Monday, November 30, 2009

Feast of St Andrew Apostle

"St Andrew, the Apostle, son of Jonah, or John (Matthew 16:17; John 1:42), was born in Bethsaida of Galilee (John 1:44). He was brother of Simon (Peter) (Matthew 10:2; John 1:40). Both were fishermen (Matthew 4:18; Mark 1:16), and at the beginning of Our Lord's public life occupied the same house at Capharnaum (Mark 1:21, 29).

From the fourth Gospel we learn that Andrew was a disciple of the Baptist, whose testimony first led him and John the Evangelist to follow Jesus (John 1:35-40). Andrew at once recognized Jesus as the Messias, and hastened to introduce Him to his brother, Peter, (John 1:41). Thenceforth the two brothers were disciples of Christ. On a subsequent occasion, prior to the final call to the apostolate, they were called to a closer companionship, and then they left all things to follow Jesus (Luke 5:11; Matthew 4:19-20; Mark 1:17-18).

Finally Andrew was chosen to be one of the Twelve; and in the various lists of Apostles given in the New Testament (Matthew 10:2-4); Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13) he is always numbered among the first four. The only other explicit reference to him in the Synoptists occurs in Mark 13:3, where we are told he joined with Peter, James and John in putting the question that led to Our Lord's great eschatological discourse. In addition to this scanty information, we learn from the fourth Gospel that on the occasion of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, it was Andrew who said: "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes: but what are these among so many?" (John 6:8-9); and when, a few days before Our Lord's death, certain Greeks asked Philip that they might see Jesus, Philip referred the matter to Andrew as to one of greater authority, and then both told Christ (John 12:20-22). Like the majority of the Twelve, Andrew is not named in the Acts except in the list of the Apostles, where the order of the first four is Peter, John, James, Andrew; nor have the Epistles or the Apocalypse any mention of him.

From what we know of the Apostles generally, we can, of course, supplement somewhat these few details. As one of the Twelve, Andrew was admitted to the closest familiarity with Our Lord during His public life; he was present at the Last Supper; beheld the risen Lord; witnessed the Ascension; shared in the graces and gifts of the first Pentecost, and helped, amid threats and persecution, to establish the Faith in Palestine.

When the Apostles went forth to preach to the Nations, Andrew seems to have taken an important part, but unfortunately we have no certainty as to the extent or place of his labours. Eusebius (Church History III.1), relying, apparently, upon Origen, assigns Scythia as his mission field: Andras de [eilechen] ten Skythian; while St. Gregory of Nazianzus (Oration 33) mentions Epirus; St. Jerome (Ep. ad Marcell.) Achaia; and Theodoret (on Ps. cxvi) Hellas. Probably these various accounts are correct, for Nicephorus (H.E. II:39), relying upon early writers, states that Andrew preached in Cappadocia, Galatia, and Bithynia, then in the land of the anthropophagi and the Scythian deserts, afterwards in Byzantium itself, where he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop, and finally in Thrace, Macedonia, Thessaly, and Achaia. It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia, and that he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St Andrew's, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60); and both the Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast.

St Andrew's relics were translated from Patrae to Constantinople, and deposited in the church of the Apostles there, about A.D. 357. When Constantinople was taken by the French, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, Cardinal Peter of Capua brought the relics to Italy and placed them in the cathedral of Amalfi, where most of them still remain. St Andrew is honoured as their chief patron by Russia and Scotland."

-- The Catholic Encyclopedia


"The words on the scroll are the words of St Andrew to his brother Peter—”we have found the Messiah” - in Latin, Gaelic and English. (...) In eastern tradition St Andrew is shown in green, or in red to recall his martyrdom. The gilding, which forms the background of the icon, represents the mystery of God. The red line at the top of the icon reminds us that salvation has been made possible through the spilling of the Precious Blood."

This icon is on display at the National Shrine of St Andrew at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Let us accomplish in our soul the interior emptiness that allows Him to communicate eternal life

“The holy time of Advent is going to begin. It is the most suitable time for interior souls, for those souls who constantly and through all things live hidden with Christ in God in the depths of themselves. During the waiting [period] of the great mystery, I like to meditate on that beautiful psalm 18 that we frequently pray during Matins and, above all, these verses: In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens […] and there is nothing hid from its heat.

Let us accomplish in our soul that interior emptiness that allows Him to cast Himself over it and communicate to it His own eternal life. The Father has given Him for this end every power as the Gospel tells us. So… let us listen to Him in the silence of prayer. He is the Beginning that speaks within us. He tells us Himself: He who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from Him.

Let us ask Him to make us sincere in our love, that is, to make us sacrificed souls because sacrifice is love put into action. He loved me and gave Himself for me.

This thought enthuses me; ‘The life of the priest and [that of] the Carmelite is an Advent the prepares the Incarnation in souls.’

The prophet David sings in a psalm: Fire goes before the Lord. That fire, is it not love? And our mission, does it not consist also in preparing the ways of the Lord uniting ourselves with Him who, according to the Apostle, is consuming Fire? At its touch, our soul will be transformed in a flame of love that diffuses itself through all the members of the body of Christ that is the Church. In this way, we will console the Heart of our divine Master {Teacher}, who presenting us to His Father will be able to say: I am glorified in them.”

-- Elisabeth de la Trinité: Œuvres complètes translated by ocdister

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Do you have 15 minutes as a gift to scriptural reading?

"To regularly read the Bible takes time, and time is a scarce commodity. So we think! Human beings have an unusual capacity always to find time for nonessential things but not for what will give them true happiness. We leave the most important to the last. Intentions can be good. When we have washed the dishes and cleaned the house, when everything in its place and the whole house is in order, then we can devote ourselves to prayer and reading in peace. But a house is never completely in order, new things constantly emerge that should and could be done.

We find time for most things. But we lack the time intended to devote to Bible-reading, just ten or fifteen minutes. The days is precisely fifteen minutes too short! Would it help if the day were somewhat longer? Not at all. At least once a year we get an extra hour, when we leave summer time in October and return to normal time. Do we then find more time to pray?

How often does it not happen that we suddenly gain one or two hours because something we intended to do was unexpectedly done by another or because an invited guest sent regrets? All at once, there was an entire afternoon unexpectedly at our disposal. But immediately masses of new things to do offer themselves to fill the vacant time. Just imagine if we gave all the time we get in this was as a gift to prayer or scriptural reading? The words of Christ would really live in us in all riches and with all his wisdom (Col 3:16).

John Crysostom (c 345-407) speaks hard words to those who don't think that Bible-reading is so important:

All of you perhaps say: 'I'm not a monk.' But you're mistaken when you believe that the Scriptures only concern monks while you, ordinary believers, need it much more. There is something which is more serious and sinful than not to read the Scriptures, namely to believe that scriptural reading is unnecessary and serves no purpose.'"

-- Nourished by the Word: Reading the Bible Contemplatively by Fr Wilfrid Stinissen, ocd


The "I don't have time" or "I have too much to do" problem is also endemic to religious life, from the active to the cloistered. Sad, but true. It is so easy to get all caught up in "I need to do this", "I should do that"... That Scripture reading, and even prayer at times, can be neglected. This is more so for lay persons, particularly those married with children (in my opinion). There will always be things to be done. Is there anything at all that can be pushed back for 15 minutes without there being a catastrophe? Then try to do so, and offer those minutes to God, to listen to His word speak to YOU.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Where are You, my Beloved?

"My Beloved, where are You? Who has seen my Beloved? I have searched for Him and I have not found Him...

My Beloved, I walk, I run, I weep: I have not found my Beloved...

O Jesus, my Love, I cannot live without You. Where are You, my Beloved? Who has seen my Jesus? Who has found me Beloved?

You know, my Love, that all the earth means nothing to me without You and all the waters of the sea would not suffice to refresh my heart."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day in the USA and territories

If you got up this morning feeling more healthy than sick, then you are luckier than 1 million of other humans who will be dead by next week.

If you never fought in a war, were never in a prison, have never been tortured, and have never felt the agony of constant hunger, then you are luckier than 500 million of other fellows living in this world.

If you can freely practice your religion without the threat of prison or death, then you are happier than 3 million others.

If you have food in your fridge, have clothing to wear, a roof over your head and a place to lay your head, you are wealthier than 75% of other people.

