Thursday, June 4, 2020

Tomorrow is First Friday


The Nine First Fridays Devotion

“I promise you, in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the first Friday for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance; they shall not die in my disgrace nor without receiving the sacraments; my divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in that last moment.”  Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary

How to complete the First Friday’s Devotion:
  1. Receive Holy Communion on each First Friday;
  2. The nine Fridays must be consecutive;
  3. They must be made in honor and in reparation to His Sacred Heart.

ACT OF REPARATION TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
Sacred Heart of Jesus, animated with a desire to repair the outrages unceasingly offered to Thee, we prostrate before Thy throne of mercy, and in the name of all mankind, pledge our love and fidelity to Thee!
The more Thy mysteries are blasphemed, the more firmly we shall believe them, O Sacred Heart of Jesus!
The more impiety endeavors to extinguish our hopes of immortality, the more we shall trust in Thy Heart, sole hope of mankind!
The more hearts resist Thy Divine attractions, the more we shall love Thee, O infinitely amiable Heart of Jesus!
The more unbelief attacks Thy Divinity, the more humbly and profoundly we shall adore It, O Divine Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy holy laws are transgressed and ignored, the more we shall delight to observe them, O most holy Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Sacraments are despised and abandoned, the more frequently we shall receive them with love and reverence, O most liberal Heart of Jesus!
The more the imitation of Thy virtues is neglected and forgotten, the more we shall endeavor to practice them, O Heart of Jesus, model of every virtue!
The more the devil labors to destroy souls, the more we shall be inflamed with desire to save them, O Heart of Jesus, zealous Lover of souls!
The more sin and impurity destroy the image of God in man, the more we shall try by purity of life to be a living temple of the Holy Spirit, O Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Holy Church is despised, the more we shall endeavor to be her faithful children, O Sweet Heart of Jesus!
The more Thy Vicar on earth is persecuted, the more we will honor him as the infallible head of Thy Holy Church, show our fidelity and pray for him, O kingly Heart of Jesus!
O Sacred Heart, through Thy powerful grace, may we become Thy apostles in the midst of a corrupted world, and be Thy crown in the kingdom of heaven.  Amen.

12 Promises of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary
1.  I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.
2.  I will give peace in their families.
3.  I will console them in all their troubles.
4.  I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.
5.  I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.
6.  Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.
7.  Tepid souls shall become fervent.
8.  Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.
9.  I will bless those places wherein the image of my Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.
10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.
11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.
12. In the excess of the mercy of my heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.



 
Sacred Heart Devotional Set

Also Read:

Despair is the last extreme of selfishness and self-love

Children in a family without love
become rebellious, recalcitrant, stubborn,
selfish and cruel.
Adults who live in a loveless or Godless world
end in despair
which is the last extreme of self-love.
Those who are loved
become kind, ready for service
and quick to love others.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

St. Francis Caracciolo

On October 15, 1563 Francis Caracciolo was born into a noble Italian family. When he was twenty-two, he developed a skin disease similar to leprosy. The disease was incurable, but Francis vowed that if he was healed, he would dedicate his life to God and the service of others. He quickly recovered after his vow and the healing was reported to be miraculous.

Francis then became a priest, and on June 1, 1588, officially began the Minor Clerks Regular, an order that combined the active with the contemplative life. Some of the priests and brothers lived in hermitages, devoting themselves entirely to prayer and contemplation, but the others worked mainly as missionaries and attended to those in hospitals and prisons.

Though he was opposed to filling the post himself, Francis eventually became superior. For seven years he remained in this position, all the while taking his turn maintaining household tasks. He founded houses in Madrid, Valladolid and Alcala before being allowed to retire in 1607 that he might prepare himself for death.

In 1608, at the age of forty-four, Francis was seized with a fever and died. He was canonized in 1807.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

How much love?

The particular object of this devotion
 [to the Sacred Heart of Jesus]
is the immense love of the Son of God which induced Him
to deliver Himself up to death for us and
to give Himself entirely to us in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
The thought of all the ingratitude and all the outrages
which He was to receive in this state of immolated victim until the end of time
did not prevent Him from operating this prodigy.
He preferred to expose Himself each day to the insults and opprobrium of men
rather than be prevented from testifying
– by working the greatest of all miracles –
to what excess He loved us!

Fr. Jean Croiset, spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

St. Charles Lwanga and Companions

Charles Lwanga was one of twenty-two Ugandan martyrs who were converted from paganism by the Society of Missionaries of Africa. Chief of the royal pages, Charles eventually became a moral leader: he protected the other pages from the immoral demands of the Babandan ruler, Mwanga, and instructed them in the Catholic Faith, even baptizing some of them. He inspired and encouraged his companions to remain chaste and to be faithful to God even through imprisonment and persecution.
When Mwanga began to see the Catholics as a threat to his rule, he sentenced them to death. He ordered his pages into a great room and ordered the Catholics to separate themselves from the rest. Then he asked if they intended to remain true to their faith, even when faced with persecution. “Until death!” they responded.

On June 3, 1886, the converts were tortured and burned alive. Soon persecution spread, and more and more Catholics were sacrificing their lives rather than deny Christ. The twenty-two martyrs were solemnly beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1946.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

God alone

Nothing created
has ever been able to fill the heart of man.
God alone can fill it infinitely.

St. Thomas Aquinas

Sts. Marcellinus and Peter

Although not much is known about these two early martyrs, we do know that Marcellinus was a priest in Rome and Peter was an exorcist who worked in close association with him. They were both renowned for their zeal and piety and attracted many followers to Christ.

About the year 304, during the persecution of Diocletian, the two holy men were arrested for the practice of their faith. Whilst in prison, and awaiting sentencing, Marcellinus and Peter not only confirmed and helped strengthen the faith of the other Christians imprisoned with them, but they also made new converts, including their jailer and his wife and daughter, who later became martyrs themselves.

In the hopes that the Christians might not know of their execution and that their example of courage and faith be forgotten, a secret order was passed by the judge. Marcellinus, Peter and the other Christians were one day led into a thicket in the woods several miles out of Rome, called Silva Nigra, where they were beheaded in secret after cheerfully clearing away the thorns and briars to prepare their own burial places.

Some time after, a pious lady named Lucilla was shown by divine revelation the place of the holy martyrs death and burial, and she and another devout lady by the name of Firmina took the bodies and interned them in the Catacombs where they could be duly venerated. Pope Damascus himself assures us that, as a child, he learned all these particulars from the mouth of the executioner himself, who was also later converted.

Monday, June 1, 2020

June - The Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Header - June: The Month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

 Sacred Heart Image and Prayer Card Banner

Hope of a Hopeless World
If there is an age whose sole hope lies in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is our own. The evils committed by mankind today can scarcely be exaggerated. To mention just a few, these include blasphemy, the destruction of the family through abortion, divorce, euthanasia, widespread pornography, immoral fashions and lifestyles, homosexuality and so on. As Pope Pius XI once said, the contemporary world is so morally depraved that at any moment it could be plunged into a deeper spiritual misery than that reigning in the world when Our Blessed Redeemer was born. In consideration of so many crimes, the idea of divine vengeance naturally comes to mind. When we view this sinful world, groaning beneath the weight of a thousand crises and a thousand afflictions but nevertheless unrepentant; when we consider the alarming progress of neo-paganism, which is on the verge of conquering humanity; and when, on the other hand, we consider the lack of resolve, foresight, and unity among the so-called remnant, we are understandably terrified at the grim prospects of catastrophes that this generation may be calling upon itself.
Statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
There is something liberal in imagining that so many crimes do not deserve punishment, that such a widespread apostasy of humanity is merely the fruit of some intellectual error without moral accountability. The reality is otherwise, for God does not abandon His creatures. Rather, He continuously assists and supports them with sufficient grace to aid them in choosing the right path. If they choose to follow a way other than His, the responsibility is theirs.

