the first of many miracles. When a catechumen died before baptism, Martin laid himself over the body and after several hours the man came back to life. Sulpicius also had talked to this man who was baptized immediately but lived many years after that. Martin remained in this monastery near his teacher and friend until after Hilary died.

This was still the era when bishops were chosen by the people and when the bishop of Tours died, the people decided they wanted an example of holiness as their new bishop. After that their choice was simple -- Martin. But as well as they knew his holiness, they also knew he would never agree to be a bishop so they conceived a trick. A citizen of Tours came to Martin and begged him to come visit his sick wife. When the kindhearted Martin got to Tours crowds of people came out of hiding and surrounded him. Unable to escape, he was swept into the city. The people may have been enthusiastic about their choice but the bishops there to consecrate the new bishop declared they were repelled by this dirty, ragged, disheveled choice. The people's reply was that they didn't choose Martin for his haircut, which could be fixed by any barber, but for his holiness and poverty, that only charity and grace could bring. Overwhelmed by the will of the crowds the bishops had no choice but to consecrate Martin.

Instead of living in a palace, Martin made his first home as bishop in a cell attached to a church in hopes of being able to maintain his lifestyle as a monk. But at that time bishops were more than spiritual pastors. With the Empire's administration disintegrating under outside invasion and internal conflict, often the only authority in a town like Tours was the bishop. People came to Martin constantly with questions and concerns that involved all the affairs of the area.

To regain some of his solitude Martin fled outside the city to live in a cabin made of branches. There he attracted as many as eighty disciples who wanted to follow him and founded the monastery of Marmoutiers. He kept in touch with Tours through priest representatives who reported to him and carried out his instructions and duties with the people.

It may seem from this that Martin did not get involved with what was going on but Martin was deeply committed to his responsibilities.

One of those responsibilities was, he felt, the missionary conversion of those who still held to various non-Christian beliefs. In those early days of Christianity such old beliefs survived in abundance. He did not attempt to convert these people from a high pulpit or from far away. His method was to travel from house to house and speak to people about God. Then he would organize the converts into a community under the direction of a priest of monk. In order to let them know of his continued love and to keep them following the faith, he would then visit these new communities regularly.

Of course he ran into resistance. In one rather ridiculous scene, locals decided to get back at him by dressing up as the gods. So in the middle of the night, he was visited by a waggish talkative Mercury, a doltish Jupiter, and an enthusiastically naked Venus, as well as various "wood spirits." Needless to say, he was unconvinced by this show.

In one town, when he tried to convince the locals to cut down a pine tree they venerated, they agreed -- but only if Martin would sit where the tree was going to fall! Martin seated himself directly under the path of the leaning tree and the townspeople began to cut from the other side. However, just as the tree began to topple, Martin made the sign of the cross and the tree fell in the opposite direction -- slowly enough to miss the fleeing townspeople. Martin won many converts that day.

Martin tore down many non-Christian temples and always built a Christian church in their place to make a point about true worship and give people a genuine replacement for their false idols. In once case when a huge tower was not torn down under his orders, a bolt of lightning came to destroy it after his prayers.

Martin was also dedicated to freeing of prisoners, so much so that when authorities, even the emperors, heard he was coming, they refused to see him because they knew he would request mercy for someone and they would be unable to refuse. Martin was so dedicated that few escaped his entreaties. One who didn't was a general named Avitianus who arrived at Tours with ranks of prisoners he intended to torture and execute the next day. As soon as Martin heard of this cruel plan, he left his monastery for the city. Although he arrived there after midnight, he went straight to the house where Avitianus was staying and threw himself on the threshold crying out in a loud voice. Sulpicius tells us that it was an angel who awakened Avitianus to tell him Martin was outside. The servants, certain Avitianus was dreaming, reassured him there was no one out there (without looking themselves). But after the angel woke him up the second time, Avitianus went outside himself and told Martin, "Don't even say a word. I know what your request it. Every prisoner shall be spared." Remarkably enough Sulpicius had this story from Avitianus himself, who loved to tell it.

Martin was human and made mistakes. In spite of what we may think of people in earlier times, many were skeptical of his visions of demons, believing them to come from too much fasting. He also announced eight years before he died that the Antichrist had been born. But his visions, whatever the source, are still instructive.

At one point the devil appeared to him dressed in magnificent robes, encrusted with gold and gems, and announced he was Jesus and that Martin was to adore him. Martin immediately saw the mistake the devil had made (and had to make) and asked, "Where are the marks of the nails? Where the piercing of the spear? Where the crown of thorns? When I see the marks of the Passion I shall adore my Lord." Jesus would not come in riches but with the signs of his suffering and poverty.

Martin's compassion was as well-known as his miracles. In just one case out of many a father came to him griefstricken that his daughter had never spoken. Martin healed her by asking her to say her father's name -- which she did.

However it was this compassion and mercy that led to what he considered his greatest mistake. Bishops from Spain including a bishop named Ithacius had gone to the emperor soliciting his help in destroying a new heresy taught by a man named Priscillian. Martin agreed completely that Priscillian was teaching heresy (among other things, he rejected marriage, and said that the world was created by the devil) and that he should be excommunicated. But he was horrified that Ithacius had appealed to a secular authority for help and even more upset that Ithacius was demanding the execution of Priscillian and his followers. Martin hurried to intervene with emperor Maximus, as did Ambrose of Milan. Martin stated his case that this was a church matter and that secular authority had no power to intervene and that excommunication of the heretics was punishment enough. He left believing he had won the argument and saved the heretics but after he left Ithacius began his manipulation again and Priscillian and the other prisoners were tortured and executed. This was the first time a death sentence had been given for heresy -- a horrible precedent.

Martin's mistake was yet to come. He hurried back in order to forestall a massacre of the Priscillianists. Once there he absolutely refused communion with the bishops who had murdered the people. This was a strong statement that rejected the persecuting bishops as part of the communion of the Church.

Unfortunately, the emperor Maximus knew the key to Martin's heart. He had prisoners that supported the former emperor Gratian in captivity and knew Martin wanted mercy for them. Maximus said that he would free these prisoners if Martin would share communion with Ithacius. Martin agreed to do so, but afterwards was so overcome with shame and guilt for giving in to such evil that he never went to any more assemblies of bishops.

On his way home, still weighed down with a feeling that he had sinned by communicating with Ithacius, he had a vision of angel who told him that although he was right to regret what he did, he was wrong to brood over his faults. "You saw no other way out," the angel said. "Take courage again: recover your ordinary firmness; otherwise you will be imperilling not your glory but your salvation." This advice we all should remember if we dwell too much on our mistakes.

