Archive for August, 2014

August 31st: Feast of St. Raymond Nonnatus

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

St. Raymond Nonnatus was born in Portella in the Diocese of Urgel, Catalonia, around the year 1203. He received the name of Raymond at his Baptism and the nickname of Nonnatus [non natus in Latin means not born] because he was not born normally, but was delivered by a caesarian operation. His father was a shepherd according to some, and a member of the noble family of Cardona, according to others.

From the time he was very young, he manifested a great devotion to the Most Holy Virgin. He prayed the Rosary every day in the hermitage of St. Nicholas of Mira. Once Our Lady appeared to him and promised him her protection. Afterward he was strongly tempted to sin against chastity, but did not fall. He went to thank his Patroness and consecrated his virginity to her. Mary appeared to him again, showing her satisfaction and advising him to enter the Order of the Mercedarians, whose foundation she had inspired St. Peter Nolasco to make only shortly before, in 1218.

He was ordained a priest and dedicated himself to the redemption of captives until 1231. He liberated 140 captives in Valencia, 250 in Argel, and 28 in Tunis. It was in this last city that he had the occasion to fulfill the special fourth vow of the Mercedarians to offer themselves to remain in captivity in the place of Catholic prisoners. Since he was unable to pay the ransom demanded by the slave dealers in Tunis, Raymond offered himself to take the place of some prisoners.

The trade was made, and he began a hard captivity. To prevent him from speaking about Our Lord, for his engaging words were converting numerous Muslims, the Arabian slave masters pierced his lips with a red-hot iron and closed them with a padlock. This padlock was only opened for him to eat. After eight months of this torment, other Mercedarians arrived from Spain bringing the demanded ransom.

The last ten years of his life were spent in Rome, where he became the representative of his Order and in traveling throughout different countries to preach the Crusade. As a cardinal representative of Pope Gregory IX he was sent to meet with St. Louis of France and encourage him to go on the Crusade, which actually took place 10 years later.

St. Raymond Nonnatus died in Cardona, a Spanish village close to Barcelona, on August 31, 1240. He was only 37-years-old.

The life of St. Raymond Nonnatus is a life filled with extraordinary facts. Among them, let me note first the sign Our Lady gave him that led him to the Order of the Mercedarians.

Second, you can see that the epopee of his action in the redemption of slaves reached its apex with his offer to deliver himself as a slave to ransom Catholic prisoners.

Third, consider the torment he suffered of having a padlock perforating his lips. Imagine the enormous pain and discomfort of having a padlock cutting through one’s lips even in sleep. Think how this would bother a man and disturb his nervous system! Then, each time that he had to eat, a Moor would come and open the padlock, breaking the wounds anew and causing new sufferings. Closing it would produce additional torments. Was he allowed to drink water during the day? Can you imagine the discomfort of drinking anything in this situation? He endured this life for the period of eight months.

What did he do when he was freed? Did he have a psychological breakdown? Become discouraged? Feel sorry for himself? No. He took an extraordinarily manly attitude and returned to a life of intense activity. You see how he resisted the temptations to feel sorry for himself and stop fighting for the Catholic cause. His attitude demanded a highly supernatural spirit and a strong virile personality. You see the astonishing fortitude of soul such a man had. He returned and continued an active life for another ten years or so.

He traveled throughout Europe as an ambassador of the Pope and a preacher of the Crusade. What a powerful impression the word of his sermons delivered by his wounded lips must have made on the people!

The hearts of the knights begin to be touched, the ladies weep and give their consent for their husbands to go and fight for the Holy Land. Everyone goes to Confession and the date of the Crusade is announced. The practical preparations start. All this happens because a saint passes through that area. He was a character worthy to preach a Crusade. You understand why the Crusades were so well accepted in the Middle Ages when you know that men like St. Raymond Nonnatus preached them. Their audiences accepted the great sacrifice of going on the Crusades following the examples of the sacrifice of the Saints that preached them.

Imagine such a scene. St. Raymond Nonnatus arriving in a city; the bells ringing and the word spreading that Fr. Raymond – the one with the wounded lips – is in town to preach a Crusade on behalf of the Pope. All the nobles and people of the area gather around with their families and he begins to speak.

He speaks about the meaning of the Sepulcher of Our Lord Jesus Christ and what its profanation represents. How it is necessary to re-conquer it for the glory of God and Catholic honor. He speaks with the voice and prestige of a saint, with the supernatural power of communication that only the saints have.
This imaginary scene may help you to understand what the Middle Ages was. The influence of the saints and the good reception the people gave them is what really explains why the Middle Ages had so many wonderful things and our epoch does not. The key is the presence of the saints and the openness people had for them. How few saints there are today! Knowing this, we understand the tragedy of the contemporary situation of the Church and the world.

