Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

O, Lord, I adore You in the little boat of my soul. Since You are with me, I shall not fear.

1. In today's liturgy, especially the Gospel (Mt 8:23-27), Jesus appears in our midst as the ruler of the elements, the conqueror of all tempests. "And behold a great tempest arose in the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves." Let us think of all the persecutions which have beaten against Peter's barque, the Church, down through the ages; or we can think of the trials which God still permits individual souls to undergo. Whatever happens, the spirit of faith tells us that every struggle and tempest is willed, or at least permitted by God: "Everything is grace"; everything is the result of His infinite love. God is not a tyrant who crushes us, but a Father, who tests us because He loves us. If He permits sorrow, interior or exterior trials, personal or public vicissitudes, it is only to draw out of them some great good.

Virtue and goodness are strengthened in time of difficulty; the efforts made in the bearing trials tend to make us surpass what we would have done had we enjoyed calm. Jesus was sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat when the terrified Apostles awakened Him: He answered them reproachfully, "Lord, save us, we perish!""Why are you fearful, O ye of little faith?". If we are disturbed and upset by trials, it means that we lack faith. Even when God conceals Himself, when everything seems to fail us and we feel terribly alone, we can be absolutely certain that God will never abandon us if we do not first abandon Him. Instead of becoming bitter or falling into despair, it is the moment to intensify our faith, to make strong acts of faith. St. Therese of the Child Jesus used to say, "I count on Him. Suffering may go to its limit, but I am sure He will never abandon me".

2. The Apostles were saved only when they called upon Jesus. As long as they laboured and struggled alone, they had no success. Many times we fail to surmount interior difficulties because we work alone. God wants us to experience our own insufficiency; therefore, He let us struggle until we have recourse to Him with full confidence. Certainly God wants our efforts, but He does not want us to place all our hope in them. This accounts for the small progress so many make on the road to sanctity - too much reliance on their own resources, too little on God's help. We must be firmly convinced that "our sufficiency is from God" (2Cor 3:5). We must have less confidence in ourselves and more in God. Jesus can do all things, and confidence works miracles. "We receive from God as much as we hope for" (J.C. Dark Night of the Soul II: 21,8). There are other kinds of tempests, too, such as those provoked by the difficulties we sometimes experience in our relations with our neighbor. St. Paul in the Epistle (Rom 13:8-10) gives us the remedy: "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." Love conquers all. Our love for God overcomes our interior storms; our love for our neighbour, in whom we love Christ, overcomes the tempest which arise from dissensions, misunderstanding, and clashes of temperaments. If from certain people we receive only pain and trouble, let us follow the precious advice of St.John of the Cross:"Where there is no love, put love, and you will find love" (Letters, 22).

"O my Lord, how true a friend You are, and how powerful! For you can do all You will and never do You cease to love! Let all things praise You, Lord of the world! Oh, if someone would but proclaim throughout the world how faithful You are to your friends! All things fail, but You, Lord of them all, never fail. How little is the suffering that You allow to those who love You! O my Lord, how delicately and skillfully and tenderly do You deal with them! Oh, happy are they who never loved anyone save You! You seem, Lord, to give severe trials to those who love You, but only that in the excess of their trials they may learn the greater excess of Your love. O my God, had I but understanding and learning to find new words with which to exhalt Your works as my soul knows them! These, my Lord, I lack, but if You forsake me not, I shall never fail You. Let all learned men arise up against me, let all created things persecute me, let the devils torment me; but You, Lord, do not fail me; for I have already experienced the benefits which come to him who trusts only in You!" (T.J. Life, 25).
Take away from me, O Lord, all trust in my own strength. Make me see that I can do nothing without You. Show it to me in a practical way, even if it causes me sorrow and humiliation. O Lord, I no longer desire to rely on my own strength; in You alone do I place all my trust. With Your help I shall continue to strive to practice virtue and to advance in Your ways, but with my eyes always fixed on You, O divine Sun, who alone can make my feeble efforts bring forth fruits of virtue! When storms arise, I will take refuge in You; I will call upon You with all the strength of my heart and with all my faith, certain that you will give me that peace and that victory which I would seek in vain apart from You.
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St John Bosco, Confessor - click for link

Today is the Feast of St John Bosco (1815-1888), a man who dedicated his life to the service of abandoned young people. St John Bosco was favoured by God with many prophetic dreams that helped his boys to reflect seriously on the last things, to avoid sins and to be prepared by regular confessions and receiving the Sacraments. St John founded the Salesian Order much needed in the poverty of the city of Turin, we now consider to be one of the most prosperous in the modern world.

Previous post St John Bosco

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Saturday - Our Lady's Day

Thoughts on Immaculate Conception of Mary from "My Way of Life - the Simplified Summa"

The Blessed Virgin Mary was a human being descended from Adam by way of carnal generation. She had a human father and a human mother. If she had not, therefore, been chosen to be the Mother of God, she would, like every other descendant of Adam, have contracted original sin at the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother. But because she was to be the Mother of His Son, God preserved her soul from the stain of original sin from the very instant of her conception in the womb of her mother. God did this by infusing divine grace into the soul of Mary at the very instant He crated her soul and united it to her body. He did it in virtue of the merits of Christ. no descendant of Adam receives the grace of God except through the merits of Christ. The Mother of God was no exception to this law of grace. Like every other human being who is descended by carnal generation from Adam, the Blessed Virgin Mary needed to be redeemed by the Blood of Christ. But whereas every other human being needs to be clean sed from the stain of original sin - which he has contracted by way of carnal generation from Adam - the Virgin Mary did not need to be cleansed from original sin. She never contracted this stain of sin. Through the grace of Christ, she was preserved from the stain of sin from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother. This is the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. Because of the widespread misunderstanding of the meaning of this doctrine, it might be well to mention here that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary is a different doctrine from the doctrine of Virgin Birth of Christ. the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception means that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother. The doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Christ means that Christ was conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit without the agency of any human father.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mystery and Reason for Incarnation

Thoughts on Incarnation from "My Way of Life - The Summa Simplified"

The vision of God is the goal of human life. It is divine grace and the supernatural infused virtues which come to man with it that enable him to attain the vision of God. But by sin, Adam lost grace and the infused virtues for himself and for the whole human race. How then, can man ever reach his true destiny? Must we say that real happiness is forever impossible to him? By sin he has cut himself off from God. Like a petulant child, he has run away from the home of God's love. But the love of God for man is strong and deep and wise; it has reached down from heaven to earth and rescued him from sin and death, and the manner of its coming is beyond the understanding of man. "By this hath the charity of God appeared towards us, because God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live by Him. In this is charity: not as though we had loved God, but because he hath first loved us, and sent his Son to be a
propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9-10).

This is the central mystery of Christianity - the mystery if Incarnation of the Son of God. To save men from their sins, God sent His own Son into the world as a man. The Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Blessed trinity, became man and dwelt among amongst us for our salvation. the SOn of God is both God and man. He is one divine Person existing in two natures, one divine and the other human. Try as we may, we shall never understand in this present life how the SOn of God could become man and still remain God. But this is the mystery of God's love for us which He has revealed to us. Christ Himself, the Son of God in human flesh, proclaimed this stupendous truth. His miracles proved His claim. He was put to death by the Sanhedrin for making this claim. Christ died on the Cross rather than retract it; and he rose from the grave to prove that He, Who was really man, was also really God.

Though we cannot understand this great mystery, still, as St Thomas and the Fathers of the Church point out to us, by it the goodness, wisdom, justice and power of God are made known to us. In the Incarnation God, Who is almighty and all-perfect has condescended to unite to Himself a human nature which is created and limited in power. Surely this is a sign of God's goodness to man. Since Jesus Christ is both God and man, He can offer to God an infinite satisfaction for man's sins against God, and in this wisdom of God is manifested to us. Because Jesus Christ is man, it is man who satisfied God for sin, and in this we see the justice of God. Lastly, to unite a human nature to the Son of God as His very own human nature - this is a work that demands divine power.

The love of God for man shines out more clearly in the mystery of the Incarnation when we realize that God did not have to become man in order to save man from his sins. God could simply have forgiven man his sins and restore grace to him; or He could have been content with any satisfaction for sin that man himself might make. But the love of God for man was not content with half-measure or with what was simply necessary. God chose the best possible means of saving man, the best possible means of leading man to good and withdrawing him from evil.

