Archive for the ‘The Sacred Liturgy’ Category

Ten Reasons to Attend the Traditional Latin Mass

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Confirmation-Mass

TEN REASONS TO ATTEND THE TRADITIONAL LATIN MASS

By  PETER KWASNIEWSKI and MICHAEL FOLEY

Given that it can often be less convenient for a person or a family to attend the traditional Latin Mass (and I am thinking not only of obvious issues like the place and the time, but also of the lack of a parish infrastructure and the hostile reactions one can get from friends, family, and even clergy), it is definitely worthwhile to remind ourselves of why we are doing this in the first place. If something is worth doing, then it’s worth persevering in—even at the cost of sacrifices.

This article will set forth a number of reasons why, in spite of all the inconveniences (and even minor persecutions) we have experienced over the years, we and our families love to attend the traditional Latin Mass. Sharing these reasons will, we hope, encourage readers everywhere either to begin attending the usus antiquior or to continue attending if they might be wavering. Indeed, it is our conviction that the sacred liturgy handed down to us by tradition has never been more important in the life of Catholics, as we behold the “pilgrim Church on earth” continue to forget her theology, dilute her message, lose her identity, and bleed her members. By preserving, knowing, following, and loving her ancient liturgy, we do our part to bolster authentic doctrine, proclaim heavenly salvation, regain a full stature, and attract new believers who are searching for unadulterated truth and manifest beauty. By handing down this immense gift in turn, and by inviting to the Mass as many of our friends and our families as we can, we are fulfilling our vocation as followers of the Apostles.

Without further ado, ten reasons:

1. You will be formed in the same way that most of the Saints were formed. If we take a conservative estimate and consider the Roman Mass to have been codified by the reign of Pope St. Gregory the Great (ca. 600) and to have lasted intact until 1970, we are talking about close to 1,400 years of the life of the Church—and that’s most of her history of saints. The prayers, readings, and chants that they heard and pondered will be the ones you hear and ponder.

For this is the Mass that St. Gregory the Great inherited, developed, and solidified. This is the Mass that St. Thomas Aquinas celebrated, lovingly wrote about, and contributed to (he composed the Mass Propers and Office for the Feast of Corpus Christi). This is the Mass that St. Louis IX, the crusader king of France, attended three times a day. This is the Mass that St. Philip Neri had to distract himself from before he celebrated it because it so easily sent him into ecstasies that lasted for hours. This is the Mass that was first celebrated on the shores of America by Spanish and French missionaries, such as the North American Martyrs. This is the Mass that priests said secretly in England and Ireland during the dark days of persecution, and this is the Mass that Blessed Miguel Pro risked his life to celebrate before being captured and martyred by the Mexican government. This is the Mass that Blessed John Henry Newman said he would celebrate every waking moment of his life if he could. This is the Mass that the Fr. Frederick Faber called “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven.” This is the Mass that Fr. Damien of Molokai celebrated with leprous hands in the church he had built and painted himself. This is the Mass during which St. Edith Stein, who was later to die in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, became completely enraptured. This is the Mass that great artists such as Evelyn Waugh, David Jones, and Graham Greene loved so much that they lamented its loss with sorrow and alarm. This is the Mass so widely respected that even non-Catholics such as Agatha Christie and Iris Murdoch came to its defense in the 1970s. This is the Mass that St. Padre Pio insisted on celebrating until his death in 1968, after the liturgical apparatchiks had begun to mess with the missal (and this was a man who knew a thing or two about the secrets of sanctity). This is the Mass that St. Josemaría Escrivá, the founder of Opus Dei, received permission to continue celebrating in private at the end of his life.

What a glorious cloud of witnesses surrounds the traditional Latin Mass! Their holiness was forged like gold and silver in the furnace of this Mass, and it is an undeserved blessing that we, too, can seek and obtain the same formation. Yes, I can go to the new Mass and know that I am in the presence of God and His saints (and for that I am profoundly grateful), but a concrete historical link to these saints has been severed, as well as a historical link to my own heritage as a Catholic in the Roman rite.