Behold the grim picture of the contemporary world: on one hand, an iniquitous and sinful civilization and, on the other, the Creator holding high the divine scourge. Is there nothing left for mankind but fire and brimstone? As we begin a new millennium, can we hope for a future other than the scourge foretold by Sacred Scriptures for the final impenitence of the last days? Were God to act solely according to His justice, there is no doubt what we should expect. Indeed, could we even have made it as far as the twentieth century? Nevertheless, since God is not only just but also merciful, the gates of salvation have not yet been shut against us. A people unrelenting in its impiety has every reason to expect God’s rigor. However, He Who is infinitely merciful, does not want the death of this sinful generation but that it “be converted...and live” (Ezech.18:23). His grace thus insistently pursues all men, inviting them to abandon their evil ways and return to the fold of the Good Shepherd.

Sacred Heart of JesusIf an impenitent humanity has every reason to fear every catastrophe, a repentant humanity has every reason to expect every mercy. Indeed, for God’s mercy to be poured on the contrite sinner, his repentance need not have run its full course. Even while still in the depths of the pit, if the sinner but sincerely and earnestly turn to God with a budding repentance in his heart, he will immediately find help, for God never disregards him.
The Holy Ghost says in Sacred Scripture: “Can a woman forget her infant…. And if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee” (Isa. 49:15). That is, even in such extreme cases where even a mother gives up, God does not. God’s mercy benefits the sinner even while divine justice cuts him down on the way of iniquity. Modern man cannot lose sight of these two basic concepts of divine justice and divine mercy—justice lest we dare presume that we can save ourselves without merits; mercy, so that we do not despair of our salvation as long as we repent and start anew.


St Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart of JesusGod is charity, so the simple mention of the Most Holy Name of Jesus evokes love. It is the infinite, limitless love that drove the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity to become man. It is the love expressed in the utter humiliation of a God Who comes to us as a poor infant, born in a cave. It is the love shown in those thirty years of hidden life spent in the humility of the strictest poverty, in the three grueling years of evangelization, when the Son of Man traveled highways and country roads, climbed mountains, crossed valleys, rivers and lakes, visited cities and villages, walked through deserts and hamlets, spoke to rich and poor, dispensing love and, for the most part, reaping ingratitude. It is the love manifested in that supreme moment of the Last Supper when, after generously washing the feet of His apostles, He instituted the Holy Eucharist. It is the love of that last kiss taken from Judas, of that poignant look at Peter, of those insults received and born patiently and meekly, of those sufferings endured until the last drop of blood was shed. It is the love in that last pardon of Dismas, which enabled the dying thief to steal heaven. Finally, it is the love manifested in the supreme gift of a heavenly mother for a wretched humanity! Each of these episodes has been painstakingly studied by the learned, wondrously reproduced by artists, devoutly contemplated by saints, and, above all, incomparably celebrated in the Divine Liturgy.

In venerating the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Church specially praises the infinite love demonstrated by Our Lord Jesus Christ to men. Since His heart is the symbol of love, by venerating His Heart, the Church celebrates Love.

Sacred Heart Image and Prayer Card Banner

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
Our Lady of the Sacred HeartMany and beautiful are the invocations used by Holy Mother Church in reference to Our Blessed Lady. Yet, every single one of these clearly underscores her relationship to God’s love. Each celebrates either a gift of God to her, to which she was perfectly faithful, or some special power or influence she has with her Divine Son.
Now, what are God’s gifts but a special manifestation of His love? And what is Our Lady’s power of intercession with God in our favor but a sublime aspect of God’s special love for us? Thus, it is perfectly appropriate to call her Speculum Justitiae, “mirror of justice” on one hand and “omnipotent intercessor” on the other. She is the mirror of justice because God so loved her that He concentrated in her all perfections possible to a human creature. In no other creature is He so well reflected as in her. Thus, she mirrors His justice perfectly. She is the omnipotent intercessor because no grace is obtained without Our Lady and there is no grace she cannot obtain for us. Thus, on invoking Mary as Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, we make a beautiful synthesis of all the other invocations; we recall the purest reflection of the Divine Maternity; we simultaneously strike all the chords of love in beautiful harmony, the same chords we strike when we recite her litany or sing the Salve Regina.

Yet, there is one other invocation of Our Lady that I especially wish to recall. It is “Advocate of Sinners.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is our judge, and as great as is His mercy, He nevertheless remains our supreme judge and cannot fail to exercise His judicial duty. But Our Lady is our advocate and does solely what an advocate is supposed to do—defends the accused. Do we not have in Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the Advocate of Sinners, an all-powerful advocate before the bar of divine justice whose pleas for mercy will not be refused? To say then, that Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is our advocate is equivalent to saying that we have an omnipotent advocate in heaven who holds the golden key to an infinite store of mercy. So, what better solution for a sinful humanity, a humanity that falls deeper into sin if justice is not mentioned but despairs of salvation if it is mentioned? By all means, let justice be mentioned; it is a duty; its omission has produced only sorry fruits. But right alongside justice, which targets the sinner, let us never forget mercy. Mercy helps the seriously repentant sinner to abandon sin and thus be saved as He desires with all His Heart—the Sacred Heart of Jesus.



Also Read:

No Conditions, No Reservations

Charity lays down no conditions, makes no reservations;
it thinks no longer of self, lives no longer for self; it is a stranger to itself
and lives only for the God which it loves.
Everything in Mary was directed to the Blessed Sacrament as Its center and end.
A current of grace and love established itself between the Heart of Jesus-Hostia and the heart of Mary-Adoratrix.
These hearts were like two flames blended into one.
God was then perfectly adored by His creature.

St. Peter Julian Eymard

St. Íñigo of Oña

Íñigo was born in the eleventh century and was reportedly a native of Bilbao in northern Spain. Early in life he was drawn to a life of solitude and left to become a hermit. Later, he traveled to Aragon where he received the religious habit of a monk at San Juan de Peña, eventually being elected Prior. His term completed, Íñigo was again drawn to the hermit’s “desert” and he resumed his hermetical life in the mountains of Aragon. However, in 1029, King Sancho the Great sought out and was able to convince Íñigo to become the Abbot of a group of monks in a monastery at Oña. The monastery, founded by Sancho's father-in-law, was in need of reform, and he wanted Íñigo to lead the process.

The choice proved an excellent one. Under his ministration, the abbey grew rapidly in numbers and sanctity. Íñigo’s influenced extended far beyond the monastery walls though. He brought unity and accord to communities and individuals who had long been at bitter variance, and he tamed men of violent passions. When a severe drought threatened a total crop failure, God listened to the prayers of Íñigo and let the rains fall in abundance. On another occasion, he is said to have fed a great multitude with three loaves of bread.

He was two leagues from the abbey when he was seized with the malady which was to claim his life. He was carried home, and upon his arrival he asked that refreshments should be provided for the two young boys who had escorted the party with torches, but no one else had seen the boys. It is thought that they must have been angels that only Íñigo could see. He died on June 1, 1057, and was canonized by Pope Alexander III about a century later.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Remember These Prayer Intentions


Pray for the reestablishment of the kingdom of God,
for the spread of the Faith,
for the praise and triumph of our Holy Mother Church …
Pray for the unfaithful
and for heretics and
for the conversion of sinners.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth was established throughout the Church in the thirteenth or fourteenth century.

When the Archangel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Son of God, he also told her of her cousin’s miraculous pregnancy. We read in Luke 1:39-40 “…And Mary rising up in those days, went into the hill country with haste into a city of Juda. And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth.”

