Archive for the ‘Hagiography’ Category

October 15th: St. Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Statue of St. Teresa venerated in rectory chapel

Statue of St. Teresa venerated in rectory chapel

In the Autobiography which she completed towards the end of her life, Saint Teresa of Avila gives us a description of her parents, along with a disparaging estimate of her own character. “The possession of virtuous parents who lived in the fear of God, together with those favors which I received from his Divine Majesty, might have made me good, if I had not been so very wicked.” A heavy consciousness of sin was prevalent in sixteenth-century Spain, and we can readily discount this avowal of guilt. What we are told of Teresa’s early life does not sound in the least wicked, but it is plain that she was an unusually active, imaginative, and sensitive child. Her parents, Don Alfonso Sanchez de Capeda and Dona Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, his second wife, were people of position in Avila, a city of Old Castile, where Teresa was born on March 28, 1515. There were nine children of this marriage, of whom Teresa was the third, and three children of her father’s first marriage.

Piously reared as she was, Teresa became completely fascinated by stories of the saints and martyrs, as was her brother Roderigo, who was near her own age and her partner in youthful adventures. Once, when Teresa was seven, they made a plan to run away to Africa, where they might be beheaded by the infidel Moors and so achieve martyrdom. They set out secretly, expecting to beg their way like the poor friars, but had gone only a short distance from home when they were met by an uncle and brought back to their anxious mother, who had sent servants into the streets to search for them. She and her brother now thought they would like to become hermits, and tried to build themselves little cells from stones they found in the garden. Thus we see that religious thoughts and influences dominated the mind of the future saint in childhood. Teresa was only fourteen when her mother died, and she later wrote of her sorrow in these words: “As soon as I began to understand how great a loss I had sustained by losing her, I was very much afflicted; and so I went before an image of our Blessed Lady and besought her with many tears that she would vouchsafe to be my mother.” Visits from a girl cousin were most welcome at this time, but they had the effect of stimulating her interest in superficial things. Reading tales of chivalry was one of their diversions, and Teresa even tried to write romantic stories. “These tales,” she says in her Autobiography, “did not fail to cool my good desires, and were the cause of my falling insensibly into other defects. I was so enchanted that I could not be happy without some new tale in my hands. I began to imitate the fashions, to enjoy being well dressed, to take great care of my hands, to use perfumes, and wear all the vain ornaments which my position in the world allowed.” Noting this sudden change in his daughter’s personality, Teresa’s father decided to place her in a convent of Augustinian nuns in Avila, where other young women of her class were being educated. This action made Teresa aware that her danger had been greater than she knew. After a year and a half in the convent she fell ill with what seems to have been a malignant type of malaria, and Don Alfonso brought her home. After recovering, she went to stay with her eldest sister, who had married and gone to live in the country. Then she visited an uncle, Peter Sanchez de Capeda, a very sober and pious man. At home once more, and fearing that an uncongenial marriage would be forced upon her, she began to deliberate whether or not she should undertake the religious life. Reading the <Letters of St. Jerome>,[1] helped her to reach a decision. St. Jerome’s realism and ardor were akin to her own Castilian spirit, with its mixture of the practical and the idealistic. She now announced to her father her desire to become a nun, but he withheld consent, saying that after his death she might do as she pleased This reaction caused a new conflict, for Teresa loved her father devotedly. Feeling that delay might weaken her resolve, she went secretly to the Carmelite convent of the Incarnation[2] outside the town of Avila, where her dear friend Sister Jane Suarez was living, and applied for admission. Of this painful step, she wrote: “I remember . . . while I was going out of my father’s house—the sharpness of sense will not be greater, I believe, in the very instant of agony of my death, than it was then. It seemed as if all the bones in my body were wrenched asunder…. There was no such love of God in me then as was able to quench the love I felt for my father and my friends.” A year later Teresa made her profession, but when there was a recurrence of her illness, Don Alfonso had her removed from the convent, as the rule of enclosure was not then in effect. After a period of intense suffering, during which, on one occasion, at least, her life was despaired of, she gradually began to improve. She was helped by certain prayers she had begun to use. Her devout Uncle Peter had given her a little book called the <Third Spiritual Alphabet>, by Father Francis de Osuna, which dealt with “prayers of recollection and quiet.” Taking this book as her guide, she began to concentrate on mental prayer, and progressed towards the “prayer of quiet,” with the soul resting in divine contemplation, all earthly things forgotten. Occasionally, for brief moments, she attained the “prayer of union,” in which all the powers of the soul are absorbed in God. She persuaded her father to apply himself to this form of prayer.