2. What is true for me is even more true for my children. This way of celebrating most deeply forms the minds and hearts of our children in reverence for Almighty God, in the virtues of humility, obedience, and adoring silence. It fills their senses and imaginations with sacred signs and symbols, “mystic ceremonies” (as the Council of Trent puts it). Maria Montessori herself frequently pointed out that small children are very receptive to the language of symbols, often more than adults are, and that they will learn more easily from watching people do a solemn liturgy than from hearing a lot of words with little action. All of this is extremely impressive and gripping for children who are learning their faith, and especially boys who become altar servers.[1]

3. Its universality. The traditional Latin Mass not only provides a visible and unbroken link from the present day to the distant past, it also constitutes an inspiring bond of unity across the globe. Older Catholics often recall how moving it was from them to assist at Mass in a foreign country for the first time and to discover that “the Mass was the same” wherever they went. The experience was, for them, a confirmation of the catholicity of their Catholicism. By contrast, today one is sometimes hard pressed to find “the same Mass” at the same parish on thesame weekend. The universality of the traditional Latin Mass, with its umbrella of Latin as a sacred language and its insistence that the priest put aside his own idiosyncratic and cultural preferences and put on the person of Christ, acts as a true Pentecost in which many tongues and tribes come together as one in the Spirit—rather than a new Babel that privileges unshareable identities such as ethnicity or age group and threatens to occlude the “neither Greek nor Jew” principle of the Gospel.

4. You always know what you are getting. The Mass will be focused on the Holy Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross. There will be respectful and prayerful silence before, during, and after Mass. There will be only males serving in the sanctuary and only priests and deacons handling the Body of Christ, in accord with nearly 2,000 years of tradition. People will usually be dressed modestly. Music may not always be present (and when present, may not always be perfectly executed), but you will never hear pseudo-pop songs with narcissistic or heretical lyrics.

Put differently, the traditional form of the Roman rite can never be completely co-opted. Like almost every other good thing this side of the grave, the Latin Mass can be botched, but it can never be abused to the extent that it no longer points to the true God. Chesterton once said that “there is only one thing that can never go past a certain point in its alliance with oppression—and that is orthodoxy. I may, it is true, twist orthodoxy so as partly to justify a tyrant. But I can easily make up a German philosophy to justify him entirely.”[2] The same is true for the traditional Latin Mass. Father Jonathan Robinson, who at the time of writing his book was not a friend of the usus antiquior, nevertheless admitted that “the perennial attraction of the Old Rite is that it provided a transcendental reference, and it did this even when it was misused in various ways.”[3] By contrast, Robinson observes, while the new Mass can be celebrated in a reverent way that directs us to the transcendent, “there is nothing in the rule governing the way the Novus Ordo is to be said that ensures the centrality of the celebration of the Paschal mystery.”[4] In other words, the new Mass can be celebrated validly but in a way that puts such an emphasis on community or sharing a meal that it can amount to “the virtual denial of a Catholic understanding of the Mass.”[5]On the other hand, the indestructibility of the traditional Mass’s inherent meaning is what inspired one commentator to compare it to the old line about the U.S. Navy: “It’s a machine built by geniuses so it can be operated safely by idiots.”[6]

5. It’s the real McCoy. The classical Roman rite has an obvious theocentric and Christocentric orientation, found both in the ad orientem stance of the priest and in the rich texts of the classical Roman Missal itself, which give far greater emphasis to the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice of Our Lord upon the Cross.[7]   As Dr. Lauren Pristas has shown, the prayers of the new Missal are often watered-down in their expression of dogma and ascetical doctrine, whereas the prayers of the old Missal are unambiguously and uncompromisingly Catholic.[8] It is the real McCoy, the pure font, not something cobbled together by “experts” for “modern man” and adjusted to his preferences. More and more Catholic pastors and scholars are acknowledging how badly rushed and botched were the liturgical reforms of the 1960s. This has left us with a confusingly messy situation for which the reformed liturgy itself is totally ill-equipped to provide a solution, with its plethora of options, its minimalist rubrics, its vulnerability to manipulative “presiders,” and its manifest discontinuity with at least fourteen centuries of Roman Catholic worship—a discontinuity powerfully displayed in the matter of language, since the old Mass whispers and sings in the Western Church’s holy mother tongue, Latin, while the new Mass has awkwardly mingled itself with the ever-changing vernaculars of the world.

