Archive for May, 2011

May 31: Feast of the Visitation

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

FROM OUR HOLY FATHER, POPE BENEDICT XVI

MAY 31, 2008

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin and the memory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Therefore, everything invites us to turn our trusting glance to Mary. To her, also this evening, we addressed the ancient and ever actual pious practice of the Rosary.

The Rosary, when it is not a mechanical, traditional form of repetition, is a Biblical meditation that allows us to trace the events of the Lord’s life in the company of the Blessed Virgin, pandering them, like her, in our heart.

In many Christian communities during the month of May there is the beautiful custom of reciting the Holy Rosary in a more solemn way in families and in parishes. Now, that the month is ending, may this good habit continue. Rather, may it continue with more commitment so that, at the school of Mary, the lamp of faith may shine ever more in the hearts and homes of Christians.

In today’s Feast of the Visitation the liturgy has us listen again to Luke’s Gospel passage that recounts Mary of Nazareth’s journey to the home of her elderly cousin Elizabeth.

A new chapter begins

Let us imagine the Virgin’s state of mind after the Annunciation, when the Angel left her. Mary found herself with a great mystery enclosed within her womb; she knew something extraordinarily unique had happened; she was aware that the last chapter of salvation history in the world had begun.

But everything around her remained as before and the village of Nazareth was completely unaware of what had happened to her.

Before worrying about herself, Mary instead thought about elderly Elizabeth, who she knew was well on in her pregnancy and, moved by the mystery of love that she had just welcomed within herself, she set out “in haste” to go to offer Elizabeth her help. This is the simple and sublime greatness of Mary!

When she reaches Elizabeth’s house, an event takes place that no artist could ever portray with the beauty and the intensity with which it took place.

The interior light of the Holy Spirit enfolds their persons. And Elizabeth, enlightened from on high, exclaims: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:42-45).

These words could appear to us out of proportion with respect to the real context. Elizabeth is one of the many elderly people in Israel and Mary is an unknown young woman from a lost village of Galilee. What can this be and what can they accomplish in a world where other people count and other powers hold sway.

Overturning thrones

Yet, once again Mary amazes us; her heart is limpid, totally open to God’s light. Her soul is without sin, it is not weighed down by pride or selfishness. Elizabeth’s words enkindle in her spirit a canticle of praise, which is an authentic and profound “theological” reading of history: a reading that we must continually learn from the one whose faith is without shadow and without wrinkle.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. Mary recognizes God’s greatness. This is the first indispensable sentiment of faith. It is the sentiment that gives security to human creatures and frees from fear, even in the midst of the tempest of history.

Going beyond the surface, Mary “sees” the work of God in history with the eyes of faith. This is why she is blessed, because she believed. By faith, in fact, she accepted the Word of the Lord and conceived the Incarnate Word. Her faith has shown her that the thrones of the powerful of this world are temporary, while God’s throne is the only rock that does not change or fall.

Her Magnificat, at the distance of centuries and millennia, remains the truest and most profound interpretation of history, while the interpretations of so many of this world’s wise have been belied by events in the course of the centuries.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us return home with the Magnificat in our heart. Let us bring the same sentiments of praise and thanksgiving of Mary to the Lord, her faith and her hope, her docile abandonment in the hands of Divine Providence.

May we imitate her example of readiness and generosity in the service of our brethren. Indeed, only by accepting God’s love and making of our existence a selfless and generous service to our neighbour, can we joyfully lift a song of praise to the Lord.

May the Blessed Mother, who invites us this evening to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart, obtain this grace for us.

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ARTWORK: The Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary by Brigid Marlin

In the painting, Elizabeth’s mature age is represented by the tree with fruit behind her, while behind Mary is a young tree in flower. The mysterious knowledge of the coming of Christ is first known by the unborn John the Baptist and then by his mother Elizabeth.   Thus the sacred things are revealed first to the innocent one who represents the mysterious inner life within us all.  (For more information on the artist, go to www.brigidmarlin.com).

 

May 25th – Feast of St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, Carmelite

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi (1566 – May 25, 1607)

by Joachim Smet, O. Carm.

Born in 1566, Catherine de’ Pazzi was destined to live during one of the more difficult periods in the history of the Catholic Church and to become one of the Order’s and indeed the Church’s most exalted mystics. Even as a girl she was attracted to prayer, solitude, and penance. She had a deep devotion for the Eucharist, receiving his first Communion at the age of ten and shortly thereafter making a vow of virginity.

