Friday, April 28, 2017

The goodness of correction

He that loveth correction, loveth knowledge:
but he that hateth reproof is foolish.
He that is good, shall draw grace from the Lord:
but he that trusteth in his own devices doth wickedly.

Book of Proverbs, (12:1-3)

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort

Louis Grignion de Montfort was born in Brittany, France on January 31, 1673. From an early age he showed signs of spiritual maturity, and at the age of twelve entered the college of St. Thomas Becket in Rennes. There, a fire was lit within him inflaming in him a desire to become a missionary preacher. He was ordained in Paris in the year 1700.

He preached tirelessly in various cities and towns, incurring the displeasure of many ecclesiastics infected with the heresy of Jansenism. Traveling to Rome, he put his case before Pope Clement XI who named him Missionary Apostolic to France.

Louis de Montfort is specially known for his ardent devotion to the Mother of God, and his treatise, True Devotion to Mary, is one of the Church’s greatest devotional treasures. This true Apostle of Mary founded two religious orders: The Daughters of Divine Wisdom, and the Missionaries of the Company of Mary. His fiery zeal produced special fruits in the region of the Vendée, which three generations later valiantly rose up against the atheistic French Revolution then mauling France.

Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort died at age forty-three in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in the Vendée on April 28, 1716 worn out by the efforts of his apostolate.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Stories of Mary 34: Mary Rewards Childlike Obedience


Mary Rewards
Childlike Obedience

In 1832, the ravaging finger of cholera hit every home and house in the great city of Paris.
This terrible epidemic, a disease without cure, struck hundreds and beleaguered many more. And yet, an exceptional phenomenon was noticed. Those who devoutly wore a certain small medal around their neck were spared or relieved from the epidemic. Symptoms of the plague were observed to leave the victims and withdraw into the gutters of Paris.
What medal, what power, was this that through the course of time triumphed over such devastating odds? The answer lied among the winding streets of Paris, specifically at the bolted doors of a small sanctuary known as the Rue de Bac. It is here, at the convent of the Sisters of Charity, that so many miracles unfold by means of a small object: the Miraculous Medal.
The making of the Miraculous Medal came about through a humble nun, then a novice, whose body now lies beneath the stately main altar, incorrupt and untouched by time. She is none other than Saint Catherine Laboure. At the side of the altar is the chair that the Blessed virgin herself occupied when telling the awestruck novice of her wishes for the making of this medal.
Through the thousands of favors, cures, and conversions this medal has obtained, it quickly acquired its popular name.  And so it was that on my visit to the Rue de Bac I found myself graciously received by the Mother Superior, who allowed me to photograph evidence of the many prodigies that have occurred through the Miraculous Medal.
The kind sister who was assigned to accompany me through the convent told me of a recent miracle that cannot be left unrepeated. When telling it, she lowered her voice as if releasing a state secret; she was apprehensive since the Church had not yet officially accredited this latest phenomenon.

Miraculous Medal & Novena Banner

It all began when a Brazilian couple visited the Rue de Bac.
They came to ask Our lady of the Miraculous Medal to cure their five-year-old girl, who was paralyzed from her waist down. The parents fervently prayed for a cure and, at a certain point, the mother encouraged her child to approach and touch the chair in which the Blessed Virgin had sat.
Without explanation, the child refused to do so. The parents were naturally perplexed. After some time, they left and made their way back to Brazil. On the airplane, the mother questioned her daughter as to why she had refused to approach the chair.
To both parents’ bewilderment, the child responded in a matter of fact voice: “Because,” she said, “the lady told me not to.”
Still puzzled, the parents said nothing further about the matter. Upon arriving in Brazil, however, the little girl stood up on her own and proceeded to leave the airplane. She had been cured!
I was amazed, not to say a little skeptical. The sister, calm and serene at my slight incredulity, merely smiled and said, “My son, every day we receive letters attesting new miracles that have been granted to many.
If we were to put each incident on a small plaque and place these on the wall, I don’t think we would have enough walls. Furthermore,” she went on, “since each case is thoroughly screened by the Church before it is approved as an authentic miracle, we catalogue them in our library in alphabetical archives because there are so many.”
I would have liked to describe in greater detail these miracles, but it is not easy. Nevertheless, they serve to show that whoever prays devoutly and confidently to the Blessed Virgin will never go unheard or unanswered, if it is for your salvation.

Miraculous Medal & Novena Banner


 This “Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary” is taken from Crusade Magazine, March -April, 2001, M-50, p. 36, “Miracle at Rue de Bac” by Felipe Barandiaran.

Also Read:  

Why habits are important

Habits acquired by our human actions alone
do not perish by one single contrary act: for
a man is not said to be intemperate for one single
act of intemperance, nor is a painter held an unskillful
master
for having once failed in his art; but, as all
such habits are acquired by the influence of a series of
acts, so
we lose them by a long cessation from their
acts or
by many contrary acts.

St. Francis de Sales

St. Peter Armengol

Peter Armengol was born in 1238 in a small village in the archdiocese of Tarragon, Spain to a family of noble lineage.

Although his parents took great care regarding his education, young Peter forsook his life of privilege and turned to a life of crime, vice and caprice. He joined a gang of criminals who lived as bandits in the mountains to escape the authorities, and he soon became their leader.

Years later, when Armengol’s band of brigands attempted to ambush the retinue of a noble Spaniard, Peter was astonished when he discovered that the man he was fighting, and wanting to run through with his sword, was none other than his own father. Overcome with remorse, the repentant prodigal cast himself on his knees before his astonished father, imploring his forgiveness. Peter resolved to enter a Mercedarian monastery in Barcelona, an Order devoted to the ransoming of captive Christians. So fervent was he in his repeated requests for the habit and consistent in giving conducive proofs of his vocation that he was accepted.

For eight years, Armengol was the one directly responsible for the ransom of the captives, but his greatest yearning was to actually go himself to Africa and become a captive for the ransom of Christians, a desire that God saw fit to grant. On a ransom trip to the African continent, Friar Armengol agreed to become a hostage himself in exchange for the release of eighteen children. He was to be held until a sum of money was delivered for his ransom by a certain date. If it was not paid by the date set, Peter would be executed by his Moorish captors.

During his captivity, he converted many Moslems to the true Faith by the fervor of his preaching. However, when the sum of money intended for his ransom did not arrive at the appointed time, his captors threw him into prison, and subjected him to numerous forms of unspeakable and excruciating tortures, which he survived only by the grace of God.

The ransom still not having arrived, the Moors conspired to execute him. Totally confident, even in that impossible hour, Friar Armengol entrusted himself to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and went calmly to his impending death.

Six days later, when the company of Friars arrived with his ransom money, his body still hung from the gallows. Torn with grief, they went to the site of the martyr's death, hoping to at least recover his body, but were stunned when they found him still alive! Peter explained to them how the Virgin Mary had held him up and kept him alive until their arrival.

Armengol returned to Barcelona and lived a retired life in the Mercedarian Monastery of Our Lady de los Prados where he passed his days in familiar conversation with his Queen, whom he loved with such filial devotion.

