21 September 2010

Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

21 SEPTEMBER 2010. Today is the feast of Saint Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist. Christ said to Saint Matthew: "Follow me." And, so he did, abandoning everything to follow Christ.

I pray that we too, wretched sinners all of us, may also answer the call of Christ - indelibly written onto our hearts by our baptism in Christ.

So, on this feast day we turn to the words of the fourteenth century Dominican mystic and theologian, Johannes Tauler:
When Jesus departed from Capernaum, He saw a man sitting in the custom house named Matthew; and He said to him: Follow Me. And he arose and followed Him’ (Saint Matthew 9:9).

The Apostle and Evangelist, so holy, which we celebrate today, has become an example for all men. As the Scripture tells us, he became one of the most distinguished friends of God, having been first a great sinner. As soon as the Lord speaks to the heart of Matthew, he immediately abandons everything to follow the Lord. What is condensed here we must do if we want to follow Christ: implement genuine and radical abandonment of everything that is not of God, which has taken possession of man’s heart. For God is a lover of hearts, and does not commune with anything that is external.

The path of the friends of God is totally dark and unknown. Appropriate are the words which speak of Job: ‘A man whose way is hidden, and God has surrounded him with darkness’ (Job 3:23). Man must bear all the reproaches heaped upon him on this rough road, in a self-denying way. Our Lord says everywhere: Follow Me, go through all things. I am He; do not go further; follow Me. If a man were to say: Lord, who are You, that I must follow You through such deep, gloomy, miserable paths? The Lord would reply, I am God and Man, and far more God.

If man is to be thus clothed with this Being, all the forms must of necessity be done away with, those that were ever received by him in all his powers of perception, knowledge, will, work, subjection, sensibility and self-seeking. When Saint Paul saw nothing, he saw God. When Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle, God came. All strong rocks are broken here; all on which the mind can rest disappear. Then, when all forms have ceased to exist, in the twinkling of an eye, the man is transformed. The Lord teaches us through Jeremiah: ‘You shall call Me Father and shall not cease to walk after Me’ (Jeremiah 3:19). This means, entering ever further in, ever nearer, so as to sink deeper in an unknown and unnamed abyss; and, above all ways, images and forms, and above all powers, to lose yourself, deny yourself and even un-form yourself.

In this lost condition, nothing is to be seen but a ground which rests upon itself, every one being, one life. It is thus, man may say, that he becomes, unknowing, unloving and senseless. This is not the result of natural qualities, but of the transformation, wrought by the Spirit of God in the created spirit, in the fathomless lost condition of the created spirit, and in his unconditional surrendering. We may say of this, that God knows, loves and gives Himself thus; for man is nothing but a life, a being and action. Those who see in this way, with undue liberty and with false light, are in the most perilous state possible in this life. The way by which we must arrive at the goal, is through the precious life and sufferings of our dear Lord; for He is the Way by which we must go, and He is the Truth which lightens all in this way.

06 September 2010

Blessed Bertrand of Garrigue

6 SEPTEMBER 2010. Today the Dominican Order recalls Blessed Bertrand of Garrigue, one of the original companions of Saint Dominic, who established the Order throughout France.

Blessed Bertrand was born in A.D. 1195 at Garrigue, France. Blessed Bertran's parents were the friends of the Cistercian Sisters of the Convent of Notre Dame of the Woods at Bouchet. This association of his family must have made a  strong impression on the young Bertrand, as we was known to be a pious youth, and from an early age expressed a desire to serve as a member of the clergy and fight the heresy of the Albigenses.

As a young priest, Blessed Bertrand was assigned to a band of missionaries, under the direction of Cistercian fathers, who were charged by the Holy See to bring the Albigenses back to a civilized life and to the Church. I was during this mission work that Blessed Bertrand met Saint Dominic. The two at once became close friends and spiritual brothers.
Cast in the same mold and filled with the same spirit, they labored, prayed, and fasted together-all for the glory of God, the benefit of the Church, the good of religion, and the salvation of souls. Doubtless they effected more by their saintly lives and supplications before the throne of mercy than by their sermons, however eloquent and earnest these were.
The early writers speak of none of Saint Dominic's first disciples more frequently, or in terms of higher praise, than of Blessed Bertrand of Garrigue. They represent him as pious, candid, humble, zealous, much given to prayer, extremely mortified. If we may judge by their representation of him, he was a true Israelite in whom there was no guile, greatly beloved by Saint Dominic, one of his most frequently chosen companions in labor and travel. For this reason, as well as because they had toiled together for years, one can but believe that Bertrand was one of the first to whom Dominic made known his design of establishing an apostolic order, whose primary object should be the salvation of souls through an active ministry, and whose field of operation should embrace the world. In spite of his modesty and retiring manners, Bertrand was the kind of a man who would espouse such a cause with his whole heart, for the grace of God ever impelled him to do all in his power to increase the harvest of heaven.
(The First Disciples of Saint Dominic, The Very Reverand Victor F. O'Daniel, O.P., S.T.M., Litt.D., 1928)

