Showing posts with label virgin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label virgin. Show all posts

Sunday, January 21, 2018

St Agnes (January 21)



Zenobi Strozzi, c1448-9
From the 1962 Roman Martyrology:

"At Rome, the passion of St. Agnes, virgin, who under Symphronius, governor of the city, was thrown into the fire, but after it was extinguished by her prayers, she was slain with the sword.  Of her, St. Jerome writes: "Agnes is praised in the writings and by the tongues of all nations, especially in the churches.  She overcame the weakness of her age, conquered the cruelty of the tyrant, and consecrated her chastity by martyrdom."

Sunday, April 30, 2017

St Catherine of Siena (April 30)


Image result for catherine of siena image

The feast of St Catherine is displaced this year by the Sunday, but I wanted to include something for this important doctor of the Church, not least because it is my name day, so please say a prayer for me if you would.

From a General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, given on 24 November 2010:

Today I would like to talk to you about a woman who played an eminent role in the history of the Church: St Catherine of Siena. The century in which she lived — the 14th — was a troubled period in the life of the Church and throughout the social context of Italy and Europe. Yet, even in the most difficult times, the Lord does not cease to bless his People, bringing forth Saints who give a jolt to minds and hearts, provoking conversion and renewal.

Catherine is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.

Born in Siena in 1347, into a very large family, she died in Rome in 1380. When Catherine was 16 years old, motivated by a vision of St Dominic, she entered the Third Order of the Dominicans, the female branch known as the Mantellate. While living at home, she confirmed her vow of virginity made privately when she was still an adolescent and dedicated herself to prayer, penance and works of charity, especially for the benefit of the sick.

When the fame of her holiness spread, she became the protagonist of an intense activity of spiritual guidance for people from every walk of life: nobles and politicians, artists and ordinary people, consecrated men and women and religious, including Pope Gregory xi who was living at Avignon in that period and whom she energetically and effectively urged to return to Rome.

She travelled widely to press for the internal reform of the Church and to foster peace among the States. It was also for this reason that Venerable Pope John Paul ii chose to declare her Co-Patroness of Europe: may the Old Continent never forget the Christian roots that are at the origin of its progress and continue to draw from the Gospel the fundamental values that assure justice and harmony.

Like many of the Saints, Catherine knew great suffering. Some even thought that they should not trust her, to the point that in 1374, six years before her death, the General Chapter of the Dominicans summoned her to Florence to interrogate her. They appointed Raymund of Capua, a learned and humble Friar and a future Master General of the Order, as her spiritual guide. Having become her confessor and also her “spiritual son”, he wrote a first complete biography of the Saint. She was canonized in 1461.

The teaching of Catherine, who learned to read with difficulty and learned to write in adulthood, is contained in the Dialogue of Divine Providence or Libro della Divina Dottrina, a masterpiece of spiritual literature, in her Epistolario and in the collection of her Prayers.

Her teaching is endowed with such excellence that in 1970 the Servant of God Paul VI declared her a Doctor of the Church, a title that was added to those of Co-Patroness of the City of Rome — at the wish of Bl. Pius ix — and of Patroness of Italy — in accordance with the decision of Venerable Pius XII.

In a vision that was ever present in Catherine's heart and mind Our Lady presented her to Jesus who gave her a splendid ring, saying to her: “I, your Creator and Saviour, espouse you in the faith, that you will keep ever pure until you celebrate your eternal nuptials with me in Heaven” (Bl. Raimondo da Capua, S. Caterina da Siena, Legenda maior, n. 115, Siena 1998). This ring was visible to her alone. In this extraordinary episode we see the vital centre of Catherine’s religious sense, and of all authentic spirituality: Christocentrism. For her Christ was like the spouse with whom a relationship of intimacy, communion and faithfulness exists; he was the best beloved whom she loved above any other good. This profound union with the Lord is illustrated by another episode in the life of this outstanding mystic: the exchange of hearts. According to Raymond of Capua who passed on the confidences Catherine received, the Lord Jesus appeared to her “holding in his holy hands a human heart, bright red and shining”. He opened her side and put the heart within her saying: “Dearest daughter, as I took your heart away from you the other day, now, you see, I am giving you mine, so that you can go on living with it for ever” (ibid.). Catherine truly lived St. Paul’s words, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

Like the Sienese Saint, every believer feels the need to be conformed with the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and his neighbour as Christ himself loves. And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ in a familiarity with him that is nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God and by the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion. Catherine also belongs to the throng of Saints devoted to the Eucharist with which I concluded my Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (cf. n. 94). Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, to strengthen our hope and to inflame our charity, to make us more and more like him.

