31 May 2010

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

31 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From today's Gospel reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke, we hear of Mary's journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and the immortal words of Elizabeth's greeting:
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
(Lk 1, 39-56)

Today's feast originated with the Franciscan Order in the medieval period. Originally, the feast was recommended by Saint Bonaventure, after which it was adopted and spread by Franciscan religious throughout Europe. In A.D. 1389, Pope Urban VI, as a part of his efforts to end the Great Western Schism, inserted the feast on the General Roman Calendar and assigned it to the date of 2 July. Today's feast continued to be celebrated on 2 July, until A.D. 1969 when Pope Paul VI moved it to today's date--31 May--to harmonize better with the Gospel account by falling between the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (25 March) and the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist (24 June).

I pray that all of us today, in our commemoration of this feast, will also keep hearts that leap for joy at the sound of Mary's greeting to us, her children on earth, beckoning us to draw closer to Her immaculate heart and the Sacred Heart of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

30 May 2010

SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

30 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity--three persons in one God almighty, creator of heaven and earth. Although the feast of the Holy Trinity was only introduced in the ninth century and was not added to the General Roman Calendar until the fourteenth century by Pope John XXII, it is readily true that the mystery of the Holy Trinity is at the very core of our Christian catholic belief.

Today's readings can be found here. Consider God the Father, the God of the Old Testament, who is creator of all the universe. However, we know from Saint John that in the beginning, there was the Word: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (Jn 1, 1) Consider too our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, light from light, true God from true God--the Word incarnate in our world; poured out on us for our salvation because of the abundance of God's love. Finally, consider the Holy Spirit, begotten of the Father and the Son, our advocate in the world who continues to provide the abundance of God's love for us, and the blessings He bestows on us, until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again at the end of the world.

In the sacraments, to this day, the Church follows the great trinitarian commission given to her by Christ Himself: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Mt 28, 19-20)

Go too and preach by your actions, by your lives, by your love, the love of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons in one triune God--the Holy Trinity.

NOVUS: Our parish priest, Father Will Ganci, today gave an outstanding homily around the theme of perichoresis--an early term of some Church fathers used to describe the internal life of the Most Holy Trinity. Saint John of Damascus explored the idea of perichoresis in depth and described it as the mutual inter-penetration and indwelling of the three persons of God. The Father is eternally giving life to the Son and penetrating the life of the Son as the Son penetrates the life of the Father, each indwelling one in the other, and, together, penetrating and dwelling in the Holy Spirit. And, as Father Will relayed today, perichoresis, literally translated means "to dance."

What a beautiful image of the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity--at one, each in the other, and each penetrating the other in love--as a dance. Not a dance of human origin with some carnal or other physical object, but a dance--an eternal and life-giving, poetic union--of the three persons of God, together for the love of God for Himself and for the bountiful love of humanity upon which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit pours out Himself without end.

29 May 2010

Blessed William Arnaud

29 MAY 2010. Today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed William Arnaud, a friar and priest and his eleven companions, who were martyred in A.D. 1242 at Avignonet, France, and who are generally known as the Martyrs of Toulouse.

History has not preserved information about Blessed Willaim's early life; however, we do know that in A.D. 1234 he and two other Dominicans were commissioned as inquistors by Pope Gregory IX to combat the heresy of Albigensianism in France. As Blessed William and his companions fought the heresy, they were driven from Toulouse, Narbonne, and several other French towns.

What follows is an account of Blessed William's martyrdom
After the death of Saint Dominic, the party of Count Raymond of Toulouse rose to power again. In a short time it regained possession of Toulouse and several armed strongholds nearby. When William Arnaud and his companions came into the vicinity, they found every gate closed against them. None of the cities under the command of Raymond's troops would allow them to come in, and, by order of the heretic commander, the citizens of Toulouse were forbidden under pain of death to supply the inquisitor's party with any food. They took refuge in a farmhouse outside of Avignonet and preached around the countryside for some time. Because they had some measure of success, the heretics intensified their efforts to entrap and kill the inquisitors.

The members of the commission realized that they were only one step from death. They might have escaped and gone safely to some other part of the country had they chosen to do so. Instead, they remained where obedience had assigned them, and at the end of May 1242, they were given a heavenly warning that they were about to receive the crown of martyrdom. William was absent from the rest of the group when the plot was formed to kill them. Being told of a vision of martyrdom by one of the brothers, he hurried back to rejoin his group. The heretics completed their plans to massacre the entire party.

Scheming carefully, they set the scene at the country castle of one of the wealthy members of their group. In order to make sure of getting the inquisitors into the trap, they sent word to William that a confirmed heretic of his acquaintance wished to abjure his heresy and return to the faith.

Knowing well that it was a trap, William still could not refuse to go. He and his eleven companions went, on the evening of the Ascension, May 28, to the castle of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse. The soldiers of Raymond were concealed in the great hall. They fell upon the helpless group and killed all but four of the members. These four were taken out by friends who had know about the plot and hurried to the church.

William Arnaud and Steven of Narbonne were murdered in the sanctuary of the church as they sang the Te Deum. This was a crime almost unparalleled in medieval times when the right of sanctuary was one of the few strongholds against barbarism. The bodies of the martyrs were thrown into a deep ravine, and rocks were rolled down on them. During the night, some hours after the martyrdom, bright lights radiating from the bodies of the martyrs brought the faithful to gather up the relics.

The church of Avignonet was placed under interdict because of the sacrilege, and for 40 years no Mass was said there. The doors remained closed. Finally, when the interdict was lifted, the bells rang of themselves, according to legend, to let people know that Avignonet was once more a member of the living Church.

There is a curious footnote to this story of martyrdom. Shortly after the interdict was lifted, there appeared one day on the steps of the church a fairly large statue of the Blessed Virgin. Who had put it there has never been discovered. It is difficult to see how anyone in such a small town could have successfully concealed a statue of that size, for small towns are notoriously poor places to hide secrets. The statue appeared on the steps in broad daylight, yet no one saw it being placed there. The people took it as a sign that they were forgiven for their part in the outrage, and also as a sign that they should rebuild the devotion to Our Lady, which the Dominicans had preached. The statue was named "Our Lady of Miracles," and they petitioned for a special feast in honor of their own Miracle lady.