Martin died when he was over 80 years old on November 8. Historians disagree on the year and place it anywhere from 395 to 402. His feast is November 11, the day he was buried, at his request, in the Cemetery of the Poor.


Monday, October 5, 2009

The Rosary

I was thinking about the Rosary today. Having once been a Baptist, I thought I'd share the following with my readers:

Bible passages that we meditate on during the Rosary
Many Evangelicals do not know that the Rosary is very Bible centred. It is a meditation on the life of Jesus and his conquest over death. Here are the biblical sources of the Rosary.

Joyful Mysteries”(Mon & Sat)
First Decade: The Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
Second Decade: The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56)
Third Decade: The Birth of Our Lord (Luke 2:1-21)
Fourth Decade: The Presentation of Our Lord (Luke 2:22-38)
Fifth Decade: The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)

Luminous Mysteries”(Thurs.)
First Decade: The Baptism of Our Lord in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13-16)
Second Decade: The Wedding at Cana, when Christ manifested Himself (Jn 2:1-11)
Third Decade: The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15)
Fourth Decade: The Transfiguration of Our Lord (Matthew 17:1-8)
Fifth Decade: The Last Supper, when Our Lord gave us the Holy Eucharist (Mt 26)

Sorrowful Mysteries”(Tues & Fri)
First Decade: The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-56)
Second Decade: Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar (Matthew 27:26)
Third Decade: Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns (Matthew 27:27-31)
Fourth Decade: Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary (Matthew 27:32)
Fifth Decade: The Crucifixion of Our Lord (Matthew 27:33-56)

Glorious Mysteries”(Wed & Sun)
First Decade: The Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord (John 20:1-29)
Second Decade: The Ascension of Our Lord (Luke 24:36-53)
Third Decade: The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41)
Fourth Decade: The Assumption of Mary into Heaven (Sg 2:2,10-11)
Fifth Decade: The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth (Gn 3:15a) (Jdt 13:18) (Jdt 15:9) (Rv 12:1) (Sir 24:4) (Sir 14:9) (Cor 4:17) (Lk 8:21)(Gal 4:19)

by David MacDonald from his article "Is the Rosary Contrary to the Bible?"

So, you see, when you pray the Rosary, you are actually praying Scripture. And, that is always a good thing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

St. Francis of Assisi, Happy Feast Day!

What better day for "Respect Life Sunday" than the Feast of St. Fransis of Assisi?! Perhaps one of the best saints of all time to represent the respect of life. My favorite modern saint would be Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Another person who showed the real meaning of how to show respect for human life.

Founder of the Franciscan Order, born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181.

In 1182, Pietro Bernardone returned from a trip to France to find out his wife had given birth to a son. Far from being excited or apologetic because he'd been gone, Pietro was furious because she'd had his new son baptized Giovanni after John the Baptist. The last thing Pietro wanted in his son was a man of God -- he wanted a man of business, a cloth merchant like he was, and he especially wanted a son who would reflect his infatuation with France. So he renamed his son Francesco -- which is the equivalent of calling him Frenchman.

Francis enjoyed a very rich easy life growing up because of his father's wealth and the permissiveness of the times. From the beginning everyone -- and I mean everyone -- loved Francis. He was constantly happy, charming, and a born leader. If he was picky, people excused him. If he was ill, people took care of him. If he was so much of a dreamer he did poorly in school, no one minded. In many ways he was too easy to like for his own good. No one tried to control him or teach him.

As he grew up, Francis became the leader of a crowd of young people who spent their nights in wild parties. Thomas of Celano, his biographer who knew him well, said, "In other respects an exquisite youth, he attracted to himself a whole retinue of young people addicted to evil and accustomed to vice." Francis himself said, "I lived in sin" during that time.

Francis fulfilled every hope of Pietro's -- even falling in love with France. He loved the songs of France, the romance of France, and especially the free adventurous troubadours of France who wandered through Europe. And despite his dreaming, Francis was also good at business. But Francis wanted more..more than wealth. But not holiness! Francis wanted to be a noble, a knight. Battle was the best place to win the glory and prestige he longed for. He got his first chance when Assisi declared war on their longtime enemy, the nearby town of Perugia.

Most of the troops from Assisi were butchered in the fight. Only those wealthy enough to expect to be ransomed were taken prisoner. At last Francis was among the nobility like he always wanted to be...but chained in a harsh, dark dungeon. All accounts say that he never lost his happy manner in that horrible place. Finally, after a year in the dungeon, he was ransomed. Strangely, the experience didn't seem to change him. He gave himself to partying with as much joy and abandon as he had before the battle.

The experience didn't change what he wanted from life either: Glory. Finally a call for knights for the Fourth Crusade gave him a chance for his dream. But before he left Francis had to have a suit of armor and a horse -- no problem for the son of a wealthy father. And not just any suit of armor would do but one decorated with gold with a magnificent cloak. Any relief we feel in hearing that Francis gave the cloak to a poor knight will be destroyed by the boasts that Francis left behind that he would return a prince.

But Francis never got farther than one day's ride from Assisi. There he had a dream in which God told him he had it all wrong and told him to return home. And return home he did. What must it have been like to return without ever making it to battle -- the boy who wanted nothing more than to be liked was humiliated, laughed at, called a coward by the village and raged at by his father for the money wasted on armor.

Francis' conversion did not happen over night. God had waited for him for twenty-five years and now it was Francis' turn to wait. Francis started to spend more time in prayer. He went off to a cave and wept for his sins. Sometimes God's grace overwhelmed him with joy. But life couldn't just stop for God. There was a business to run, customers to wait on.

One day while riding through the countryside, Francis, the man who loved beauty, who was so picky about food, who hated deformity, came face to face with a leper. Repelled by the appearance and the smell of the leper, Francis nevertheless jumped down from his horse and kissed the hand of the leper. When his kiss of peace was returned, Francis was filled with joy. As he rode off, he turned around for a last wave, and saw that the leper had disappeared. He always looked upon it as a test from God...that he had passed.

His search for conversion led him to the ancient church at San Damiano. While he was praying there, he heard Christ on the crucifix speak to him, "Francis, repair my church." Francis assumed this meant church with a small c -- the crumbling building he was in. Acting again in his impetuous way, he took fabric from his father's shop and sold it to get money to repair the church. His father saw this as an act of theft -- and put together with Francis' cowardice, waste of money, and his growing disinterest in money made Francis seem more like a madman than his son. Pietro dragged Francis before the bishop and in front of the whole town demanded that Francis return the money and renounce all rights as his heir.

