31 December 2009

Sylvester I, Pope

31 DECEMBER 2009. Today, the seventh day in the Octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of Pope Saint Sylvester I.

Not much is known of Pope Sylvester I. He was ordained as Bishop of Rome on 31 January 314 and held the see for nearly 21 years, dying on 31 December 335. From the Liber pontificalis we know that the Saint's father was a Roman named Rufinus. However, Pope Saint Sylvester I's ponitificate occurred during an important period--during the reign of the first Christian emperor, Constantine the Great.

While not present at the First Council of Nicea, Pope Sylvester I was represented by two legates and approved the Council's decisions. During the pontiifcate of Pope Sylvester I, the great Constantine basilicas in Rome were built, including the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, and Saint Peter's Basilica.

While there are legends about Pope Sylvester I's healing and then baptizing the Emperor Constantine, these accounts were written well after his pontificate and are entirely legend.

After his death, the body of Pope Saint Sylvester I was buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla on the Salarian Way. He was succeeded by Pope Saint Mark.

Pope Saint Sylvester I, pray for us!
IMAGE: Constitutum Constantini from Wikimedia Commons.

30 December 2009

Feria Days

30 DECEMBER 2009. A day on which no saint is celebrated is called a feria (Latin for "free day") on the General Roman Calendar. Today, the sixth day in the Octave of Christmas, is such a feria.

Given that we have a free day, let's briefly look at the meaning of the Christmas Octave.

Octave, from the Latin word octava, meaning eight, ascribes eight days of celebration for the Nativity of Our Lord--Christ among us.While most of the world celebrates Christmas only on the morning of the 25th, the Church's celebration continues for eight days, with each day celebrated, in a sense, as a Sunday. That is why the Office of Readings includes the Te Deum for each day in the Octave, otherwise reserved only for solemnities, feasts, and Sundays.

The practice of celebrating special liturgical holidays over a period of eight days is actually as old as the Old Testament. In the ancient Jewish world many of the feasts were celebrated for a period of eight days--the Feast of Tabernacles and the Dedication of the Temple being two examples. Later, the Emperor Constantine continued the tradition by celebrating the dedication of basilicas in the Christian world for the same period of eight days.

Later still, the Church celebrated several feasts with the dignity of an octave until the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. Today, only two celebrations are celebrated with octaves, Christmas and Easter.

The purpose of the octave is to dwell on the mysteries of the particular celebration. Tradition tells that ancient Jews needed the octaves to dwell on the depth of their liturgical celebrations amidst the draw and influence of the surrounding pagan religions. How much more, today, do we need the octaves to dwell on the mystery of Christmas (and Easter in its time) amidst the draw and influence of consumer society that surrounds us today.

Christ is with us! By the Grace of God, the Father has sent His only Son for our redemption. Not because of our merit, but because of the generosity of the Father's love, Christ has humbled Himself to become a man and live among us--true God and true man.

IMAGE: Christmas Eve at the Vatican, 2009. With thanks to Orbis Catholicus Secundus.

29 December 2009

Thomas Becket

29 DECEMBER 2009. Today, the fifth day in the Octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint Thomas Becket.

"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?"--these historically stylized, if not accurate, words of King Henry II of England set in motion the four knights that brought the white robe of martyrdom to Saint Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered on 29 December 1170 in the Canterbury Cathedral.

Saint Thomas was born in London in about 1118, and received an education in civil and canon law from Merton Priory and abroad. In about 1141, tradition tells that Saint Thomas entered the service of Theobald, Archbishop of Canterbury. Becoming the most trusted of the Archbishop's clerks, Saint Thomas was ordained as a deacon in 1154. At about the same time King Stephen died and his successor, King Henry II, took Saint Thomas as his chancellor, making the young Thomas one of the most powerful subjects of the king.

At first, King Henry II and Saint Thomas were very close, spending a good deal of time together collaborating on the needs of the kingdom. History records that they both had the prosperity of the kingdom at heart. However, in his service as  chancellor, Saint Thomas on several ocassions risked the king's displeasure, departing from him on views of his authority over the church.

When Theobald died, King Henry II decided that Saint Thomas should become archbishop, even as Saint Thomas alarmingly resisted and told the King that as archbishop he must oppose the king's plans for the church. However, the king was unpersuaded, and with the assistance of Cardinal Henry of Pisa, Saint Thomas consented to becoming archbishop and was ordained a priest on 2 June 1162, and consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury the next day, 3 June 1162.

While Saint Thomas had secretly practiced austerity as chancellor, his austerity became outwardly apparent after his consecration as archbishop. Saint Thomas was reported to have gone barefoot to receive the envoy that brought him the pallium from Rome. All lavish displays as chancellor were rejected by Saint Thomas, along with the title itself by the end of 1162.

As archbishop, a rift soon developed between the king and Saint Thomas. One of the openings of the rift involved the jurisdiction of civil courts over clerics. In 1164 King Henry II presided over an assembly at Clarendon Palace, the result of which were the Constitutions of Claredon that sought to weaken the church's connection to Rome and reduce the independence of clerics. While other bishops were agreeable to the Constitutions of Claredon, Saint Thomas refused to sign the documents evidencing his consent. There followed greater turmoil between the king and the saint. Saint Thomas was tried before the royal court, but stormed out during the trial, fleeing to France where he was received by King Louis VII. Saint Thomas spent two years in exile at the Cistercian abbey of Pontigny, before returning to England.

In principle, Saint Thomas wanted to be able to exercise the perogatives of the Church, namely excommunication, and the king wanted the bishops to submit to his authority on such matters.

In 1170, the Archbishop of York and the bishops of London and Salisbury held the coronation of King Henry II's second son in York, although coronation was privilege reserved to the Archbishop of Canterbury. In response, Saint Thomas excommunicated all three bishops. The excommunicated bishops fled to Normandy, and when the news reached Henry II, he is reported to have raised his head from his sick bed and uttered those now famous words--"Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" Interpreting the question as a royal command, four of Henry's knights set out to Canterbury.

Upon reaching Canterbury Cathedral, the knights attempted to bring Saint Thomas to Winchester to account for his actions. When Saint Thomas refused to go with the knights they retrieved their weapons from outside the Cathedral and killed Saint Thomas inside the Cathedral by cutting off the crown of his head.

Shortly after his murder, large numbers of pilgrims began retracing Saint Thomas' last journey from Southwark to Canterbury. The pilgrimages brought economic prosperity to Southwark and led, in part, to the quick canonization of Saint Thomas by papal bull in 1173.

On 12 July 1174, King Henry II did public penance and was scourged at Saint Thomas' tomb. Many miracles are recorded at Saint Thomas' tomb and for the remainder of the Middle Ages, the Shrine of Saint Thomas of Canterbury was one of the wealthiest and most popular in Europe. Saint Thomas' remains are believed, however, to have been destroyed in 1538 as a part of the violent suppression of the Church by King Henry VIII.

IMAGE: the martyrdom of Saint Thomas, from the Saint Thomas altarpiece commissioned in 1424 from Meister Francke.

28 December 2009

Holy Innocents

28 DECEMBER 2009. Today, the fourth day in the Octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents.

As accounted in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 2, 16-18), King Herod of Judea ordered that all male children under the age of two in the Village of Bethlehem and the surrounding areas be executed to protect his throne from the newborn King of the Jews, as reported to him by the Magi. Historical accounts number the holy innocents from several dozen to tens of thousands. The Church claims these male children as the first Christian martyrs, and gives them the title of Holy Innocents.

While the date of the Church's introduction of the Feast of the Holy Innocents is uncertain, it is known that the Western Church celebrated the feast before the end of the fifth century. It can be found, with the Feasts of Saint Stephen and Saint John, in the Leonine Sacramentary, which dates to A.D. 485.

In Bethlehem, the Feast is a Holy Day of Obligation.