Until very recently, a strange little ceremony was held in the Church of Our Lady of Miracles on every May 28. It was a night ceremony, in memory of the night martyrdom of William Arnaud and his companions, and it was called "The Ceremony of the Vow." Carrying lighted candles, the people proceeded across the entire width of the church on their knees, praying for forgiveness for the people who committed the massacre (Benedictines, Delaney, Dorcy). Blessed William Arnaud is invoked by people who suffer from neuralgia, in memory of a miracle of healing which he performed on one of the sisters of Prouille (Dorcy).

24 May 2010

Translation of our Holy Father Dominic

24 MAY 2010. Today the Dominican Order celebrates the memorial of the first translation of Saint Dominic's remains.

Saint Dominic died at Bologna on 6 August 1221, and was buried at the Church of Saint Nicholas of the Vineyards at Bologna. After his death, many people claimed to be healed at Father Dominic's tomb, but the other members of the Order were reluctant to acknowledge miracles, in fear of arousing superstition. However, at the urging of Pope Gregory IX, Saint Dominic's remains were moved to a simple marble sarcophagus. This translation of Saint Dominic's remains occurred on Pentecost Tuesday, 24 May 1233, and began officially Father Dominic's canonization process. Saint Dominic was canonized on 3 July 1234, by Pope Gregory IX.

In A.D. 1267, Saint Dominic's remains were translated a second time to their present resting place at the Basilica of Saint Dominic in Bologna.

23 May 2010

Prayer for Chastity

By Saint Thomas Aquinas

O good Jesus, I know that every perfect gift
and, above all others, that of chastity, depends
on the powerful action of your divine Providence;
I know that without You a creature can do nothing.
This is why I beseech You to defend, by Your grace,
the purity of my soul and of my body.
And if I have ever received any impression whatsoever
of a sentiment capable of soiling this ineffable virtue,
O supreme Master of my faculties,
blot it out from my soul, that with a clean heart,
I may advance in Your love and in Your service,
offering myself chaste all the days of my life
on the most pure altar of Your divinity.
It is the Cross that I adore.
The Cross of the
Lord is with me.
The Cross is my refuge.

Amen.

SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST

23 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Pentecost--the coming of the Holy Spirit on the faithful as promised by Christ, fulfilling our Lord's promise that God is at work in our world until He comes again.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.  They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, "What does this mean?" But others said, scoffing, "They have had too much new wine." 
 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, "You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

'It will come to pass in the last days,'
God says,
'that I will pour out a portion of my spirit
upon all flesh.
Your sons and your daughters
shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
your old men shall dream dreams.
Indeed, upon my servants and my
handmaids
I will pour out a portion of my spirit in
those days,
and they shall prophesy.
And I will work wonders in the heavens
above
and signs on the earth below:
blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke.
The sun shall be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the great and
splendid day of the Lord,
and it shall be that everyone shall be
saved who calls on the name of
the Lord.'

You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it. For David says of him:

'I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not
be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my
tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul
to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your holy one to
see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of
life;
you will fill me with joy in your
presence.'

My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption. God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear. For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said:

'The Lord said to my Lord,
"Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your
footstool."'

Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified."

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, "What are we to do, my brothers?" Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call." He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
(Acts 2, 1-47)

The Holy Spirit is God-with-us for all time until the end of the world. To have received the Holy Spirit means to live in accord with the commandments of Jesus--both the old law and the new law which He came to proclaim. So, praise the Holy Spirit! Offer all homage and worship, thanksgiving and praise, joy and hope to the Lord our God who has so generously provided for his beloved, but sinful creation. Let that adoration ring out in the works that we do and in the way that we live our lives.

21 May 2010

Blessed Hyacinth Mary Cormier

21 MAY 2010. Today the Dominican Order celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Hyacinth Mary Cormier, a Master of the Order from recent years who did much to restore much of the founding spirit of the Order.

What follows is the biography of Blessed Hyacinth (Henry) that is available from the Dominican Order:
Henry Cormier was born in Orleans on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1832. All his life he treasured the thought that he had been born on Our Lady's day, and therefore he should be especially devoted to her. His father died while he was still a small child, so Henry and his only brother, Eugene, went with their mother to live near his uncle, who was a priest in Orleans. The two boys entered the new preparatory seminary at Orleans. The following year Eugene died, leaving Henry alone and grief stricken.
Henry continued his studies for the priesthood at the major seminary of Orleans, and was ordained in 1856. At this time he fulfilled a desire that had been growing on him for some time; he went to Flavigny, where Father Lacordaire had opened a novitiate of the Order, and begged to be admitted. He was accepted, a little dubiously as he looked so delicate, and given the name Hyacinth.

When it was time for Brother Hyacinth's profession, the doubt had grown into a certainty; he had had several hemorrhages, and the community, which had already lost some of its most promising members from tuberculosis, was afraid to profess him. The master general, Father Jandel, took him to Rome as secretary and asked the pope for a special dispensation to allow him to make profession. The pope responded that if he went for thirty days without a hemorrhage he could make his vows. Young Brother Hyacinth tried hard once he got as far as 29 days and did not quite make it, but he fell seriously ill and was anointed. In the belief that he was going to die in a few days, he was finally allowed to make his profession. But at this point he recovered, and he served the Order vigorously for fifty years.
In 1865 the old Province of Toulouse was to be re established, and Father Cormier was sent as the first provincial to build up the Order there. His ability for administration was so marked that the pope wanted to make him a cardinal; only the hostility of France towards religious kept him from doing so.

When Father Cormier was elected master general in 1904, it became necessary to replace him in some of the work he had been doing so that he could devote more time to affairs of the Order in general. It was then that his brethren found out what a load he had been carrying. Teaching and writing should have kept him busy; but he also was regular confessor to eight large convents and extraordinary confessor to several more. In spite of all the activity, he spent hours of every day in front of the Blessed Sacrament. He had a universal reputation for the soundness of his spiritual direction.

As master general, Father Cormier turned his attention first to the novices. Many of his writings had been for young people, and he always loved the novices on whom the future of the Order depends. As gentle as a child in his manner, but as inflexible as a Gibraltar in a matter of principle, he quietly demonstrated the policies that he wanted followed in the Order. He founded the Angelicum, the international house of studies at Rome, and supported other educational projects of the Order.

Father Cormier wrote incessantly, mostly devotional works or instructions for novices. Some of his works have been translated into English, but not by any means all of them. He wrote biographies of many eminent Dominicans, including Blessed Raymond of Capua and Father Jandel. His pen helped to make permanent the work done by Father Lacordaire and his companions in re establishing the Order in France and in the world. Father Cormier died in Rome in 1916 and was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1995.
 Blessed Hyacinth, pray for us!