6. A superior calendar for the saints. In liturgical discussions, most ammunition is spent on defending or attacking changes to the Ordinary of the Mass—and understandably so. But one of the most significant differences between the 1962 and 1970 Missals is the calendar. Let’s start with the Sanctoral Cycle, the feast days of the saints. The 1962 calendar is an amazing primer in Church history, especially the history of the early Church, which often gets overlooked today. It is providentially arranged in such a way that certain saints form different “clusters” that accent a particular facet of holiness. The creators of the 1969/1970 general calendar, on the other hand, eliminated or demoted 200 saints, including St. Valentine from St. Valentine’s Day and St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, claiming that he never existed. They also eliminated St. Catherine of Alexandria for the same reason, even though she was one of the saints that St. Joan of Arc saw when God commissioned her to fight the English.[9] The architects of the new calendar often made their decisions on the basis of modern historical scholarship rather than the oral traditions of the Church. Their scholarly criteria call to mind Chesterton’s rejoinder that he would rather trust old wives’ tales than old maids’ facts. “It is quite easy to see why a legend is treated, and ought to be treated, more respectfully than a book of history,” G. K. writes. “The legend is generally made by the majority of people in the village, who are sane. The book is generally written by the one man in the village who is mad.”[10]

7. A superior calendar for the seasons. Similarly, the “Temporal Cycle”—Christmastide, Epiphanytide, Septuagesimatide, Eastertide, Time after Pentecost, etc.—is far richer in the 1962 calendar. Thanks to its annual cycle of propers, each Sunday has a distinct flavor to it, and this annual recurrence creates a marker or yardstick that allows the faithful to measure their spiritual progress or decline over the course of their lives. The traditional calendar has ancient observances like Ember Days and Rogation Days that heighten not only our gratitude to God but our appreciation of the goodness of the natural seasons and of the agricultural cycles of the land. The traditional calendar has no such thing as “Ordinary Time” (a most unfortunate phrase, seeing that there cannot be such a thing as “ordinary time” after the Incarnation[11]) but instead has a Time after Epiphany and a Time after Pentecost, thereby extending the meaning of these great feasts like a long afterglow or echo. In company with Christmas and Easter, Pentecost, a feast of no lesser status than they, is celebrated for a full eight days, so that the Church may bask in the warmth and light of the heavenly fire. And the traditional calendar has the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima or “Carnivalé,” which begins three weeks before Ash Wednesday and deftly aids in the psychological transition from the joy of Christmastide to the sorrow of Lent. Like most other features of the usus antiquior, the aforementioned aspects of the calendar are extremely ancient and connect us vividly with the Church of the first millennium and even the earliest centuries.

8. A Better Way to the Bible. Many think that the Novus Ordo has a natural advantage over the old Mass because it has a three-year cycle of Sunday readings and a two-year cycle of weekday readings, and longer and more numerous readings at Mass, instead of the ancient one-year cycle, usually consisting of two readings per Mass (Epistle and Gospel). What they overlook is the fact that the architects of the Novus Ordo simultaneously took out most of the biblical allusions that formed the warp and woof of the Ordinary of the Mass, and then parachuted in a plethora of readings with little regard to their congruency with each other. When it comes to biblical readings, the old rite operates on two admirable principles: first, that passages are chosen not for their own sake (to “get through” as much of Scripture as possible) but to illuminate the meaning of the occasion of worship; second, that the emphasis is not on a mere increase of biblical literary or didactic instruction but on “mystagogy.” In other words, the readings at Mass are not meant to be a glorified Sunday school but an ongoing initiation into the mysteries of the Faith. Their more limited number, brevity, liturgical suitability, and repetition over the course of every year makes them a powerful agent of spiritual formation and preparation for the Eucharistic sacrifice.

9. Reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist. The Ordinary Form of the Mass can, of course, be celebrated with reverence and with only ordained ministers distributing Holy Communion. But let’s be honest: the vast majority of Catholic parishes deploy “extraordinary” lay ministers of Holy Communion, and the vast majority of the faithful will receive Holy Communion in the hand. These two arrangements alone constitute a significant breach in reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. Unlike the priest, lay ministers do not purify their hands or fingers after handling God, thus accumulating and scattering particles of the Real Presence. The same is true of the faithful who receive Communion in the hand; even brief contact with the Host on the palm of one’s hand can leave tiny particles of the consecrated Victim.[12] Think about it: every day, thousands upon thousands of these unintentional acts of desecration of the Blessed Sacrament occur around the world. How patient is the Eucharistic Heart of our Lord! But do we really want to contribute to this desecration? And even if we ourselves receive communion on the tongue at a Novus Ordo Mass, chances are we will still be surrounded by these careless habits—an environment that will either fill us with outrage and sorrow or lead to a settled indifference. These reactions are not helpful in experiencing the peace of Christ’s Real Presence, nor are they an optimal way to raise one’s children in the Faith!

Similar points could be made about the distracting “Sign of Peace”[13]; or female lectors and EMHCs, who, apart from constituting an utter break with tradition, can be clad in clothing of questionable modesty; or the almost universal custom of loud chitchat before and after Mass; or the ad-libbing and optionizing of the priest. These and so many other characteristics of the Novus Ordo as it is all too often celebrated are all, singly and collectively, signs of a lack of faith in the Real Presence, signs of an anthropocentric, horizontal self-celebration of the community.

This point should be emphasized: it is especially harmful for children to witness, again and again, the shocking lack of reverence with which Our Lord and God is treated in the awesome Sacrament of His Love, as pew after pew of Catholics automatically go up to receive a gift they generally treat with casual and even bored indifference. We believe the Eucharist is really our Savior, our King, our Judge—but then promptly act in a way that says we are handling regular (though symbolic) food and drink, which explains why so many Catholics seem to have a Protestant view of what is going on at Mass. This unfortunate situation will not end until the pre-Vatican II norms regarding the sacred Host are made mandatory for all liturgical ministers, which is not likely anytime soon. The safe haven of refuge is, once again, the traditional Latin Mass, where sanity and sanctity prevail.

10. When all is said and done, it’s the Mystery of Faith. Many of the reasons for persevering in and supporting the traditional Latin Mass, in spite of all the trouble the devil manages to stir up for us, can be summarized in one word: MYSTERY. What St. Paul calls mysterion and what the Latin liturgical tradition designates by the names mysterium and sacramentum are far from being marginal concepts in Christianity. God’s dramatic self-disclosure to us, throughout history and most of all in the Person of Jesus Christ, is a mystery in the highest sense of the term: it is the revelation of a Reality that is utterly intelligible yet always ineluctable, ever luminous yet blinding in its luminosity. It is fitting that the liturgical celebrations that bring us into contact with our very God should bear the stamp of His eternal and infinite mysteriousness, His marvelous transcendence, His overwhelming holiness, His disarming intimacy, His gentle yet penetrating silence. The traditional form of the Roman rite surely bears this stamp. Its ceremonies, its language, its ad orientem posture, and its ethereal music are not obscurantist but perfectly intelligible while at the same time instilling a sense of the unknown, even the fearful and thrilling. By fostering a sense of the sacred, the old Mass preserves intact the mystery of Faith.[14]

In sum, the classical Roman Rite is an ambassador of tradition, a midwife for the interior man, a lifelong tutor in the faith, a school of adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication, an absolutely reliable rock of stability on which we can confidently build our spiritual lives.

As the movement for the restoration of the Church’s sacred liturgy is growing and gaining momentum, now is not a time for discouragement or second thoughts; it is a time for a joyful and serene embrace of all the treasures our Church has in store for us, in spite of the shortsightedness of some of her current pastors and the ignorance (usually not their own fault) of many of the faithful. This is a renewal that must happen if the Church is to survive the coming perils. Would that the Lord could count on us to be ready to lead the way, to hold up the “catholic and orthodox faith”! Would that we might respond to His graces as He leads us back to the immense riches of the Tradition that He, in His loving-kindness, gave to the Church, His Bride!