Through Incarnation God leads man to good. The Incarnation is the firm foundation of the virtues of faith, hope and charity. It is the foundation of hope because it is manifestation of the strength of God's love for us. It is the foundation of Himself. It is the foundation of hope because it is a manifestation of the strength of God's love for us. It is the foundation of charity because God's great love for us cannot but enkindle our love for Him. Moreover, in the Incarnation men find the example they must follow to reach the vision of God, for in the life and actions of Christ we see the work of the Christian virtues in their full perfection. Lastly, through the Incarnation the divine life of grace is restored to man, and it becomes possible for him to live divinely here on earth so that he may inherit the vision of God in heaven.

The Incarnation withdraws man from evil. First of all, it shows him that he must prefer God and himself to the devil, who brought about the ruin of human nature. Secondly, it shows man his own great dignity. God has united to Himself no other nature but the nature of man. Surely,, then, man is something wonderful in God's eyes and in the universe. But the Incarnation also preserves man from presumption, for grace is restored to him through Jesus Christ and not because of his own merits. Then, too, in the Incarnation the love of God dissolves the hard ice of human pride. If God is humble enough to become man, can man be too proud to become godlike through divine grace? Most importantly, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, satisfied God for man's sins and so mertied for him the forgiveness of his sins.

The Son of God became man to save man from sin. Some theologians have held that God would have become man even if man had not fallen into sin. But St Thomas remarks that God has not told us what he would have done if man had not sinned. it is better therefore, to say no more than God Himself has said, that the Son of God became man to
redeem man from sin. He came into the world to take away all sin, both actual and original sin. Since original sin infects the whole human race, it can be said that, though Christ came to take away all sin, nevertheless He came principally to rescue mand from original sin.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mary - The Virgin Mother of God

Beautiful and logical explanation of dogmas of faith some sceptics may find difficult to believe.

The perpetual virginity of Mary is not so surprising when we reflect that Mary is the Mother of God. Christ is the true and natural Son of God. It was not fitting that God should share His parenthood with a man. Christ is also the Word of God. As the Word of God, He proceeds from His Father without corruption. It was fitting that He should proceed from His Mother without corrupting her virginity. He came to take away the sins of men. But if He had been conceived of Mary by a human father, He Himself would have been the subject to original sin. It was not fitting that He should be subject to the sin which He came to destroy. He came so that men might be reborn spiritually of the Holy Spirit. It was, therefore, fitting that He Himself should be conceived by the Holy Spirit. He came to restore the integrity of human nature. It was not fitting that He should destroy the physical integrity of His Mother. Lastly, it is He Who has commanded us to honour our fathers and mothers. It was fitting that He should not lessen the honour due to His Mother by destroying her virginity in His birth.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

On Rearing of Children - by Carmelites of the Holy Trinity in Washington - click for link

I recommend this reading to all Catholics with children and those who not yet have any - very inspiring and instructing and based on the example St Therese of Lisieux' family.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Marian Shrines in Holy Land - click for link to read part 1


After the Ascension of Christ a new era dawned for the Order of Elias. The Lessons for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel relate that many persons who had walked in the footsteps of Elias and Eliseus were made ready by John the Baptist to hail the coming of the Messiah, and on the day of Pentecost, being assured of the truth, they immediately embraced the Gospel, and writers of the early Church state that the hermits of Mt Carmel were efficient helpers of the Apostles in spreading the faith. In the Acts of the Apostles (11:12) reference is made to the coming of the Prophets from Jerusalem to Antioch. Enock, the hermit of Carmel established the monastic life in Alexandria under St Mark. Baronius, referring to to this, says that St Anthony was not the institutor of the monks, but that he re-established the institute of the Essenes, which had flourished under St Mark in Egypt. It is said that St Elpidius,

another hermit of Carmel, went with St James to Spain and was appointed by him the first Bishop of Toledo.

Venerable traditions of this time are full of sacred interest to all devotees of Mary, the "Queen, flower of Carmel". Long centuries before her coming, from the time of Elias, she was known, loved and honoured in Carmel. Some may wonder to hear of devotion to Mary nine hundred years before God gave her to the world, but it must be remembered that Mary was promised to mankind from the moment of original sin. Her image shines besides that of her Divine Son, lighting up even the darkness of paganism. Did not the Druids have a temple and an altar erected to the Virgin who was to bring forth. "Virgini pariturae." The ancients, who hardly knew the meaning of virginity, enshrined it in one of the most brilliant constellations of the Zodiac.
Sepphoris, the home of Joachim and Ann, is not far from Carmel,

and it is related that Mary, as a child, visited Carmel with her parents, which would not be strange since Carmel was a renowned place of pilgrimage. Later the Holy Family dwelt at Nazareth, which is only a day's journey from the holy mountain,

and it is said that on their return from Egypt they visited the pious hermits, filling their hearts with joy and peace. This is most probable, as Carmel lies on the direct route between Egypt and Nazareth.

The Roman Breviary relates that on the Feast of Pentecost the holy prophets, who were enlightened by the Apostles, met and conversed with Our Lady, and that on account of their singular love for her, they paid her the respect of building a little chapel,

Excavation site of the remains of the Chapel built by Mt Carmel's hermits in honour of Our Lady

the first that was ever raised in her honour, and which stood near the Grotto of Elias. For this reason the Mountain of Carmel, cradle of the Monastic life, became the fief of Mary and the sanctuary of contemplative spirit. The beautiful title "Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt Carmel" commonly bestowed upon the hermits and approved by the Holy See recalls the glorious origin and the unity of the Carmelite Order throughout the centuries. Later, July 16, 1251, the Holy Virgin crowned her favours by granting to her Carmelite Order the privilege of the Holy Scapular, in the person of St Simon Stock, an Englishman, who was then Prior General of the Carmelite Order.

After the death of Christ, Our Lady visited Mt Carmel, when as it is related, she with St John and some others of the Apostles went to Nazareth to show them where the Holy Family dwelt and narrated to them many touching incidents in the life of her Divine Son.

During the first three centuries the monastic institutions gave many saints and martyrs to the Church. St Telesphorus, eight Pope, and St Dionysius, twenty-fifth Pope, both lived on Carmel.

In the 4th century, with the reign of Constantin, monasticism flourished all over the Holy Land, and many of the great defenders of the Church against heresy came from Carmel, e.g. St Spiridon fought the Arians at the Council of Nice;

St Cyril of Alexandria uprooted the Nestorians and proved the Blessed Virgin to be the Mother of God;

Caprasius, Superior of the hermits of Carmel was the opponent of Eutyches; St Cyril of Jerusalem strove against Macedonius and his heresies;

and historians state that Palladius who opposed Pelagius and afterwards went to preach the Faith in Scotland and Ireland was a monk from Mt Carmel.

In 614 the Persians desecrated the Holy Places of Palestine and in 637 Islam overran the country. The hermits of Mt Carmel were persecuted and some of them fled to Europe. Leo IV, elected Pope in 847, granted a special indulgence to all who would assist by alms the persecuted hermits of Carmel,

and with this help they continued to exist until the time of the Crusaders, when a Latin element was introduced.

To be continued "The Latin Era"
Text based on the book "Marian Shrines in Mary's Land" by Fr Eugene Hoade.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

SSPX excommunication lifted by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI - click for link

The Bishops of SSPX are Catholic bishops and their consecration was never in question. Therefore they have always been valid bishops and successors to the Apostles, and in practical terms they had Apostolic Succession. I pray fervently and ask my fellow bloggers for prayers that the terms of re-communications are also lifting the suspension and the Society's Bishops and Priests will be soon in full communion with the Holy See. Long life to Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI!

News at Papastronsay Golgotha Monastery website

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Document repealing excommunications


By way of a letter of December 15, 2008 addressed to His Eminence Cardinal Dario Castrill'n Hoyos, President of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, Mons. Bernard Fellay, also in the name of the other three Bishops consecrated on June 30, 1988, requested anew the removal of the latae sententiae excommunication formally declared with the Decree of the Prefect of this Congregation on July 1, 1988. In the aforementioned letter, Mons. Fellay affirms, among other things: "We are always firmly determined in our will to remain Catholic and to place all our efforts at the service of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is the Roman Catholic Church. We accept its teachings with filial animus. We believe firmly in the Primacy of Peter and in its prerogatives, and for this the current situation makes us suffer so much."

His Holiness Benedict XVI - paternally sensitive to the spiritual unease manifested by the interested party due to the sanction of excommunication and faithful in the effort expressed by them in the aforementioned letter of not sparing any effort to deepen the necessary discussions with the Authority of the Holy See in the still open matters, so as to achieve shortly a full and satisfactory solution of the problem posed in the origin - decided to reconsider the canonical situation of Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta, arisen with their episcopal consecration.