20 May 2010

Installation Mass Coverage Announced

20 MAY 2010. I received word today that CatholicTV.org and CatholicTV will carry coverage of the installation mass of Archbishop-elect Wenski as Archbishop of Miami at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Miami. The CatholicTV mass coverage will begin at 8:00 p.m. on 1 June 2010. The archdiocesan website will also carry a live stream of the installation mass beginning at 2:00 p.m.

Word from Archbishop Wenski's former Diocese of Orlando is that they are saddened to see him go, although  his involvement in more national issues (i.e., immigration reform), gave the general impression there that he would one day get a promotional call to the pallium. However, Archbishop-elect Wenski's move from the I-4 corridor to the tropics of South Florida is not an unknown journey for him. He served as Auxiliary Bishop in Miami from 1997-2003 before being named to the Central Florida see.

And, a note of thanksgiving: the Archdiocese of Miami has been blessed to have had the gentle and constant leadership of Archbishop Favalora since 1994. A native of New Orleans, Archbishop Favalora will be missed by Catholics across the state.

More to follow as it develops.

18 May 2010

Pope Saint John I

18 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of an early Pope and martyr, John I.

Saint John was, while still an archdeacon, elected the Bishop of Rome in A.D. 523 at, what for that time, was an advanced age. Hailing from Siena in the Italian region of Tuscany, the Holy Father was born in about A.D. 470, and was noted to be frail at the time of his election.

After election as the Pope, the Arian king Theodoric the Great sent the Holy Father with a delegation of senators to Constantinople to secure a moderation of the Emperor Justin's decree (A.D. 523) against the Arians, threatening the Holy Father that retribution would be swift if he was not successful. Tradition tells that the Emperor prostrated himself before the Holy Father when he first met him, and had himself crowned by Saint John. However, after failing to persuade a moderation in the Arian decree (which he attempted by an appeal to gentleness and discretion), Saint John returned to Ravenna (Theodoric's capital), where he was arrested under suspicion of having conspired with Emperor Justin.

After his imprisonment, the Holy Father suffered from neglect and maltreatment and died while still in prison. After his death on 18 May 526, the Holy Father's body was transported to Rome and buried beneath Saint Peter's Basilica.

Pope Saint John I, pray for us!

16 May 2010

SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD

16 MAY 2010. Today in our diocese, and in most the United States, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. On this day, the seventh Sunday of the Easter season, the Church commemorates Christ's bodily ascension into heaven so that he could continue to give of Himself to us through the sending of the Holy Spirit, which we will celebrate at Pentecost.

Today's readings are found here. For this Sunday's meditation, though, I propose to take a close look at the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles:
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, "you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jersualem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
(Acts, 1, 1-11 RSV-CE)

While today's solemnity is a celebration in itself--the Church celebrates Christ' bodily ascension into heaven, and we express our hope in Him that all believers will one day share this vision of a bodily resurrection and presence in heaven, where we will join the Saints in praising the lord--the Ascension also points expressly to next Sunday's celebration of Pentecost. In fact, as we learn, without the Ascension, Pentecost is not possible (Jn 16, 7) and without Pentecost we would not have the Holy Spirit as an active spiritual agent--"the Advocate" (Id.)-- in our world today. So, the Ascension--Christ bodily leaving the world--is necessary for God to continue to pour out his generous love on us in the gift of the Holy Spirit.

How glorious and unlimited are the continuing gifts of the Lord for us! Even the first words of the passage from Acts tells us that Christ's ministry on earth was only what He "began to do" (Acts 1, 1 RSV-CE). Thus, we understand that the Ascension is a continuation of His saving work for us, which is continued today through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, and which will be completed when He comes again.

For our benefit, then, the Ascension is a glimpse "into heaven" (Acts 1, 11 RSV-CE) that we, followers of Christ, are given to help us have hope and trust in Him. Just as the Lord ascended bodily into heaven to forever experience the glory of that eternal life, so too are each of us given the opportunity to be raised bodily with Him when He comes again by His salvific love for all humanity. And--in another glimpse--the angels tell us that Christ will return just as He went into heaven--to complete His work for our salvation.

At the same time, as well, the Apostles questioned Jesus, at His ascension, about the timing of the restoration of Israel. Remember, the Jewish people were, and still are, waiting for a messiah that will restore Israel and the Temple to its rightful place at the forefront of the world. In the Apostles' questions, we see that they are still struggling to answer the question: "What comes next?" So, Christ tells them that none of us knows when the kingdom of heaven will be restored on earth, but that the Apostles--and all of us too who have some share in being followers of Christ in the Apostolic tradition--will receive power from the Holy Spirit who will come upon them. And, by that power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus proclaims that they--and through them, we--will become His witnesses unto the ends of the earth.

Today, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is indeed the witness of Christ to the ends of the earth. Praise God for the gift of the Holy Spirit that guides the Church and for the ongoing work of salvation in the world through the Holy Spirit. As each of receives a glimpse of heaven in the Ascension of our Lord, so too may each of us come to serve the Lord through the Church with a sincerity of purpose and humility of heart that comes only from opening ourselves and acknowledging our total reliance on our Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

15 May 2010

Blessed Andrew Abellon

15 MAY 2010. In addition to Blessed Giles, today we also celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Andrew Abellon, a friar and priest.

Blessed Andrew was born in A.D. 1375 at Saint Maximin, France. As a youth, Andrew listened to the preaching of Saint Vincent Ferrer at the Saitn Maximin monastery.

Blessed Andrew received the Dominican habit at the priory of St. Mary Magdalene. He was noted for his teaching and his preaching throughout Provence, and for his zeal in restoring regular observance. In addition, Blessed Andrew was also a noted artist, especially known for manuscript illustrations, and contributed to the artistic beauty of many of the Dominican churches of southern France.

Blessed Andrew died at Aix-en-Provence on 15 May 1450. After his death, Blessed Andrew's body was buried in the Church of the Magdalen and his tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage. His intercession was especially sought for the cure of fever. Blessed Andrew was beatified in A.D. 1902.