After three years Teresa went back to the convent. Her intelligence, warmth, and charm made her a favorite, and she found pleasure in being with people. It was the custom in Spain in those days for the young nuns to receive their acquaintances in the convent parlor, and Teresa spent much time there, chatting with friends. She was attracted to one of the visitors whose company was disturbing to her, although she told herself that there could be no question of sin, since she was only doing what so many others, better than she, were doing. During this relaxed period, she gave up her habit of mental prayer, using as a pretext the poor state of her health. “This excuse of bodily weakness,” she wrote afterwards, “was not a sufficient reason why I should abandon so good a thing, which required no physical strength, but only love and habit. In the midst of sickness the best prayer may be offered, and it is a mistake to think it can only be offered in solitude.” She returned to the practice of mental prayer and never again abandoned it, although she had not yet the courage to follow God completely, or to stop wasting her time and talents. But during these years of apparent wavering, her spirit was being forged. When depressed by her own unworthiness, she turned to those two great penitents, St. Mary Magdalen and St. Augustine, and through them came experiences that helped to steady her will.

One was the reading of St. Augustine’s <Confessions>; another was an overpowering impulse to penitence before a picture of the suffering Lord, in which, she writes, “I felt Mary Magdalen come to my assistance…. From that day I have gone on improving in my spiritual life.” When finally Teresa withdrew from the pleasures of social intercourse, she found herself able once more to pray the “prayer of quiet,” and also the “prayer of union.”

She began to have intellectual visions of divine things and to hear inner voices. Though she was persuaded these manifestations came from God, she was at times fearful and troubled. She consulted many persons, binding all to secrecy, but her perplexities nevertheless were spread abroad, to her great mortification. Among those she talked to was Father Gaspar Daza, a learned priest, who, after listening, reported that she was deluded, for such divine favors were not consistent with a life as full of imperfections as hers was, as she herself admitted. A friend, Don Francis de Salsedo, suggested that she talk to a priest of the newly formed Society of Jesus. To one of them, accordingly, she made a general Confession, recounting her manner of prayer and extraordinary visions. He assured her that she experienced divine graces, but warned her that she had failed to lay the foundations of a true spiritual life by practices of mortification. He advised her to try to resist the visions and voices for two months; resistance proved useless. Francis Borgia, commissary-general of the Society in Spain, then advised her not to resist further, but also not to seek such experiences. Another Jesuit, Father Balthasar Alvarez, who now became her director, pointed out certain traits that were incompatible with perfect grace. He told her that she would do well to beg God to direct her to what was most pleasing to Him, and to recite daily the hymn of St. Gregory the Great, “<Veni Creator Spiritus>!” One day, as she repeated the stanzas, she was seized with a rapture in which she heard the words, “I will not have you hold conversation with men, but with angels.” For three years, while Father Balthasar was her director, she suffered from the disapproval of those around her; and for two years, from extreme desolation of soul. She was censured for her austerities and ridiculed as a victim of delusion or a hypocrite. A confessor to whom she went during Father Balthasar’s absence said that her very prayer was an illusion, and commanded her, when she saw any vision, to make the sign of the cross and repel it as if it were an evil spirit. But Teresa tells us that the visions now brought with them their own evidence of ,authenticity, so that it was impossible to doubt they were from God. Nevertheless, she obeyed this order of her confessor. Pope Gregory XV, in his bull of canonization, commends her obedience in these words: “She was wont to say that she might be deceived in discerning visions and revelations, but could not be in obeying superiors.”

In 1557 Peter of Alcantara, a Franciscan of the Observance, came to Avila. Few saints have been more experienced in the inner life, and he found in Teresa unmistakable evidence of the Holy Spirit. He openly expressed compassion for what she endured from slander and predicted that she was not at the end of her tribulations. However, as her mystical experiences continued, the greatness and goodness of God, the sweetness of His service, became more and more manifest to her. She was sometimes lifted from the ground, an experience other saints have known. “God,” she says, “seems not content with drawing the soul to Himself, but he must needs draw up the very body too, even while it is mortal and compounded of so unclean a clay as we have made it by our sins.” It was at this time, she tells us, that her most singular experience took place, her mystical marriage to Christ, and the piercing of her heart. Of the latter she writes: “I saw an angel very near me, towards my left side, in bodily form, which is not usual with me; for though angels are often represented to me, it is only in my mental vision. This angel appeared rather small than large, and very beautiful. His face was so shining that he seemed to be one of those highest angels called seraphs, who look as if all on fire with divine love. He had in his hands a long golden dart; at the end of the point methought there was a little fire. And I felt him thrust it several times through my heart in such a way that it passed through my very bowels. And when he drew it out, methought it pulled them out with it and left me wholly on fire with a great love of God.” The pain in her soul spread to her body, but it was accompanied by great delight too; she was like one transported, caring neither to see nor to speak but only to be consumed with the mingled pain and happiness.[3] Teresa’s longing to die that she might be united with God was tempered by her desire to suffer for Him on earth. The account which the <Autobiography> gives of her revelations is marked by sincerity, genuine simplicity of style, and scrupulous precision. An unlettered woman, she wrote in the Castilian vernacular, setting down her experiences reluctantly, out of obedience to her confessor, and submitting everything to his judgment and that of the Church, merely complaining that the task kept her from spinning. Teresa wrote of herself without self-love or pride. Towards her persecutors she was respectful, representing them as honest servants of God. Teresa’s other literary works came later, during the fifteen years when she was actively engaged in founding new convents of reformed Carmelite nuns. They are proof of her industry and her power of memory, as well as of a real talent for expression. <The Way of Perfection> she composed for the special guidance of her nuns, and the <Foundations> for their further edification. <The Interior Castle> was perhaps meant for all Catholics; in it she writes with authority on the spiritual life.

