“To see this immortal King face-to-face, the Church at present is preparing herself; and while she celebrates her temporal feasts here, she contemplates the festive and eternal joys of her native land, where her Spouse is praised by angelic instruments. And all the saints, continually celebrating the day of great festivity that the Lord has made, cease not to praise with nuptial songs the immortal Bridegroom, beautiful in form before the sons of men, Who in His gratuitous mercy has chosen the Church for Himself.”
– Mystical Mirror of the Church, 1160-1165
Archive for the ‘Prayer/Spiritual Life’ Category
OCTOBER 20: Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross, confessor
St Vincent Strambi, Paul’s first biographer writing only 11 years after his death, stated that the Holy Spirit raised up Paul of the Cross to help people find God in their heart. Paul was convinced that God is most easily found by us in the Passion of Jesus Christ. He saw the Passion as being the most overwhelming sign of God’s love for us, and at the same time our best means for union with Him.
Paul often spent many hours in prayer and adoration before Jesus crucified. Throughout his many travels while preaching missions and making foundations of his Passionist Order, he always carried with him a large wooden crucifix in honor of our Lord’s Passion, thus he became known by the popular name of “Paul of the Cross”. Undoubtedly the two greatest characteristics of St Paul were his fervent devotion to the Passion of Jesus and also his extraordinary sacrifices and penances that he made for the conversion of sinners.
Throughout his religious life, Paul continuously sacrificed and made special penances and mortification’s for the success of his preaching missions, that many souls may be converted. An example of his many penances was that he went barefoot in all his travels throughout Italy, regardless of the harsh seasons and climates. And God, Who was pleased with the heroic sacrifices and devotion of His servant, chose to perform countless extraordinary miracles through Paul’s intercession and prayers. As he went about doing good, the frequent extraordinary signs from heaven that accompanied him were a sign to all that God was with him in a most remarkable way. Like his holy predecessors the Apostles, immense crowds gathered and followed him as he went about preaching from town to town. His great love for God and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary radiated to the crowds with remarkable unction through both his words and his actions, thereby causing countless conversions everywhere he went. His austere manner of life, full of sacrifices and penances, encouraged the people to make reparation to God for their own sins.
~St Paul of the Cross, pray for us!
Words and sayings of Saint Paul of the Cross:
“I want to set myself on fire with love…I want to be entirely on fire with love…and I want to know how to sing in the fire of love.”
“Look upon the face of the Crucified, who invites you to follow Him. He will be a Father, Mother–everything to you.”
“Oh Love, oh fire of charity; how powerful You are!”
“I enjoy remaining on the Cross. How beautiful it is to suffer for Jesus!”…..“I rejoice in the nails that hold me crucified”
“Ah, my Supreme Good. What were the sentiments of your Sacred Heart when You were scourged? My beloved Spouse, how greatly did the sight of my grievous sins and my ingratitude afflict You! Oh, my only Love, why do I not die for You? Why am I not overwhelmed with sorrow? And then I feel that sometimes my spirit can say no more but remains thus in God with His sufferings infused into the soul- and sometimes it seems as if my heart would break.”
“Your crosses dear God, are the joy of my heart. How beautiful to suffer with Jesus!”
“I hope that God will save me through the merits of the Passion of Jesus. The more difficulties in life, the more I hope in God. By God’s grace I will not lose my soul, but I hope in His mercy.”
“I am a bottomless pit and deserve no light, so unworthy am I.”
“Christ Crucified is a work of love. The miracle of miracles of love. The most stupendous work of the love of God. The bottomless sea of the love of God, where virtues are found, where one can lose oneself in love and sorrow. A sea and a fire or a sea of fire. The most beneficial means of abandoning sin and growing in virtue, and so in holiness.”
“At holy Communion I had much sweetness. My dear God gave me infused knowledge of the joy which the soul will have when we see him face to face, when we will be united with Him in holy love. Then I felt sorrow to see Him offended and I told Him that I would willingly be torn to pieces for a single soul. Indeed, I felt that I would die when I saw the loss of so many souls who do not experience the fruit of the Passion of Jesus.”
“Oh my Love, what happened to Your heart in the Garden! Oh, what suffering; what shedding of blood! What bitter agony, and all for me!”.
“I felt pain in seeing my dear God so offended. I could faint from seeing so many souls lost for not feeling the fruit of the Passion of Jesus. A desire to convert all sinners will not leave me.”
