Archive for September, 2010

September 24: Feast of Our Lady of Ransom

Friday, September 24th, 2010

Our Lady of Ransom

Would you risk your life to free someone from a concentration camp? Would you take the place of a prisoner? Would you sacrifice comforts and even necessities to save a slave? Would you pray and do penance for the freedom of Christian captives?

These things were done by the followers of Christ from the earliest days, but especially during the Middle ages. At that time the enemies of Christ’s Church had conquered a great part of Christian territory and had carried off into slavery many thousands of Christians. Hit and miss, though heroic, efforts to free these unfortunates had been made here and there.

The Church decided to organize the work of ransoming slaves. In 1198 St. John of Matha and St. Felix of Valois founded the Trinitarians. From then until 1787 they redeemed 900,000 captives. The Order of Our Lady of Ransom, called the Mercedarians, and founded by St. Peter Nolasco, ransomed 490,736 slaves between the years 1218 and 1632. St. Vincent de Paul, a slave himself, led his priests to save 1200 Christian captives in the short period between 1642 and 1660 at the staggering cost of 1,200,000 pounds of silver. An even greater achievement was the conversion of thousands in captivity, and steeling them against the sufferings of a cruel martyrdom for the faith.

All this has been admitted by a modern, competent Protestant historian, Bonet-Maury. He records that no expedition sent into the Barbary States by the powers of Europe or America equalled “the moral effect produced by the ministry of consolation, peace and abnegation, going even to the sacrifice of liberty and life, which was exercised by the humble sons of St. John of Matha, St. Peter Nolasco, and St. Vincent de Paul.”

Our Blessed Mother herself appeared in a vision to St. Peter Nolasco, and requested him to found a religious order devoted to the rescue of captives. This was in 1218. Previous to that, since 1192, certain noblemen of Barcelona, Spain, had organized to care for the sick in hospitals and to rescue Christians from the Moors. St. Peter Nolasco, St. Raymond of Penafort, St. Raymond Nonnatus and King James formed the new Order of Our Lady of Mercy. The group included religious priests who prayed and gathered the means, while the lay monks or knights went into the very camps of the Moors to buy back Christians, and, if necessary, take their very places. We have mentioned the magnitude of their success, a success that was won through the heavenly assistance of the Mother of Mercy, Our Lady of Ransom.

Excerpted from the Feasts of Our Lady by Fr. Arthur Tonne

The Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Ransom (or Mercy) is the Patroness of: The Mercedarians (Order of Our Lady of Mercy), the city of Barcelona, Spain; people named Clemency, Mercedes, Mercedez, Merced or Mercy.


O God, who by means of the most glorious Mother of Thy Son was pleased to give new children to Thy Church for the deliverance of Christ’s faithful from the power of the heathen; grant, we beseech Thee, that we who love and honor her as the foundress of so great a work may, by her merits and intercession, be ourselves delivered from all sin and from the bondage of the evil one.   Through the same Christ, our Lord.  AMEN. 

Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Octobri Mense (September 22, 1891), 6:

“This storm of evils, in the midst of which the Church struggles so strenuously, reveals to all her pious children the holy duty whereto they are bound to pray to God with insistence, and the manner in which they may give to their prayers the greater power. Faithful to the religious example of our fathers, let us have recourse to Mary, our holy Sovereign. Let us entreat, let us beseech, with one heart, Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, our Mother. ‘Show yourself to be a mother; cause our prayers to be accepted by Him Who, born for us, consented to be your Son.'” 


Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

This illustration shows, to a certain extent, how the ember days resemble our own lives. In the springtime we receive supernatural life through Baptism (represented by the baptismal candle); throughout the summer and autumn of our lives our souls are nourished by the Body (the host has been made from the kernels of wheat) and the Blood (the chalice) of our Lord. In the winter we reap the harvest of our good works as we begin our journey into eternity, fortified by Holy Viaticum and the sacrament of Extreme Unction (oil).


The “Four Times,” or Ember Days

What Are They?

  • The Ember Days are four series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays which correspond to the natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September, or Michaelmas, Embertide; winter, the Advent Embertide; Spring, the Lenten Embertide; and in summer, the Whit Embertide (named after Whitsunday, the Feast of Pentecost).
  • The English title for these days, “Ember,” is derived from their Latin name: Quatuor Temporum, meaning the “Four Times” or “Four Seasons.”
  • The Embertides are periods of prayer and fasting, with each day having its own special Mass.

What Is Their Significance?

The Ember Days Are…

Universally Christian,

  • The Old Law prescribes a “fast of the fourth month, and a fast of the fifth, and a fast of the seventh, and a fast of tenth” (Zechariah 8:19). There was also a Jewish custom at the time of Jesus to fast every Tuesday and Thursday of the week.
  • The first Christians amended both of these customs, fasting instead on every Wednesday and Friday: Wednesday because it is the day that Christ was betrayed, and Friday because it is the day that He was slain. (And we now know that this biweekly fast is actually older than some books of the New Testament). Later, Christians from both East and West added their own commemorations of the seasons.
  • The Ember Days thus perfectly express and reflect the essence of Christianity. Christianity does not abolish the Law but fulfills it (Mt. 5:17) by following the spirit of the Law rather than its letter. Thus, not one iota of the Law is to be neglected (Mt. 5:18), but every part is to be embraced and continued, albeit on a spiritual, or figurative, level. And living in this spirit is nothing less than living out the New Covenant.  