God called his servant home on April 27, 1304.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Although God made man without man’s help, He does not sanctify him without his cooperation

Two things are required
in order to obtain eternal life:
the grace of God and man’s will.
And although God made man without man’s help,
He does not sanctify him without his cooperation.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Mother of Good Counsel

In the quaint medieval town of Genazzano, about 30 miles from Rome, on a side altar of the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, there is a small image of the Blessed Virgin holding her infant Son. The Child, in His turn, lovingly encircles Mary's neck with His arm, inclining her head towards Himself in a gentle and intimate embrace.

This small fresco has a marvelous history.

In the fifteenth century there lived in the town an elderly widow, by name Petruccia, who had invested the entirety of the small fortune left to her by her husband in a needed side chapel for her church. Her money running out when the walls were only a few feet high, the townsfolk openly mocked and ridiculed her for her foolishness. Undaunted, Petruccia assured them that in spite of the apparent failure of her own endeavors, the Mother of God and St. Augustine, whose spiritual sons were caretakers of the church, would finish the work she had begun.

On April 25, 1467 as the inhabitants of Genazzano celebrated the feast of their patron St. Mark, marvelous music was heard approaching, its source seemingly from above. Looking upwards, the astounded citizens saw a brilliant cloud descending towards them. The bell of the church, and then others throughout the town, began to peel of their own accord. The cloud came to rest on Petruccia’s unfinished chapel wall and gradually dissipated, revealing the extraordinary image of the Madonna and Child. The widow's supernatural confidence being so wonderfully rewarded before the astonished gaze of all, the construction of the chapel was not long in its completion.

Shortly after these remarkable events, two foreigners in strange attire arrived in Genazzano claiming to be Albanians. Their names were Giorgio and DeSclavis and on seeing the icon, they cried out with joy and then told a wonderful tale.

After the death of Albania's king, George Castriota, known as Scanderberg, their nation had finally been conquered by the invading Turks. Early in 1467, while they prayed before the miraculous fresco, the image suddenly became illuminated, and detaching itself from the wall, it began to move through the air. Entranced, the two former soldiers followed the painting, first over land and, then, across the Adriatic Sea, which solidified under their feet.

In the Eternal City they lost sight of it, until hearing reports of a great miracle in a nearby town, they surmised where their Madonna had come to rest. Both decided to remain near their treasure, and married and raised families in Genazzano.

A plaque left at the shrine by visiting Albanians begs their Madonna to return to them, but there she is to this day. It is a continuous miracle: a fresco painted on eggshell plaster suspended in the air for five and a half centuries, but how much greater is the miracle of that tender embrace between Mother and Child, that union of soul into which each one is invited and warmly received.

Stories Of Mary 33: Deathbed Despair vs. Mary’s Dolors




Mary's Dolors at a Deathbed
vs.
60 Years of Sin

We read in the revelations of St. Bridget, that there was once a lord as noble by birth as he was low and sinful in his habits. He had given himself by an express compact, as a slave to the devil, and had served him for sixty years, leading such a life as may easily be imagined, and never approaching the sacraments.
Now, this prince was about to die and Jesus Christ, in His compassion, commanded St. Bridget to tell his confessor to visit him, and exhort him, to make his confession.
The confessor went, and the sick man told him that he had no need of a confessor, for that he had often made his confession. The confessor visited him a second time and that poor slave of hell persevered in his obstinate determination not to make his confession. Jesus again directed the saint to tell the confessor to go to him again. He obeyed, and this third time related to him the revelation made to the saint, and that he had returned so many times because the Lord, who desired to show him mercy, had directed him to do so.
On hearing this the dying man was moved, and began to weep. "But how," he exclaimed, "can I be pardoned, when for sixty years I have served the devil, made myself his slave, and have laden my soul with innumerable sins?"
"Son," answered the father, encouraging him, "do not doubt: if you repent of them, in the name of God I promise you pardon." Then, beginning to gain confidence, he said to the confessor: "Father, I believed myself lost, and despaired of salvation; but now I feel a sorrow for my sins, which encourages me to trust; and as God has not yet abandoned me, I wish to make my confession."
And in fact on that day he made his confession four times with great sorrow; the next day he received communion, and on the sixth he died contrite and entirely resigned.
After his death, Jesus Christ further revealed to St. Bridget, that this sinner was saved, and was in purgatory, and that he had been saved by the intercession of the Virgin, His mother; for the deceased, although he had led so sinful a life, yet had always preserved devotion to her dolors; whenever he remembered them he pitied her.

PRAYER: 
Oh my afflicted mother! queen of martyrs and of sorrows, thou hast shed so many tears for thy Son, who died for my salvation, and yet what will thy tears avail me, if I am lost?
By the merits, then, of thy dolors, obtain for me a true sorrow for my sins, and a true amendment of life, with a perpetual and tender compassion for the passion of Jesus and thy own sufferings. And if Jesus and thou, being so innocent, have suffered so much for me, obtain for me that I, who am deserving of hell, may also suffer something for love of you.
O Lady, I will say to thee with St. Bonaventure, if I have offended thee, wound my heart in punishment; if I have served thee, now I beg to be wounded as a reward. It is a shameful thing to see our Lord Jesus wounded, and thee wounded with him, and I uninjured.
Finally, oh my mother, by the grief thou didst experience on seeing thy Son before thy eyes bow his head and expire upon the cross, I entreat of thee to obtain for me a good death. Ah, do not cease, oh advocate of sinners, to assist my afflicted and struggling soul in that great passage that it has to make into eternity. And, because at that time it may easily be the case that I shall have lost the use of speech with which to invoke thy name, and that of Jesus, who are all my hope, therefore I now invoke thy Son and thee to succor me at that last moment, and I say: Jesus and Mary, to you I commend my soul. Amen.


 This "Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary" is taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Muslim's Remarkable Conversion to Catholicism



The fascinating autobiography of Muhammad Moussaoui, who narrates his conversion from Islam to Catholicism, shows miracles of grace and of human correspondence, on the one hand, and on the other hand the terrible harshness of Islamic mentality and persecution of Christians. The book’s title, The Price to Pay, summarizes well what this elite soul had to go through in order to be faithful to the call of grace. After his conversion, he took the name Joseph Fadelle.

A Muslim from an Important Family

Fadelle belonged to one of Iraq’s most important Shiite Muslim families, the Moussaoui clan. As head of the clan, his father was a kind of judge and solved disputes between clan members. He also had great wealth and prestige.
In 1987 Fadelle was drafted into the Iraqi army, then under the rule of Saddam Hussein, right in the middle of the war with neighboring Iran. By this time he was 23 years old and single.

Sent to a garrison on the border with Iran, he was housed in a room with a Christian. He became indignant on learning he was going to be lodging with a Christian, an insult to a born Muslim whose family also descended from the founder of Islam Muhammad.


The Challenge: Do You Understand the Koran?