Prayer

God of all truth,
you chose Blessed Andrew to preach the gospel of peace
and to promote the regular life.
By the help of his prayers
may we devote ourselves to proclaiming the faith
and bearing the yoke of Christ with fidelity.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

Blessed Giles of Vouzela in Portugal

15 MAY 2010. Today the Dominican Order recalls two of its holy ones. Blessed Giles was born at Vouzella, near Coimbra, Portugal, about A.D. 1184. His father was the governor of Coimbra and a counselor of Sancho I, the king of Portugal. Although his father wanted Giles to enter the ecclesiastical state, and the King was lavish in bestowing ecclesiastical benefices on Giles, while still a child, Giles, however, wanted to study medicine. After some time studying philosophy in Coimbra, Giles left to study medicine in Paris.

Legend tells that Blessed Giles was intercepted by a kindly stranger on his trip to Paris, who promised to teach him magic if he would sign his soul over to the devil in blood. Blessed Giles, the legend continues, signed away his soul and studied magic for seven years before going to Paris where he excelled in his medical studies and was noted for many fantastic cures. However, we know that at some point Blessed Giles reformed his life and repented.

He returned to Portugal and took the Dominican habit in at a newly erected convent in Palencia in about A.D. 1224. Shortly after arriving in Palencia, his Dominican superiors sent Blessed Giles to the Dominican convent at Scallabis, present day Santarem, Portugal. There he led a life of prayer and penance and for seven years was tormented about the compact he had entered into with the devil. However, according to Blessed Giles' biographer, finally Satan was compelled to surrender Giles' soul and placed the compact he had signed before the altar of the Blessed Virgin.

After this experience, Giles returned to Paris to study theology. On his second return to Portugal, he became famous for his piety and learning. He was twice elected provincial of the Dominican Order in Spain.

Noted for his humble service to his brethren, he died at Santarem on 14 May 1265. Blessed Giles was beatified by Pope Benedict XIV (cultus confirmed) on 9 May 1748.

Blessed Giles of Vouzela, pray for us!

14 May 2010

"[B]ecome witnesses with me to the resurrection of Jesus."

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

14 MAY 2010. On this Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle, the Holy Father pleads with us in today's homily to be witnesses of Christ, like Saint Matthias, with the successor of Peter, for the benefit of all souls and the Body of Christ on earth:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

"It is written in the book of Psalms, … ‘His office let another take’. One of these men, then […] must become a witness with us to his resurrection" (Acts 1:20-22). These were the words of Peter, as he read and interpreted the word of God in the midst of his brethren gathered in the Upper Room following Jesus’ ascension to heaven. The one who was chosen was Matthias, who had been a witness to the public life of Jesus and his victory over death, and had remained faithful to him to the end, despite the fact that many abandoned him. The "disproportion" between the forces on the field, which we find so alarming today, astounded those who saw and heard Christ two thousand years ago. It was only he, from the shore of the Lake of Galilee right up to the squares of Jerusalem, alone or almost alone at the decisive moments: he, in union with the Father; he, in the power of the Spirit. Yet it came about, in the end, that from the same love that created the world, the newness of the Kingdom sprang up like a small seed which rises from the ground, like a ray of light which breaks into the darkness, like the dawn of a unending day: it is Christ Risen. And he appeared to his friends, showing them the need for the Cross in order to attain the resurrection.

On that day Peter was looking for a witness to all this. Two were presented, and heaven chose "Matthias, and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:26). Today we celebrate his glorious memory in this "undefeated city", which festively welcomes the Successor of Peter. I give thanks to God that I have been able come here and meet you around the altar. I offer a cordial greeting to you, my brethren and friends of the city and the Diocese of Oporto, to those who have come from the ecclesiastical province of Northern Portugal and from nearby Spain, and to all those physically or spiritually present at this liturgical assembly. I greet the Bishop of Oporto, Dom Manuel Clemente, who greatly desired this visit of mine, welcomed me with great affection, and voiced your sentiments at the beginning of this Eucharist. I greet his predecessors, his brother Bishops, all the priests, women and men religious, and the lay faithful, and in particular those actively involved in the Diocesan Mission, and, more concretely, in the preparations for my visit. I know that you have been able to count on the practical cooperation of the Mayor of Oporto and the public authorities, many of whom honour me by their presence; I wish to take advantage of this opportunity to greet them and to express to them, and to all whom they represent and serve, my best wishes for the good of all.

"One of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection," said Peter. His Successor now repeats to each of you: My brothers and sisters, you need to become witnesses with me to the resurrection of Jesus.
 The entire homily can be found here.

Just as Saint Matthias was called to be a witness to the Risen Lord, not because of who he was (for he was not chosen among the original twelve), but for who can become, all of us are loved with great paternal intensity by God because of what each of us can become--true disciples of Christ in our own right.

I pray that we might all stand up with our Holy Father and be witnesses to the Risen Christ as Saint Matthias was called to do!

Saint Matthias, Apostle

14 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Matthias, the apostle.

No doubt, if you are thinking through the names of the 12 apostles (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Peter . . .) you may be thinking, "Where is Matthias?"

The answer to your question is found in the Acts of the Apostles:
In those days Peter stood up among the brethren (the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty), and said: "Brethren, the scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David, concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus. For he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry. (Now this man bought a field with the reward of his wickedness; and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) For it is written in the Book of Psalms, 'Let his habitation become desolate, and let there be no one to live in it'; and 'His office let another take.'

So, one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us--one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection." And they put forward two, Joseph called Barasabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, "Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles.
(Acts 1, 15-26 RSV-CE) Saint Matthias was there all along during the whole of Jesus' public ministry. He was not among the first twelve chosen by Christ, but he was nonetheless present from the baptism of John until the Ascension. Praise God for this noble man, chosen by the Lord to replace Judas after his betrayal and death. This singular mention of Mathias, however, is all that we know of him from the New Testament.

There are several variable historical accounts of Saint Matthias after his enrollment as one of the twelve. According to Nicephorus, Matthias preached in Judea and then in Aethiopia (made out to be a synonym for the region of Colchis, part of present-day Georgia) and was crucified in Colchis. In fact, a memorial remains in present-day Georgian region of Adjara, in the ruins of the Roman fortress of Gonio, claiming that Saint Matthias is buried there.

Another tradition, from the Synopsis of Dorotheus, claims that Saint Matthias preached among the cannibals in Ethopia (the ancient name for those regions south of Egypt and Libya) where he died. Another tradition tells that Saint Matthias was executed by the Jews in Jerusalem. And, another tradition says that he died of old age in Jerusalem.

