Friday, December 31, 2010

Memorial of St Sylvester

"Sylvester was a Roman by birth, and his father's name was Rufinus.  He was brought up from a very early age under a Priest named Cyrinus, of whose teaching and example he was a diligent learner.  During the fury of the persecutions, Sylvester hid himself upon Mount Soracte.  In his thirtieth year he was ordained Priest of the Holy Roman Church by Pope Marcellinus.  In the discharge of his duties he became a model for all the clergy, and, after the death of Melchiades, he succeeded him on the Papal throne, during the reign of Constantine, who had already by public decree proclaimed peace to the Church of Christ.  Hardly had he undertaken the government of the Church when he betook himself to stir up the Emperor to protect and propagate the religion of Christ.  Constantine was fresh from his victory over his enemy Maxentius, on the Eve whereof the sign of the Cross had been revealed to him limned in light upon the sky; and there was an old story in the Church of Rome that it was Sylvester who caused him to recognise the images of the Apostles, administered to him holy Baptism, and cleansed him from the leprosy of misbelief.

The godly Emperor had already granted to Christ's faithful people permission to build public churches, and by the advice of Sylvester he himself set them the example.  He built many Basilicas, and magnificently adorned them with holy images, and gifted them with gifts and endowments.  Among these there were, besides others, the Church of Christ the Saviour, hard by the Lateran Palace; that of St. Peter, upon the Vatican Mount; that of St. Paul, upon the Ostian Way; that of St. Lawrence in Agro Verano; that of the Holy Cross in Atro Sessoriano; that of St. Peter and St. Marcellinus, upon the Labican Way; and that of St. Agnes, upon the Nomentan Way.  Under this Pope was held the first Council of Nice, presided over by the Papal Legates, and in the Presence of Constantine, and three hundred and eighteen Bishops, where the holy and Catholick Faith was declared, and Arius and his followers condemned; which Council was finally confirmed by the Pope, at the request of all the assembled Fathers, in a synod held at Rome, where Arius was again condemned.  This Pope issued many useful ordinances for the Church of God.  He reserved to Bishops the right of consecrating the Holy Chrism; ordered Priests to anoint with Chrism the heads of the newly baptized; settled the offíciating dress of Deacons as a dalmatic and linen maniple; and forbade the consecration of the Sacrament of the Altar on anything but a linen corporal.

This Sylvester is likewise said to have ordained that all persons taking Holy Orders should remain a while in each grade  before being promoted to a higher; that laymen should not go to law against the clergy; and that the clergy themselves were not to plead before civil tribunals.  He decreed that the first and seventh days of the week should be called respectively the Lord's Day and the Sabbath, and the others, Second Day, Third Day, and so on.  In this he confirmed the use of the word Feria for the weekdays, the which use had already begun in the Church.  This word signifieth an holiday, and pointeth to the duty of the clergy ever to lay aside all worldly labour, and leave themselves free to do continually the work of the Lord.  The heavenly wisdom with which he ruled the Church of God, was joined in him to a singular holiness of life, and an inexhaustible tenderness towards the poor; in which matter he ordained that the wealthy clergy should each relieve a certain number of needy persons; and he also made arrangements for supplying the consecrated virgins with the necessaries of life.  He lived as Pope twenty-one years, ten months and one day, and was buried in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way.  He held seven ordinations in the month of December, and made forty-two priests, twenty-five deacons, and sixty-five bishops of various sees."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

First word of the Child Jesus

The Word in your silence
has been said briefly and eternally
and it is mute in your maternal

She tells Him:
Am I to give, divine lips,
your first word?
Which one will I choose, my God,
to let lose your tongue?
Your first word
filled to the brim the star-filled skies,
by what will be filled my soul
your first word?
Will I tell it to say: Love?...
No, for saying it does not count:
It is saying in silence
with its joy and its sorrow!
Will I tell it to say: Mother?...
No, because the Father will be jealous.
Will I tell it to say: Father?
No, because the earth shudders...
I will tell it to say: Jesus,
which is the perfect word!
With which the Father smiles,
the earth is divinized,
and the Heart of his Mother
is fulfilled with eternal joy.

-- 100 sonetos de eternidad by Juan Alberto de los Cármenes, ocd
translated by ocdsister

** Fr Juan Alberto is very well known in the Spanish Carmels for his poetry. Born in Cuba, many of his poems are inspired by Carmelite writings, especially those of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Commemoration of St Thomas Becket

"Thomas was born at London in England, and succeeded Theobald in the Archbishopric of Canterbury. He had previously filled with great distinction the office of Lord Chancellor, and shewed an indomitable firmness in his duty as Primate. When Henry II, King of England, in an assembly of the Bishops and great men of his realm, endeavoured to pass laws detrimental to the advantage and dignity of the Church, he opposed himself so steadily to the king's wishes, that, neither promises, nor threats availing to shake him, he was about to be cast into prison, had he not made good his escape in time. The whole of his kinsfolk without regard to age or sex, his friends, and his advisers, were then banished the kingdom, and those who were able, were bound by an oath to make their way to the presence of Thomas, in the hope that though careless of his own sufferings, he might yield at the sight of their misery. But neither flesh nor blood, nor the pleadings of natural affection could make him swerve from the line of his pastoral duty.

He betook himself to Pope Alexander III, by whom he was graciously received, and who committed him to the care of the Cistercians at Pontigny. As soon as this came to the knowledge of King Henry, he sent threatening letters to the monks, in order to drive Thomas from this shelter. The saint was unwilling that the Cistercian Order should suffer on his account, and therefore voluntarily withdrew from Pontigny, and accepted the invitation of Louis VII, King of France, to go to his court. He remained here, until his banishment was recalled at the intercession of the Pope and of the King of France, and he returned to England amid great public joy. He was quietly continuing the work of a faithful shepherd of souls, when certain calumniators denounced him to the king as a plotter against the crown and the public peace. Henry, deceived by these libels, cried out that it was hard that one priest should never let him have quiet in his kingdom.

Some wicked servants of the king, hearing his words, and thinking to do him pleasure, betook themselves to Canterbury to rid him of the Archbishop. They entered the cathedral in the evening as Thomas was proceeding to assist at Evensong. The clergy in attendance on him, conscious of the attempt about to be made, wished to bolt the doors. But the saint caused them to be again opened , saying, The Church of God is not be made a castle of, and for the cause of God's Church I am willing to die. He then said to his murderers, I charge you in the Name of the Almighty God to hurt none of my people. With these words he fell on his knees, and commended himself to God, to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Denis, and to the other holy Patrons of the Church of Canterbury. He presently offered his sacred head for the stroke of death, and received it from the swords of those wicked men with the same constancy with which he had withstood the commands of the unrighteous king. The murderers pulled out his brains and strewed them all about the floor of the church. He testified on the 29th day of December, in the year of our Lord 1170, and, being afterwards honoured with many miracles, was canonised by Pope Alexander III."