But the Christian, called Massoud, was older than him and welcomed him with kindness, so that little by little his prejudices began to fade. Fadelle conceived a plan to convert him to Islam. One day, when Massoud was absent, seeing among his books one titled The Miracles of Jesus, he became curious and began reading it. He had no idea who it was, because in the Koran Jesus is called Isa; but he was delighted to read about miracles such as the one during the Wedding at Cana, and was attracted by the figure of Jesus.
However, still intending to convert Massoud to Islam, he asked him if Christians also had a sacred book like the Koran. After being told that Christians had the Bible, he asked to see it, thinking it would be easy to refute.
To his surprise, Massoud refused to show him the Christian book and asked an even more surprising question: if he had read the Koran. This question was offensive to one who had been brought up in Islam, but he simply replied he had. Then came a new and rather embarrassing question: “Did you understand the meaning of each word, each verse?”
The future Christian recounts that this question pierced his mind like a fiery dart, since according to Islam what matters is not to understand the Koran, but just to read it.  Seeing his embarrassment, his room mate proposed that he read the Koran again, but this time trying to understand each sentence; and then Massoud would lend him the book of Christians.
Disenchantment with the Koran, And a Mystical Dream
Muhammad accepted the proposal that completely changed his life.  Indeed, as he tried to understand the meaning of what was written in the Koran, he realized that much of it was absurd and meaningless.  A consultation with an Iman failed to solve his doubts and he became increasingly disenchanted with the book of Islam.
It was as if scales fell from his eyes and he began to see for the first time what the Koran really said.  Having finished this keen, meditative reading, he came to the conclusion that this book could not be of divine origin.
It was then a mystical episode took place, which prepared his conversion.  He dreamed he was in a meadow on the edge of a creek and saw on the other side a very imposing, extremely attractive man.  He tried to jump to the other side, but remained still in the air until the mysterious person took him by the hand and said to him: “In order to cross the creek, you need to eat the bread of life.” Then he woke up.

Conversion Shock: Jesus is the Bread of Life

No longer thinking about the dream, he got Massoud to loan him the Holy Gospels.  He happened to open the book on the Gospel of St. John.  He was totally absorbed reading it and felt a great well-being.  At one point, he was deeply moved to find the mysterious words of his dream: "the bread of life." The words of Jesus in the Gospel were clear: "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger” (John 6:35).  Fadelle recounts: "Then something extraordinary happened in me, like a violent explosion that blows everything in its path, accompanied by a feeling of well being and warmth ... As if a bright light suddenly illuminated my life in a whole new way and gave it all its meaning. I had the impression of being drunk, even as I felt in my heart an indescribable feeling of strength, an almost violent, passionate love for  this Jesus Christ of whom the Gospels speak!"

The Price of Conversion: Death

His conversion was complete, total and lasting. He wanted Massoud to help him become a Christian, but met with resistance.  According to Islamic law, a Muslim who leaves Islam and becomes Christian should be killed along with those who led to his conversion.
At any rate, Massoud taught him to pray and the two spent their free time reading the Gospels and praying.
Massoud was released from the army while Muhammad was on leave and he did not find him on his return. Shortly after he too was discharged and returned to his parents’ house.

Years of Trial

For Fadelle, that was the beginning of a great ordeal that would last for years, requiring unparalleled loyalty.
As Massoud had recommended, he sought to conceal his conversion from his family, while avoiding, under various pretexts, to participate in their common Muslim prayers.  At the same time he tried to approach the Christians, but they were afraid to accept him in their churches since they did not know him and were fearful due of the climate of persecution in which they lived.
Fadelle’s consolation was to read, covertly, the Bible he had received from Massoud, meditating especially on the Gospels.  Finally he succeeded, through a Christian with whom he had made friends, to attend a church; but the eagerly awaited baptism had still not happened.
Time went by and in 1992 his father told him he had arranged a bride for him and that he should get married.  It was a girl from the same social environment, and naturally a Muslim, called Anwar.
After his marriage and the birth of a son, Fadelle, who continued to attend church secretly, met a foreign missionary in Iraq who agreed to prepare him for baptism.  But then something unexpected happened.  One day, when he returned from Mass, his wife, who did not understand where he went every Sunday, asked if he had been going to see another woman.  Caught by surprise and without thinking about what to say, Fadelle replied that he was a Christian and went to Mass every Sunday.

Wife Converts

His wife was totally shocked by the news that she was married to a Christian.  Discombobulated, she locked herself in her room. Later, in the absence of her husband, she took their son and went to her mother's house.
Fadelle then realized he was in danger.  She would tell her family that he was a Christian and he would be sentenced to death. However, miraculously, his wife said nothing to her folks and agreed to go back to her own home.  Even more, she asked Fadelle to explain what Christianity was.  He employed the same method that Massoud had used with him.  He asked her to reread the Koran trying to pay attention to the meaning of its words and the doctrine it expressed.  As had happened with him, she was shocked, especially with the way the Koran deals with Muslim women.
After reading the Gospels, Anwar secretly began attending Church with her husband and taking religion classes with the missionary.

Threats of Death and Imprisonment

In 1997 an episode of capital importance took place in Fedelle’s life.  His family finally realized he had taken a distance from Islam and became suspicious that something was afoot. When the couple went to church, his brothers searched his home and found the copy of the Bible.  And when they questioned his young son, he crossed himself as he had learned from his parents.
The next day, at dawn, Muhammad was taken to his parents' house on an urgent pretext.  As he entered the main room, he was immediately beaten by his brothers and uncles in the presence of his father.  The latter, furious with indignation, accused him of being a Christian.  His own mother shouted, "Kill him and cast his body in the sewer!"
Although he was not killed on that occasion, Fadelle was taken by a cousin to one of Saddam Hussein’s political prisons to be tortured in order to reveal the name of the Christians who had "corrupted" him.  For three months he was severely tortured, lost almost half his weight, and then was released.  The family pretended it had all been a mistake, but put one of his sisters in his house to watch him.

Flight from Iraq, Baptism

Through various stratagems, Fadelle was able to maintain contact with the missionary, who nevertheless ordered him to leave Iraq for his own protection and for the sake of Christians in Baghdad.
Finally, in April 2000, after many vicissitudes, the couple and their two children managed to escape to Jordan, where he realized his longed-for dream of being baptized, along with his wife.  He took the name John (but became known as Joseph) and she, Maryam.

Assassination Attempt

However, they were still unable to practice Catholicism in peace.  When his family realized he had fled, they started looking for him and eventually found him in Jordan.  In December of that year, four siblings and an uncle managed to lure him to a deserted place where, after a brief argument, they demanded that he apostatize from Christianity and attempted to execute the fatwa that condemns a person to death for leaving Islam.  Miraculously, despite being shot at point-blank range, the bullets narrowly missed him and he heard an inner voice telling him to run.  Already some distance away, a bullet hit his ankle and he fell in the mud, fainting.  His attackers thought he was dead and fled.
Fadelle was taken by a stranger to a hospital and later treated by Christian doctors in his home, but Church authorities ordered him to leave Jordan in order not to endanger the Christian community.  He took refuge in France, where he lives to this day.

The Beauty of a Righteous Soul

The way Fadelle was attracted by Catholicism shows how his soul had a profound righteousness and how his adherence to Islam was merely the result of circumstances of birth and family.  He was actually prepared, once in contact with the truth, to accept it even at the cost of losing all the comforts and privileges of a high social position and suffering terrible persecution.
His and his wife’s conversions show how Muslims can convert and how many of them actually yearn, though unknowingly, for this "bread of life," which is Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us pray for these souls and for Christians so harshly persecuted in Islamic countries.