Whatever the truth, we know that the eleven trusted in God to choose Matthias to take the place of Judas. Just as each of us today is called to be a witness to Christ in our world, Saint Matthias was called to be a witness too. But, we celebrate Saint Matthias because of the special nature of his calling; he was called not just to be a witness among many, but one of the twelve chosen personally by Christ.

The Feast of Saint Matthias was added the General Roman Calendar in the eleventh century and was usually celebrated on February 24. However, with the change of the General Roman Calendar in 1969, the feast was moved to May 14 to be celebrated more closely in time to the Ascension.

Prayer

O Glorious Saint Matthias,
in God's design it fell upon you
to take the place of the unfortunate Judas
who betrayed his Master.
You were selected by the twofold sign
of the uprightness of your life and the call of the Holy Spirit.
Obtain for us the grace to practice the same uprightness of life
and to be called by that same Spirit
to wholehearted service of the Church.
Then after a life of zeal and good works
let us be ushered into your company in heaven
to sing forever the praises of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Amen.

12 May 2010

Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests

12 MAY 2010. Today in Fatima, the Holy Father prayed the following Act of Entrustment and Consecration of Priests to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Vatican translation), following Vespers with religious, seminarians, and diocesan priests at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. How well thought and sincere are the words of this prayer, and how well placed is the consecration of priests in the loving embrace of our Holy Mother.

Pray this prayer with the Holy Father and the whole Church for Holy priests who are truly Christ-to-the-world in their works, their words, and the entirety of their ministry.

Immaculate Mother,
in this place of grace,
called together by the love of your Son Jesus
the Eternal High Priest, we,
sons in the Son and his priests,
consecrate ourselves to your maternal Heart,
in order to carry out faithfully the Father’s Will.

We are mindful that, without Jesus,
we can do nothing good (cf. Jn 15:5)
and that only through him, with him and in him,
will we be instruments of salvation
for the world.

Bride of the Holy Spirit,
obtain for us the inestimable gift
of transformation in Christ.
Through the same power of the Spirit that
overshadowed you,
making you the Mother of the Saviour,
help us to bring Christ your Son
to birth in ourselves too.
May the Church
be thus renewed by priests who are holy,
priests transfigured by the grace of him
who makes all things new.

Mother of Mercy,
it was your Son Jesus who called us
to become like him:
light of the world and salt of the earth
(cf. Mt 5:13-14).

Help us,
through your powerful intercession,
never to fall short of this sublime vocation,
nor to give way to our selfishness,
to the allurements of the world
and to the wiles of the Evil One.

Preserve us with your purity,
guard us with your humility
and enfold us with your maternal love
that is reflected in so many souls
consecrated to you,
who have become for us
true spiritual mothers.

Mother of the Church,
we priests want to be pastors
who do not feed themselves
but rather give themselves to God for their brethren,
finding their happiness in this.
Not only with words, but with our lives,
we want to repeat humbly,
day after day,
Our “here I am”.

Guided by you,
we want to be Apostles
of Divine Mercy,
glad to celebrate every day
the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar
and to offer to those who request it
the sacrament of Reconciliation.

Advocate and Mediatrix of grace,
you who are fully immersed
in the one universal mediation of Christ,
invoke upon us, from God,
a heart completely renewed
that loves God with all its strength
and serves mankind as you did.

Repeat to the Lord
your efficacious word:
“They have no wine” (Jn 2:3),
so that the Father and the Son will send upon us
a new outpouring of
the Holy Spirit.
Full of wonder and gratitude
at your continuing presence in our midst,
in the name of all priests
I too want to cry out:
“Why is this granted me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk 1:43).

Our Mother for all time,
do not tire of “visiting us”,
consoling us, sustaining us.
Come to our aid
and deliver us from every danger
that threatens us.
With this act of entrustment and consecration,
we wish to welcome you
more deeply, more radically,
for ever and totally
into our human and priestly lives.

Let your presence cause new blooms to burst forth
in the desert of our loneliness,
let it cause the sun to shine on our darkness,
let it restore calm after the tempest,
so that all mankind shall see the salvation
of the Lord,
who has the name and the face of Jesus,
who is reflected in our hearts,
for ever united to yours!

Amen!

IMAGE: Reuters

Blessed Jane of Portugal

12 MAY 2010. Timely for the Holy Father's visit to Portugal, today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Jane (Joan or Joana) of Portugal, a Dominican nun and virgin.

Blessed Jane was born on 16 February 1451 at Aveiro, Portugal, heiress to the throne of her father, King Alphonsus V, at a time when Spain and Portugal divided the colonial wealth and power of the globe between them. Blessed Jane's mother died while she was young, but as a child she developed a deep prayer life, nonetheless, with the assistance of a pious nurse who cared for her. Although she had a brother to secure her family's hold of the monarchy, there were nevertheless many attempts by Blessed Jane's father to marry her for the family's own political and worldly advancement.

Blessed Jane, on the other hand, had a vocation to enter the convent which was flatly denied by her father for many years, until he finally relented after his family's succession to the throne was guaranteed.

Blessed Jane was Regent of Portugal when her father and brother went to war against the Moors, and after their successful military campaign, her father, flush from victory, agreed to permit Blessed Jane to enter the convent. However, all was not as Blessed Jane had hoped. While she and one of her ladies-in-waiting wanted very much to enter the Dominican convent in Aveiro, known for its strict observance, her father instead insisted that Jane enter the royal abbey of the Benedictines at Odivellas. There, Blessed Jane was beseiged by the whining women of her family that were concerned mostly for the world. So, after a short period of mental and spiritual torture at the royal abbey, Blessed Jane returned to her father's royal court.

The rest of Blessed Jane's life story is one of patient endurance of a continual litany of trials. Her brother was jealous of her and she suffered from medical maladies. Often the doctors' treatment of her maladies was worse than the affliction itself. Her father seemed scarcely able to make a decision, and some bishops once for their own political designs required her to sign a piece of paper promising that she would never take religious vows. However, after all these trials and 12 years of waiting, in A.D. 1485, Blessed Jane finally took the Dominican habit and entered the convent at Aveiro.

In the convent, Blessed Jane dedicatd herself to doing the most menial tasks and graciously served her fellow nuns. Blessed Jane's special devotion was to the Crown of Thorns, which she had added to her personal heraldic achievement. Her family, however, would not leave her in peace in the convent, and continued to call her back to the royal court for affairs of state.