One admiring critic says: “She lays bare in her writings the most impenetrable secrets of true wisdom in what we call mystical theology, of which God has given the key to a small number of his favored servants. This thought may somewhat lessen our surprise that an unlearned woman should have expounded what the greatest doctors never attained, for God employs in His works what instruments He wills.” We have seen how undisciplined the Carmelite nuns had become, how the convent parlor at Avila was a social gathering place, and how easily nuns might leave their enclosure. Any woman, in fact, who wanted a sheltered life without much responsibility could find it in a convent in sixteenth-century Spain. The religious themselves, for the most part, were not even aware of how far they fell short of what their profession demanded. So when one of the nuns at the House of the Incarnation began talking of the possibility of founding a new and stricter community, the idea struck Teresa as an inspiration from Heaven. She determined to undertake its establishment herself and received a promise of help from a wealthy widow, Dona Guiomar de Ulloa. The project was approved by Peter of Alcantara and Father Angelo de Salazar, provincial of the Carmelite Order. The latter was soon compelled to withdraw his permission, for Teresa’s fellow nuns, the local nobility, the magistrates, and others united to thwart the project. Father Ibanez, a Dominican, secretly encouraged Teresa and urged Dona Guiomar to continue to lend her support. One of Teresa’s married sisters began with her husband to erect a small convent at Avila in 1561 to shelter the new establishment; outsiders took it for a house intended for the use of her family. An episode famous in Teresa’s life occurred at this time. Her little nephew was crushed by a wall of the new structure which fell on him as he was playing, and he was carried, apparently lifeless, to Teresa. She held the child in her arms and prayed. After some minutes she restored him alive and sound to his mother. The miracle was presented at the process for Teresa’s canonization. Another seemingly solid wall of the convent collapsed during the night. Teresa’s brother-in-law was going to refuse to pay the masons, but Teresa assured him that it was all the work of evil spirits and insisted that the men be paid. A wealthy woman of Toledo, Countess Louise de la Cerda, happened at the time to be mourning the recent death of her husband, and asked the Carmelite provincial to order Teresa, whose goodness she had heard praised, to come to her. Teresa was accordingly sent to the woman, and stayed with her for six months, using a part of the time, at the request of Father Ibanez, to write, and to develop further her ideas for the convent. While at Toledo she met Maria of Jesus, of the Carmelite convent at Granada, who had had revelations concerning a reform of the order, and this meeting strengthened Teresa’s own desires. Back in Avila, on the very evening of her arrival, the Pope’s letter authorizing the new reformed convent was brought to her. Teresa’s adherents now persuaded the bishop of Avila to concur, and the convent, dedicated to St. Joseph, was quietly opened. On St. Bartholomew’s day, 1562 the Blessed Sacrament was placed in the little chapel, and four novices took the habit. The news soon spread in the town and opposition flared into the open. The prioress of the Incarnation convent sent for Teresa, who was required to explain her conduct. Detained almost as a prisoner, Teresa did not lose her poise. The prioress was joined in her disapproval by the mayor and magistrates, always fearful that an unendowed convent would be a burden on the townspeople. Some were for demolishing the building forthwith. Meanwhile Don Francis sent a priest to Madrid, to plead for the new establishment before the King’s Council. Teresa was allowed to go back to her convent and shortly afterward the bishop officially appointed her prioress. The hubbub now quickly subsided. Teresa was hence. forth known simply as Teresa of Jesus, mother of the reform of Carmel. The nuns were strictly cloistered, under a rule of poverty and almost complete silence; the constant chatter of women’s voices was one of the things that Teresa had most deplored at the Incarnation. They were poor, without regular revenues; they wore habits of coarse serge and sandals instead of shoes, and for this reason were called the “discalced” or shoeless Carmelites. Although the prioress was now in her late forties, and frail, her great achievement still lay in the future. Convinced that too many women under one roof made for relaxation of discipline, Teresa limited the number of nuns to thirteen; later, when houses were being founded with endowments and hence were not wholly dependent on alms, the number was increased to twenty-one. The prior general of the Carmelites, John Baptist Rubeo of Ravenna, visiting Avila in 1567, carried away a fine impression of Teresa’s sincerity and prudent rule. He gave her full authority to found other convents on the same plan, in spite of the fact that St. Joseph’s had been established without his knowledge. Five peaceful