If you have a bank account, some money in your wallet you belong to the to 8% of the wealthiest people in the world.
Source: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. (UNCTAD)
Psalm 118
1 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his steadfast love endures for ever!
2 Let Israel say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
3 Let the house of Aaron say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
4 Let those who fear the LORD say, "His steadfast love endures for ever."
5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.
6* With the LORD on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?
7 The LORD is on my side to help me; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
9 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
10 All nations surrounded me; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11 They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side; in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees, they blazed* like a fire of thorns; in the name of the LORD I cut them off! 13 I was pushed hard, * so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.
14 The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.
15 Hark, glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous: "The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
16 the right hand of the LORD is exalted, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!"
17 I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18 The LORD has chastened me sorely, but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD.
20 This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it.
21 I thank thee that thou hast answered me and hast become my salvation.
22* The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.
23 This is the LORD's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
25* Save us, we beseech thee, O LORD! O LORD, we beseech thee, give us success!
26 Blessed be he who enters in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27 The LORD is God, and he has given us light. Bind the festal procession with branches, up to the horns of the altar!
28 Thou art my God, and I will give thanks to thee; thou art my God, I will extol thee.
29 O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!
This year, just about everyone is feeling the pressures of the sad economic times, job losses and great difficulty finding new employment, etc. It's easy to feel stressed, anxious, and even depressed. But there is much to be thankful for: family, friends, our Faith, God's blessings and love for us... There are many people that spend this American holiday by themselves, alone. Even if you're not able to share a meal with them, consider contacting them, call them on the phone and wish them a day full of God's graces and blessings. You will brighten their day and share in the true spirit of thanksgiving: "O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures for ever!" Hapy Thanksgiving Day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nothing puts the devils to flight like holy water

"I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like holy water. They run away before the sign of the cross also, but they return immediately: great, then, must be the power of holy water. As for me, my soul is conscious of a special and most distinct consolation whenever I take it. Indeed, I feel almost always a certain refreshing, which I cannot describe, together with an inward joy, which comforts my whole soul. This is no fancy, nor a thing which has occurred once only; for it has happened very often, and I have watched it very carefully. I may compare what I feel with that which happens to a person in great heat, and very thirsty, drinking a cup of cold water -- his whole being is refreshed. I consider that everything ordained by the Church is very important; and I have a joy in reflecting that the words of the Church are so mighty, that they endow water with power, so that there shall be so great a difference between holy water and water that has never been blessed. Then, as my pains did not cease, I told them, if they would not laugh, I would ask for some holy water. They brought me some, and sprinkled me with it; but I was no better. I then threw some myself in the direction of the negro, when he fled in a moment. All my sufferings ceased, just as if some one had taken them from me with his hand; only I was wearied, as if I had been beaten with many blows. It was of great service to me to learn that if, by our Lord's permission, Satan can do so much evil to a soul and body not in his power, he can do much more when he has them in his possession. It gave me a renewed desire to be delivered from a fellowship so dangerous."

-- The Life of St Teresa of Avila by St Teresa of Avila

Traditionally, in Carmel, usually on Sundays, a sister sprinkles all the rooms, offices and chapels in the monastery. Each cell (bedroom) also contains a vial of holy water so that each sister may sprinkle her cell and anoint herself when getting up in the morning, and in the evening before retiring. Consider keeping a bottle of this sacramental in your home and office, and anoint yourself while making the Sign of the Cross.

St Teresa had great confidence in the power of holy water to ward off evil. You may read more about St Teresa's experience with holy water on Chapter 31 of the book of her life (see column in the left for a link to a free online version).

Memorial of St Catherine of Alexandria

"From the tenth century onwards veneration for St. Catherine of Alexandria has been widespread in the Church of the East, and from the time of the Crusades this saint has been popular in the West, where many churches have been dedicated to her and her feast day kept with great solemnity, sometimes as a holy-day of obligation. She is listed as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of mankind among the saints in Heaven; she is the patroness of young women, philosophers, preachers, theologians, wheelwrights, millers, and other workingmen. She was said to have appeared with Our Lady to St. Dominic and to Blessed Reginald of Orleans; the Dominicans adopted her as their special protectress. Hers was one of the heavenly voices heard by St. Joan of Arc.

Artists have painted her with her chief emblem, the wheel, on which by tradition she was tortured; other emblems are a lamb and a sword. Her name continues to be cherished today by the young unmarried women of Paris.

Yet in spite of this veneration, we have few facts that can be relied on concerning Catherine's life. Eusebius, "father of Church history," writing around the year 320, had heard of a noble young Christian woman of Alexandria whom the Emperor ordered to come to his palace, presumably to become his mistress, and who, on refusing, was punished by banishment and the confiscation of her estates. The story of St. Catherine may have sprung from some brief record such as this, which Christians writing at a later date expanded. The last persecutions of Christians, though short, were severe, and those living in the peace which followed seem to have had a tendency to embellish the traditions of their martyrs that they might not be forgotten.

According to the popular tradition, Catherine was born of a patrician family of Alexandria and from childhood had devoted herself to study. Through her reading she had learned much of Christianity and had been converted by a vision of Our Lady and the Holy Child. When Maxentius began his persecution, Catherine, then a beautiful young girl, went to him and rebuked him boldly for his cruelty. He could not answer her arguments against his pagan gods, and summoned fifty philosophers to confute her. They all confessed themselves won over by her reasoning, and were thereupon burned to death by the enraged Emperor. He then tried to seduce Catherine with an offer of a consort's crown, and when she indignantly refused him, he had her beaten and imprisoned. The Emperor went off to inspect his military forces, and when he got back he discovered that his wife Faustina and a high official, one Porphyrius, had been visiting Catherine and had been converted, along with the soldiers of the guard. They too were put to death, and Catherine was sentenced to be killed on a spiked wheel.

When she was fastened to the wheel, her bonds were miraculously loosed and the wheel itself broke, its spikes flying off and killing some of the onlookers. She was then beheaded. The modern Catherine-wheel, from which sparks fly off in all directions, took its name from the saint's wheel of martyrdom. The text of the of this illustrious saint states that her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai, where a church and monastery were afterwards built in her honor. This legend was, however, unknown to the earliest pilgrims to the mountain. In 527 the Emperor Justinian built a fortified monastery for hermits in that region, and two or three centuries later the story of St. Catherine and the angels began to be circulated."
-- Lives of Saints by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

St Catherine of Alexandria is patron saint of young women, millers, philosophers, preachers, spinners, students and wheelwrights. This painting depicting St Catherine is by Caravaggio.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our prayers and good works can help and serve to deliver the souls in purgatory

"We maintain, then, that we may pray for the faithful departed, and that the prayers and good works of the living greatly relieve them and are profitable to them -for this reason, that all those who die in the grace of God, and consequently in the number of the elect, do not go to Paradise at the very first moment, but many go to Purgatory, where they suffer a temporal punishment, from which our prayers and good works can help and serve to deliver them. There lies the point of our difference.

We agree that the blood of Our Redeemer is the true purgatory of souls; for in it are cleansed all the souls in the world; whence S. Paul speaks of it, in the 1st of Hebrews, as making purgation of sins. Tribuations also are a purgatory, by which our souls are rendered pure, as gold is refined in the furnace. The furnace trieth the potter's vessels, and the trial of affliction just men.(Ecclus. xxvii) Penance and contrition again form a certain purgatory, as David said of old in the 50th Psalm: Thou shalt wash me, 0 Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed. It is well known also that Baptism in which our sins are washed away can be again called a purgatory, as everything can be that serves to purge away our offences: but here we take Purgatory for a place in which after this life the souls which leave this world before they have been perfectly cleansed from the stains which they have contracted since nothing can enter Paradise which is not pure and undefiled-are detained in order to be washed and purified. And if one would know why this place is called simply Purgatory more than are the other means of purgation above-named, the answer will be, that it is because in that place nothing takes place but the purgation of the stains which remain at the time of departure out of this world, whereas in Baptism, Penance, tribulations, and the rest, not only is the soul purged from its imperfections, but it is further enriched with many graces and perfections ; whence the name of Purgatory has been limited to that place in the other world which, properly speaking, is for no purpose but the purification of souls. And agreeing as to the blood of Our Lord, we so fully acknowledge the virtue thereof, that we protest by all our prayers that the purgation of souls, whether in this world or in the other, is made solely by its application:-more jealous of the honour due to this precious medicine than those who so highly value it that they undervalue the using of it. Therefore by Purgatory we understand a place where souls for a time are purged of the spots and imperfections they carry with them from this mortal life."

-- The Doctrine of Purgatory by St Francis de Sales


The end of November is just around the corner. Remember to offer a charitable alms for the souls in purgatory: Communions, prayers, skipping dessert, patience at the grocery store or that traffic jam making your blood boil under your skin...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Memorial of St Columban

"Saint Columban (540-615) was born in Ireland sometime between the year 540 and 550. He became a monk at Bangor and was sent as a missionary to Gaul with twelve other monks in 585. He built his first monastery at Annegray in 590 followed by two more at Luxeuil and Fontaines. Soon his followers spread to France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy. The strict rule he imposed on these monasteries was observed in Gaul until the rule of Saint Benedict replaced it He so angered King Theodoric II of Burgundy over Columban's denunciation of the king's practice of keeping concubines that the king banished all Irish monks from his realm. Columban decided to flee the area and crossed the Alps to Italy and was welcomed in Milan by King Agilulf of the Lombards. He founded a monastery at Bobbio near Milan which became one of the great monasteries of its time as a center of culture, learning and spirituality. He died there in 615 leaving behind a collection of spiritual writings including his Monastic Rule, sermons, poetry and treatises against Arianism. Below is one of his spiritual instructions.