During one of these trips back to the royal court, Blessed Jane was poisoned by a woman that she had previously rebuked for living a sinful life. After several months of illness and painful suffering, Blessed Jane died on 12 May 1490, surrounded by her Dominican community.

Blessed Jane was beatified (cultus confirmed) on 31 December 1692 by Pope Innocent XII.

Prayer

O God,
in the midst of the royal court
you strengthened Blessed Jane with purity of heart.
By her prayers may your faithful turn from the things of earth
and seek after the things of heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

11 May 2010

The Church is Her Saints

REUTERS/Miguel A.

11 MAY 2010. From the Pope's visit to Lisbon, Portugal today we hear these words from his homily at Commerce Square:
Brothers and sisters, those who believe in Jesus will not be put to shame: he is the Word of God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, and this Word is attested by a “great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues,” a multitude pictured by the author of the Apocalypse “clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev 7:9). This countless multitude... is formed of the “servants of our God” from all times and places, on whose forehead the sign of the cross has been inscribed with “the seal of the living God” (Rev 7:2), that is to say, with the Holy Spirit. I am referring to the initial rite administered to each one of us in the sacrament of Baptism, through which the Church gives birth to the “saints”.

We know that she also has quarrelsome and even rebellious sons and daughters, but it is in the saints that the Church recognizes her most characteristic features, it is in them that she tastes her deepest joy. They all share the desire to incarnate the Gospel in their own lives, under the inspiration of the eternal animator of God’s People – the Holy Spirit. Focusing her attention upon her own saints, this local Church has rightly concluded that today’s pastoral priority is to make each Christian man and woman a radiant presence of the Gospel perspective in the midst of the world, in the family, in culture, in the economy, in politics. Often we are anxiously preoccupied with the social, cultural and political consequences of the faith, taking for granted that faith is present, which unfortunately is less and less realistic. Perhaps we have placed an excessive trust in ecclessial structures and programs, in the distribution of powers and functions; but what will happen if salt loses its flavor?

In order for this not to happen, it is necessary to proclaim anew with vigor and joy the event of the death and resurrection of Christ, the heart of Christianity, the fulcrum and mainstay of our faith, the firm lever of our certainties, the strong wind that sweeps away all fear and indecision, all doubt and human calculation. The resurrection of Christ assures us that no adverse power will ever be able to destroy the Church. Therefore our faith is well-founded, but this faith needs to come alive in each one of us.
 The full text is very worthy of a close read.

The Dominican Habit


10 MAY 2010. The men's Dominican habit is a beautiful thing--black and white to symbolize both purity of life with Christ (white) and penance and mortification (black). Penance and purity of life are not incomplementary, but necessary faith connections. As the Dominican habit forms a beautiful whole, clothing the friar, brother, or nun in a distinctive garment that expresses devotion to our Lord, so too are purity and penance overlain in a life lived in devotion for Christ.

All Dominicans wear the same habit--friars, brothers, cooperator brothers, novices, and even the Master of the Order. As Christ told us to call all our brothers ( cf Mt 23, 8), so too do all Dominican brethren wear the same habit. Lay Dominicans do not wear the habit, but are invested in the large white scapular upon first (temporary) profession into the order. While I am not aware of any regulation that prohibits a lay Dominican from wearing the habit in private, it is my understanding that wearing the habit in public is prohibited. Lay Dominicans, however, may be buried in the habit--in the recognized dress of one of Saint Dominic's children.

 Father Lew, O.P.

The basic element of the Dominican habit is the tunic. The tunic is a white woolen one-piece, shoe-top length gown with long sleeves and cuffs. A Dominican first puts on the tunic while praying:

Clothe me, O Lord, with the garments of salvation.
By your grace may I keep them pure and spotless,
so that clothed in white,
I may be worthy to walk with you in the kingdom of God.
Amen.


The next element of the habit is the cincture. The Dominican cincture is a black leather belt with a simple silver buckle. As Saint Thomas Aquinas was girded in chastity his entire life, so to does a Dominican gird himself each day with the cincture of chastity and justice. The cincture became a customary part of the Dominican habit in honor of Saint Thomas, and it is Dominican tradition to ask Saint Thomas for his intercession to protect one's purity. While fastening the cincture, a Dominican prays:

Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of justice and the cord of purity
that I may unite the many affections of my heart in the love of you alone.
Amen.


Next, a rosary is hung from the cincture on the left side. Today, the Dominicans wear a 20 decade rosary that corresponds to the full Rosary, including the Luminous Mysteries (in addition to the Joyful, Glorious, and Sorrowful mysteries) added by the great and Venerable Pope John Paul II. Typically, the rosary has black beads and hangs from a clip nearer to the wearer's hip, with the crucifix and first several beads of the rosary passed behind and over the cincture towards the wearer's front. While adding the rosary to the cincture, the following prayer is recited:

O God, whose only-begotten Son,
by his life, death, and resurrection,
has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life,
grant, we beseech Thee,
that meditating upon the mysteries of the
Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise,
through the same Christ our Lord.
Amen.


Now with the cincture and rosary in place over the tunic, the Dominican puts on the scapular. The scapular is a long white strip of cloth (about shoulder width), with a hole for the head, that is worn over the shoulders, extending to near the bottom of the tunic in the front and the back. The scapular was given to Blessed Reginald of Orleans by our Blessed Mother for him to pass on to Saint Dominic. The scapular was traditionally the most important article of the habit, signifying one as definitively a member of an order. The Dominican scapular is put on while saying this prayer:

Show yourself a mother,
He will hear your pleading
Whom your womb has sheltered
And whose hand brings healing.

Next, the Dominican habit is composed of the white capuce, a short rounded shoulder cape that has a white hood attached to it. The capuce is the only head covering used by Dominicans liturgically, and fits over the scapular. While donning a capuce, a Dominican prays:

Lord,
You have set your sign upon my head
that I should admit no lover but you.
Amen.

The two most distinctive parts of the Dominican habit follow next. Over the white capuce is worn the cappa magna, a long black cloak that is equal in length to the tunic and scapular. In England, Dominicans are casually referred to as Blackfriars in reference to the large black cappa magna. Overlaying the purity of life, because we are men, struggling with sin, lays the cappa magna symbolizing necessary penance. The black cappa magna was part of the original Dominican habit given to Blessed Orleans by our Blessed Mother. While putting on the cappa magna, a Dominican prays:

We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God,
do not despise our prayers in our necessity,
but free us from all peril, O Blessed Virgin.
Amen.