In the family, Catherine was called Lucrezia out of respect for her paternal grandmother, Lucrezia Mannucci. But this was never really accepted by Catherine herself because of her love for Catherine of Siena who had lived two centuries earlier but whose life would have a deep impact upon de’Pazzi’s.

Born into a noble Florentine family, Catherine received religious training from the Jesuits. At the age of nine she was taught how to meditate, using a recently published work explaining how one should meditate on the Passion of Christ. Year later, this book was one of the items she brought with her to Carmel.

In 1583 Catherine was received as a novice in the enclosed Carmelite monastery of St. Mary of the Angels in Florence, Italy in 1583. She took the name Maria Magdalen. Because of illness, a fever accompanied by violent coughing that appeared to put her life in jeopardy, her first profession was anticipated.

The Florentine monastery was frequently a gathering place for women of the court of Florence– among them the future wife of Henry IV of France. Others more familiar with the lives of the religious leaders and members of the religious orders came calling, giving the saint the opportunity to become very familiar with the shortcomings of life in the Church.

Mary Magdalen’s sudden cure after her profession was followed by a state of ecstasy which lasted forty days. Every morning after Mass, the young sister fell into an ecstasy lasting two hours. At other times she experienced “excesses of love.”

These ecstasies continued into the year 1585 often with such frequency that one other nun recorded “We can hardly find a free moment to speak to her, as she is constantly in a state of elevation of mind.” Often these ecstasies involved colloquy.

This time of spiritual consolation was followed by “the lion’s den,” a five-year period of “the greatest trial and affliction of spirit,” beginning on Trinity Sunday, June 16, 1585. Gone was the sense of joy in God’s presence. Her whole life seemed a mistake. She was severely tested against chastity. She underwent doubts about her vocation. Ecstasies were still experienced but they brought little comfort. She was tempted to run away from the monastery and commit suicide.

The Church in the second half of the 1500’s was struggling with its interior difficulties as well as forces for change from the outside. The Council of Trent had concluded in 1563, three years before Catherine de’ Pazzi was born. But the people and the hierarchy were still struggling to implement the doctrinal statements and the reforms called for by the Council years after Pope Paul IV confirmed all the Council’s decrees on January 26, 1564. Within the lengthy list of the Council’s reforms was that of religious life.

The ecstasies of Sr. Mary Magdalen continued. In some, Jesus was urging her to reform the Church and her community. Together with the spread of the Gospel and an anxiety for the salvation of souls, this theme of the renewal of the Church and of religious life in the Church, became her major focuses.

Mary Magdalen wrote a dozen letters which exist today, dating from July 25 to September 4, 1586, dictated by the saint while in ecstasy. Each of the 12 letters deals with the same topic: the urgent need for the renewal of the Church and in particular of religious.

On the feast of Pentecost, June 10, 1590, in a vision of the saints, Mary Magdelen was freed from “the lion’s den.” Her ecstasies began occurring less frequently but they only ceased with her last illness, beginning in 1604.

But it is not because of her experience of ecstasy that Mary Magdalen was canonized but for perfection of love, manifested in fidelity to daily duty and sincere dedication to the needs of others. She rose early to light the fire in the kitchen or laundry and spent hours cooking and washing. She was devoted to the aged and infirm; she would have dearly love to be the nurse of the monastery.  From 1595 to 1598 she was in charge of the junior professed. In 1598 she was elected novice mistress; in 1604, sub-prioress.

It was in this year that Mary Magdalen took to her bed. For some time she had been suffering hemorrhages, fever, and coughing spells. Violent headaches were part of her suffering to the point she could not eat. “To suffer, not to die” is the motto attributed to her and the perfect expression of her spirit.She received Extreme Unction on May 13, 1607 and died 12 days later on May 25, 1607 at in the early afternoon. The nuns were present reciting the “Symbol” of St. Athanasius,  a prayer which was so dear to the dying woman. She was 45 years old. Her last words were recorded to be “Benedictus Deus” (Blessed be God!).

Following her death at age 41, various miracles occurred when people visited her grave.

One year after her burial, permission was given to bring it back into the cloister, into the room where she died. Her body was found to be intact. The process for beatification began in August 1611. She was beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1626 and canonized by Pope Clement IX on April 28, 1669.

The Carmelite monastery has moved a couple of times from the monastery where the Saint lived and died. However, her incorrupt body remains with the community.

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From “On Revelation and Temptation” by St. Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi

How truly wonderful You are, O Word of God, in the Holy Spirit; You cause Him to infuse the soul with You, that it may join itself to God, conceive God, savor God, taste nothing but God.