-- From the second nocturn for the commemoration of St Thomas of Canterbury (Becket)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feast of the Holy Innocents

"Dearly beloved, today we keep the birth of these children, who, as we are informed by the Gospel were put to death by cruel King Herod. Therefore let earth rejoice with exceeding joy, for she is the fruitful mother of this great host of heavenly soldiers. The favour of vile Herod could never have done such service to these blessed ones as hath his hatred. For the Church testifieth by this holy solemnity, that whereas iniquity did specially abound against these little Saints, so much the more were heavenly blessings poured out upon them.

Blessed art thou, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, which hath suffered the cruelty of King Herod in the slaughter of thy children. For thou wast found worthy to offer to God, and that all at one time, an entire white-robed army of guileless Martyrs. Surely we do well to keep this day whereon they were borne from earth into heaven, which is so much more blessed to them than the day that brought them out of their mother's womb. Scarcely had they entered on the life that now is, than they obtained that glorious life which is to come.

We esteem as precious the death of those Martyrs who have deserved praise for the confession which they made during their lifetime ; but these little Martyrs delight us by their death-time alone. Scarcely had life dawned upon them, when the very destruction which brought it to a close became for them the beginning of glory. They, whom the wickedness of Herod tore from their mothers' breasts, are rightly called the Flowers of the Martyrs. Hardly had these early buds of the Church pushed above the ground in the winter of unbelief, than the frost of persecution destroyed them."
-- From a sermon by St Augustine

Monday, December 27, 2010

Feast of St John, Apostle and Evangelist

"The Apostle John, whom Jesus loved, was a son of Zebedee, and the brother of that James the Apostle who was beheaded by Herod soon after our Lord suffered. He was the last of the Evangelists to write his Gospel, which he published at the request of the Bishops of Asia against Cerinthus and other hereticks, and particularly against the then spreading doctrine of the Ebionites, who asserted that Christ had had no existence before Mary. It was therefore needful for the Evangelist to declare his eternal and divine generation.

In the fourteenth year of Domitian, whilst this same was stirring up the second persecution after that of Nero, John was exiled to the Island of Patmos where he wrote his Apocalypse, whereon commentaries have been composed by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. When Domitian was killed, the Senate annulled all his acts on account of their excessive severity, and the Apostle returned to Ephesus during the reign of Nerva. There he remained until the time of Trajan, and founded and governed all the churches of Asia. There also in an extreme old age, he died, in the sixty-eighth year after the Lord's passion, and was buried near the same city of Ephesus."

-- Book on Ecclesiastical writers by St Jerome

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Memorial of St Stephen, Protomartyr

We have already remarked that the words: Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers: may have reference to the Lord as the one whom the Jews were afterward to put to death. In a secondary sense it may likewise be applied to his disciples, of whom he speaketh when he saith: Behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes. Here observe that, as the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, there are diversities of gifts amongst Christ's followers. Some are prophets of that which is to come; some are wise men who know the due season for rebuke, and exhortation; some are scribes learned in the Law. And of these Stephen was stoned, Paul was slain with the sword, Peter was crucified, and the disciples of whom mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles were scourged.

It is a subject of dispute amongst commentators as to what is meant by Zacharias the son of Barachias, for we read of several persons of this name. But in this passage, as if to prevent any mistake, is added: Whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. I have read various opinions in various places upon this question, and I will give you each. First, some hold that this Zacharias was the eleventh of the twelve Minor Prophets, which same is called the son of Barachias. But the Bible nowhere telleth us that this Prophet was slain between the temple and the altar; and it is hardly possible in his day that even the ruins of the temple were in existence. Secondly, others maintain that this Zacharias was the father of John the Baptist. Such an interpretation is derived from certain vain imaginations of the apocryphal Gospels, wherein it is asserted that he was martyred for preaching the Saviour's coming.

A third school will have it that this Zacharias, the son of Barachias, was that Zacharias of whom we read in the second Book of Chronicles, that he was slain by Joash, King of Judah, in the court of the house of the Lord, which same might be understood as between the temple and the altar. However, that Zacharias was not the son of Barachias, but of Jehoiada the priest, whence it is written: Joash the King remembered not the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but slew his son. The question therefore ariseth, if this opinion be true, why the manner of death agreeth with this explanation but the name doth not, since Zacharias is called the son of Jehoiada rather than of Barachias. The Hebrew word Barachias signifieth Blessed-of-the-Lord, and this might be an honourific title for Jehoiada, used to imply his righteousness, inasmuch as our Lord was making reference to the shedding of righteous blood. Further, we might find that in the Gospel used by the Nazarenes the name of Jehoiada is used instead of Barachias."

-- From a homily by St Jerome

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Nativity of Our Lord

"Dearly beloved: Unto us is born this day a Saviour. Therefore let us rejoice. Sadness should find no place amongst those who keep the Birthday of Life. For as of this day Life came unto us dying creatures, to take away the sting of death, and to bring the bright promise of joy eternal. And no one is excluded from sharing in this our gladness. For all mankind hath one and the same cause thereof, to wit, that our Lord, the Destroyer of sin and death, because he findeth no one free from condemnation, is come to set everyone free. Rejoice, O saint, for thou drawest nearer thy crown! Rejoice, O sinner, for thy Saviour offereth thee pardon! Rejoice, O Jew, for Messias is come. Rejoice, O Gentile, for God calleth thee to life! Now is come the fulness of time, fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, when the Son of God took upon him the nature of man, that he might reconcile it to its Maker. Now is come the time when the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which hath been the field of his victory.

When the Almighty Lord entered this field of battle against the devil, he did so in great and wondrous fairness. For against our cruel enemy he opposed not the armament of his uncreate Majesty, but the lowliness of our flesh. He brought against him the very shape and the very nature of our mortality, with this difference only, that he was without sin. For his birth is not like that of the ordinary run of men, of whom there is the saying: No one is clean from stain, not even the day-old babe. In this birth alone no desires of the flesh had place. In this birth alone no consequence of sin had part. A Virgin of the kingly lineage of David was chosen to be the Mother who grew heavy with the sacred Child. She was chosen to conceive this divine and human offspring in her body because already she had conceived him in her soul. And that the unwonted events ordained by the counsel of God might cause her no alarm, she was taught them beforehand when the Angel announced that what was to be wrought in her was of the Holy Ghost, and that to become the Mother of God was not to forego her virgin modesty.

Wherefore, dearly beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Ghost : who for his great love, wherewith he loved us, hath had mercy on us; and even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, that in him we might be a new creature, and a new workmanship. Let us then put off the old man with his deeds. And, having obtained a share in the Sonship of Christ, let us renounce the deeds of the flesh. Acknowledge, O Christian, thine own dignity, who hast been made partaker of the divine nature, and change not back my misdoing into thy former baseness. Bethink thee whose Body it is whereof thou art made a member, and who is its Head. Be mindful that he hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into God's light and God's kingdom."