With this act, it is desires to consolidate the reciprocal relations of confidence and to intensify and grant stability to the relationship of the Fraternity of Saint Pius X with this Apostolic See. This gift of peace, at the end of the Christmas celebrations, wishes also to be a sign to promote unity in the charity of the universal Church and to try to end the scandal of division.

It is hoped that this step be followed by the prompt accomplishment of full communion with the Church of the entire Fraternity of Saint Pius X, thus testifying true fidelity and true recognition of the Magisterium and of the authority of the Pope with the proof of visible unity.

Based in the faculty expressly granted to me by the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in virtue of the present Decree, I remit to Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, Richard Williamson, and Alfonso de Galarreta the censure of latae sententiae excommunication declared by this Congregation on July 1, 1988, while I declare deprived of any juridical effect, from the present date, the Decree emanated at that date.

Rome, from the Congregation for Bishops, January 21, 2009.
Card. Giovanni Battista Re

Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops

Letter of the Superior General of the Priestly Society of Saint Pius X

Dear faithful,
As I announce in the attached press release, " the excommunication of the bishops consecrated by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, on June 30, 1988, which had been declared by the Congregation for Bishops in a decree dated July 1, 1988, and which we had always contested, has been withdrawn by another decree mandated by Benedict XVI and issued by the same Congregation on January 21, 2009." It was the prayer intention I had entrusted to you in Lourdes, on the feast of Christ the King 2008. Your response exceeded our expectations, since one million seven hundred and three thousand rosaries were said to obtain through the intercession of Our Lady that an end be put to the opprobrium which, beyond the persons of the bishops of the Society, rested upon all those who were more or less attached to Tradition. Let us not forget to thank the Most Blessed Virgin who has inspired the Holy Father with this unilateral, benevolent, and courageous act. Let us assure him of our fervent prayers.
Thanks to this gesture, Catholics attached to Tradition throughout the world will no longer be unjustly stigmatized and condemned for having kept the Faith of their fathers. Catholic Tradition is no longer excommunicated. Though it never was in itself, It was often excommunicated and cruelly so in day to day events. It is just as the Tridentine Mass had never been abrogated in itself, as the Holy Father has happily recalled in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of July 7, 2007.

The decree of January 21 quotes the letter dated December 15, 2008 to Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos in which I expressed our attachment "to the Church of Our Lord Jesus-Christ which is the Catholic Church," re-affirming there our acceptation of its two thousand year old teaching and our faith in the Primacy of Peter. I reminded him that we were suffering much from the present situation of the Church in which this teaching and this primacy were being held to scorn. And I added: "We are ready to write the Creed with our own blood, to sign the anti-modernist oath, the profession of faith of Pius IV, we accept and make our own all the councils up to the Second Vatican Council about which we express some reservations." In all this, we are convinced that we remain faithful to the line of conduct indicated by our founder, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, whose reputation we hope to soon see restored.

Consequently, we wish to begin these "talks" -- which the decree acknowledges to be "necessary" -- about the doctrinal issues which are opposed to the Magisterium of all time. We cannot help noticing the unprecedented crisis which is shaking the Church today: crisis of vocations, crisis of religious practice, of catechism, of the reception of the sacraments ... Before us, Paul VI went so far as to say that "from some fissure the smoke of Satan had entered the Church", and he spoke of the "self-destruction of the Church". John Paul II did not hesitate to say that Catholicism in Europe was, as it were, in a state of "silent apostasy." Shortly before his election to the Throne of Peter, Benedict XVI compared the Church to a "boat taking in water on every side."

Thus, during these discussions with the Roman authorities we want to examine the deep causes of the present situation, and by bringing the appropriate remedy, achieve a lasting restoration of the Church.

Dear faithful, the Church is in the hands of her Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. In Her we place our confidence. We have asked from her the freedom of the Mass of all time everywhere and for all. We have asked from her the withdrawal of the decree of excommunications. In our prayers, we now ask from her the necessary doctrinal clarifications which confused souls so much need.

Menzingen, January 24, 2009
+Bernard Fellay

On the web at: DICI

See also
"The Society of St. Pius X is not in Schism"
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Feast of St Francis de Sales

"God looks at the intention of the heart rather than gifts He is offered (The Spirit of St Francis de Sales XV:9)" after 365 days with St Francis

St Francis, the founder of Salesian Order, achieved remarkable success in converting Calvinists to Catholicism. Soon after being ordained to the priesthood, he was sent for his first appointment as a priest to Geneva, Calvinist's stronghold, and manage single-handedly to convert over seventy thousands of them. He was appointed later on the Bishop of Geneva. I always remember his famous words of advice on converting poor souls - he said it is certainly much much easier to catch plenty of flies with the thimble full of honey than with the bucket filled with vinegar. How true it is!

In Traditional Liturgical calendar, the Feast of St Francis is on 29th of January.

Link to previous posts

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President Obama priorities - click for link

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Words of wisdom from Apostle James for us to ponder on temptation, concupiscence and error.

James 1:12-18.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for, when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life which God hath promised to them that love him. Let no man, when he is tempted, say that he is tempted by God. For God is not a tempter of evils: and he tempteth no man. But every man is tempted by his own concupiscence, being drawn away and allured.
Then, when concupiscence hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin. But sin, when it is completed, begetteth death. Do not err, therefore, my dearest brethren. Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration. For of his own will hath he begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be some beginning of his creature.

The fragment of St James' Epistle is adorned by the masterpiece of Hieronymus Bosch Temptation of St Anthony

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Mary - The Virgin Mother of God

The wisdom of God reaches from end to end mightily and it arranges all things sweetly. Everything has its place in the pattern of divine providence. God fits everything and everyone to its place in His plan for the world. When God the Father resolved to send His only-begotten Son into this world to be born of a woman, He chose and fashioned a woman to be the worthy mother of so great Son. When we meet a very good child, we are quite likely to say, "He must have a very good mother". We explain the child goodness by the goodness of his mother. We believe that it is the mother's goodness which has made the child good. But in the mystery of the Incarnation, it is contrary which is true. Mary of Nazareth is the perfect Mother of God because her Son, Who is God, has made her so. Because the Son of God is all holy and perfect, Mary, His Mother in the flesh, must be as holy and perfect as she can be. God did not cast His eye over all the women in the world, seeking to discover which one was best fitted to be the mother of His Son. Mary was not chosen by God because he found her to be the most perfect of women. Rather, He made her the perfect woman because He had chosen her to be the Mother of His Son.

From "My Way of Life - Simplified Summa for Everyone"

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

News from SPUC

Comments on new BBC drama series 'Hunters' presenting 'wicked' ways of pro-life activists abducting children(!) and also on inaugural address of new American President.

A British television police drama shows pro-life people kidnapping children. SPUC supporters have expressed concern about BBC1's Hunter. Betty Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland who watched the programme said: "These supposed pro-lifers were shown inscribing 'sacred' on one of their captives and also killing a hostage. The BBC wouldn't dare portray other groups in this way." John Smeaton of SPUC said: "Of course, this is just a fictional situation, but pro-life people are the last to threaten children. Indeed, we defend them. There is a grim irony that one of the extremists in the programme has spina bifida and seems to want revenge for the deaths of people with a similar disability through abortion. (The overwheming majority of unborn babies discovered to have spina bifida in Britain are aborted). We mustn't be distracted by a TV show from our defence of vulnerable human beings, but maybe it's worth remarking on such an eccentric portrayal of pro-life people just when the most pro-abortion president in US history has been inaugurated." [John Smeaton, 21 January]

SPUC has also commented on President Barack Obama's inaugural address. The new president referred to America's founding documents. John Smeaton cited the declaration of independence which says: "... all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life..." and commented that this statement should make killing children before birth unthinkable. Mr Obama's probable pro-abortion laws and policies made it unlikely that "the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness" would be honoured. He claims to want to "restore science to its rightful place" yet would abuse and kill embryonic children. Mr Obama spoke of "those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents" to which John Smeaton asks: "What else is abortion than slaughtering innocents?" He said: "It is ... a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate." John asks: "What about the majority of Chinese women who are willing to have another child, but will be denied one by an Obama-funded population control programme?" [John Smeaton, 20 January] Ms Ellen Moran, the new president's communications director, used to work for Emily's list which supports pro-abortion politicians. [Independent, 20 January]