Uniquely Roman,

  • The Apostles preached one and the same faith wherever they went, but sometimes instituted different customs and practices. Thus, Christians came to love not only the universal faith but the particular apostolic traditions which had initiated them into that faith.
  • The Roman appropriation of the Ember Days involved adding one day: Saturday. This was seen as the culmination of the Ember Week. A special Mass and procession to St. Peter’s in Rome was held, and the congregation was invited to “keep vigil with Peter.”
  • Observing the Ember Days, therefore, not only celebrates our continuity with sacred history, but with our own ecclesiastical tradition. 

Usefully Natural,

  • But continuity is not important because of a blind loyalty to one’s own or a feeling of nostalgia. On the contrary, the Christian fulfillment of the Law is important because of its pedagogical value. Everything in the Law (not to mention the rest of the Bible) is meant to teach us something fundamental about God, His redemptive plan for us, or the nature of the universe, often on levels that are not initially apparent to us. In the case of both the Hebrew seasonal fasts and the Christian Ember Days, we are invited to consider the wonder of the natural seasons and their relation to God. The seasons, for example, can be said to intimate individually the bliss of Heaven, where there is “the beauty of spring, the brightness of summer, the plenty of autumn, the rest of winter” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
  • Second, because the liturgical seasons of the Church are meant to initiate us annually into the mysteries of our redemption, they should also include some commemoration of nature for the simple reason that nature is the very thing which grace perfects. 

Communally Clerical,

  • Another Roman variation of Embertides, instituted by Pope Gelasius I in 494, is to use Ember Saturdays as the day to confer Holy Orders.* Apostolic tradition prescribed that ordinations be preceded by fast and prayer (see Acts 13:3), and so it seemed quite reasonable to place ordinations at the end of this fast period. Moreover, this allows the entire community to join the men in fasting and praying for God’s blessing upon their calling and to share their joy in being called. 

And Personally Prayerful

  • In addition to commemorating the seasons of nature, each of the four Embertides takes on the character of the liturgical season in which it is located. In fact, the Ember Days add to our living out the times of the Church’s calendar. For example, Ember Wednesday of Advent (a.k.a the “Golden Mass”), commemorates the Annunciation while the Ember Friday two days later commemorates the Visitation, the only time in Advent when this is explicitly done.
  • Embertides thus afford us the opportunity to ruminate on a number of important things: the wondrous cycle of nature and the more wondrous story of our redemption, the splendid differentiation of God’s ordained servants — and lastly, the condition of our own souls. Traditionally, these were times of spiritual exercises and personal self-examination, the ancient equivalent of our modern retreats and missions. Little wonder, then, that a host of customs and folklore grew up around them affirming the special character of these days.

MORE ABOUT EMBER DAYS from: With Christ Through the Year by Rev. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B., illustrated by Sister M.A. Justina Knapp, O.S.B., Bruce Publishing Company, Copyright 1947.

  • While man’s prayer is often entirely a petition, liturgical prayer is primarily praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. A typical example of this is the Gloria of the Mass in which we note the gradual rise of praise of God until it reaches a wonderful climax: “Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.” (We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We adore Thee. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory.) In her official liturgical prayers the Church constantly exhorts us to praise, adore, glorify, and thank God. Moreover, she has set aside special seasons to offer prayers of gratitude for the gifts of God. This happens four times a year on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the ember weeks which fall at the beginning of the four seasons of the year.


  • Ember days and ember weeks originated in early Christian days, and were first celebrated in Rome. Early in summer, in Pentecost week, the wheat was harvested. In order to thank God for this harvest, at the Offertory of the Mass a part (a so-called tithe, a tenth part) was offered for the benefit of the Church, the priests, and the poor. In like manner, it was customary to offer tithes of the other harvest in their respective seasons. When the grapes were harvested in September, there was another week of thanks, and similar offerings were made in December when the olive crop was gathered. The fruits of these harvests, wheat, wine, and oil, have been put to the highest possible use in the liturgy of the Church, for she uses them sacramentally, that is, as external signs of the inner grace imparted through her sacraments. She uses them sacramentally, that is, as external signs of the inner grace imparted through her sacraments. She uses bread and wine at the holy sacrifice of the Mass and at Holy Communion; she uses oil at Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Order, Extreme Unction, and for many of her sacramentals (baptismal water, blessing of bells, churches, chalices, etc.). Later, a fourth week of thanksgiving was added in the spring, when it is but natural for man to thank God for the awakening of nature, the budding of the first flowers, and the lengthened hours of daylight. Thus there was a portion to each season of the year a week of thanksgiving for the gifts of nature with which God has so generously enriched the world:


  1. In spring, during the week after Ash Wednesday, to give thanks for the rebirth of nature and for the gift of light.
  2. 2. In summer, within the octave of Pentecost, to give thanks for the wheat crop.
  3. 3. In autumn, beginning on the Wednesday in the week following the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), to give thanks for the grape harvest.
  4. 4. In winter, within the week following the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13), during the third week of Advent, to give thanks for the olive crop.


