Category Archives: Saints

Saint Philip and Saint Benedict

At The Amish Catholic, Rick Yoder has a brilliant essay on the Benedictine qualities of the life of Saint Philip Neri. A must read today! Mr Yoder writes:

Many writers have found in St. Philip Neri the likeness of other saints, including those predecessors whom he admired, the contemporaries whom he loved, and the innumerable great saints who followed in the generations since he went on to immortal glory.

Yet is any resemblance so striking, and so Trinitarian, as that between the Father of the Oratory and the Father of Monks? In both, we find the very image of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In both, we can see the marks of stability, obedience, and conversion of manners. And in both, we detect the surpassing heat, song, and sweetness which Richard Rolle describes as indicative of a true encounter with God.

Tanto Tempore Vobiscum Sum

Saints Philip and James, Apostles

Today’s Office Antiphons
There is no doubt that the antiphons given in the Divine Office for the feast of Saints Philip and James are among the most beautiful of the Paschaltide liturgy. If you have an Antiphonale, open it and sing them! The Church takes the dialogue of the Gospel and, with an artistry inspired by the Holy Ghost, presents it anew in a series of antiphons interwoven with alleluias:

Domine, Ostende Nobis Patrem
The first antiphon is Philip’s bold request: “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us, alleluia” (John 14:8). Philip’s prayer echoes that of Moses in the book of Exodus: “I pray thee, show me thy glory” (Exodus 33:18).

Et Non Cognovistis Me?
The second antiphon is a poignant complaint of the Heart of Christ. It is addressed not to Philip alone, but also to each of us: “Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me? Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (John 14:9).

Qui Videt Me
The third antiphon is Our Lord’s astonishing reply. He presents Himself to Philip as the icon of the Father: “Philip, he who sees Me sees also My Father, alleluia” (John 14:9).

Et Amodo
The fourth antiphon is a gentle reproach; it ends nonetheless in a triple alleluia. The reproach becomes a promise full of hope: “If you had known me, you would also have known My Father. And henceforth you do know Him, and you have seen Him, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (John 14:7).

Si Diligitis Me
The fifth antiphon is an appeal to love. Like the fourth it ends in a triple alleluia: “If you love Me, keep my commandments, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (John 14:15).

Benedictus
There are two more antiphons to be considered. At the Benedictus it is Our Lord himself who sings in the midst of His Church: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me, alleluia.” The Church cannot but reply: “Yes, Lord, Thou art the way, and the truth, and the life. Behold, I come to the Father through Thee.” There is no better preparation for today’s Holy Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Church coming to the Father through the Son, united to Him as His Body and His Bride.

Magnificat
The Magnificat at Vespers will be framed by Our Lord’s words: “Let not your heart be troubled or afraid. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions, alleluia, alleluia” (John 14:1-2). These are words of comfort, words of hope for every situation of fading light and for those moments when darkness descends over the human heart.

[Note: The latest edition of the Antiphonale Monasticum (Solesmes 2007) gives John 1:45 for the Benedictus Antiphon and John 15:7 for the Magnificat. I prefer the ones given in the 1934 edition, probably because they have been my “friends” for lo all these years. One does develop a holy familiarity with certain liturgical texts and melodies. It is always unsettling when they are changed: like getting a letter back marked, “Left no forwarding address.”]

Meditatio At Its Best
By means of these antiphons, the various fragments of today’s Gospel are clothed in melodies that make them easier to assimilate and remember. One is gently compelled to linger over each word, holding it in the heart. Today’s liturgy is a perfect example of how the Divine Office spreads the radiance of Holy Mass throughout the day, moving us in the direction of ceaseless prayer. This is meditatio at its best: the repetition of the Gospel, sustained by simple melodies that allow it to be stored up in the secret tabernacle of the heart.

And Then We Shall Be Satisfied
Saint Philip’s request is one that, secretly, we all burn to put to Jesus; “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied” (John 14:8). This is the desire that the Finger of God (the Holy Ghost) has inscribed deep within the human heart. We were created to see God. We can be satisfied with nothing less. “My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God” (Psalm 41:2). And to this Philip adds: “and then we shall be satisfied” (John 14:8).