An aborted child's tissue could be used to treat stroke victims in Scotland. The ReNeuron company of Surrey, England, developed the therapies for the Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, at a cost of £10 million. There may be trials in June where stem cells would be injected in patients' brains to see if they help. [Nursing Times, 20 January] SPUC's John Smeaton said: "It is unethical in every way - killing one member of the human race to help another. We are totally opposed to this." Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "Even using just one foetus in this way is wrong. The stem cells will have been taken from a healthy foetus. Would any woman want her unborn baby to have its brain used in this way?" [Christian Institute, 19 January]

A handbook on pregnancy for people with learning disabilities is to be published next month. My Pregnancy, My Choice, by the Change organisation in the UK, has been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing. [Royal College of Nursing, 20 January]

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

St Agnes - Virgin and Martyr

In honour of St Agnes, patroness of purity and chastity

ST. JEROME says that the tongues and pens of all nations are employed in the praises of this saint, who overcame both the cruelty of the tyrant and the tenderness of her age and crowned the glory of chastity with that of martyrdom. St. Austin observes that her name signifies chaste in Greek and lamb in Latin. She has been always looked upon in the church as a special patroness of purity, with the immaculate Mother of God and St. Thecla. Rome was the theater of the triumph of St. Agnes, and Prudentius says that her tomb was shown within sight of that city. She suffered not long after the beginning of the persecution of Dioclesian, whose bloody edicts appeared in March in the year of our Lord, 303.

We learn from St. Ambrose and St. Austin that she was only thirteen years of age at the time of her glorious death. Her riches and beauty excited the young noblemen of the first families of Rome to vie with one another in their addresses who should gain her in marriage. Agnes answered them all that she had consecrated her virginity to a heavenly Spouse, who could not be beheld by mortal eyes. Her suitors finding her resolution impregnable to all their arts and importunities, accused her to the governor as a Christian, not doubting but threats and torments would overcome her tender mind, on which allurements could make no impression. The judge at first employed the mildest expressions and most inviting promises; to which Agnes paid no regard, repeating always that she could have no other spouse than Jesus Christ. He then made use of threats but found her soul endowed with a masculine courage and even desirous of racks and death. At last, terrible fires were made and iron hooks, racks, and other instruments of torture displayed before her, with threats of immediate execution. The young virgin surveyed them all with an undaunted eye and with a cheerful countenance beheld the fierce and cruel executioners surrounding her and ready to dispatch her at the word of command. She was so far from betraying the least symptom of fear, that she even expressed her joy at the sight and offered herself to the rack. She was then dragged before the idols and commanded to offer incense "but could by no means be compelled to move her hand, except to make the sign of the cross," says St. Ambrose.

The governor seeing his measures ineffectual, said he would send her to a house of prostitution, where what she prized so highly should be exposed to the insults of the debauchees. Agnes answered that Jesus Christ was too jealous of the purity of His spouses to suffer it to be violated in such a manner; for He was their defender and protector. "You may," said she, "stain your sword with my blood, but you will never be able to profane my body, consecrated to Christ." The governor was so incensed at this that he ordered her to be immediately led to the public brothel, with liberty to all persons to abuse her person at pleasure. Many young profligates ran there, full of the wicked desire of gratifying their lust, but were seized with such awe at the signs of the saint that they durst not approach her; one only excepted, who, attempting to be rude to her, was that very instant, by a flash, as it were, of lightning from heaven, struck blind, and fell trembling to the ground. His companions, terrified, took him up and carried him to Agnes, who was at a distance, singing hymns of praise to Christ, her protector. The virgin by prayer restored him to his sight and health. *

The chief prosecutor of the saint, who at first sought to gratify his lust and avarice, now labored to satiate his revenge by incensing the judge against her; his passionate fondness being changed into anger and rage. The governor wanted not others to spur him on, for he was highly exasperated to see himself baffled and set at defiance by one of her tender age and sex. Therefore, resolved upon her death, he condemned her to be beheaded. Agnes, transported with joy on hearing this sentence, and still more at the sight of the executioner, "went to the place of execution more cheerfully," says St. Ambrose, "than others go to their wedding." The executioner had secret instructions to use all means to induce her to a compliance, but Agnes always answered she could never offer so great an injury to her heavenly Spouse and, having made a short prayer, bowed down her neck to adore God and receive the stroke of death. The spectators wept to see so beautiful and tender a virgin loaded with fetters and to behold her fearless under the very sword of the executioner, who with a trembling hand cut off her head at one stroke. Her body was buried at a small distance from Rome, near the Nomentan road. A church was built on the spot in the time of Constantine the Great and was repaired by pope Honorius in the seventh century. It is now in the hands of Canon-Regulars, standing without the walls of Rome, and is honored with her relics in a very rich silver shrine, the gift of pope Paul V, in whose time they were found in this church, together with those of St. Emerentiana. * The other beautiful rich church of St. Agnes within the city, built by pope Innocent X, the right of patronage being vested in the family of Pamphili, stands on the place where her chastity was exposed. The feast of St. Agnes is mentioned in all Martyrologies, both of the East and West, though on different days. It was formerly a holyday for the women in England, as appears from the council of Worcester, held in the year 1240. St. Ambrose, St. Austin, and other fathers have written her panegyric. St. Martin of Tours was singularly devout to her. Thomas a Kempis honored her as his special patroness, as his works declare in many places. He relates many miracles wrought, and graces received through her intercession.

Marriage is a holy state, instituted by God and in the order of providence and nature the general or most ordinary state of those who live in the world. Those, therefore, who upon motives of virtue and in a Christian and holy manner engage in this state, do well. Those, nevertheless, who for the sake of practicing more perfect virtue, by a divine call, prefer a state of perpetual virginity, embrace that which is more perfect and more excellent. Dr. Wells, a learned Protestant, confesses that Christ declares voluntary chastity, for the kingdom of heaven's sake, to be an excellency and an excellent state of life. This is also the manifest inspired doctrine of St. Paul, and in the revelations of St. John, spotless virgins are called, in a particular manner, the companions of the Lamb, and are said to enjoy the singular privilege of following Him wherever he goes. The tradition of the church has always been unanimous in this point; and among the Romans, Greeks, Syrians, and Barbarians, many holy virgins joyfully preferred torments and death to the violation of their integrity, which they bound themselves by vow to preserve without defilement, in mind or body. The fathers, from the very disciples of the apostles, are all profuse in extolling the excellency of holy virginity, as a special fruit of the incarnation of Christ, his divine institution, and a virtue which has particular charms in the eyes of God, who delights in chaste minds and chooses to dwell singularly in them. They often repeat that purity raises men, even in this mortal life, to the dignity of angels, purifies the soul, fits it for a more perfect love of God and a closer application to heavenly things, and disengages the mind and heart from worldly thoughts and affections. It produces in the soul the nearest resemblance to God. Chastity is threefold: that of virgins, that of widows, and that of married persons; in each state it will receive its crown, as St. Ambrose observes, but in the first it is most perfect, so that St. Austin calls its fruit a hundredfold and that of marriage sixty fold; but the more excellent this virtue is, and the higher its glory and reward, the more heroic and the more difficult is its victory; nor is it perfect unless it be embellished with all other virtues to a heroic degree, especially divine charity and the most profound humility.

(Butler's Lives of the Saints on CD-ROM - Harmony Media)

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The picture is 'St Agnes' by Jusepe de Ribera
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Marian Shrines in Holy Land - Our Lady of Mt Carmel

The hallowed name of Carmel awakens a host of visions, some terrible and some of gracious beauty: the flaming sword of St Elias; the miracles of the Holy Scapular; the loneliness of earth; and abounding grace of Heaven. This historic Mountain range, in great part of limestone, runs from north to south for a distance of fifteen miles, with a width of from three to five miles. It is like a mighty whale, except for the unaccountable hump near the landward and, which is the Place of sacrifice.

Joshua on dividing the land among the children of Israel made Carmel to serve as a boundary for four tribes: the tribe of Asher to the north; those of Zabulon and Issachar to the east; and the half tribe of Manesseh to the south. The name Carmel is best translated by "garden mount". In Holy Writ it appears less frequently as a geographical name than as a metaphor or type of fruitfulness and beauty. Its sides, still in parts verdant, are grooved by dales and burrowed by innumerable grottos, which afforded a refuge for hermits who had withdrawn from the company of men, or who sought sanctuary from tyrants and persecutors. it also gave refuge to those flying from justice. In this is the explanation of the words of the prophet Amos (9:2-3) "And though they be hid in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them away from thence". What made the mountain for ever renowned was the sojourn which the Prophet Elijah or Elias made upon it, and the wonders which he worked there.