We remember today, O God, 
the slaughter of the holy innocents 
of Bethlehem by King Herod. 
Receive, we pray, into the arms 
of your mercy all innocent victims; 
and by your great might frustrate the designs 
of evil tyrants and establish your rule 
of justice, love, and peace; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


Nota Bene. In today's world, where so many innocents are killed by abortion, abuse, and other cruelties, it would be a commendable prayer exercise today to begin a Novena for the Unborn.

27 December 2009

Feast of the Holy Family

27 DECEMBER 2009.Today, the third day in the Octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family. The Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave of Christmas.

Today's readings can be found here.

The Feast of the Holy Family  honors the family of Christ--Our Lord with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, Christ's father on earth. The feast was first promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1893. The veneration of the Holy Family formally began in the seventeenth century and was promoted by Msgr. Francois de Laval, a Canadian bishop that help found the confraternity of Holy Family.

The Feast of the Holy Family is about modeling our human families on the picture of love found in the family of Christ. His Mother, our Mother, is the exemplar of Christian love, giving her very being and total life for the love of Jesus, her Son and Our Lord. Saint Joseph is the image of fatherly love and faith in God Our Father.


We look to Your loving guidance and order
as the pattern of all family life.
By following the example of the holy family
of your Son in mutual love and respect,
may we come to the joy of our home in heaven.


26 December 2009

Stephen, first martyr

26 DECEMBER 2009. Today, the second day in the Octave of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Saint Stephen was also the first in the early church to be given the title of Archdeacon.

Saint Stephen's martyrdom is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, and was overseen by Saul (Acts 8, 1), prior to his conversion to the great Christian disciple Paul. After being chosen as a deacon to provide for the widows that had been neglected in the community's distributions (Acts 6, 5-6), Saint Stephen was accused of blashemy and speaking against the temple and the law (Acts 6, 11-14).

Saint Stephen was tried by the Sanhedrin and stoned to death in A.D. 34-35. Before his death, Saint Stephen made a speech against the Jews who have persecuted the prophets:
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors.Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.
(Acts 7, 51-53). During his trial and persecution, Saint Stephen experienced a theophany, seeing both God the Father and God the Son at the same time: "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7, 56)

Saint Stephen's Day is celebrated as a national holiday in many countries of Christian origin, including England and Poland.

IMAGE: Byzantine Icon, (eleventh century).

25 December 2009

Urbi et Orbi, Christmas 2009

25 DECEMBER 2009. The full text of Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas message today to the city and the world:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Rome and throughout the world,
and all men and women, whom the Lord loves!

Lux fulgebit hodie super nos,
quia natus est nobis Dominus.
A light will shine on us this day,
the Lord is born for us”
(Roman Missal, Christmas, Entrance Antiphon for the Mass at Dawn)

The liturgy of the Mass at Dawn reminded us that the night is now past, the day has begun; the light radiating from the cave of Bethlehem shines upon us.

The Bible and the Liturgy do not, however, speak to us about a natural light, but a different, special light, which is somehow directed to and focused upon “us”, the same “us” for whom the Child of Bethlehem “is born”. This “us” is the Church, the great universal family of those who believe in Christ, who have awaited in hope the new birth of the Saviour, and who today celebrate in mystery the perennial significance of this event.

At first, beside the manger in Bethlehem, that “us” was almost imperceptible to human eyes. As the Gospel of Saint Luke recounts, it included, in addition to Mary and Joseph, a few lowly shepherds who came to the cave after hearing the message of the Angels. The light of that first Christmas was like a fire kindled in the night. All about there was darkness, while in the cave there shone the true light “that enlightens every man” (Jn 1:9). And yet all this took place in simplicity and hiddenness, in the way that God works in all of salvation history. God loves to light little lights, so as then to illuminate vast spaces. Truth, and Love, which are its content, are kindled wherever the light is welcomed; they then radiate in concentric circles, as if by contact, in the hearts and minds of all those who, by opening themselves freely to its splendour, themselves become sources of light. Such is the history of the Church: she began her journey in the lowly cave of Bethlehem, and down the centuries she has become a People and a source of light for humanity. Today too, in those who encounter that Child, God still kindles fires in the night of the world, calling men and women everywhere to acknowledge in Jesus the “sign” of his saving and liberating presence and to extend the “us” of those who believe in Christ to the whole of mankind.

Wherever there is an “us” which welcomes God’s love, there the light of Christ shines forth, even in the most difficult situations. The Church, like the Virgin Mary, offers the world Jesus, the Son, whom she herself has received as a gift, the One who came to set mankind free from the slavery of sin. Like Mary, the Church does not fear, for that Child is her strength. But she does not keep him for herself: she offers him to all those who seek him with a sincere heart, to the earth’s lowly and afflicted, to the victims of violence, and to all who yearn for peace. Today too, on behalf of a human family profoundly affected by a grave financial crisis, yet even more by a moral crisis, and by the painful wounds of wars and conflicts, the Church, in faithful solidarity with mankind, repeats with the shepherds: “Let us go to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15), for there we shall find our hope.

The “us” of the Church is alive in the place where Jesus was born, in the Holy Land, inviting its people to abandon every logic of violence and vengeance, and to engage with renewed vigour and generosity in the process which leads to peaceful coexistence. The “us” of the Church is present in the other countries of the Middle East. How can we forget the troubled situation in Iraq and the “little flock” of Christians which lives in the region? At times it is subject to violence and injustice, but it remains determined to make its own contribution to the building of a society opposed to the logic of conflict and the rejection of one’s neighbour. The “us” of the Church is active in Sri Lanka, in the Korean peninsula and in the Philippines, as well as in the other countries of Asia, as a leaven of reconciliation and peace. On the continent of Africa she does not cease to lift her voice to God, imploring an end to every injustice in the Democratic Republic of Congo; she invites the citizens of Guinea and Niger to respect for the rights of every person and to dialogue; she begs those of Madagascar to overcome their internal divisions and to be mutually accepting; and she reminds all men and women that they are called to hope, despite the tragedies, trials and difficulties which still afflict them. In Europe and North America, the “us” of the Church urges people to leave behind the selfish and technicist mentality, to advance the common good and to show respect for the persons who are most defenceless, starting with the unborn. In Honduras she is assisting in process of rebuilding institutions; throughout Latin America, the “us” of the Church is a source of identity, a fullness of truth and of charity which no ideology can replace, a summons to respect for the inalienable rights of each person and his or her integral development, a proclamation of justice and fraternity, a source of unity.

In fidelity to the mandate of her Founder, the Church shows solidarity with the victims of natural disasters and poverty, even within opulent societies. In the face of the exodus of all those who migrate from their homelands and are driven away by hunger, intolerance or environmental degradation, the Church is a presence calling others to an attitude of acceptance and welcome. In a word, the Church everywhere proclaims the Gospel of Christ, despite persecutions, discriminations, attacks and at times hostile indifference. These, in fact, enable her to share the lot of her Master and Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, how great a gift it is to be part of a communion which is open to everyone! It is the communion of the Most Holy Trinity, from whose heart Emmanuel, Jesus, “God with us”, came into the world. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, let us contemplate, filled with wonder and gratitude, this mystery of love and light! Happy Christmas to all!

Nativity of the Lord

25 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.

Merry Christmas to all!

Today we celebrate Christ with us. Our loving Father, Creator of the universe and all that we have and have yet to comprehend, has humbled Himself by sending the Word, Jesus Christ, among us, to dwell with us, to die for our sins, and to conquer death for our eternal salvation.

Our meager intellects cannot grasp the greatness of the love that has been bestowed upon us in the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The One True God, without beginning or end, has humbled Himself to become a man and sacrificed His only Son, Himself, for our salvation.

The message of Christmas is this: Christ is near to us and wants to be near to us. He has come to us, not because we deserve this gift, but because of the bounty of His love. And, Christ wants to remain near to us.