At Mary's greeting, Elizabeth felt her six-month baby leap in her womb and exclaimed filled with the Holy Ghost: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:42-44

The first part of Elizabeth’s salutation forms the second sentence of the Hail Mary. Mary, in turn, overflowing with joy and gratitude for her election, responds with the prayer of the Magnificat.

Elizabeth’s salutation to Mary as “Blessed…among women” and “mother of my Lord” can be viewed as the first expression of the Church’s devotion to Mary as the exalted handmaid of the Lord, and true mother of God made man.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Death rather than sin

I would rather die
than do a thing
which I know to be a sin.

St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc’s story is nothing but extraordinary. Born in Domremy, Champagne, in 1412, she was a peasant girl who received from on high the mission of leading France militarily against the invading English.

Joan’s father was Jacques D’Arc, a farmer of some means, and her mother a kind, caring woman. One of five children, Joan was a pious, prayerful and charitable girl.

In 1415, when Joan was three, the English king, Henry V, taking advantage of a civil war between the Dukes of Orleans and Burgundy, invaded Normandy and claimed several cities. Things were going from bad to worse for France when, in the village of Domremy, God began to put in motion a most unexpected solution.

At age thirteen, Joan began to receive visions of St. Michael and Sts. Catherine and Margaret who gently prepared her for her mission.

By 1428, when she was about sixteen, the saints insisted that Joan go to Charles VII, the ineffectual heir to the throne and offer him to lead an army with the objective of repelling the English, and crowning him king. The frightened girl resisted but finally took action on being assured that her extraordinary calling “was God’s will”.

Joan persuaded an uncle to take her to the nearby town of Vaucouleurs to the commander, Robert de Baudricourt. At first Baudricourt and his entourage laughed at the maiden, but when Joan announced that the city of Orleans had just fallen to the English, and the fact was later verified, hilarity turned to respect.

Accompanied by respectful soldiers, and dressed in a man’s clothing for her personal protection, Joan traveled to the court of Charles VII who, wishing to test the visionary maiden, hid himself among his courtiers. But Joan promptly picked him out, and set at rest for him an intimate doubt he had secretly prayed about as to his legitimacy as true son of the king of France, Charles VI.

Ultimately, after extensive debriefing and debate, Joan was outfitted with armor, sword and a white-gold standard bearing the names of Jesus and Mary, and an image of God the Father and angels offering Him a Fleur-des-Lys, the symbol of France.

In the company of the Duke of Orleans, other French nobles, and their armies she freed the besieged city of Orleans. To everyone’s amazement, Joan proved an effective general and strategist, though she never personally killed a man.

After other victories, she and her army accompanied the reluctant prince to Rheims where he was triumphantly crowned. But after his coronation the weak king began to haggle with Joan, and ultimately failed and abandoned her.

In a skirmish outside the city of Compiegne, she was taken prisoner and led to Rouen where she underwent an infamous “trial” conducted by a bishop, Pierre Cauchon, who courted English favor. She suffered a long, painful imprisonment, was finally branded a heretic and a sorceress and condemned to burned at the stake. She was nineteen years old.

To the very end she sustained that her “voices” had not deceived her. Her last gasping word was “Jesus!” Although the flames consumed her virginal body, her heart never burned.

What Joan had begun others picked up and France was ultimately freed.

Twenty-three years after her death, Joan’s mother and brothers appealed to Pope Callistus III for a re-trial. This new trial completely vindicated the “Maid of Orleans”on July 7, 1456.

Joan was canonized on May 16, 1920.

Friday, May 29, 2020

What happens when we confess our faith?

Those who open their mouth
to confess their faith
breathe the spirit of divine grace,
which is the life of the soul.

St. Anthony of Padua

St. William of Toulouse and Companions

William Arnaud, a Dominican, and companions were sent to Toulouse in the South of France by Pope Gregory IX to combat the Albigensian heresy then entrenched throughout the region.

The Albigensian heresy preached a dualism where the body was considered evil. As a consequence, they denied that Christ could have been human, rejected the Sacraments and adopted, in their stead, pagan rituals of “purification”.

The priests, meeting with much hostility in town, set up in a house in the surrounding country, and were making many converts, which upset the local government under Count Raymond III of Toulouse.

They and others, a total of eleven, including some Franciscans, Benedictines, and a layman, were deceived into accepting an invitation to the local castle where seven of them were set upon and slaughtered in a most barbarous manner.

The other four, William Arnaud among them, escaped to a local church where they were found singing religious hymns. Violating the medieval “sanctuary” – an unforgivable act at that time – and angered by the singing, the soldiers first cut off William’s tongue, then killed all four. Their bodies were thrown in a ravine, but that night, light streamed from them leading the faithful to their relics. They were interred in the Church of San Romano at the monastery in Toulouse.

The church in Avignonet where the martyrs had been murdered, was placed under interdict and for years the doors remained locked because of the sacrilege.

Many cures were reported at their graves.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, call upon Mary!

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties,
think of Mary, call upon Mary.
Let not her name depart from your lips; never suffer it to leave your heart.
And that you may obtain the assistance of her prayer,
neglect not to walk in her footsteps.
With her for guide, you shall never go astray;
while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as
she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while
she holds your hand, you cannot fall;
under her protection you have nothing to fear;
if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary;
if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.

St. Bernard of Claivaux

St. Germanus of Paris

Germanus, one of the glories of the Church in France, was born near Autun, about 496. From his early youth he was exceedingly pious, never missing midnight vespers at a church a mile from his home, regardless of the weather.

Carefully trained for the priesthood, Germanus was ordained by St. Agrippinus, Bishop of Autun, and was made Abbot of St. Symphorian on the outskirts of the town. A contemporary of his tells us that at that time he was already favored with the gifts of prophecy and miracles.

One night in a dream he saw an elderly man who presented him with the keys of the city of Paris, telling him to look after the Parisians and to save them from perishing.

In 554, happening to be in the capital when the bishop died, he was elevated to the see although he tried to refuse the honor with many tears.

Though a bishop, Germanus continued to lead a life of austerity and assiduous prayer, receiving the poor continuously at his residence, and having them at his own table where he not only nourished their bodies but also their souls with holy exhortations.

God granted to the holy prelate’s sermons a great power to move the hearts of peoples of every rank. Under his influence, the spiritual life of the city changed: frivolous dances and profane amusements were abolished, enmities were extinguished and sinners reconciled to the Church. Even the king, Childebert, son of Clovis and St. Clothilde, until then a worldly, ambitious prince, converted to a life of piety, building religious houses, and placing his coffers in the hands of the holy bishop for the aid of the poor. One of the churches he built became St. Germain des Prés, for generations the burial place of French royalty.

Throughout his episcopate, Germanus strove to reprove the behavior of wayward nobles, and even excommunicated King Charibert, nephew of Childebert, for his wicked, immoral life. During the fratricidal wars that followed by the nephews, he made every effort to reconcile them, but was unsuccessful.

The holy prelate died at the age of eighty, mourned by all his people.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

This love will never pass away

The saints in heaven, seeing God face to face,
love Him above all things, because they see with the most perfect evidence
that God is better than all creatures combined.
This love will never pass away.
Faith will give place to vision; hope will be replaced by possession: but
“charity never falleth away.” I Cor. 13:8.

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

St. Augustine of Canterbury

One day, the story goes, Gregory was walking through the Roman slave market when he noticed three fair, golden-haired boys. He asked their nationality and was told that they were Angles. "They are well named," said Gregory, "for they have angelic faces." He asked where they came from, and when told "De Ire," he exclaimed, "De ira (from wrath)—yes, verily, they shall be saved from God's wrath and called to the mercy of Christ. What is the name of the king of that country?" "Aella." "Then must Alleluia be sung in Aella's land."