Brethren, let us follow that vocation by which we are called from life to the fountain of life. He is the fountain, not only of living water but of eternal life. He is the fountain of light and spiritual illumination; for from him come all these things: wisdom, life and eternal light. The author of life is the fountain of life; the creator of light is the fountain of spiritual illumination. Therefore, let us seek the fountain of light and life and the living water by despising what we see, by leaving the world and by dwelling in the highest heavens. Let us seek these things, and like rational and shrewd fish may we drink the living water which wells up to eternal life.

Merciful God, good Lord, I wish that you would unite me to that fountain, that there I may drink of the living spring of the water of life with those others who thirst after you. There in that heavenly region may I ever dwell, delighted with abundant sweetness, and say: "How sweet is the fountain of living water which never fails, the water welling up to eternal life."

O God, you are yourself that fountain ever and again to be desired, ever and again to be consumed. Lord Christ, always give us this water to be for us the source of the living water which wells up to eternal life. I ask you for your great benefits. Who does not know it? You, King of glory, know how to give great gifts, and you have promised them; there is nothing greater than you, and you bestowed yourself upon us; you gave yourself for us.

Therefore, we ask that we may know what we love, since we ask nothing other than that you give us yourself. For you are our all: our life, our light, our salvation, our food and our drink, our God. Inspire our hearts, I ask you, Jesus, with that breath of your Spirit; wound our souls with your love, so that the soul of each and every one of us may say in truth: Show me my soul's desire, for I am wounded by your love.

These are the wounds I wish for, Lord. Blessed is the soul so wounded by love. Such a soul seeks the fountain of eternal life and drinks from it, although it continues to thirst and its thirst grows ever greater even as it drinks. Therefore, the more the soul loves, the more it desires to love, and the greater its suffering, the greater its healing. In this same way may our God and Lord Jesus Christ, the good and saving physician, wound the depths of our souls with a healing wound - the same Jesus Christ who reigns in unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen."

-- From the Liturgy of the Hours

This stained glass window of St Columban is in the Basilica of Bobbio. The photography is by Giorgio Zanetti.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christus Vincit!

Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
Exaudi, Christe. Ecclesiae Sanctae Dei salus perpetua. Redemptor mundi, Tu illam adjuva!

Christ Lord of glory, Christ Prince of nations, Christ our King of kings! Christ Jesus, hear us. Perpetual safety and welfare to the Church of God. Redeemer, Savior. Assist and strengthen her.

1. Sancta Maria: Tu illam adjuva!
O Mary blessed Mother. Assist and strengthen her.

2. Sancte Joseph: Tu illam adjuva!
Joseph holy guardian. Assist and strengthen her.

3. Sancte Michael Tu illam adjuva!
Blessed Michael patron Assist and strengthen her.

Optional (Sancte Patricii: Tu illam adjuva!)

Blessed Saint Patrick: Assist and strengthen her.

All repeat: Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

Exaudi, Christe. Pio summo Pontifici et universali Papae vita! Salvator mundi, Tu illum adjuva!

Christ Jesus hear us. Life and health and blessings to Pope Pius our Holy Father. Redeemer Savior, Assist and strengthen him.

1. Sancte Petre, Tu illum adjuva! 1. Rex regum!
Blessed Peter, Assist and strengthen him. King of kings.

2. Sancte Paule, Tu illum adjuva! 2. Rex noster!
Blessed Paul, assist and strengthen him. Christ our King
3. Spes nostra!
Christ our hope.

Repeat: Christus Vincit! etc.

Gloria nostra, Misericordia nostra! Auxilium nostrum! Fortitudo nostra, Ar ma nostra invictissima! Murus noster inexpugnabilis! Defensio et exaltatio nostra!

Lux, Via, et Vita nostra! Ipsi soli imperium, Laus et jubilatio per infinita saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Jesus our glory, Fountain of grace and all mercy. Source of all our blessing. Defender in battle, Strong arm of our God invincible. Our stronghold and our exaltation. Our captain leader who has won our salvation.

Christ Jesus, our life and light eternal. To Him only is victory all praise and jubilation. Through all the endless ages of eternity. Amen.

Tempora bona veniant! Pax Christi veniat! Redemptis Sanguine Christi: Feliciter! Regnum Christi veniat! Deo Gratias! Amen.

Abundance of good things be ours. The peace of Christ be ours. Redeemed by the blood  of Jesus. Proclaim our joy. May His holy kingdom come. Praise be to our God. Amen.

-- Taken from EWTN

Solemnity of Christ the King

Today is the last Sunday of Ordinary Time and we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This image is from the St John Bosco Parish in Makati, Philippines.

Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Most sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before thy altar. We are yours, and yours we wish to be; but to be more surely united with you, behold each one of us freely consecrates himself today to your most Sacred Heart. Many indeed have never known you; many too, despising your precepts have rejected you. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them all to your Sacred Heart. Be King, O Lord, not only of the faithful who have never forsaken you, but also of the prodigal children who have abandoned you; grant that they may quickly return to their father's house, lest they die of wretchedness and hunger. Be King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that soon there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. Grant, O Lord, to your Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry : Praise to the divine heart that wrought our salvation; to it be glory and honor for ever. Amen.

{Indulgences: 5 years; plenary once a month for daily recitation on the usual conditions. On the feast of Christ the King, to be solemnly read with the Litany of the Sacred Heart before the blessed Sacrament exposed: then, 7 years, and a plenary indulgence supposing Confession and Communion (Pius XI, 1926, 1927, 1932)}


"The kingdom of God, in the words of our Lord and Savior, does not come for all to see; nor shall they say: Behold, here it is, or behold, there it is; but the kingdom of God is within us, for the word of God is very near, in our mouth and in our heart. Thus it is clear that he who prays for the coming of God's kingdom prays rightly to have it within himself, that there it may grow and bear fruit and become perfect. For God reigns in each of his holy ones. Anyone who is holy obeys the spiritual laws of God, who dwells in him as in a well-ordered city. The Father is present in the perfect soul, and with him Christ reigns, according to the words: We shall come to him and make our home with him.

Thus the kingdom of God within us, as we continue to make progress, will reach its highest point when the Apostle's words are fulfilled, and Christ, having subjected all his enemies to himself, will hand over his kingdom to God the Father, that God may be all in all. Therefore, let us pray unceasingly with that disposition of soul which the Word may make divine, saying to our Father who is in heaven: Hallowed be your name; your kingdom come.

Note this too about the kingdom of God. It is not a sharing of justice with iniquity, nor a society of light with darkness, nor a meeting of Christ with Belial. The kingdom of God cannot exist alongside the reign of sin.

Therefore, if we which God to reign in us, in no way should sin reign in our mortal body; rather we should mortify our members which are upon the earth and bear fruit in the Spirit. There should be in us a kind of spiritual paradise where God may walk and be our sole ruler with Christ. In us the Lord will sit at the right hand of that spiritual power which we wish to receive. And he will sit there until all his enemies who are within us become his footstool, and every principality, power and virtue in us is cast out.

All this can happen in each one of us, and the last enemy, death, can be destroyed; then Christ will say in us: O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? And so, what is corruptible in us must be clothed in holiness and incorruptibility; and what is mortal must be clothed, now that death has been conquered, in the Father's immortality. Then God will reign in us, and we shall enjoy even now the blessings of rebirth and resurrection."
-- From a notebook on prayer by Origen

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"Mary, at the age of three, was brought by her parents to the Temple, in fulfillment of a vow, there to be educated. The corresponding feast originated in the Orient, probably in Syria, the home of the apocrypha. The feast is missing in the earlier Menology of Constantinople (eighth century); it is found, however, in the liturgical documents of the eleventh century. It appears in the constitution of Manuel Comnenos (1166) as a fully recognized festival during which the law courts did not sit. In the West it was introduced by a French nobleman, Philippe de Mazières, Chancellor of the King of Cyprus, who spent some time at Avignon during the pontificate of Gregory XI. It was celebrated in the presence of the cardinals (1372) with an office accommodated from the office chanted by the Greeks. In 1373 it was adopted in the royal chapel at Paris, 1418 at Metz, 1420 at Cologne. Pius II granted (1460) the feast with a vigil to the Duke of Saxony. It was taken up by many dioceses, but at the end of the Middle Ages, it was still missing in many calendars. At Toledo it was assigned (1500) by Cardinal Ximenes to September 30. Sixtus IV received it into the Roman Breviary, Pius V struck it from the calendar, but Sixtus V took it up a second time (September 1, 1585). It is now celebrated November 21."