years were spent with the thirteen nuns in the little convent of St. Joseph. Teresa trained the sisters in every kind of useful work and in all religious observances, but whether at spinning or at prayer, she herself was always first and most diligent. In August, 1567, she founded a second convent at Medina del Campo. The Countess de la Cerda was anxious to found a similar house in her native town of Malagon, and Teresa went to advise her about it. When this third community had been launched, the intrepid nun moved on to Valladolid, and there founded a fourth; then a fifth at Toledo. On beginning this work, she had no more than four or five ducats (approximately ten dollars), but she said, “Teresa and this money are nothing; but God, Teresa, and these ducats suffice.” At Medina del Campo she encountered two friars who had heard of her reform and wished to adopt it: Antony de Heredia, prior of the Carmelite monastery there, and John of the Cross. With their aid, in 1568, and the authority given her by the prior general, she established a reformed house for men at Durelo, and in 1569 a second one at Pastrana, both on a pattern of extreme poverty and austerity. She left to John of the Cross, who at this time was in his late twenties, the direction of these and other reformed communities that might be started for men. Refusing to obey the order of his provincial to return to Medina, he was imprisoned at Toledo for nine months. After his escape he became vicar-general of Andalusia, and strove for papal recognition of the order. John, later to attain fame as a poet, mystic confessor, and finally saint, became Teresa’s friend; a close spiritual bond developed between the young friar and the aging prioress, and he was made director and confessor in the mother house at Avila. The hardships and dangers involved in Teresa’s labors are indicated by a little episode of the founding of a new convent at Salamanca. She and another nun took over a house which had been occupied by students. It was a large, dirty, desolate place, without furnishings, and when night came the two nuns lay down on their piles of straw, for, Teresa tells us, “the first furniture I provided wherever I founded convents was straw, for, having that, I reckoned I had beds.” On this occasion, the other nun seemed very nervous, and Teresa asked her the reason. “I was wondering,” was the reply, “what you would do alone with a corpse if I were to die here now.” Teresa was startled, but only said, “I shall think of that when it happens, Sister. For the present, let us go to sleep.” At about this time Pope Pius V appointed a number of apostolic visitors to inquire into the relaxations of discipline in religious orders everywhere. The visitor to the Carmelites of Castile found great fault with the Incarnation convent and sent for Teresa, bidding her to assume its direction and remedy the abuses there. It was hard to be separated from her own daughters, and even more distasteful to be brought in as head of the old house which had long opposed her with bitterness and jealousy. The nuns at first refused to obey her; some of them fell into hysterics at the very idea. She told them that she came not to coerce or instruct but to serve and to learn from the least among them. By gentleness and tact she won the affection of the community, and was able to reestablish discipline. Frequent callers were forbidden, the finances of the house were set in order, and a more truly religious spirit reigned. At the end of three years, although the nuns wished to keep her longer, she was directed to return to her own convent. Teresa organized a nunnery at Veas and while there met Father Jerome Gratian, a reformed Carmelite, and was persuaded by him to extend her work to Seville. With the exception of her first convent, none proved so hard to establish as this. Among her problems there was a disgruntled novice, who reported the nuns to the Inquisition,[4] charging them with being Illuminati.[5] The Italian Carmelite friars had meanwhile been growing alarmed at the progress of the reform in Spain, lest, as one of their number said, they might one day be compelled to set about reforming themselves, a fear shared by their still unreformed Spanish brothers. At a general chapter at Piacenza several decrees were passed restricting the reform. The new apostolic nuncio dismissed Father Gratian from his office as visitor to the reformed Carmelites. Teresa was told to choose one of her convents and retire to it, and abstain from founding others. At this point she turned to her friends in the world, who were able to interest King Philip II[6] in her behalf, and he personally espoused her cause. He summoned the nuncio to rebuke him for his severity towards the discalced friars and nuns. In 1580 came an order from Rome exempting the reformed from the jurisdiction of the unreformed Carmelites, and giving each party its own provincial. Father Gratian was elected provincial of the reformed branch. The separation, although painful to many, brought an end to dissension. Teresa was a person of great natural gifts. Her ardor and lively wit was balanced by her sound judgment and