So, one and all, draw yourselves near to Christ and remain there through the aid of the sacraments and the life of the Church, relying on the assistance of the intercession of the angels and saints, and Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Raise your hearts and minds and thoughts and prayers to Our Lord in praise and thanksgiving, now and for all your lives!

23 December 2009

John Cantius, priest

23 DECEMBER 2009. Today, just two days before the Nativity of Our Lord, the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint John of Kanty (in Polish - Jan Kanty), a renowned fourteenth and fifteenth century Polish priest, scholastic and theologian.

Saint John was born in the small town of Kenty (in the Diocese of Krakow) on 23 June 1390. Saint John studied at the Krakow Academy, from which he received baccalareate, masters, and doctoral degrees. After graduation and ordination as a priest, Father John Cantius served as a parish priest for a time, but soon returned to the Krakow Academy as a professor of Sacred Scriptures, a position he held until his death.

As a professor, Saint John helped develop Jean Buridan's theory of "impetus," a precursor to the work of Galileo and Newton. He was also known for his humility and good humor, subsisting on only what was barely necessary and giving the rest of his earnings to the poor.

During his lifetime, Saint John made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and four to Rome on foot.

Saint John died on 24 December 1473, at the age of 83. He was beatified by Pope Clement X on 28 March 1676, and canonized by Pope Clement XIII on 16 July 1767.

Much revered in Poland, Saint John was named Partron of Poland and Lithuania by Pope Clement XII in 1737.

In the United States, the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius, a clerical institute of consecrated life founded in Chicago in 1998, have taken Saint John Cantius as their patron.

Saint John Cantius, pray for us!

18 December 2009

A Report from the Cultural Front Lines

17 DECEMBER 2009. In an interview yesterday with the New York Times, the Mayor of Vallejo, California made the statement that the homosexual lifestyle is sinful. The Catholic News Agency (CNA) article on this storycan be found here.

The outrage, as you might imagine for an elected official from the San Francisco Bay area, is palpable and many are demanding that Mayor Osby Davis resign. But, here is the part of the story that really flies in the face of truth--beyond the false criticism that has been already levied at Mayor Davis:
“I don’t believe that [the homosexual] lifestyle is correct but that’s a decision that they have to make. I don’t stop loving them because they’re gay. [Mayor Davis continues:] They have to make a decision on their own. If I present something to them and they don’t want to receive it, okay that’s well and good. That’s not going to stop me from loving them.”
The pro-family organization Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) reported that the mayor's city, Vallejo, is divided in its reaction to the statement.
“Some have called for the removal of the mayor, the appointment of an openly gay individual to the Vallejo Human Relations Commission, and official recognition of an LGBT Pride month,” CRI said.
The group reported that many of the demands charge that the mayor’s statements violate church-state separation.
“And much of the criticism begins with the accusation that the religious community in general is motivated by hate,” the CRI added.
CNA, Dec. 17, 2009, available at http://www.catholicnewsagency.com (emphasis added).

The accusation that Mayor Davis somehow violated the separation of church and state is preposterous. To hold the opinion that no elected official may ever speak on a matter of faith is to say that faith has no place whatsoever in the public sphere. Not true.

Faith is very much an important aspect of the political and cultural complexion of our country. Each of us, in our faith life, apathy to a faith life, or even hostility toward faith, whatever the case may be, is shaped by those views and beliefs. When we speak in the public sphere that formation of ourselves is a necessary part of what we bring to public dialogue.

It seems that the criticism being levied at Mayor Davis is that he should not share views which challenge the views of others on the basis of trying to discern truth. If our elected officials cannot speak of what they believe is truth, then we had better call off future elections. In that world devoid of truth or principled leaders of faith, all we would need are bureaucrats to run government by implementing the policy choices made by the people directly. And, in this world, those bureaucrats should be good at exercising self censorship to purge their speech of all hint of disagreement with the majority, or any vocal minority that bullies its agenda to the political fore.

No thanks. In our country, the separation of church and state is meant to keep the state from sponsoring religious expression to the exclusion of other differing religious expressions. We believe, in the United States, that the plurality of views in the marketplace of ideas will see those views honed and fashioned through the competition for ideas to be heard.

State sponsored censorship of all religious expression, then, is nothing less than a perversion of church and state separation. Such erasure of faith from the public sphere, in a country where faith plays as important cultural role as it does in the U.S., serves only to protect the views of the faithless few from challenge by the views of the many faithful. Such absolute censorship of all views that may be contrary to the sense of right or truth that a few adhere to--in effect turning the competition within the marketplace of ideas into a stifled  collective conversation where the majority's ideas are termed "dangerous" just because they may by the power of truth push contrary ideas from the marketplace--is, in itself, a dangerous attack on the freedom of religious expression that is the foundation of our country.

How, you might ask, is such a dangerous position touted? By the false characterization of religious belief as hate. "Hate" is the word in the American dialogue that all shy from. No one wants to be hateful. Hate is the opposite of love. While love is accepting, so goes the flawed logic, hate is judgmental. Therefore, religious belief that is used as the basis to judge the conduct of people is grounded in hatred. Pronouncement of any act as sin, then, is hateful.


Truth is truth. Truth is not hatred simply because it provides the measure against which untruth can be clearly seen.

The Church has the authority to teach on matters of moral truth, and her followers and others who are in some way in communion with the Church, and all people of faith, have a right to express themselves in the public sphere.

Pray for our country and all governments that this principle may be given real effect.

17 December 2009

Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.

Lord, have mercy on us. Jesus, hear us.
Jesus, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven
Have mercy on us.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit,
Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
Have mercy on us.

Jesus, Son of the living God,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, splendor of the Father,
Have Mercy on us.
Jesus, brightness of eternal light.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, King of glory.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, sun of justice.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, most amiable.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, most admirable.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, the mighty God.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, Father of the world to come.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, angel of great counsel.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, most powerful.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, most patient.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, most obedient.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, lover of chastity.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, lover of us.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, God of peace.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, author of life.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, example of virtues.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, zealous lover of souls.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, our God.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, our refuge.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, father of the poor.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, treasure of the faithful.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, good Shepherd.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, true light.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, eternal wisdom.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, infinite goodness.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, our way and our life.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, joy of Angels.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, King of the Patriarchs.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, Master of the Apostles.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, teacher of the Evangelists.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, strength of Martyrs.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, light of Confessors.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, purity of Virgins.
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, crown of Saints.
Have mercy on us.

Be merciful,
spare us, O Jesus.
Be merciful,
graciously hear us, O Jesus.

From all evil,
deliver us, O Jesus.
From all sin,
deliver us, O Jesus.
From Your wrath,
deliver us, O Jesus.
From the snares of the devil.
deliver us, O Jesus.
From the spirit of fornication.
deliver us, O Jesus.
From everlasting death.
deliver us, O Jesus.
From the neglect of Your inspirations.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By the mystery of Your holy Incarnation.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your Nativity.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your Infancy.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your most divine Life.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your labors.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your agony and passion.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your cross and dereliction.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your sufferings.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your death and burial.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your Resurrection.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your Ascension.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your institution of the most Holy Eucharist.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your joys.
deliver us, O Jesus.
By Your glory.
deliver us, O Jesus.

V/. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R/. spare us, O Jesus.
V/. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R/. graciously hear us, O Jesus.
V/. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R/. have mercy on us, O Jesus.

V/. Jesus, hear us.
R/. Jesus, graciously hear us.

Let us pray.

O Lord Jesus Christ, You have said, "Ask and you shall receive, seek, and you shall find, knock, and it shall be opened to you." Grant, we beg of You, to us who ask it, the gift of Your most divine love, that we may ever love You with our whole heart, in word and deed, and never cease praising You.

Give us, O Lord, as much a lasting fear as a lasting love of Your Holy Name, for You, who live and are King for ever and ever, never fail to govern those whom You have solidly established in Your love.