A true and authentic spiritual family was built up around such a strong and genuine personality; people fascinated by the moral authority of this young woman with a most exalted lifestyle were at times also impressed by the mystical phenomena they witnessed, such as her frequent ecstasies. Many put themselves at Catherine’s service and above all considered it a privilege to receive spiritual guidance from her. They called her “mother” because, as her spiritual children, they drew spiritual nourishment from her. Today too the Church receives great benefit from the exercise of spiritual motherhood by so many women, lay and consecrated, who nourish souls with thoughts of God, who strengthen the people’s faith and direct Christian life towards ever loftier peaks. “Son, I say to you and call you”, Catherine wrote to one of her spiritual sons, Giovanni Sabbatini, a Carthusian, “inasmuch as I give birth to you in continuous prayers and desire in the presence of God, just as a mother gives birth to a son” (Epistolario, Lettera n. 141: To Fr Giovanni de’ Sabbatini). She would usually address the Dominican Fr Bartolomeo de Dominici with these words: “Most beloved and very dear brother and son in Christ sweet Jesus”.

Another trait of Catherine’s spirituality is linked to the gift of tears. They express an exquisite, profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved and for tenderness. Many Saints have had the gift of tears, renewing the emotion of Jesus himself who did not hold back or hide his tears at the tomb of his friend Lazarus and at the grief of Mary and Martha or at the sight of Jerusalem during his last days on this earth. According to Catherine, the tears of Saints are mingled with the blood of Christ, of which she spoke in vibrant tones and with symbolic images that were very effective: “Remember Christ crucified, God and man….. Make your aim the Crucified Christ, hide in the wounds of the Crucified Christ and drown in the blood of the Crucified Christ” (Epistolario, Lettera n. 21: Ad uno il cui nome si tace [to one who remains anonymous]). Here we can understand why, despite her awareness of the human shortcomings of priests, Catherine always felt very great reverence for them: through the sacraments and the word they dispense the saving power of Christ’s Blood. The Sienese Saint always invited the sacred ministers, including the Pope whom she called “sweet Christ on earth”, to be faithful to their responsibilities, motivated always and only by her profound and constant love of the Church. She said before she died: “in leaving my body, truly I have consumed and given my life in the Church and for the Holy Church, which is for me a most unique grace” (Raimondo da Capua, S. Caterina da Siena, Legenda maior, n. 363). Hence we learn from St Catherine the most sublime science: to know and love Jesus Christ and his Church. In the Dialogue of Divine Providence, she describes Christ, with an unusual image, as a bridge flung between Heaven and earth. This bridge consists of three great stairways constituted by the feet, the side and the mouth of Jesus. Rising by these stairways the soul passes through the three stages of every path to sanctification: detachment from sin, the practice of the virtues and of love, sweet and loving union with God.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from St Catherine to love Christ and the Church with courage, intensely and sincerely. Therefore let us make our own St Catherine’s words that we read in the Dialogue of Divine Providence at the end of the chapter that speaks of Christ as a bridge: “out of mercy you have washed us in his Blood, out of mercy you have wished to converse with creatures. O crazed with love! It did not suffice for you to take flesh, but you also wished to die!... O mercy! My heart drowns in thinking of you: for no matter where I turn to think, I find only mercy” (chapter 30, pp. 79-80). Thank you.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

St Agatha (Feb 5)


Here is the Matins reading for St Agatha, today's saint:

Agatha, born in Sicily of noble parents, suffered a glorious martyrdom at Catania In the persecution of the emperor Decius. For when Quintianus, the praetor of Sicily, had vainly tried every means to tempt her from her virginity, he had her arrested as adhering to the Christian superstition. First she was beaten,then tortured on the rack with white hot iron plates laid on her; then one of her. breasts was cut off. Next she was thrown into prison, where St. Peter the Apostle appeared to her by night and healed her. Again called before the praetor she persevered in confessing Christ, and he had her rolled over broken pottery and burning coals. But then a great earthquake violently shook the city, and Ouintianus, afraid of a riot among the people, gave orders that Agatha, now half dead, secretly be taken back to prison. There after a short time she went to heaven on February 5.

Monday, January 23, 2017

From the martyrology: SS Emerentiana and Martyrius (Jan 23)


St Agnes cup, c14th

In the Office today we celebrate the feast of St Emerentiana, of whom the martyrology says:

"At Rome, the holy virgin and martyr, St. Emerentiana.  Being yet a catechumen, she was stoned to death by the heathens while praying at the tomb of St. Agnes, her foster sister."

The martyrology also mentions St. Martyrius, a monk, mentioned by St Gregory the Great in his Dialogues, Book I:

"A certain man lived in that province, called Martirius, who was a very devout servant of almighty God, and gave this testimony of his virtuous life. For, upon a certain day, the other monks, his brethren, made a hearth-cake, forgetting to make upon it the sign of the cross: for in that country they use to make a cross upon their loaves, dividing them so into four parts: when the servant of God came, they told him that it was not marked: who, seeing it covered with ashes and coals, asked why they did not sign it, and speaking so, he made the sign of the cross with his hand against the coals: which thing whiles he was in doing, the cake gave a great crack, as though the pan had been broken with the fire: after it was baked and taken out, they found it marked with the sign of the cross, which yet not any corporal touching, but the faith of Martirius had imprinted."

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 21: St Agnes Class II/III


St Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c.304) is one of the saints commemorated in the canon of the Mass. 

The saint

A member of the Roman nobility, she was raised in a Christian family and martyred at the age of 12 or 13 under Diocletian. 

According to her legend, the Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes' refusal on the grounds that she was already affianced to Our Lord, he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel.

Various versions of her legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. In another the son of the Prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius excuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death.

When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his sword and beheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths.

On her feast day, two lambs are brought each year to the Pope to be blessed. On Holy Thursday they are shorn, and from the wool is woven the pallium which the pope gives to a newly consecrated metropolitan archbishop as a sign of his jurisdiction and his union with the pope.

The feast

Her feast is Class II in monasteries of nuns, but otherwise Class III.

There is a curious history to her celebration, as in the Roman (though not Benedictine) calendars there is actually a 'second feast' of St Agnes celebrated on January 21, speculation on whose origins you can read about here.  Dom Gueranger's take on the second feast, though, goes as follows:
Five days after the martyrdom of the Virgin Emerentiana, the parents of the glorious Saint Agnes visited the tomb of their child, during the night, there to weep and pray. It was the eighth day since her martyrdom. 
Whilst they were thinking upon the cruel death, which, though it had enriched their child with a Martyr's palm, had deprived them of her society — Agnes suddenly appeared to them : she was encircled with a bright light, and wore a crown on her head, and was surrounded by a choir of virgins of dazzling beauty. On her right hand, there stood a beautiful white lamb, the emblem of the Divine Spouse of Agnus.  Tturning towards her parents, she said to them" Weep not over my death : for I am now in heaven, together with these virgins, living with Him, whom I loved on earth with my whole soul."  
It is to commemorate this glorious apparition, that the holy Church has instituted this Feast, which is called Saint Agnes' Second Feast (Sanctae Agnetis secundo.)...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Saints of the martyrology for January 5: St Telesphorus, Pope;St Apollinaris of Egypt; St Emiliana, virgin


St Telesphorus


St Telesphorus, who is commemorated today in the Extraordinary Form calendar, was pope between around 127 to 136 AD.  He was an anchorite prior to becoming pope.  Martyred under Emperor Antonius Pius, the custom of midnight masses at Christmas, inter alia, is attributed to him.

St Apollinaris of Egypt

St Apollinaris is one of the "desert mothers".  Apparently the daughter of an emperor of Rome, she put on male clothes and lived as hermit as a disciple of St. Macrius. Her true story was revealed at her death.

St Emiliana

St Emiliana was an aunt of St Gregory the Great.  St Gregory came from a saintly family: his mother and two of his paternal aunts are revered as saints, and today we celebrate one of them.  SS Trasilla and Emiliana devoted themselves to a life of virginity, fasting and prayer in their home in Rome.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, after many years in the service of God, St. Felix III, an ancestor, appeared to Trasilla and bade her enter her abode of glory. On the eve of Christmas she died, seeing Jesus beckoning. A few days later she appeared to Emiliana, who had followed well in her footsteps, and invited her to the celebration of Epiphany in heaven.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

St Lucy (December 13)


Saint Lucy (283–304), was a Christian during the Diocletian persecution.

According to her legend, her mother was cured dysentery by them praying together at Saint Agatha's tomb (pictured). She consecrated her virginity to God, refused to marry a pagan, and had her dowry distributed to the poor. Her would-be husband denounced her as a Christian to the governor of Syracuse, Sicily, who ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor's image. Lucy replied that she had given all that she had: "I offer to Him myself, let Him do with His offering as it pleases Him."

Sentenced to be defiled in a brothel, Lucy asserted:

“ No one's body is polluted so as to endanger the soul if it has not pleased the mind. If you were to lift my hand to your idol and so make me offer against my will, I would still be guiltless in the sight of the true God, who judges according to the will and knows all things. If now, against my will, you cause me to be polluted, a twofold purity will be gloriously imputed to me. You cannot bend my will to your purpose; whatever you do to my body, that cannot happen to me.”

Friday, November 25, 2016

November 25: St Catherine of Alexandria


Saint Catherine of Alexandria (born c282), is a martyr who was a noted scholar.

The daughter of a pagan governor of Alexandria, she converted to Christianity in her teens, she visited the Roman Emperor Maxentius, and attempted to convince him to stop persecuting Christians. She succeeded in converting his wife and many pagan philosophers whom the Emperor sent to dispute with her, all of whom were subsequently martyred.  The Emperor ordered her to be imprisoned;  when the people who visited her were also converted, she was condemned to death on the breaking wheel (subsequently known as the Katherine wheel in her honour), an instrument of torture. According to legend, the wheel itself broke when she touched it, so she was beheaded.

She is one of the fourteen holy helper saints, most often invoked for protection against a sudden and unprovided-for death.  She is also patroness of philosphers and preachers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Feast of St Caecilia

Domenico Zampieri (or Domenichino; 1581 – 1641) 
Reading 3 for Matins on the saint:
Cecilia, a Roman virgin of noble birth, vowed her virginity to God at a very early age. Given in marriage against her will to Valerian, she persuaded him to leave her untouched and go to blessed Urban, the Pope, that when he had been baptized he might be worthy to see Cecilia's angelic protector. When Valerian had obtained this favour, he converted his brother Tiburtius to Christ, and a little later both were martyred under the prefect Almachius. But Cecilia was seized by the same prefect because she had distributed the two brothers' wealth to the poor, and orders were given to have her suffocated in a bath. When the heat dared not harm her, she was struck three times with an axe, and left half dead. After three days she received the palm of virginity and of martyrdom, and was buried in the cemetery of Callistus. Her body and those of Popes Urban and Lucius, and of Tiburtius, Valerian and Maximus were transferred by Pope Paschal I to the church in the City dedicated to St. Cecilia.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

October 15: St Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, Class III


Alonso del Arco (1635-1704)

Pope Benedict XVI gave a General Audience on St Teresa on 2 February 2011:

"In the course of the Catecheses that I have chosen to dedicate to the Fathers of the Church and to great theologians and women of the Middle Ages I have also had the opportunity to reflect on certain Saints proclaimed Doctors of the Church on account of the eminence of their teaching.

Today I would like to begin a brief series of meetings to complete the presentation on the Doctors of the Church and I am beginning with a Saint who is one of the peaks of Christian spirituality of all time — St Teresa of Avila [also known as St Teresa of Jesus].

St Teresa, whose name was Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada, was born in Avila, Spain, in 1515. In her autobiography she mentions some details of her childhood: she was born into a large family, her “father and mother, who were devout and feared God”, into a large family. She had three sisters and nine brothers.

While she was still a child and not yet nine years old she had the opportunity to read the lives of several Martyrs which inspired in her such a longing for martyrdom that she briefly ran away from home in order to die a Martyr’s death and to go to Heaven (cf. Vida, [Life], 1, 4); “I want to see God”, the little girl told her parents.

A few years later Teresa was to speak of her childhood reading and to state that she had discovered in it the way of truth which she sums up in two fundamental principles.

On the one hand was the fact that “all things of this world will pass away” while on the other God alone is “for ever, ever, ever”, a topic that recurs in her best known poem: “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, All things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices”. She was about 12 years old when her mother died and she implored the Virgin Most Holy to be her mother (cf. Vida, I, 7).

If in her adolescence the reading of profane books had led to the distractions of a worldly life, her experience as a pupil of the Augustinian nuns of Santa María de las Gracias de Avila and her reading of spiritual books, especially the classics of Franciscan spirituality, introduced her to recollection and prayer.

When she was 20 she entered the Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation, also in Avila. In her religious life she took the name “Teresa of Jesus”. Three years later she fell seriously ill, so ill that she remained in a coma for four days, looking as if she were dead (cf. Vida, 5, 9).

In the fight against her own illnesses too the Saint saw the combat against weaknesses and the resistance to God’s call: “I wished to live”, she wrote, “but I saw clearly that I was not living, but rather wrestling with the shadow of death; there was no one to give me life, and I was not able to take it. He who could have given it to me had good reasons for not coming to my aid, seeing that he had brought me back to himself so many times, and I as often had left him” (Vida, 7, 8).

In 1543 she lost the closeness of her relatives; her father died and all her siblings, one after another, emigrated to America. In Lent 1554, when she was 39 years old, Teresa reached the climax of her struggle against her own weaknesses. The fortuitous discovery of the statue of “a Christ most grievously wounded”, left a deep mark on her life (cf. Vida, 9).

The Saint, who in that period felt deeply in tune with the St Augustine of the Confessions, thus describes the decisive day of her mystical experience: “and... a feeling of the presence of God would come over me unexpectedly, so that I could in no wise doubt either that he was within me, or that I was wholly absorbed in him” (Vida, 10, 1).

Parallel to her inner development, the Saint began in practice to realize her ideal of the reform of the Carmelite Order: in 1562 she founded the first reformed Carmel in Avila, with the support of the city’s Bishop, Don Alvaro de Mendoza, and shortly afterwards also received the approval of John Baptist Rossi, the Order’s Superior General.

In the years that followed, she continued her foundations of new Carmelite convents, 17 in all. Her meeting with St John of the Cross was fundamental. With him, in 1568, she set up the first convent of Discalced Carmelites in Duruelo, not far from Avila.

In 1580 she obtained from Rome the authorization for her reformed Carmels as a separate, autonomous Province. This was the starting point for the Discalced Carmelite Order.

Indeed, Teresa’s earthly life ended while she was in the middle of her founding activities. She died on the night of 15 October 1582 in Alba de Tormes, after setting up the Carmelite Convent in Burgos, while on her way back to Avila. Her last humble words were: “After all I die as a child of the Church”, and “O my Lord and my Spouse, the hour that I have longed for has come. It is time to meet one another”.

Teresa spent her entire life for the whole Church although she spent it in Spain. She was beatified by Pope Paul V in 1614 and canonized by Gregory XV in 1622. The Servant of God Paul VI proclaimed her a “Doctor of the Church” in 1970.

Teresa of Jesus had no academic education but always set great store by the teachings of theologians, men of letters and spiritual teachers. As a writer, she always adhered to what she had lived personally through or had seen in the experience of others (cf. Prologue to The Way of Perfection), in other words basing herself on her own first-hand knowledge.

Teresa had the opportunity to build up relations of spiritual friendship with many Saints and with St John of the Cross in particular. At the same time she nourished herself by reading the Fathers of the Church, St Jerome, St Gregory the Great and St Augustine.

Among her most important works we should mention first of all her autobiography, El libro de la vida (the book of life), which she called Libro de las misericordias del Señor [book of the Lord’s mercies].

Written in the Carmelite Convent at Avila in 1565, she describes the biographical and spiritual journey, as she herself says, to submit her soul to the discernment of the “Master of things spiritual”, St John of Avila. Her purpose was to highlight the presence and action of the merciful God in her life. For this reason the work often cites her dialogue in prayer with the Lord. It makes fascinating reading because not only does the Saint recount that she is reliving the profound experience of her relationship with God but also demonstrates it.

In 1566, Teresa wrote El Camino de Perfección [The Way of Perfection]. She called it Advertencias y consejos que da Teresa de Jesús a sus hermanas [recommendations and advice that Teresa of Jesus offers to her sisters]. It was composed for the 12 novices of the Carmel of St Joseph in Avila. Teresa proposes to them an intense programme of contemplative life at the service of the Church, at the root of which are the evangelical virtues and prayer.

Among the most precious passages is her commentary on the Our Father, as a model for prayer. St Teresa’s most famous mystical work is El Castillo interior [The Interior Castle]. She wrote it in 1577 when she was in her prime. It is a reinterpretation of her own spiritual journey and, at the same time, a codification of the possible development of Christian life towards its fullness, holiness, under the action of the Holy Spirit.

Teresa refers to the structure of a castle with seven rooms as an image of human interiority. She simultaneously introduces the symbol of the silk worm reborn as a butterfly, in order to express the passage from the natural to the supernatural.

The Saint draws inspiration from Sacred Scripture, particularly the Song of Songs, for the final symbol of the “Bride and Bridegroom” which enables her to describe, in the seventh room, the four crowning aspects of Christian life: the Trinitarian, the Christological, the anthropological and the ecclesial.

St Teresa devoted the Libro de la fundaciones [book of the foundations], which she wrote between 1573 and 1582, to her activity as Foundress of the reformed Carmels. In this book she speaks of the life of the nascent religious group. This account, like her autobiography, was written above all in order to give prominence to God’s action in the work of founding new monasteries.