The Yearnings of the Human Heart
Ultimately the Face of God is the only reality that can satisfy the yearnings of the human heart. The eyes of the soul were created to feast upon the Divine Countenance. To see the Face of God is the craving that tormented and delighted the friends of God in every age: from Moses, Elijah, and David to Philip and James; and from the apostles to the saints of every age. I am reminded, in particular, of two holy priests of our own time, both ardent adorers of the Face of Christ: Saint Gaetano Catanoso (1879-1963) and the Servant of God, Benedictine Abbot Ildebrando Gregori (1894-1985). Both priests burned with desire to contemplate the Face of Christ. They found the Face of Christ veiled in the Eucharist. The found the Face of Christ in every human being marked by suffering, especially in needy children, in the poor, and in the sick. Saint John Paul II said that the basic task of every Christian is to become, first and foremost, “one who contemplates the Face of Christ.” Am I that Christian? Are you?

The Icon of the Invisible God
The drama of today’s Gospel is that Philip is face-to-face with Our Lord and doesn’t realize who He is. In the Prologue of Saint John we read: “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (John 1:18). To contemplate the Face of Jesus Christ is to know God. Saint Paul says to the Colossians: “He is the image, the icon of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). In the Letter to the Hebrews, we read: “He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3).

And Yet You Do Not Know Me
And so, Jesus says, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? (John 14:9). Our Lord addresses the same question to each of us: How long have I been with you? How long have you been baptized? How long have you had the sacraments, the liturgy, the Scriptures, the Mother of God, the friendship of the saints? And not without a divine sadness, Jesus says: “And yet you do not know me?” (John 14:9).

The Face of Christ
We know Our Lord when we experience in the bright darkness of faith that to contemplate His Face is to see the Father. Christ would have us gaze upon his Face with the eyes of faith; he would have us experience, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, that He is in the Father and that the Father is in Him (cf. John 14:10). One who contemplates the Holy Face here below with the eyes of faith has begun already to participate in the joy of the blessed in heaven.

The Love of the Sacred Heart
To all who seek His Face, to all who gaze upon it through the lattice of the Scriptures, and hidden beneath the sacramental veils in the Most Holy Eucharist, Our Lord makes this promise: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Contemplating the Face of Christ emboldens us to ask, and to ask confidently, in His Name. One cannot look into the Face of Christ, the human Face of God, and remain paralyzed by fear. The contemplation of the Face of Christ is liberating; it is the secret of living in the love that casts out fear, the love of His Sacred Heart.

Asking
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the school of all right asking in the name of Christ and in the light of His Face. In response to the Church’s sublime “Eucharistic Asking” the Father will pour forth the Holy Ghost on the holy oblations, and on all of us. In that Asking-in-the-Name-of-Christ and in the light of His Face the Father will be glorified. “Look upon us, O God, our protector, and behold the Face of your Christ” (Psalm 83:9).

This sacrifice, prepared for the glory of Thy holy Name

Last evening at recreation, one of the brethren mentioned that he had read something recently in which Lenten fasting was presented, before all else, as a means of cutting down on expenses in order to practice the corporal works of mercy. Let me say, from the outset, that I am altogether favourable both to cutting down on expenses, and to practicing the corporal works of mercy. Saint Benedict himself makes the connection explicitly in the Instruments of Good Works set forth in Chapter IV of the Holy Rule: “To relieve the poor” comes immediately after “To love fasting”. Not for nothing was Catholic social activist Dorothy Day a Benedictine Oblate of Saint Procopius Abbey. Like Saint Anthony of the Desert, no sooner did Dorothy Day hear the Gospel read at Holy Mass, or follow it in her missal, than she was out the door of the church to put it into practice.

For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me. (Matthew 25:35–36)

The particular view of fasting that sees it more or less exclusively in terms of a practice calculated to facilitate humanitarian relief is, nonetheless, seriously skewed. In our community exchange, several of us made the connection of this view of fasting with the view of celibacy taken by a popular Jesuit author:

Celibacy is a complex topic, but it is one that I can speak about from experience—30 years of experience. It is a different way of loving people—freely and deeply but without the attachment of what we call an “exclusive relationship.” One has many friends, and one gives and receives love, but one is not committed to a single person. (Father James Martin, S.J.)