Let us ask St. Raymond Nonnatus to give us more saints to regenerate the Church and the world, and make the modern man recognize them and be receptive to their message
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August 27th: Feast of St. Monica

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014
Statue of St. Monica next to Reliquary of Saints of the Augustinian Order

Statue of St. Monica next to Reliquary of Saints of the Augustinian Order

Widow; born of Christian parents at Tagaste, North Africa, in 333; died at Ostia, near Rome, in 387.

We are told but little of her childhood. She was married early in life to Patritius who held an official position in Tagaste. He was a pagan, though like so many at that period, his religion was no more than a name; his temper was violent and he appears to have been of dissolute habits. Consequently Monica’s married life was far from being a happy one, more especially as Patritius’s mother seems to have been of a like disposition with himself. There was of course a gulf between husband and wife; her alms deeds and her habits of prayer annoyed him, but it is said that he always held her in a sort of reverence. Monica was not the only matron of Tagaste whose married life was unhappy, but, by her sweetness and patience, she was able to exercise a veritable apostolate amongst the wives and mothers of her native town; they knew that she suffered as they did, and her words and example had a proportionate effect.

Three children were born of this marriage, Augustine the eldest, Navigius the second, and a daughter, Perpetua. Monica had been unable to secure baptism for her children, and her grief was great when Augustine fell ill; in her distress she besought Patritius to allow him to be baptized; he agreed, but on the boy’s recovery withdrew his consent. All Monica’s anxiety now centred in Augustine; he was wayward and, as he himself tells us, lazy. He was sent to Madaura to school and Monica seems to have literally wrestled with God for the soul of her son. A great consolation was vouchsafed her — in compensation perhaps for all that she was to experience through Augustine — Patritius became a Christian. Meanwhile, Augustine had been sent to Carthage, to prosecute his studies, and here he fell into grievous sin. Patritius died very shortly after his reception into the Church and Monica resolved not to marry again. At Carthage Augustine had become a Manichean and when on his return home he ventilated certain heretical propositions she drove him away from her table, but a strange vision which she had urged her to recall him. It was at this time that she went to see a certain holy bishop, whose name is not given, but who consoled her with the now famous words, “the child of those tears shall never perish.” There is no more pathetic story in the annals of the Saints than that of Monica pursuing her wayward son to Rome, wither he had gone by stealth; when she arrived he had already gone to Milan, but she followed him. Here she found St. Ambrose and through him she ultimately had the joy of seeing Augustine yield, after seventeen years of resistance. Mother and son spent six months of true peace at Cassiacum, after which time Augustine was baptized in the church of St. John the Baptist at Milan. Africa claimed them however, and they set out on their journey, stopping at Cività Vecchia and at Ostia. Here death overtook Monica and the finest pages of his “Confessions” were penned as the result of the emotion Augustine then experienced.

St. Monica was buried at Ostia, and at first seems to have been almost forgotten, though her body was removed during the sixth century to a hidden crypt in the church of St. Aureus. About the thirteenth century, however, the cult of St. Monica began to spread and a feast in her honour was kept on 4 May. In 1430 Martin V ordered the relics to be brought to Rome. Many miracles occurred on the way, and the cultus of St. Monica was definitely established. Later the Archbishop of Rouen, Cardinal d’Estouteville, built a church at Rome in honour of St. Augustine and deposited the relics of St. Monica in a chapel to the left of the high altar. The Office of St. Monica however does not seem to have found a place in the Roman Breviary before the sixteenth century.

In 1850 there was established at Notre Dame de Sion at Paris an Association of Christian mothers under the patronage of St. Monica; its object was mutual prayer for sons and husbands who had gone astray. This Association was in 1856 raised to the rank of an archconfraternity and spread rapidly over all the Catholic world, branches being established in Dublin, London, Liverpool, Sydney, and Buenos Aires. Eugenius IV had established a similar Confraternity long before.

 

August 26th: Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Our Lady of Czestochowa, or the Black Madonna, is a painting of the Madonna and Christ Child which legend states was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist. It was while Luke was painting Mary that she told him about the events in the life of Jesus that he eventually used in his gospel.

This same legend states that that when St. Helen went to Jerusalem to search for the true cross in 326 AD, she happened upon this portrait of Our Lady. She gave it to her son, Constantine, who had a shrine built to house it. In a critical battle with the Saracens, the portrait was displayed from the walls of Constantinople and the Saracens were subsequently routed. The portrait was credited with saving the city. The painting was eventually owned by Charlemagne who subsequently presented the painting to Prince Leo of Ruthenia (northwest Hungary).It remained at the royal palace in Ruthenia until an invasion occurred in the eleventh century. The king prayed to Our Lady to aid his small army and as a result of this prayer a darkness overcame the enemy troops who, in their confusion, began attacking one another. Ruthenia was saved as a result of this intervention by Our Lady. In the fourteenth century, it was transferred to the Mount of Light (Jasna Gora) in Poland in response to a request made in a dream of Prince Ladislaus of Opola.