Finally, the Dominican puts on the black capuce, with hood, which overlays the cappa magna and serves as an outer black shoulder cape and covering for the hood. The black capuce completes the Dominican habit and, along with the cappa magna, is traditionally always worn by a Dominican while outside the convent, and in the convent too from All Soul's Day until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil.

Given the fact that the Dominican habit was designed by our Blessed Mother, herself, it is no wonder that many have exclaimed that is the most beautiful habit in the Church. A wonderful step-by-step photographic explanation of the Dominican habit is available at this website. And, a thoughtful and spiritual explanation of the Dominican habit, by Father Lew, O.P., can be found here.

10 May 2010

Saint Antoninus Pierozzi of Florence

10 MAY 2010. Today we celebrate the memorial of Saint Antoninus Pierozzi of Florence, a Dominican friar and Archbishop of Florence.

Born on 1 March 1389, in Florence. The child was given the name of Anthony, but he was of a small stature and a gentle nature, so he was always known by the graceful Italian diminutive "Antonino ("Little Anthony"). Little Anothony's childhood was marked with great devotion and prayer. His father was a lawyer in Florence who also held several important positions in local institutions, and Antonino frequently attended the preaching of Blessed John Dominici, a celebrated friar and preacher of his time.

So great was Antonino's love for Christ that he approached Blessed John Dominici as a teenager and asked to be admitted to a new convent at Fiesole that was being erected. Because of the child's youth and small size, Blessed John instructed Antonino that he could not be admitted to the convent until he furthered his studies, and made him the promise that Antonino would be admitted if he memorized the Book of Decretals.

This enormous task was undertaken by the young Antonino with great devotion, and a year later he returned to Blessed John having completed the task. On the Feast of Saint Dominic, A.D. 1504, Antonino was clothed with the Dominican habit.

In the Order, Antonino grew quickly in holiness and knowledge and relatively soon assumed the position of prior--a position that he held in a number of Dominican houses in the region, including founding the Convent of San Marco, Florence. Much of Antoninus' work in the houses that he served was focused on renewal and reform of the Dominican life.

Friar Antoninus had a great reputation for theological learning and served as the Papal theologian for the Council of Florence in A.D. 1439. He was also a prolific writer, authoring texts on moral theology, canon law, a guide for confessors, and a chronicle of the history of the world. Antoninus was also widely known and sought-out for his gift of counsel, earning the popular title--"the Angel of Counsels."

Under threat of excommunication if he refused, Friar Antoninus was elevated to the archepiscopacy of Florence in A.D. 1446. It is recorded that Archbishop Antoninus kept the simple and austere lifestyle that he had prior to his service as archbishop. Quickly, as archbishop, he won the esteem and love of his people and remained, fundamentally, a man of prayer. When the plague and, later, earthquakes struck his flock, he was seen night and day delivering provisions and assistance to his flock with a donkey laden with supplies and a small group of assistants. His time was often spent among the poorest of his flock and many miracles were attributed to him.

In art, Saint Antoninus is often seen holding a set of scales. This is because of a miracle that tradition attributes to the Saint. An inhabitant of Florence once brought the archbishop a beautiful new year's fruit basket in the secret hopes of receiving a great reward. However, Saint Antoninus simply thanked the donor and sent him away with the words: "May God reward you." Because he received no reward, the man went off discontented. When Saint Antoninus later learned of the man's discontentment, he called for him to come before him again. When the donor did, Saint Antoninus had the fruit basket placed on one side of a set of scales and a slip of paper on the other side bearing the words: "May God reward you!" When this was done, the scales registered that the slip of paper far outweighed the fruit basket.

Saint Anotninus was even declared to be of saintly virtue during his lifetime. When Pope Nicholas V canonized Saint Bernandine of Siena, he is reported to have remarked that Archbishop Antoninus was as much deserving of canonization alive as the dead Bernadine.

Saint Antoninus died on 2 May 1459, and his funeral was celebrated by Pope Pius II, himself, who also granted special indulgences to the faithful for their veneration of Antoninus. The bull of Saint Antoninus' canonization is reported to have been completed during the pontificate of Adrian IV in A.D. 1523, but was not published until the pontificate of his successor, Clement VII.

Prayer

Eternal God,
you blessed Saint Antoninus
with a marvelous gift of counsel.
By the help of his prayers
while we walk in the darkness of this life,
may we learn from the light of Christ
all that we ought to do.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

09 May 2010

Prayer for Mothers

Good and Gentle God,
we pray in gratitude for our mothers
and for all the women of theory who have joined with you
in the wonder of bringing forth new life.
You who became human through a woman,
grant to all mothers the courage they need
to face the uncertain future that life with children always brings.

Give them the strength to live
and to be loved in return, not perfectly, but humanly.
Give them the faithful support of husband, family and friends
as they care for the physical and spiritual growth of their children.
Give them joy and delight in their children
to sustain them through the trials of motherhood.
Most of all, give them the wisdom
to turn to you for help when they need it most.

Amen.

SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

9 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the sixth Sunday of Easter and we, in my family and in countless families across the world, are celebrating Mother's Day.

Today's readings are found here.

There is a focus on peace in the Gospel reading today, and we can begin to get a glimpse of Pentecost in the words of Christ. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will be sent by the Father to guide us on earth.

Christ says: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you."

The peace of the love of Christ is the gift given to us in utter humility and out of and through His absolute love. The God who is beyond all temporal and physical restriction, has entered into our world after He created us, and His presence in our world and in each of our lives continues today with the continued blessing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Praise God for His gifts and especially for the gift of mothers.

Today, and always, we place the safety and well being of all mothers under the mantle of protection of our Heavenly Mother, the Blessed Virgin. As she bore Christ in her womb and loved Him as a mother throughout her life, so to does she love each of us today and offer the assistance of her intercessory presence in our lives.

04 May 2010

Commemoration of the Sufferings of Jesus Christ, Our Lord

4 MAY 2010.Today the Dominican Order is called in a special way to commemorate the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The traditional texts are from the Dominican Rite. Formerly called the "Crown of Thorns," today's commemoration recalls the gift of a thorn from Christ's crown, made to the Order by Saint Louis IX, King of France in 1239.