The Holy Spirit enters the soul, sealed with that precious seal of the blood of the Word, the Lamb that was slain. Indeed it is this blood that urges Him to come, although the Spirit is moved of Himself and desires to come.

This moving Spirit in Himself is the substance of the Father and of the Word, proceeding from the essence of the Father and the will of the Word, coming like a fountain into the soul, which is submerged in it.  And just as two streams which rise separately mingle together so that the lesser loses its own name and takes the name of the greater, this divine Spirit acts in the same way when He enters the soul in order to join Himself to it. The soul must lose its own name, which is the lesser, and relinquish it to the Spirit; it will do this if it so turns towards the Spirit that it becomes one with Him.

This Spirit, the dispenser of the treasures that are in the Father and keeper of the counsels that are between the Father and the Son, pours Himself so sweetly into the soul that He is not perceived, and His greatness is understood by few.

Drawn by the force of His love and yet moving with supreme freedom, He moves into all places that are suitable and disposed to receive Him. He is heard by all in His frequent utterances and in His profound silence. By the force of love, being both unmoved and swiftest of all in movement, He enters all things.

You do not remain, Holy Spirit, in the unmoved Father, nor in the Word, and yet You are always in the Father and in the Word and in Yourself, and in all blessed spirits and creatures.  All creatures need You, since the only-begotten Word, by shedding His blood, in His burning love placed all creatures in need of Him. You repose in creatures who dispose themselves so
that, by receiving Your gifts, they may in purity receive Your own image in themselves. You repose in those who receive in themselves the effect of the blood of the Word, and make themselves worthy dwelling- places for You.

Come, Holy Spirit. May the union of the Father and the will of the Son come to us. You, Spirit of truth, are the reward of the saints, the refreshment of souls, light in darkness, the riches of the poor, the treasury of lovers, the satisfaction of the hungry, the consolation of the pilgrim Church; You are He in whom all treasures are contained.

Come, You who, descending into Mary, caused the Word to take flesh: effect in us by grace what You accomplished in her by grace and nature. 

Come, You who are the nourishment of all chaste thoughts, the fountain of all clemency, the summit of all purity.

Come, and take away from us all that hinders us from being absorbed in You.

May 24: Patronal Feast of Mary, Help of Christians

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Our Parish and Parish Church are officially dedicated to Blessed Mary ever-Virgin under her title, Auxilium Christianorum, or Help of Christians:

The feast of Mary, Help of Christians, May 24th, was instituted by Pius VII. By order of Napoleon, Pope Pius VII was arrested, 5 July, 1808, and detained a prisoner for three years at Savona, and then at Fontainebleau. In January, 1814, after the battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free on the vigil of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy (September 23), the Patroness of Savona. The journey to Rome was a veritable triumph. The Supreme Pontiff, attributing the victory of the Church after so much agony and distress to the Blessed Virgin Mary, visited many of her sanctuaries on the way and crowned her images (e.g. the “Madonna del Monte” at Cesena, “della Misericordia” at Treja, “della Colonne” and “della Tempestà” at Tolentino). The people crowded around the venerable Pontiff who had so bravely withstood the threats of Napoleon. He entered Rome on May 24, 1814, and was enthusiastically welcomed. To commemorate his own sufferings and those of the Church during his exile, he extended the feast of the Seven Dolours of Mary (September 15) to the universal Church. When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march through the Papal States from Naples; Pius VII fled to Savona (March 22, 1815), where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy.

After the Congress of Vienna and the battle of Waterloo, Pope Pius VII returned to Rome, July 7, 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady he instituted for the Papal States the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to be celebrated on May 24, the anniversary of his first return. Soon, the Dioceses of Tuscany adopted it (in 1816) and others followed.

This feast of Our Lady is also the patronal feast of Australia, and in accordance with a vow (1891) is celebrated with great splendour in the churches of the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special celebrity since St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Congregation, dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians (and the title of the mother church of his congregation at Turin). The Salesian Fathers have carried the devotion Our Lady under this title all over the world.

May 22: Feast of Saint Rita of Cascia

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Rita Lotti was born in 1381 in the tiny hamlet of Roccaporena, near Cascia, in the Province of Umbria, Italy. Her parents Antonio and Amata looked upon their only child as a very special gift from God since she was born to them as they were already getting on in years.

The Lottis were a devout Christian couple, offering their daughter the witness of strong faith in God and a practical example of Gospel living, especially in their role as official peacemakers or reconcilers among their fellow citizens. It should not have been surprising then that Rita, who shared her parents strong faith and religious devotion, would have desired to dedicate her life to God as a nun. Unexpected, rather, was the response of Antonio and Amata, who preferred to see Rita married, and who, in fact, had arranged a suitable husband for her.