The legendary history becomes better documented with the painting’s ownership by Prince Ladislaus. In 1382 invading Tartars attacked the Prince’s fortress at Belz. In this attack one of the Tartar arrows hit the painting and lodged in the throat of the Madonna. The Prince, fearing that he and the famous painting might fall to the Tartars, fled in the night finally stopping in the town of Czestochowa, where the painting was installed in a small church. The Prince subsequently had a Pauline monastery and church built to ensure the painting’s safety. In 1430, the Hussites overran the monastery and attempted to take the portrait. One of the looters twice struck the painting with his sword but before he could strike another blow he fell to the floor writhing in agony and died. Both the sword cuts and the arrow wound are still visible in the painting.

Later, in 1655, Poland was almost entirely overrun by the forces of Sweden’s King Charles X. Only the area around the monastery remained unconquered. Somehow, the monks of the monastery successfully defended the portrait against a forty day siege and eventually all of Poland was able to drive out the invaders.

After this remarkable turn of events, the Lady of Czestochowa became the symbol of Polish national unity and was crowned Queen of Poland. The King of Poland placed the country under the protection of the Blessed Mother. A more recent legend surrounding the painting involves the Russian invasion of Poland in 1920. Legend holds that the Russian army was massing on the banks of the Vistula river, threatening Warsaw, when an image of the Virgin was seen in the clouds over the city. The troops withdrew on seeing the image.

There have been reports for centuries of miraculous events such as spontaneous healings occurring to those who made a pilgrimage to the portrait. It gets its name “Black Madonna” from the soot residue that discolors the painting. The soot is the result of centuries of votive lights and candles burning in front of the painting. With the fall of communism in Poland, pilgrimages to the Black Madonna have increased dramatically.

August 23rd: Feast of St. Rose of Lima

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014
Statue of St. Rose venerated in rectory chapel

Statue of St. Rose venerated in rectory chapel

From the writings of St. Rose of Lima (April 20, 1586 – August 24, 1617):

Our Lord and Saviour lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: “Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.”

When I heard these words, a strong force came upon me and seemed to place me in the middle of a street, so that I might say in a loud voice to people of every age, sex and status: “Hear, O people; hear, O nations. I am warning you about the commandment of Christ by using words that came from his own lips: We cannot obtain grace unless we suffer afflictions. We must heap trouble upon trouble to attain a deep participation in the divine nature, the glory of the sons of God and perfect happiness of soul.”

That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of divine grace. It pressed me so that my breath came slow and forced me to sweat and pant. I felt as if my soul could no longer be kept in the prison of the body, but that it had burst its chains and was free and alone and was going very swiftly through the whole world saying:

“If only mortals would learn how great it is to possess divine grace, how beautiful, how noble, how precious. How many riches it hides within itself, how many joys and delights! Without doubt they would devote all their care and concern to winning for themselves pains and afflictions. All men throughout the world would seek trouble, infirmities and torments, instead of good fortune, in order to attain the unfathomable treasure of grace. This is the reward and the final gain of patience. No one would complain about his cross or about troubles that may happen to him, if he would come to know the scales on which they are weighed when they are distributed to men.”

COLLECT 
O God, you set Saint Rose of Lima on fire with your love,
so that, secluded from the world
in the austerity of a life of penance,
she might give herself to you alone;
grant, we pray, that through her intercession,
we may tread the paths of life on earth
and drink at the stream of your delights in heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

August 22nd: Feast of the Queenship of Our Lady

Friday, August 22nd, 2014
Icon of Our Lady Czestochowa venerated in the Rectory Chapel

Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa venerated in the Rectory Chapel

From an Advent Homily of St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us.

The price of our salvation is offered to you. We shall be set free at once if you consent. In the eternal Word of God we all came to be, and behold, we die. In your brief response we are to be remade in order to be recalled to life.

Tearful Adam with his sorrowing family begs this of you, O loving Virgin, in their exile from Paradise. Abraham begs it, David begs it. All the other holy patriarchs, your ancestors, ask it of you, as they dwell in the country of the shadow of death. This is what the whole earth waits for, prostrate at your feet. It is right in doing so, for on your word depends comfort for the wretched, ransom for the captive, freedom for the condemned, indeed, salvation for all the sons of Adam, the whole of your race.

Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word.

Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident. This is no time for virginal simplicity to forget prudence. In this matter alone, O prudent Virgin, do not fear to be presumptuous. Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving.  Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word.

Quotes of Pope St. Pius X

Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Photo and Relic of St. Pius X in Rectory Chapel

Photo and Relic of St. Pius X venerated in the Rectory Chapel

Where is the road which leads us to Jesus Christ?  It is before our eyes: it is the Church.  It is our duty to recall to everyone, great and small, the absolute necessity we are under to have recourse to this Church in order to work out our eternal salvation.

It is an error to believe that Christ did not teach a determined body of doctrine applicable to all times and to all men, but rather that He inaugurated a religious movement adapted, or to be adapted, to different times and different places.