It is no time to flag or grow weary, but to put our shoulders to the wheel, our hand to the plough. Why should we deprive ourselves of the light and peace and joy of what is more beautiful, more transcendent, more sacred, more sanctifying, and more obviously Catholic? Innumerable blessings await us when, in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of identity in the Church today, we live out our Catholic faith in total fidelity and with the ardent dedication of the Elizabethan martyrs who were willing to do and to suffer anything rather than be parted from the Mass they had grown to cherish more than life itself. Yes, we will be called upon to make sacrifices—accepting an inconvenient time or a less-than-satisfactory venue, humbly bearing with misunderstanding and even rejection from our loved ones—but we know that sacrifices for the sake of a greater good are the very pith and marrow of charity.

We have given ten reasons for attending the traditional Latin Mass. There are many more that could be given, and each person will have his or her own. What we know for sure is that the Church needs her Mass, we need this Mass, and, in a strange sort of way that bestows on us an unmerited privilege, the Mass needs us. Let us hold fast to it, that we may cleave all the more to Christ our King, our Savior, our All.

 

NOTES

[1] See “Helping Children Enter into the Traditional Latin Mass” (Part 1, Part 2); “Ex ore infantium: Children and the Traditional Latin Mass” (here).

[2] Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 132.

[3] Jonathan Robinson, The Mass and Modernity (Ignatius Press, 2005), 307.

[4] Ibid., 311, italics added.

[5] Ibid., 311.

[6] The same author, John Zmirak (who is sound on this issue), continues: “The old liturgy was crafted by saints, and can be said by schlubs without risk of sacrilege. The new rite was patched together by bureaucrats, and should only be safely celebrated by the saintly.” John Zmirak, “All Your Church Are Belong to Us.”

[7] As documented in Peter Kwasniewski, Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis (Kettering, OH: Angelico Press, 2014), ch. 6, “Offspring of Arius in the Holy of Holies.”

[8] See, among Lauren Pristas’s many fine studies, her book Collects of the Roman Missal: A Comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons Before and After the Second Vatican Council (London: T&T Clark, 2013).

[9] Fortunately, acknowledging that this was a mistake, Pope John Paul II restored St. Catherine to the Novus Ordo calendar twenty years later, but what about all the other saints who got axed?

[10] Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 53.

[11] See, among the many who argue for this point, Fr. Richard Cipolla, “Epiphany and the Unordinariness of Liturgical Time.”

[12] See Father X, “Losing Fragments with Communion in the Hand,” The Latin Mass Magazine (Fall 2009), 27-29.

[13] The Novus Ordo “Sign of Peace” has almost nothing to do with the dignified manner in which the “Pax” is given at a Solemn High Mass, where it is abundantly clear that the peace in question is a spiritual endowment emanating from the Lamb of God slain upon the altar and gently spreading out through the sacred ministers until it rests on the lowliest ministers who represent the people

[14] For centuries, going all the way back to the early Church (and even, says St. Thomas Aquinas, to the Apostles), the priest has always said “Mysterium Fidei” in the midst of the consecration of the chalice. He was referring specifically to the irruption or inbreaking of God into our midst in this unfathomable Sacrament.

 

Confirmation 2015 in the Extraordinary Form

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

On the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Paul J. Swain, Bishop of Sioux Falls, came out to Saint Mary’s Church in Salem to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation in the Extraordinary Form to twelve of our young people who attend the weekly 12 Noon Sunday Mass in Latin. Following the Rite of Confirmation, His Excellency remained for the Missa Cantata celebrated by the Pastor, the Reverend Martin E. Lawrence.

 [Photos courtesy of parishioner Sherry Stoffel] 

The Online Photo Gallery:
(includes over 200 photos)

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.

Provided Courtesy of:
Eternal Word Television Network
5817 Old Leeds Road
Irondale, AL 35210
www.ewtn.com

 

September 29th: Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel & Raphael, Archangels

Monday, September 29th, 2014

Original Prayer to St. Michael

O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.

Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.

These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.

Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious power of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.

V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.

R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.

V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.

R. As we have hoped in Thee.

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.

R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.

 

September 14th: Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

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.

August 22nd: Feast of the Queenship of Our Lady

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

Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa venerated in the Rectory Chapel

From an Advent Homily of St. Bernard of Clairvaux:

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Provided Courtesy of:

Eternal Word Television Network

5817 Old Leeds Road

Irondale, AL 35210

www.ewtn.com

A Homily for the Assumption of Our Lady

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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