16 December 2009

Blessed Sebastian Maggi

16 DECEMBER 2009. Today we celebrate the feast day (optional memorial) of Blessed Sebastian Maggi, a Fifteenth Century Dominican Friar.

From the Dominican supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours, we find the following:
Blessed Sebastian, the son of a noble family, was born at Brescia, Italy in 1414 and entered the Order in 1429. Twice he was Vicar General of the reformed Province of Lombardy and served as prior in several convents. He was severe in his personal life, but kind and patient in his dealings with others. He was one of the notable reformers of Dominican life in the fifteenth century. He died at Genoa at the monastery of Santa Maria di Castello in 1496.
History has written of Blessed Sebastian that his greatest virtues were seen in his governing. As the prior of several convents, Blessed Sebastian often loved with his own hands to wait on his Dominican sisters and brothers and to minister to them when they were ill. It was commonly said that when Blessed Sebastian visited the sick, he did so with as much joy as attending a wedding. As prior, Blessed Sebastian was also known to correct his charges with great indulgence and compassion if they readily admitted their faults. At the same time, Sebastian was very strict in his own religious observances, which earned him great love and reverence from his brethren.

Blessed Sebastian Maggi was beatified by Pope Clement XIII.


God of faithfulness, 
you made Blessed Sebastian and outstanding example 
of evangelical perfection and truth. 
By following his example may we enter the path 
to perfect charity and deepen the life of the spirit 
through penance and so obtain your glory and eternal life. 

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever.


14 December 2009

John of the Cross, priest and doctor

14 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint John of the Cross, a Sixteenth Century Carmelite friar, reformer, and doctor of the Church.

Saint John of the Cross was born as Juan de Yepes Alvarez near Avila, Spain on 24 June 1542. Saint John's father died when he was young, and his family moved often, suffering from the effects of poverty. In 1563 Saint John entered the Carmelite Order and the following year, in 1564, Saint John professed vows as a Carmelite and moved to Salamamca, where he studied at the University and Colegio de San Adres.

Saint John was ordained to the priesthood in 1567, and afterwards he indicated his intent to join the Carthusian Order--attracted to the Carthusian's life of solitude and silent contemplation. However, before joining the Carthusians, Saint John met with Saint Teresa of Jesus, who described her efforts to reform the Carmelite Order and asked Saint John to delay his entry into the Carthusian Order. The following year, on 28 November, Saint John began the reformation of the Carmelite Order, as envisioned by Saint Teresa of Jesus, in Durelo.

Durelo, previously a small and impoverished town, became a hub of religious activity in Spain. Saint John continued to work as a helper of Saint Teresa until 1577, founding new monestaries around Spain and taking an active part in their governance. The followers of Saint Teresa and Saint John called themselves "discalced" or barefoot Carmlites to distinguish their stricter, reform rule from other Carmelites. However, some Carmelites at the time opposed Saint Teresa's and Saint John's reforms as too strict.

On 2 December 1577, Saint John's superiors took him prisoner and jailed him in Toledo, where he was publicly lashed and kept in isolation in a cell barely large enough for him to fit into. However, after nine months of imprisonment, Saint John managed to escape. After his escape from prison, Saint John continued his reform of the Carmelite Order, founding many Discalced Carmelite monasteries.

While in prison, Saint John of the Cross composed poetry on paper that was smuggled to him be a friar who was charged with guarding his cell. Today he is recognized as one of the foremost poets of the Spanish language, even though all of his poetry, together, comprises less than 2,500 verses. Saint John died on 14 December 1591. However, that is not the end of Saint John's story.

Probably his two most famous poems, Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul, are considered widely the best Spanish language poems written. Spiritual Canticle is an eclogue where the bride represents the human soul and the bridegroom is Jesus Christ. In the poem, the bride searches for the bridegroom with anxiety that she has lost him; both are filled with joy when they reunite. Dark Night of the Soul tells the story of the soul;'s journey from her bodily home to God. The poem is set at night, which represents the hardships of the world. The soul's journey takes several steps through the night, representing the painful experiences that people endure in growing closer to Christ.Saint John also wrote a commentary on Dark Night of the Soul, which explains the poem verse-by-verse.

Saint John also wrote four treatises on mystical theology, two treatises concerning Spiritual Canticle and Dark Night of the Soul, and Ascent of Mount Carmel, of which most Catholics have at least heard something. Ascent of Mount Carmel is a systematic study of the ascetical endeavor of a soul looking for perfect union with God. Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote his dissertation on Saint John of the Cross' mystical theology.

Saint John's writings were first published in 1618. He was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII in 1726. In 1926, Pope Pius XI declared Saint John of the Cross a doctor of the Church. Although Saint John's feast day was originally celebrated on 24 November when it was first added to the General Roman Calendar, it was moved to the anniversary of his death, today 14 December, by Pope Paul VI.

12 December 2009

Our Lady of Guadalupe

12 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church in the United States celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.

From the feast day of Saint Juan Diego a few days earlier (9 December) we know the story of how Our Lady came to appear to Saint Juan on Tepeyac Hill.

For today's feast, a passage from Pope Paul VI's address to the Mexican people:
Beloved sons and daughters, we wish to unite our voice to that filial hymn which the Mexican people raise up today to the Mother of God. Devotion to the most holy Virgin of Guadalupe must be for all of you a constant and specific demand for authentic Christian renewal. The crown which she expects from all of you is not so much a material one as a precious spiritual crown, shaped by a profound love of Christ and a sincere love of all: the two commandments which sum up the gospel message. The same most holy Virgin, with her example, guides us on these two paths.

In the first place, she exhorts us to make Christ the center and summit of our whole Christian life. She remains hidden, with supreme humility, so that the image of her Son might appear to humanity with all its incomparable brightness. For this reason, true Marian devotion reaches its fullness and its most rightful expression when it is a path to the Lord and directs all its love toward him, just as Mary knew how to do, so as to intertwine in one and the same impulse the tenderness of a mother and the piety of a creature.
But in addition, and precisely because she loved Christ so dearly, our Mother fulfilled perfectly that second commandment which must be the norm of all human relations: the love of neighbor. How beautiful and delicate was the intervention of Mary at the wedding feast of Cana, when she moved her Son to accomplish the first miracle of turning water into wine solely to help those young spouses! It is a complete sign of the constant love of the Virgin for humanity in need, and ought to be an example for all those who seek to be considered truly her sons and daughters.

Christians can do no less that to show solidarity in seeking a resolution to the situation of those to whom the bread of culture has not yet come nor the opportunity of honorable and justly remunerated work. They cannot remain indifferent while new generations find no path for the realization of their legitimate aspirations, and while part of humanity continues to be placed at the margins of the advantages of civilization and progress. For this reason, on this celebrated feast, we urge you from our heart to give your Christian life a clear social sense--as the Council has asked--that you may always be in the front line in all efforts to attain progress, and in all the initiatives for improving the situation of those who suffer want. See in each person a brother or a sister--a brother or sister in Christ--in such a way that the love of God and the love of the neighbor become united in the same love, alive and operative, which is the only thing that can redeem the miseries of the world, renewing it in its most profound root, the human heart.

The person who has much should be conscious of his or her obligation to serve and contribute with generosity to the good of all. The person who has little or who has nothing should, with the help of a just society, make every effort at self-improvement and of going beyond self, and even in cooperating in the progress of those who suffer the same situation. And, all of you, feel the obligation to unite fraternally so as to help forge this new world for which the human race longs.

This is what the Virgin of Guadalupe asks of you today, this fidelity to the Gospel, of which she knew how to be the most eminent example.

Upon you, dearly beloved sons and daughters, we implore with confidence the maternal benevolence of the Mother of God and Mother of the Church, in order that she may continue to protect your nation and to direct and impel it more and more along the paths of progress, communal love, and a peaceful life together.
 Radio message to Mexico for the 75th anniversary of the Coronation of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12 October 1970).