“Progress” of dogmas is, in reality, nothing but corruption of dogmas … I absolutely reject the heretical doctrine of the evolution of dogma, as passing from one meaning to another, and different from the sense in which the Church originally held it. And likewise, I condemn every error by which philosophical inventions, or creations of the human mind, or products elaborated by human effort and destined to indefinite progress in the future are substituted for that Divine Deposit given by Christ to the faithful custody of the Church . . . Condemned and proscribed is the error that dogmas are nothing but interpretations and evolutions of Christian intelligence which have increased and perfected the little seed hidden in the Gospel.

For, since it is the will of Divine Providence that we should have the God-Man through Mary, there is no other way for us to receive Christ except from her hands.

The Child is not found without Mary, His Mother . . . If, then, it is impossible to separate what God has united, it is also certain that you cannot find Jesus except with Mary and through Mary.

Bearing in her womb the Savior, Mary can also be said to have borne all those whose life the Savior’s life enshrined. All of us, then, as many as are knit to Christ  . . . have come forth from Mary’s womb: one body, as it were, knit together with its Head.

The Rosary is the most beautiful and most rich in graces of all prayers.  It is the prayer that touches most the heart of the Mother of God…and if you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary.

 

Prayer to St. Joseph by Pope St. Pius X

Glorious St. Joseph, model of all who are devoted to labor, obtain for me the grace to work in the spirit of penance in expiation of my many sins; to work conscientiously by placing love of duty above my inclinations; to gratefully and joyously deem it an honor to employ and to develop by labor the gifts I have received from God, to work methodically, peacefully, and in moderation and patience, without ever shrinking from it through weariness or difficulty to work; above all, with purity of intention and unselfishness, having unceasingly before my eyes death and the account I have to render of time lost, talents unused, good not done, and vain complacency in success, so baneful to the work of God. All for Jesus, all for Mary, all to imitate thee, O patriarch St. Joseph! This shall be my motto for life and eternity.Where is the road which leads us to Jesus Christ?  It is before our eyes: it is the Church.  It is our duty to recall to everyone, great and small, the absolute necessity we are under to have recourse to this Church in order to work out our eternal salvation.

Photos of Opening Mass on First Day of School: August 21st

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

August 20th: 100th Anniversary of the Death of Pope St. Pius X

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

POPE ST. PIUS X (1835-1914)

Feast: August 21 on the new calendar, September 3 on the traditional calendar

Perhaps nowhere in the history of the Church is there a better example of a man possessed of so many of the saintly virtues—piety, charity, deep humility, pastoral zeal, and simplicity—than in one of the newest of God’s elect, St. Pius X. Yet the parish priest of Tombolo, who remained a country priest at heart throughout his life, faced the problems and evils of a strife-torn world with the spiritual fervor of a crusader. The inscription on his tomb in the crypt of the basilica of St. Peter’s gives the most eloquent testimony to a life spent in the service of God:

“Born poor and humble of heart,

Undaunted champion of the Catholic faith,

Zealous to restore all things in Christ,

Crowned a holy life with a holy death.”

St. Pius X was born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto on June 2, 1835 in the little Italian town of Riese, in the province of Treviso near Venice. His father was Giovanni Sarto, a cobbler by trade, who was also caretaker of the city hall and the town’s postmaster; his mother was Margherita Sanson, a seamstress. The family had few worldly goods and the early life of young Giuseppe, eldest of eight surviving children, was a difficult one. He attended the parish school and while there, his intelligence and high moral character attracted the notice of the pastor, who arranged a scholarship for the lad at the high school in Castelfranco, a larger town two miles from Riese. After completing the course of instruction at Castelfranco, he made known that he had felt the call to the priesthood for some time, but had considered the means of attaining this end beyond his grasp. However, his parents saw that the will of God was in their son’s calling, and they did all in their power to encourage him, while the pastor again came to the rescue by arranging another scholarship to the seminary at Padua. In November of 1850, young Sarto arrived at Padua and was immediately taken up with the life and studies of the seminary. The same high qualifications of intellect and spirit, later to blossom forth in his work as bishop and Pope, were much in evidence as a seminarian. Giuseppe worked hard and finally on September 18, 1858, Father Sarto was ordained at the cathedral in Castelfranco.

The young priest’s first assignment was as curate at Tombolo, a parish of 1500 souls in the Trentino district of Italy. Here, for eight years, Father Sarto labored among his favorite parishioners, the poor. He also organized a night school for the general education of adults, and trained the parish choir to a high degree of skill in Gregorian Chant. His pastor at Tombolo, Father Constantini, recognizing the worth of the young priest, wrote a prophetic summary of his assistant. “They have sent me as curate a young priest, with orders to mould him to the duties of pastor; in fact, however, the contrary is true. He is so zealous, so full of good sense, and other precious gifts that it is I who can learn much from him. Some day or other he will wear the mitre, of that I am sure. After that—who knows?”