psychological insight. It was no mere flight of fancy when the English Catholic poet, Richard Crashaw,[7] called her “the eagle” and “the dove.” She could stand up boldly and bravely for what she thought was right; she could also be severe with a prioress who by excessive austerity had made herself unfit for her duties. Yet she could be gentle as a dove, as when she writes to an erring, irresponsible nephew, “God’s mercy is great in that you have been enabled to make so good a choice and marry so soon, for you began to be dissipated when you were so young that we might have had much sorrow on your account.” Love, with Teresa, meant constructive action, and she had the young man’s daughter, born out of wedlock, brought to the convent, and took charge of her upbringing and that of his young sister. One of Teresa’s charms was a sense of humor. In the early years, when an indiscreet male visitor to the convent once praised the beauty of her bare feet, she laughed and told him to take a good look at them for he would never see them again-implying that in the future he would not be admitted. Her method of selecting novices was characteristic. The first requirement, even before piety, was intelligence. A woman could attain to piety, but scarcely to intelligence, by which she meant common sense as well as brains. “An intelligent mind,” she wrote, “is simple and teachable; it sees its faults and allows itself to be guided. A mind that is dull and narrow never sees its faults even when shown them. It is always pleased with itself and never learns to do right.” Pretentiousness and pride annoyed her. Once a young woman of high reputation for virtue asked to be admitted to a convent in Teresa’s charge, and added, as if to emphasize her intellect, “I shall bring my Bible with me.” “What,” exclaimed Teresa, “your Bible? Do not come to us. We are only poor women who know nothing but how to spin and do as we are told.” In spite of a naturally sturdy constitution, Teresa continued throughout her life to suffer from ailments which physicians found baffling. It would seem that sheer will power kept her alive. At the time of the definitive division of the Carmelite Order she had reached the age of sixty-five and was broken in health. Yet during the last two years of her life she somehow found strength to establish three more convents. They were at Granada, in the far south, at Burgos, in the north, and at Soria, in Portugal. The total was now sixteen. What an astounding achievement this was for one small, enfeebled woman may be better appreciated if we recall the hardships of travel. Most of this extensive journeying was done in a curtained carriage or cart drawn by mules over the extremely poor roads; her trips took her from the northern provinces down to the Mediterranean, and west into Portugal, across mountains, rivers, and arid plateaus. She and the nun who accompanied her endured all the rigors of a harsh climate as well as the steady discomfort of rude lodgings and scanty food. In the autumn of 1582, Teresa, although ill, set out for Alva de Tormez, where an old friend was expecting a visit from her. Her companion of later years, Anne-of-St. Bartholomew, describes the journey. Teresa grew worse on the road, along which there were few habitations. They could get no food save figs, and when they arrived at the convent, Teresa went to bed in a state of exhaustion. She never recovered, and three days later, she remarked to Anne, “At last, my daughter, I have reached the house of death,” a reference to her book, <The Seven Mansions>. Extreme Unction was administered by Father Antony de Heredia, a friar of the Reform, and when he asked her where she wished to be buried. she plaintively replied, “Will they deny me a little ground for my body here?” She sat up as she received the Sacrament, exclaiming, “O my Lord, now is the time that we shall see each other! ” and died in Anne’s arms. It was the evening of October 4. The next day, as it happened, the Gregorian calendar came into use. The readjustment made it necessary to drop ten days, so that October 5 was counted as October 15, and this latter date became Teresa’s feast day. She was buried at Alva; three years later, following the decree of a. provincial chapter of Reformed Carmelites, the body was secretly removed to Avila. The next year the Duke of Alva procured an order from Rome to return it to Alva de Tormez, and there it has remained. Teresa was canonized in 1662. Shortly after her death, Philip II, keenly aware of the Carmelite nun’s contribution to Catholicism, had her manuscripts collected and brought to his great palace of the Escorial, and there placed in a rich case, the key of which he carried on his person. These writings were edited for publication by two Dominican scholars and brought out in 1587. Subsequently her works have appeared in uncounted Spanish editions, and have been translated into many languages. An ever-spreading circle of readers through the centuries have found understanding and courage in the life and works of this nun of Castile, who is one of the glories of Spain and of the Church. Teresa’s emblems are a heart, an arrow, and a book.