-- From Women for Faith and Family


"Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers, anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and my sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Savior was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her - did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father's will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ's disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Now listen and see if the words of Scripture do not agree with what I have said. The Lord was passing by and crowds were following him. His miracles gave proof of divine power, and a woman cried out: Happy is the womb that bore you, blessed is that womb! But the Lord, not wishing people to seek happiness in a purely physical relationship, replied: More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. Mary heard God's word and kept it, and so she is blessed. She kept God's truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary's mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.

The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent - the most eminent - member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine - our head is God.

Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfills the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I now dare to call you his mother? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? "Of Mother Church," I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ."
-- From a sermon by St Augustine

Friday, November 20, 2009

Make God happy: voluntarily sacrifice some time to listen to his word

"With prayer and reading the Bible, it like all else is healthy and desirable: it goes more easily when it is done with a certain regularity. Regularity is a concrete expression for the faith which is an essential element in love. It is something other than iron-hard discipline but also something other than carelessness. Faithfulness causes me to pray or read not only when it feels good, and it means also that one can make an exception when there is reason for it. God doesn't want us to ask the impossible of ourselves, but he becomes happy when we voluntarily sacrifice some of our time to listen to his word, even if we just now don't feel any special desire to do it.
There are periods and situations when we lack the strength or quite simply the possibility to pray or read. But we often have more strength than we think. There is truly nothing wrong in making a little more order in our ife. It is very fruitful to make an extra effort to get over the threshold to try to overcome a certain adversity or apathy.

Love does not consist only of spontaneous movements and events; it means also hard work with yourself. Those who endeavor to discipline themselves will, it is true, often fail - those who don't try never fail! - and accuse themselves for this, often with justice. But why should we be afraid to fail? There is no progress without many failed attempts. And to the extent that our failure is dependet on fault on our part, there is forgiveness. Our failures create a greater need for forgiveness and can in this way lead us nearer to God. Nor is it so bad to undervalue oneself a as Christian. Haven't all the saints done it? It is part of love that that it never loves enough, and always wants to love more. You are never a complete Christian; at best you will become one."

-- Nourished by the Word: Reading the Bible Contemplatively by Fr Wilfrid Stinissen, ocd

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Memorial of St Raphael Kalinowski

"Father Raphael of Saint Joseph Kalinowski, was born at Vilna, 1st September 1835, and at baptism received the name Joseph. Under the teaching of his father Andrew, at the Institute for Nobles at Vilna, he progressed so well that he received the maximum distinction in his studies. He then went for two years (1851-1852) to the school of Agriculture at Hory-Horky. During the years 1853-1857, he continued his studies at the Academy of Military Engineering at St Petersburg, obtaining his degree in Engineering, and the rank of Lieutenant. Immediately afterwards he was named Lecturer in Mathematics at the same Academy. In 1859, he took part in the designing of the Kursk-Kiev-Odessa railway.

In 1863 the Polish insurrection against their Russian oppressors broke out. He resigned from the Russian forces, and accepted the post of Minister of War for the region of Vilna, in the rebel army. On 24th March 1864, he was arrested and condemned to death, a penalty that was mitigated to 10 years hard labour in Siberia. With an admirable strength of spirit, patience, and love for his fellow exiles, he knew how to instill into them the spirit of prayer, serenity and hope, and to give material help together with a word of encouragement.

Repatriated in 1874, he accepted the post of tutor to the Venerable Servant of God, Augusto Czartoryski, living mostly in Paris. His influence on the young prince was such, that Augusto discovered his true vocation as priest and religious. He was received into the Salesians by their founder, Saint John Bosco, in 1887. On the other hand, Joseph Kalinowski entered the Discalced Carmelites at Graz in Austria, and received the religious name of Brother Raphael of Saint Joseph. He studied theology in Hungary, and was ordained Priest at Czerna near Krakow, 15th January 1882.

Afire with apostolic zeal, he did not spare himself in helping the faithful, and assisting his Carmelite brothers and sisters in the ascent of the mountain of perfection.

In the sacrament of Reconciliation, he lifted up many from the mire of sin. He did his utmost for the work of reunification of the Church, and bequeathed this mission to his Carmelite brothers and sisters. His superiors entrusted him with many important offices, which he carried out perfectly, right until the time of his death.

Overcome by fatigue and suffering, and held in great respect by all the people, he gave his soul to God, 15th November 1907, at Wadowice in the monastery founded by himself. He was buried in the monastery cemetery, at Czerna, near Krakow.

During his life and after death, he enjoyed a remarkable fame for sanctity, even on the part of the most noble and illustrious of people, such as the Cardinals Dunajewski, Puzyna, Kakowski and Gotti. The Ordinary Process for his eventual beatification, was set in motion in the Curia of Krakow during the years 1934-1938, and later taken to Rome where in 1943 was issued the Decree concerning his writings. His cause was introduced in 1952. From 1953-1956 the Apostolic Process was carried out, and the Congregation proceeded to the discussion on his virtues.

Pope John Paul II, on the 11th October 1980, promulgated the Decree on the heroicity of his virtues. After the approval of the miraculous healing of the Reverend Mis, the Holy Father beatified Father Raphael Kalinowski at Krakow on 22nd June 1983.

As the fame of his miracles was increasing, the Curia of Krakow in 1989, set in motion the Canonical Process to investigate the extraordinary healing of a young child. The discussions of the doctors, theologians and cardinals, were brought to a happy conclusion. On the 10th July 1990, the Holy Father John Paul II, approved the miracle for the canonization.

In the Consistory of 26th November 1990, Pope John Paul together with the Cardinals, decided to canonize Blessed Raphael Kalinowski. They set the ceremony for Sunday, 17th November 1991."

-- Biography from The Vatican

Note: Though not very well known, St Raphael Kalinowski and St John of the Cross are the only two male canonized discalced carmelites.

St Raphael Kalinowski, pray for us!

Let us be students of the laws of God

"The Holy Scriptures praise nothing more than a perfect and holy life lived in the exact and perfect fulfillment of each one’s duties. In the Old Testament our Lord and God taught his people and told them: You must be holy because I am holy.

The Eternal Father gave us our Lord Jesus Christ as our teacher, master and guide. He confirmed and ratified the Old Testament injunction where he taught us that we must emulate the holiness of the Father: You must be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect. How does one become perfect and holy? The Doctors of the Church, the leaders of souls, and the masters of the spiritual life answer: If you would be perfect and become holy, fulfill your duties faithfully.

Once a desert father was asked by a certain young hermit what books he ought to study in order to advance in holiness. The old man replied: My practice is to read two books only. In the morning hours I read the Gospel, and in the evening I read the Rule. The first teaches me the way I should walk as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. The other teaches me what I should do to be a good religious. That is enough for me.

Let us therefore be students of the laws of God so that we may conduct ourselves according to them. When you walk, these will guide you; when you lie down, watch over you; when you wake, talk with you. Wherever we may be or go, may they go with us to direct our footsteps. May they be so near us when we sleep that they may fill our thoughts as soon as we awaken. His voice will speak to us in them. He will refresh us for the day ahead. Through his laws we will gain the victory over our doubts. We will cast away every obstacle. We will free ourselves of that sluggishness of nature which is the enemy of strength, the foe of devotion, and the lover of ease. The law of life will help us to overcome our fears in time of temptation and to follow eagerly in the way of obedience. May it always be at hand to counsel us, so that by it we may find the strength to follow God’s call with generous hearts and willing souls."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Only in silence can the Word run out in God's infinity

"'It is better,' writes Ignatius of Antioch (died c 110 AD), 'to be one who keeps quiet and is something than one who talks and isn't something. It is a good thing to teach if those who talk also act. One is The Teacher who spoke and it happened. WHat he did in silence is worthy of the Father. Those who really have Jesus' word can also hear his silence. In this way, he becomes perfected, acts through what he says, and is recognized through silence.'

One who lives in close association with God's word can also listen to God's silence. The words lead him into an ocean of silence; God is greater than what human speech can say about him. One who reads Scripture in the spirit in which it was written, in the Holy Spirit, has a growing need of silent prayer, contemplation, worship. One there, in silence, can the Word run out into God's infinity. THere is a time when the Word (and the word) says to us as to Mary Magdalen: 'Do not hold on to me' (Jn 20:17), release your grip, drown in God's measureless sea.

In Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity's (1880-1906) known prayers, we encounter both word and silence, to listen to God's word and drown in his silence. She writes: 'O eternal Word, my God's Word, I will spend my life in listening to you. I will be an ideal ear for you so that I learn all of you.' But she also writes: 'O my all, my blessedness, endless Loneliness, the Immeasurable where I lose myself; as an exchange, I give myself over to you. Hide yourself in me, so that I become hidden in you.'