In July of 1867, Father Sarto, then 32 years of age, was appointed pastor of Salzano, one of the most favored parishes in the diocese of Treviso. Soon his concern and help toward the poor became well known throughout the parish, and his two sisters, who acted as his housekeepers, were often at wit’s end as their brother gave away much of his own clothing and food to the needy. The new pastor arranged for the instruction of young and old in the fundamentals of Christian Doctrine. The firm conviction that devotion meant little if its meaning was not understood was later to be embodied in the encyclical <Acerbo nimis>, “On the Teaching of Christian Doctrine.” After nine years at Salzano, Father Sarto was rewarded for his labors by the appointment as Canon of the Cathedral at Treviso and as Chancellor of that diocese. In addition, he became Spiritual Director of the seminary. Canon Sarto took a deep interest in this work of forming Christ in the hearts of young priests. However, in spite of these many duties, he remained ever the teacher; he often journeyed from the seminary into the city to teach catechism to the children, and he organized Sunday classes for those children who attended public schools, where religion was banned. When the diocese of Mantua fell vacant in 1884, Pope Leo XIII named Canon Sarto as bishop of that diocese.

Bishop Sarto found a troubled diocese in which to begin his labors. There was a general opposition of the government to religion manifested in many ways—monasteries had been suppressed, many religious institutions were government-managed, and Church property was heavily taxed. All these political disturbances had a far-reaching effect on both the clergy and the laiety. The seminaries of Mantua were depleted and a general laxity among the younger priests was evident; dangerous errors of thought had crept into the clergy, and the faults of the shepherds had spread to the flock. In general, a pall of religious indifference and secularism had spread over the diocese. With characteristic energy and spiritual strength, Bishop Sarto set to work to put his see in order. He gave first attention to the seminary, where by his own example of zeal and teaching, he won back the clergy to full and faithful service. The laxity of the people was attributed to neglect of parish priests in the instruction of the catechism; Bishop Sarto often taught such classes himself, and in his pastoral visits and letters, he urged the establishment of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in all parishes. God blessed this work on behalf of all classes of His flock, and in 1893, His Holiness, Leo XIII, elevated Bishop Sarto to Cardinal and appointed him Patriarch of Venice.

As Patriarch of Venice, it was Tombolo, Salzano, and Mantua all over again, but on a widening scale—the same care for his clergy and for the seminaries, the ever-willing hand and heart given to the poor, the long hours spent in teaching young and old—only the red of his new office had replaced the purple and black of former days. Social and economic problems were of prime concern to the new cardinal, and any worthy social action organization was assured of his help. When the Workingmen’s Society was founded in Venice, the name of Cardinal Sarto was at the top of the list and he paid regular dues as a member! Once it seemed that an important diocesan newspaper would go into bankruptcy, and the cardinal declared, “I would rather sell my crozier and my robes of office than let that paper go under.”

On July 20, 1903, the reign of Leo XIII came to a close, and the world mourned the death of a great Pontiff. Cardinals from all over the world came to Rome for the conclave which would elect the new Pope, and it is again typical of Cardinal Sarto that, due to his many charities, he was short of funds necessary to make the trip; so sure was he that he would never be elected that the problem was solved by the purchase of a return ticket to Venice! With the conclave in solemn session, the voting began, and with each successive ballot, Cardinal Sarto gained more votes. As his cause continued to gain strength, he all the more strongly pleaded that he was neither worthy nor capable enough for the office. When it was finally announced that he had gained sufficient votes to be elected, he bent his head, broke into tears, and whispered, “Fiat voluntas tua” (Thy will be done). He accepted, took the name of Pius X, and on August 9, 1903, was crowned as Vicar of Christ on earth.

The world was now the parish of the new Pontiff, and in his first encyclical he announced the aim of his reign. It was his desire, in the words of St. Paul, “to restore all things in Christ.” (Eph 1:10). The prime means of accomplishing this restoration was dearly seen by Pius to be through the clergy, and throughout his reign, the Pope exhorted bishops to reorganize the seminaries and to obtain the best possible training for these men who would instill in others the knowledge of God. The Pontiff published an encyclical, “Exhortation to the Catholic Clergy,” in which he pointed out that only through a trained and disciplined clergy could a program of return to Christ be realized.

The religious instruction of young and old became the second most important means toward the Christian restoration, and in his encyclical <Acerbo nimis>, “On the Teaching of Christian Doctrine,” Pius X firmly stated his position. The evils of the world were traceable to an ignorance of God, he said, and it was necessary for priests to make the eternal truths available to all and in a language that all could understand. Ever an example, he himself gave Sunday instruction to the people in one of the Vatican courtyards. However, no reform of Pius’ was more widely acclaimed than the Decrees on Holy Communion, and Pius X is often called “the Pope of the Eucharist.” These decrees, issued from 1905 through 1910, allowed the reception of first Holy Communion at an earlier age than had formerly been required, encouraged the frequent reception of the Holy Eucharist by all Catholics, and relaxed the fast for the sick.