A rendering of today's Collect from the Dominican Rite:
Præsta, quæsumus, omnipotens Deus: ut, qui in memoriam passionis Domini nostri Jesu Christi Coronam ejus spineam veneramur in terris, ab ipso gloria et honore coronari mereamur in cælis: Qui tecum vivit et regnat...
Grant, we beg, almighty God: that we, who in memory of the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ do revere His thorny Crown on earth, by Him may deserve "to be crowned with glory and honour" (cf. Ps 8:6) in heaven: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth...

03 May 2010

Saint Philip and Saint James

3 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Philip and Saint James, two of the twelve Apostles of Chist, although likely the two least known of the Apsotles.

Saint Philip was one of the twelve that was called from the city of Bethsadia, the same town as Andrew and Peter. We also know that Saint Philip introduced Christ to Nathaniel (sometimes referred to as Bartholomew), saying in response to Nathaniel's derogatory question ("Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"): "Come and see." (Jn 1, 45-47) The Church and the intercessory prayer of Saint Philip today still calls us to come and see the Lord.

While all of the Gospels account for Philip among the Apostles, he is most noted in the Gospel of Saint John. There, his two most notable appearances seem to link the Greek speaking Jewish community. Indeed, Saint Philip introduces Jesus to that community (Jn 12, 20-36) and is an interlocutor of Christ at the Last Supper, giving Christ the opportunity to reveal Himself as the Son of God:
Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, ans yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father: how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
(Jn 14, 8-11 RSV-CE)

Aside from the biblical accounts of Saint Philip, not much more is concretely known of him. Tradition's account of him as a husband and father of several children, including a married daughter, appears to be reputable. But, other accounts are not so reliable. In fact, even Philip's martyrdom is in dispute, with some accounts saying that he was crucified upside down, and other accounts saying he was beheaded.

Saint Philip, the Apostle

Saint James, on the other hand, is more widely know by the Epistle that bears his name, although not much more is known of him directly than Saint Philip. We do know that Saint James the apostle is the son of Alphaeus, but he is only mentioned in the Bible three times (Mk  15, 40; Mk 16, 1; and Mt 27, 56), each time in connection with his mother Mary. By these references, Saint James is known to tradition as James the Less, distinguishing him from James, the son of Zebedee, the brother of Saint John. Tradition tells that Saint James was martyred in Lower Egypt, being beaten to death there while preaching the Gospel.

Saint James, the Apostle

What can be said with certainty of Saints Philip and James is that Christ called them, as he calls all of us, to follow Him, and they did so in a unique way as Christ's apostles. To be called by Christ does not require notoriety nor fame nor even historical significance. And, none of of those characteristics are necessary either to be a faithful follower of Christ. Right where we are, each of us today can be a faithful disciple of Christ if we but rely on Him.

Saint Philip and Saint James, Holy Apostles, pray for us!

02 May 2010

FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

2 MAY 2010. Today the Church celebrates the fifth Sunday of Easter, working our way toward the Ascension and Pentecost.

Today's readings can be found here, but today's Gospel from Saint John contains but a single bit of Jesus' dialog (two verses), that I would like to reflect on for a bit.

First, the scene needs to be set. Saint John is recalling the Last Supper of Christ with His disciples: Judas has just left to fulfill his treacherous deeds and the Lord is speaking to His disciples when He says:
I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
(Jn 13, 34-35 NAB).

Consider how Christ loves us: unconditionally, sacrificially, humbly, completely, as the Father does--fiercely and without release. Consider how His body and His arms were stretched upon the cross--an image of embrace--and He allowed Himself to be brutally killed for us so that He may defeat death for all of humanity--those in the grave, those on earth, and those yet to come in future generations.Consider how we today share in this redemptive gift, millennia later; and all the generations that follow will also share in the gift of Christ's love.

So, how is it that Christ can really ask us to love others as He loved us? He, better than anyone on earth, knows that we are incapable of loving as He has loved; He is, after all, true God and true man, and we are merely human flesh--dust. But, He also knows the depth of His love for us. He knows the grace that flows from that love for our benefit; the grace that lifts us above what we could only accomplish on our own merit. In fact, we have no merit, but for His love. Our lives, our very bodies, are not our own, but the Lord's. So, Christ gives us this command to love as He has loved because He is there in all our moments of need and weakness to assist us in our struggles, to give us the strength we need, to attune our hearts to the Sacred Heart that lives and suffered for us. He gives us the commandment knowing full well that to achieve it, we must rely entirely on Him.

It is that reliance on Christ--as an absolute, daily need--that has struck me this Easter. I am powerless to accomplish anything without Christ. I cannot withstand temptation without Christ. I cannot achieve anything without Christ. My life is meaningless without Christ. It is this recognition of our need to be completely reliant on Christ that truly characterizes the love we are to have for one another.

We do not do it on our own. We are not to be full of self-determination and self-pride. We are not to judge according to our sense of what is right. We are, however, to be meek, humble, selfless, sacrificial, and completely reliant on our Creator, the Holy Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If we truly strive to live in this way, others will recognize it. For we would be living a life that is runs absolutely counter to the dominant Western culture. We would be living a life that is radical, not only in the love we show to others--the new law--but, also in the love we show to Christ our Lord--in obedience to the first commandment of God the Father. Remember, Christ did not come to abolish the old law, but to give us a new law.

So, the heart of Christ's command to us in today's Gospel passage is this: strive not to be known. Rely entirely on God. In that reliance love Christ with all that you have and love others as Christ loves us, praying continually that He may enable us to live for Him. Recognize your own need, your own emptiness, but for Christ's love. We are not to invest in the ego of ourselves, but are to give ourselves entirely over to Him.

And all of this is possible because He is risen! A dead savior is not capable of such love; only the risen Christ that has conquered death and given salvation to all is capable and authoritative in this command.

Praise the Lord. May he strengthen us and protect us on this journey.

01 May 2010

On the road

1 MAY 2010. I have been on the road and working some very long hours the last few days. As such, I was not able to post pieces on Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Pius V over the last couple of days.

My intent for this blog is that it remain up to date with the Church's calendar, so that readers can experience the beautiful cycle of solemnities, feasts, and feast days as the liturgical year progresses. If I wrote posts out of sequence with the calendar, I fear that Acta Sanctorum would merely be encyclopedic. So, I am inclined to not write posts on either Saint Catherine of Siena or Saint Pius V now after the fact.

But, tell me what you think.