<Excerpts from> Interior Castle

This body has one fault, that the more people pamper it, the more its wants are made known. It is strange how much it likes to be indulged. How well it finds some good pretext to deceive the poor soul! . . . Oh, you who are free from the great troubles of the world, learn to suffer a little for the love of God without everyone’s knowing it! . . .

And remember our holy fathers of past times and holy hermits whose life we try to imitate; what pains they endured, what loneliness, what cold, what hunger, what burning suns, without having anyone to complain to except God. Do you think that they were of iron? No, they were as much flesh as we are; and as soon as we begin, daughters, to conquer this little carcass, it will not bother us so much…. If you don’t make up your mind to swallow, once and for all, death and loss of health, you will never do anything….

God deliver us from anybody who wishes to serve Him and thinks about her own dignity and fears to be disgraced…. No poison in the world so slays perfection as these things do….

There are persons, it seems, who are ready to ask God for favors as a matter of justice. A fine sort of humility! Hence He who knows all does well in giving it to them hardly ever; He sees plainly they are not fit to drink the chalice….

Sometimes the Devil proposes to us great desires, so that we shall not put our hand to what we have to do, and serve our Lord in possible things, but stay content with

having desired impossible ones. Granting that you can help much by prayer, don’t try to benefit all the world, but those who are in your company, and so the work will be better for you are much bounden to them…. In short, what I would conclude with is that we must not build towers without foundations; the Lord does not look so much to the grandeur of our works as to the love with which they are done; and if we do all we can, His Majesty will see to it that we are able to do more and more every day, if we do not then grow weary, and during the little that this life lasts—and perhaps it will be shorter than each one thinks—we offer to Christ, inwardly and outwardly, what sacrifice we can, for His Majesty will join it with the one He made to the Father for us on the Cross, that it may have the value which our will would have merited, even though our works may be small.

<Epilogue>

Although, as I told you, I felt reluctant to begin this work, yet now it is finished I am very glad to have written it, and I think my trouble is well spent, though I confess it has cost me but little.

Considering your strict enclosure, the little recreation you have, my sisters, and how many conveniences are wanting in some of your convents, I think it may console you to enjoy yourselves in this Interior Castle, where you can enter, and walk about at will, at any hour you please, without asking leave of your superiors.

It is true you cannot enter all the mansions by your own power, however great it may appear to you, unless the Lord of the Castle Himself admits you. Therefore I advise you to use no violence if you meet with any obstacle, for that would displease Him so much’ that He would never give you admission to them. He dearly loves humility: if you think yourselves unworthy to enter the third mansion, He will grant you all the sooner the favor of entering the fifth. Then if you serve Him well there, and often repair to it, He will draw you into the mansion where He dwells Himself, where you need never depart, unless called away by the Prioress, whose commands the sovereign Master wishes you to obey as if they were His own. If, by her orders, you are often absent from His presence chamber, whenever you return He will hold the door open for you. When once you have learned how to enjoy this Castle, you will always find rest, however painful your trials may be, in the hope of returning to your Lord, which no one can prevent.

Although I have only mentioned seven mansions, yet each one contains many more rooms, above, below, and around it, with fair gardens, fountains, and labyrinths, besides other things so delightful that you will wish to consume yourself in praising the great God for them, Who has created the soul in His own image and likeness. If you find anything in the plan of this treatise which helps you to know Him better, be certain that it is sent by His Majesty to encourage you, and whatever you find amiss

in it is my own.

In return for my strong desire to aid you in serving Him, my God and my Lord, I implore you, whenever you read this, to praise His Majesty fervently in my name, and to beg Him to prosper His Church, to give light to the Lutherans, to pardon my sins, and to free me from purgatory, where perhaps I shall be, by the mercy of God, when you see this book, provided it is given to you after having been examined by the theologians. If these writings contain any error, it is through my ignorance; I submit in all things to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Roman Church, of which I am now a member, as I protest and promise both to live and die. May our Lord God be forever praised and blessed. Amen. Amen.

The writing of this was finished in the convent of Saint Joseph of Avila, in the year 1577, on the vigil of Saint Andrew, to the glory of God, Who liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen

(<Interior Castle and Mansions>. London, 1912.)

Endnotes:

1 For extracts from St. Jerome’s letters, see above, p. 93.

2 The Carmelites were an order of mendicant friars claiming descent from hermits who lived on Mt. Carmel in Palestine in the sixth century. The order was founded in 1156, when a monastery was built on the mountain; the nuns of the order, which at this time were established in the Netherlands and Spain, were divided into three observances.

3 This event is commemorated by the Carmelites on August 27.

4 The Spanish Inquisition had been set up a century before by Ferdinand and Isabella. It was less severe in Teresa’s day than it had been earlier.

5 The Illuminati was a heretical secret society that denied dependence on the Church and claimed that salvation came through the enlightenment of each individual by his own vision of God.

6 Philip II, son of the Emperor Charles V and husband of the English Catholic Queen, Mary, was a devout champion of the faith against Protestantism.

7 Crashaw left England when Charles I was beheaded, became a Catholic priest, and spent his later years in Italy. One of his most eloquent poems is the “Hymn to the Adorable St. Teresa.”

Saint Teresa of Avila, Virgin, Foundress. Celebration of Feast Day is October 15. Taken from “Lives of Saints”, Published by John J. Crawley & Co., Inc.

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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
.

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 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.

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.

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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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!

September 10th: St. Nicholas of Tolentine

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

ST. NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINE, CONFESSOR {1245- 1305}, Patron of the Holy Souls in Purgatory

Born at — Sant’ Angelo, in Pontano, near Fermo, in the March of Ancona

His parents, said to have been called Compagnonus de Guarutti and Amata de Guidiani (these surnames may merely indicate their birth-places), were pious folk, perhaps gentle born, living content with a small substance. His mother was a model of holiness. They were childless until a pilgrimage to a shrine of the original Saint Nicholas at Bari, Italy where his mother asked for a son whom she promised to dedicate to God’s service. When her wish was granted, she named the boy Nicholas. He soon gave unusual signs of saintliness. Already at seven he would hide away in a nearby cave and pray there like the hermits whom he had observed in the mountains.