The bishop was very kind to Francis; he told him to return the money and said God would provide. That was all Francis needed to hear. He not only gave back the money but stripped off all his clothes -- the clothes his father had given him -- until he was wearing only a hair shirt. In front of the crowd that had gathered he said, "Pietro Bernardone is no longer my father. From now on I can say with complete freedom, 'Our Father who art in heaven.'" Wearing nothing but castoff rags, he went off into the freezing woods -- singing. And when robbers beat him later and took his clothes, he climbed out of the ditch and went off singing again. From then on Francis had nothing...and everything.

Francis went back to what he considered God's call. He begged for stones and rebuilt the San Damiano church with his own hands, not realizing that it was the Church with a capital C that God wanted repaired. Scandal and avarice were working on the Church from the inside while outside heresies flourished by appealing to those longing for something different or adventurous.

Soon Francis started to preach. (He was never a priest, though he was later ordained a deacon under his protest.) Francis was not a reformer; he preached about returning to God and obedience to the Church. Francis must have known about the decay in the Church, but he always showed the Church and its people his utmost respect. When someone told him of a priest living openly with a woman and asked him if that meant the Mass was polluted, Francis went to the priest, knelt before him, and kissed his hands -- because those hands had held God.

Slowly companions came to Francis, people who wanted to follow his life of sleeping in the open, begging for garbage to eat...and loving God. With companions, Francis knew he now had to have some kind of direction to this life so he opened the Bible in three places. He read the command to the rich young man to sell all his good and give to the poor, the order to the apostles to take nothing on their journey, and the demand to take up the cross daily. "Here is our rule," Francis said -- as simple, and as seemingly impossible, as that. He was going to do what no one thought possible any more -- live by the Gospel. Francis took these commands so literally that he made one brother run after the thief who stole his hood and offer him his robe!

Francis never wanted to found a religious order -- this former knight thought that sounded too military. He thought of what he was doing as expressing God's brotherhood. His companions came from all walks of life, from fields and towns, nobility and common people, universities, the Church, and the merchant class. Francis practiced true equality by showing honor, respect, and love to every person whether they were beggar or pope.

Francis' brotherhood included all of God's creation. Much has been written about Francis' love of nature but his relationship was deeper than that. We call someone a lover of nature if they spend their free time in the woods or admire its beauty. But Francis really felt that nature, all God's creations, were part of his brotherhood. The sparrow was as much his brother as the pope.

In one famous story, Francis preached to hundreds of birds about being thankful to God for their wonderful clothes, for their independence, and for God's care. The story tells us the birds stood still as he walked among him, only flying off when he said they could leave.

Another famous story involves a wolf that had been eating human beings. Francis intervened when the town wanted to kill the wolf and talked the wolf into never killing again. The wolf became a pet of the townspeople who made sure that he always had plenty to eat.

Following the Gospel literally, Francis and his companions went out to preach two by two. At first, listeners were understandably hostile to these men in rags trying to talk about God's love. People even ran from them for fear they'd catch this strange madness! And they were right. Because soon these same people noticed that these barefoot beggars wearing sacks seemed filled with constant joy. They celebrated life. And people had to ask themselves: Could one own nothing and be happy? Soon those who had met them with mud and rocks, greeted them with bells and smiles.

Francis did not try to abolish poverty, he tried to make it holy. When his friars met someone poorer than they, they would eagerly rip off the sleeve of their habit to give to the person. They worked for all necessities and only begged if they had to. But Francis would not let them accept any money. He told them to treat coins as if they were pebbles in the road. When the bishop showed horror at the friars' hard life, Francis said, "If we had any possessions we should need weapons and laws to defend them." Possessing something was the death of love for Francis. Also, Francis reasoned, what could you do to a man who owns nothing? You can't starve a fasting man, you can't steal from someone who has no money, you can't ruin someone who hates prestige. They were truly free.

Francis was a man of action. His simplicity of life extended to ideas and deeds. If there was a simple way, no matter how impossible it seemed, Francis would take it. So when Francis wanted approval for his brotherhood, he went straight to Rome to see Pope Innocent III. You can imagine what the pope thought when this beggar approached him! As a matter of fact he threw Francis out. But when he had a dream that this tiny man in rags held up the tilting Lateran basilica, he quickly called Francis back and gave him permission to preach.

Sometimes this direct approach led to mistakes that he corrected with the same spontaneity that he made them. Once he ordered a brother who hesitated to speak because he stuttered to go preach half-naked. When Francis realized how he had hurt someone he loved he ran to town, stopped the brother, took off his own clothes, and preached instead.

Francis acted quickly because he acted from the heart; he didn't have time to put on a role. Once he was so sick and exhausted, his companions borrowed a mule for him to ride. When the man who owned the mule recognized Francis he said, "Try to be as virtuous as everyone thinks you are because many have a lot of confidence in you." Francis dropped off the mule and knelt before the man to thank him for his advice.

Another example of his directness came when he decided to go to Syria to convert the Moslems while the Fifth Crusade was being fought. In the middle of a battle, Francis decided to do the simplest thing and go straight to the sultan to make peace. When he and his companion were captured, the real miracle was that they weren't killed. Instead Francis was taken to the sultan who was charmed by Francis and his preaching. He told Francis, "I would convert to your religion which is a beautiful one -- but both of us would be murdered."

Francis did find persecution and martyrdom of a kind -- not among the Moslems, but among his own brothers. When he returned to Italy, he came back to a brotherhood that had grown to 5000 in ten years. Pressure came from outside to control this great movement, to make them conform to the standards of others. His dream of radical poverty was too harsh, people said. Francis responded, "Lord, didn't I tell you they wouldn't trust you?"

He finally gave up authority in his order -- but he probably wasn't too upset about it. Now he was just another brother, like he'd always wanted.

Francis' final years were filled with suffering as well as humiliation. Praying to share in Christ's passion he had a vision received the stigmata, the marks of the nails and the lance wound that Christ suffered, in his own body.

Years of poverty and wandering had made Francis ill. When he began to go blind, the pope ordered that his eyes be operated on. This meant cauterizing his face with a hot iron. Francis spoke to "Brother Fire": "Brother Fire, the Most High has made you strong and beautiful and useful. Be courteous to me now in this hour, for I have always loved you, and temper your heat so that I can endure it." And Francis reported that Brother Fire had been so kind that he felt nothing at all.

How did Francis respond to blindness and suffering? That was when he wrote his beautiful Canticle of the Sun that expresses his brotherhood with creation in praising God.