Silence is both a preparation for and a consequence of God's presence. 'Let all the earth keep silence before him! says Habakkuk (2:20). And Zephaniah: 'Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand' (1:7). The silence which is a preparation for God's visit is something we should crate ourselves. But it is quite different when the silence is created by God! What he does has really another weight.

It is about this silence the Book of Revelation speaks when it describes how the Lamb in heaven opens the scroll, breaks its seal, and reveals God's secret counsel: 'When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour' (8:1).

One can read in the mystics about this silence. The silence doesn't deny  the word; it shows instead the power of the word. Like a rocket fires off a spaceship and propels it outside the earth's field of gravitation into endless space, so the word can propel people out of the human world's narrow limitations into God's endlessness."

-- Nourished by the Word: Reading the Bible Contemplatively by Fr Wilfrid Stinissen, ocd

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The value of detachment

"In a materialistic age which tends to relegate spiritual values to an unimportant or inferior plane, it would seem worthwhile to study these values, or one concept of them, in the life and writings of a man who is regarded as both a Christian saint and a master of classical literature. St John of the Cross can be read purely for the beauty of his poetry and prose; yet to ignore the philosophy and ideals which they serve to convey would also be to miss much of their beauty. They have life, and still live, because much of his own inner spirit is contained within them.

Among the many aspects of the spiritual life, desprendimiento (detachment) is one which today is particularly rejected, and often misunderstood. Man seeks to acquire and to gain; not to give away and become free. To understand St John of the Cross' teaching, therefore, and the generally accepted view that his spirituality is negative, it is necessary to understand the positive side, and to see why he stressed continually the need to renounce material things, or at least, the attachment to them. The fulness of his writings is then revealed, and the richness of his poetry better understood. Above all, an integration is seen between life and art; and how, in one man at least, they both played an integral part."

-- St John of the Cross & Detachment by Glenys Edwards


In religious life, I encountered people who were "turned off" by St John of the Cross' insistence on detachment and the nada nada nada; and also those who were lured by his romantic expressions, more than his message. Holy Father John of the Cross is a master of the spiritual life that teaches us how, by detaching ourselves from creatures and objects, we can attain union with God, the creator of all things. By emptying ourselves, our hearts, we make space for God to dwell in us, to fill us with His love and grace.

If you haven't read John of the Cross' writings yet, I highly recommend them to you. The two better known English translations are those by E. Allison Peers and that of Frs Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodríguez. Peers' translation is more literal, and, thus, may be more difficult to follow for modern readers. Kavanaugh and Rodríguez's translation is more dynamic and easier to follow. Nothing beats the original Spanish, but, quite honestly, either translation works.

If you don't know where to start, my spiritual director (a discalced carmelite friar) suggested that I read the main works in the following order: Spiritual Canticle, Ascent, Dark Night and Living Flame of Love. Read the introductions. St John of the Cross wrote using many symbolisms drawn from Scripture. The Counsels and Sayings of Light and Love may be read any time, over and over. Be patient with the texts and do not attempt to read the main works in one day or even one week. The texts are so rich that one needs to "digest" them very slowly, and re-read the texts. Don't cheat yourself from a fantastic spiritual read.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Memorial of St Gertrude the Great

"Gertrude of Helfta was a highly intelligent woman. She was born on 6 January 1256 in the little town of Eisleben in Thuringia. At age 5, Gertrude went to the Cistercian monastery school of Helfta in Saxony, and since then has always been known as "Gertrude of Helfta". She dedicated herself to study, and it was not long before she surpassed all her companions.

She also discovered Christ in the monastery, and the beauty of living for him and with him in the intimacy of love. But the divine Teacher remained in the background of her life for some time while she used all her faculties to improve her education, becoming proficient in literature, philosophy, song and the refined art of miniature painting.

After several years, Gertrude moved from the monastery school to the novitiate, taking the veil and becoming a nun. For her Jesus was "Someone", but her studies were still her all. But she was not on the wrong track, for knowledge, when it goes hand in hand with humility, does not distance people from God. And he was waiting on her path.

Experiencing a 'new birth'

In 1280, she was 24 years old and a half-hearted and distracted nun. Towards the end of the year, she went through an inner crisis that lasted several weeks. She felt lonely, lost and depressed. Her human plans disintegrated like shattered idols. This might have been the end of everything, but instead, it was a new beginning.

On 27 January 1281, Gertrude saw Jesus in person in the form of a marvellous adolescent who said to her, "I have come to comfort you and bring you salvation". Remembering that day, she was to write: "Jesus, my Redeemer, you have lowered my indomitable head to your gentle yoke, preparing for me the medicine suited to my weakness". From that moment, she was solely concerned with living in full union with Jesus.

In her writings, she established the date of her newfound unity with Christ as 23 June 1281: all her life she must have seen that day as the day of her new birth, the birth of the true Gertrude in the image of Christ.

She abandoned the study of profane subjects and dedicated herself entirely to the study of Scripture, writings of the Church Fathers and theological treatises. She found extraordinary delight in reading the letters of Augustine, Gregory the Great, Bernard and Hugh of Saint-Victor.

From a scholar specialized in the humanities, she became a "theologian" filled with God and his fragrance. Her life was truly filled with the Lord alone.

But Gertrude did not want to be the only one to enjoy this supreme "Pleasure"; so she began to write short treatises for the Sisters in the monastery and those who approached her in which she explained the most difficult passages of Scripture, true spiritual treasures written in a clear and lively style.

The monastery parlour was also often filled with people in search of her words, comfort and guidance. She exercised a great influence on souls.

A confidant of Jesus

Since her conversion, she had become the confidant of Jesus, who revealed to her the infinite Love of his divine Heart and charged her to spread it among human beings with love for the suffering and for sinners. Gertrude's ecstasies with Jesus prompted her to write those ardent pages that would bring souls to him.

Humble, always happy and smiling, with a loving heart for all, she sparkled with trust, joy and peace, and led everyone to the Lord. To her soul, Jesus was like a spring day, vibrant with life and scented with flowers: Love par excellence, the one overwhelming Love. This is why she is known on the one hand as the "Teresa of Germany" and on the other, the "theologian of the Sacred Heart".

One day, Jesus said to Gertrude: "It would be good to make known to men and women how they would benefit from remembering that I, the Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, always stand before God for the salvation of the human race, and that should they commit some sin through their weakness, I offer my unblemished Heart to the Father for them".

She truly became one with Jesus and transmitted him to her brethren in the many works she has bequeathed to us, some of which have been lost.

In 1298 her health deteriorated but she transformed her sufferings into love, an offering with Jesus to the Father and a gift for humankind.

During her long and painful illness, she decided to recount the "adventure" of her conversion and to tell of the wonderful revelations with which Jesus had favoured her: "Until the age of 25, I was a blind and insane woman . . . but you, Jesus, deigned to grant me the priceless familiarity of your friendship by opening to me in every way that most noble casket of your divinity, which is your divine Heart, and offering me in great abundance all your treasures contained in it".
On 17 November 1301, at age 45, she rejoined her Bridegroom for ever. Interestingly, she is the only woman among the saints to be called "the Great": St Gertrude the Great.

-- Gertrude: The Only Female Saint to Be Called 'The Great'  by Paolo Rossi
© L'Osservatore Romano

St Gertrude the Great, pray for us!


Three lessons given by the Heart of Jesus to St Gertrude with regard to confiding abandonment

1. One time, when St. Gertrude was discouraged at prayer, Our Lord encouraged her to have great confidence in His Divine Heart, inviting her to present herself before Him, like Esther before Assuerus:

"What dost thou command, My sovereign?" The Saint answered: "I ask, O Lord, that Thy most amiable Will may be fully accomplished in me." Then Jesus, naming to her one after another the persons who had recommended themselves to her prayers, said: "What dost thou ask for this soul and for this, and for that other, who claim more especially thy prayers?" Gertrude answered: "I only ask, O Lord, that Thy Will may be perfectly accomplished in them. All my desire and my delight is to see Thee fully satisfied in me and in all Thy creatures." "My Heart," replied Jesus, "is so touched with that confiding abandonment of thy heart to My holy Will, that it will itself supply for whatever may have hitherto been wanting in thy life in this respect, and will henceforth love thee as if thy whole life had been perfectly conformed to My good Pleasure."

Let us follow her example and desire only the accomplishment of the Will of God in ourselves and in others; in our own affairs and in those of the Church; in our works of zeal and in all that we have at heart. Let us have this sweet and all-abiding confidence and in abandonment to Our Lord's Divine mercy as St. Gertrude received from the Heart of Jesus: that He Himself will supply all that has been wanting in us in this regard, "and accept all our past prayers as if they had been in perfect conformity with His holy Will; all our past actions as if they had been performed only to accomplish His desires; and all our past sufferings as if they had been accepted with perfect resignation."