It is far from easy to sum up in a few words Teresa’s profound and articulate spirituality. I would like to mention a few essential points. In the first place St Teresa proposes the evangelical virtues as the basis of all Christian and human life and in particular, detachment from possessions, that is, evangelical poverty, and this concerns all of us; love for one another as an essential element of community and social life; humility as love for the truth; determination as a fruit of Christian daring; theological hope, which she describes as the thirst for living water. Then we should not forget the human virtues: affability, truthfulness, modesty, courtesy, cheerfulness, culture.

Secondly, St Teresa proposes a profound harmony with the great biblical figures and eager listening to the word of God. She feels above all closely in tune with the Bride in the Song of Songs and with the Apostle Paul, as well as with Christ in the Passion and with Jesus in the Eucharist. The Saint then stresses how essential prayer is. Praying, she says, “means being on terms of friendship with God frequently conversing in secret with him who, we know, loves us” (Vida 8, 5). St Teresa’s idea coincides with Thomas Aquinas’ definition of theological charity as “amicitia quaedam hominis ad Deum”, a type of human friendship with God, who offered humanity his friendship first; it is from God that the initiative comes (cf. Summa Theologiae II-II, 23, 1).

Prayer is life and develops gradually, in pace with the growth of Christian life: it begins with vocal prayer, passes through interiorization by means of meditation and recollection, until it attains the union of love with Christ and with the Holy Trinity. Obviously, in the development of prayer climbing to the highest steps does not mean abandoning the previous type of prayer. Rather, it is a gradual deepening of the relationship with God that envelops the whole of life.

Rather than a pedagogy Teresa’s is a true “mystagogy” of prayer: she teaches those who read her works how to pray by praying with them. Indeed, she often interrupts her account or exposition with a prayerful outburst.

Another subject dear to the Saint is the centrality of Christ’s humanity. For Teresa, in fact, Christian life is the personal relationship with Jesus that culminates in union with him through grace, love and imitation. Hence the importance she attaches to meditation on the Passion and on the Eucharist as the presence of Christ in the Church for the life of every believer, and as the heart of the Liturgy. St Teresa lives out unconditional love for the Church: she shows a lively “sensus Ecclesiae”, in the face of the episodes of division and conflict in the Church of her time.

She reformed the Carmelite Order with the intention of serving and defending the “Holy Roman Catholic Church”, and was willing to give her life for the Church (cf. Vida, 33,5).

A final essential aspect of Teresian doctrine which I would like to emphasize is perfection, as the aspiration of the whole of Christian life and as its ultimate goal. The Saint has a very clear idea of the “fullness” of Christ, relived by the Christian. At the end of the route through The Interior Castle, in the last “room”, Teresa describes this fullness, achieved in the indwelling of the Trinity, in union with Christ through the mystery of his humanity.

Dear brothers and sisters, St Teresa of Jesus is a true teacher of Christian life for the faithful of every time. In our society, which all too often lacks spiritual values, St Teresa teaches us to be unflagging witnesses of God, of his presence and of his action. She teaches us truly to feel this thirst for God that exists in the depths of our hearts, this desire to see God, to seek God, to be in conversation with him and to be his friends.

This is the friendship we all need that we must seek anew, day after day. May the example of this Saint, profoundly contemplative and effectively active, spur us too every day to dedicate the right time to prayer, to this openness to God, to this journey, in order to seek God, to see him, to discover his friendship and so to find true life; indeed many of us should truly say: “I am not alive, I am not truly alive because I do not live the essence of my life”.

Therefore time devoted to prayer is not time wasted, it is time in which the path of life unfolds, the path unfolds to learning from God an ardent love for him, for his Church, and practical charity for our brothers and sisters. Many thanks."

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

St Philip Benizi (EF)/St Rose of Lima (OF) - Aug 23


Claudio Cuello
St Rose of Lima (1586-1617) was the first canonised saint native to the Americas.  A Dominican tertiary, she devoted herself to prayer and mortification.  She died at the age of 31.

From the martyrology:

"At Todi, St. Philip Beniti of Florence, confessor. He contributed greatly to the growth of the Order of the Servites of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and was a man of the greatest humility. He was numbered among the saints by Clement X."

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Vigil of St Lawrence/St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, OF (Aug 9)




Today is the feast of St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) Carmelite, martyred by the Nazis.

Also today, the vigil of St. Lawrence, martyr.

Monday, August 8, 2016

St Mary of the Cross (Class I in Australia, August 8)



Mary Helen MacKillop RSJ (15 January 1842 – 8 August 1909), or St Mary of the Cross, was an Australian nun who founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart (the Josephites), a congregation of religious sisters that established a number of schools and welfare institutions throughout Australasia, with an emphasis on education for the rural poor.