Francis never recovered from this illness. He died on October 4, 1226 at the age of 45. Francis is considered the founder of all Franciscan orders and the patron saint of ecologists and merchants.

by Terry Matz.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Thoughts for the Day

Hear the sound of my prayer, when I cry to You, lifting up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary. --Psalm 28:2

I adore the Lord, my God for He is the living God. --Daniel 14:25

The Blessed Virgin never shall fail to protect me when I call upon her.
When I am troubled, I quickly turn to her. And like the most tender of mothers she looks after me. --St. Theresa of Lisieux

Little Saints Preschool

As my reader(s) know I homeschool my 5 kids. My youngest is 4. I found "Little Saints Catholic Preschool" several years ago when my third child was that age. It is a wonderful program. However, I cannot always find the books listed for each week's lesson in my local library system. So, I thought I'd help those who may be using the same program. This week week we are doing "Good Health". My library had none of the books about going to the doctor. I found the following and wanted to share them.

My Friend the Doctor by Joanna Cole
Her books are always good. Nice, gentle description of everything that happens on at a routine doctor's appointment.

Next! Please by Christopher Inns
This one is a little more silly. Dr. Bunny must see several stuffed animal patients and repair them.

ABC Doctor by Liz Murphy
Very good doctor ABC book. Warning: U for urine sample and V for Vomit may not be for those with more delicate sensibilities.

I also found The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist for the dental day's reading.

I'll keep you all posted. Anyone else interested in help with this program, feel free to send me a comment-question. Notice: I moderate ALL comments, so you may not see yours for a couple of days.

Little Saints: A Catholic Preschool Program can be found at . It is recommended by Laura Berquist (Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum) and Francis Crotty (Co-founder of Kolbe Academy, the school I use and recommend).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Feast of St. Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600s. Depending on China's relations with the outside world, Christianity over the centuries was free to grow or was forced to operate secretly.

The 120 martyrs in this group died between 1648 and 1930. Most of them (87) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or laborers, ranging from nine years of age to 72. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.

The 33 foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese solider who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse (Paris Foreign Mission Society) to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized and not long after was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was martyred in 1815.

Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Teach me judgement

"Teach me wisdom and knowledge, for in your commands I trust. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I hold to your promise." Psalm 119:66,67

"If we took to Mary in all circumstances, we will immediately receive wise inspirations: Be patient, kind, charitable; comport yourself well, suffer voluntarily, and offer your pains to the Lord. Hope and love always, and give your life authentic Christian meaning." --Pope Paul VI

"If you remain in My word, you will truly be My disciples, and you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." --Jesus, as quoted in John 8:31

What better example than Mary of "know the Truth and the Truth will set you free." Mary knew and knows still intimately who her Son was, is, and always shall be. She is a perfect example of the pure disciple of Christ. Christ has endowed His mother with special gifts as the queen of Heaven. She leads all with her patience, kindnes, and charity. She comported herself perfectly, and certainly suffered voluntarily. Through her Truth came into the world and that Truth can set all of us free.

God Bless.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Today's Reading

I thought the first reading for Mass today was wonderful and wanted to share it here.

God did not make death,
nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living.
For He fashioned all things that they might have being;
and the creatures of the world are wholesome,
and there is not a destructive drug among them
nor any domain of the netherworld on earth,
for justice is undying.
For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of His own nature He made him.
But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world,
and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24

Saturday, June 27, 2009


"Will God really dwell with men on earth? If the Heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you, how much less this temple that I have built! --I Kings 8:27

"The Mother of God contained the infinite God under her heart, the God Whom no space can contain. Through her, the Trinity is adored, demons are vanquished. Satan is cast out of heaven, and our fallen nature is assumed into heaven." --St. Cyril of Alexandria. [From: "Mary Day by Day"]

"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. (Mt23:12) These are the Lord's words and they cannot be untrue. Therefore, when God determined to become man in order to redeem lost humankind and reveal His infinite goodness to the world in this way, and when it was necessary for Him to choose a mother on earth, He looked for the woman who was the holiest and most humble of all. And among all the women in the world, there was only one on whom His eyes rested, namely the sweet Virgin Mary. She was already perfect in every virtue, but she considered herself as simple and lowly as a dove. There are young maidens without number: one is my dove, my perfect one (Cant. 6:7). So God said: This one shall be My mother...." --St. Alphonsus Liguori, "The Glories of Mary", Sermon 4: Mary's Annunciation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist

Today's feast came upon me suddenly and unexpectantly because I was is such a rush and hurry, I wasn't paying attention to the Church calendar. It makes perfect sense, however, to celebrate the nativity of St. John 6 months priority to the nativity of Our Lord. Scripture says that Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant with a child she was to have a child after many years of barrenness. Mary went to visit Elizabeth after the annunciation by the angel Gabriel. John leapt in the womb at the approach of His Lord, the One whom John would announce to the world. Mary stayed three months, presumably to assist in the delivery of her cousin's child. Six months later, she would have her own miracle child, the Saviour of the world, the mighty King, God the Son.

The naming of the child "John" was quite unusual. Most firstborn sons were named after the paternal grandfather, but naming them after their father was not unheard of either. Giving the child a name completely different then a male relative was rare indeed. John means "Yahweh has shown favor." It is a reference to Zechariah and Elizabeth finally being shown favor by having a child. But, it is also a reference to how God is showing favor to the world by sending the saviour, with John as 'Elijah' to His King.

On the news I saw a wonderful celebration of this feast of St. John. In San Juan, Philippines, people were throwing water on each other, spraying each other with water guns, and splashing each other. I thought what fun to have in a city named for Saint John on the feast day of the one who brought us the baptism that Christ would later command His disciples to do ("Go and preach to all nations. Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." citation omitted)

Luke 1:57-66, 80

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, "No. He will be called John." But they answered her, "There is no one among your relatives who has this name." So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, "John is his name," and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, "What, then, will this child be?" For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Lord, open my lips.

Come, let us worship the Lord, our mighty God.

"My God, my God, why have You abandoned me?

Why so far from my call for help,
from my cries of anquish?
My God, I call by day, but You do not answer;
by night, but I have no relief.
Yet You are enthroned as the Holy One;
You are the Glory of Israel.
In You our ancestors trusted;
they trusted and You rescued them.
To You they cried out and they escaped
in You they trusted and were not disappointed.

"But I am a worm, hardly human,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they curl their lips and jeer,
they shake their heads at me;
'You relied on the Lord-let Him deliver you;
if He loves you, let Him rescue you.'

Yet You drew me forth from the womb,
made me safe at my mother's breast.
Upon You I was thrust from the womb;
since birth You are my God.
Do not stay far from me,
for trouble is near.

"Many bulls surround me;
fierce bulls of Bashan encircle me.
They open their mouths against me,
lions that rend and roar.
Like water my life drains away;
all my bones grow soft.
My heart has become like wax,
it melts away within me.
As dry as a potsherd is my throat;
my tongue sticks to my palate
You lay me in the dust of death.
Many dogs surround me;
a pack of evildoers closes in on me.
So wasted are my hands and feet
that I can count all my bones.
They stare at me and gloat;
they divide my garments among them;
for my clothing they cast lots.