This brief encounter in the Roman Forum between the monk Gregory – later Pope St. Gregory the Great – and the English youths planted in him such a desire to evangelize England that having secured the blessing of Pope Pelagius, he immediately set forth with several monk companions. This ardent missionary desire, however, was not to be fulfilled by himself but by another.

Augustine was prior of a Benedictine monastery in the Eternal City when Pope St. Gregory the Great asked him and another thirty monks to take up the evangelization of England, a project close to the pontiff’s heart.

England had been Christianized before the seventh century, but the Saxon invasion had sent Anglo-Christians into hiding.

As Augustine and companions made their way to the isle, they heard so many stories of the cruelty of their future hosts, that by the time they reached France, they decided to turn back to Rome. But Pope Gregory who had heard differently, including the fact that King Ethelbert had married the Christian-French princess Bertha, respecting her religion, insisted on the mission being carried out.

On arriving in England, King Ethelbert in fact received the monks respectfully and allowed them to preach. In 597 the king accepted baptism, and although, unlike other kings of the time, he let his people free to choose, conversions began to happen.

Augustine was consecrated bishop of the English and ruled wisely, stepping carefully around the prevalent pagan practices, Christianizing old temples, and keeping certain holidays as feasts of Christian saints.

The holy prelate had more success with the pagans then with the old Christians who had taken refuge in Cornwall and Wales. They had a strayed a little from the teachings of Rome, and though Augustine met with them many times trying to bring them back, they could not forgive their Saxon conquerors and chose bitterness and isolation instead.

St. Augustine was primate of England for only eight years, and died in May of 605.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Sanctity for the rest of us

Even though a man may be unable
to attain such a height of sanctity,
he ought to desire it,
so as to do at least in desire
what he cannot carry out in effect.

St. Philip Neri

St. Philip Neri

Philip Neri, known as “The Apostle of Rome,” was Florentine by birth, one of four children born to a notary.

At eighteen, sent to work with a well-to-do uncle, Phillip had a mystical experience which he called his “conversion”. All taste for earthly things left him and he subsequently made his way to Rome.

There he found lodgings at the house of one Galeotto Caccia and taught his children in return for his keep.

For the next two years, Philip led the life of a virtual recluse, giving up whole days and nights to prayer and contemplation. When he did emerge from his garret, he immersed himself in the study of philosophy and theology, determined to live for God alone.

Philip started an apostolate, first at street corners talking to all who would listen, and then with young Florentines working in Rome.

In 1548 with the help of his confessor, Fr. Persiano Rossa, Philip founded a confraternity of poor laymen, popularized the devotion of the forty hours, and undertook the care of pilgrims in need. Greatly blessed, this work developed into the celebrated hospital of Santa Trinitá dei Pellegrini.

Philip Neri was ordained on May 23, 1551 and became known for the gift of reading the thoughts of his penitents. As the number of conversions increased, he began to give regular conferences.

With five initial disciples, among them the future historian and cardinal, Cesare Baronius, he went on to found the Congregation of the Oratory, which was approved in 1575 by Pope Gregory XIII who gave them the ancient church of Santa Maria in Vallicella. Philip rebuilt the church on a larger scale and it became known as the “Chiesa Nuova,” or the "New Church."

On May 25, 1595, Philip, who was known for his good humor and infectious joy, was in an especially radiant mood. His doctor told him he hadn’t looked so well in years. Only the saint knew his hour had come. He heard confessions all day, and saw visitors as usual but, upon retiring, he remarked to those around him, “Last of all, we must die.” At midnight he was seized by a severe hemorrhage. His disciples gathered around him, and as Baronius besought him for a parting word, unable to speak, the ardent apostle raised his hand and imparted a last blessing to his congregation before entering his reward. He was eighty years old. St. Philip’s body is interred in the Chiesa Nuova, which his sons in the Congregation of the Oratory serve to this day.

Monday, May 25, 2020

When is Jesus closest to you?

“I will take away
not the grace but the feeling of grace.
Though I will seem to leave you
I will be closer to you.”

Our Lord to St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi

Pope St. Gregory VII

Pope Gregory VII was born Hildebrand in Tuscany, Italy. Little else is known of his early life. Hailed, historically, as one of the greatest of the Church's pontiffs and one of the most remarkable men of all time, his name, Hildebrand, meant “bright flame”. Those who hated him, which were many, interpreted the name as “brand of Hell”.

Hildebrand was a Benedictine monk, for a time living in Cluny, from whence he certainly gleaned the monastery’s ideal of societal reform.

As a cleric, he became chaplain to Pope Gregory VI, and a few years later, under Leo IX was made Cardinal Deacon. A man of outstanding energy and insight, Hildebrand became a power in Rome. It is greatly due to him that the practice of electing popes through a college of cardinals was established.

In 1073 at the death of Alexander II, the people of Rome cried out for the holy genius who had helped steer the Church for twenty years, “Hildebrand for Pope! Holy Peter wants Hildebrand, the Archdeacon!” Once before the holy monk had eluded the tiara but this time a proper college of cardinals, seconding the popular cry, induced him to accept an honor duly his.

Hildebrand assumed the name Gregory VII, and threw his energy and zeal into a continued reform, especially fighting simony (the sale of ecclesiastical posts) and clerical incontinence.

He confronted Emperor Henry IV head- on about his practice of choosing men for ecclesiastical positions. On meeting with dogged resistance, the pontiff finally had recourse to excommunication which drastically curtailed the proud monarch’s power, ultimately bringing Henry on foot to the Pope at the Castle of Canossa. Because of Henry’s rebellious obstinacy, Pope Gregory saw fit to leave him out in the cold for three days before receiving and reinstating the royal penitent.

But Henry failed to make any true personal reform and alienated his princes who elected another ruler. Still, he later rallied and went as far as electing another Pope, a Clement III, calling down upon himself another sentence of excommunication. He also attacked and entered the Eternal City in 1084, which forced Pope Gregory into exile. Henry had his protégée “pope” crown him Emperor. Ultimately repelled by an army fighting for the true pope, the Emperor Henry left Rome, but complications sent Gregory VII again into exile, this time to die.

His last words before his death were a summary of how he had lived, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

How "Our Lady Help of Christians" was added to the litany of Our Lady


The Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto Header
By Jeremias Wells

When Saint Pius V ascended the throne of Saint Peter early in 1566, Christendom faced extreme peril. The Huguenots had been waging a particularly violent war in France since 1562; the Spanish Netherlands exploded in revolt later in the year; England, having gone from schism to heresy, was openly assisting all the anti-Catholic forces; but the greatest danger came from the constricting tentacles of Muslim aggression throughout Europe and the Mediterranean.
Don Juan of AustriaThe defense of Malta understandably raised Christian spirits, but it was only a defensive action. The powerful Ottoman fleet, still intact, continued to raid Christian lands. The year after that strategic triumph, Ali Pasha, who commanded the naval forces in Malta, captured Chios, the last Genoese position in the Eastern Mediterranean and through treachery murdered the ruling Giustiniani family. Then for three days the Mohammedans roved over the island, massacred all the inhabitants and destroyed everything Catholic. Two boys in the Giustiniani family, aged ten and twelve, were martyred. The younger boy, almost cut to pieces, was told to hold up one finger if he wished to apostatize and live. He clenched his fists so tight that they could not be opened even after death.
Some months later, Suleiman led another of those huge armies—always at his disposal—of 200,000 men and 300 cannons up the Danube River Valley toward Vienna. But instead of focusing on his main objective, he allowed himself to be distracted by a minor irritant in southwestern Hungary. The small, walled town of Szigetvar and its Croatian overlord, Count Zriny, who was cut from the same cloth as Skanderbeg, continued to resist occupation. Like most tyrants, Suleiman would not accept what he saw as insulting behavior and so deviated from his original plan. After losing several weeks just transporting his cumbersome equipment over difficult terrain, he was tied down another five weeks by the heroic resistance of the Hungarians. Zriny died leading a final charge with a sword in his hand and praise of Jesus on his lips. However, Suleiman could not enjoy any satisfaction from his misdirected effort, for he had died the night before. Vienna would have to wait for another day. Selim II, known as the Sot because of his drinking habits, took over the throne in Constantinople, having already eliminated all rivals in his family, and plotted the next attack on Christianity.