“Oh good Jesus, how swollen, bruised, and defiled with spittle do I behold Thy
countenance! O my Love! Why do I see Thee all covered with wounds? Oh
infinite sweetness, why are Your bones laid bare? Ah, what sufferings! What
sorrows! O my God, why are You all wounded? Ah, dear sufferings! Dear wounds! I wish to keep you always in my heart.”
“Oh Jesus, my Love, may my heart be consumed in loving Thee; make me humble and holy; give me childlike simplicity; transform me into thy holy love. O Jesus, life of my life, joy of my soul, God of my heart, accept my heart as an altar, on which I will sacrifice to Thee the gold of ardent charity, the incense of continual, humble and fervent prayer, and the myrrh of constant sacrifices! Amen.”
“The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus, which are the miracle of miracles of the Love of God”
“Oh my good God, how gentle You are! How sweet You are! Oh dear cross, I embrace you and press you to my heart!”
“We ought to glory in nothing other than the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. You are blessed and don’t know it. You have Jesus Crucified with you.”
Rosary Prayers of Blessed Bartolo Longo
The Joyful Mysteries
First Joyful Mystery. The Annunciation.
O Mary, immaculate lily, through the joy you felt when at the Angel’s message you became the Mother of God: obtain for me the virtue of purity and of humility, that I may become your worthy son/daughter and the brother/sister of Jesus.
Second Joyful Mystery. The Visitation.
O Mary, Mother of grace and of charity, through the joy you felt when, upon visiting Elizabeth, you brought joy to the home of Zechariah and the Baptist was sanctified at the sound of your voice: visit my soul, let it hear your Motherly voice, and fill it with love of God and love of neighbour.
Third Joyful Mystery. The Birth of Jesus.
O Mary, mirror of humility and of poverty, through the joy you felt when, turned away by the inhabitants of Bethlehem and forced to take refuge in a stable from the cold and darkness, you gave birth to the Divine Redeemer: grant that by accepting scorn and poverty I remain faithful to grace and gain the reward of eternal salvation by means of good works.
Fourth Joyful Mystery. The Presentation.
O Mary, the perfect model of obedience and of sacrifice, you who offered Jesus to the Eternal Father on our behalf: place your Child upon my bosom, that, together with you, I may offer him the sacrifice of my passions and of my whole being.
Fifth Joyful Mystery. The Finding in the Temple.
O Mary, a shining example of patience, through the joy you felt when, after three days of anxiously searching, you found Jesus in the Temple: grant that I too, seeking Jesus with love in every moment of my life in imitation of you, may find him at last in your arms at the hour of my death, never to lose him again.
The Sorrowful Mysteries
First Sorrowful Mystery. The Agony in the Garden.
O Grieving Virgin, through the anguish of that saddest of nights in which Jesus in agony in the garden sweat blood at the sight of my sins, and, betrayed, was tied as a criminal: obtain for me the perfect sorrow of my sins and perseverance in prayer, that I may never again betray his most loving Heart.
Second Sorrowful Mystery. The Scourging at the Pillar.
O most grieving Mother, through the pain you felt in knowing that your innocent and holy Son had been publicly stripped and bloodily scourged with biting whips: obtain for me the spirit of true repentance and the virtue of chastity and of the mortification of the senses.
Third Sorrowful Mystery. The Crowning with Thorns.
O Mother of sorrows, through the atrocious torment which pierced your heart when you saw Jesus, the King of glory, then become the King of suffering, crowned with thorns and shame, with a reed in his hands, derided by the crowd: ah!, encircle my intellect and my heart with these very thorns, that I may never offend him again with evil thoughts and sentiments; and obtain for me pureness in my thoughts and the right intentions in my actions.
Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. The Carrying of the Cross.
O grieving Mother, through the martyrdom of your heart, when you met your Son weighed down beneath the heavy cross, staining the road to Calvary with his blood: grant that I, clinging to Jesus’ cross, follow behind, daily carrying the cross of my troubles with meekness and with perfect conformity to the will of God.
Fifth Sorrowful Mystery. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord.
O Queen of the Martyrs, through the extreme spasm of your heart when you witnessed Jesus dying on the cross in the midst of a thousand torments, forsaken and without comfort: grant that I die to myself, to the world and to sin, and live in the heart of Jesus alone, having abandoned myself in his most holy arms.
The Glorious Mysteries
First Glorious Mystery. The Resurrection.
O Most Holy Mother of God, through the joy you felt in seeing Jesus risen from the dead and surrounded in glory: obtain for me that I too rise from the death of sin to a life of grace and of faith, and may persevere in it till my very last breath.