2. One night, St. Gertrude was suffering more than usual from a fever; she was anxious about the course of this malady. Jesus appeared to her, carrying health in His right hand and sickness in His left, offering her both that she might choose that which she preferred. Gertrude leaned towards His loving Heart, in which she knew the plenitude of every good resided, and answered: "Lord, I choose nothing, I desire only the good pleasure of Thy Heart." Then Jesus, causing a fountain, as it were, of grace to spring from His Heart, made it flow into that of Gertrude, saying: "Since thou renouncest thy own will to abandon it entirely unto Mine, I pour into thee all the sweetness and all the joy of My Divine Heart.

Like this great Saint, us choose nothing, ask nothing, having all confidence in the all-wise, all-loving will of Our Lord Jesus. For He will choose what is best for us, and fill us with the sweet joy of His Heart; for there can be no greater happiness for a creature "than to give pleasure to His Creator, to be guided by His most amiable Will; and to confide all to His watchful Providence."

3. One year, on the Feast of the Circumcision, when asked for spiritual New Year's gifts for her community, Our Lord told her: "If anyone will generously renounce his own will to seek only My good Pleasure, My Divine Heart will illuminate him with a vivid light to know My wishes. I will show him in what he has failed with regard to his Rule, which is the expression of My Will; and will atone with him for all his shortcomings. Like a good master instructing a dearly loved child, I will let him lean on My Heart, will gently point out to him his faults, will kindly correct what he has done amiss, and supply what he has neglected. And if, as a heedless child, he pays no attention to some points, I will attend to them for him, and make up what he has passed over. The New Year's gift most conducive to My glory that I can bestow on these souls is the desire to Please Me in all things, and confiding abandonment to My Divine Heart. I will grant them, with the atonement for all their failures of the past year, light and strength to conform themselves henceforward entirely to My holy Will."

-- Love, Peace and Joy by Fr André Prévot


St Gertrude's prayer to her Guardian Angel

O most holy angel of God, appointed by God to be my guardian, I give you thanks for all the benefits which you have ever bestowed on me in body and in soul. I praise and glorify you that you condescended to assist me with such patient fidelity, and to defend me against all the assaults of my enemies. Blessed be the hour in which you were assigned me for my guardian, my defender and my patron. In acknowledgement and return for all your loving ministries to me, I offer you the infinitely precious and noble heart of Jesus, and firmly purpose to obey you henceforward, and most faithfully to serve my God. Amen.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Commemoration of All Carmelite Souls

I live without living in myself,

And in such a way to I hope,
That I die, because I do not die.

I live now outside of myself,
For I die of love,
Because I live in the Lord,
Who wanted me for himself;
When I gave him my heart,
I placed this sign on it:

I die, because I do not die.

This divine prison
Of love with which I live
Has made God my captive,
And my heart free.
And it causes such passion within me
To see God as my prisoner,

That I die because I do not die…

I wish to reach him, dying,
For so greatly do I love my beloved,

That I die because I do not die.

-- Vivo sin vivir en mí by St Teresa of Avila

Today we remember all souls who have gone to their rest and belonged to the Carmelite family: those who wear the Scapular devoutly, third order memers, brothers, sisters, nuns and friars. Please remember them in your prayers, that they may enjoy the Beatific vision in the company of Our Lady and the entire heavenly court. Eternal rest, grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Feast of All Carmelite Saints

"So I say now that all of us who wear this holy habit of Carmel are called to prayer and contemplation. This explains our origin; we are the descendants of those who felt this call, of those holy fathers on Mount Carmel who in such great solitude and contempt for the world sought this treasure, this precious pearl of contemplation that we are speaking about.

Let us remember our holy forebears of the past, those hermits whose lives we aim to imitate. We must remember our real founders, those holy fathers whose descendants we are. It was by way of poverty and humility, we know, that they came to the enjoyment of God.

On the subject of the beginnings of Orders, I sometimes hear it said that the Lord gave greater graces to those saints who went before us because they were the foundations. Quite so, but we too must always bear in mind what it means to be foundations for those who will come later. For if those of us who are alive now have not fallen away from what they did in the past, and those who come after us do the same, the building will always stand firm. What use is it to me for the saints of the past to have been what they were, if I come along after them and behave so badly that I leave the building in ruins because of my bad habits?

For obviously those who come later don’t remember those who have died years before as clearly as they do the people they see around them. A fine state of affairs it is if I insist that I am not one of the first, and do not realize what a difference there is between my life and virtues, and the lives of those God has endowed with such graces!

Any of you who sees your Order falling away in any respect, must try to be the kind of stone the building can be rebuilt with—the Lord will help to rebuild it. For love of our Lord I beg them to remember how quickly everything comes to an end, and what a favor our Lord has done us in bringing us to this Order, and what a punishment anyone who starts any kind of relaxation will deserve. They must always look at the race we are descended from—that race of holy prophets. What numbers of saints we have in heaven who have worn this habit of ours! We must have the holy audacity to aspire, with God’s help, to be like them. The struggle will not last long, but the outcome will be eternal."

-- From the works of Saint Teresa of Avila

(Int. Cast., dwel1. 5, 1:2; Way, c. 14:4; Founds., c. 14:4; 4:6, 7; 29:33)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Seek a place in your soul for Jesus

"God and always God. Not even the heart is fed up, nor the soul finds rest outside of God.

Men don't tell you anything. You don't find anything in books; only in the silence of everything and everyone..., in that silence that not even thought dares to disturb, in that silence that muses on love and hope, only there is it possible to live. Outside of that, everything is noise, turmoil. Outside of God, there is nothing; peace is only in God, and God lives in the soul of his friends, and while we do not  seek God in the silence and in prayer, while we do not remain still..., we will not find peace, nor will we find God.

Only in silence is it possible to live, but not in the silence of words and deeds..., no; it is something very difficult to explain... It is the silence of one who loves much, very much, and that does not know what to say, nor what to think, nor what to desire, nor what to do... Only God inside there, very quiet..., waiting, hoping, I don't know..., the Lord is very good.

Poor suffering soul..., are you seeking rest? You will not find it in anything or anyone... Hush a little, seek a place in your soul, very hidden, very quiet, and put there a little love for Jesus... and you will see; neither sorrows nor joys will disturb your peace, and even the waiting [period] will become sweet. Jesus in your soul!"

-- Hermano Rafael Arnáiz Barón: Obras Completas prepared by Fr M Alberico Feliz Carbajal, ocso. Translated by ocdsister.

Note: There are two main types of translators: dynamic and literal. I'm a literal translator. Thus, I have kept Br Rafael's (now Saint) writing style even though a more dynamic rendition would make for a smooth reading in English.

Memorial of St Frances Xavier Cabrini & St Didacus of Alcalá

"Today the dioceses in the United States celebrate the memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, virgin, born in Lombardy, Italy, one of thirteen children. She came to America as a missionary, founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. She is the first American citizen to be canonized. December 22 is her feast day in the Extraordinary Rite.

This saint, the first United States citizen to be canonized, was born in Italy of parents who were farmers. She was the thirteenth child, born when her mother was fifty-two years old. The missionary spirit was awakened in her as a little girl when her father read stories of the missions to his children. She received a good education, and at eighteen was awarded the normal school certificate.

For a while she helped the pastor teach catechism and visited the sick and the poor. She also taught school in a nearby town, and for six years supervised an orphanage assisted by a group of young women. The bishop of Lodi heard of this group and asked Frances to establish a missionary institute to work in his diocese. Frances did so, calling the community the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. An academy for girls was opened and new houses quickly sprang up.

One day Bishop Scalabrini, founder of the Missionaries of Emigration, described to Mother Cabrini the wretched economical and spiritual conditions of the many Italian immigrants in the United States, and she was deeply moved. An audience with Pope Leo XIII changed her plans to go to the missions of the East. "Not to the East, but to the West," the Pope said to her. "Go to the United States." Mother Cabrini no longer hesitated. She landed in New York in 1889, established an orphanage, and then set out on a lifework that comprised the alleviation of every human need. For the children she erected schools, kindergartens, clinics, orphanages, and foundling homes, and numbers of hospitals for the needy sick. At her death over five thousand children were receiving care in her charitable institutions, and at the same time her community had grown to five hundred members in seventy houses in North and South America, France, Spain, and England.

The saint, frail and diminutive of stature, showed such energy and enterprise that everyone marveled. She crossed the Atlantic twenty-five times to visit the various houses and institutions. In 1909 she adopted the United States as her country and became a citizen. After thirty-seven years of unflagging labor and heroic charity she died alone in a chair in Columbus Hospital at Chicago, Illinois, while making dolls for orphans in preparation for a Christmas party. Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago officiated at her funeral and in 1938 also presided at her beatification by Pius XI. She was canonized by Pius XII in 1946. She lies buried under the altar of the chapel of Mother Cabrini High School in New York City. — A Saint A Day, Berchmans Bittle, O.F.M.Cap.