Note: 1. Joseph Fadelle, The Price to Pay:A Muslim Risks All to Follow Christ,2012. http://www.amazon.com/The-Price-Pay-Muslim-Follow/dp/1586175998

So that we might become what He is

All the penalties imposed
by divine judgment upon man
for the sin of the first transgression
– death, toil, hunger, thirst and the like –
He took upon Himself, becoming what we are,
so that we might become what He is.

St. Mark the Hermit

St. Mark the Evangelist

We learn from the Epistle to the Colossians that Mark was a kinsman of Barnabas, who was a Levite, which presupposes that Mark was also of a Levitical family.

We read of Mark accompanying Paul and Barnabas on their apostolic missions, assisting them in Cyprus (Acts 13:5) and journeying with them to Perga in Pamphylia, from whence he returned on his own to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). The Apostle to the Gentiles seems to have construed this last action on Mark's part as displaying a certain disloyalty. Later, when preparing to visit Cilicia and Asia Minor, a heated argument ensued with Paul refusing to include Mark, while Barnabas defended his cousin, "so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed" (Acts 15, 37-40).

It is this same Mark who is later imprisoned with Paul in Rome. As proof of how much his personal opinion concerning Mark had changed during their joint captivity, the Apostle to the Gentiles afterwards writes to Timothy in Ephesus, “…take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me in the ministry.”

Tradition strongly affirms that Mark, the author of the second gospel, was more closely associated with St. Peter. Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Papias speak of Mark as being Peter's interpreter. Writing from Rome, Peter refers to “my son, Mark” (1 Peter 5, 13) who apparently was there with him. This is undoubtedly Mark the Evangelist.

Ancient tradition relates that Mark lived for some years in Alexandria as bishop of that city, and there suffered martyrdom.

The city of Venice claims to possess the remains of St. Mark the Evangelist, brought there from Alexandria in the ninth century. Preserved by the Venetians for centuries, their authenticity has not gone unchallenged. From time immemorial, however, St. Mark – Apostle and Evangelist – symbolized by the lion, has always been honored as patron of this "Queen of the Adriatic."
Photo by: Bolo77/Stefano Bolognini

The Heavenly Baker

In the time when Saint Catherine of Siena walked the streets of her quaint medieval town, she sometimes stayed at the house of a widow-friend, Alessia, to avoid the distractions of her noisy home.
One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged to buy long stored wheat. The bread made from this wheat had a sour after-taste. But as the new harvest came in, and there was fresh wheat to buy, Alessia remarked to St. Catherine:
“Mother, this old wheat makes sour bread, so as the Lord has had pity on us, I will throw away the little that I still have.”
“You wish to throw away what the Lord has given us for our food?” replied Catherine, “at least give it to those who don’t even have that.”
“O, I feel guilty giving from the old wheat…I’d rather give from the new, fresh batch,” remonstrated Alessia.
Saint Catherine then asked that she give her the flour and some water, for she wished to make bread for the poor of Our Lord.
As Catherine worked, not only did she produce an astounding number of loaves from so little flour, but turned them out so fast that Alessia and her maid couldn’t believe their eyes.
Served at table, everyone was amazed how delicious and sweet these loaves were. “We haven’t tasted better!” they exclaimed.
Moreover, when taken out to the poor and to the Friars, the bin kept giving without emptying.
Sometime later, on hearing of this miracle, St. Catherine’s confessor, Blessed Raymond of Capua, sensed that there was something “more” to this story, and pressed his spiritual child to tell him all.
So Catherine explained that as she had approached the flour box, she had seen the sweet Lady Mary standing there with several angels and saints graciously offering to help her make the bread.  So Mary Most Holy began to work the dough with Catherine, and by virtue of those immaculate hands not only was the wheat made sweet, but the number of loaves multiplied.
“The Madonna herself gave me the loaves as she made them,” related Catherine, “and I passed them onto Alessia and her maid.”
“No wonder,” writes Blessed Raymond in his biography of Saint Catherine, “that that bread seemed so sweet , since it was made by the perfect hands of the holy queen, in whose most sacred body, the Trinity made the Bread that came down from heaven to give life to all unbelievers.”
And the same writer asserts that years after in Siena, people still treasured pieces of this blessed bread as relics.

Taken from The Life of Saint Catherine of Siena by Blessed Raymond of Capua - By Andrea F. Phillips

Monday, April 24, 2017

How to win

In the spiritual life, one does not sustain honorable losses.
War honors
come only with victory.
And winning consists in not abandoning the cross
even when one falls beneath it. It consists in persevering
amidst the apparent failures of external works,
amidst adversity, in the exhaustion of all of one’s strength.
It consists in carrying the cross to the height of Calvary, and, there,
letting oneself be crucified.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen

Fidelis was born Mark Rey in Sigmaringen in Prussia, and was the son of the town's burgomaster. Pursuing studies at the University of Freiburg in Bresigau, he eventually taught philosophy, while working towards a degree in law.

In 1604, he was appointed tutor to a small group of noble youths and with them made a six-year tour of Europe. His pupils, who grew to respect and love him, attested to the austerity and holiness of his life.

On his return to Germany, he took a doctorate in law and was soon known for his integrity and for his espousal of the cause of the oppressed. Still, the corruption within the legal profession disgusted him and he decided to enter the Capuchin branch of the Franciscan Order.

He was a preacher and confessor of great repute and from the beginning of his apostolic life fought heresy, especially in the form of Calvinism and Zwinglianism, not only through preaching but also with his pen.

Appointed, with eight others, apostle of the region of Grison with the mission of bringing its people back to the faith, he undertook the project with courage and dedication. From the start the wonderful effect of his zeal infuriated his adversaries. They roused the peasants against him by spreading the rumor that he was an enemy of their national aspirations and the agent of the Austrian Emperor.

Fidelis was warned, but chose to spend several nights in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at the feet of a crucifix. On April 24 he was back at his pulpit. A gunshot fired from the crowd missed him, but once back on the road, he was attacked by a group of armed men demanding that he renounce his Faith. He refused and was struck down while calling on God to forgive his assailants, as they mangled his body with their weapons.

The conversion of a Zwinglian minister who witnessed the scene was one of the first fruits of his martyrdom. Fidelis was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV.