-- From a Sermon by St Leo the Great

Friday, December 24, 2010

Vigil of the Nativity of Our Lord

"Why was the Lord conceived of a virgin espoused rather than of one who was not? First, that Mary's genealogy might be reckoned from that of Joseph. Secondly, lest she be stoned by the Jews as an adulteress. Thirdly, that she might have a guardian on their flight into Egypt. To these, the Martyr Ignatius hath added a fourth reason; namely, that the birth might take place unknown to the devil, who would thus suppose that Mary had conceived by Joseph.

Before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. That is, she was found by Joseph, not by anyone else, for already he had almost an husband's privilege to know all that concerned her. But from the words, Before they came together, it doth not follow that they ever did come together. The Scripture is concerned only to shew that up to this time they had not so done.

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. If any man be joined to an harlot, he becometh one body with her; and according to the law, they that be privy to a crime are held to be guilty. How then can it be that Joseph is described as a just man, at the very time he was compounding the criminality of his espoused? These words be none other than a testimony to the virginity of Mary; for Joseph knew her to be chaste; wherefore he marvelled at all that had come to pass, and hid in silence that of which he knew not the mystery."
-- From a homily by St Jerome

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Memorial of St Frances Xavier Cabrini

"Francesca Cabrini was born on July 15, 1850, in the village of Sant' Angelo, on the outskirts of Lodi, about twenty miles from Milan, in the pleasant, fertile Lombardy plain. She was the thirteenth child of a farmer's family, her father Agostino being the proprietor of a modest estate. The home into which she was born was a comfortable, attractive place for children, with its flowering vines, its gardens, and animals; but its serenity and security was in strong contrast with the confusion of the times. Italy had succeeded in throwing off the Austrian yoke and was moving towards unity. Agostino and his wife Stella were conservative people who took no part in the political upheavals around them, although some of their relatives were deeply concerned in the struggle, and one, Agostino Depretis, later became prime minister. Sturdy and pious, the Cabrinis were devoted to their home, their children, and their Church. Signora Cabrini was fifty-two when Francesca was born, and the tiny baby seemed so fragile at birth that she was carried to the church for baptism at once. No one would have ventured to predict then that she would not only survive but live out sixty-seven extraordinarily active and productive years. Villagers and members of the family recalled later that just before her birth a flock of white doves circled around high above the house, and one of them dropped down to nestle in the vines that covered the walls. The father took the bird, showed it to his children, then released it to fly away.

Since the mother had so many cares, the oldest daughter, Rosa, assumed charge of the newest arrival. She made the little Cecchina, for so the family called the baby, her companion, carried her on errands around the village, later taught her to knit and sew, and gave her religious instruction. In preparation for her future career as a teacher, Rosa was inclined to be severe. Her small sister's nature was quite the reverse; Cecchina was gay and smiling and teachable. Agostino was in the habit of reading aloud to his children, all gathered together in the big kitchen. He often read from a book of missionary stories, which fired little Cecchina's imagination. In her play, her dolls became holy nuns. When she went on a visit to her uncle, a priest who lived beside a swift canal, she made little boats of paper, dropped violets in them, called the flowers missionaries, and launched them to sail off to India and China. Once, playing thus, she tumbled into the water, but was quickly rescued and suffered only shock from the accident.

At thirteen Francesca was sent to a private school kept by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart. Here she remained for five years, taking the course that led to a teacher's certificate. Rosa had by this time been teaching for some years. At eighteen Francesca passed her examinations, cum laude, and then applied for admission into the convent, in the hope that she might some day be sent as a teacher to the Orient. When, on account of her health, her application was turned down, she resolved to devote herself to a life of lay service. At home she shared wholeheartedly in the domestic tasks. Within the next few years she had the sorrow of losing both her parents. An epidemic of smallpox later ran through the village, and she threw herself into nursing the stricken. Eventually she caught the disease herself, but Rosa, now grown much gentler, nursed her so skillfully that she recovered promptly, with no disfigurement. Her oval face, with its large expressive blue eyes, was beginning to show the beauty that in time became so striking.

Francesca was offered a temporary position as substitute teacher in a village school, a mile or so away. Thankful for this chance to practice her profession, she accepted, learning much from her brief experience. She then again applied for admission to the convent of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, and might have been accepted, for her health was now much improved. However, the rector of the parish, Father Antonio Serrati, had been observing her ardent spirit of service and was making other plans for her future. He therefore advised the Mother Superior to turn her down once more.

Father Serrati, soon to be Monsignor Serrati, was to remain Francesca's lifelong friend and adviser. From the start he had great confidence in her abilities, and now he gave her a most difficult task. She was to go to a disorganized and badly run orphanage in the nearby town of Cadogno, called the House of Providence. It had been started by two wholly incompetent laywomen, one of whom had given the money for its endowment. Now Francesca was charged "to put things right," a large order in view of her youth-she was but twenty-four-and the complicated human factors in the situation. The next six years were a period of training in tact and diplomacy, as well as in the everyday, practical problems of running such an institution. She worked quietly and effectively, in the face of jealous opposition, devoting herself to the young girls under her supervision and winning their affection and cooperation. Francesca assumed the nun's habit, and in three years took her vows. By this time her ecclesiastical superiors were impressed by her performance and made her Mother Superior of the institution. For three years more she carried on, and then, as the foundress had grown more and more erratic, the House of Providence was dissolved. Francesca had under her at the time seven young nuns whom she had trained. Now they were all homeless.

At this juncture the bishop of Lodi sent for her and offered a suggestion that was to determine the nun's life work. He wished her to found a missionary order of women to serve in his diocese. She accepted the opportunity gratefully and soon discovered a house which she thought suitable, an abandoned Franciscan friary in Cadogno. The building was purchased, the sisters moved in and began to make the place habitable. Almost immediately it became a busy hive of activity. They received orphans and foundlings, opened a day school to help pay expenses, started classes in needlework and sold their fine embroidery to earn a little more money. Meanwhile, in the midst of superintending all these activities, Francesca, now Mother Cabrini, was drawing up a simple rule for the institute. As one patron, she chose St. Francis de Sales, and as another, her own name saint, St. Francis Xavier. The rule was simple, and the habit she devised for the hard-working nuns was correspondingly simple, without the luxury of elaborate linen or starched headdress. They even carried their rosaries in their pockets, to be less encumbered while going about their tasks. The name chosen for the order was the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

With the success of the institute and the growing reputation of its young founder, many postulants came asking for admission, more than the limited quarters could accommodate. The nuns' resources were now, as always, at a low level; nevertheless, expansion seemed necessary. Unable to hire labor, they undertook to be their own builders. One nun was the daughter of a bricklayer, and she showed the others how to lay bricks. The new walls were actually going up under her direction, when the local authorities stepped in and insisted that the walls must be buttressed for safety. The nuns obeyed, and with some outside help went on with the job, knowing they were working to meet a real need. The townspeople could not, of course, remain indifferent in the face of such determination. After two years another mission was started by Mother Cabrini, at Cremona, and then a boarding school for girls at the provincial capital of Milan. The latter was the first of many such schools, which in time were to become a source of income and also of novices to carry on the ever-expanding work. Within seven years seven institutions of various kinds, each founded to meet some critical need, were in operation, all staffed by nuns trained under Mother Cabrini.