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The Pope of the Rosary
Pope St. Pius VFrom the moment of his elevation, Saint Pius V, through his experience and extraordinary vision, not only recognized the grave peril to Christendom but also saw the solution; the Ottoman power could be broken solely by means of a crusade; and crusades are won not only on the battlefield but also in the spiritual life, that is, on the supernatural level. Spain and Venice, as we shall see, viewed the Turks as a threat to their material welfare—as indeed they were—but the holy Pope also saw them as a threat to the order that God Himself placed in the world and for that reason employed the weapons of spiritual warfare.
Saint Pius V increasingly asked for more prayers from pious Catholics, especially from the monks and nuns in their cloisters. If he asked for more sacrifices from others, he certainly intended to carry his portion of the burden by doubling his accustomed exercises of piety and mortification. A devotion to which he gave special attention was the Rosary, so much so that he was called the “Pope of the Rosary.”1 In fact, the great saint secured the uniformity of recitation of the Hail Mary through a Papal Bull published in 1568.

The Holy League

While Saint Pius V was trying to organize an effective alliance against the increasing danger, another Muslim provocation illustrated the precarious situation. During the Christmas season of 1568, the pent-up hatred of the “converted” Moors, known as Moriscos, burst forth in all its massive cruelty. Savage tortures were employed against their victims before they were violently dispatched, especially against humble village priests and their altar boys. If they called on Jesus or His Blessed Mother for strength, their tongues were cut out or their mouths were loaded with gunpowder and ignited. These descendants of the invaders who had nearly destroyed Christian Spain during an occupation lasting eight centuries again drenched the country in blood.
Ferdinand Braudel in his acclaimed work on the Mediterranean2 remarked that there was no doubt about the links between the Spanish rebels and the corsairs of Algeria, the latter being staunch allies of the Turks. The Barbary pirates brought men, ammunition, and weapons to the southern Spanish coast and took Christian prisoners as payment, thus introducing another thread in the noose strangling Catholic Europe.
Maps showing positions of Christians and Turks
Initial attempts to subdue the well-organized revolution met with failure until Don Juan of Austria was placed in overall command. A soldier who possessed all the extraordinary abilities of leadership, including judgment and courage, he vigorously and relentlessly pursued a campaign that destroyed the enemy strongholds and brought the survivors to their knees. Meanwhile, all the courts of Europe were informed that extensive preparations for greater aggression were visibly under way at Constantinople.
Only a saint who lived daily in God’s presence and His benevolent power could have assessed the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of forming an anti-Turkish league and then going forward with such energy and tenacity.3 Saint Pius V repeatedly sent out requests to the counts of Europe to join the crusade; yet, one treacherous or indifferent monarch after another excused himself. Spain, which could be motivated by Catholic considerations, and the Republic of Venice, whose territories were most vulnerable, did not refuse; nevertheless, they sent evasive replies.
Spain, alone among the Europeans, was willing to contribute its resources in men and material, although it had difficulty in seeing beyond its narrow interests. On the other hand, Venice, basically unreliable in any idealistic cause, was willing to fight only when its commercial interests were threatened. Yet Saint Pius V was finally able to bring the greatest power in Europe and the possessor of the largest fleet in the Mediterranean to the bargaining table.
Once there, the skillful and occasionally duplicitous negotiators, mutually distrustful and desirous of financial advantage, began to haggle over every possible issue. Throughout the long, agonizing months, the Pope’s overpowering personality swept aside all obstacles to force a decision. Although sick and in constant pain, the indomitable Pontiff finally concluded an agreement with the two shortsighted governments in March 1571.
According to the treaty, the choice of its supreme commander was reserved for the Pope. Behind his sumptuous chapel adorned with gold cloth and silver vessels was a bare, miserable oratory where the Dominican monk would go in the early morning hours to pray unobserved. Prostrated on the cold stones before a crucifix and with deep groans, the holy monk appealed to God for guidance. The Pope then went into the rich chapel to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When he reached the Gospel of Saint John, he began to read, “Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomem erat Joannes!” (“There was a man from God whose name was John!”).4 Turning his face toward the Virgin, he paused and realized that the commander of the crusade was to be Don Juan of Austria. The choice of this truly great crusader was of inestimable value, for the lack of competent leadership caused several scandalous failures during previous decades.