Though initially disappointed, Rita understood this choice to be the expression of God’s will for her and so she consented. Both the civil and ecclesiastical climates at the time were not healthy ones – frequent conflicts and family rivalries were routinely settled by the rule of vendetta on the social level – and the scandal of antipopes and their rival bishops dominated the life of the Church. The only child of aging parents would have been far safer under the protection of a good husband, they thought, than she would be behind the unguarded walls of a convent.

Thus Rita was married to Paolo Mancini, a good man though of strong and impetuous character. Their marriage was blessed with two sons, perhaps twins, and Rita’s days were soon filled with the typical concerns of wife, mother and housekeeper, while Paolo was employed as a watchman for the town. As a minor civil servant, Paolo often found himself drawn into the conflicts that existed between rival political factions, and this may account for the tragedy which eventually touched the Mancini family. One day as he was returning from work Paolo was ambushed and killed. The pain which this unexpected and violent death inflicted upon Rita was only compounded by the fear that her sons would seek to avenge their father’s death.

Her example of forgiveness, her words of instruction and pleading, her prayers for their change of heart, were unable to move the two boys to forego any act of retaliation, and so Rita entrusted the cause totally to God, asking him to handle the situation which was beyond her control.  As it happened, both sons died within the year.

Now alone, Rita gave herself to works of charity and to a more intense life of prayer. Eventually the desire to enter the convent once more grew in her, but her request for entrance among the Augustinian Nuns of Cascia was refused, not once but three times. Though Rita was known to the nuns of the Monastery of Saint Mary Magdalene, her good character and religious spirit were outweighed, in the judgment of the community, by the violence that surrounded Paolo’s death. The nuns were afraid of tempting the peace of convent life, possibly because one of their members belonged to the family responsible for Paolo’s murder. But Rita felt deeply that this was the vocation to which she was called and she turned to her three patron saints to intercede for her. After the third refusal of the nuns, Rita recognized that she herself must put their fears to rest. She approached Paolo’s family as well as their rivals, and persuaded them to put an end to their hostility and to live in peace.

The example of her own forgiving spirit, no doubt, was an inspiration and – perhaps an embarrassment – to them. The families were reconciled. They signed a document to this effect, and when Rita presented the document to the nuns, they no longer had reason to refuse her. Rita Lotti Mancini now became Sister Rita.

For the next forty years Rita lived the life of an Augustinian Nun, according to the Rule of the saint she had chosen years before as her spiritual father, Saint Augustine of Hippo. His was a gentle Rule which invited the members of the community to strive in every way possible to achieve communion of mind and heart with God and one another. Her days were spent in prayer and contemplation, in service to the sick and the poor, and in activities necessary to support the life of the small community.

After twenty-five years of religious life, Rita was given what she considered a most treasured and singular gift from God. Always devoted to Jesus crucified, her desire constantly grew to share in his great act of love for her and for all humanity by helping to carry his cross. One day as she knelt in prayer, her forehead was pierced by a violent wound, a thorn from the crown that covered Jesus’s own head. She bore this wound for fifteen years until the day of her death.

For the last several years of her life Rita was confined to bed. The last of the many crosses she was presented in life was now the humbling condition of an invalid, totally dependent upon the charity of her sisters. Finally, on May 22,1457 Rita’s life on earth came to an end. The various crosses she had born as wife, widow, mother and nun were now put aside once and for all as she met the embrace of her Risen Lord.

St. Rita was honored as a Saint by the acclamation of the Faithful and the approval of the local bishop a few years after her death.  However, in order to formalize and spread her “Cultus” in the Church of the 20th Century, and to give Papal approbation to the long-kept devotion of the Faithful, St. Rita of Cascia was formally canonized in 1900 by His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII.

NOVENA PRAYERS IN HONOR OF SAINT RITA OF CASCIA

Leader: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and our hearts will be renewed.

All: And you will renew the face of the earth.

Leader: O God, Who by the light of the Holy Spirit, instructed the hearts of the faithful; grant us, by the same Holy Spirit, a love and desire for what is right and just, and the constant enjoyment of His consolation, through Christ our Lord.   Amen.