In September, 1887, came the nun's first trip to Rome, always a momentous event in the life of any religious. In her case it was to mark the opening of a much broader field of activity. Now, in her late thirties, Mother Cabrini was a woman of note in her own locality, and some rumors of her work had undoubtedly been carried to Rome. Accompanied by a sister, Serafina, she left Cadogno with the dual purpose of seeking papal approval for the order, which so far had functioned merely on the diocesan level, and of opening a house in Rome which might serve as headquarters for future enterprises. While she did not go as an absolute stranger, many another has arrived there with more backing and stayed longer with far less to show.

Within two weeks Mother Cabrini had made contacts in high places, and had several interviews with Cardinal Parocchi, who became her loyal supporter, with full confidence in her sincerity and ability. She was encouraged to continue her foundations elsewhere and charged to establish a free school and kindergarten in the environs of Rome. Pope Leo XIII received her and blessed the work. He was then an old man of seventy-eight, who had occupied the papal throne for ten years and done much to enhance the prestige of the office. Known as the "workingman's Pope" because of his sympathy for the poor and his series of famous encyclicals on social justice, he was also a man of scholarly attainments and cultural interests. He saw Mother Cabrini on many future occasions, always spoke of her with admiration and affection, and sent contributions from his own funds to aid her work.

A new and greater challenge awaited the intrepid nun, a chance to fulfill the old dream of being a missionary to a distant land. A burning question of the day in Italy was the plight of Italians in foreign countries. As a result of hard times at home, millions of them had emigrated to the United States and to South America in the hope of bettering themselves. In the New World they were faced with many cruel situations which they were often helpless to meet. Bishop Scalabrini had written a pamphlet describing their misery, and had been instrumental in establishing St. Raphael's Society for their material assistance, and also a mission of the Congregation of St. Charles Borromeo in New York. Talks with Bishop Scalabrini persuaded Mother Cabrini that this cause was henceforth to be hers.

In America the great tide of immigration had not yet reached its peak, but a steady stream of hopeful humanity from southern Europe, lured by promises and pictures, was flowing into our ports, with little or no provision made for the reception or assimilation of the individual components. Instead, the newcomers fell victim at once to the prejudices of both native-born Americans and the earlier immigrants, who had chiefly been of Irish and German stock. They were also exploited unmercifully by their own padroni, or bosses, after being drawn into the roughest and most dangerous jobs, digging and draining, and the almost equally hazardous indoor work in mills and sweatshops. They tended to cluster in the overcrowded, disease-breeding slums of our cities, areas which were becoming known as "Little Italies." They were in America, but not of it. Both church and family life were sacrificed to mere survival and the struggle to save enough money to return to their native land. Cut off from their accustomed ties, some drifted into the criminal underworld. For the most part, however, they lived forgotten, lonely and homesick, trying to cope with new ways of living without proper direction. "Here we live like animals," wrote one immigrant; "one lives and dies without a priest, without teachers, and without doctors." All in all, the problem was so vast and difficult that no one with a soul less dauntless than Mother Cabrini's would have dreamed of tackling it.

After seeing that the new establishments at Rome were running smoothly and visiting the old centers in Lombardy, Mother Cabrini wrote to Archbishop Corrigan in New York that she was coming to aid him. She was given to understand that a convent or hostel would be prepared, to accommodate the few nuns she would bring.

Unfortunately there was a misunderstanding as to the time of her arrival, and when she and the seven nuns landed in New York on March 31, 1889, they learned that there was no convent ready. They felt they could not afford a hotel, and asked to be taken to an inexpensive lodging house. This turned out to be so dismal and dirty that they avoided the beds and spent the night in prayer and quiet thought. But the nuns were young and full of courage; from this bleak beginning they emerged the next morning to attend Mass. Then they called on the apologetic archbishop and outlined a plan of action. They wished to begin work without delay. A wealthy Italian woman contributed money for the purchase of their first house, and before long an orphanage had opened its doors there. So quickly did they gather a house full of orphans that their funds ran low; to feed the ever-growing brood they must go out to beg. The nuns became familiar figures down on Mulberry Street, in the heart of the city's Little Italy. They trudged from door to door, from shop to shop, asking for anything that could be spared—food, clothing, or money.

With the scene surveyed and the work well begun, Mother Cabrini returned to Italy in July of the same year. She again visited the foundations, stirred up the ardor of the nuns, and had another audience with the Pope, to whom she gave a report of the situation in New York with respect to the Italian colony. Also, while in Rome, she made plans for opening a dormitory for normal-school students, securing the aid of several rich women for this enterprise. The following spring she sailed again for New York, with a fresh group of nuns chosen from the order. Soon after her arrival she concluded arrangements for the purchase from the Jesuits of a house and land, now known as West Park, on the west bank of the Hudson. This rural retreat was to become a veritable paradise for children from the city's slums. Then, with several nuns who had been trained as teachers, she embarked for Nicaragua, where she had been asked to open a school for girls of well-to-do families in the city of Granada. This was accomplished with the approbation of the Nicaraguan government, and Mother Cabrini, accompanied by one nun, started back north overland, curious to see more of the people of Central America. They traveled by rough and primitive means, but the journey was safely achieved. They stopped off for a time in New Orleans and did preparatory work looking to the establishment of a mission. The plight of Italian immigrants in Louisiana was almost as serious as in New York. On reaching New York she chose a little band of courageous nuns to begin work in the southern city. They literally begged their way to New Orleans, for there was no money for train fare. As soon as they had made a very small beginning, Mother Cabrini joined them. With the aid of contributions, they bought a tenement which became known as a place where any Italian in trouble or need could go for help and counsel. A school was established which rapidly became a center for the city's Italian population. The nuns made a practice too of visiting the outlying rural sections where Italians were employed on the great plantations.

The year that celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus' voyage of discovery, 1892, marked also the founding of Mother Cabrini's first hospital. At this time Italians were enjoying more esteem than usual and it was natural that this first hospital should be named for Columbus. Earlier Mother Cabrini had had some experience of hospital management in connection with the institution conducted by the Congregation of St. Charles Borromeo, but the new one was to be quite independent. With an initial capital of two hundred and fifty dollars, representing five contributions of fifty dollars each, Columbus Hospital began its existence on Twelfth Street in New York. Doctors offered it their services without charge, and the nuns tried to make up in zeal what they lacked in equipment. Gradually the place came to have a reputation that won for it adequate financial support. It moved to larger quarters on Twentieth Street, and continues to function to this day.