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The Battle
The BattleIn the middle of September, the largest Christian fleet ever assembled sailed out from Messina in Sicily to seek out and destroy the Muslim fleet commanded by the Sultan’s brother-in-law, Ali Pasha. Saint Pius V granted all members of the expedition the indulgences of crusaders. Not one of the 81,000 soldiers and sailors had failed to confess and receive Holy Communion.
The immense fleet moved eastward across the Ionian Sea in a file stretching out for nearly ten miles. Ten days later it arrived at Corfu off the northwestern coast of Greece. The Turks had ravaged the place the month before and left their usual calling cards: burned-out churches, broken crucifixes, and mangled bodies of priests, women, and children.
Here the animosity between the Italians and Spanish that festered just below the surface almost erupted when the Venetian commander, the crusty, battle-scarred old Sebastian Veniero, hung four argumentative Spaniards from his yardarm. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Don Juan wondered if the Christians would annihilate one another before the enemy was even sighted.
Then word arrived: “Ali Pasha is in Lepanto!” A long thin body of water, known as the Gulf of Corinth, separates central Greece from the Peloponnesus, the southern peninsula. About a quarter of the way into the inlet from the west sits Lepanto, the fortified headquarters of the Turkish fleet.
From Corfu the fleet worked its way down the northwest coast of Greece. On October 5 came the infuriating news that Christendom had suffered another cruel indignity from the Ottomans. Cyprus, the jewel of Venice’s far-flung island possessions, had been attacked the year before. The besieged capital, Nicosia, had fallen quickly, and its twenty thousand survivors had been massacred. The fortified city of Famagusta held out for another year due to the courageous leadership of Marc Antonio Bragadino, its governor. With no hope of relief in sight and starvation and disease reducing the population, Bragadino agreed to what appeared to be honorable terms and surrendered. In an act of unbelievable treachery, the Turkish general, three days later, hacked the Venetian officers to death. For the next week, Bragadino was horribly mutilated and then flayed alive.
At sunrise on Sunday morning, October 7, the chaplains on each ship were celebrating Mass as the vanguard of the fleet cruised south along the coast, turned the corner at the headlands, and entered the Gulf of Corinth. Since dawn the Turks had been moving in their direction from the east, with the advantage of having the wind at their back. While the ships of the League maneuvered from file to line abreast, Don Juan, with crucifix in hand, passed by each galley shouting encouragement and was met, as he made his way through the line, with tremendous applause and enthusiasm. By using tact and understanding, and forcefulness when necessary, he had welded many disparate elements into a united fleet.
The young crusader divided his force into four squadrons. On the left, he placed the soft-spoken but fierce-fighting Venetian Agostino Barbarigo. Don Juan led the central squadron, ably supported by Veniero and the papal commander, Marc Antonio Colonna. The cautious Gian Andrea Doria controlled the fate of the right wing. Only the Christians displayed their forces in such a way as to create a reserve squadron, and they had the good fortune of having this under the command of the Marquis de Santa Cruz, the Holy League’s most respected admiral.
Although the Christian galleys were outnumbered, 274 to 208, they had superior firepower in cannon and harquebuses, while the Turks relied mostly on bows and arrows. By nine o’clock the two lines were fifteen miles apart and closing fast. Just before contact was made, the wind that had been favoring the Turks shifted around from the east to the opposite direction. The Christians drew first blood when their huge, though unwieldy, galleys fired many rounds of cannon shot with devastating effect. But because of their lack of maneuverability, the floating batteries quickly passed out of action.
Alvaro de Bazon - Painting by Andrea F. PhillipsBarbarigo’s counterpart, Mohammed Sirocco, made a quick dash between the Venetian commander’s left wing and the shore line, hoping to swing around and trap Don Juan’s squadron from behind. Barbarigo quickly slid over and intercepted the Turks, but several galleys had slipped by and attacked him from the rear. When his squadron closed in to help, Barbarigo, standing in the midst of fierce struggle, lifted the visor of his helmet to coordinate their attack. An arrow pierced his eye; mortally wounded, he was carried below. However, his quick, self-sacrificing action had prevented Sirocco’s flanking movement. The Christian left then trapped the Muslim wing of fifty-six galleys against the shore and methodically destroyed it.
The center of both lines bore down heavily on each other without any thought of subterfuge or trickery. The Muslims were yelling, screaming, and banging anything that would make noise. The Christians were in an ominous silence, weapons in one hand, rosaries in the other. Usually, the flagships stand off from the heat of battle, but not this time; both supreme commanders set a hard course for each other. Ali Pasha’s Sultana gained the initial advantage by ramming into the Reale up to the fourth rower’s bench. Don Juan grappled the two ships together and boarded. Instantly, a dozen Turkish ships closed in behind Ali Pasha, supplying him with thousands of janissaries. Veniero and Colonna hugged the Reale from either side. Reinforcements arrived from other galleys. Some two dozen ships became interlocked, thus forming a floating battlefield. The battle raged back and forth over the blood-soaked, carnage-strewn decks.
Many in the Christian fleet performed magnificent acts of valor. The ferocious old Veniero stood at his prow in full view, firing shot after shot while his young servant reloaded. A Sicilian sergeant, rather than die of disease, jumped out of his sickbed, went on deck, and killed four Turks before dying from nine arrow wounds. The duke of Parma, companion to Don Juan and future military genius, jumped aboard a Muslim galley and cut down the first twelve men he faced.
Finally, Don Juan, huge broadsword in one hand and an axe in the other, led an attack across the Sultana that ended in the death of Ali Pasha. From that point on the spirit and fighting capacity of the Turks declined.
One last hope for the Ottomans remained. Aluch Ali, the clever Barbary corsair, out-foxed Doria by dragging him too far to the Christian right. He then cut back and slipped through the opened hole. Cardona, with a handful of galleys, attempted to block him but was wiped out. Santa Cruz, who was giving valuable support to the center squadron, broke away to intercept Aluch Ali. The latter, seeing his opportunity for an unhindered attack on the Christian rear disappear, fled to the open sea with just a few of his ships. Most of his squadron was destroyed when Doria wheeled about and assisted Santa Cruz in finishing the weakened Ottoman fleet.
The Holy League had achieved an overwhelming victory in the largest sea battle fought up to that time. The Ottoman Empire lost about 240 galleys and saw 30,000 killed. The League suffered a trifling 12 galleys sunk; 7,600 men were killed.
At the time the battle was won, Saint Pius V was studying financial sheets with the papal treasurer. He rose, went to the window and looked toward the east. When he turned around his face was radiant with supernatural joy, and he exclaimed, “The Christian fleet is victorious!”5 After human agencies verified the news two weeks later, Saint Pius V added the Feast of the Holy Rosary to the Church calendar and the invocation Auxilium Christianorum to the litany of Our Lady, since the victory was due to her intercession. 
 

Notes:
1. C. M. Antony, Saint Pius V: Pope of the Rosary (New York: 1911), 77.
2. Ferdinand Braudel, The Mediterranean (New York: 1973), 1061.
3. For a complete and accurate account of the difficulties, see Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes (St. Louis, Mo.: 1929), vol. XVIII.
4. Father Luis Coloma, Story of Don John of Austria (London: 1913), 215.
5. Robin Anderson, Saint Pius V (Rockford, Ill.: 1978), 78. Several biographers use a longer quotation. See Antony, op. cit., 91.

 

The cause of atheism

Modernism leads to
the annihilation of all religion.
The first step in this direction was taken by Protestantism;
the second is made by Modernism;
the next will plunge headlong into atheism.

Pope St. Pius X

St. Vincent of Lérins

St. Eucherius of Lyons, describes St. Vincent of Lérins as “a man pre-eminent in eloquence and learning”. Little is known of his early life, though it seems that he was a soldier before taking the religious habit on the Mediterranean island of Lérins, now St. Honorat Island, after its founder.

His fame rests on his work, Commonitorium Against Heresies, which he wrote three years after the Council of Ephesus. Because of the many heresiarchs, each proposing a different heresy in the first centuries of the life of the Catholic Church, St. Vincent felt the need and the calling to define what constitutes heresy.

From the writings of the Church Fathers, he recorded certain principles for distinguishing Christian Truth from falsehood. These notes expanded into his Commonitorium, a serious treatise of forty-two short chapters, from which an immense body of literature has emerged.

He asks why, Scripture being complete, we need to guide ourselves by the interpretation of the Church: “For this reason,” St. Vincent explains, “…owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another, so that it (Scriptures) seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds in one way, Sabellius in another, Donatus in another, Arius, Eunomius and Macedonius in another, Photinus, Apollinaris and Priscillian in another, Jovinian, Pelagius and Caelestius in another, and lastly Nestorius in another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various errors, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation. “ (The Vincentian Canon, Commonitorium)

In this book St. Vincent goes on to enunciate for the first time the axiom that for a dogma to be regarded as Catholic Truth it must have been held always, everywhere, and by all.

The exact date of St. Vincent’s death is uncertain, but is believed to have been in the year 445.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Tomorrow is the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians

Header-Our Lady Help of Christians

The invocation "Help of the Christians" is very old, having been included in the Litany of Loreto by Pope Saint Pius V in 1571, as a token of gratitude to the Most Holy Virgin. After having recourse to the Most Holy Rosary, the pope learned of Christendom’s victory over Muslim forces in the famous Battle of Lepanto. Attributing the naval victory to Our Lady’s intercession, the Holy Father wished to make her power known throughout the world. To learn more of this amazing event in history, please click here.