In A.D. 1215 Blessed Bertrand received the habit of the Order from Saint Dominic. It was apparent that in the very early days of the Order, Blessed Bertrand was considered second in rank only to Saint Dominic himself. This may be evidenced by the fact that Saint Dominic left Blessed Bertrand in charge of the community when he went to Rome in the fall of A.D. 1215 to seek papal confirmation of the Order. In A.D. 1216 Saint Dominic named Blessed Bertrand as the third prior of the Order, in the Church of St. Romanus, when St. Dominic traveled to the Vatican to receive final approbation of the order.

Blessed Bertrand was known for his austere life and his obedience. In fact, Bertrand was often known to wail aloud over his own sins, until Saint Dominic forbade him from wailing for his own sins, but instructed him to bemoan the grave sins of the wicked. In obedience, he immediately took on a life of prayer for the wicked of the world.

The last journey of Saint Dominic and Blessed Bertrand was in A.D. 1219 when the pair traveled to Paris where, upon arrival, the two spent the entire night in prayer at the Notre Dame Church, at Roe-Amadour. Tradition tells us that during this journey the Holy Spirit gave Saint Dominic and Blessed Bertrand the gift of tongues and they were thus able to converse with German pilgrims in their native language.

In obedience to Saint Dominic, it appears that Blessed Bertrand did not speak of any of the miracles of Saint Dominic until after his death, and then only to Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the first Master General of the Order after our Father Saint Dominic.

The last apostolic work of Blessed Bertrand was for the Cistercian Sisters of Notre Dame of the Woods at Bouchet, in the Diocese of Valence, where he was giving to these austere sisters a course of sermons on the spiritual life. At only and age of about 35, Blessed Bertrand grew sick and died while with the Cistercian Sisters in A.D. 1230. His body was buried in the conventual cemetery of the Cistercian Nuns near the apse of the abbatial church.

However, shortly after hid death marvellous cures began to come forth through his intercession. As a consequence, the Cistercian Nuns had an altar erected in his honor in their church and placed a statute of Blessed Bertrand upon the altar. Blessed Bertrand's remains, found wholly intact, were afterwards exhumed and placed beneath the altar. However, the remains of Blessed Bertrand were destroyed by fire in A.D. 1561 during the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation.

Years later the cemetery of Notre Dame of the Woods became known as "Saint Bertrand's Cemetery," a name that endures to this day. Blessed Bertrand was beatified when his cultus was confirmed on 14 July 1881 by Pope Leo XIII.


O God,
you joined to the holy patriarch Dominic
a companion and wonderful imitator in Blessed Bertrand.
With the help of his prayers
may we follow in life the faith which he preached
and so obtain the promised rewards in heaven.
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.


01 September 2010

Prayer of Thanksgiving for Children

Loving Father,
as you have shared the great bounty of Your love with us,
your children
and given to us the body and blood
of your dearly beloved Son for our salvation,
by your grace, help us to cherish the gifts
you have blessed us with,
especially our children.

Holy Spirit, gives us parents the grace to battle weariness, impatience, and annoyance.
Help us to recognize in every child, Your precious gift.
As the Father so loved us as His children,
may we as parents so love our children unconditionally.
As Christ was perfectly obedient to the Father
in offering Himself for all humanity,
may we be truly Christian in our living,
and be perfectly obedient to Christ in offering ourselves
for our children, for the love of Him.

Blessed Mary, ever virgin, we praise you
as the exemplar of Christian love
clothed only in humanity.
As you so lovingly cared for Jesus your Son,
we ask for you to generously
provide us your children with the gift of your intercession.
By your assistance, Queen of Heaven,
may we be strengthened in our role as parents
and lead our children, as the first fruits of our labor
for the love of your Son,
to the greatest love of Christ that they can offer
and that we can instill.