Mother Cabrini returned to Italy frequently to oversee the training of novices and to select the nuns best qualified for foreign service. She was in Rome to share in the Pope's Jubilee, celebrating his fifty years as a churchman. Back in New York in 1895, she accepted the invitation of the Archbishop of Buenos Aires to come down to Argentina and establish a school. The Nicaraguan school had been forced to close its doors as a result of a revolutionary overthrow of the government, and the nuns had moved to Panama and opened a school there. Mother Cabrini and her companion stopped to visit this new institution before proceeding by water down the Pacific Coast towards their destination. To avoid the stormy Straits of Magellan they had been advised to make the later stages of the journey by land, which meant a train trip from the coast to the mountains, across the Andes by mule-back, then another train trip to the capital. The nuns looked like Capuchin friars, for they wore brown fur-lined capes. On their unaccustomed mounts, guided by muleteers whose language they hardly understood, they followed the narrow trail over the backbone of the Andes, with frightening chasms below and icy winds whistling about their heads. The perilous crossing was made without serious mishap. On their arrival in Buenos Aires they learned that the archbishop who had invited them to come had died, and they were not sure of a welcome. It was not long, however, before Mother Cabrini's charm and sincerity had worked their usual spell, and she was entreated to open a school. She inspected dozens of sites before making a choice. When it came to the purchase of land she seemed to have excellent judgment as to what location would turn out to be good from all points of view. The school was for girls of wealthy families, for the Italians in Argentina were, on the average, more prosperous than those of North America. Another group of nuns came down from New York to serve as teachers. Here and in similar schools elsewhere, today's pupils became tomorrow's supporters of the foundations.

Not long afterward schools were opened in Paris, in England, and in Spain, where Mother Cabrini's work had the sponsorship of the queen. From the Latin countries in course of time came novice teachers for the South American schools. Another southern country, Brazil, was soon added to the lengthening roster, with establishments at Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Back in the United States Mother Cabrini started parochial schools in and around New York and an orphanage at Dobbs Ferry. In 1899 she founded the Sacred Heart Villa on Fort Washington Avenue, New York, as a school and training center for novices. In later years this place was her nearest approach to an American home. It is this section of their city that New Yorkers now associate with her, and here a handsome avenue bears her name.

Launching across the country, Mother Cabrini now extended her activities to the Pacific Coast. Newark, Scranton, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, all became familiar territory. In Colorado she visited the mining camps, where the high rate of fatal accidents left an unusually large number of fatherless children to be cared for. Wherever she went men and women began to take constructive steps for the remedying of suffering and wrong, so powerful was the stimulus of her personality. Her warm desire to serve God by helping people, especially children, was a steady inspiration to others. Yet the founding of each little school or orphanage seemed touched by the miraculous, for the necessary funds generally materialized in some last-minute, unexpected fashion.

In Seattle, in 1909, Mother Cabrini took the oath of allegiance to the United States and became a citizen of the country. She was then fifty-nine years old, and was looking forward to a future of lessened activity, possibly even to semi-retirement in the mother house at Cadogno. But for some years the journeys to and fro across the Atlantic went on; like a bird, she never settled long in one place. When she was far away, her nuns felt her presence, felt she understood their cares and pains. Her modest nature had always kept her from assuming an attitude of authority; indeed she even deplored being referred to as "head" of her Order. During the last years Mother Cabrini undoubtedly pushed her flagging energies to the limit of endurance. Coming back from a trip to the Pacific Coast in the late fall of 1917, she stopped in Chicago. Much troubled now over the war and all the new problems it brought, she suffered a recurrence of the malaria contracted many years before. Then, while she and other nuns were making preparations for a children's Christmas party in the hospital, a sudden heart attack ended her life on earth in a few minutes. The date was December 22, and she was sixty-seven. The little nun had been the friend of three popes, a foster-mother to thousands of children, for whom she had found means to provide shelter and food; she had created a flourishing order, and established many institutions to serve human needs.

It was not surprising that almost at once Catholics in widely separated places began saying to each other, "Surely she was a saint." This ground swell of popular feeling culminated in 1929 in the first official steps towards beatification. Ten years later she became Blessed Mother Cabrini, and Cardinal Mundelein, who had officiated at her funeral in Chicago, now presided at the beatification. Heralded by a great pealing of the bells of St. Peter's and the four hundred other churches of Rome, the canonization ceremony took place on July 7, 1946. Hundreds of devout Catholics from the United States were in attendance, as well as the highest dignitaries of the Church and lay noblemen. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American to be canonized, lies buried under the altar of the chapel of Mother Cabrini High School in New York City."

-- Lives of Saints published by John J Crawley & Co

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent: a great mystery is hidden therein

"Do you, therefore, to whom as to little ones God has revealed things hidden from the wise and prudent, turn your thoughts with earnestness to those that are truly desirable, and diligently meditate on this coming of our Lord. Consider Who He is that comes, whence He comes, to whom He comes, for what end He comes, when He comes, and in what manner He comes. This is undoubtedly a most useful and praiseworthy curiosity, for the Church would not so devoutly celebrate the season of Advent if there were not some great mystery hidden therein.

Wherefore, in the first place, let us with the Apostle consider in astonishment and admiration how great He is Who comes. According to the testimony of Gabriel, He is the Son of the Most High, and consequently a coequal with Him. Nor is it lawful to think that the Son of God is other than coequal with His Father. He is coequal in majesty; He is coequal in dignity. Who will deny that the sons of princes are princes, and the sons of kings kings?


For what end must we believe that He came? This question is the next in order to be examined ; nor will the search demand much labour, for the end and purpose of His coming is proclaimed by His words and His works. To seek after the one sheep of the hundred that had strayed He hastened from the mountains. For our sake He came down from heaven, that His mercies and His wonders might be openly proclaimed to the children of men.

O wonderful condescension of God in this search! O wonderful dignity of man who is thus sought! If he should wish to glory in this dignity, it would not be imputed to him as folly. Not that he need think anything of himself, but let him rejoice that He Who made him should set so high a value on him. For all the riches and glory of the world, all that is desirable therein, is far below this glory nay, can bear no comparison with it. " Lord, what is man that thou should magnify him? and why settest thou thy heart upon him?""

-- From a sermon by St Bernard of Clairvaux

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Memorial of Bl Mary of the Angels

Jesus, Mary, Joseph,
Blessed Trinity on earth,
I worship and adore you with the deepest affection.
When will my soul
live completely of Jesus.
All for Jesus,
all with Jesus!
You, O Mary, true Mother of Jesus,
you, Joseph, beloved father of Jesus
obtain for me
that I may have no heart other than for Jesus.
Life without Jesus [--]
may it be for me harder than dying.
Dying with Jesus
I have the sweetest of all life.
Blessed Father Joseph
true husband of Mary, worthy father of Jesus,
obtain for me to live forever
as a true servant of Jesus, the true daughter of Mary.
Into your hands
I commend my poor spirit
and my desolate soul,
so that at the hour it leaves this body
you receive it in your most holy hands
[and] retain it forever
in those of Jesus and Mary. Amen

-- Preghiera a San Giuseppe Bl Mary of the Angels, ocd
translated by ocdsister

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Solemnity of St John of the Cross

I live yet do not live in me,
am waiting as my life goes by,
and die because I do not die.