  • On ember days we thank God four times a year for all the gifts of nature, especially for those used by the Church in her sacraments and sacramentals. We also thank Him for the sacraments, administered to us under the external signs of these gifts of nature. Finally, on these days we pray for the priests, usually ordained at this time, who administer the sacraments to us.

Since the late 5th century, the Ember Days were also the preferred dates for ordination of priests. So during these times the Church had a threefold focus: (1) sanctifying each new season by turning to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving; (2) giving thanks to God for the various harvests of each season; and (3) praying for the newly ordained and for future vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

September 10th: Feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentine, Augustinian Priest & Confessor; Patron of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Friday, September 10th, 2010

From the Priest of Salem:

Since September 10th in the liturgical calendar of the Ordinary Form was “of the Feria” (or “4th Class”), I maintained my custom of celebrating the feast of St. Nicholas of Tolentine using one of the Common Masses.  While not being raised around a single Augustinian, I can thank my maternal grandmother for introducing me to the “other” St. Nicholas, who had the great privilege of being the “Heavenly Patron of the Holy Souls in Purgatory” —  

Here is a short life of St. Nicholas of Tolentine from our parish bulletin of September 5th:

While in no way meant to over shadow the importance of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Mother, which we celebrate on Wednesday of this week (September 8th), on Friday, September 10th, we celebrate the birth into eternal life of an important, but not as well-known citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem: Saint Nicholas of Tolentine (1245-1305).  St. Nicholas was a simple priest and Augustinian Friar who touched the lives of many.  His sprit of prayer, penance, austerity of life and devotion to the Holy Souls were notable. His preaching brought many to Christ.

Nicholas Gurutti was born in 1245 in Sant’Angelo, Pontano, Macerata, Italy. His family was rather poor.  He joined the Augustinian Order while a young man, after hearing the inspired preaching of Reginaldo da Monterubbiano, Prior (local superior) of the Augustinian monastery in Sant’Angelo.

As a priest and religious, he was full of charity towards his brother Augustinians as well as towards the people to whom he ministered. He visited the sick and cared for the needy. He was a noted preacher of the Gospel. He gave special attention to those who had fallen away from the Church.  People considered him a miracle worker.  He often fasted and performed other works of penance.  He spent long hours in prayer before the Most Blessed Sacrament, especially in preparation for offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The story is told that, one day, having fasted for a long time, Nicholas was physically weak. While at prayer, Jesus told him to eat some bread marked with a cross and soaked in water in order to regain his strength. Thus arose the Augustinian custom of blessing and distributing Saint Nicholas Bread in his memory.  Another story relates that Nicholas, while asleep in bed, heard the voice of a deceased Friar he had known. This Friar told Nicholas that he was in Purgatory, and urged him to celebrate the Eucharist for him and other souls there, so that they would be set free by the power of Christ. Nicholas did so for seven days. The Friar again spoke to Nicholas, thanking him and assuring him that a large number of souls were now with God. Because of this Nicholas was proclaimed patron of the souls in Purgatory.  He is also considered the patron saint against epidemic disease and against fires.

During most of his adult life, Nicholas lived in Tolentine, Italy, where he died on September 10, 1305. St. Nicholas was canonized in 1446 by Pope Eugene IV.  Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, Priest & Confessor, pray for us.


O good Jesus, mystically present upon our altars, renewing the oblation of Calvary for the sake of our salvation, we kneel in silence before Thee, as Mary Magdala and John and Thy Blessed Mother knelt in the silence of that awful moment when the Angel of Death spread his wings around the cross. We come to plead with Thee while our thoughts follow Thee down from Calvary to the prisons where the Holy Souls waited through the years of Thy coming.  We plead, dear Jesus, for the release of the poor souls in purgatory.  We plead through the memory of that moment when Thy agonizing Heart ceased to beat on the cross.  We plead through the merits of the angels that serve Thee, through the merits of the Saints who surround Thee, through the merits of St Nicholas of Tolentine, the efficacy of whose great charity towards the poor souls is our encouragement to approach Thy Divine Bounty.  In Thy compassion and mercy for those whom Thou hast redeemed, deign, once again, through the intercession of St. Nicholas, to open the gates of purgatory that the heavens may see the passing of multitudes to eternal happiness. 

Glory be to the Father, etc…..   Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, etc…..

Let us pray:  Grant, we beseech Thee, O Almighty God that Thy Church, which is made illustrious with the glory of the prodigies and miracles of St Nicholas, Thy Blessed Confessor, may, by his merits and intercession enjoy perpetual unity and peace.  Throgh Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Liturgical Ministry Schedule for September 2010

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

The Liturgical Ministry Schedule for September is now posted in the “Pages” section on the right sidebar.  You may also download it by clicking the link below: