28 January 2012

A Prayer of Saint Thomas Aquinas

28 JANUARY 2012. Today the Church and our Order celebrates the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.


IMAGE: St. Thomas Aquinas in Prayer, Sassetta (1430-1432).

25 January 2012

Devotion is Suitable to Every Vocation and Profession

25 JANUARY 2012. Yesterday the Church celebrated the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales. In his famous work, Introduction to the Devout Life, perhaps the greatest spiritual self-help book ever put to print, Saint Francis reminds us that devotion to God is not reserved for the holy, or the ordained, or those separate from the world. It is properly the calling of each of us which is consistent with every vocation and work of humanity. Consider the Saint's words:
When God created the world He commanded each tree to bear fruit after its kind;and even so He bids Christians,--the living trees of His Church,--to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation. A different exercise of devotion is required of each--the noble, the artisan, the servant, the prince, the maiden and the wife; and furthermore such practice must be modified according to the strength, the calling, and the duties of each individual. I ask you, my child, would it be fitting that a Bishop should seek to lead the solitary life of a Carthusian? And if the father of a family were as regardless in making provision for the future as a Capucin, if the artisan spent the day in church like a Religious, if the Religious involved himself in all manner of business on his neighbor's behalf as a Bishop is called upon to do, would not such a devotion be ridiculous, ill-regulated, and intolerable? Nevertheless such a mistake is often made, and the world, which cannot or will not discriminate between real devotion and the indiscretion of those who fancy themselves devout, grumbles and finds fault with devotion, which is really nowise concerned in these errors. No indeed, my child, the devotion which is true hinders nothing, but on the contrary it perfects everything; and that which runs counter to the rightful vocation of any one is, you may be sure, a spurious devotion.

21 January 2012

Impossible: Why I hate religion, but love Jesus!

21 JANUARY 2012. Today religion and religious freedom are continually under attack. I say "today" as if this is a new development, but it is not. The term "today," instead, focuses the attention to the real and present problem that confronts all the faithful. While not new, nor novel, the attack on the Church, the faithful, and the credo are here--today--in our midst.

Recently, a video has swept the web, with more than 15 million views. It is titled: Why I hate religion, but love Jesus. The lyrical presentation and choreography are produced with a high enough quality, blended with background music to create at atmosphere of something prophetic, to give the video an overall persuasive feel. But the truth, is not present in what you see.

The premise of the video is that Jesus came to destroy religion, a merely human contraption of rules, hypocrisy, and, ultimately, contradiction to true faith. By his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, Jesus has set all the world free from sin and death, making the human convention of religion unnecessary: all that is necessary, so the video unwinds, is faith in Christ.

Our Dominican brethren at Godzdogz have posted the video and several responsive videos that rightly point out the several flaws in the Jesus-is-opposed-to-religion argument (including a particularly good video from Fr. Pontifex, of phatmass.com).

However, what strikes me is the tenor of the position laid out by the video, now viral, is that each of us is sovereign of our faith, with nothing else necessary--so gently goes the closing lines of the video: "Jesus said, 'It is finished.' And, I believe Him."

Holiness--a call given to each of us by Christ Himself--is hard. Hardest thing I have every striven to achieve. And I, not unlike the great mass of faithful, both achieve holiness and fail miserably in that pursuit each day. Failing more often and frequently than the conversion. But, that does not mean that the rules that define holiness are somehow inapplicable if I love Christ and believe in Him.

Spirituality without religion is nothing more than self-affirmation wrapped up in a search, genuine or merely imagined, for something greater than ourselves. There is no spirituality without religion. Jesus did not leave the world after His resurrection with a message to passively await His return. Nor did he say, "each of you decide for yourselves the best way to find Me."

He said, "do this in memory of me." Lk 22:19. He said, "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Mt 28:19-20. He said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mk 12:31.These are the commands that Christ gave to His faithful, the Church; commands that we still are called to carry out today.

Religion is not contrary to Jesus, and Jesus is not contrary to religion. More than human invention, religion is ordained by God for humanity. God knows the failures of men, religious and otherwise, and the many evils that have been carried out in the name of religion. But, these faults--brought about by sin--are not what define religion. God's love defines religion. And it is necessary for true Christian faith.

Is religion perfect? No. Is the Catholic Church perfect? No. Do we strive for holiness? Yes. Do we strive to carry out Jesus' commands? Yes. Could the Church do better? We pray each day for the continued assistance of the Holy Spirit to do just that.

In a recent address to seminary professors and seminarians, the Holy Father pointed out the root of the priest's mission as shepherd of the faithful: "Priestly life requires an ever-increasing thirst for sanctity..." This call to holiness, to true devotion to God, and true sacrifice of self in the image of Christ is the heart and spirit of religious effort.

Jesus has given humanity religion; religion is absolutely dependent on Jesus. We need Christ. We need religion.

Loving Jesus, but hating religion splits the commands of Christ from the person and divinity of Christ and puts the individual in charge of faith. Worship of self, especially in the guise of Christianity, is no faith at all. We are called, rightly, to empty ourselves for Christ: to love Him as he loved us, with our all. To hate religion: the community of believers, the Church, the fellowship of the faithful in the name of loving Jesus, is a reach to the absurd.

Pray for all to return and be nurtured in the one and true faith as commanded by Christ Jesus and carried out by His bride the Church.

NOVUS: In all things there must be charity. Christ came to save the sinner and during His life he surrounded himself with the lowly and the outcast and the broken. If this post spurs your thoughts or touches you, put it into action in your life, but always exercise charity.

18 January 2012

Saint Margaret of Hungary

18 JANUARY 2012. Today the Dominican Order celebrates the memorial of Saint Margaret of Hungary (celebrated as a feast by the nuns of the Order). A short hagiography of Saint Margaret is found here.

The written legend of Saint Margaret's life tells that she practiced severe austerities and penance from a very early age, including self-scourging and wearing shoes spiked with nails. She always sought to perform the most menial work in the convent and neglected the cares of the world. Her severe chastisements certainly contributed to her death at the very young age of twenty-eight.

Aside from the severity of penance, however, Saint Margaret is also depicted with many warmly human touches. For instance, the convent sacristan told of how the young Saint would stroke her hand and coax her to leave the door of the choir open after compline so that she may spend the night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

Saint Margaret's complete devotion to Christ is an inspiration and model for all Dominicans and faithful everywhere.


O God of truth,
through the power of Holy Spirit

you willed that Saint Margaret
should shine forth with the grace of self-denial.
In yielding always to your will
may we fulfill what is pleasing in your sight.
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.


IMAGE: The Death of Saint Margaret, Jozsef Molinar (1821-1899)

16 January 2012

Pope Saint Marcellus I

16 JANUARY 2012. Today the Church celebrates the memory of Pope Saint Marcellus I, who was Bishop of Rome following the Diocletian persecution of the Church which gave the faithful many, many sainted martyrs.

From the Catholic Encylcopedia:
His date of birth unknown; elected pope in May or June, 308; died in 309. For some time after the death of Marcellinus in 304 the Diocletian persecution continued with unabated severity. After the abdication of Diocletian in 305, and the accession in Rome of Maxentius to the throne of the Caesars in October of the following year, the Christians of the capital again enjoyed comparative peace. Nevertheless, nearly two years passed before a new Bishop of Rome was elected. Then in 308, according to the "Catalogus Liberianus", Pope Marcellus first entered on his office: "Fuit temporibus Maxenti a cons. X et Maximiano usque post consulatum X et septimum" ("Liber Pontificalis", ed. Duchesne, I, 6-7). This abbreviated notice is to be read: "A cons. Maximiano Herculio X et Maximiano Galerio VII [308] usque post cons. Maxim. Herc. X et Maxim. Galer. VII [309]" (cf. de Rossi, "Inscriptiones christ. urbis Romæ", I, 30). At Rome, Marcellus found the Church in the greatest confusion. The meeting-places and some of the burial-places of the faithful had been confiscated, and the ordinary life and activity of the Church was interrupted. Added to this were the dissensions within the Church itself, caused by the large number of weaker members who had fallen away during the long period of active persecution and later, under the leadership of an apostate, violently demanded that they should be readmitted to communion without doing penance. According to the "Liber Pontificalis" Marcellus divided the territorial administration of the Church into twenty-five districts (tituli), appointing over each a presbyter, who saw to the preparation of the catechumens for baptism and directed the performance of public penances. The presbyter was also made responsible for the burial of the dead and for the celebrations commemorating the deaths of the martyrs. The pope also had a new burial-place, the Cœmeterium Novellœ on the Via Salaria (opposite the Catacomb of St. Priscilla), laid out. The "Liber Pontificalis" (ed. Duchesne, I, 164) says: "Hic fecit cymiterium Novellae via Salaria et XXV titulos in urbe Roma constituit quasi diœcesis propter baptismum et pœnitentiam multorum qui convertebantur ex paganis et propter sepulturas martyrum". At the beginning of the seventh century there were probably twenty-five titular churches in Rome; even granting that, perhaps, the compiler of the "Liber Pontificalis" referred this number to the time of Marcellus, there is still a clear historical tradition in support of his declaration that the ecclesiastical administration in Rome was reorganized by this pope after the great persecution.
The work of the pope was, however, quickly interrupted by the controversies to which the question of the readmittance of the lapsi into the Church gave rise. As to this, we gather some light from the poetic tribute composed by Damasus in memory of his predecessor and placed over his grave (De Rossi, "Inscr. christ. urbis Romæ", II, 62, 103, 138; cf. Idem, "Roma sotterranea", II, 204-5). Damasus relates that the truth-loving leader of the Roman Church was looked upon as a wicked enemy by all the lapsed, because he insisted that they should perform the prescribed penance for their guilt. As a result serious conflicts arose, some of which ended in bloodshed, and every bond of peace was broken. At the head of this band of the unfaithful and rebellious stood an apostate who had denied the Faith even before the outbreak of persecution. The tyrannical Maxentius had the pope seized and sent into exile. This took place at the end of 308 or the beginning of 309 according to the passages cited above from the "Catalogus Liberianus", which gives the length of the pontificate as no more than one year, six (or seven) months, and twenty days. Marcellus died shortly after leaving Rome, and was venerated as a saint. His feast-day was 16 January, according to the "Depositio episcoporum" of the "Chronography" of 354 and every other Roman authority. Nevertheless, it is not known whether this is the date of his death or that of the burial of his remains, after these had been brought back from the unknown quarter to which he had been exiled. He was buried in the catacomb of St. Priscilla where his grave is mentioned by the itineraries to the graves of the Roman martyrs as existing in the basilica of St. Silvester (De Rossi, "Roma sotterranea", I, 176)

07 January 2012

For O'Brien, Another Honor

7 JANUARY 2012. THE VATICAN. The announcement of a slate of 22 new cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI yesterday, including Archbishop Timothy Dolan, also includes another name familiar to those of us in the United States.

A tip of the red hat has also been given to Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, who served as the Archbishop of Baltimore until his appointment as pro-grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem on 29 August 2011. Since that appointment to the Roman station, Archbishop O'Brien has also been serving--and splitting time between the Eternal City and the U.S.--as the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Congratulations to Archbishop O'Brien! Our prayers go with you in all your service to the Church.

For Dolan, a Princely Announcement

7 JANUARY 2011. THE VATICAN. It has been announced that the Holy Father has named 22 new cardinals who will be installed in a consistory to be held on 18 February. Among the names of these new princes of the Church, one stands out to we Americans: Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

Congratulations Archbishop Dolan! Our prayers of support will go with you.

Of the 22 new cardinals, 4 are over the age of 80 and, thus, cannot act as electors in any upccoming conclave. This consistory will increase the total number of cardinal electors, then, to 126, 18 more than today's 108 living cardinal electors. (In total, there are today 192 living cardinals.)

A complete copy of the Vatican release on the upcoming consistory can be found here.

NOVUS: It has been correctly pointed out to me that Cardinal Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, turns 80 on 13 January. So, there will be 125 cardinal electors after the upcoming consistory, not 126 as I incorrectly reported earlier.