09 December 2009

Juan Diego

9 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, an indigenous Mexican to whom the Virgin Mary appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Saint Juan Diego was canonized by Servant of God Pope John Paul II on 31 July 2002. However, the Church has recognized Juan Diego since the apparition of Our Lady in 1531.

Saint Juan Diego was a farmer, landowner, and weaver of mats.In 1521, Juan Diego was witness to the Spanish conquest of Mexico, which introduced the first Franciscan missionaries to the country. Among the first to welcome the Franciscan missionaries, Juan Diego and his wife were baptized shortly after the missionaries arrived. As their faith grew, Juan Diego and his wife made the decision to live chaste lives, while still married. In 1529, Juan Diego's wife grew sick and died.

As a widower, Juan Diego walked to mass every Saturday and Sunday. On 9 December 1531, while walking to mass, Juan Diego heard birds singing on Tepeyac Hill and someone calling his name. Juan Diego ran up the hill and saw a girl, about 14 years of age, that looked like an Aztec princess who was surrounded by light. Recognizing Our Lady, Juan Diego conversed with Her, then went off and did as Our Lady requested, including notifying the Spanish bishop of Our Lady's appearance. However, the bishop refused to believe Saint Juan Diego until a sign was given to him of the accuracy of Juan Diego's report.Returning to Our Lady, Juan Diego told her of the bishop's refusal to believe, and begged that she send someone else as a messenger.

Our Lady said it was important that Juan Diego be the messenger, and that she would give him the sign the bishop wanted. Later, Juan Diego tried to evade seeing Our Lady out of concern for his dying uncle, as he was going to find a priest to administer his uncle the sacraments. But, Our Lady intercepted Juan Diego and assured him that his uncle would not die. Then, Our Lady asked Juan Diego to go up Tepeyac Hill and pick the roses he found there. Although it was winter, Juan Diego found roses which he picked and Our Lady carefully arranged them in his folded tilma (a course cotton cloak worn by upper class Aztec peoples). Our Lady instructed Juan Diego to not show the roses to anyone, but the bishop.

When Saint Juan Diego opened his tilma for the bishop, he saw not only the roses (which were a variety of rose that grew in the bishop's home area of Spain), but an image of Our Lady impressed on Juan Diego's tilma that brought the bishop to his knees.

Immediately, it was ordered that a shrine to Our Lady be built at the site of Her apparition. And, the bishop entrusted the miraculous image to Juan Diego who lived the remainder of his life in a small hermitage near the site of the apparitions where he cared for the first chapel there and the pilgrims who began arriving.

What happened after the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe was that large numbers of indigenous people converted to the faith, reconciling the Spaniards and the indigenious people and leading to intercultural marriages. Our Lady of Guadalupe, Herself in fact, appeared as a woman of mixed Spanish and indigenous racial heritage--often referred to as "the little brown one."

Saint Juan Diego died on 30 May 1548, at about the age of 73.

A close scientific examination of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has revealed that there is a reflected image of Saint Juan Diego, the Spanish bishop and an interpreter in the left eye of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Saint Juan Diego, pray for us!

IMAGE: Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego.

08 December 2009

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

8 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and, for us here in the United States, our country's patronal feast.

The Immaculate Conception was promulgated as dogma for the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854, with these words:
We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which asserts that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin is a doctrine revealed by God and, for this reason, must be firmly and constantly believed by all the faithful.
However, long before the declaration of Pope Pius IX, the feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been celebrated by the Church in the East since the Seventh Century (prior to the great schism in 1054) and had been celebrated in the Western Church since the Eighth Century. By the Eleventh Century, the feast had taken on its current title: the Immaculate Conception.

For the faithful, today we recognize the special place that Mary holds in salvation history. As the Mother of God, Mary was conceived without original sin and remained sinless during her life. While not God, being only human in constitution, Mary was especially chosen by Our Lord to be the vessel for the Messiah's birth and His mother on earth.

Pray to Mary, the Immaculate Conception, that being preserved from all stain of sin She will pray for us that we may persevere against sin on our earthly pilgrimage, for the glory of, and in service to, Jesus Christ her son.

(Saint Ephram (306-373))

O pure and immaculate
and likewise blessed Virgin,
who art the sinless Mother of thy Son,
the mighty Lord of the universe,
thou who art inviolate and altogether holy,
the hope of the hopeless and sinful,
we sing thy praises.
We bless thee, as full of every grace,
thou who didst bear the God-Man:
we bow low before thee;
we invoke thee and implore thine aid.
Rescue us, O holy and inviolate Virgin,
from every necessity that presses upon us
and from all the temptations of the devil.

Be our intercessor and advocate
at the hour of death and judgment;
deliver us from the fire
that is not extinguished
and from the outer darkness;
make us worthy of the glory of thy Son,
O dearest and most clement Virgin Mother.
Thou indeed art our only hope most sure
and sacred in God's sight,
to Whom be honor and glory and majesty and dominion
for ever and ever world without end.


IMAGE: Inmaculada Concepción, by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664).

07 December 2009

Ambrose, Doctor and Bishop

7 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the memorial of Saint Ambrose, a Fourth Century bishop and one of the original four doctors of the Church.

Saint Ambrose was born into a Roman Christian family between 337 and 340 and raised in Trier, Gernany on the banks of the Moselle River.

As a child, legend tells that a swarm of bees covered Ambrose's face, flying in and out of his mouth. However, when the bees left he had not been stung and only a drop of honey had been left on his tongue. This reportedly caused his father to remark that Ambrose was destined for greatness.

Ambrose's father was the praetorian prefect of Gaul, and Ambrose was educated in Rome to follow in his father's political footsteps. However, Ambrose's father died early on, and afterwards, in about 372, Ambrose was named as governor of Liguria and Emilia, a position he held until being named Bishop of Milan.

In the time of Saint Ambrose, Milan was the second most important city in Italy, after Rome itself. And, the diocese there was in embroiled in a deep conflict between the Catholics and Arians. When the sitting Bishop of Milan, an Arian, died, Saint Ambrose went to the church were the new bishop was to be elected to prevent a physical conflict. During his address to those gathered, he was continually interrupted with shouts of "Ambrose, Bishop!" Ambrose was known to be Catholic in belief, but he was also known to be acceptable to the Arians because of the charity he had shown to their beliefs.

At first, Ambrose rejected calls for him to be Bishop of Milan, even going into hiding at a friend's home. After all, Ambrose was not baptized and had no formal theological training. However, when the Emperor presented a letter praising his selection as Bishop, Ambrose came out of hiding and was baptized, ordained, and installed as bishop within a week.

Arian belief was that God the Father, unbegotten and always existing, beget Jesus his Son, who is separate and lesser to God the Father, and God the Father through Jesus beget the Holy Spirit who is subservient to Jesus, as Jesus is to the Father. The First Council of Nicea was called in response to the Arian heresy, and is the source of what today we call the Nicean Creed.

Prior to becoming bishop, Saint Ambrose had never married. After becoming bishop, Ambrose adopted an ascetic lifestyle and distributed his wealth to the needy, keeping only enough to provide for his sister, who later became a nun.

As Bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose set out to forcefully stop Arianism in his diocese. Arian followers caused great disputes and raised their calls against Ambrose to the highest levels of the Roman Empire. After much effort was made to persuade Ambrose to turn over some of his churches to the Arians, tradition tells that he said:
If you demand my person, I am ready to submit: carry me to prison or to death, I will not resist; but I will never betray the church of Christ. I will not call upon the people to succour me; I will die at the foot of the altar rather than desert it. The tumult of the people I will not encourage: but God alone can appease it.
Ambrose was also zealous in his attempt to combat the refusal of pagan adherents to the old state religion from enacting the decrees of Christian emperors. Among other well known traits, Ambrose was also known for his great generosity to the poor.

Ambrose is known as one of the four original doctors of the Church with Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory the Great. Augustine, himself, was converted to the faith by Saint Ambrose, who baptized Saint Augustine in 387.