But You, Lord, do not stay far off;
my strength, come quickly to help me.
Deliver me from the sword,
my forlorn life from the teeth of the dog.
Save me from the lions mouth,
my poor life from the horns of wild bulls.

"Then I will proclaim Your name to the assembly;
in community I will praise You:
'You who fear the Lord, give praise!'
All descendants of Jacob, give honor;
show reverence, all descendants of Israel!
For God has no spurned or disdained
the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me,
but heard me when I cried out.
I will offer praise in the great assembly;
my vows I will fulfill before those who fear Him.
The poor will eat their fill;
those who seek the Lord will offer praise.
May your hearts enjoy life forever!'

"All the ends of the earth
will worship and turn to the Lord;
All the families of nations
will bow low before You.
For kingship belongs to the Lord,
the ruler over the nations.
All who sleep in the earth
will bow low before God;
All who have gone down into the dust
will kneel in homage.
And I will live for the Lord;
my descendants will serve You.
The generation to come will be told of the Lord,
that they may proclaim to a people yet unborn
the deliverance You have brought."

-Psalm 22

God Father Praise and Glory
(Hymn 13)
God Father, praise and glory
Your children come to sing.
Good will and peace to mankind,
The gifts your kingdom brings.

O most Holy Trinity,
Undivided Unity,
Holy God, Mighty God,
God Immortal, be adored.

And you, Lord Coeternal,
God's sole begotten Son,
O Jesus, King anointed,
You have redemption won.

O Holy Ghost, Creator,
The Gift of God most high,
Life, love and holy wisdom,
Our weakness now supply.

Source: Shorter Christian Prayer. New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1988.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Devotion for the Day

Sorry, I've been away so long. I will try to take more care of my blog in the very near future in the meantime, here is a devotion for today.

"Let us draw near with a sincere heart and in fullness of trust, with our hearts cleansed from an evil conscience...and our bodies cleansed in pure water." Hebrews 10:22.

"We must have frequent recourse to the Mother of God for she is the Mother of the supernatural life and the Mother of grace.

"The Lord desires that we receive all graces through her, and this depends on our approaching her." --St. Maximillian Kolbe

O Mary, you are the Mother of Divine Grace. Help me to approach you daily with a clean heart to obtain the graces God wishes to give me through you each day.

From: Mary Day by Day . New York: Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1987.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Our Lady of Kibeho, Rwanda

This is an apparition site that I just learned about and wanted to share it on my blog. I am reading Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa by Immaculee Ilibagiza. If you haven't read her other New York Times best-selling books, "Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst of the Rwandan Holocaust" and "Led By Faith: Rising from the Ashes of the Rwandan Genocide", I highly suggest that you go out and get them at your local library or bookstore today. I want others to know about Mary's message to the world from Rwanda. This is the only approved apparition site in Africa, to date.

"The Virgin Mary reportedly appeared to the [visionaries] with the name "Nyina wa Jambo" ("Mother of the Word") synonymous with "Umubyeyl W'iamna" ("Mother of God")."
The dedication of the Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho in 2003. The Church-approved apparitions is turning Kibeho into the "Lourdes of Africa."

Some of Mary's messages to the world from Africa (before the massacres in Rwanda):

On November 28, 1981, Mary appeared in the corridor of the school that Alphonsine attended. When asked who she was, Mary replied, "I am Mother of the Word. I have heard your prayers. I would like you and your companions to have more faith. Some do not believe enough."

"Although I am the Mother of God, I am simple and humble. I always place myself where you are. I love you as you are. I never reproach my little ones. When a child is without reproach in front of her mother, she will tell her everything that is in her heart. I am grateful when a child of mine is joyful with me. That joy is a most beautiful sign of trust and love. Few understand the mysteries of God's love. Let me as your Mother embrace all my children with love so that you can confide your deepest longings to me. Know that i give all your longings to my Son Jesus, your brother."

"You are distracted by the goods of this world. I have seen many of my children getting lost and I have come to show them the true way."

"Nothing is more beautiful than a heart which offers its suffering to God. Pray, pray, pray. Follow the Gospel of my Son. Do Not forget that God is more powerful than all the evil in the world. Share. Do not kill. Do not persecute. Respect the rights of man because if you act contrary to those rights, you will not succeed and it will come back against you."

Messages Given to Marie-Claire:
"We must meditate on the passion of Jesus and on the deep sorrow of His Mother. We must recite the Rosary and the beads of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady to obtain the grace of repentence."

(Statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in the hermitage church of Warfhuizen, Holland, dressed for October.
[Prophetically the Church in Kibeho was dedicated to "Our Lady of Sorrows" in 1992, just 2 years before the 'ethnic cleansing' began.]

"The world has turned against God. We must repent and ask for pardon."

Messages Given to Anathalie:
"Wake up, stand up, wash yourselves and look up attentively. We must dedicate ourselves to prayer, we must develop in us the virtues of charity, availability, and humility."

"Return to God, the Source of Living Water."

The visionaries:
Alphonsine Mumureka, who was sixteen years old when the apparitions began, had apparitions of the Blessed Mother from November 28, 1981 to November 28, 1988.

Anthalie Mukamazimpaka, who was seventeen years old when the apparitions began, had apparitions of the Lord Jesus and the Blessed Mother from January 12, 1982 to December 3, 1983.

Marie-Clare Mukangango, who was twenty-one years old when the apparitions began, had fifteen apparitions of the Blessed Mother from March 2, 1982 to December 15, 1982. She died in the summer of 1994 during the ethnic violence occurring in Rwanda.

NOTE: There are four additional individuals who reported having apparitions of Mary at Kibeho, however, at present [their] apparitions and messages have not been approved.

Information from:

"The recognition or negation of the authenticity of an apparition does not guarantee infallibility; it is based on proofs of probability more than on apodictic arguments". In the sphere of the apparitions there is then no absolute certainty for the witnesses, except perhaps for the visionary. The definitive judgement about the Apparitions of Kibeho should be interpreted in this spirit. The recognition of these apparitions should not be considered a requirement of faith. Therefore each Christian is free to believe or not.

"A recognized apparition, that strengthens the life of faith and prayer, is certainly a powerful help for Shepherds of souls, but the message linked to this apparition is not a new revelation; it is rather a way of recalling the ordinary teaching of the Church, which has been forgotten".

[From Rev. Ignace Mboneyabo's (Chancellor of the Diocese of Gikongoro) Declaration letter of 29 June 2001]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wow, how time flies

An apology to any of my "regular" readers...I have been so busy with school and life, I don't seem to have time for my blog.