Second Glorious Mystery. The Ascension.
O Queen of the Heavens, through the joy you experienced in seeing Jesus rising to Heaven triumphant as King of the Universe and as our Advocate by his Father: obtain his blessing for me also, so that I be changed by him from a sinner into a saint; moreover, by separating me from all earthly affection, through the virtue of hope may he kindle in me the desire of paradise.
Third Glorious Mystery. The Descent of the Holy Spirit.
O Queen of the Universe, through the joy you felt when the Holy Spirit descended on you and on the Apostles: grant that he come into my soul and fill it with his holy gifts and the heavenly fruits of charity, of joy, of patience and of peace.
Fourth Glorious Mystery. The Assumption.
O Queen, Lady of the Angels, through the joy you experienced when you were taken into heaven body and soul: come with Jesus to assist me at the hour of my death, and lead me with you to everlasting happiness.
Fifth Glorious Mystery. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
O Queen of all the Saints, and the honour and delight of humankind, through the joy you felt when the Most Holy Trinity crowned you as Queen of Heaven and Earth: inflame me with your love and with the love of God, that I may love and serve you on earth, and glorify you, O Queen of my heart, in heaven.
The tomb of Blessed Bartolo Longo is in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Pompeii. About three million pilgrims visit the basilica each year.Pompeii has more to offer than dusty ruins filled with plaster casts of people, and one unfortunate puppy, frozen in time. It is also, coincidently, home to the only church in Christendom built by an ex-Satanist.
It’s the same old story: boy from a religious family goes away to university, falls in with a bunch of New Age Satanists, becomes a satanic high priest, thinks better of his decision and ultimately reverts to the Church; it’s the basic satanic-rags-to-saintly-riches story.
I didn’t believe this story when I first learned about Blessed Bartolo Longo either. Having grown up the son of Italian immigrants, I was regaled with all of the lurid stories of El Barto’s excesses, debauchery and general dissoluteness. I came to Pompeii not just for the ruins but also to see if the stories were true.
Bartolo Longo was born on February 10 1841 to a wealthy family in the small town of Latiano, near Brindisi in southern Italy. His parents, Dr Bartolomeo Longo and Antonina Luparelli, were devout Catholics who prayed the rosary together daily.
When Longo’s mother died in 1851, he slowly drifted away from his Catholic faith. He was left to his own devices when he studied law at the University of Naples and became involved with a New Age pagan group which ultimately “ordained” him a satanist priest. He participated in séances, fortune-telling and the de rigueur orgies. Unsatisfied with merely practising his new pagan religion, he felt it important to publicly ridicule Christianity and did everything within his power to subvert Catholic influence. He even convinced many other Catholics to leave the Church and participate in occult rites.
But none of these activities brought him joy. In fact, his life was marked by extreme depression, paranoia, confusion and nervousness. He even began to show signs of demonic obsession, as opposed to demonic possession, which included being inflicted by diabolical visions and continually declining poor health. He ultimately experienced a mental breakdown.
In his despair, he heard the voice of his deceased father urging him to “Return to God! Return to God!” In fear and desperation, Longo turned to Professor Vincenzo Pepe, a friend from his home town, for guidance. Vincenzo convinced Longo to abandon Satan and introduced him to the Dominican priest, Fr Alberto Radente. Fr Radente heard his Confession and helped him to further reclaim his life.
One evening, as he walked near-chapel at Pompeii, Bartolo had a profound mystical experience. He wrote: “As I pondered over my condition, I experienced a deep sense of despair and almost committed suicide. Then I heard an echo in my ear of the voice of Friar Alberto repeating the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary: ‘If you seek salvation, promulgate the rosary. This is Mary’s own promise.’ These words illumined my soul. I went on my knees. ‘If it is true. I will not leave this valley until I have propagated your rosary.'”
To prove his new-found commitment to Christ and His Church Bartolo even attended a séance. In the midst of it, he stood and raised a medal of the Blessed Virgin Mother and cried out: “I renounce spiritism because it is nothing but a maze of error and falsehood.”
On March 25 1871, as part of his self-imposed penance, Longo became a Third Order Dominican, taking the name Brother Rosario in honour of the rosary. He joined a charitable group in Pompeii and worked alongside Countess Mariana di Fusco, a wealthy local widow whom he married a year later on Pope Leo XIII’s recommendation.
The happy couple decided to start a confraternity of the rosary. To serve as a spiritual focus for this group, Bartolo needed a painting of the Blessed Virgin. Sister Maria Concetta de Litala of the Monastery of the Rosary at Porta Medina offered him one that she got at a Neapolitan junk shop. She paid only 3.40 lire – a tiny, insignificant sum even at the time.