Of Ambrose's many gifts to the Church, his mariology has influenced many, including several popes, including Pope Leo the Great. Central for Ambrose was the virginity of Mary and her role as the Mother of God.

Ambrose taught that the virgin birth was worthy of God, because the Immaculate Son of God came forth as a human while maintaining the purity of His immaculate origin. Of course, to confess the virgin birth, one must reject the natural order of things, but that is appropriate because Jesus was conceived not by man, but by the Holy Spirit. And, while we worship Christ as the Son of God, that worship does not extend to Mary. Mary was the temple of God, but not God within the temple. Indeed, Mary rectified the error of Zechariah's doubt, in her fiat: giving herself to God. So, Ambrose taught, no wonder the Lord chose to begin his redemption of humanity from with Mary. She, through whom salvation was being prepared for all people, was the first to receive the promised fruit of salvation.

Ambrose died on 4 April 397. His body may still be viewed today at the Church of St. Ambrogio in Milan, where it has been continuously venerated.


God, by Your grace Saint Ambrose,
Your Bishop, became a great teacher
of the Catholic Faith and
an example of apostolic fortitude.
Raise up bishops in Your Church today
who will give strong and wise leadership.


IMAGE: Saint Ambrose, by Francisco de Zurbarán, 1626-1627.

06 December 2009


6 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the second Sunday of advent that still, like the first Sunday of Advent, is focused on the end of days: the second coming of Christ at the end of time.

Today's readings tell us that now is the time for spiritual renewal. The Gospel reading from Saint Luke begins with a "who's who" of Palestine at the time: Ceasar the Emperor, Pilate the governor, Herod the tetrarch, Annas and Caiphas the high priests--the whole power structure of the area. However, the Word does not come to any of them. The Word of God, instead, comes to John the Baptist. He was nobody in the political or social heirarchy of the time, but we know that he is indeed somebody that is great--a man devoted to prayer, a man with a genuine desire for the spiritual rebirth of the people. So, Saint John the Baptist calls to us:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

(Lk 3, 4-6). So too, let us join our prayer with the Prayer of Saint Paul, recounted for us today, in the second reading, in the Letter to the Philippians:

That [our] love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that [we] may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.


05 December 2009

Reparation for Insults to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Crowned Madonna, Rokitno, Poland, 1671

5 DECEMBER 2009. Today is Saturday, the day that Church custom dedicates to the veneration and honor of the Blessed Virgin. In reparation for all the insults the Blessed Virgin Mary suffers throughout the world, we the Church offer our prayer:

O blessed Virgin, Mother of God, look down in mercy from Heaven, where thou art enthroned as Queen, upon me, a miserable sinner, thine unworthy servant. Although I know full well my own unworthiness, yet in order to atone for the offenses that are done to thee by impious and blasphemous tongues, from the depths of my heart I praise and extol thee as the purest, the fairest, the holiest creature of all God's handiwork. I bless thy holy Name, I praise thine exalted privilege of being truly Mother of God, ever Virgin, conceived without stain of sin, Co-Redemptrix of the human race. I bless the Eternal Father who chose thee in an especial way for His daughter; I bless the Word Incarnate who took upon Himself our nature in thy bosom and so made thee His Mother; I bless the Holy Spirit who took thee as His bride. All honor, praise and thanksgiving to the ever-blessed Trinity who predestined thee and loved thee so exceedingly from all eternity as to exalt thee above all creatures to the most sublime heights. O Virgin, holy and merciful, obtain for all who offend thee the grace of repentance, and graciously accept this poor act of homage from me thy servant, obtaining likewise for me from thy Divine Son the pardon and remission of all my sins. Amen.

SOURCE: The Raccolta, 1950

04 December 2009

John of Damascus, Priest and Doctor

4 DECEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the feast day (optional memorial) of Saint John of Damascus an Eighth Century Arab Christian monk.

Saint John was born into a prominent Arab Christian family in Damascus in about the year 676. Famous for his encyclopedic knowledge and his theological method, Saint John was later a source of inspiration for Saint Thomas Aquinas.

At an early age, Saint John excelled at his studies. Some sources say that Saint John received a secular hellenistic education, and other sources say he was tutored by a monk that had been brought to Damascus from Sicily.

In the Eighth Century, iconoclasm--a movement seeking to prohibit the veneration of holy images--gained popularity. Saint John opposed iconoclasm and initiated a defense of holy images in three publications. The earliest of these three works, Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying Holy Images, gained Saint John a noted reputation as a defender of holy images.

In his writings, Saint John of Damascus directly conflicted with the Emperor of Constantinople, who was himself a promoter of iconoclasm. And, not only did he conflict with the Emporer, but Saint John also wrote in a simpler style that made his works available to the common people, which incited a revolt against iconoclasm by the Christian faithful. Saint John's writings also played an important role in the Second Council of Nicea, which was held to resolve the iconoclasm dispute.

Called to account for his writings, Saint John resigned his secular position and retired to Mar Saba near Jerusalem. There, he studied, wrote, and preached until being ordained a priest in 735. Tradition provides that before retiring to Mar Saba, Saint John's right had was cut off as a punishment, but that it was miraculously restored after John's fervent prayer before an icon of the Virgin Mary (called, in English, the Three-Handed Theotokos).

Saint John of Damascus died on 4 December 749. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1883, during the Pontificate of Leo XIII. When the feast day of Saint John of Damascus was originally placed on the General Roman Calendar, it was celebrated on 27 March. In 1969, the date of Saint John's feast day was moved to the anniversary of his death, 4 December.


Grant, O Lord,
that we may be aided by the prayers
of Saint John, Your Priest.
May the true faith
that he taught with excellence
be our constant light and strength.


FIRST IMAGE: 19th Century icon of Saint John (iconographer Ne'meh Naser Homsi).
SECOND IMAGE: the Three-Handed Theotokos.

01 December 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 5 of 5

1 December 2009. This is the last installment of this series, as we have arrived at the pinnacle of the Church's recognition of sainthood: canonization. It is in canonization that the Church comes to bestow the title "Saint" on a person.

Once a person has been beatified, the final step to sainthood requires a proven miracle that has come about because of the Blessed's intercession. For a Blessed who is a confessor, this means a second miracle is needed. As in beatification, the proven miracle is taken as God's sign that the miracle has been performed by Him, because of the intercession of the Blessed, who is truly in heaven enjoying the beatific vision.

Upon the recognition of the miracle necessary for sainthood, the Pope can celebrate the canonization--adding the Saint's name to the list, or canon, of saints.

The formal declaration of canonization usually occurs during a special mass of the Pope outside of Saint Peter's Basilica before a large crowd. (However, the canonization mass may also be held in the saint's home country.) During the mass the saint's life history is read aloud, and the Pope chants the following in Latin:
In honor of the Blessed Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the growth of Christian life, with the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul and Our Own, after lengthy reflection, having assiduously invoked God's assistance and taken into account the opinion of many brothers of ours in the episcopate, we declare and define [name] to be a saint [or "to be blessed"], and we enroll him [or her] in the Catalogue of the saints, and we establish that in the whole Church he [or she] should be devoutly honored among the saints. In the name of the Father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Then, a large tapestry with an image of the saint is unfurled before the faithful to admire and venerate. Shown above is the tapestry of Saint Francisco Coll y Guitart, canonized earlier this year by Pope Benedict XVI.

With canonization, the Saint's feast day is assigned and may be celebrated anywhere in the Church. However, not every Saint's feast day appears on the General Roman Calendar or is celebrated as an obligatory feast in the Church. (In fact, only about half of the days of the year ( 149 if I have counted correctly) are recognized on the General Roman Calendar as obligatory or optional memorials of a Saint.)

Churches may be named in the honor of a saint and the faithful are free, without restriction, to celebrate and honor the saint. And, the masses may be celebrated in the saint's memory.