Carmel even received in the language of the people the name Jebel Mar Elias, the Mount of St Elias. The whole mountain is sacred to the memory of Elias and his followers, and with reason. Elias was so illustrious among the Prophets that he was selected to represent them in person on Mt Thabor at the Transfiguration;

so imminent in sanctity that the Angel Gabriel could find no better way of expressing the exalted dignity of the Baptist than by saying that he would come "in the spirit and power of Elias;" so admirable before God, that he was taken from this world in a chariot of fire while yet alive; so valiant in virtue, that he is chosen as the champion in the final combat with the enemies of Christ at the end of Time.
It was on Mt Carmel that the One God gained victory over the many gods of idolatry, and there the priests of the idol Baal were exterminated. The Bible relates this event in a particularly fascinating style.

The Altar of Baal
Upon the top of Carmel side by side with the altar of the True God stood that of Baal. Jezabel, daughter of the King of Sidon, and wife of Achab, King of Israel, had led the mass of the people aside to idolatry.

At the behest of Elias, Achab summoned to Carmel "all Israel, and the priests and prophets of Baal who ate at Jezebel's table." There two altars were created, one to God and one to Baal. The priests of Baal called upon their god throughout a long hot day. There was no voice, nor any that answered. Then Elias taunted them, suggesting a little more zeal, for perhaps Baal was having a nap. But Baal remained comatose. Then did Elias call upon his God, and immediately fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. At the sight of this miracle, the people again proclaimed Jehovah their God - "The Lord, he is God" - and under the orders of Elias the priests of Baal were taken down the torrent Kishon and killed there.

Elias and the Drought
Immediately following is an account of another miracle. A long and terrible drought, pretold by Elias, had compelled King Achab to take refuge with his horses in one of the gorges of Carmel. The Prophet besought the Lord to put an end to the scourge, and after casting himself down on the earth, he said to his servant: "Go up and look towards the sea". The servant went up and looked, and said: "There is nothing." Elias said to him: "Return seven times." At the seventh time the servant said: "Behold a little cloud arising out of the sea as large as the palm of a man's hand." Elias said: "Go up and say to Achab: 'Prepare thy chariot and go down, lest the rains prevent thee.'" Then little by little the heavens grew dark with clouds and wind, and there fell a great rain. Such in their majestic simplicity are the events of which Mt Carmel has been the silent witness. The first object of the miracle was undoubtedly the conversion of the apostate people. But Divine Providence often brings forth different fruits from the same root in accordance with the needs of its servants. It is thus that in the little cloud which arose over the sea a tradition piously garnered by Carmelite writers and consecrated by the liturgy of the Order sees a prophetic symbol of the Immaculate Virgin. She, child of Adam's race but without the taint of original sin, would, in giving us the Redeemer, let fall upon the sin-parched earth the gentle, fruitful rain of grace. This revelation was made on this day of miracles to Elias who communicated it to his disciples, the Sons of the Prophets; and thereby brought them to address to the Promised Virgin, in holy anticipation, their service of devotion and praise.

Elias the Founder.
The great Prophet Elias has always been regarded by the Carmelites as the founder and Patriarch of their Order. This ancient and cherished tradition has been sanctioned by the Church, for the statue of the Prophet stands in the Vatican among founders of the Religious Orders. His name means "The Lord is God", and according to St Isidore he was a man of faith and lofty devotion, strong under hardship, fruitful in resources, endowed with a powerful intellect, rigid in his austere virtue, unwearied in holy meditation, fearless in the face of death. He is called in Arabic - Khadr - the "Evergreen", "Living", because he never knew the weakness and decrepitude of age, but remained fruitful in the ways of the Lord, who at last vouchsafed to transport him on a fiery chariot to the great beyond.
The Fathers agree that he, with St John the Baptist, was an example and model of virginity. He raised the dead to life, like the Son of God, and he was the chosen symbol of His Ascension, being raised aloft in a triumphal chariot.

St Jerome says that if the source of the monastic life is sought for in Scripture, it will be found that Elias is its founder. He united a large number of disciples on Carmel, and they led a life sanctified by prayers and celibacy. They met together to be instructed by their holy chief, and this fact has given rise to the name of one of the principal caves on the mountain, called "The School of the Prophets."

The immediate successor of Elias was Eliseus, who inherited his mantle and his double spirit, and went to live on Mt Carmel, to which the people came on feast-days to pray with the hermits.

This concourse of pilgrims gave rise to the legend related by Pliny that the holy mountain of Carmel was itself an object of adoration, and referring to the hermits he calls them "an everlasting nation among whom no one is born."

We know, from 4 Kings 6, that the sons of the Prophets, having became too numerous on Carmel, spread to the Jordan and there built huts for themselves. Later, as the office of the Prophets became less common among the Jews, as fulfillment was about to succeed prophecy, the name "children of the Prophets" ceased and those who succeeded them were called Rechatites, and later Essenes, those very people from whose hands we have now received the oldest manuscripts of Old Testament, left by them in the caves of Jordan and Dead Sea. But the hermits continued on Carmel. The prophet Michaes makes a fervent prayer for them: "Feed the flock of thy inheritance, them that dwelt alone in the forest in the midst of Carmel" (7:14).

To be continued "Christian Carmel"
Text based on the book "Marian Shrines in Mary's Land" by Fr Eugene Hoade.
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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Good quote for reflection

Good quote from the introduction to St. Charles of Sezze's "An Autobiography" - "there is quite common opinion among religious people, that saints are born saints, that they are privileged right from their first appearance on this earth. This is not so, and St Charles of Sezze, Franciscan Saint, stands as a strong refutation of this opinion. Saints become saints in the usual way, due to the generous fidelity of their correspondence to divine grace. They had to fight just as we do, and more so, against their passions, the world and the devil".

After American Catholic "Saint of the day"

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His Holiness Pope Benedict plans to publish soon official guide to discern false 'Marian apparitions', visions, bleeding statues etc - click for link

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mater Salvatoris - Ora pro nobis!

Let my eyes shed down tears day and night, and let them not cease, because the virgin daughter of My people is afflicted, with an exceeding grievous evil (Jer 14:17).

Now the mother was to be admired above measure...who [joining a man's heart to a woman's thought] bore it with a good courage, for the hope that she had in God (2Mach 7:20,21).
by My own self have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this thing, and hast not spared thy only-begotten son for My sake: I will bless thee, and I will multiply thee and I will multiply thy seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is by the sea shore: thy seed shall possess the gates of their enemies: and in thy seed shall all the nations of the world be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice (Gen 22: 16, 17, 18)

"When I consider Him, I am made pensive with fear." When thinking of Our Lady under the title of "Mother of Christ", we saw some of the joys and consolations of her maternity, but we must not forget there was another side to the picture. Mary was too well read in sacred Scripture, too filled with the Holy Ghost not to know that her divine Son was the Man of Sorrows, who had come to redeem the world and pay the debt owing to God's injured Majesty.

Simeon's prophecy, too, had put the matter beyond a doubt. Her heart was to be pierced by a sword; and as we know the anticipation of a trial is often worse than the reality, what must have been the inward sorrows of Mary throughout her whole life! She had read that the kings of this earth would rise up against the Lord, and against His Christ; and has she not experienced of this when forced to fly into Egypt? Also that the Messiah's was to be driven like a sheep to the slaughter, regarded as the outcast of the people; so maltreated as to resemble a worm and no man. But when was all this to take place? Ah, that was probably concealed from her for her greater merit: "Times are not hid from the Almighty, but they who know Him know not His days." (Job 24) She knew the risks He had run shortly after His birth. Well might she often exclaim: "Many other things are also at hand with Him: therefore am I troubled." "When I consider Him, I am made pensive with fear." Christians artists have brought out this thought in various touching pictures, such as William Holman Hunt's "The Shadow of Death";

Under Jesus' left arm is the scroll of Isaiah, the tools form the cross in the shadow, the window makes a halo.

or Herbert's "Holy Family", where Mary, having let her work slip from her hands, sits gazing at the chips which fallen on the ground from the basket carried by her divine Child, and lie there in the form of a cross;

yet another beautiful painting of Christ and his sorrowful Mother by British artist John Everett Mills

or again by Tissot, where the Boy Jesus, in His richly-coloured eastern garments, is going down the road with a beam of wood across His shoulder, while His Mother watches Him from the window with an indescribably wistful, sad look in her eyes, evidently thinking of the still heavier burden His mangled shoulders will one day have to bear like hers!