Patron: hospital administrators; immigrants; orphans.

According to the 1962 Missal of Bl John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St Didacus, a humble Franciscan laybrother and the recipient of exceptional graces. He received such light from God that he spoke of heavenly things in a manner almost divine; certain miracles, but especially his obedience, charity and fervor of his prayer, caused him to be considered a saint wherever he went. He was born in Andalusia, was sent as a missionary to the Canary Isles, spent some time in Rome and returned to die in Spain."

-- From Catholic Culture. Copyright © 2009 Trinity Communications.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Listen to the mysterious invitations that come continually throughout life

"I believe human life is a marvelous adventure. Despite the burden of sufferings and siappointments, it offers us means to grow in humanity, freedom, and interior peace, while exercising our entire capacity for love and joy.

There is, however, one condition. We must give up our own agendas and allow ourselves to be led by life, in happy events and difficult ones, while learning to recognize and accept the calls addressed to us day by day.

'Call' is the keyword... The idea, simple but very meaningful, is absolutely fundamental to our temporal and spiritual plans. Human beings cannot attain fulfillment solely by carrying out their own projects. These projects are legitimate and necessary, and we must bring our intelligence and energy to bear on accomplishing them. But that's not enough, and in the event of failure it can lead to disillusionment. Another attitude, one in the end more decisive and fruitful, must accompany our initiating and carrying our of projects: that of listening to the calls, the discrete, mysterious invitations that come to us continually throughout life. This attitude of listening and availability takes priority over even the projects themselves. I believe we can be fulfilled as human beings only to the extent that we perceive and respond to the calls life addresses to us day in and day out: calls to change, grow, mature, enlarge our hearts and our horizons, and leave behind hardness of heart and narrow-mindedness in order to welcome reality in a larger and more confident manner.

These calls come to us in many ways. Sometimes they come through experiences or by the example of others who touch us, sometimes from desires that arise in our hearts or requests from people who are close to us, often from Holy Scripture. They originate from God, who gives us life, never ceases to watch over us, and wants tenderly to lead and constantly intervene for each of his children in a way that is discreet, often imperfectible, yet efficacious. Although many are, unfortunately, unaware of this presence and action of God, they reveal themselves to those who know how to place themselves in the attitude of listening and availability.

God is the God of the living, not the deat. He reaches out to us continually, mysteriously but certainly, infusing our lives with value, beauty, and fruitfulness beyond our imagining."

--  Called to Life by Jacques Philippe

Memorial of St Josaphat

"His father was a municipal counselor, and his mother known for her piety. Raised in the Orthodox Ruthenian Church which, on 23 November 1595 in the Union of Brest, united with the Church of Rome. Trained as a merchant's apprentice at Vilna, he was offered partnership in the business, and marriage to his partner's daughter; feeling the call to religious life, he declined both. Monk in the Ukrainian Order of Saint Basil (Basilians) in Vilna at age 20 in 1604, taking the name brother Josaphat. Deacon. Ordained a Byzantine rite priest in 1609.

Josaphat's superior, Samuel, never accepted unity with Rome, and looked for a way to fight against Roman Catholicism and the Uniats, the name given those who brought about and accepted the union of the Churches. Learning of Samiel's work, and fearing the physical and spiritual damage it could cause, Josaphat brought it to the attention of his superiors. The archbishop of Kiev removed Samuel from his post, replacing him with Josaphat.

Famous preacher. Worked to bring unity among the faithful, and bring strayed Christians back to the Church. Bishop of Vitebsk. Most religious, fearing interference with the natively developed liturgy and customs, did not want union with Rome. Bishop Josaphat believed unity to be in the best interests of the Church, and by teaching, clerical reform, and personal example Josaphat won the greater part of the Orthodox in Lithuania to the union. Never completely suitable to either side, Roman authorities sometimes raised objection to Josaphat's Orthodox actions. Archbishop of Polotsk, Lithuania in 1617.

While Josaphat attended the Diet of Warsaw in 1620, a dissident group, supported by Cossacks, set up an anti-Uniat bishops for each Uniat one, spread the accusation that Josaphat had "gone Latin," and that his followers would be forced to do the same, and placed a usurper on the archbishop's chair. Despite warnings, John went to Vitebsk, a hotbed of trouble, to try to correct the misunderstandings, and settle disturbances. The army remained loyal to the king, who remained loyal to the Union, and so the army tried to protect Josaphat and his clergy.

Late in 1623 an anti-Uniat priest named Elias shouted insults at Josaphat from his own courtyard, and tried to force his way into the residence. When he was removed, a mob assembled and forced his release. Mob mentality took over, and they invaded the residence. Josaphat tried to insure the safety of his servants before fleeing himself, but did not get out in time, and was martyred by the mob. His death was a shock to both sides of the dispute, brought some sanity and a cooling off period to both sides of the conflict."
-- Biography from SQPN
** If I'm not mistaken, our brethren using the 1962 Roman Missal observe St Josaphat's memorial on 14 November.
"Christ the Lord passed on to his apostles the task he had received from the Father: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. He wanted the apostles as a body to be intimately bound together, first by the inner tie of the same faith and love which flows into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and, second, by the external tie of authority exercised by one apostle over the others. For this he assigned the primacy to Peter, the source and visible basis of their unity for all time. So that the unity and agreement among them would endure, God wisely stamped them, one might say, with the mark of holiness and martyrdom.

Both these distinctions fell to Josaphat, archbishop of Pollock of the Slavonic rite of the Eastern Church. He is rightly looked upon as the great glory and strength of the Eastern Rite Slavs. Few have brought them greater honor or contributed more to their spiritual welfare than Josaphat, their pastor and apostle, especially when he gave his life as a martyr for the unity of the Church. He felt, in fact, that God had inspired him to restore worldwide unity to the Church and he realized that his greatest chance of success lay in preserving the Slavonic rite and Saint Basil's rule of monastic life within the one universal Church.

Concerned mainly with seeing his own people reunited to the See of Peter, he sought out every available argument which would foster and maintain Church unity. His best arguments were drawn from liturgical books, sanctioned by the Fathers of the Church, which were in common use among Eastern Christians, including the dissidents. Thus thoroughly prepared, he set out to restore the unity of the Church. A forceful man of fine sensibilities, he met with such success that his opponents dubbed him 'the thief of souls.'"
-- From The Liturgy of the Hours

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm never alone in that little inner sanctuary of my soul

"At the heart of Elizabeth's teaching is the need for stillness and silence, a silence of listening and openness to the still, small voice of the Spirit within. In an age of ever-increasing noise and activity, her teaching shines like a beacon of sanity and carries a message of hope. It is the message of God's love, of his presence in our lives, and of his invitation to intimacy. Most important of all, Elizabeth speaks out of her own experience, out of the lived reality of her own life. A young woman rich in human qualities, vibrant with the sensitivity of an artist and the courage of a soldier, she speaks words of wisdom and of common sense.

Once Elizabeth discovered, at the age of ten, that her name meant House of God, she was determined to make that house a home, where she would live as attentively as possible to the presence within. This presence became her joy. Though she lived only twenty-six years, it was enough for her to live with total intensity, both as a lay contemplative and as a Carmelite nun, the mystery of God's life that she shared through baptismo an age searching for meaning and identity, she tells of her own search and her own discovery: her thirst for the deeper reality within and the joy of finding, and surrendering to, love:  love is something infinite, she once wrote, and you can always go farther in infinity! (L 192).

Prophet of the presence of God, Elizabeth invites us to accept this gift of God and open our hearts to the reality within:

  • He is always there, although you don't feel it; He is waiting for you and wants to establish a 'wonderful communion' with you. (L 249)
  • Love ... dwells within us; and my only exercise is to enter within once again, to lose myself in Those who are there! (L 179)
  • I am asking God to give you a taste, too, of the sweetness of His Love and His presence: that is that transforms, what illumines life, it is the secret of happiness! (L 174)
  • In that little inner sanctuary [of my soul], ...I find Him at every hour of the day and night. I'm never alone: my Christ is always there praying in me, and I pray with Him. (L 123)"

-- Let Yourself be Loved: Elizabeth of the Trinity by Eugene McCaffrey, ocd

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Memorial of St Leo the Great

Pope St. Leo the Great was the latest Church Father that Pope Benedict XVI focused on as he held his weekly general audience on Wednesday. Leo the Great, according to Pope Benedict, was one of the greatest pontiffs of all time because of his work as a pastor and his strength during difficulty.

As he began his talk on St. Leo the Great, Pope Benedict reflected on the fact that he is referred to as “the Great,” a title which is rarely given and only done so by the popular acclaim of the people.