In the history of the Church, however, the process for sainthood that we have examined in this series--Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, and Saint--is a relatively new development. In the case of persons that have commonly been called saints from "time immemorial" (in practice, since before 1500 or so), the Church may carry out a confirmation of cultus whereby the Church affirms that it is acceptable to venerate the person and the person is given the title of Blessed. Profiled on this blog, Blessed Simon Ballacchi, is an example of one who has received the title "Blessed" in this manner.

This short series of posts has not, in any way, been a thorough or complete treatment of the process of the Church in recognizing a saint. However, I offer it to all readers as a brief explanation of how we the Church has come to venerate and pray to the saints for their intercession.

So, the end of the story is this: Pray to the saints! By the power of their intercession, we can each one be a better instrument of God's love here on earth.

IMAGE: The tapestry of Saint Francisco Coll y Guitart, canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on 11 October 2009.

30 November 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 4 of 5

30 NOVEMBER 2009. Reviewing the Church's process of declaring a person a saint, we have reached the step that is most difficult for a person--now called Venerable--to achieve: beatification.

Beatification is the statement by the Church that it is worthy of belief that the person is in heaven, having achieved salvation. The step of beatification can take one of two paths depending on whether the candidate is a martyr or a confessor.

A martyr is one who has voluntarily given her or his life for the faith. For a martyr to achieve beatification, the Pope must make a declaration of martyrdom. This declaration certifies that the Venerable gave her or his life voluntarily as a witness for the faith or in an act of heroic charity for others.

If the Venerable is not a martyr, then she or he is called a confessor--for she or he has confessed, or bore witness, to their faith by the way she or he lived their life. For a confessor, beatification requires proof that a miracle has taken place because of the intercession of the Venerable. In other words, the Church believes that a proven miracle is God's sign that the Venerable is indeed in heaven, enjoying the beatific vision, and God has performed the miracle in response to the Venerable's prayers. Today, the miracles are almost always miraculous cures. For the Church to confirm that a cure is miraculous, the Church must find that a person was sick, no known cure was available for the illness, the person directed their prayer of intercession to the Venerable, and the person was cured. The cure must be instantaneous, spontaneous, complete and lasting, and without medical or natural explanation.

Once the declaration of martyrdom is made or a miracle has been proven, the Church may declare the Venerable to be a "Blessed,"or, in Latin, Beatus or Beata. Each Blessed has a designated feast day, although it is typically only celebrated in the Blessed's home diocese (or other area particularly associated with the Blessed) or within the Blessed's religious order. Churches may not normally be named in honor of a Blessed.

Probably the most recognized Blessed today is Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mother Teresa was declared a Blessed on 19 October 2003 by Servant of God Pope John Paul II the great. Several Blesseds have been profiled on this Blog:

Blessed Margaret of Savoy
Blessed James Benfatti
Blessed Simon Ballacchi
Blessed Raymond of Capua
Blessed Dominic Spadafora
Blessed Jordan of Pisa
Blessed Robert Nutter
Blessed Adrian Fortescue
Blessed Pope Benedict XI
Blessed Junipero Serra
Blessed Osanna of Mantua
Blessed Diana and Blessed Cecilia

The next and final installment in this series will examine the final step in the Church's recognition of sainthood: canonization.

IMAGE: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

29 November 2009


29 NOVEMBER 2009. Today the Church celebrates the first Sunday of Advent and the turning over the calendar to a new liturgical year. Actually, the new liturgical year begins with first vespers on the Saturday night (last night) before the first Sunday of Advent. Last night's first vespers service with Pope Benedict XVI was shown here in the U.S. on EWTN, and our friends at New Liturgical Movement have posted pictures here.

So, to begin: Happy New Year Church!

Advent (from the Latin adventus, meaning "coming") is the first season of the liturgical year, and celebrates the expectant anticipation of the coming of the Word into the world, the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Latin word itself comes from the Greek word parousia, commonly used to reference the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time. So, in this sense, then, Advent is both a reminder of the expectant waiting for the celebration of Christ's birth, and the waiting today that we Christian's endure in anticipation of Christ's Second Coming.

Advent actually has two phases. In the first two weeks of Advent, the Church focuses on the final coming of Christ. Here, at the beginning of a new liturgical cycle, we are invited to reflect on the end of time. For a follower of Christ, it is important to always keep our death--the end of our days--in mind.

Our destiny--the very purpose of our life--is to share eternity with God after a lifetime on earth.

The third and fourth weeks of Advent, however, are devoted to preparation for Mary's miraculous gift of motherly love to all of humanity--the birth of Our Savior.

There is some commonality between Lent and Advent. The liturgical color for both seasons is purple. Both are seasons of preparation and anticipation. And,both seasons are penitential in nature. As in Lent, the faithful are encouraged during Advent to make extra efforts to engage in spiritual activities (similar to the spiritual exercises that are traditional during Lent) and to, especially, avail themselves to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this way, we truly act to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

True to the first phase of Advent, today's readings focus on end times. The first reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah recounts the words of the Lord: “The days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.” (Jer 33, 14). This is a promise of a happy and secure life, a promise of justice and peace.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Lk 21, 36) In the second reading, Saint Paul advises the early Christian community to prepare for judgment by the Lord, who will judge us according to how we have loved our neighbor. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father.” (1 Thes 3, 12)

So, as we begin this new year with an eye on the end, let us pray to be able to attentively listen to the call of Christ and the Church. I pray that we may each take this First Sunday of Advent as the new opportunity to  begin again to live our lives in a manner that will be pleasing to the Lord at the end of time.

Recognizing a Saint: Part 3 of 5

29 NOVEMBER 2009. This third installment in the series examines the next step in the Church's process of recognizing a saint: the declaration of the candidate as Venerable.

Following the transfer of the candidate's information to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the postulator continues to collect information. When enough information has been gathered, the Congregation will recommend to the Pope that a proclamation be issued recognizing the Servant of God's heroic virtue. This proclamation confirms that the Servant of God has exhibited the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, all to a heroic degree in her or his earthly life.

If the Holy Father gives his consent, a proclamation of heroic virtue is issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, declaring the candidate a "Venerable Servant of God." No special ceremony surrounds the issuance of the proclamation.

For Knights of Columbus, we know that Father Michael J. McGivney, our founder, was declared a Venerable Servant of God under Pope Benedict XVI on 5 March 2008.

While a Venerable still has no feast day, and no churches may be built in his or her honor--as the Church has still not made an official statement of its belief that the person is indeed in heaven--prayer cards and other printed materials may be distributed to encourage the faithful to pray for a miracle, wrought by the intercession of the Venerable, as a sign of God's will that the Church recognize the Venerable as a saint. As an example, the Father Michael J. McGivney Guild, which was formed to promote Father McGivney's canonization, provides a prayer for his canonization here.

After the declaration of "Venerable Servant of God," the next step in the Church's process is beatification, which will be examined in the next installment of this series.

IMAGE: Father Michael J. McGivney

28 November 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 2 of 5

28 NOVEMBER 2009. This second installment in the series on the process of sainthood is an examination of how the Church declares a person to be a Servant of God.

The process of canonization--by which an individual is officially recognized by the Church as a saint--begins at the diocesan level. A bishop who has jurisdiction over the person whose life will be examined for recognition as a saint (the candidate), usually the bishop of the place where the candidate died or is buried (although another ordinary may be given this authority), must give permission for an investigation to be opened into the virtues of the candidate. This is normally done at the request of the members of the faithful or the bishop may decide to open the investigation ex officio on behalf of the faithful.

The diocesan investigation cannot be opened for the first five years after a person has died. However, the Pope has the authority to waive the five-year waiting period, as was done by the great Pope John Paul II for Mother Teresa of Calcutta and by Pope Benedict XVI for his predecessor, Servant of God Pope John Paul II.