Right now I have 2 sons working on big history day projects. Last year my 6th grader placed 2nd at the district level and competed, but did not place, at the state level. My 8th grader placed 1st at district and placed 3rd at state.

I have a fussy 3 1/2 year old that demands attention and throws a fit if you don't catch what he wanted the first time and he won't repeat his request because you should know what he wants. He is not even potty trained yet. Yes, I get dirty looks for that one. Right now he is crying because I kicked him off my lap. I couldn't get around him to type.

I now have a sewer back up and am waiting for the plumber to show. It is very frustrating to call a plumber. When there are 5 kids in the house, what are the chances, realisticly that a plumbing problem will happen between 8:30 and 4:30? Really? And, then trying to keep them from using the toilet for 16 hour now and counting...The plumber is not here yet. This is the third time I have had to call a plumber in the year and 1/2 since we've lived here and not ONCE has it happened during "office hours".

Well, got to go get milk...back later, I hope. Yes, my 3 yo is STILL crying.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Stations of the Cross

What a wonderful devotion for Lent--the Stations of the Cross. I thought I'd post a nice, short version of the Stations of the Cross for anyone who can't get to Church to pray the Stations or would just like a version they could pray at home. I have included material in the public domain.

by Cardinal Newman,
in his Meditations and Devotions, Longman's and Green (1893) pp. 155-68.
Begin with an Act of Contrition.

Jesus condemned to Death

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

THE Holy, Just, and True was judged by sinners, and put to death. Yet, while they judged, they were compelled to acquit Him. Judas, who betrayed Him, said, "I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." Pilate, who sentenced Him, said, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person," and threw the guilt upon the Jews. The Centurion who saw Him crucified said, "Indeed this was a just man.' Thus ever, 0 Lord, You art justified in Thy words, and do overcome when You are judged. And so, much more, at the last day "They shall look on Him whom they pierced" ; and He who was condemned in weakness shall judge the world in power, and even those who are condemned will confess their judgment is just.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, Glory be


Jesus receives His Cross

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

JESUS supports the whole world by His divine power, for He is God; but the weight was less heavy than was the Cross which our sins hewed out for Him. Our sins cost Him this humiliation. He had to take on Him our nature, and to appear among us as a man, and to offer up for us a great sacrifice. He had to pass a life in penance, and to endure His passion and death at the end of it. O Lord God Almighty, who does bear the weight of the whole world without weariness, who bore the weight of all our sins, though they wearied Thee, as You are the Preserver of our bodies by Thy Providence, so be You the Savior of our souls by Thy precious blood.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus falls under the weight of the Cross the First Time.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

SATAN fell from heaven in the beginning; by the just sentence of his Creator he fell, against whom he had rebelled. And when he had succeeded in gaining man to join him in his rebellion, and his maker came to save him, then his brief hour of triumph came, and he made the most of it. When the Holiest had taken flesh, and was in his power, then in his revenge and malice he determined, as he himself had been struck down by the Almighty arm, to strike in turn a heavy blow at Him who struck him. Therefore it was that Jesus fell down so suddenly. O dear Lord, by this Thy first fall raise us all out of sin, who have so miserably fallen under its power.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus meets His Mother.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

THERE is no part of the history of Jesus but Mary has her part in it. There are those who profess to be His servants, who think that her work was ended when she bore Him, and after that she had nothing to do but disappear and be forgotten. But we, O Lord, Thy children of the Catholic Church, do not so think of Thy Mother. She brought the tender infant into the Temple, she lifted Him up in her arms when the wise men came to adore Him, She fled with Him to Egypt, she took Him up to Jerusalem when He was twelve years old. He lived with her at Nazareth for thirty years. She was with Him at the marriage-feast. Even when He had left her to preach, she hovered about Him. And now she shows herself as He toils along the Sacred Way with His cross on His shoulders. Sweet Mother, let us ever think of thee when we think of Jesus, and when we pray to Him, ever aid us by thy powerful intercession.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry the Cross.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

JESUS could bear His Cross alone, did He so will; but He permits Simon to help Him, in order to remind us that we must take part in His sufferings, and have a fellowship in His work. His merit is infinite, yet He condescends to let His people add their merit to it. The sanctity of the Blessed Virgin, the blood of the Martyrs, the prayers and penances of the Saints, the good deeds of all the faithful, take part in that work which, nevertheless, is perfect without them. He saves us by His blood, but it is through and with ourselves that He saves us. Dear Lord, teach us to suffer with Thee, make it pleasant to us to suffer for Thy sake, and sanctify all our sufferings by the merits of Thy own.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

The Face of Jesus is wiped by Veronica.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

JESUS let the pious woman carry off an impression of His Sacred Countenance, which was to last to future ages. He did this to remind us all, that His image must ever be impressed on all our hearts. Whoever we are, in whatever part of the earth, in whatever age of the world, Jesus must live in our hearts. We may differ from each other in many things, but in this we must all agree, if we are His true children. We must bear about with us the napkin of St. Veronica; we must ever meditate upon His death and resurrection, we must ever imitate His divine excellence, according to our measure. Lord, let our countenances be ever pleasing in Thy sight, not defiled with sin, but bathed and washed white in Thy precious blood.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus falls a second time.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

SATAN had a second fall, when our Lord came upon the earth. By that time he had usurped the dominion of the whole world -- and he called himself its king. And he dared to take up the Holy Savior in his arms, and show Him all kingdoms, and blasphemously promise to give them to Him, His Maker, if He would adore him. Jesus answered, "Begone, Satan !", and Satan fell down from the high mountain. And Jesus bare witness to it when He said, "I saw Satan, as lightning, falling from heaven." The Evil One remembered this second defeat, and so now he smote down the Innocent Lord a second time, now that he had Him in his power. O dear Lord, teach us to suffer with Thee, and not be afraid of Satan's buffetings, when they come on us from resisting him.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

The Women of Jerusalem morn for our Lord.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

EVER since the prophecy of old time, that the Savior of man was to be born of a woman of the stock of Abraham, the Jewish women had desired to bear Him. Yet, now that He was really come, how different, as the Gospel tells us, was the event from what they had expected. He said to them "the days are surely coming when they will say, 'Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed." [ Luke 23:29. NRSV]. Ah, Lord, we know not what is good for us, and what is bad. We cannot foretell the future, nor do we know, when You come to visit us, in what form You wilt come. And therefore we leave it all to Thee. Do to us and in us [whatever pleases you]. Let us ever look at Thee, and do You look upon us, and give us the grace of Thy bitter Cross and Passion, and console us in Thy own way and at Thy own time.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus falls for third time.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