Stories of Mary 32: Mary’s Charity In The Visitation



 A Reflection

Mary’s Charity In The Visitation
WE must not imagine that the Blessed Virgin Mary was moved to undertake this long journey to visit her cousin, St. Elizabeth, by curiosity to know if what the Angel had told her were true, for she had not the slightest doubt of it. Our Blessed Lady was moved by a secret impulse of God, Who wished to commence the work of Redemption and the sanctification of souls in this visit, by the sanctification of the infant St. John.
The most ardent charity and most profound humility animated her, and gave her wings to fly across the mountains of Judea, and these two virtues were also the cause of her journey. As St. Ambrose says, charity or grace knows no delays nor cold deliberations: Nescit tarda molimina sancti spiritus gratiae.
It need not therefore surprise us if the Most Holy Virgin, filled as she was with charity (because she bore in her womb Him Who is Love itself), should exercise it in continual acts towards God, to Whom she was closely united by the sacred bond of perfect love, and towards her neighbors, whom she loved so tenderly and sincerely that she sighed for the salvation and sanctification of the whole world.
She went with all alacrity, because she knew with what happy results her visit would be attended, in the person of St. John, and also because she wished to congratulate her cousin who, notwithstanding her age and sterility, had conceived the long-predicted precursor of the Word Incarnate. She went that they might rejoice together, and excite each other to glorify the God of all mercy, and to thank Him for so many favors and benedictions.
St. Luke would teach us by the words, Exurgens Maria abiit cum festinatione in montana in dvitatem Juda –‘Mary arose and went into the mountain country with haste, into a city of Judea’ – the care and readiness with which we also ought to correspond to the Divine inspirations. As it is the work of the Holy Spirit to banish all tepidity and negligence from the heart, so He would have us execute His Divine Will with all care and diligence, and He is offended by any kind of delay.
The virginal purity of Mary, which so dearly loved solitude, also caused her to go with haste, for the best protection for virginal purity is to appear as little as possible in the tumult of the world.
Having reached the house of Zachary, she entered it. She saluted Elizabeth. The Evangelist does not relate that she saluted Zachary also, for her love of purity was so great that she spoke little with men. Let virgins learn from this that they cannot take too great care for the preservation of this virtue.
Who can imagine the sweet fragrance of this most beautiful lily in the house of Zachary during the three months that she remained there? How well did she spend every instant! What honey, what precious balsam, must those sacred lips have distilled in the few but excellent words that they uttered! Indeed, Mary could speak only that which filled her heart, and that was Jesus!
Let us consider the meaning of the words, that ‘Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost’ – Et repleta est Spiritu Sancto Elisabeth – that Elizabeth, who had already received the Holy Ghost with all His gifts, received a new fullness and a new increase of grace by this visit. Although the Lord grants His graces to the just in full measure, yet, as the Gospel says, this measure can be so augmented as to overflow on all sides: Mensuram bonam confertam et coagitatam et supereffluentem dabunt in sinum vestrum.
Let us well understand this important truth. The grace of the Holy Ghost can never be granted to us in this life in such full measure that it cannot be augmented; therefore, let us beware of saying: “It is enough; I am sufficiently enriched with graces and virtues. Mensura conferta est – the measure is filled up, further progress in mortification is unnecessary.”
He who should speak thus would only show too clearly his misery, or, rather, his presumption, and the great danger to which he exposes himself. Omni habenti dabitur et abundabit, ei autem qui non habet et quod videtur habere auferetur ab eo. This text signifies that to him who has received much – that is to say, who has labored much, and never gives up – much shall be given.
Such a one believes that he has never done enough; but, conscious of his own misery, he continues to labor with holy and sincere humility. He, then, who possesses much, shall receive with usury, and superabundantly; but from him who profits not by the grace received, letting it lie idle and fruitless, because he believes he is rich enough, from him shall be taken that which he thinketh himself to possess and that which he does not possess.
This means that graces already received shall be taken away, because he has not traded with them, and those which have been prepared for him shall not be bestowed upon him, since he has rendered himself unworthy of them by his negligence. All this, however, is not to be understood of sufficient grace, which is never denied by God to anyone, but of efficacious grace, which, by a just judgment of God, is not granted to tepid and ungrateful souls.
The thirst for riches and honors, by which worldlings are tormented, never allows them to say, Enough. And yet they ought to be contented with a little, for experience teaches us that the highest dignities and honors and great wealth frequently occasion the loss of souls. It is in regard of such temporal matters that we should say, I have sufficient.
But, with regard to spiritual goods, let us never believe that we possess them in sufficient abundance, so long as we remain in this land of exile, but let us make every possible effort to advance day by day from virtue to virtue.
Experience teaches us that plants and fruits do not attain maturity until they have produced their seeds, which are necessary for the reproduction of their species. In the same way our virtues will never be sufficiently perfected, or reach their maturity, until they produce within us an ardent desire to make further progress. This desire is
the spiritual seed which produces new degrees of virtue.

Consecration of the Saturday to Mary
Holy Church is ever desirous to maintain a tender devotion in the hearts of the faithful towards the Most Blessed Virgin, and from the earliest ages of Christianity she has encouraged the consecration of the Saturday to her.
It is related that there was in the church of Santa Sofia at Constantinople a picture of the Mother of God which was veiled during the rest of the week, but on Friday evening the veil was raised without human aid, and lowered on the evening of Saturday.
Thus did Almighty God manifest His Will that Saturday should be dedicated to Mary. It was on Saturday she took so great a part in the work of our redemption, and it was fitting that on the morrow of the day when she so bitterly wept over the sorrowful scene of Calvary we should remember her tears shed for us in a special manner.
Again, on Saturday God rested from His work in the creation of the world, and the Church consecrates this day to her, to honor the mysterious repose of the Holy Ghost in her Immaculate Heart, and that of Our Blessed Savior in her chaste womb. Saturday is the introduction to Sunday – the symbol of eternal rest – and the Holy Virgin is truly invoked under the title of “Gate of Heaven” – Janua Caeli.
Saturday, moreover, is the day between Friday, the day of mourning, and Sunday, the day of joy and the Holy Virgin is the mediatrix between God, Who is Eternal Beatitude, and man, who is subject to endless evils and miseries.
Mary is the way to arrive at Jesus, and Saturday is a prelude to the solemnity of Sunday. Saturday is as a magnificent portal consecrated to the Mother of God, by which we enter the Sanctuary of God Himself. The Saints held this day in great esteem – on it they redoubled their pious exercises – and many begged, as a signal favor, that they might die on a Saturday.


This “Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary” is taken from The Month of Mary, According to the Spirit of St. Francis de Sales; by Don Gaspar Gilli; translated and abridged from the Italian by a Sister of the Institute of Charity. Robert Washbourne, London. 1890. Nihil Obstat: Fr. T.A. Smith, O.P. Imprimatur:Henricus Eduardus, March 14, 1890.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stories of Mary 31: Mary and The Jealous Wife



"Mary Is The Hope Of All"

It is related in the Fourth Part of the Treasure of the Rosary, miracle eighty-fifth, that a gentleman who was most devoted to the divine mother, had set apart in his palace an oratory where, before a beautiful statue of Mary, he was accustomed often to remain praying, not only by day, but also by night, interrupting his rest to go and honor his beloved Lady; but his wife, for he was married, though she was a very devout person, observing that her husband in the deepest silence of the night left his bed, and going from his apartment did not return for a long time, became jealous, and was suspicious of evil; wherefore, one day, to free herself from this thorn which tormented her, she ventured to ask him if he ever loved any other woman but herself.
Smiling, he answered her: "I assure you that I love the most amiable lady in the world; to her I have given my whole heart and rather would I die than cease to love her; if you knew her, you would say that I ought to love her more than I do."
He meant the most holy Virgin whom he loved so tenderly. But his wife, conceiving a greater suspicion than before, in order to ascertain the truth better, interrogated him anew, and asked him if he arose from his bed and left the room every night to meet that lady.
The gentleman, who did not perceive the great trouble of his wife, answered "Yes." The wife was completely deceived, and, blinded by passion, one night when her husband, according to his custom, had left the chamber, seized a knife in despair, cut her throat, and very soon died.
Her husband having finished his devotion, returned to his apartment, but on going to bed, found it wet. He called his wife; she did not answer: he tried to arouse her; she was immovable. At length he took a light, found the bed full of blood, and his wife dead, with her throat cut. Then he perceived that she had destroyed herself through jealousy.
What does he do? He locks the door of his apartment, returns to the chapel, prostrates himself before the most blessed Virgin, and shedding a torrent of tears, said to her: "Oh my mother, behold my affliction: if thou dost not console me, to whom shall I go? Remember I am so unfortunate as to see my wife dead and lost because I have come hither to pay thee honor, oh my mother, who dost help us in all our troubles, help me now."
How surely does every one obtain what he wishes if he supplicates with confidence this mother of mercy! No sooner did he offer this prayer than he heard a servant-maid calling him: "My lord, come to your apartment, for your lady calls you."
The gentleman could hardly believe these words for joy. "Return," he said to the servant, "and see if she really calls me." She returned, entreating him to go quickly, for her mistress was waiting for him. He went, opened the door, and found his wife living; she threw herself at his feet in tears and begged him to pardon her, saying: "Oh, my husband, the mother of God, through thy prayer, has delivered me from hell."
Weeping for joy, they went to their oratory to thank the blessed Virgin. The next day the husband made a feast for all their relations, to whom the wife herself related the facts, at the same time showing the marks of the wound, and all were more deeply inflamed with the love of the divine mother.