If fasting—or the celibacy of the priest or monk—is viewed, presented, and practiced primarily in terms of an horizontal pragmatism, i.e. more money for good works and more time for  people, in my book, it misses the mark completely. In fact such things put me in mind of the “Americanism” condemned by Pope Leo XIII in 1899:

These single notable acts to which we have alluded will frequently upon a closer investigation be found to exhibit the appearance rather than the reality of virtue. Grant that it is virtue, unless we would “run in vain” and be unmindful of that eternal bliss which a good God in his mercy has destined for us, of what avail are natural virtues unless seconded by the gift of divine grace? Hence St. Augustine well says: “Wonderful is the strength, and swift the course, but outside the true path.” (Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae, Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, January 22, 1899)

If one’s fasting merely allows one to hand on to needy people the fruits of one’s economies, it is not the fasting of the saints. It is, as Saint Augustine says, “outside the true path”. And if one’s celibacy is no more than “a different way of loving people” it exhibits, as Pope Leo XIII says, “the appearance rather than the reality of virtue”.

Saint Thomas teaches that fasting has a three–fold purpose: (1) in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says, “In fasting, in chastity” (2 Corinthians 6:5-6), since fasting is the guardian of chastity; (2) in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks; (3) in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written,”Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning” (Joel 2:12)”

As for the celibacy of a priest, monk, or religious of any stripe, Saint Augustine sees it, first of all, as a an act of mercy to one’s own soul and a sacrifice offered to God:

Mercy is the true sacrifice, and therefore it is said, as I have just quoted, with such sacrifices God is well pleased. All the divine ordinances, therefore, which we read concerning the sacrifices in the service of the tabernacle or the temple, we are to refer to the love of God and our neighbor. For on these two commandments, as it is written, hang all the law and the prophets. Thus a true sacrifice is every work which is done that we may be united to God in holy fellowship, and which has a reference to that supreme good and end in which alone we can be truly blessed. And therefore even the mercy we show to men, if it is not shown for God’s sake, is not a sacrifice. For, though made or offered by man, sacrifice is a divine thing, as those who called it sacrifice meant to indicate. Thus man himself, consecrated in the name of God, and vowed to God, is a sacrifice in so far as he dies to the world that he may live to God. For this is a part of that mercy which each man shows to himself; as it is written, Have mercy on your soul by pleasing God. Our body, too, as a sacrifice when we chasten it by temperance, if we do so as we ought, for God’s sake, that we may not yield our members instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13). Exhorting to this sacrifice, the apostle says, I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.If, then, the body, which, being inferior, the soul uses as a servant or instrument, is a sacrifice when it is used rightly, and with reference to God, how much more does the soul itself become a sacrifice when it offers itself to God, in order that, being inflamed by the fire of His love, it may receive of His beauty and become pleasing to Him, losing the shape of earthly desire, and being remoulded in the image of permanent loveliness? (Saint Augustine, The City of God, Book X, Chapters 5 and 6)

A man fasts for the same reason a priest, monk, or religious vows celibacy: in order to be “united to God in holy fellowship”. Both fasting and clerical or monastic celibacy are sacrificial in character, in that both are ordered to the worship of God and, therefore necessarily, to the altar from which Christ, Priest and Victim, reigning from the Tree of the Cross, draws all men to Himself (cf. John 12:32).

If a man, by fasting, finds himself better able to relieve the necessities of the poor, this benefit accrues to the sacrificial significance of fasting as something “done that we may be united to God in holy fellowship” (Saint Augustine) and derives from it. Similarly, if a man, by vowing celibacy, finds that he is freer to serve the members of Christ, this affective and material freedom accrues to the sacrificial character of celibacy and derives from it. For a Christian, neither fasting nor celibacy are anthropocentrically driven; both, rather, are theocentrically driven and, radically ordered to the latria (divine worship) of the altar. The sublime prayers said with regard to the holy oblations in the Offertory of the Mass can be said just as truly with regard to the sacrificial offerings of fasting and celibacy:

Accept us, O Lord, in the spirit of humility and contrition of heart, and grant that the sacrifice which we offer this day in Thy sight may be pleasing to Thee, O Lord God.
Come, O almighty and eternal God, the Sanctifier, and bless this sacrifice, prepared for the glory of Thy holy Name.