The painting portrayed Our Lady of the Rosary with St Dominic and St Catherine of Siena. Though it was of modest artistic accomplishment and in very poor condition, it served Bartolo’s purpose. He described it in his journal: “Not only was it worm-eaten, but the face of the Madonna was that of a coarse, rough country-woman . a piece of canvas was missing just above her head . her mantle was cracked. Nothing need be said of the hideousness of the other figures. St Dominic looked like a street idiot. To Our Lady’s left was a St Rose. This I had changed later into a St Catherine of Siena . I hesitated whether to refuse the gift or to accept . I took it.”
In addition, the sorcerer turned born-again Catholic restored a ramshackle church in October 1873 and then sponsored a feast in honour of Our Lady of the rosary. He installed the repaired painting in this very church. Within hours of its installation miracles began to be reported and people came to the church in droves. Seeing the devotion of the pilgrims, the Bishop of Nola encouraged Bartolo to construct a larger church. He approached architect Giovanni Rispoli to build it, making the following appeal: “In this place selected for its prodigies, we wish to leave to present and future generations a monument to the Queen of Victories that will be less unworthy of her greatness but more worthy of our faith and love.”
Work on the larger building began on May 8 1876 and was consecrated in May 1891 by Cardinal La Valetta who represented Pope Leo XIII. In 1906, he and his wife donated the Pompeii shrine to the Holy See but this didn’t diminish his evangelistic zeal. Bartolo continued promoting the rosary until his death in1926, at the age of 75. To spread devotion to the rosary and to the Blessed Virgin Mary Bartolo would evangelize young people at parties and in local cafes, explaining the dangers of occultism. He would witness continually as to the glories of Christ, the munificence of His mother and the beauty of the Catholic Faith.
In 1939 the church was enlarged and re-consecrated as a basilica and officially renamed the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompeii. It soon became a focus of pilgrimages for more than a century as most Catholics and non-Catholics alike found a church built by a reformed ex-Satanist to be devilishly irresistible.
Bartolo had died a saintly death and his Cause for canonisation was almost immediately called for. He was beatified by John Paul II on October 26 1980 who called him the “Apostle of the Rosary”. More than 30,000 people attended the ceremony, and 50,000 pilgrims attended Pope Benedict’s historic pastoral visit to the shrine on October 19 2008. He consecrated the world, entrusting it to Mary’s hands, offering the Blessed Virgin a golden rose. In his homily, Benedict XVI likened Bartolo Longo to St Paul of Tarsus, who also initially persecuted the Church, described Bartolo as being “militantly anticlerical and engaging in spiritualist and superstitious practices”.
He continued by saying: “Wherever God comes in this desert, flowers bloom. Even Blessed Bartolo Longo, with his personal conversion, bears witness to this spiritual power that transforms man from within and makes him capable of doing great things according to God’s designs. This city which he re-founded, is thus a historical demonstration of how God transforms the world: filling man’s heart with charity.”
It’s not easy to get lost in Pompeii but I somehow managed to do exactly that. I finally spied the famous bronze cross that adorns the Basilica’s campanile. Apparently I am not the only person in the Sarno Valley to use it to orient myself. Technically speaking, every Christian uses the cross to orient himself so I wasn’t in the least bit ashamed for having to do so.
The white surface of the domed basilica and its lateral chapels both strike and comfort the visitor. The façade is only a little more than a century old, having been re-pointed by the architect Rispoli in 1901. As I passed the long passageways adjacent to the basilica, I noted that this is where Bartolo and his wife would stand to hand out food to the poor who would gather daily.
Upon entering the church one is struck not by its silence but rather the pervasive hushed susurration of pilgrims who stand in awe at the church’s beauty and God’s presence. The walls are replete with frescos, marble ornaments, mosaics, paintings and the ever-present votives. These small silver or tin plaques in the shape of heads, hands, legs and eyes hang everywhere as tokens of thanksgiving for Mary’s received protection and prayers.
The neoclassical Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii is decorated in the stereotypically exaggerated, over-the-top, pietistic art of the Italian peasantry that makes you smile and secretly wish you were Italian. It is, for good or bad, the art one associates with ancient churches and an even older faith. Stepping into this basilica reconnects one with 2,000 years of Christ’s presence in the world and in our hearts.