PRAYER:
Oh mother of holy love, oh our life, our refuge, and our hope, thou knowest that thy Son Jesus Christ, not content with making Himself our perpetual intercessor with the eternal Father, would have thee also engaged in obtaining for us, by thy prayers, the divine mercy.
He has ordained that thy prayers should aid in our salvation, and has given such power to them that they obtain whatever they ask; I, a miserable sinner, turn to thee then, oh hope of the wretched. I hope, oh Lady, through the merits of Jesus Christ and thy intercession, to secure my salvation. In these I trust; and so entirely do I trust in thee, that if my eternal salvation were in my own hands, I would wish to place it in thine; for in thy mercy and protection I would trust far more than in my own works.
My mother and my hope, do not abandon me, as I deserve. Behold my misery, pity me, help me, save me. I confess that I have often, by my sins, shut out the light and aid which thou hast obtained for me from the Lord.
But thy compassion for the wretched and thy power with God are far greater than the number and malignity of my sins. It is known in heaven and on earth that he who is protected by thee will certainly not perish. Let all forget me, but do not thou forget me, oh mother of the omnipotent God. Say unto God that I am thy servant, tell Him that I am defended by thee, and I shall be saved.
Oh Mary, I trust in thee: in this hope I live, and in this hope I wish to die, repeating always: "Jesus is my only hope, and after Jesus, Mary."


This "Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary" is taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888

How evil begins

The beginning of evil
is the lack of vigilance.

St. Poemen

St. George

Though the story of St. George is intertwined with legend, especially the account of him slaying a dragon, the historicity of his life is certain.
He was of Greek origin, seemingly of a noble, Christian family. His father was Gerondios, from Capaddocia, a prominent officer in the Imperial army. His mother was Polychronia, from the city of Lyda, now in Israel.

As a youth, he lost first his father and then his mother, after which he enlisted in the Roman army under Emperor Diocletian. The latter favored him in honor of his father’s service, and George was made an Imperial Tribune.

By imperial edict, Roman soldiers were forbidden to practice Christianity. Notwithstanding this prohibition, George loudly proclaimed himself a follower of Christ before the Emperor Diocletian and his fellow soldiers. Upset at the news, the Emperor offered George an abundance of earthly goods in exchange for his Christian Faith, but George was unmoved. He endured various tortures and was finally beheaded. The Empress Alexandra was converted by his courageous example, and some interpret that while the dragon often depicted being slain by St. George is the pagan Roman might, the lady in the background is the Empress.

Devotion to St. George spread throughout Asia Minor, and already early in the fourth century churches were being dedicated to his honor.

Throughout the history of Christian battles there have been reports of St. George’s heavenly assistance, Richard I of England and other Crusaders also confirming such intercession. It is not known how St. George was chosen as patron of England, though it is certain that his fame had reached the isle long before the Norman Conquest.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Sickness itself can be a prayer

The prayer of the sick person is
his patience and his acceptance of his sickness
for the love of Jesus Christ.
Make sickness itself a prayer, for there is none
more powerful, save martyrdom!

St. Francis de Sales

St. Theodore of Sykeon

Born in the Roman Galatian town of Sykeon in Asia Minor, Theodore was the son of a woman of ill repute, who kept an inn along the imperial highway.

As a child, he was so given to prayer that he would often give up a meal to spend time in church. From an early age he shut himself up first in the cellar of his mother’s house and then in a cave beneath a disused chapel. Later, for a time, seeking to further escape the world, he sought solitude on a mountain.

On a pilgrimage to Jerusalem Theodore assumed a monk’s habit, and though only eighteen years of age, was ordained a priest by his own bishop. His life was most austere, wearing an iron girdle about his body and only sparingly partaking of vegetables.

Endowed with the gift of prophecy and miracles, on a second pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he obtained abundant rain after a severe drought.

Theodore founded several monasteries, and ruled as abbot in Sykeon. He was consecrated Bishop of Anastasiopolis, though he deemed himself totally unfitted. After ten years he succeeded in relinquishing his post and retired to Sykeon.

From Sykeon he was recalled to Constantinople to bless the emperor and the senate and there healed one of the Emperor’s sons of a skin disease, reputedly leprosy.

Theodore had a great devotion to St. George and did much to propagate devotion to him.

He died in Sykeon on April 22, 613.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why was Mary made Mother of God?

Mary was raised to the dignity of Mother of God
rather for sinners than for the just, since
Jesus Christ declares that
He came to call not the just, but sinners.

St. Anselm

St. Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm was born in Aosta in Italy about the year 1033. There was little sympathy between the lad and his father, a harsh man who practically drove him from home after his mother’s death to pursue his studies in Burgundy, France.

In the Benedictine monastery of Bec in Normandy, Anselm met and became the disciple and friend of its great abbot, Lanfranc. When Anselm was twenty-seven, Lanfranc was elected to higher office, and he himself appointed Prior of Bec. Fifteen years later, Anselm was chosen abbot, a position that entailed visits to England where the abbey had property, and where Lanfranc was now Archbishop of Canterbury.

An original thinker and great scholar, Anselm had a burning passion to learn about natural and supernatural truth. He developed a method of study for which he came to be known as the "Father of Scholasticism." Under his governance, first as prior and then as abbot, the Abbey of Bec became a center of true reformation in Normandy and England.

Above all, Anselm's great merit lay in his earnest and conscious effort of living according to what he learned from the study of divine truths. His life truly was a combination of contemplation, study, prayer, writing, and activity.

As the seat of Canterbury became vacant, the pastoral staff was forced into the monk’s reluctant hand. Now, as archbishop, he set about defending the liberties and rights of the Church against encroaching English monarchs for which he was sorely persecuted and exiled, but ultimately upheld, by Pope Urban II.

While in Rome in 1098, Anselm attended the Council of Bari and assisted in the definition of the doctrines challenged by the Greeks.