On this point, Dorothy Day—a woman as intimately familiar with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as she was with sacrifice in all of life—would, I think, heartily agree.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Westminster_Cathedral_Non_Angli_sed_Angeli_si_Christiani

Your Servants Through Jesus

The feast of Saint Gregory the Great, falling in the midst of Lent on March 12th, brings joy to the whole Church and, in a special way, to the Benedictine Order. Like Saint Paul, Saint Gregory had a passion for preaching “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4). “For we preach not ourselves, but Jesus Christ our Lord; and ourselves your servants through Jesus” (2 Cor 4:5).

Father and Doctor

Saint Gregory the Great takes his place among the Fathers of the Church, alongside of Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great. Saint Gregory is a father in the power of the Holy Ghost, sowing the seeds of contemplation even today by means of his writings. The writings of Saint Gregory allow us to hear his voice and to thrive on his teaching. Thus does he continue to help us grow up to maturity in Christ. Saint Gregory the Great is the Doctor of Lectio Divina, the Doctor of Compunction, and the Doctor of Contemplation.

Illumined by the Love of Jesus Christ

Saint Gregory was born into a patrician family in the year 540. His prestigious family background and education prepared him to do great things in Rome. His place was among the learned and esteemed. By the age of thirty-five, he was well on the way to a successful life, according to worldly standards. And then, like so many saints before him and like so many after him, Gregory was illumined by the love of Jesus Christ in so intimate a way that it changed the direction of his life. “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus” (2 Cor 4:6).

The Monastic Haven

The Gospels and the Psalms became his inseparable companions. Gregory became a monk, a disciple in the school of the Holy Patriarch Saint Benedict, although not without a struggle. “Even after I was filled with heavenly desire,” he says, “I preferred to be clothed in secular garb. Long-standing habit so bound me that I could not change my outward life…. Finally, I fled all this with anxiety and sought the safe haven of the monastery. Having left behind what belongs to the world (as I mistakenly thought at the time), I escaped naked from the shipwreck of this life.”

Servant of the Servants of God

Saint Gregory was acutely aware of his own fragility. Again, Saint Paul reveals the soul of Gregory: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of the power of God, and not of us” (2 Cor 4:7). Benedictine obedience, silence, and humility, together with the daily round of the Work of God, prepared Saint Gregory to become the Bishop of Rome, the Supreme Pontiff and, to use his own expression, the Servant of the Servants of God.

All Pope and All Monk

Saint Gregory did not live the cloistered life for very long, but it marked him indelibly, almost painfully, and this for life. His talents and learning did not go unnoticed. Pope Gelasius sent him as his special delegate to Constantinople where he remained for six years. Upon his return to Rome, he was elected Pope. All his life, Saint Gregory longed for the silence of the monastery. All his life, he lamented that the affairs of the Church consumed him, leaving him with little time for prayer and contemplation. Outwardly, Gregory was all pope; inwardly, he was all monk.

Non Angli Sed Angeli

Zeal to make known “the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus” (2 Cor 4:6) compelled Pope Gregory to send the Roman monk Augustine together with forty others to preach the Gospel of Christ in England. Saint Gregory had a special affection for the English. Saint Bede, in his Ecclesiastical History, recounts the origin of the English mission:

Nor must we pass by in silence the story of the blessed Gregory, handed down to us by the tradition of our ancestors, which explains his earnest care for the salvation of our nation. It is said that one day, when some merchants had lately arrived at Rome, many things were exposed for sale in the market place, and much people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and saw among other wares some boys put up for sale, of fair complexion, with pleasing countenances, and very beautiful hair. When he beheld them, he asked, it is said, from what region or country they were brought, and was told, from the island of Britain, and that the inhabitants were like that in appearance.

He again inquired whether those islanders were Christians, or still involved in the errors of paganism, and was informed that they were pagans. Then fetching a deep sigh from the bottom of his heart, “Alas! What pity,” said he, “that the author of darkness should own men of such fair countenances; and that with such grace of outward form, their minds should be void of inward grace.” He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation, and was answered, that they were called Angles. “Right,” said he, “for they have an angelic face, and it is meet that such should be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven.”

Pray today for the Ordinariates established by Pope Benedict XVI for Anglicans returning to full communion with the See of Rome! Saint Gregory is the “father in Christ” of the Ecclesia Anglicana. Pray that, through his intercession, the Ordinariates may flourish unimpeded in their mission, and so accomplish that which Pope Benedict XVI had in view when he made them possible.