I asked as to the whereabouts of Blessed Bartolo and soon found myself face to beatified face with the Apostle of the Rosary himself. Like every other pilgrim standing next to me, I realised that this former, self-professed enemy of the Church rests peacefully in a tomb in its bosom of the very church he had hoped to destroy. More delicious and blessed irony one can hardly imagine.
As I looked at the oversized painting of Our Lady of Pompeii hanging over the church’s altar, I recalled St Maximilian Kolbe’s poignant words: “If anyone does not wish to have Mary Immaculate for his Mother, he will not have Christ for his Brother.”
One can’t but be moved when seeing this painting of him and recall the pain, horror and revulsion that this satanist-turned-saint experienced when he was confronted by his own sins.
Every student knows what happened to the city of Pompeii on August 24 79 AD. But most people don’t realise that the “new” Pompeii rose from the destroyed city’s ashes 1,796 years later because of Our Lady of the Rosary and her devotee. In his The History of the Shrine of Pompeii Bartolo wrote:
“Next to a land of dead appeared, quite suddenly, a land of resurrection and life: next to a shattered amphitheatre soiled with blood, there is a living Temple of faith and love, a sacred Temple to the Virgin Mary; from a town buried in the filth of gentilism, arises a town full of life, drawing its origins from a new civilization brought by Christianity: the New Pompeii!. It is the new civilisation that openly appears beside the old; the new art next to the old; Christianity full of life in juxtaposition to long-surpassed paganism.”
The newly constructed basilica attracted new families, a railway station, postal and telegraph services, the police, roads, water, electricity, hotels, restaurants and shops. About three million pilgrims come to the basilica every year, thus bringing to life the long-dead city of Pompeii.
Thus, the resurrection and salvation of Pompeii is now eternally linked with the resurrection and salvation of Blessed Bartolo Longo; the prodigal son returned home.
In God, all things are possible. Thankfully.
Monday, August 15th, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady into Heaven, a first-class Feast. Since it falls on a Monday this year, it is not a Holy Day of Obligation. Never the less, the importance of the Feast remains in full force. Therefore, on Monday, August 15th I will celebrate two Holy Masses: one in the morning in English (Ordinary Form) at 8:15 a.m. and a Solemn High Mass in Latin (Extraordinary Form) at 7:00 p.m. There is an ancient custom of blessing the produce from home gardens and orchards, as well as seeds purchased for next year’s planting season, on the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption. You may bring them to church and I will bless them before the evening Solemn High Mass. Happy Assumption Day, our Easter in August! – Father Lawrence
Ash Wednesday (February 10th) and Good Friday (March 25th) are days of Fast and Abstinence and all the Fridays of Lent are days of Abstinence. Abstinence is from meat and is required by Catholics 14 years and older. Fasting is required by all Catholics 18 years of age but not yet 59. Those bound by this rule may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals (called “collations”) are permitted as necessary to maintain strength according to one’s needs, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted. These two smaller meals, put together, must not equal a full meal. Everyone is certainly encouraged to keep the traditional discipline of fasting during the weekdays of Lent.
Holy Mass will be celebrated on Ash Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. and at 7:00 p.m.. with the blessing and imposition of ashes at both Masses. Stations of the Cross will be held on the Friday’s of Lent at 7:00 p.m.
On Wednesday evening, January 6th, a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated at St. Mary Church. Father DeWayne Kayser, Pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Madison, SD, served as Deacon of the Mass and our seminarian, Mr. John Streff, F.S.S.P., served as Subdeacon. Mr. Landon Frederes was Master of Ceremonies.
“As you kneel at the feet of the child Jesus on the day of his Epiphany and see him a king bearing none of the outward signs of royalty, you can tell him: Lord, take away my pride; crush my self love, my desire to affirm myself and impose myself on others. Make the foundation of my personality my identification with you.
If our vocation comes first, if the star shines ahead to start us along the path of God’s love, it is illogical that we should begin to doubt if it chances to disappear from view. It might happen at certain moments in our interior life — and we are nearly always to blame — that the star disappears, just as it did to the wise kings on their journey. We have already realized the divine splendour of our vocation, and we are convinced about its definitive character, but perhaps the dust we stir up as we walk our miseries — forms an opaque cloud that cuts off the light from above. What should we do if this happens? Follow the example of those wise men and ask. Herod made use of knowledge to act unjustly. The Magi use it to do good. But we Christians have no need to go to Herod nor to the wise men of this world. Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a flow of grace in the sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way. There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives a road of faithfulness to God.”
-St. Josemaria Escriva, Homily for the Feast of the Epiphany, 1956