Anselm’s was a character of singular charm. He was known for his sympathy and sincerity which won him the affection of men of all classes and nationalities. A friend of the poorest of the poor, his care also extended to slaves, being one of the first to stand against slavery. In 1102, at the Council of Westminster, he obtained the passing of a resolution prohibiting the practice of selling men like cattle.

Anselm of Canterbury died in 1109 and was declared Doctor of the Church in 1720.

Stories of Mary 30: The Adulteress And The Wife



"Justice, Mother of God, justice."
Our blessed Lady answered:"Justice! do you seek
justice from me?" 

How Great is the clemency and mercy of Mary
Father Charles Bovius relates that in Doinana, in France, lived a married man who had held a criminal connection with another woman. Now the wife being unable to endure this, continually besought God to punish the guilty parties; and one day in particular went to an altar of the blessed Virgin, which was in a certain church to implore vengeance upon the woman who had alienated her husband from her; and this very woman went also every day to the same altar, to repeat a "Hail Mary."
One night the divine mother appeared in a dream to the wife, who, on seeing her, began her accustomed petition: "Justice, Mother of God, justice." But the blessed Lady answered: "Justice! do you seek justice from me? Go and find others to execute justice for you. It belongs not to me to do it for you. Be it known to you," she added, "that this very sinner offers every day a devotion in my honor, and that I cannot allow any sinner who does this, to suffer and be punished for her sins."
The next day the wife went to hear mass in the above named church of our Lady, and on coming out met her husband's friend; at the sight of her she began to reproach her and call her a sorceress, who had even enchanted with her sorceries the blessed Virgin.
"Be silent," cried the people: "what are you saying?"
"I be silent!" she answered: "What I say is only too true; this night the Virgin appeared to me; and when I implored justice of her, she answered me, that she could not grant it on account of a salutation which this wicked woman repeats daily in her honor."
They asked the woman what salutation she repeated to the Mother of God. She answered that it was the "Hail Mary"; and then on hearing that the Blessed Virgin had dealt with her so mercifully in return for that trivial act of devotion, she cast herself on the ground before the sacred image, and there, in the presence of all the people, asked pardon for her scandalous life, and made a vow of perpetual continence.
She afterwards put on a religious habit, built for herself a little cell near the church, where she retired, and persevered in continual penance until the day of her death.

PRAYER:
Oh mother of mercy! since thou art so compassionate, and hast so great a desire to do good to us sinners, and to satisfy our demands, I, the most wretched of all men, today have recourse to thy mercy, that thou mayest grant my requests. Let others ask what they will, health of body, wealth, or temporal advantages; I come to ask of thee, oh Lady, those things which thou thyself dost most desire of me, and which are most conformable and most pleasing to thy sacred heart.
Thou who wast so humble, obtain for me humility and love of contempt. Thou who wast so patient in the difficulties of this life, obtain for me patience in things contrary to my wishes. Thou who didst overflow with love to God, obtain for me the gift of a holy and pure love. Thou who wast all charity towards thy neighbor, obtain for me charity towards all men, and especially towards those who are my enemies. Thou who wast wholly united to the divine will, obtain for me a perfect uniformity with the will of that God in all his dispositions concerning me.
Thou, in a word, art the most holy of all creatures; oh Mary, obtain for me the grace to become a saint. Thy love is unfailing; thou canst and wilt obtain all things for me.
Nothing, then, can hinder me from receiving thy graces but my neglect to invoke thee, or my want of confidence in thy intercession. But thou thyself must obtain for me the grace to seek thee, and this grace of confidence in thy intercession.
These two greatest gifts I ask from thee – from thee will I receive them – from thee do I confidently hope for them. Oh Mary! Mary, my mother, my hope, my love, my life, my refuge, and my consolation. Amen.


 This "Stories of Mary – Stories of the Rosary" is taken from the Glories of Mary, translated from the Italian of St. Alphonsus Liguori; New Revised Edition, P.J. Kennedy & Sons. Copyright 1888

Thursday, April 20, 2017

There is only one ladder to heaven

Apart from the cross
there is no other ladder by which
we may get to heaven.

St. Rose of Lima

St. Agnes of Montepulciano

Around the year 1268 in the Tuscan village of Gracchiano-Vecchio, a child was born to a well-to-do couple, a little girl who was to become one of the great women saints of the Dominican Order.

Attracted  to prayer from an early age, even as a child Agnes would spend hours on her knees praying the Our Father and Hail Mary. At nine years of age, she convinced her parents to place her in the nearby Franciscan monastery at Montelpuciano. In the austerity of monastic life, she advanced in virtue by leaps and bounds.

Five years later, Agnes was called upon to leave Montepulciano to assist in the foundation of a new convent in Proceno. As soon as it was known that Agnes was at Proceno, several girls offered themselves as postulants. With special papal dispensation, the fifteen-year-old Agnes was elected abbess.

From that day onwards, she redoubled her austerities, living for fifteen years on bread and water, and sleeping on the ground with a stone pillow.

Still, the inhabitants of Montelpuciano pined for their now famous saint, and on the plans to build a new convent for her, she returned. The establishment flourished under her rule and guidance, and she remained prioress of this convent until her death.

In her later years, she suffered from a painful illness but did not allow this condition to interfere with her duties. She died at the age of forty-nine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Stories of Mary 29: Mary’s Life In The Temple




The Immaculate Virgin, who enjoyed use of her reason

from the moment she was born, understood the significance of this act.

Saints Joachim and Anne proved their gratitude to God Who, against all hope, 
had satisfied their innermost desire.

They promised, probably with a vow, to consecrate their daughter to the service of the Temple.
Such a practice was nothing out of the ordinary for the chosen people of God. For generations, a given number of young girls would devote their lives from childhood until their wedding day in the House of the Lord. There they received the education commonly given to women of Israel in their day.
Several passages of Holy Scripture refer to them spending their days praying and working. Indeed, they embroidered the fine linen and the sumptuous purple ornaments bordered with gold used in the liturgy. They enhanced the magnificence of the liturgical celebration with their singing. Finally, as the book of Kings tells us, they formed an honor guard before the Tabernacle.

When the Virgin Mary attained the age of three, her pious parents fulfilled their promise to the Lord.
Despite the immense sorrow of losing their daughter, such a tender, gracious, and gentle child, they took her to Jerusalem. The Immaculate Virgin, who enjoyed use of her reason from the moment she was born, understood the significance of this act.
On that day, she who had already been entirely consecrated to the Lord, gave herself fully to Him with all the élan of her will and love.
Her devotion, however, did not prevent her from acutely experiencing the bitterness of her sacrifice. As souls draw closer to God, they become more loving and good.
Indeed, the affectionate heart of Mary was torn when she left her parents, but, even at such a young age, she ascended the long stairway to the Temple unhesitatingly and disappeared into the House of God.
* * *
For twelve years the Queen of Heaven dwelled in the shadow of the sanctuary, leading a hidden and very ordinary life. Let us bow respectfully before her and ask permission to draw near her soul that we might study her virtues in the Temple, which made her the favorite garden of the Most High.