But that was not to be the last intervention of Mary under that glorious title. Several centuries later, she came to the aid of another Holy Father, this time Pope Pius the VII.
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Pope Pius VII's Captivity
During five years of captivity, Pius VII appealed continuously to Our Lady under the invocation of "Help of Christians." From 1809 to 1812, the Pontiff remained imprisoned in the Italian city of Savona, then making a vow to crown an image of the Mother of Mercy existing there, should he be granted his freedom.
In 1812, the Pope was taken to Paris, remaining a prisoner in Fontainebleau, where he suffered terrible humiliations inflicted by the French tyrant.
But in the course of time, Divine Providence intervened, overturning the good fortune of the despotic ruler, Napoleon.
In 1814, weakened by losses suffered on several fronts and pressured by public opinion, Napoleon permitted his august prisoner to return to Rome. The Supreme Pontiff took advantage of the journey to honor in a special way the Mother of God, crowning her image in Ancona under the invocation of Queen of All Saints. And, fulfilling the vow that he made when still prisoner in Savona, he adorned the forehead of the image of the Mother of Mercy with a golden frond as he passed by that city.
The journey continued amid glorious displays of reverence on the part of the common people in all the localities where Pius VII passed. And on May 24th, he made a triumphant entrance in Rome, being received by the population at large.
As the carriage that transported the Supreme Pontiff advanced with difficulty amid the crowd along the Flavian way, a group of faithful, earning the applause of all onlookers, unharnessed the horses and went on to pull the vehicle up to the Vatican Basilica themselves.
Pius VII, attributing this great victory of the Church over the Revolution to the powerful intercession of Mary Most Holy, wanted to show his gratitude by means of establishing a feast day of universal scope dedicated to the beautiful Marian invocation, Our Lady Help of Christians. Therefore, May the 24th became her feast day, in thanksgiving for the Holy Father’s happy return to Rome.

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St John BoscoSaint John Bosco
Such invocation took a new turn in the Catholic world due to the action of one of the greatest saints of modern times: Saint John Bosco, founder of the Society of Saint Francis of Sales (Salesians) and of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians.
The companions of Saint John Bosco noticed that, from 1860, he began to invoke the Most Holy Virgin under the title of Mary Help of Christians, Maria Auxilium Christianorum.
In December of 1862, the Saint made a resolution to build a church dedicated to that invocation. And he declared, on that occasion:
"To the Virgin Most Holy whom we desire to honor with the title of 'Help of Christians'; the times we are in are so sad that we truly need the Most Holy Virgin to help us in preserving and defending the Christian Faith as in Lepanto, as in Vienna, as in Savona and Rome.... and it will be the mother church of our future Society and the center from where all our works will radiate in behalf of the youth."
Six years after, on May 21, 1868, the magnificent Church of Mary Help of Christians was solemnly consecrated in Turin by the Archbishop of the city. The dream of Saint Bosco became a reality. Since then, this special devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians has spread throughout the Catholic world, owing in great measure to the work of the Salesian Congregation.



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This is an excellent virtue

Obedience is a virtue
of so excellent a nature, that
Our Lord was pleased to mark its observance
upon the whole course of His life; thus
He often says, He did not come to do His Own will,
but that of His Heavenly Father.

St. Francis de Sales

St. John Baptist de Rossi

Giovanni Battista de Rossi was born in the Piedmontese village of Voltaggio, in the diocese of Genoa, and was one of four children. His parents, of modest means, were devout and well esteemed.

A nobleman and his wife vacationing in Voltaggio, and impressed with the ten-year-old John Baptist, obtained permission from his parents to take him to live with them and be trained in their house in Genoa.

After three years, hearing of his virtues, John’s cousin, Lorenzo Rossi, Canon of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, invited him to join him in Rome. Thus John Baptist entered the Roman Jesuit College at thirteen. Despite episodes of epilepsy, brought on by excessive zeal in imposing harsh penances upon himself, he was granted a dispensation and was ordained at the age of twenty-three.

From his student days he loved visiting hospitals. Now, as a priest there was much more he could offer suffering souls. He particularly loved the Hospice of St. Galla, a night shelter for paupers. There he labored for forty years. He also worked at the hospital of Trinita dei Pellegrini and extended his assistance to other poor such as cattlemen who came to market at the Roman forum. He had a great pity for homeless women and girls and from the little that he made in Mass stipends, and the 400 scudi sent to him by the Pope, he rented a refuge for them.

John Baptist was also selected by Pope Benedict XIV to deliver courses of instruction to prison officials and other state servants. Among his penitents was the public hangman.

In 1731 Canon Rossi obtained for his cousin a post of assistant priest at St. Maria in Cosmedin. He was a great confessor to whom penitents flocked, and as a preacher, the saint was also in demand for missions and retreats.

On the death of Canon Rossi, Fr. John inherited his canonry, but applied the money attached to the post to buy an organ, and hire an organist. As to the house, he gave it to the chapter and went to live in the attic.

In 1763 St. John Baptist’s health began to fail, and he was obliged to take up residence in the hospital of Trinita dei Pellegrini. He expired after a couple of strokes on May 23, 1764 at sixty- six years of age. He died so poor that the hospital prepared to pay for his burial. But the Church took over and he was given a triumphant funeral with numerous clergy and religious, and the Papal choir, in attendance.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Jesus, increase my patience

O loving Jesus,
increase my patience
according as my sufferings increase.

St. Rita of Cascia

St. Rita of Cascia

Rita was born in Roccaborena, Italy in 1381 to aged parents who were known for their charity, and who fervently thanked God for the gift of a daughter so late in life.

Extraordinarily pious from an early age, Rita set her heart on entering the Augustinian convent in Cascia, but her parents had plans for her to marry the town’s watchman, Paolo Mancini, and she submitted to their desires in the matter.

Her husband proved to have an explosive temper, and became abusive, but Rita bore with his ill-treatment patiently for eighteen years bearing him two sons, who fell under their father’s pernicious influence.

She wept and prayed for her husband and children unceasingly. Finally won over by her virtue, Paolo had a change of heart and asked her forgiveness. Soon after, involved in a local feud, he was ambushed and brought home dead. His two young sons vowed to avenge their father’s slaying, which was a new source of affliction for Rita, who begged God to take them before they committed murder. The Lord heard the saint’s heroic plea and her sons contracted a disease from which both died, not before being reconciled to their mother and to their God.

Free from all earthly cares, Rita turned to the Augustinians seeking admittance only to be told that she could not be accepted by reason of having been married. Rita prayed and persisted and it is said that one morning she was found inside the walls of the convent though none knew how, the doors having been locked all night. She was received then at age thirty-six.

In religious life she was a model of virtue, prayer and mortification. One day, after hearing a sermon on Our Lord's crown of thorns, she felt as if one of the thorns was being pressed to her forehead. On the spot, an open wound developed, and the stench it emitted became so offensive that she had to be secluded. She bore this wound until her death.

Rita died on May 22, 1457 and her body has remained incorrupt to this day.

So many miracles were reported after her death, that, in Spain, she became known as “la santa del impossible”, the saint of impossible cases, a title that spread throughout the Catholic world.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Ascension of Our Lord