Pope St. Leo “was one of the greatest incumbents of the See of Rome, the authority and prestige of which he strengthened. He is also the earliest Pope whose sermons have come down to us, sermons he would address to the people who gathered around him during celebrations", the Holy Father explained.

"It is natural we should think of him also in the context of these Wednesday general audiences, which have over recent decades become a customary way for the Bishop of Rome to meet with the faithful and with many visitors from all over the world," said Benedict XVI.

St. Leo the Great, who was elected as Pope in the year 440, was not a stranger to adversity, Benedict pointed out.

His pontificate lasted more than two decades and included “difficult times” during which "repeated barbarian invasions, the progressive weakening of imperial authority in the West and a lengthy social crisis forced the Bishop of Rome ... to take on an important role also in civil and political affairs", said Pope Benedict.

“For example, in 452 Leo the Great met with Attila the Hun in Mantua to dissuade him from continuing the invasion which had devastated parts of northern Italy. In 455 he similarly sought to dissuade Genseric the Vandal and, though he did not prevent him invading and sacking Rome, he did convince him not to raze the city and to respect the basilicas of St. Peter's, St. John Lateran and St. Paul's Outside-the-Walls, where part of the population had taken refuge,” the Holy Father recalled.

St. Leo the Great’s letters and sermons also provide us a window into his work as a theologian and pastor, the Pope said. He was “Constantly concerned for his faithful and for the people of Rome, but also for communion between the various Churches and for their needs, he tirelessly supported and promoted Roman primacy".

The Holy Father explained how during Leo's pontificate the Council of Chalcedon took place, "the most important assembly in the history of the Church up to that time", which "affirmed the union in the one Person, without confusion and without separation, of the two natures, human and divine".

"It is clear", Benedict XVI went on, "that this Pope felt particularly acutely his responsibility as Peter's Successor, whose role in the Church is unique because 'just one Apostle is entrusted with what is communicated to all the Apostles'".

Leo the Great was also an advocate of the unity of the Churches of the East and West, said Pope Benedict. He "showed himself capable of exercising this responsibility in both West and East, intervening prudently, firmly and coherently in various circumstances, both through his writings and by his legates. Thus he showed how the exercise of Roman primacy was necessary then, as it is now, as an effective service to communion, which is a characteristic of the one Church of Christ.

"Conscious of the historical moment in which he lived and of the move that was taking place - in a period of profound crisis - from a pagan to a Christian Rome, Leo the Great remained close to the people and to the faithful with pastoral activity and prayer". He also "related the liturgy to the daily life of Christians", showing how "Christian liturgy is not a recollection of past events but the realization of invisible truths that act upon the life of each individual."

-- Edited from CNA

-- From the writings of St Leo the Great

"In the Gospel of John the Lord says: In this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other. In a letter of the same apostle we read: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God; he who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

The faithful should therefore enter into themselves and make a true judgment on their attitudes of mind and heart. If they find some store of love’s fruit in their hearts, they must not doubt God’s presence within them. If they would increase their capacity to receive so great a guest, they should practice greater generosity in doing good, with persevering charity.

If God is love, charity should know no limit, for God cannot be confined.

Any time is the right time for works of charity, but these days of Lent provide a special encouragement. Those who want to be present at the Lord’s Passover in holiness of mind and body should seek above all to win this grace, for charity contains all other virtues and covers a multitude of sins.

As we prepare to celebrate that greatest of all mysteries, by which the blood of Jesus Christ did away with our sins, let us first of all make ready the sacrificial offerings of works of mercy. In this way we shall give to those who have sinned against us what God in his goodness has already given to us.

Let us now extend to the poor and those afflicted in different ways a more open-handed generosity, so that God may be thanked through many voices and the relief of the needy supported by our fasting. No act of devotion on the part of the faithful gives God more pleasure than that which is lavished on his poor. Where he finds charity with its loving concern, there he recognizes the reflection of his own fatherly care.

In these acts of giving do not fear a lack of means. A generous spirit is itself great wealth. There can be no shortage of material for generosity where it is Christ who feeds and Christ who is fed. In all this activity there is present the hand of him who multiplies the bread by breaking it, and increases it by giving it away.

The giver of alms should be free from anxiety and full of joy. His gain will be greatest when he keeps back least for himself. The holy apostle Paul tells us: He who provides seed for the sower will also provide bread for eating; he will provide you with more seed, and will increase the harvest of your goodness, in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen."

Monday, November 9, 2009

The most sublime grace: transformation into God through charity

"Ordinary graces make up the essential factor in the development of the spiritual life right up to its full maturity. Passive purifications and the partial progressive transformations, which mark the development of the soul, are ordinary graces, that is to say, normal and to be expected in the process of sanctification. From this point of view, the most sublime grace, of transformation into God through charity, remains an ordinary grace.

Those graces can be called extraordinary which, strictly speaking, are not necessary, because they do not concern the substance of the soul's progress. You could call them accessories. They are useful helps for its growth, acting sometimes like signposts or messages which bear a mission, or exist at other times in order to encourage the soul in its simple ascent or, again, to bring it acknowledgement in the eyes of the people of God. In the past, attention was focused almost entirely upon this kind of grace, especially when it assumed perceptible mnifestations, that is to say everything which is understood by mystical phenomena, such as visions, locutions, levitations, etc."

-- Thérèse, The Little Child of God's Mercy by Angel de les Gavarres

Feast of the Dedication of the St John Lateran Basilica in Rome

Dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) is the first among the four major basilicas of Rome.

It is also the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, the Pope, and is thus known as Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput: "Cathedral of Rome and of the World."

Built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century, San Giovanni in Laterano was the first church to be built in Rome. It contains several important relics, a lovely 13th-century cloister and an ancient baptistery (San Giovanni in Fonte).


In ancient times, the site of San Giovanni Laterano was occupied by the palace of the family of the Laterani. Their 1st-century mansion has been located 5.55 meters below the nave of the church. In the 2nd century, the mansion was replaced by the barracks of the mounted Imperial Guard.

On the pretext that the Imperial Guard had fought on the side of Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge (312), Constantine razed the barracks and filled in the basement to form a foundation for a church that was to be the cathedral of Rome.

The Lateran Palace next to the barracks came into the hands of Constantine through his second wife Fausta, sister of Maxentius. This was used in 313 for the First Lateran Council, a church council that condemned the Donatist schism. A porticoed structure found in front of the palace has frescoes from the late 4th century depicting the Resurrection of Lazarus, Christ and the Samaritan, the Multiplication of the Loaves, and three saints: Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia.

The cathedral was dedicated to the Savior on November 9, 318. It was embellished with beautiful decorations given by Constantine, including seven silver altars with seven gilded candlesticks inlaid with images of prophets; 111 chandeliers; and gold voil for the apse vault. Constantine also built the baptistery on the northwestern corner of the church, which still survives in its original form.

From the fifth century there were seven oratories surrounding the basilica. These before long were incorporated in the church. The devotion of visiting these oratories, which held its ground all through the medieval period, gave rise to the similar devotion of the seven altars, still common in many churches of Rome and elsewhere.

In the 10th century, Pope Sergius III (904-911) added John the Baptist to the basilica's dedication, and in the 12th century, Pope Lucius II (1144- 1145) added John the Evangelist.

A Benedictine monastery of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist adjoined the basilica and its members were charged at one period with the duty of maintaining the services in the church.

A great many donations from the popes and other benefactors to the basilica are recorded in the Liber Pontificalis, and its splendour at an early period was such that it became known as the "Basilica Aurea", or Golden Basilica. This splendour drew upon it the attack of the Vandals, who stripped it of all its treasures.

 Pope Leo the Great restored it about 460, and it was again restored by Pope Hadrian, but in 896 it was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake — damage so extensive that it was difficult to trace the lines of the old building, but the reconstruction was of the same dimensions as the old.

This second church lasted for 400 years and before suffering extensive damage from a series of fires, the worst of which was in 1308. It was rebuilt by Pope Clement V and Pope John XXII, only to be burnt down once more in 1360 and again rebuilt by Pope Urban V.

When the popes returned to Rome from their long absence at Avignon in 1377, they found the city deserted and the churches almost in ruins. Great works were begun at the Lateran by Pope Martin V and his successors. The palace, however, was never again used by them as a residence, the Vatican, which stands in a much drier and healthier position, being chosen in its place.

Pope Sixtus V replaced most of the remaining structure with work by his by his favorite architect Domenico Fontana, and a further renovation of the interior ensued, carried out by Francesco Borromini for Pope Innocent X (1644-55). This is the definitive remodeling that created the present church.

Finally, Pope Clement XII (1730 - 1740) launched a competition for the design of a new facade, which was completed by Alessandro Galilei in 1735.

-- Taken from Sacred Destinations