No longer do I live in me,
and without God I cannot live;
to him or me I cannot give
my self, so what can living be?
A thousand deaths my agony
waiting as my life goes by,
dying because I do not die.

This life I live alone I view
as robbery of life, and so
it is a constant death -- with no
way out until I live with you.
God, hear me, what I say is true:
I do not want this life of mine,
and die because I do not die.

Being so removed from you I say
what kind of life can I have here
but death so ugly and severe
and worse than any form of pain?
I pity me -- and yet my fate
is that I must keep up this lie,
and die because I do not die.

The fish taken out of the sea
is not without a consolation:
his dying is of brief duration
and ultimately brings relief.
Yet what convulsive death can be
as bad as my pathetic life?
The more I live the more I die.

When I begin to feel relief
on seeing you in the sacrament,
I sink in deeper discontent,
deprived of your sweet company.
Now everything compels my grief:
I want -- yet can't -- see you nearby,
and die because I do not die.

Although I find my pleasure, Sir,
in hope of someday seeing you,
I see that I can lose you too,
which makes my pain doubly severe,
and so I live in darkest fear,
and hope, wait as life goes by,
dying because I do not die.

Deliver me from death, my God,
and give me life; now you have wound
a rope about me; harshly bound
I ask you to release the cord.
See how I die to see you, Lord,
and I am shattered where I lie,
dying because I do not die.

My death will trigger tears in me,
and I shall mourn my life: a day
annihilated by the way
I fail and sin relentlessly.
O Father God, when will it be
that I can say without a lie:
I live because I do not die?

-- St John of the Cross
translated by Willins Barnstone

Monday, December 13, 2010

Commemoration of St Lucy

"The glorious virgin and martyr St. Lucy, one of the brightest ornaments of the church of Sicily, was born of honourable and wealthy parents in the city of Syracusa, and educated from her cradle in the faith of Christ. She lost her father in her infancy, but Eutychia, her mother, took singular care to furnish her with tender and sublime sentiments of piety and religion. By the early impressions which Lucy received and the strong influence of divine grace, Lucy discovered no disposition but toward virtue, and she was yet very young when she offered to God the flower of her virginity. This vow, however, she kept a secret, and her mother, who was a stranger to it, pressed her to marry a young gentleman who was a pagan. The saint sought occasions to hinder this design from taking effect, and her mother was visited with a long and troublesome flux of blood, under which she laboured four years without finding any remedy by recourse to physicians. At length she was persuaded by her daughter to go to Catana and offer up her prayers to God for relief at the tomb of St. Agatha. St. Lucy accompanied her thither, and their prayers were successful.

Hereupon our saint disclosed to her mother her desire of devoting herself to God in a state of perpetual virginity, and of bestowing her fortune on the poor: and Eutychia, in gratitude, left her at full liberty to pursue her pious inclinations. The young nobleman, with whom the mother had treated about marrying her, came to understand this by the sale of her jewels and goods, and the distribution of the price among the poor, and in his rage accused her before the governor Paschasius as a Christian, the persecution of Diocletian then raging with the utmost fury. The judge commanded the holy virgin to be exposed to prostitution in a brothel" house; but God rendered her immovable, so that the guards were not able to carry her thither. He also made her an over-match for the cruelty of the persecutors, in overcoming fire and other torments. After a long and glorious combat she died in prison of the wounds she had received,—about the year 304. She was honoured at Rome in the sixth century among the most illustrious virgins and martyrs, whose triumphs the church celebrates, as appears from the Sacramentary of St. Gregory, Bede, and others. Her festival was kept in England till the change of religion, as a holy day of the second rank, in which no work but tillage or the like was allowed. Her body remained at Syracusa for many years; but was at length translated into Italy, and thence by the authority of the Emperor Otho I to Metz, as Sigebert of Gemblours relates. It is there exposed to public veneration in a rich chapel of St. Vincent's Church. A portion of her relics was carried to Constantinople and brought thence to Venice, where it is kept with singular veneration. St. Lucy is often painted with the balls of her eyes laid in a dish: perhaps her eyes were defaced or plucked out, though her present acts make no mention of any such circumstance. In many places her intercession is particularly implored for distempers of the eyes.

It is a matter of the greatest consequence what ideas are stamped upon the ductile minds of children, what sentiments are impressed on their hearts, and to what habits they are first formed. Let them be inured to little denials both in their will and senses, and learn that pleasures which gratify the senses must be guarded against, and used with great fear and moderation: for by them the taste is debauched, and the constitution of the soul broken and spoiled much more fatally than that of the body can be by means contrary to its health.

There are few Lucys nowadays among Christian ladies, because sensuality, pride, and vanity are instilled into their minds by the false maxims and pernicious example of those with whom they first converse. Alas I unless a constant watchfulness and restraint both produce and strengthen good habits, the inclinations of our souls lean of their own accord toward corruption."

-- The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints by Rev Alban Butler

**Painting by Lorenzo Lotto

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas and Protectress of the Unborn.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mystical Rose, make intercession for the Holy Church, protect the Sovereign Pontiff, help all those who invoke thee in their necessities, and since thou art the ever Virgin Mary, and Mother of the True God, obtain for us from thy most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, of burning charity, and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.

One Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the gratitude for the Miraculous Portrait as a continuing miracle and testimony.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

** I apologize for the lack of posts in the past few days. I made a mistake programming the posts and didn't realize until now. I have been somewhat ill - nothing major - and, thus, haven't checked the e-mail for almost two months. Please forgive me and bear with me as I catch up. The Lord is very good and now I'm back... :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

"Our predecessors, indeed, by virtue of their apostolic authority, gloried in instituting the Feast of the Conception in the Roman Church. They did so to enhance its importance and dignity by a suitable Office and Mass, whereby the prerogative of the Virgin, her exception from the hereditary taint, was most distinctly affirmed. As to the homage already instituted, they spared no effort to promote and to extend it either by the granting of indulgences, or by allowing cities, provinces and kingdoms to choose as their patroness God's own Mother, under the title of "The Immaculate Conception." Again, our predecessors approved confraternities, congregations and religious communities founded in honor of the Immaculate Conception, monasteries, hospitals, altars, or churches; they praised persons who vowed to uphold with all their ability the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God. Besides, it afforded the greatest joy to our predecessors to ordain that the Feast of the Conception should be celebrated in every church with the very same honor as the Feast of the Nativity; that it should be celebrated with an octave by the whole Church; that it should be reverently and generally observed as a holy day of obligation; and that a pontifical Capella should be held in our Liberian pontifical basilica on the day dedicated to the conception of the Virgin. Finally, in their desire to impress this doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God upon the hearts of the faithful, and to intensify the people's piety and enthusiasm for the homage and the veneration of the Virgin conceived without the stain of original sin, they delighted to grant, with the greatest pleasure, permission to proclaim the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin in the Litany of Loreto, and in the Preface of the Mass, so that the rule of prayer might thus serve to illustrate the rule of belief. Therefore, we ourselves, following the procedure of our predecessors, have not only approved and accepted what had already been established, but bearing in mind, moreover, the decree of Sixtus IV, have confirmed by our authority a proper Office in honor of the Immaculate Conception, and have with exceeding joy extended its use to the universal Church.