How did the Blessed Virgin consider herself:
She who was such an incomparable masterpiece of the Lord and the most beautiful of all creatures aside from the holy humanity of our Savior? Assuredly, Mary knew she had received exceptional favors. She sensed the absence of any interior temptation, the fire of love burning within her heart, and the incomparable and frequent ecstasies, without ever calling attention to herself.
All this proved without a doubt the immensity of God’s divine mercy for her.
In the Temple of Jerusalem, however, she was not aware of the grandeur that was hers. It seems unlikely that she would have known of the unique privilege of her Immaculate Conception. In any case, she was not cognizant that the Son of God had chosen from all eternity to take on flesh in her womb.
She would have thought herself fortunate to have become the humble servant of this glorious virgin who would one day be the Mother of the Messias. Little did she suspect the honor that awaited her.
Give heed to what she revealed to Saint Elizabeth of Hungary: “Be certain that I saw myself as the lowliest creature and most unworthy of God’s graces.”1 Do not be astounded to hear such an affirmation! After Our Lord, only Mary understood more profoundly the immensity of the Most High and the lowliness of mankind. She knew that by her human nature she was nothing. She attributed the virtues adorning her heart to God alone, taking no merit for them whatsoever. In the presence of the Heavenly Father, she immersed herself in an unfathomable abyss of humility.
Her exterior manner reflected this humility. No other child showed herself more docile to her tutors. She learned much that she did not know through infused knowledge. She was taught to read the Scriptures, to sew and embroider, and made rapid progress. The priests also taught her about divine things, although she was incomparably more advanced than they! Yet, she listened to their lessons with respectful attention and submitted in every way to their opinions.
The Virgin Mary’s humility made her attentive and helpful toward her little companions. She revealed to Saint Mechtilde that as she immersed herself in the consideration of her nothingness, she liked to admire their youthful virtues. It never occurred to her to prefer herself over the least among them.

This rare humility enchanted the adorable Trinity.
Indeed, it merited a sublime response, attracting the Incarnate Word to reside within Our Lady’s chaste womb. If the Immaculate Virgin pleased the Most High by her spotless purity, said Saint Bernard, it was by her humility that she became the Mother of God: “Virginitate placuit, humilitate concepti.”2

This study should not be merely speculative. It must have practical applications.
Let us then speak with frank brutality and merciless cruelty. I pray this humble and gentle Virgin will deign to give me just and propitious words!
All men are naturally vain. There is, however, a pride that is more subtle, more dangerous, and more difficult to cure than any other, that of pious souls. In the Temple, Mary did not cling complacently to the favors she received. Some devout persons lose considerable time scrutinizing their progress in virtue. If they experience some sweetness or consolation in prayer, they become ecstatic and immediately see themselves as favored by God. Yet, these insignificant feelings often come from purely natural sources.
In the Temple, Mary preferred herself to no one. Certain pious souls judge their neighbor with extreme severity. It is not that they occasionally let loose biting remarks about the exterior faults of others. Indeed, their conscience forbids them to utter such caustic remarks—regrettable without doubt—but which are not in themselves grave sins. They do not do this, but instead very candidly and sincerely think themselves superior to those who do not cast sighing looks of longing towards the Blessed Sacrament.
In the Temple, Mary had no suspicion of the sublime mission God had reserved for her. Occasionally one finds pious souls who think they have some special mission. They apply themselves to a thousand devotional practices that God has not asked of them but neglect the most essential aspects of their state in life.
The seventeenth century produced one of these false saints who believed herself called to finally make “pure love” known to the world. She unabashedly described herself as the most perfect image of the spouse from the Canticle of Canticles. For a while, she led astray even the enlightened mind of Fenelon3 by her dangerous delusions.
Let us sincerely examine our consciences. If we find some complacency or fail to consider our complete nothingness, then we are undoubtedly dragging along miserably at the basest level of mediocrity.

God cannot pour His gifts into a proud heart.
When He discovers a soul that is full of itself, either He lets it stagnate or He uses the only means of healing it, allowing it to fall prey to its own faults—at times considerable—in order for it to open its eyes and recognize its miserable state.
In fact, Saint Peter preferred himself to the other apostles when he said: “Although all may abandon Thee, I will never leave Thee.… Even though I should die with Thee…” In vain the Master reminds him of his weakness, but Peter stubbornly replies, “I will not deny you.”4 Poor Saint Peter! How harshly he learned the lesson so necessary to humility.
If you seriously want to progress in the way of perfection, beg the Queen of Heaven to inspire you with true humility. Never think yourself better than others. Recall the words of Our Lord Himself to the Pharisees, so self-righteous with their exterior acts of justice. I would not dare refer to such words had the Master not pronounced them Himself. “There are sinful souls whom you despise,” He declared to these proud men. “But because they recognize the depth of their depravity, My grace will one day touch them. They will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before you.”5

* * *
I would like to have continued studying the other excellent virtues Mary practiced during her childhood. I would like to have shown Our Lady waiting with impatience for the coming of the Messias. She knew that the time fixed by the Prophets approached. She meditated with particular fervor on the chapter of Scripture wherein Isaias foretells the humiliation and suffering of the Man-God. She ardently asked Our Heavenly Father for the particular favor of serving the Lord. Her prayers were granted far beyond her expectations.
I would also like to have studied the vow by which she consecrated her virginity to the Lord. Through such a radiant example, we would have learned how the Most High crowns Christian virginity with admirable fecundity. To develop these topics would exceed the confines of the present work. We have chosen the virtues of the Immaculate Virgin that we deemed most appropriate for souls desiring to lead a profound interior life.

* * *
When speaking of the Savior’s childhood at Nazareth, the Gospel tells us that He grew in age, wisdom, and grace before both God and men. Our Lady’s childhood, like that of her Divine Son, was also a time of growth. The Virgin quickly rose to peaks of holiness.

During the years she lived in the Temple, she blossomed fully in physical beauty and especially in the radiant splendor of her incomparable virtue.
She was now ready for the great designs of the Lord’s divine mercy. The luminous radiance of divine maternity would soon engulf her.
Let us ask the holy Virgin to be not only our model but, even more, our guide along the way of perfection.
Under her guidance, we will have neither illusions nor dangers to fear, as Saint Bernard assures us.6 She will lead us on the surest and most direct route to God, and in hearts, shaped by her maternal hands, she will place her divine Infant.


 Notes:
1. “Me reputabam vilissimam et gratia Dei indignam.” Quoted by Saint Alphonsus Liguori in The Glories of Mary in discussing her humility. [back to text]
2. St. Bernard, Homilia…super Missus est. [back to text]
3. Transl. Note: Fenelon was a priest and writer of the seventeenth century. He is known for his criticism of the political regime of Louis XIV. His Explanations of Maxims of the Saints was condemned by the Church for its quietism. He is nonetheless considered one of France’s great thinkers of that time. [back to text]
4. Matt 26:33-35. [back to text]
5. Cf. Matt 21:28-32. [back to text]
6. Homilia 2 super Missus. [back to text]
This devotional article is taken from Crusade Magazine, November-December, 1999; a Special Edition dedicated almost entirely to the Most Holy Trinity and the Blessed Virgin Mary in the form of a work by Fr. Raymond de Thomas de Saint-Laurent as a token of reparation for the many blasphemies and insults that are continuously hurled against them.

Why does God subject us to such long trials?

The longer the trial to which God subjects you,
the greater the goodness
in comforting you during the time of trial and
in the exaltation after the combat.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

St. Alphege of Canterbury - Martyr of Justice

St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.