Normally, a guild, organization, or the candidate's religious order will promote the cause of the candidate's sainthood. An exhaustive search is made of the candidate's writings, speeches, and sermons and a detailed biography is written and eyewitness accounts of the candidate's life are gathered. When a sufficient body of information is gathered about the candidate's life, all of the information gathered at the diocesan level about the Servant of God is presented by the jurisdictional ordinary to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Once at the curia, a postulator is appointed to continue to gather information about the Servant of God. Religious orders that deal regularly with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints have their own designated postulator general. Father Vito Thomas Gomez, O.P., is the Postulator General for Dominican causes.

A Servant of God is not yet a saint. He or she has no feast day, and no veneration in public worship is yet allowed. The Servant of God, though, is on the way to sainthood.

The following Servants of God likely includes names you recognize:

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul I
Dorothy Day
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
Louisa Piccarreta

The next step in the Church's process of canonization is for the Servant of God to be declared Venerable, which will be described in the next installment in this series.

27 November 2009

Recognizing a Saint: Part 1 of 5

27 NOVEMBER 2009. Over the course of the year the Church celebrates hundreds of saints and blesseds, and many hundreds more are celebrated by particular religious communities and local churches due to particular or local devotions. As the Acta Sanctorum Blog seeks to celebrate with the Church all of these saints and blesseds, it seems like now (as a new liturgical year is about to begin) may be an opportune time to examine how the Church comes to recognize a person as a saint.

To begin, this first installment in the series will look at the basics of the Church's recognition of saints and provide a short introductory history.

As discussed in an earlier post, a saint is a "'holy one' who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life. The Church is called the communion of saints, of the holy ones." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2d ed. (hereinafter CCC), glossary (emphasis added)) Thus, the declaration of a person as a saint is a statement of belief by the Church that the person is indeed in heaven, having received the reward of eternal life for having lived a holy life in union with God, through the grace of Christ. 

In other words, the Church's recognition of an individual as a saint is not what makes that person a saint. Instead, the Church is declaring its belief that the person is a saint and was a saint (even before the person's formal recognition by the Church).

There a number of steps that must be achieved before the Church will declare a person's sainthood: (1) first the person's life undergoes an examination during which the person is given the title "Servant of God;" (2) at some point, the body of the person is exhumed with permission and examined and declaration is made that no heretical cult or superstitious practice has grown up around the person or her or his tomb; (3) then, the person must declared "Venerable" and having heroic virtue; (4) then, the person may be beatified (the most difficult step in the process)--and earns the title "Blessed"--which is an affirmation that it is "worthy of belief" that the Blessed is, indeed, in heaven; and (5) finally, the person may be canonized--thereby earning the title "Saint"--which is the declaration of belief that the person is indeed in heaven, enjoying the beatific vision.

The process to achieve sainthood, which had been around in some from since at least the Thirteenth Century, was simplified further, following reforms by Pope Paul VI, by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister, issued on 25 January 1983, and the norms issued by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 7 February 1983.

The declaration of sainthood provides for universal veneration of the Saint throughout the Church. While not an express limitation, the veneration of a Blessed, or Beati, may be limited to only a particular diocese or a particular religious order.

Reportedly, there are more than 10,000 named saints and blesseds from history, counting both Catholic and Orthodox sources, but there is no definitive head count. The General Roman Calendar assigns feast days of saints to about half of the days of the year. However, that is only a small percentage of all the saints listed in the Roman Martyrology--the Church's official 776 page list of saints.

The second installment of this series will look more closely at what is involved in a person being named a Servant of God.

26 November 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

26 NOVEMBER 2009. Today in the United States we celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday dedicated to giving thanks for all that we have, individually and as a country.

Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States since 1863, and has been a national holiday since 1941. While originally a religious holiday to celebrate the end of the liturgical year and to give thanks to God for the blessings of the past year, today in the United States the holiday is primarily recognized as a secular holiday.

The readings for today revolve around giving thanks to God. As others have commented, however, every mass is the supreme celebration of thanksgiving to Our Lord. Still, to recall on this day our need to give thanks to God for all the blessings that we have (especially, as there is no other creator and redeemer for us to give thanks to) seems a liturgically important and fitting celebration.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all in the United States and everywhere else today that joins us in giving thanks to Our Lord for the blessings we have received over the last year.

Image: The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe. From Wikimedia Commons.

25 November 2009

Blessed Margaret of Savoy, widow

25 NOVEMBER 2009. Today is the feast day of Blessed Margaret of Savoy, a widow of nobility who left the world and the royal court for the love of Christ.

Born in Fossano, Italy on 21 June 1390, Margaret was the eldest of four children born to Amadeo of Savoy, (Lord of Piedmont and titular Prince of Achea) and his wife Catherine of Geneva. Blessed Margaret was the Marchioness of Montfrerrat from 17 January 1403, until the death of her husband, Theodore II, on 16 April 1418.

Known for her beauty and piety, Margaret's marriage of more than 15 years, however, never produced children. And, when her husband died, Blessed Margaret left the affairs of state to the son of her late husband from his first marriage, John-Jacques, and retired to Alba where she joined the Third Order of Saint Dominic, taking a voluntary vow of chastity. However, because of her beauty, she was pursued by many men for marriage.

Receiving a vision of Saint Vincent Ferrer, her departed spiritual advisor, he counseled her to take the habit of the Third Order to assume a character that would protect her from further solicitations. However, after joining the Order, the Duke of Milan asked for Blessed Margaret's hand in marriage, even obtaining the permission of Pope Martin I for Margaret to be released from her voluntary vows. But, Blessed Margaret did not retreat from her vows.

Margaret was soon attacked, though. by a painful malady, where she was visited and encouraged on her sick bed by the Blessed Virgin Mary. Then, Our Lord, Himself, visited Blessed Margaret, accompanied by a a multitude of angels, holding in his hands three arrows labeled: calumny, sickness, and persecutions. Our Lord asked Blessed Margaret to choose from among the three, and abandoning herself entirely to the Divine Will, Our Lord left Blessed Margaret with all three arrows, which she lovingly embraced. The calumny came principally from the Duke of Milan who, having been denied Margaret's hand in marriage, complained to the Pope that Margaret was feeding heresy.

Instead of bowing to the Duke of Milan's pressure and retreating from her vows, Blessed Margaret redoubled her spiritual mortifications and joined with several younger women of rank and founded a convent, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalen, placing it under the Dominican Order.

During her life, Blessed Margaret was known to work many miracles, including curing the sick, multiplying the provisions of the convent, and calming a tempest with her prayers before it threatened the City of Alba. It was said that as the storm ceased, the voices of demons could be heard in the air cursing the name of Blessed Margaret for frustrating their evil designs.

Two days before her death, Margaret asked her sisters to lift her out of bed and lay her prostrate at the feet of Our Lord. Although the sisters could not see anything, they complied with her wishes. Then, Blessed Margaret's cell became radiant with light and a sweet harmony announced the presence of angelic choirs and Our Lord, Himself. The same sweet harmony was heard the next day, the feast day of Saint Cecelia. And, as Blessed Margaret was administered the last sacraments, she was seen to be attended by an unknown religious, who was believed to be Saint Catherine of Siena.

Blessed Margaret died in Alba on 23 November 1464 at the age of 74. When Blessed Margaret died the town bell tolled of its own accord, waking to the residents who reported seeing a procession of saints, bearing lighted torches in their hands, processing towards the convent.

Although originally buried in a simple tomb, in 1481 Blessed Margaret's remains were transfered to a more beautiful spelechre in her convent. Many miracles were attributed to her after her death. Blessed Margaret was beatified by Pope Clement IX in 1669.


O God,
who didst teach Blessed Margaret
to forsake with all her heart
the pomps of this world
for the humble following of Thy Cross,
grant that, by her merits and example,
we may learn to tread under foot
the perishable delights of the world,
and in the embraces of Thy Cross
to overcome all adversities.
Who livest and reginest world without end.

IMAGE: Arms of the Principality of Achea, from Wikimedia Commons