Her Order was initially established on the feast day of the Presentation of Mary in 1866, and by 1871, 130 sisters were working in more than 40 schools and charitable institutions across South Australia and Queensland.

Her path was not easy: she encountered considerable opposition from bishops and priests, and  at one point was excommunicated unjustly.

She was canonised in 2010.

Monday, September 10, 2012

St Nicholas of Tolentino (EF only); St Pulcheria (Sept 10)


"At Tolentino, in the March of Ancona, the departure from this life of St. Nicholas, confessor, of the Order of Augustinians."

Also today in the martyrology:

"At Constantinople, St. Pulcheria, empress and virgin, distinguished by her piety and zeal for religion."

St Pulcheria, whose coins are pictured above, lived between 398/399 and 453.  The daughter of Eastern Roman Emperor Arcadius and Empress Aelia Eudoxia, she was the second child. When her father Arcadius died in 408, her brother Theodosius II was made Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, at seven years old. The fifteen-year-old Pulcheria proceeded to proclaim herself regent over her brother in 414, when he was thirteen, and made herself Augusta and Empress of the Eastern Roman Empire.

She took a vow of virginity when she became Augusta.  When her brother died in an accident in 450, she entered into a marriage on the basis that her vow of virginity would be respected, as the Senate was not prepared to permit a woman as sole ruler. 

Pulcheria is known to have held a significant amount of power, and exercized a great deal of influence over the church and theological practices of this time including anti-pagan policies, church building projects, and the debate over the Marian title Theotokos (Mother of God).

Thursday, August 30, 2012

SS Felix and Adauctus/in some places, St Rose of Lima (Aug 30)


The Glorification of Felix and Adauctus
Carlo Innocenzo Carlone
 From the martyrology:

"The feast of St. Rose of St. Mary, virgin, whose birthday is the 26th of this month.

At Rome, on the Ostian road, the martyrdom of the blessed priest Felix, under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. After being racked he was sentenced to death, and as they led him to execution, he met a man who spontaneously declared himself a Christian, and was forthwith beheaded with him. The Christians not knowing his name, called him Adauctus, because he was added to St. Felix and shared his crown."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

St Clare (August 11, OF); St Tibertius, memorial; St Susanna




From the martyrology:

"At Assisi in Umbria, the birthday of St. Clare, virgin, the first of the Poor Ladies of the Order of Friars Minor. Being celebrated for holiness of life and miracles, she was placed among the holy virgins by Pope Alexander IV...

At Rome, between the two laurels situation about three miles from the city, the birthday of St. Tiburtius, martyr, under the judge Fabian, in the persecution of Diocletian. After he had walked barefooted on burning coals and confessed Christ with increased constancy, he was put to the sword."

In the Extraordinary Form:

"Also at Rome, the holy virgin Susanna, a woman of noble race, and niece of the blessed Pontiff Caius. She merited the palm of martyrdom by being beheaded in the time of Diocletian."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

St Cristina (July 24)


Lorenzo Lotto, 1505
From the Roman Martyrology:

At Tiro in Tuscany, on Lake Bolsena, St. Christina, virgin and martyr. Because she believed in Christ, and broke up her father's gold and silver idols to give them to the poor, she was cruelly scourged at his command, subjected to other most severe torments, and thrown with a heavy stone into the lake from which she was drawn out by an angel. Then under another judge, who succeeded her father, she bore courageously still more bitter tortures. Finally, after she had been shut up by the governor Julian in a burning furnace for five days without any injury, after being cured of the sting of serpents, she ended her martyrdom by having her tongue cut out, and being pierced with arrows.

There is however another St Cristina whose feast is also celebrated on July 24, St Cristina the Astonishing (1150-1224), patroness of those with mental illnesses.  Here is a little of her story:
 
"Born a peasant, Christina was orphaned at age 15. She is said to have suffered a massive seizure when she was in her early 20s. According to the story, her condition was so severe that witnesses assumed she had died. A funeral was held, but during the service, she "arose full of vigor, stupefying with amazement the whole city of Sint-Truiden, which had witnessed this wonder. "She levitated up to the rafters, later explaining that she could not bear the smell of the sinful people there. Then "[t]he astonishment increased when they learned from her own mouth what had happened to her after her death."  She related that she had witnessed Heaven, Hell and Purgatory."
 
Please say a prayer for all whose nameday it is.