In the field of Christian social action the Pope had always been an ardent champion, and in 1905, he published <Il fermo proposito>, “On Catholic Social Action.” In this work, the Pontiff listed practical recommendations for the solution of the social problem; he reaffirmed the need and power of prayer, but said that society would not be Christianized by prayer alone. Action is needed, he pointed out, as had been shown in the lives of the Apostles and of saints like Francis Xavier. The Pope likewise vigorously promoted reforms within the liturgy of the Church, since he felt that these were long overdue. In his <Motu proprio on the Restoration of Church Music>, he listed the aims of such music to be sanctity, beauty of form, and universality. Gregorian Chant, the Pope felt, was the music best suited to attain those aims. However, he felt that an attempt to make all Church music Gregorian was an exaggerated fad, and modern compositions were always welcomed by the Pontiff as long as they fulfilled the prescribed norms. Pius also reformed the Breviary, and was founder of the Biblical Institute for the advancement of scholarship in the study of the Scriptures. Even more important for the internal structure of the Church, he initiated and closely supervised the construction of the Code of Canon Law.

The familiar notion of Pius X as the Teacher of Christian Truth and the firm guide and staunch foe of error was forceably illustrated in 1907 when he issued more than fourteen pronouncements against the growth of Modernism. This subtle philosophy, in which Pius saw the poison of all heresies, pretended to “modernize” the Church and to make it keep pace with the changing times. In reality, its end would have been the destructions of the foundation of faith. The crowning achievement of the Pontiff’s writings and pronouncements against this philosophy came in the encyclical, <Pascendi dominici gregis>, “On the Doctrines of the Modernists.” In this work, which was a death blow to Modernism, he gave a systematic exposition of the errors involved, their causes, and provisions for combatting the errors by definite preventive measures.

Pius X labored for the Master until the very last days of his life. His 79 years had not set too heavily upon him, but overwork and anxiety over the impending doom of a World War began to take their toll. Pius saw clearly the horrors of the coming conflict and felt helpless that he could not prevent it. A little more than a month after the outbreak of the war, the Pope was seized with an attack of influenza, and his weakened constitution could not combat the illness. The end for the Christ-like Pius came peacefully on August 20, 1914, and the world, though in the throes of a death struggle, paused to mourn the gentle and humble man whose last will and testament gave such an insight into his character. It read, in part, “I was born poor, I lived poor, I die poor.” Shortly after his death, the faithful began to make pilgrimages to his tomb, bringing flowers, prayers, and petitions for favors. Accounts of miraculous favors and cures, some even accomplished during his lifetime and granted through his intercession, were announced and given widespread acclaim. In 1923, the Church, always cautious in such matters, began inquiry into the life and virtues of Pius X, and in February of 1943, the first official step in his Cause was taken when the necessary decree was signed by the present Pontiff, Pius XII. In honor of the work which Pius X had accomplished in its behalf, the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine actively contributed in promoting the Cause for his beatification and canonization. On June 3, 1951, Pius X was declared Blessed, and finally on May 29, 1954, amid the traditional pealing of the bells in the great churches of Rome, Giuseppe Sarto, the humble parish priest of the world, was canonized a saint of God.

<Excerpts from> the Encyclical <Il fermo proposito>, On Catholic Action

. . . <Immense is the field of Catholic action>; it excludes absolutely nothing which in any way, directly or indirectly, belongs to the divine mission of the Church.

It is plainly necessary to take part individually in a work so important, not only for the sanctification of our own souls, but also in order to spread and more fully open out the Kingdom of God in individuals, families, and society, each one working according to his strength for his neighbor’s good, by the diffusion of revealed truth, the exercise of Christian virtue, and the spiritual and corporal works of charity and mercy. Such is the conduct worthy of God to which St. Paul exhorts us, so as to please Him in all things, bringing forth fruits of all good works, and increasing in the knowledge of God: “That you may walk worthy of God in all things pleasing; being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

Besides these benefits, there are many in the natural order which, without being directly the object of the Church’s mission, nevertheless flow from it as one of its natural consequences. Such is the light of Catholic revelation that it vividly illuminates all knowledge; so great is the strength of the Gospel maxims that the precepts of the natural law find in them a surer basis and a more energetic vigor; such, in fine, is the power of the truth and morality taught by Jesus Christ that even the material well-being of individuals, of the family, and of human society, receive from them support and protection.

The Church, while preaching Jesus crucified, who was a stumbling-block and folly to the world, has been the first inspirer and promoter of civilization. She had spread it whenever her apostles have preached, preserving and perfecting what was good in ancient pagan civilization, rescuing from barbarism and raising to a form of civilized society the new peoples who took refuge in her maternal bosom, and giving to the whole of human society, little by little, no doubt, but with a sure and ever onward march, that characteristic stamp which it still everywhere preserves. The civilization of the world is Christian civilization; the more frankly Christian it is, so much is it more true, more lasting, and more productive of precious fruit; the more it withdraws from the Christian ideal, so much the feebler is it, to the great detriment of society….