To these praises they have added very noble words. Speaking of the conception of the Virgin, they testified that nature yielded to grace and, unable to go on, stood trembling. The Virgin Mother of God would not be conceived by Anna before grace would bear its fruits; it was proper that she be conceived as the first-born, by whom "the first-born of every creature" would be conceived. They testified, too, that the flesh of the Virgin, although derived from Adam, did not contract the stains of Adam, and that on this account the most Blessed Virgin was the tabernacle created by God himself and formed by the Holy Spirit, truly a work in royal purple, adorned and woven with gold, which that new Beseleel[26] made. They affirmed that the same Virgin is, and is deservedly, the first and especial work of God, escaping the fiery arrows the evil one; that she is beautiful by nature and entirely free from all stain; that at her Immaculate Conception she came into the world all radiant like the dawn. For it was certainly not fitting that this vessel of election should be wounded by the common injuries, since she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin. In fact, it was quite fitting that, as the Only-Begotten has a Father in heaven, whom the Seraphim extol as thrice holy, so he should have a Mother on earth who would never be without the splendor of holiness.

This doctrine so filled the minds and souls of our ancestors in the faith that a singular and truly marvelous style of speech came into vogue among them. They have frequently addressed the Mother of God as immaculate, as immaculate in every respect; innocent, and verily most innocent; spotless, and entirely spotless; holy and removed from every stain of sin; all pure, all stainless, the very model of purity and innocence; more beautiful than beauty, more lovely than loveliness; more holy than holiness, singularly holy and most pure in soul and body; the one who surpassed all integrity and virginity; the only one who has become the dwelling place of all the graces of the most Holy Spirit. God alone excepted, Mary is more excellent than all, and by nature fair and beautiful, and more holy than the Cherubim and Seraphim. To praise her all the tongues of heaven and earth do not suffice.


Therefore, having full trust in the Lord that the opportune time had come for defining the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, which Holy Scripture, venerable Tradition, the constant mind of the Church, the desire of Catholic bishops and the faithful, and the memorable Acts and Constitutions of our predecessors, wonderfully illustrate and proclaim, and having most diligently considered all things, as we poured forth to God ceaseless and fervent prayers, we concluded that we should no longer delay in decreeing and defining by our supreme authority the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. And thus, we can satisfy the most holy desire of the Catholic world as well as our own devotion toward the most holy Virgin, and at the same time honor more and more the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord through his holy Mother -- since whatever honor and praise are bestowed on the Mother redound to the Son.
Wherefore, in humility and fasting, we unceasingly offered our private prayers as well as the public prayers of the Church to God the Father through his Son, that he would deign to direct and strengthen our mind by the power of the Holy Spirit. In like manner did we implore the help of the entire heavenly host as we ardently invoked the Paraclete. Accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful."

-- Ineffabilis Deus: Apostolic Constitution of Pope Pius IX on the Immaculate Conception (December 8, 1854)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Memorial of St Ambrose

"Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was the son of another Ambrose, a Roman citizen, and was born when his father was Prefect of Gaul.  A swarm of bees settled upon his face when he was in his cradle, which was considered an omen of his future eloquence.  He received a liberal education at Rome.  He was afterwards, under the Prefect Probus, made governor of Liguria and Aemília, and so came with authority to Milan.  Auxentius, an Arian, who had been intruded into the Bishoprick of Milan, happening to die, the most violent disputes arose about the choice of a successor.  Ambrose came to the church in his official capacity, and urged upon the contending factions, in a long and powerful speech, the necessity of keeping the public peace; whereupon a child suddenly cried out, Ambrose, Bishop, and the whole assembly took it up, and unanimously called for his election.

Ambrose refused, and would not yield to their prayers, whereupon they carried their petition to the Emperor Valentinian.  It was very pleasing to this Prince that those he had appointed as judges should be chosen Bishops, as also the Prefect Probus, who had, as it were prophetically, said to him when he appointed him, Go and govern them more like a Bishop than a Judge.  When the will of the Emperor was added to the desire of the people, Ambrose yielded, and received Baptism (for hitherto he was only a Catechumen), Confirmation and Communion, and then the several Orders on successive days, till on the eighth day, which was the 7th of December, the weight of the Episcopate was laid upon his shoulders.  Being made Bishop, he shewed himself a stout upholder of the Catholic faith, and the discipline of the Church, and turned to the truth great numbers of Arians and other heretics, and, among them, he begat in Christ Jesus that burning and shining light of the Church, Augustine.

After the murder of the Emperor Gratian, Ambrose was sent as an ambassador to Máximus, by whom he had been slain, and, as he refused to repent, the Bishop renounced his communion.  After the massacre which the Emperor Theodosius had commanded at Thessalonica, he refused to permit that Prince to enter a church.  The Emperor pleaded that he was no worse than David, who had been guilty of adultery and murder, to which Ambrose answered him, As thou hast followed him in his sin, follow him also in his repentance.  Then Theodosius humbly did public penance laid upon him by the Bishop.  At length the Saint was worn out with his continual labour and care for the Church (for the which also he composed many excellent books), and foretold that the day of his death was at hand, though he had not then fallen into his last sickness.  As he lay dying, Honoratus, Bishop of Vercelli, heard a voice from God three times crying to him that the hour of Ambrose's departure was come, whereupon he went to him quickly, and gave him the sacred Body of our Lord.  When he had received it, the Saint, still praying, with his hands stretched out in the form of a cross, gave his spirit to God, upon the 4th day of April, in the year of Christ 397."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

** 5th century mosaic of St Ambrose

Monday, December 6, 2010

Commemoration of St Nicholas

"Nicholas was born at the famous city of Patara in Lycia.  His parents obtained him from God by prayer, and the holiness of his life was marked even from the cradle.  When he was at the breast he never would suck more than once on Wednesdays and Fridays, and that always after sunset, though he sucked freely on other days.  This custom of fasting he never broke through during his whole life.  While he was still a young man he lost both his father and mother, after which he gave his whole property away to the poor.  One particular example is given of his Christian charity.  There was a certain needy man in the city who had three marriageable daughters, for whom he could not get husbands, and so thought to make them harlots.  When Nicholas heard of it, he went to the house by night and threw in by the window such a sum of money as made a dowry for one of them.  This he did a second and a third time, and thus by his charity they were honourably given in marriage.