Monday, April 16, 2012

St Bernadette Soubirous (April 16): visions of Our Lady



From the martyrology:

"In the city of Nevers in France, St. Mary Bernard Soubirous of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity, also called the Christian Institute. She was favoured with frequent apparitions and conversations at Lourdes with Mary Immaculate, the Mother of God. In 1933 her name was added to the roll of holy virgins by Pope Pius XI."


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

From the martyrology: St Florentina, Virgin (Feb 28)

The Martyrology for today records:

"At Seville in Spain, the birthday of St. Leander, bishop of that city, and of St. Florentina, virgin.  By his preaching and zeal the Visigoths, with the help of King Recared, were converted from the Arian heresy to the Catholic faith."

St Florentina was St Leander's sister.  Teh Catholic Encyclopedia records:

"...born towards the middle of the sixth century; died about 612. The family of St. Florentina furnishes us with a rare example of lives genuinely religious, and actively engaged in furthering the best interests of Christianity.  Sister of three Spanish bishops in the time of the Visigothic dominion (Leander, Isidore, and Fulgentius), she consecrated her virginity to God, and all four have been canonized by the Church.

Florentina was born about the middle of the sixth century, being younger than her brother Leander, later Archbishop of Seville, but older than Isidore, who succeeded Leander as archbishop of the same see.

Before his elevation to the episcopal dignity, Leander had been a monk, and it was through his influence that Florentina embraced the ascetic life.

She associated with herself a number of virgins, who also desired to forsake the world, and formed them into a religious community. Later sources declare their residence to have been the convent of S. Maria de Valle near Ecija (Astigis), of which city her brother Fulgentius was bishop.

In any case, it is certain that she had consecrated herself to God before the year 600, as her brother Leander, who died either in the year 600 or 601, wrote for her guidance an extant work dealing with a nun's rule of life and with contempt for the world ("Regula sive Libellus de institutione virginum et de contemptu mundi ad Florentinam sororem", P.L. LXXII, 873 sqq.). In it the author lays down the rules according to which cloistered virgins consecrated to God should regulate their lives.

...Her younger brother Isidore also dedicated to her his work "De fide catholica contra Judæos", which he wrote at her request. Florentina died early in the seventh century and is venerated as the patroness of the diocese of Plasencia. Her feast falls on 20 June."

Monday, February 6, 2012

From the martyrology: St Dorothy (Feb 6)


SS Elizabeth of Hungary, Catherine of Alexandria and Dorothy
c1480
St Dorothy is one of those saints dropped from the 1969 calendar, unwisely in my view, allegedly because of the relative scarcity of early details of her life.  In reality, one can't help but conclude that she is a victim of the modernist disdain for famous miracle working saints: she was often included as one of the 'fourteen holy helpers', and regarded as one the four 'main Virgins'.  She had a widespread cult, and was frequently depicted in art throughout the middle ages and beyond.

Here is Alban Butler's take on her life:

"ST. DOROTHY was a young virgin, celebrated at Cæsarea, where she lived, for her angelic virtue. Her parents seem to have been martyred before her in the Diocletian persecution, and when the Governor Sapricius came to Cæsarea he called her before him, and sent this child of martyrs to the home where they were waiting for her.

She was stretched upon the rack, and offered marriage if she would consent to sacrifice, or death if she refused. But she replied that "Christ was her only Spouse, and death her desire." She was then placed in charge of two women who had fallen away from the faith, in the hope that they might pervert her; but the fire of her own heart rekindled the flame in theirs, and led them back to Christ. When she was set once more on the rack, Sapricius himself was amazed at the heavenly look she wore, and asked her the cause of her joy. "Because," she said, "I have brought back two souls to Christ, and because I shall soon be in heaven rejoicing with the angels." Her joy grew as she was buffeted in the face and her sides burned with plates of red-hot iron. "Blessed be Thou," she cried, when she was sentenced to be beheaded,—"blessed be Thou, O Thou Lover of souls! Who dost call me to Paradise, and invitest me to Thy nuptial chamber."

St. Dorothy suffered in the dead of winter, and it is said that on the road to her passion a lawyer called Theophilus, who had been used to calumniate and persecute the Christians, asked her, in mockery, to send him "apples or roses from the garden of her Spouse." The Saint promised to grant his request, and, just before she died, a little child stood by her side bearing three apples and three roses.

She bade him take them to Theophilus and tell him this was the present which he sought from the garden of her Spouse. St. Dorothy had gone to heaven, and Theophilus was still making merry over his challenge to the Saint when the child entered his room. He saw that the child was an angel in disguise, and the fruit and flowers of no earthly growth. He was converted to the faith, and then shared in the martyrdom of St. Dorothy."