THE LITANY OF SAINT RITA

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us, Christ hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God, the Son, Redeemer of the world, ….
God, the Holy Spirit, …
Holy Trinity, One God, …
Immaculate Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Mary, Mother of pure love, …
Holy Mary, Comforter of the afflicted, …
Holy Mary, Queen of all the saints, …
Holy Mary, Model of life for Saint Rita, …
St. Rita, our advocate and protectress, …
St. Rita, beloved by the Lord, …
St. Rita given special grace from heaven, …
St. Rita, remarkable in childhood, …
St. Rita, model of obedience to God’s Will, …
St. Rita, of untiring patience, …
St. Rita, model of Christian mothers, …
St. Rita, mirror for Christian spouses, …

St. Rita, heroic in sacrifice, …
St. Rita, generous in forgiving, …
St. Rita, martyr in penitence, …
St. Rita, embracing humility and poverty, …
St. Rita, exemplary as a widow, …
St. Rita, prompt to answer the divine call, …
St. Rita, patient in suffering, …
St. Rita, mirror of religious observance, …
St. Rita, mystical rose of every virtue, …
St. Rita, enamored of the Passion of Christ, …
St. Rita, pierced with a thorn, …
St. Rita, in ecstasy before the Blessed Sacrament, …
St. Rita, consumed with Divine Love, …
St. Rita, received into heaven with joy, …
St. Rita, incorrupt in your chaste body, …
St. Rita, advocate of impossible cases, …
St. Rita, persevering in prayer, …
St. Rita, help of those in need, …

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

Leader: Lord, you have signed your servant, Rita.
All: With the marks of Your love and Passion.

Leader: Let us pray. O God, Who bestowed on St. Rita such grace that she loved her enemies, and bore in her heart and on her forehead the mark of Your love and Passion, grant us, we beseech You, through her merits and intercession, a love for our enemies. Through our contemplation of Your sufferings and Passion, may we merit the reward promised to the meek and the suffering. You live and reign forever. Amen.

 

PRAYER OF PETITION

Glorious St. Rita, patroness of those in need/ your intercession with our Lord is most powerful./ Through the favors obtained by your prayers/ you have been called Advocate of hopeless and even impossible cases./ St. Rita, humble and pure; patient and compassionate lover of Christ Crucified!/ We have confidence that everyone who has recourse to you, will find comfort and relief./ Listen to our petitions and show your power with God in our behalf./ Obtain our petitions for us/ if they are for the greater honor of God, and for our good./ We promise, if our petitions are granted,/ to make known your favor, and to glorify God for His gift./ Relying on your power with the merciful Savior, we ask of you . . .

(here mention your request in silence)

By the singular merits of your childhood,                              ALL: obtain our request for us
By your perfect union with the Divine Will, …
By your acceptance of troubles in your married life, …
By the anguish felt at the murder of your husband, …
By the surrender of your children, rather than have them offend God, …
By your miraculous entrance into the convent,
By your daily penance and fasting, …
By your courage and joy in bearing the mark of the Crucified Savior, …
By the Divine Love which consumed your life,
By your devotion in receiving the Blessed Sacrament, …
By the happiness you felt in leaving this life for union with Christ, …
By the example you have given to people of every state of life, …

Pray for us, St. Rita,                           ALL: That we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

Leader: Let us pray.

All: Heavenly Father! In Your infinite love and mercy/ You heed the prayer of Your beloved servant, Rita./ You graciously grant favors through her intercession,/ which are considered impossible to human skill and effort./ Relying on her compassionate love, we ask You to assist us in our trials and difficulties./ Let unbelievers know/ that you are the helper of the humble,/ the defender of the weak, and the strength of those who trust in You. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.  

First Holy Communion 2011 – Sunday, May 1st

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

First Holy Communion - May 1, 2011

Photos of Easter 2011 (Part II) and Divine Mercy Sunday

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

These photos were taken on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1st.  We also had First Holy Communion at the 10:00am Mass, and a Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form at 1:30pm, followed by Divine Mercy Devotions and Benediction.  The chalice and paten of the late Father Scott Buchanan of the Diocese of Charleston, SC, given to me in 2003 by his dear mother, Carol, were used at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be the late Pope John Paul II (now Blessed John Paul II) in 1997, while Fr. Buchanan was a student at the North American College in Rome.  Father Buchanan died on January 6, 2001.  I use this chalice and paten almost daily.

Photos of Easter 2011 (part one)…

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Including a group photo of the six who entered the Church at the Paschal Vigil on Easter Night… 

 

Photos from Good Friday 2011

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

…also, our new Tenebrae Hearse used for the Divine Office of Holy Thursday, Good Friday & Holy Saturday…

Photos from Holy Thursday 2011

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011