Similar Tissot work, Mary watches her Child with sad look on her face.

And, then, the reality! Those months, nay, years, in which she saw the clouds more definitely gathering round the objects of her love, till the day when they burst in all their fury, and she stood those long hours in testimony of her undying devotedness to Him on whom men had wrecked their hatred: her Beautiful One, scarcely recognizable through the outrages of which He had been the victim. Nor was it over then, this life-long martyrdom. Not even the joy of the Resurrection could efface from Mary's mind the scenes of horror connected with the death and passion of her Son. Who has not experienced, after passing through a time of exceptional strain and suffering, how every little detail remains stamped on the heart and memory, to recur to the mind again and again without seeming to lose any of its freshness and poignancy? Could Mary ever forget that God's great unspeakable gift to man, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, had, after being expected, prayed for, desired through long ages, come into the world in her lifetime, by her agency, and in a few short years had been swept off the face of the earth through sheer hatred? Was ever grief like to hers? He who should have been loved, worshiped, adored by the whole human race, had been, in His early life, ignored by most, perhaps often contemptuously treated by those in whose midst he lived; at any rate, never once had He received the veneration and homage due to Him, save on the solitary occasion of the visit of the Magi: and what a storm did not that passing honour bring in its train? Then, when He came before the public, how was He received? Every scoff and jeer and insult hurled at Him by the Jews must have been as a dart through Mary's heart. How she would quiver and writhe inwardly over the blasphemies of which He was the victim, and how every one of the physical outrages he endured would be agony to her! Yet she bore all with queenly dignity and courage, as became the Mother of the Redeemer. She would not have one wit of His sufferings hidden from her in order to lessen her own. hers was no coward's heart. And we, as Christians, should we not be prepared to take our share of the Cross, or do we want to be delicate member under a thorn-crowded Head? We must suffer with Christ if we would reign with Christ, so let us look to it, and see of what spirit we are. The Venerable John Eudes has said we should fear nothing so much as to have no share in the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us ask our Lady to obtain for us some of this brave spirit of compassion with Jesus, and to teach is that a world which treated our God so ill can never, nor ought ever, be a home to us. "Our home is in heaven, our home is not here." Let us say to her:

Holy Mother, fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above;
Make mine heart with thine accord,
Make me feel as thou hast felt,
Make my heart to glow and melt
With the love of Christ my Lord.

Mother of our Redeemer, pray for us.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water, and lo, the heavens wereopened to Him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him. And behold a voice from heaven saying: This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased."

Jesus stoops so low as to mingle with the multitude of sinners, and forthwith the heavens are opened to magnify Him - He acknowledges Himself worthy of the strokes of divine justice, and behold, the Father declares that He takes all His delight in Him.
It is at this moment that the mission of Jesus, as One sent by God, is declared authentic. The Father's testimony accredits, so to speak, His Son before the world, and hence this testimony relates to one of the characters of Christ's work as regards ourselves.
This mission of Jesus has a double aspect: it bears at the same time the character of redemption and of sanctification. It is to redeem souls, and this done, to infuse life into them. That is the whole work of the Saviour.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Feast of Baptism of Our Lord - click for link

On the title's link the thoughts on the Baptism of Our Lord are presented based on "The Public Life Of Our Lord Jesus Christ - an Interpretation" by Abp Alban Goodier SJ, Burns Oates & Washbourne, London 1941

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Feast of the Holy Family - click for link

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Friday, January 09, 2009


This is thy gift - oh, give it to us!
To make God better known,
O Mother! make Him in our hearts
More grand and more alone - Fr Faber.

Hail, full of grace (Luke 1:28)
Grace is poured forth from her lips (Ps 44:3)
I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope...Come over to me, all you that desire me, and be filled with my fruits. For my spirit is sweet above honey and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb (Ecclus 24: 24, 26, 27).
My fruit is better than gold and the precious stone, and my blossoms than choice silver (Prov 8:19).

How Mary must have rejoiced when the shepherds and Magi drew near to hear divine son, the source of all grace! How she would make them feel that He was all theirs as well as all hers! There would be nothing exclusive in her love of Jesus. She loved Him so dearly that she wanted every one else to love him. She would gladly have seen all the world approach to his feet to receive of His gifts. We can imagine passages of the Psalms which were so familiar to her welling up in her heart, if they did not actually reach the lips, such as: "Oh magnify the Lord with me: let us extol His name together...Come ye to Him and be enlightened...Oh, taste and see that the Lord is sweet, blessed is the man that hopeth in Him...They that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good."

Again, to the Apostles our Lady's presence and help must have been a source of untold graces, as it was, we may believe, to the good thief on Calvary. And through all succeeding ages had she not beenthe Mother of Divine Grace to countless souls? St Bernard tells us that all graces come to us through Mary, and the Church puts into her mouth these words: "I am the mother of fair love, fear, knowledge and holy hope." Are we then lacking in these graces, let us fly to her, imploring her to kindle in our hearts a burning love for Jesus, a holy fear of displeasing Him, a profound knowledge of Him, His ways, His infinite goodness, and a boundless trust in the greatness of His generosity. No matter what is the grace of which we stand in need, be it humility, purity, mortification or charity, let us ask it of the "Mater divinae gratiae."Is she not the Mother of the Source of all graces, and does she not say: "Come over to me, and be filled with my fruits (Ecclus 24). In me is all grace of the truth and of the life, that I may enrich them that love me and fill their treasures" (Prov 8).

The picture I have chosen to adorn this post is Melkite icon "Peekaboo Jesus"

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

St Germaine of Pibrac, patroness of unwanted - click to read

Today's society no longer recognizes the hand of God in the lives of individuals. Circumstances and environment have become the great dictators that form the moral fiber of the soul. Through these two masters, a person's fate is hopelessly predestined by a tract of inevitable events. There is little hope for change because the purely natural view of life sees these souls driven by genetic or external forces, not by choice or grace. At times it appears as if God Himself has abandoned them to mere physical influences; the alcoholic mother generates the alcoholic child, the abused child in turn becomes a child abuser, and the list goes on. This concept is absolutely false. The doctrine of "free will" has been all but totally disregarded and replaced by Freudianism. Popular preference in society does not affect Truth which transcends time. The Eternal eyes of God still rest solitarily on each new creation of humanity as He alone infuses into its physical and natural beginnings the immortality of a soul that raises it far above the instinctive life of an animal. In this spiritual realm, admitted or not, each individual freely chooses his eternal destiny. He does not inherit it. Responsibility is taken for our actions. Our lives become a means to an end, not an end in themselves. Alcoholism is once again categorized as a vice not a disease, homosexuality remains a "sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance," not a diversified lifestyle. People become either saints or sinners and go to Heaven or Hell judged on their own merits. No one is predestined by his social condition.
The Catholic Church has offered innumerable examples of saints immersed hopelessly in the despairing squalor of sin, who suddenly pull themselves out on a sunbeam of grace and soar to the heights of genuine holiness. Saint Germaine, the subject of our story, however, never chose sin, yet was surrounded by the perfect climate (according to today's standards) to excuse it. She was unwanted, handicapped, abused, and neglected. She had no self-esteem, was never sent to school; she was poor and she was hungry. She died when she was twenty-two years old, all alone and in a barn. Yet almost four hundred years after her death, books are still written about her and she is still prayed to. There are churches named after her throughout the whole Christian world and people still make pilgrimages to her shrine in France.
What is the secret of Saint Germaine? She was truly a "victim of circumstance". But circumstances have two sides, just as when some people smell flowers and think of a funeral, others smell flowers and think of a spring garden. Throughout life God strews our paths with sufficient graces for our eternal salvation. It is up to each individual, however, to stoop down and pick them up. They are the light spots between the clouds and they grow brighter as they are collected. Saint Germaine is one of the many examples of saints who have surmounted the obstacles of life and soared to the heights of holiness.