SATAN will have a third and final fall at the end in the everlasting fiery prison. He knew this was to be his end--he has no hope, but despair only. He knew that no suffering which he could at that moment inflict upon the Savior of men would avail to rescue himself from that inevitable doom. But, in horrible rage and hatred, he determined to insult and torture while he could the great King whose throne is everlasting. Therefore a third time he smote Him down fiercely to the earth. O Jesus, Only-begotten Son of God, the Word Incarnate, we adore with fear and trembling and deep thankfulness Thy awful humiliation, that You who art the Highest, should have permitted Yourself, even for one hour, to be the sport and prey of the Evil One.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus is stripped of His Garments.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

JESUS would give up everything of this world, before He left it. He exercised the most perfect poverty. When He left the Holy House of Nazareth, and went out to preach, He had not where to lay His head. He lived on the poorest food, and on what was given to Him by those who loved and served Him. And therefore He chose a death in which not even His clothes were left to Him. He parted with what seemed most necessary, and even a part of Him, by the law of human nature since the fall. Grant us in like manner, O dear Lord, to care nothing for anything on earth, and to bear the loss of all things, and to endure even shame, reproach, contempt, and mockery, rather than that You shalt be ashamed of us at the last day.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus is nailed to the Cross.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

JESUS is pierced through each hand and each foot with a sharp nail. His eyes are dimmed with blood, and are closed by the swollen lids and livid brows which the blows of His executioners have caused. His mouth is filled with vinegar and gall. His head is encircled by the sharp thorns. His heart is pierced with the spear. Thus, all His senses are mortified and crucified, that He may make atonement for every kind of human sin. O Jesus, mortify and crucify us with Thee. Let us never sin by hand or foot, by eyes or mouth, or by head or heart. Let all our senses be a sacrifice to Thee; let every member sing Thy praise. Let the sacred blood which flowed from Thy five wounds anoint us with such sanctifying grace that we may die to the world, and live only to Thee.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus dies upon the Cross.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

"CONSUMMATUM est." It is completed -- it has come to a full end. The mystery of God's love towards us is accomplished. The price is paid, and we are redeemed. The Eternal Father determined not to pardon us without a price, in order to show us especial favor. He condescended to make us valuable to Him. What we buy we put a value on. He might have saved us without a price -- by the mere fiat of His will. But to show His love for us He took a price, which, if there was to be a price set upon us at all, if there was any ransom at all to be taken for the guilt of our sins, could be nothing short of the death of His Son in our nature. O my God and Father, You have valued us so much as to pay the highest of all possible prices for our sinful souls--and shall we not love and choose Thee above all things as the one necessary and one only good?

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus is laid in the arms of His Blessed Mother.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

HE is Thy property now, O Virgin Mother, once again, for He and the world have met and parted. He went out from Thee to do His Father's work--and He has done and suffered it. Satan and bad men have now no longer any claim upon Him- too long has He been in their arms. Satan took Him up aloft to the high mountain; evil men lifted Him up upon the Cross. He has not been in Thy arms, O Mother of God, since He was a child--but now thou have a claim upon Him, when the world has done its worst. For thou art the all-favoured, all-blessed, all-gracious Mother of the Highest. We rejoice in this great mystery. He has been hidden in thy womb, He has lain in thy bosom, He has been [nursed] at thy breasts, He has been carried in thy arms--and now that He is dead, He is placed upon thy lap. Virgin Mother of God, pray for us.

Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, etc.

Jesus is laid in the Sepulcher.

V. We adore thee O Christ and we bless thee,

R. Because by thy Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

JESUS, when He was nearest to His everlasting triumph, seemed to be farthest from triumphing. When He was nearest upon entering upon His kingdom, and exercising all power in heaven and earth, He was lying dead in a cave of the rock. He was wrapped round in burying-clothes, and confined within a sepulcher of stone, where He was soon to have a glorified spiritual body, which could penetrate all substances, go to and fro quicker than thought, and was about to ascend on high. Make us to trust in thee, O Jesus, that You wilt display in us a similar providence. Make us sure, O Lord, that the greater is our distress, the nearer we are to Thee. The more men scorn us, the more You did honor us. The more men insult over us, the higher You wilt exalt us. The more they forget us, the more You did keep us in mind. The more they abandon us, the closer You wilt bring us to Yourself.

God, who by the Precious Blood of Thy only-begotten Son did sanctify the standard of the Cross, grant, we beseech Thee, that we who rejoice in the glory of the same Holy Cross may at all times and places rejoice in Thy protection, through the same Christ, our Lord.

End with one Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary and Glory be..., for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff. (This is required to qualify for the Plenary Indulgence.)

St. Agatha

Feast Day: February 5th
3rd century martyr (died about 250 AD)

"We have little reliable information about this martyr, who has been honoured since ancient times, and whose name is included in the canon of the Mass. Young, beautiful and rich, Agatha lived a life consecrated to God. When Decius announced the edicts against Christians, the magistrate Quinctianus tried to profit by Agatha’s sanctity; he planned to blackmail her into sex in exchange for not charging her. Handed over to a brothel, she refused to accept customers. After rejecting Quinctianus’s advances, she was beaten, imprisoned, tortured, her breasts were crushed and cut off. She told the judge, “Cruel man, have you forgotten your mother and the breast that nourished you, that you dare to mutilate me this way?” One version has it that Saint Peter healed her. She was then imprisoned again, then rolled on live coals; when she was near death, an earthquake stuck. In the destruction that followed, a friend of the magistrate was crushed, and the magistrate fled. Agatha thanked God for an end to her pain, and died."

"Legend says that carrying her veil, taken from her tomb in Catania, in procession has averted eruptions of Mount Etna. Her intercession is reported to have saved Malta from Turkish invasion in 1551."
by Terry H. Jones. "Saint Agatha of Sicily."

Patroness or Ali, Sicily, Italy; bell-founders; Catania, Sicily, Italy; fire prevention; jewelers; Malta; martyrs; nurses; Palermo, Sicily, Italy; rape victims; San Marino; single laywomen; torture victims; wet-nurses; and Zamarramala, Spain

Her intercession is invoked against breast cancer, breast disease, earthquakes, eruptions of Mount Etna, fire, natural disasters, sterility, and volcanic eruptions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Soup and Ashes

Well, today marks the first day of that very important Church season of Lent. When we remember the lowliness of our humanity and the wonderfulness of Jesus' coming. Today was also the third day of our illness 'season.' Since monday, we've had 4 of our 5 kids battling the "flu" or something "like it" (from the telephone nurse). We even had one with the barking seal cough at 330 AM. I think I have done my entire penance for Lent. My husband and oldest son (the only one presently without fever--although he spent the whole weekend sick) attended Mass this morning. I had the privelege of going by myself this evening. Even though the church was awfully crowded, it was nice to be able to concentrate on the Mass and not on my children's behaviour in Mass. It is also the one day you can't chat with friends you haven't seen in a long time because they don't attend the same Sunday Mass as you.