His religious formation was greatly influenced by the spirituality of the hermits of Brettino, one of the congregations which came to form part of the “Grand Union” of Augustinians in 1256, whose communities were located in the region of the March where Nicholas was born and raised. Characteristic of these early hermits of Brettino were a great emphasis on poverty, rigorous practices of fasting and abstinence, and long periods of the day devoted to communal and private prayer.

After hearing the inspired preaching by Reginaldo da Monterubbiano, Prior (local superior) of the Augustinian monastery in Sant’Angelo, he felt a call to embrace the religious life. His parents gave a joyful consent. His piousness so impressed the Bishop of Fermo that he permitted Nicholas to join the minor orders as young boy. As soon as he was old enough he was received into the Order of Augustinian friars and made his novitiate in 1261. At age eighteen he made his profession and entered the monastery at Tolentino where he was very active in administering the sacraments to the local community. He quickly won over the trust and love of the locals; he was often called upon to pray for the deceased loved ones and was affectionately referred to as the “Patron of Holy Souls”.

As Nicholas entered the Order at its inception he learned to combine the ascetical practices of the Brettini with the apostolic thrust which the Church now invited the Augustinians to practice. At times Nicholas devoted himself to prayer and works of penance with such intensity that it was necessary for his superiors to impose limitations on him.

At one point he was so weakened through fasting that he was encouraged in a vision of Mary and the child Jesus to eat a piece of bread signed with the cross and soaked in water, to regain his strength.

Nicholas repeated these steps throughout the community to help the sick, resulting in numerous miracles of healing. In his honor the custom of blessing and distributing the “Bread of Saint Nicholas” is continued by the Augustinians in many places to this day including his shrine.

On account of his kind and gentle manner his superiors entrusted him with the daily feeding of the poor at the monastery gates, but at times he was so free with the friary’s provisions that the procurator begged the superior to check his generosity. Even before his ordination he was sent to different monasteries of his order, at Recanati, Macerata etc., as a model of generous striving after perfection.

He was ordained in 1271 and said his first Mass with exceptional fervor; thereafter, whenever he celebrated the holy Mystery he seemed aglow with the fire of his love. He lived in several different monasteries of the Augustinian Order, engaged principally in the ministry of preaching.

In 1275 he was sent to Tolentino, and remained there for the rest of his life. He was known for his humility, meekness and sanctity. His preaching, instructions and work in the confessional brought about numerous conversions, and his many miracles were responsible for more, yet he was careful not to take any credit for these miracles. “Say nothing of this,” he would insist, “give thanks to God, not to me. I am only a vessel of clay, a poor sinner.”

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.

Nicholas worked to counteract the decline of morality and religion which came with the development of city life in the late thirteenth century. A fellow religious describes Nicholas’ ministry in these words:

“He was a joy to those who were sad, a consolation to the suffering, peace to those at variance, refreshment to those who toiled, support for the poor, and a healing balm for prisoners.”

Nicholas’ reputation as a saintly man and a worker of miracles led many people to the monastery of Tolentino.

He worked as a peacemaker in a city torn by civil war. Preached every day, wonder-worker and healer, and visited prisoners. Received visions, including images of Purgatory, which friends ascribed to his lengthy fasts. Had a great devotion to the recently dead, praying for the souls in Purgatory as he traveled around his parish, and often late into the night.

Reported to have resurrected over one hundred dead children, including several who had drowned together. Legend says that the devil once beat Nicholas with a stick; the stick was displayed for years in the his church. A vegetarian, Nicholas was once served a roasted fowl; he made the sign of the cross over it, and it flew out a window. Nine passengers on ship going down at sea once asked Nicholas’ aid; he appeared in the sky, wearing the black Augustinian habit, radiating golden light, holding a lily in his left hand; with his right hand he quelled the storm. An apparition of the saint once saved the burning palace of the Doge of Venice by throwing a piece of blessed bread on the flames.

He spent the last thirty years of his life in Tolentino preaching with wonderful success, where the Guelfs and the Ghibellines were in constant strife. Nicholas saw only one remedy to the violence: street preaching, and the success of this apostolic work was astounding. “He spoke of the things of Heaven,” says his biographer St. Antonine. “Sweetly he preached the divine word, and the words that came from his lips fell like flames of fire. Among his hearers could be seen the tears and heard the sighs of people detesting their sins and repenting of their past lives.”

Towards the end diseases tried his patience, but he kept up his mortifications almost to the hour of death. He died surrounded by his community. He possessed an angelic meekness, a guileless simplicity, and a tender love of virginity, which he never stained, guarding it by prayer and extraordinary mortifications. Many of the cures obtained through Saint Nicholas’ prayers were received while he himself was infirm.