Off To a Bad Start
Saint Germaine was born in the year 1579, in a little village of France called Pibrac. At her birth the entire countryside was enveloped in a "time of nocturnal terror", as one official document stated. Internal wars, famine, and plagues reduced the general morale of the inhabitants of Pibrac to a sad and struggling existence. In this little obscure village, ten miles southwest of Toulouse and a two hour train ride from Lourdes, lay the Cousin farm. Once a prosperous and thriving establishment, the little holdings of Laurent Cousin were sorely reduced to the state of poverty by his mismanagement of affairs. His father, who had been a tailor and mayor of the town, had purchased the farm years before, and handed it down to his son Laurent who did not have his father's ability for business.Earliest records of Saint Germaine fail to relate her formative years, which to this day remain veiled in mystery. Was she the unwanted child of a single parent, left at the Cousin doorstep? Or was she just another hungry mouth of an impoverished couple who abandoned her in hopes she would somehow flourish in another's care? Was she, as most suggest, the child of Laurent Cousin's first wife, who perhaps died in the plague, still raging through the villages? Whatever the case, it was far from a normal start. These mysterious unrecorded years, of her early life, were less disastrous in circumstance than what was soon to follow. Endowed with all the naturally lovable qualities of an innocent babe, Germaine was very ordinary in every way. Left alone she probably would have melted into the common scenery of peasant life, neither hot nor cold, plodding along in an unchallenged way. But God tests His gold by fire and sent the unremitting trial of Armande de Rajols, a mean and selfish stepmother, into the tender childhood of Saint Germaine.When Armande arrived at the Cousin farm to more or less "take over" the household, Germaine had lost the cuddly appearance of a baby and was now a child of four or five and beginning to manifest signs of deformity and disease. To the selfish Armande, Germaine became a source of resentment. Frustrated by the untimely deaths of her own natural children who died shortly after birth, the chafing presence of this unsightly dependent enraged her with hate. Saint Germaine, who was born with a crippled right arm, had her physical misfortune compounded by a purulent disease commonly known in those days as "scrofula". This visible effect manifested itself on her neck and cheek, also affecting her bones and joints, often causing swelling and open, running abscesses. Armande could not bear even the sight of her and banished her from the family hearth and table.

Unwanted and Unloved
Saint Germaine was given the barn as her living quarters, and she was never again allowed into the house lest she contaminate the other members of the family. There she lived alone, but not unnoticed, for the tenant farmers and their families witnessed much of the abusive treatment that she received. Clothed in the meanest of rags and with her feet always bare, Germaine was treated with less affection than the family dog. Every morning she would appear loyally at the door awaiting her assignment for the day. Begrudgingly her malicious stepmother would toss her the morning's ration of unwanted scraps from the family table, usually a chunk of stale bread. Germaine's job from the first moment of her stepmother's reign was shepherding the family flock of sheep. This greatly benefited Madame Cousin who could be assured that the embarrassing presence of this unwanted child would be gone for a good part of the day–every day, all year! Sometimes she would send her to the field by the notorious, wolf-infested Bouconne Forest, hoping at last to make an end of this burden. Not all her attempts to rid herself of the girl were as subtle. Several attempts were witnessed by the neighbors who later testified at Saint Germaine's canonization. Once, in a fit of rage, her stepmother scalded her with boiling water. No cruelty, however atrocious, was beyond her ability. The little girl was frequently covered with bruises and welts from a woman drunk not with alcohol, but with hate. Besides minding the sheep Germaine was required to spin a certain amount of wool every day. It is difficult to see how, with her crippled arm and hand, she could do this work since it called for considerable skill and dexterity, but it was required of her even when the weather was so cold that her fingers were stiff and hard to move. Severe beatings were in store for any failings in her work. Nothing Germaine did, however hard she tried, would please her stepmother who found one excuse after another to vent her inhuman rage upon Germaine.

A Source of Consolation
Even though the outrageous behavior of Armande Cousin dominated the scene, Laurent failed only through weakness. Perhaps because of him, every week Germaine was allowed to leave the little farm and attend Mass across the river in the dilapidated village church of Saint Mary Magdalen. It was a rich source of consolation to her lonely and otherwise intolerable life. She eagerly drank in every word of the sermon and the catechetical instructions given after Mass for the village children. It was here that the seed of Faith was planted in her heart and she watered it by her good works. Life began to make sense to her and to have meaning beneath the gaze of our crucified Lord. Suffering became meritorious and reparative. She saw that life was only a trial for an eternity with Christ, if she but merited it. Slowly, as her pure mind matured, she saw herself and her life as a mission of love, to sacrifice and merit for others, even for the conversion of her dreadful stepmother. Although she never went to school, she was a diligent pupil in the school of Divine Love. The catechism that was taught by verbal instruction both from the pulpit and in the little Sunday school class, she learned by heart, storing it in her memory, pondering it diligently throughout the week. Her Eucharistic Saviour became her strength and beloved Companion during her lonely life. Often she would stay in church long after everyone else had left, kneeling for hours on the hard flagstone floor. As years went on, Sunday Mass attendance was not enough to satisfy her need for adoration and an irresistible yearning to attend Mass daily inspired her to leave her sheep. It was then that the first manifestation of divine pleasure showed itself by miraculous intervention.

From the meadow where Germaine was herding sheep she could see the parish church, whose lofty tower resounded every morning with the silvery voice of the bell, calling the faithful to Mass. On hearing the signal, the shepherdess's heart would fly to the temple, and there attend in spirit the tremendous Sacrifice of the Mass. This still did not satisfy her fervor. One day feeling so ardent a desire to attend the Holy Sacrifice, she called her sheep together and planted her spindle in the ground next to them. Then, making the sign of the cross, she ran to church. Germaine was overjoyed when she re-turned to discover her sheep were quietly resting about the distaff and under the shade of an oak tree. She began to repeat this same practice. From then on, though abandoned them for this purpose, and though the place was infested with wolves which committed ravages on other flocks, she never lost a sheep or lamb. Rain, snow, or storm never prevented her from following this holy practice. Many times neighbors would be mystified finding Germaine's flock huddled obediently around her distaff.

A Good Reputation
The village children with the eyes of innocence soon began to see beyond the physical repulsiveness of her illness and began to appreciated Germaine for what they saw in her soul. They were greatly attracted to her and eagerly sought her companionship. They would run through the fields after school searching for her. Often they would take her by surprise, having found her kneeling before a little shrine she made in the field. Two crude pieces of wood, hewed and made to resemble a cross, reminded her of our loving Saviour whom she sought so ardently to please. In her raw chapped hands they would see her only book, the Rosary. A constant companion, it was her perfect prayer and meditation as she ran the rough beads through her fingers–beads made from knotted twine from an old haybale. Often too, she would be seen sitting on a rock spinning wool, with her friends gathered on the grass around her.

The moments they treasured the most were those when Germaine would talk to them –not of herself, for she never talked about herself or complained about her own life. She spoke to them from her overflowing heart of the deep knowledge and love of her Holy Faith which was developed in her by long hours of silence, prayer, and suffering. Contemplating the beauties of nature and grace also awakened in her heart a burning love for God. She told of her ardent desire to help others love Him more. When her loyal companions pitied her for her ragged clothes and deficient food or inquired about her bruises and welts, Saint Germaine would help them to see that she turned these sufferings into opportunities to resemble Our Lord who was once whipped and beaten for our sins.

The parents of these children would patiently listen to their praises of Saint Germaine and in mild derision they mockingly called her "the devout one". It is to her credit that their mockery was more of her spiritual life than her physical deformity. She was a rebuke to them by her humility and patience. But much of the village derision was instigated by the malicious tongue of the stepmother.

A Divine Favor
Germaine's life ran its course, day after day, month after month, year after year, with only the changes of the seasons to alter it. The freezing cold of winter, the torrid heat of summer, brought with them their own crosses – but one day God saw fit to manifest His approval of His chosen creature. It was early spring and the snows were melting, bringing the torrents and floods to all the rivers and streams throughout the countryside. Germaine, hearing the church bells, knew there would not be enough time to walk to the bridge and still be on time for Mass. So she decided to cross the Courbet, which at other times of the year was just a stream, small enough to pass through on foot. Now, however, it was a rushing river. Two of her friends on the opposite side, watching her dilemma, shouted to warn her that the river was too deep and strong to cross, and told her not to risk it. The young shepherdess, anxious to be on time for Mass, made the sign of the cross and to the astonishment of the onlookers, the waters parted, leaving a dry path for her to cross, just like the parting of the Red Sea in the Old Testament.

The news of this miracle soon made the rounds of the entire village and brought in its wake various reactions. Madame Cousin was angered because many people began to show regard for the young girl whom she hated so much. The fact that the miracle happened more than once did not change her heart for she was a hardened and bitter woman.