Today we enjoyed "Spartan Soup" for dinner. My third son picked it out of our 'Monastary Soups' cookbook just because of the name. It was a hit with Mom, Dad, and eldest son. It fell a little flat for our less adventurous younger kids. It is basically an onion/leek soup with egg in it. It was truly delicious and hardly seemed like sacrificing anything. I am still full even though we ate 4 hours ago. We had an early dinner because the 2 of us who did fast were starving. All the kids, save one and he is diabetic so can't fast as such, are too young anyway but we are trying to get them used to at least not snacking all day on Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Next on our tour is Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.

Feast day: July 4 (moved from July 8)
died: 1336
Also known as: The Peacemaker, Isabel, Isabella

She was a Princess of Aragon and Constantia and great-niece of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, for whom she was named. She had a pious upbringing with daily liturgy and praying of the hours, regular religious instruction and education. Married at age twelve to King Diniz of Portugal, and thus Queen of Portugal before she was a teenager.

The king was known for his hard work, his poetic nature, and his lack of morals. Elizabeth suffered through years of abuse and adultery, praying all the while for his conversion, and working with the poor and sick. Mother of two, Princess Constantia and Prince Affonso. She sometimes convinced the ladies of the court to help with her charity work, but most of the time she just incurred their jealousy and ill will. The king appears to have reformed late in life, though whether from Elizabeth’s faith or his imminent death is unknown.

Prince Affonso rebelled against the favours that King Diniz bestowed on his illegitimate sons, and in 1323 forces of the king and prince clashed in open civil war. Though she had been unjustly accused of siding with her son against the crown, Elizabeth rode onto the battlefield between them, and was able to reconcile father and son, and prevent bloodshed. This led to her patronage as a peacemaker, and as one invoked in time of war and conflict.

After the death of the king in 1325, she distributed her property to the poor, became a Franciscan tertiary, and retired to a monastery of Poor Clares she had founded at Coimbra.

In 1336 her son, now King Affonso IV, marched against his son-in-law, the King of Castile to punish him for being a negligent and abusive husband. Despite her age and ill health, Elizabeth hurried to the battlefield at Estremoz, Portugal, and again managed to make peace in her family, and thus maintain peace in her land.

Patroness of brides, charitable societies, charitable workers, charity workers, charities, Coimbra, Portugal, difficult marriages, falsely accused people, peace, queens, tertiaries, victims of adultery, victims of jealousy, victims of unfaithfulness, widows. She is invoked against jealousy and prayed to often in time of war.

Information from:

Sunday, February 8, 2009

St. Albert of Sicily

Next we have St. Albert of Sicily (AKA Albert of Trapani).

Feast Day: August 7
Died: 1306

He was educated in a Carmelite monastery, and joined the Order at age 18. He became a priest and teacher in the monastery. He was a mendicant* preacher to the Sicilians, making many conversions; especially devoted to, and successful with, Sicilian Jews. He was a miracle worker. Sicilian Carmelite provincial in 1257, and worked both as preacher and administrator.

In 1301, the city of Messina was under siege and blockade by Duke Robert of Calabria. Disease ridden and facing imminent starvation, the Messina city fathers asked Albert and the monstery for intervention. Albert celebrated Mass, offering it as a plea for God's deliverance. As he finished, three ships loaded with grain ran the blockade. The city was saved from starvation, and Robert lifted the seige. Albert was so well remembered for this intervention that a city gate was dedicated in his honor over 300 years later.

In his later years, Albert retired to a small monastery near Messina, and spent his time in prayer, meditation, and communion.

Patron of Trapani (his birthplace), Carmelite orders, Carmelite schools.

*Mendicants "do not own property, either individually or collectively, and have taken a vow of poverty, in order that all their time and energy could be expended on practicing or preaching their religion or way of life and serving the poor."

Sunday, February 1, 2009

God is a Trapeze Artist

Today I attended a sponsor/ candidate confirmation class with my son. No, I am not his sponsor but his sponsor cannot come to every meeting as he lives about 6 hours away by car. Anyway... today they played one of those silly games that always seem to be current for youth groups. It was a game of either/ or decisions. You decide if 'God is more like _______ or ________' and then give a reason for your choice. Well, the choice was 'Is God more like a trapeze artist or a circus clown?' (Remember, I said it was silly) My son's answer actually moved me almost to tears. He said that God was like a trapeze artist. God is on one trapeze and we are on the other. God stretches His hands out and waits for us to come to Him. We have to let go of our 'bar' fly through the air and grab His hands in order not to fall. God, unlike a real trapeze artist will always catch us....Wow, I don't think there could have been a prouder parent in the room. One of the other parents said we (his parents) must be doing something right. I say that my contribution was minimal. I think the Holy Spirit moves in that boy; quickly turning him into a very good man.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

St. Thecla

Next up is St. Thecla. A first century martyr, convert of St. Paul's.
Feast Day: September 23
Patroness of purity

Saint Thecla is one of the most ancient, as she is one of the most illustrious Saints in the calendar of the Church. It was at Iconium that Saint Thecla heard the preaching of Saint Paul, who kindled the love of virginity in her heart. She had been promised in marriage to a young man who was rich and generous, but after hearing the discourses of the Apostle’s word she died to all thought of earthly espousals. She forgot her beauty; she was deaf to her parent’s threats, and at the first opportunity fled from a luxurious home and followed the Apostle.

The rage of her parents and of her suitor followed hard after her, and the Roman power did its worst against the virgin whom Christ had chosen for Himself. She was stripped and placed in the public theater, but her innocence shrouded her like a garment. Then the lions were let loose against her; they fell crouching at her feet and licked them like a house pet. Even fire could not harm her. Torment after torment was inflicted upon her without effect, until finally the divine Spouse of virgins spoke the word of deliverance and called her to Himself, with the double crown of martyrdom and virginity upon her head.
Source: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

The Greek Orthodox Church celebrates her feast day on September 24th and calls her "Protomartyr among women and equal to the Apostles". (Catholic Encyclopedia online)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

St. Vitalis

Now to continue our tour of the 140 saints portrayed in stone on St. Peter's collonade...

Feastday: July 10
died about 165?

One of the 'seven holy brothers', saints, martyred in Rome, in 150. According to legend, they were the sons of Saint Felicitas, and suffered martyrdom under Emperor Antoninus. Januarius, Felix, and Philip were scourged to death; Silvanus was thrown over a precipice; Alexander, Vitalis, and Martialis were beheaded.