. . . <To restore all things in Christ> has ever been the Church’s motto, and it is specially Ours, in the perilous times in which we live. To restore all things, not in any fashion, but in Christ; “that are in heaven, and on earth, in Him,” adds the Apostle; to restore in Christ not only what depends on the divine mission of the Church to conduct souls to God, but also, as We have explained, that which flows spontaneously from this divine mission, namely, Christian civilization in each and every one of the elements which compose it.

To dwell only on this last part of the restoration, you see well what support is given to the Church by those chosen bands of Catholics whose aim is to unite all their forces in order to combat anti-Christian civilization by every just and lawful means, and to repair in every way the grievous disorders which flow from it; to reinstate Jesus Christ in the family, the school, and society; to re-establish the principle that human authority represents that of God; to take intimately to heart the interests of the people, especially those of the working and agricultural classes, not only by the inculcation of religion, the only true source of comfort in the sorrows of life, but also by striving to dry their tears, to soothe their sufferings, and by wise measures to improve their economic condition; to endeavor, consequently, to make public laws conformable to justice, to amend or suppress those which are not so; finally, with a true Catholic spirit, to defend and support the rights of God in everything, and the no less sacred laws of the Church.

All these works, of which Catholic laymen are the principal supporters and promoters, and whose form varies according to the special needs of each nation, and the particular circumstances of each country, constitute what is generally known by a distinctive, and surely a very noble name: <Catholic Action> or <Action of Catholics>….

(trans. in <Publications of the Catholic Truth Society>, vol. 83, London, 1910.)

<Excerpts from> the Encyclical Letter <Acerbo nimis>, On the teaching of Christian Doctrine

. . . <How many and how grave are the consequences of ignorance in matters of religion>! And on the other hand, how necessary and how beneficial is religious instruction! It is indeed vain to expect the fulfillment of the duties of a Christian by one who does not even know them.

We must now consider upon whom rests the obligation to dissipate this most pernicious ignorance and to impart in its stead the knowledge that is wholly indispensable. There can be no doubt, Venerable Brothers, that this most important duty rests upon all those who are pastors of souls. On them, by command of Christ, rest the obligations of knowing and of feeding the flocks committed to their care; and to feed implies, first of all, to teach. “I will give you pastors after my own heart,” God promised through Jeremias, “and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine.” Hence the Apostle Paul said: “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel,” thereby indicating that the first duty of all those who are entrusted in any way with the government of the Church is to instruct the faithful in the things of God….

. . . Here then it is well to emphasize and insist that for a priest there is no duty more grave or obligation more binding than this. Who, indeed, will deny that knowledge should be joined to holiness of life in the priest? “For the lips of the priest shall keep knowledge.” The Church demands this knowledge of those who are to be ordained to the priesthood. Why? Because the Christian people expect from them knowledge of the divine law, and it was for that end that they were sent by God. “And they shall seek the law at his mouth; because He is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts.” Thus the bishop speaking to the candidates for the priesthood in the ordination ceremony says: “Let your teaching be a spiritual remedy for God’s people; may they be worthy fellow workers of our order; and thus meditating day and night on His law, they may believe what they read, and teach what they shall believe.”. . .

. . . In order to enkindle the zeal of the ministers of God, We again insist on the need to reach the ever-increasing number of those who know nothing at all of religion, or who possess at most such knowledge of God and Christian truths as befits idolaters. How many there are, alas, not only among the young, but among adults and those advanced in years, who know nothing of the chief mysteries of faith; who on hearing the name of Christ can only ask: “Who is He . . . that I may believe in Him?” In consequence of this ignorance, they do not consider it a crime to excite and nourish hatred against their neighbor, to enter into most unjust contracts, to do business in dishonest fashion, to hold the funds of others at an exorbitant interest rate, and to commit other iniquities not less reprehensible. They are, moreover, ignorant of the law of Christ which not only condemns immoral actions, but also forbids deliberate immoral thoughts and desires. Even when for some reason or other they avoid sensual pleasures, they nevertheless entertain evil thoughts without the least scruple, thereby multiplying their sins above the number of hairs of the head. These persons are found, we deem it necessary to repeat, not merely among the poorer classes of the people or in sparsely settled districts, but also among those in the higher walks of life, even, indeed, among those puffed up with learning, who, relying upon a vain erudition, feel free to ridicule religion . . .

. . . What We have said so far demonstrates the supreme importance of religious instruction. We ought, therefore, to do all that lies in our power to maintain the teaching of Christian doctrine with full vigor, and where such is neglected, to restore it; for in the words of Our predecessor, Benedict XIV, “There is nothing more effective than catechetical instruction to spread the glory of God and to secure the salvation of souls.”

(trans. by J. B. Collins in Catechetical Documents of Pope Pius X, Paterson, N. J., 1946.)

Saint Pius X, Pope. Scriptural Saint. Celebration of Feast Day is August 21.