It is certain that Germaine prayed for her stepmother all the more as the years passed but her stepmother's bitterness increased. Still, Germaine never showed the unfortunate woman anything but respect and love. She knew how much this burning hatred offended God and that unless her stepmother changed it would be difficult to save her soul. It wasn't until the very death of Saint Germaine herself that this almost insurmountable task of conversion was fully accomplished. But God began to pave the way by manifesting His Divine predilection for this forgotten girl.

Changing of a Heart
Germaine had found another outlet for her charity in the numerous beggars who had discovered her kindness and compassion for their trials. It is difficult to imagine one more destitute than Germaine herself and yet the beggars came to her almost every day for sympathy and to have her share with them her scraps of bread.

Madame Cousin heard of this and would often beat Germaine while screaming that she was not going to feed every tramp that passed by. Wasn't it bad enough that she had to provide for this worthless wretch? One very cold winter day Germaine had gone into the kitchen to pick up some scraps for her hungry friends when she was caught by her stepmother, who noticed Germaine was carrying something in her apron. The angry woman imagined it to be a supply of bread. Picking up a stick she began chasing Germaine to the village green hoping to prove to all that Germaine was a thief and to put her in disgrace. With the stick waving above the head of Germaine, Madame Cousin demanded that she open her apron in view of the large crowd that had gathered. The trembling girl did as she was told and a cascade of flowers, unknown in the region, tumbled to the ground.

This time there were too many witnesses for Madame Cousin to discredit Germaine with her vicious tongue. The sympathy and admiration of the villagers for Saint Germaine only increased. Soon other signs were seen that proved that God showered His blessings on the girl. It was reported that the barn where she slept was flooded with light at night and heavenly singing was heard by those passing by. Before long "the devout one," was a name no longer used in sarcasm.

At last after almost twenty years of neglect and abuse, the weak Laurent Cousin put his foot down and demanded that Germaine's living conditions be altered. He heartily apologized for his neglect and asked her to take her place inside the house and live among the family. Germaine explained, however, that she was perfectly content in her environment. In fact she had added voluntary austerities to her life in order to solicit divine blessings on those for whom she prayed. Throughout her short life she had a totally spiritual outlook and was unaffected by external circumstances. In suffering and solitude she found Christ and would not now abandon Him for the comforts of man.

Despite her insistence on remaining where she was, things did begin to change. Her years of prayers and sacrifices began to visibly affect the nasty old stepmother. Armande, however, was soon given much time to make up to Germaine for all her years of abuse. Having accomplished much in a short time, Saint Germaine's life was coming to an end. Her physical maladies had taken their toll, undermining what little strength she had left. But above all, God was so pleased with His little shepherdess, who had cooperated with all the graces sent her way, that He could no longer resist her spiritual beauty and soon called her home to Heaven. Saint Germaine had succeeded in overcoming all the adverse circumstances of her life and had made them work to her advantage. Never once did she succumb to the temptation to become a victim of them. Christ promised us all that we would never be tempted above our strength. Germaine amply proved this by making her sufferings become her glory.

Death of a Saint
Tradition tells us that, in the spring of 1601, a priest from the town of Gascony was traveling to the city of Toulouse. It was night when reached the village of Pibrac, and he could scarcely make out his way in the darkness. Suddenly a celestial brightness penetrated the night and he saw in a vision a beautiful procession of holy virgins, refulgent with light, coming down from Heaven descending into a section of the village. At the same time, but traveling from another direction, two religious, also overwhelmed by the blackness of the night and having lost their way, sought shelter in the ruins of an ancient castle of Pibrac. They also saw the virgins, surrounded by a brilliant light. Awestruck, neither group of travelers knew the meaning of the sight.

At the break of day, Laurent, disturbed by the unusual bleating of the sheep, realized that Germaine had not taken them out as she had the past twenty years. Loudly he called her name and became anxious when she did not answer. He went into the barn and found her dead on her bed of straw, her rosary entwined in her fingers and her face shining like an angel. She died as she had lived, deprived of all human consolation.

Meanwhile, that same morning the traveling priest and the other two religious hastened to tell the villagers of Pibrac that they had seen a vision of a virgin ascending into the heavens. She was crowned with a brilliant diadem, they agreed, and was accompanied by numerous angels, more radiant than the stars. The villagers up to that point were not aware of anything having happened in their town, but from the description the travelers gave, they at once concluded that "the holy shepherdess", Germaine, had died. Running to the Cousin farm, they found Germaine lifeless. Her angelic countenance struck them, not with fear and dread, as is usually the case, but with piety and devotion. This beautiful saint was scarcely twenty-two years of age.

News of Germaine's death spread quickly throughout the village and soon the Cousin farm was besieged with mourners. Her faithful friends, the children, had gathered wild carnations and stalks of rye to make a wreath for her head. The converted Madame Cousin dressed the poorly clad and undernourished body in a beautiful dress, the like of which Germaine had never worn in her life, and placed a candle in her hands.

Germaine's body was interred in the village church where she loved to pray–it being the only place on earth where she had ever truly felt at home.

Discovery of Her Body–First Miracles
The memory of the shepherdess of Pibrac would surely have been lost in oblivion had not the God she so generously served miraculously manifested His love and approval by the following events. In 1644, forty-three years after Germaine's death, an older woman of the same parish died, having requested in her will that she be buried in the church near the pulpit. Two workmen began removing the flagstones and were stupefied to see just below the surface the body of a young girl. Their pickax had struck the nose of the corpse which began to bleed. Like madmen they ran through the village stammering out their discovery, and bringing back with them a crowd of curious onlookers, two of whom were contemporaries of the Cousin family. These two identified the body as Germaine Cousin, shepherdess of Pibrac.

The body was then removed and encased in a glass casket and placed in the vestibule of the church for all to see. But not everyone was happy seeing such a visible reminder of her poor life. One wealthy parishioner and his young wife complained to the pastor, who then removed the body to the sacristy. That night the young wife was stricken with a mysterious disease which in turn affected her nursing baby. Within days the two were on the point of death. The husband begged the shepherdess of Pibrac, whom the village revered as a saint, for help. He asked her forgiveness for having offended her by their disrespect and begged her to cure his wife and child. During the novena Germaine appeared to the dying woman and laid her hand on the afflicted area. Both mother and child were found in perfect health the next morning. In thanksgiving for this cure, the family had a more fitting repository made for the body of their heavenly benefactress.

An Attempt to Destroy Her Remains
Devotion to Germaine grew and the influence of her life spread to such an extent that, in 1789, almost 200 years after her death, the strength of the Faith in that region of France became an obstacle to the revolutionists. Those wicked men who were attempting to "overthrow the altar and the throne" – to destroy Catholicism – had to destroy the devotion of the people for this simple uneducated orphan. Three soldiers entered the village church and forcibly removed the incorrupt and pliant body of Germaine. They then threw the saint's body out-side into an open pit dug for this purpose and covered it with quicklime to speed the process of decomposition.

Those who had performed this sacrilegious deed were suddenly struck with various disfiguring diseases: the neck of one was deformed so that it turned till his face looked backwards; the youngest of the three was afflicted with an obstinate disease, so that he could scarcely walk without the aid of crutches. This last carried with him to the grave the punishment of his wicked act but the other two, repenting of their sin, obtained their complete cure through the intercession of Germaine.

In spite of opposition and the rage of the revolutionaries the faithful continued to venerate the servant of God in her degrading sepulcher, till the time when they had the consolation of seeing her disinterred anew. Her body was found as fresh as ever, notwithstanding the corruptive effects natural to quicklime. Our Lord never ceased to glorify His humble servant; and she who in life received only contempt and ill-treatment, after death was honored by kings and their subjects, young and old, learned and ignorant.

In view of the numerous and great signs wrought through her intercession, she was raised to the honor of our altars by Venerable Pope Pius IX in May, of 1853. In June, 1867, on the eighteenth centenary of the death of Saint Peter, she was inscribed by Venerable Pius IX in the catalogue of the saints, and fifteenth of June, appointed as her feast day.

Though of short duration, Saint Germaine's life is truly a timeless example to all. She persevered without the artificial and shallow rhetoric of modern psychology. She had no support group, no counseling; she did not use Prozac or any other chemical crutch. She was not forced to turn to crime and sin as an outlet or consequence. She turned to Christ and found Him sufficient. Did He not say, Come to Me, all you that labor and are burdened; and I will refresh you. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, because I am meek, and humble of heart; and you shall find rest to your souls. For My yoke is sweet and My burden light. (Matt. 11:28-30) St. Germaine, pray for us.

This article is reproduced from "From The Housetops", a quarterly publication by St. Benedict Center.

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