The Word of God

Saint Gregory preached incessantly. He knew that the Church would flourish only if the faithful were nourished with the Word of God. His homilies and other writings were read and copied throughout the Middle Ages and, in this way, came down to us. Saint Gregory continues to feed us with the Word of God. He calls us to a heart-piercing, life-changing reading of the Scriptures. Blessed John XXIII read and re-read Saint Gregory’s Rule for Pastors so as to better fulfill his own mission as Servant of the Servants of God. The saints engender saints. We are known by the company we keep and by the books we read!

The Sacred Liturgy

Pope Saint Gregory was deeply concerned with the dignity and beauty of the Sacred Liturgy. In this he was a worthy son of Saint Benedict. He encouraged the study of liturgical chant and the formation of singers for the glory of God. Seek Saint Gregory’s intercession at the present time, so that the measures taken by Pope Benedict XVI to restore beauty, reverence and dignity to the celebration of the Holy Mysteries may continue to be fostered in the Church. The Holy Father spoke of Saint Gregory the Great in Summorum Pontificum. This is what he said:

Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, ‘to the praise and glory of His name,’ and ‘to the benefit of all His Holy Church.’

Since time immemorial it has been necessary – as it is also for the future – to maintain the principle according to which ‘each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, which must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church’s law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.’

Among the pontiffs who showed that requisite concern, particularly outstanding is the name of St. Gregory the Great, who made every effort to ensure that the new peoples of Europe received both the Catholic faith and the treasures of worship and culture that had been accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries. He commanded that the form of the sacred liturgy as celebrated in Rome (concerning both the Sacrifice of Mass and the Divine Office) be conserved. He took great concern to ensure the dissemination of monks and nuns who, following the Rule of St. Benedict, together with the announcement of the Gospel illustrated with their lives the wise provision of their Rule that “nothing should be placed before the work of God.” In this way the sacred liturgy, celebrated according to the Roman use, enriched not only the faith and piety but also the culture of many peoples. It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety.

Teach Us to Sing Wisely

Saint Gregory the Great, Servant of the Servants of God, be present to us today as Father, Shepherd, and Teacher. Teach us to sing wisely, that the words on our lips may pierce our hearts, raising us to the love of heavenly things, and to the glory of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, now and always and unto the ages of ages.

Bernadette

BernadetteBest.jpgHer Feast
Today, February 18th, is the feast of Saint Bernadette.  I have long cherished the Collect for her feast:

O God, protector and friend of the humble, Who filled Thy servant, Mary Bernard, with joy by the apparition and conversation of the Immaculate Virgin Mary: grant, we pray, that by the simple way of faith we may be counted worthy to see Thee face to face in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Who, with Thee, liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God forever and ever.

When Saints Are Lovers
My book on a flight to Ireland nine years ago was When Saints Are Lovers, The Spirituality of Maryknoll Co–Founder, Thomas F. Price by John T. Seddon III. Father Price was very taken with Saint Bernadette. The little Saint of Lourdes and Nevers became his confidante and intimate companion. His relationship to Jesus and Mary was inextricably bound up with his love for Bernadette.

Father Price “met” Saint Bernadette on the occasion of his first visit to Lourdes in July 1911. He passed through various stages in his relationship with Saint Bernadette; these might be compared to what a man and woman experience in friendship, courtship, betrothal, and marriage. Father Price went so far as to wear a wedding band inscribed with his name and that of Bernadette. The culmination of this Father%20Price.jpgmystical relationship was in the marriage of Father Price and Bernadette together to the Divine Bridegroom, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary’s Priest: The Journey of a Heart
In 1918, Father Thomas Price left the United States with the first three Maryknoll missionaries to China. A year later Father Price died there. His body was laid to rest in China but his heart was, as he requested, removed from his body to be placed close to his dear Bernadette in Nevers, France. Father Price’s life was profoundly marked by devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He attributed his survival from a shipwreck off the coast of North Carolina in 1876 to a miraculous intervention of Our Lady. In 1908, Father Price adopted the practice of writing a daily “letter” to the Mother of God. It became a kind of written conversation with her, a complement to the daily Rosary and Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary to which he remained faithful all his life. In 1923, Father Price’s heart was carried from China to Nevers by a French missionary and placed next to the body of Saint Bernadette. His body was exhumed in 1936 and returned to Maryknoll in Ossining, New York.

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