Taken from “Lives of Saints”, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

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A Homily for the Assumption of Our Lady

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

A GREAT SIGN APPEARED IN HEAVEN: A WOMAN CLOAKED WITH THE SUN AND HAVING THE MOON UNDER HER FEET (Apocalypse 12:1).

From the first moment of her Immaculate Conception, Mary is set apart from all other human beings.  She is designated by the Archangel Gabriel as the most blessed of all women, superlative in her holiness a well as in the role she was to undertake in becoming the mother of the Savior.  In assuming that role, she goes beyond the limits of nature so as to become unique: alone among all women she conceives and bears a child while remaining a virgin. Thus, from the beginning Mary stands for a kind of special creation; she is more than an outstanding individual. She is a symbol of the perfectly realized human person in God’s plan.  She does not need man for her fruitfulness; for her, God is enough.  She is fructified by the Holy Spirit of God who overshadows her.

In his first epistle to the Corinthians,St. Paul enunciates the source of grace that gave rise to Our Lady’s unique privileges when he speaks of her son’s resurrection and indicates some of the fruits of that mystery:

Now Christ has risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. . . . in Christ all are made alive. Each one in his order: Christ the first fruits, then those who belong to Christ, who believe in his coming. . . . The final enemy, death, will be destroyed (1Cor. 15:20… 26).

Our Lady’s privileges were merited by her Son’s anticipated passion and death, but only with her own participation.  She received her special graces as freely bestowed gifts of God, but she willingly accepted the sufferings that she understood would accompany her role as mother of the Savior.  Her suffering began even before she gave birth, when she found herself with child and defenseless before the prospect of being put aside by her husband. She learned through from that experience to place her trust wholly in God, for there was no way she could defend herself.

Mary’s capacity to open her heart to others and to have confidence in their potential goodness was greatly enhanced by her husband’s fidelity.St. Joseph, in putting his faith in God and heeding the voice of the angel in his dream, became the channel of grace by which Mary experienced the heavenly Father’s fidelity to her.  At the same time her gratitude to Joseph for his trust gave her a vast sympathy with all those in need.  She learned by her own anguish how fully she depended on God’s mercy, shown to her through the pure love and chivalry of St. Joseph.

However, it was through her relation with her Son above all that she grew in sympathy and mercy. Her share in the Lord’s passion commenced shortly after the birth of her Son when she was told that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart. She shared still more fully by compassion in the sufferings of our Lord during his active ministry when she learned of the increasing hostility of His enemies, and even more intensely when He was arrested, tortured and crucified. She found in the same Holy Spirit who had overshadowed her at the Annunciation, the strength of soul to remain standing at the cross until the end. What she suffered at that time surely surpasses imagination. But her faith and love were stronger than anguish and heart-rending pain so that she not only endured, but actively accepted her share in the Passion of her divine Son. Thus, in the Book of the Apocalypse is she fittingly seen as the woman who is attacked in the desert, suffering anguish at the birth of her child, that is to say, of the members of the persecuted Church, and threatened with the violent death of her Son. As the Apocalypse goes on to state it:

And being pregnant with child she cried out from birth pangs, and suffered heavily in giving birth…. And the dragon stood in front of the woman about to give birth so that when she brought forth the child, he might devour him.

Following the Ascension of Jesus she knew the sorrows of bereavement, having earlier on experienced the loss of her pure spouse,St. Joseph, and the loneliness of widowhood. Yet through all these years she remained full of faith and confidence in the victory of her Son while she maintained her lively hope that she would join Him in person in God’s time.  We celebrate today the occasion when that happy union took place.

For Mary’s Assumption carried her, body and soul, into the presence of her risen and glorified son. Deservedly she is known as the virgo fidelis, the faithful virgin. Fidelity in love proved stronger than the violence of deadly force.  In this fidelity, as in her humility, Mary followed closely in the footsteps of her Son. We in turn can best honor her today by imitating her in that loving faith that is constant in good times and in bad, in sorrow as well as in joy.  As we assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass tonight, may we so open our hearts to the glorified Son of God as to receive a share in that same divine favor that gave meaning and strength to Our Lady’s life, and which even now unites her to God in glory for all eternity.   Amen.

FEAST OF ST. PHILOMENA THIS MONDAY, AUGUST 11th

Friday, August 8th, 2014

CELEBRATION OF THE FEAST OF ST. PHILOMENA ON MONDAY EVENING, AUGUST 11th AT ST. MARY CHURCH, SALEM, SD:  All are invited to participate in a special Evening Mass on Monday, August 11th at 7:00 pm in celebration of the Feast of St. Philomena, Virgin and Martyr, and Patroness of the Children of Mary.  Following Holy Mass, we will have devotions in honor of St. Philomena with veneration of her holy relic.  After the devotions, we will process to the parish school and bless the new statue of St. Philomena located in the school vestibule.

The Mass will be celebrated in the Ordinary Form this year.  Please spread the word, especially to those who have a devotion to the Little Saint, so loved by the Cure of Ars.  All are invited to participate!