In 1345 a lay Brother cut off the arms of his body intending to take them to Germany as relics, and the friars then hid his body to prevent further attempts of this kind. It has not been found to this day, but the arms have been preserved. It is recorded that they have bled on several occasions, usually; it is said, before some calamity that befell the Church or the world.

When in 1884 Nicholas was proclaimed “Patron of the Souls in Purgatory” by Pope Leo XIII, confirmation was given to a long-standing aspect of devotion toward this friar which is traced to an event in his own life. On a certain Saturday night as he lay in bed, Nicholas heard the voice of someone who identified himself as Fra Pellegrino of Osimo, a deceased friar whom Nicholas had known. Fra Pellegrino revealed that he was in Purgatory and begged Nicholas to offer Mass for him and for other suffering souls so that they might be set free. For the next seven days Nicholas did so and was rewarded with a second vision in which the deceased confrere expressed his gratitude and assurance that a great number of people were now enjoying the presence of God through Nicholas’ prayers. As this event became known, many people approached Nicholas, asking his intercession on behalf of their own deceased relatives and friends.

Like many of the saints, Nicholas received from God a particular calling. It was not to feed the poor, although he did, nor to be zealous for the salvation of souls, although he was. His call was to help the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

St. Nicholas had a great love for the Holy Souls. He would offer Mass, pray and do penance for them so they could more quickly enter Heaven. Because many Catholics have forgotten about the souls in Purgatory, except when November 2nd – All Souls Day – comes around, St. Nicholas can teach a valuable lesson.

Nicholas died in Tolentino on 10 September 1305. He was canonized by Eugene IV in 1446: the first member of the Augustinian Order to be canonized.

Saint Nicholas’ body is “preserved” and venerated by the faithful in the basilica in Tolentino in the city of Tolentine which bears his name. His feast is celebrated by the Augustinian Family (and on the Universal Calendar of the Church) on the 10th of September.

September 4th: Feast of St. Rosalia of Palermo, Hermitess

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Saint Rosalia (1130–1166), also called La Santuzza or “The Little Saint”, is the patron saint of Palermo, Sicily, El Hatillo, Venezuela, and Zuata, Anzoátegui, Venezuela.

According to legend, Rosalia was born of a Norman noble family that claimed descent from Charlemagne. Devoutly religious, she retired to life as a hermit in a cave on Mount Pellegrino, where she died alone in 1166. Tradition says that she was led to the cave by two angels. On the cave wall she wrote “I, Rosalia, daughter of Sinibald, Lord of Roses, and Quisquina, have taken the resolution to live in this cave for the love of my Lord, Jesus Christ.”

In 1624, a horrible plague haunted Palermo, and during this hardship St Rosalia appeared first to a sick woman, then to a hunter to whom she indicated where her remains were to be found. She ordered him to bring her bones to Palermo and have them carried in procession through the city.

The hunter climbed the mountain and found her bones in the cave as described. He did what she had asked in the apparition, and after the procession the plague ceased. After this St Rosalia would be venerated as the patron saint of Palermo, and a sanctuary was built in the cave where her remains were discovered.

The celebration, called the festino, is still held each year on July 15. It is still a major social and religious event in Palermo. In 1995, 1996, 1997 and 2001 the celebration has been produced by Studio Festi.

Also on September 4 there is an event related to the festino and St. Rosalia; a tradition of walking barefoot from Palermo up to Mount Pellegrino. In Italian American communities in the United States, the July feast is generally dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel while the September feast, beginning in August, brings large numbers of visitors annually to the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in New York City.

 

Devotion to St. Rosalia in Kenner, Louisiana:

The annual St. Rosalie (Rosalia) Procession celebrates one of Kenner’s oldest and most meaningful traditions. In 1855, Sicilian immigrants settled into the Kenner area on the tract of land spanning from what is now the intersection of Williams Boulevard and Kenner Avenue to the St. Charles Parish line.

Although this community began to thrive quickly, it was vulnerable in its infancy stages. Completely dependent on the growth of produce and health of livestock, tragedy struck in 1898 when an epidemic of “Charbon,” (commonly known today as Anthrax) infiltrated the area. Without the sale of vegetables and livestock, the immigrants would have no means to feed and care for their families.

Desperate for help, the farmers prayed for the intercession of St. Rosalie, the patron saint of their native Palermo, Sicily, and asked her to stop this devastating epidemic that was quickly killing their crops and livestock. The prayers of these farmers were so powerful, that the skies opened and a long rain fell, in turn, stopping the spread of the disease.

The grateful farmers were in awe of St. Rosalie’s grace and promised an annual procession through the streets of their community in her honor. That year, in 1898, the first St. Rosalie procession took place and the residents of Kenner have continued to honor her for saving this community until this day. Throughout this three mile procession of faith and prayer, participants carry a statue of St. Rosalie and her holy relic, while praying the Rosary and other Litanies.