Upon entering Jerusalem, we recall that here rested Our Lord Jesus Christ in a close sepulcher, penetrated by neither air nor light, His Sacred Body disfigured by wounds. Wrapped in the Holy Shroud, Our Lord lies in utter darkness, reduced to isolated inertia and death. In the seeming hopelessness of the sepulcher, the triumph of the synagogue appears complete.
After two days, a ray of light penetrates the darkness, and then another, and yet another, as the angels manifest their presence. The heavy stone that guards the sepulcher cannot keep these pure spirits from entering. The angelic choir gathers and fills the empty silence with Heaven’s songs.
Suddenly, the sacred body stirs, as Our Lord raises Himself from the slab on which He lies and from death itself. He had been in Limbo, where He consoled the just with the Good News that the hour of their redemption was at hand. We may well imagine their joy and adoration as they welcomed their Redeemer!
As His Divine soul reanimates His mortal body, each wound shines with the sun’s brilliance. Christ’s crown of thorns is now a crown of light. Our Lord commands the stone to move, and the sun streams in, dispelling the tomb’s darkness as the Son vanquishes the despair of death in His eternal triumph.
Someone approaches. She is running. It is Mary Magdalen, and she is still weeping. Finding the sepulcher open with its stone rolled away and not a Roman guard in sight, she does not know what to think. Seeing a man whom she mistakes for a gardener, she asks, “Where is Jesus?” He answers with a single word: “Mary.” The scales fall from her eyes, and she responds, “Rabboni!” which means “Master.” However, Our Lord, whose glorious body can move faster than any rocket, is no longer there. He is in the Cenacle, where Mary Most Holy has retired to weep for her Son in the semi-darkness. Suddenly, Christ enters radiantly. She is not mistaken as Mary Magdalen was for she is His mother after all. Let us recall Jesus’ last gaze at His Mother from the height of the Cross. She is the last person He sees before He closes His eyes in death. It is a look of love that the world has never known— the love of God for His Holy Mother. Imagine then the first glance exchanged between Mother and Son after the Resurrection, as the deepest sadness becomes the greatest joy! In an instant, He returns to Mary Magdalen, for glorified, He is no longer limited to time and space.
He appears here and there, speaking first with one disciple and then another. Only at the Final Judgment will we know all those to whom Christ spoke during those days, giving courage and counsel, as He prepared His Church for the battles to come.
The hour of the Ascension is at hand. Accompanied by His holy mother, His Apostles and disciples, Jesus makes His way to the Mount of Olives. Theirs is not a simple farewell. With rapt attention, they hang on every word of His teaching. If Our Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor had left the Apostles awestruck, we can imagine how He must appear at the moment of His Ascension. As Jesus speaks, His body gradually begins to rise. He knows that He is rising to Heaven, but it is so natural, so proper and so normal for Him to ascend that at first, His Apostles might see it as simply another example of His glorification. However, at a certain moment, He is so high that they realize, “He is leaving us now!” And thus, the Risen Lord ascends into the glory of Heaven.

Pray without ceasing

We must pray without ceasing,
in every occurrence and employment of our lives – that prayer
which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God
as in a constant communication with Him.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions

Christopher Magallanes was born in 1869 in the province of Guadalajara, Mexico, of devout parents who were poor farmers. As a youth, he worked as a shepherd, but felt called to be a shepherd of souls. He entered the seminary at nineteen and was ordained at the age of thirty.

He worked as a parish priest in his hometown of Totatiche for two decades, and there also opened a carpentry business to help provide jobs for the local men.

When, in the first decades of the twentieth century, the atheistic Mexican government launched a merciless persecution of the Catholic Church, a new constitution banned the training of priests. In 1915, Fr. Christopher opened his own small seminary in Totatiche where he soon had a dozen students.

Consequently accused of trying to incite rebellion, Fr. Christopher was arrested on his way to say Mass, imprisoned and condemned to be shot without trial.  His few possessions he gave away to his jailer and he was executed on May 21, 1927 with another twenty-one priests and three lay Catholics. His last words were, “I die innocent, and ask God that my blood may serve to unite my Mexican brethren.” He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 21, 2000.
Second Photo by: Humberto

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Marvelous World of Our Lady’s Flowers


 Header-The Marvelous World of Our Lady's Flowers

While modern men look for happiness in instant gratification, there was once a time in Christendom when men believed happiness came from a true understanding of the order of the universe. They saw the universe as a great lesson book which, through symbols, one could come to know, love and serve God. One beautiful and touching page in this book was their perception of flowers.
Painting of a flower marketWith great practical sense born of observation, people of those distant times believed flowers to be symbolic of virtues and qualities that ultimately reflected the perfections of God, but which could be seen more directly in that most perfect of all God’s creatures – the Blessed Virgin.
Flowers belonged to Mary, the Mother of God.  In those times when spiritual life and daily life were so intertwined, flowers were a veritable catechism for the faithful.  Flowers transformed abstract virtues into easily understood symbols found in daily life and linked them to Our Lady, the perfect human model of Christian virtue.
Thus, there were at least a thousand flowers and herbs named after Our Lady, her qualities, and episodes in her life. In medieval times, each country circulated its own names and legends adapting to the local culture and flora.  Art, poetry and literature celebrated this intimate link between flowers and the Blessed Mother. To better contemplate these marvels, there were enclosed “Mary Gardens” with those flowers and herbs that spoke of her to the faithful.

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Flower image 1Some of the flower names make this link easy to trace. The marigold comes from the idea that this bright yellow flower is “Mary’s gold.”  Carnation is a corruption of the word “coronation” since the flower was often used to crown statues of Our Lady.  The herb Rosemary is said to honor Mary, the Mystical Rose. “Lady’s Slipper,” like many other flowers that now begin with the word “lady,” was originally “Our Lady’s Slipper.”
However, other flower names have not survived to our times. The lily of the valley was called "Our Lady’s Tears"; since from afar the white flowers seemed like tear drops falling. The humble sweet violet used to be known as “Our Lady’s Modesty.” The enchanting forget-me-nots were reminders of the “Eyes of Mary.”  Even the lowly dandelion with its bitter tasting greens came to be called “Mary’s Bitter Sorrow.”  And the names go on and on, since nearly every familiar flower or herb known today had its equivalent Marian name.
Some flowers gained their name because they bloomed close to feast days. The snowdrop, for example, was called “Candlemas Bells” since it often bloomed early on Candlemas – the feast of the Purification. The Assumption lily bloomed near the feast of the Assumption.  It represented her immaculate purity, virginity and innocence that were rewarded by her assumption into heaven.
Of course, the rose came to symbolize Mary from the earliest times of the Church since it is a flower so rich in expression that it encompassed her purity, sorrow and glory. Numerous varieties of roses are associated with the Blessed Mother: the Rose of Sharon, Christmas Rose, or Scotch Rose. A collection of roses in a garden was called a rosarium. Later, a collection of Hail Mary prayers became known as a Rosary.
From this vision of flowers came lore and pious legend full of innocence and wonder. Legend has it, for example, that the tiny flower columbine sprang up wherever Our Lady’s foot touched the ground when on her way to visit her cousin Saint Elizabeth and was thus called “Our Lady’s Shoes.”  It was said the carnation (also called “Mary’s Love of God”) first appeared when it sprang from the tears of the Blessed Mother that fell upon the ground upon seeing her Son carry the Cross.  The lily, it was said, was originally yellow and came from the sorrowful tears of Eve upon being expelled from paradise. When Our Lady stooped to pick a lily, the lily became white and fragrant.  It is told that the stars of the heavens came down to earth in their desire to glorify the Christ Child in Bethlehem and planted themselves around the manger as radiant buttercups.
Flower image 2While such stories were but mere legend, they spoke of great truths. They served to enchant, instruct and inspire the faithful to greater devotion and love of God. They made more human that tender connection between the Blessed Mother and fallen humanity.  In this way, common flowers united all in virtue, speaking through poetry and song to saint and sinner, rich and poor, old and young, learned and ignorant.
Such was the marvelous world of Our Lady’s flowers that we have lost.  It is but one of many pages of that great lesson book where even the most common things in Creation were a source of simple joys accessible to all.  Indeed, even sorrow in this vale of tears was made meaningful and beautiful.
For our sad days, it is a lesson for us.  If we are to return to some kind of order, it must not have as its basis the sterile statistics of a society where money alone rules.  It cannot have as its foundation the frenetic intemperance of rushed lifestyles.  Such things lead to frustration not happiness.
Doubtless we must provide amply for material needs.  However, this order should have as its aim the desire to understand the meaning of things by seeking out their final and highest causes, which is called wisdom.  In an order based on wisdom, men derive great happiness in naturally seeking God or the likeness of God in all things – even in common flowers.  


  
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