When he had given himself entirely to God he set forth for Palestine, that he might see the Holy Places, and worship therein.  During this pilgrimage he embarked once on board a ship when the sky was clear and the sea calm, but he foretold a great storm, which afterwards arose and raged until the sailors were afraid; and then the saint by prayer stilled the tempest.  After he had returned home, and his holy life was known to all men, God bade him to to Myra, which is the chief city of Lycia, at a time when the Bishop had just died and the Bishops of the Province were called together to choose a successor.  While they deliberated, they received a warning from heaven to choose that Nicholas who should first come into the church in the morning.  In obedience to that warning, Nicholas was seized at the door of the church, and with universal consent consecrated Archbishop.  In his great office he was an unceasing model of purity, as he had always been, of gravity, of regularity in prayer, of watching, of abstinence, of charity, of hospitality, of meekness in exhortation, and of sternness in rebuke.

He was the comforter of widows and orphans by money, by advice, and by labour.  He was the deliverer of the oppressed, so mightily, that it is related that the Emperor Constantine once unjustly condemned three Tribunes to death, and these unhappy men called upon Nicholas, though living and absent, to save them, who yet appeared in a vision to the Emperor, and forced him by threats to set them free.  When the Emperors Diocletian and Maximian published their edict against Christianity, Nicholas did not cease to preach the truth at Myra, wherefore he was seized by the soldiers of the Emperors, carried away from his See, and thrown into prison, where he remained until the accession of Constantine.  This Prince set him free, and he returned to Myra.  He betook himself to the first Council of Nicea, where he was one of the 318 Bishops who condemned the heresy of Arius.  He returned thence to his Bishoprick, and, not long after, became aware of the approach of death.  When his last moment was come, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and, when he saw the Angels coming to meet him, he began to recite the thirtieth Psalm, In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust, and when he had said, Into thy hands I commend my spirit, he passed to the heavenly Fatherland.  His body was finally removed to Bari in Apulia, where it is kept with great fame and honour."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Memorial of St Bibiana

"Bibiana was a Roman maiden, distinguished on account of the nobility of her family, but now far more distinguished for her confession of Christ.  In the reign of the foul tyrant, Julian the Apostate, her father Flavian, although he was an ex-Prefect, was branded as a slave and banished to Aquapendente, not far from Rome, where he soon died a martyr for his faith.  His wife, Dafrosa, and his two daughters, Bibiana and Demetria, were first imprisoned in their own house, with the idea of starving them to death; but the mother was afterwards taken outside the city and beheaded.  Bibiana and her sister Demetria, after the death of their holy parents, were stripped of all they had in the world.  Apronianus, Governor of the city, who hankered after their property, continued to persecute them, but although they were destitute of all human support, God, who giveth bread to the hungry, fed them, and kept them in health, life, and strength, to the wonder of their enemies.

Apronianus then attacked them to make them worship the gods of the Gentiles, and promised them the restoration of their property, the favour of the Emperor, and a great marriage for each of them, if they would give way, and, on the other hand, imprisonment, stripes, and death.  But neither promises nor threats availed, for they remained firm in the faith, being resolved rather to die than to pollute themselves by doing according to the deeds of the heathen; and, as for the iniquity of the Governor, they loathed it continually.  At length the strength of Demetria gave way, and she fell down suddenly, and died in the Lord, before the eyes of her sister Bibiana.  Then Bibiana was put into the hands of an artful woman named Rufina, to seduce her if possible; but she had known the law of Christ from her childhood, and kept the lily of her purity undefiled, triumphing over the efforts of that vile person, and disappointing the lust of the Governor.

Then, when Rufina saw that her false words availed not, she took to blows, and scourged Bibiana daily, but the saint was not staggered in her holy resolution.  At last the Governor, mad with baffled lust, when he found his labour was thrown away, ordered his lictors to strip her naked, hang her up by the hands to a pillar, and flog her to death with whips weighted with lead.  When all was over, her sacred body was thrown out for the dogs to eat.  It lay two days in the Forum Tauri, but the animals would not touch it; and, at last, a Priest, named John, took it, and buried it by night beside the graves of her mother and sister, near the Licinian Palace.  This is the place where there is still a church, dedicated in the name of St. Bibiana.  When this church was being restored by Urban VIII, the bodies of these three holy women, Bibiana, Demetria, and Dafrosa, were found, and were re-buried under the High Altar."

-- From the 1911 Breviary of St Pius X (1955 ed)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A new spirituality

"The teaching of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was based on this central experience. The greatest grace of her life was her understanding of Mercy. The theology she elaborated flowed from a personal insight, something which came naturally to her. At times she experienced suffering so intense that she said, "When I am in heaven, if I have been mistaken about this, I will come and let you know. But in the depths of her being she was certain. Her entire teaching flowed from this light in the next talk I shall try to enlarge on this, but now I should like to show how this doctrine has changed our spirituality, so to say. She was not the only one, there had been other messages of Love through the ages, but I believe that Thérèse's is still the most important one from a theological and spiritual point of view.

In the years following her death Pius X recommended frequent Communion, which points us toward positive holiness. The holiness and asceticism of the 19th century were negative: people sought above all to purify themselves and make reparation to God. The characteristic note of spirituality in our times is the positive aspect of love which has become a part of our way of life. This is why it succeeds. in each era we follow the grace and light God gives us. Formerly the stress was more on sacrifice; today it is on presence and contact. There was a grandeur about former times, but people did not have the same understanding of Love and Mercy. Their spirituality did not appeal to the majority, since few were strong enough to live by it. Now, on the other hand, as the concept of divine Mercy has been brought to the fore, it has been a powerful influence in opening up the mystical life to the many. 

Two periods can be distinguished here. I believe St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus is the herald of the new one. She has exemplified and modernized, in a certain sense, the spirituality of St. Paul, who said, "Through the grace of God I am what I am, and the grace he gave me has not been without result" 

Thérèse's greatness lay in her discovery of Mercy. On one occasion she said to her infirmarian, "You know well that you are taking care of a little saint." They cut her finger nails. 'Keep them,' she said, "some day someone will treasure them." She also remarked: 'They say I have virtue but that isn't true; they are mistaken. I do not have virtue. God gives me what I need at each instant. I have only what I need for the present moment. These paradoxes are extraordinary and disconcerting. There is a certain quality of greatness in St. Thérèse. I assure you that I have studied her in depth for forty years and her greatness has often overwhelmed me. She has renewed our understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as we see them operating in her contemplation. It harmonizes with the teaching of St. Thomas. It is not a matter of sentimentality or of novelties. It is a rediscovery, an illustration of the traditional doctrine. I believe this is one of the great graces granted to our times. 

In her surroundings, Thérèse was unique. I have known Mother Agnes since 1927. I loved and revered her deeply. She was a very holy soul, and the same was true of Sister Genevieve. But St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was a giant in comparison and far surpassed them. She is the only one, we could say, to have read and perfectly understood St. John of the Cross. In spite of her superior intelligence and spiritual knowledge, however, she showed perfect submission - a sure proof that her understanding was indeed supernatural. 

To be practical, we should exploit this theological knowledge of God, of Mercy. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus has left her mark on our times. She has, so to say, popularized contemplation and sanctity itself."

God is Love by Fr Marie-Eugene of the Child Jesus, ocd