Category Archives: Saints

O Doctor Mellifluus

christsb.jpgInflamed With Zeal
The liturgy describes Saint Bernard as a man all ablaze with zeal for the house of the Lord. The little phrase, “inflamed with zeal,” tells us, in effect, that God gave Saint Bernard to the Church as a new Elias, the ardent prophet given to Israel of old. When Elias was on Mount Horeb, the Lord visited him in “the whistling of a gentle air” (3 Kings 19:12). “And when Elias heard it, he covered his face with a mantle, and coming forth stood in the entering in of the cave, and behold a voice unto him, saying: ‘What dost thou here, Elias?” And he answered: ‘With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of hosts'” (3 Kings 19:14).

By way of Psalm 68:9, one of the great prophetic psalms of the sufferings of Our Lord, the same expression, “inflamed with zeal,” identifies Saint Bernard with Our Lord Jesus Christ in the mysteries of His Passion. After Jesus had driven the moneychangers out of the temple, His disciples remembered that it was written, “The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up” (Psalm 68:9). The same burning zeal for the glory of the Father was to consume Jesus in the holocaust of His Sacrifice on Calvary.

The Mystical Embrace
The traditional iconography of Saint Bernard shows the monk held fast in the embrace of Jesus Crucified, who detaches His arm from the cross to draw Bernard to himself. The theme of the amplexus, or mystical embrace, is repeated in depictions of Saint Bernard again and again. The fire that burned in the pierced Heart of the Crucified passed into Bernard, filling him with an astonishing capacity to suffer and to love for the Church, Christ’s Bride and Mystical Body.

0820s_bernar%20Roelas.jpgGood Zeal
Zeal, then, characterizes Saint Bernard. A burning passion for Christ and for the Bride of Christ, the Church, consumed him. In Chapter 72 of the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict distinguishes between two kinds of zeal. The first he calls “an evil zeal rooted in bitterness, which separates from God and leads to hell” (Rule 72:1).

Evil zeal — coldhearted, pharisaical, and grim — always leads to rancour and strife in a community. Good zeal “separates from vice and leads to God and to eternal life” (Rule 72:2). The Holy Ghost infuses the grace of good zeal into souls. Good zeal is gentle, and winning, and sweet. It is warm and attractive. It inflames others but it doesn’t scorch them. It attracts souls by means of a gentle, steady radiance.

Burning and Shining
The fire of a prophetic charism made Saint Bernard burn and shine in the Church. In the 5th Chapter of Saint John, Our Lord, speaking of the Baptist, says, “He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light” (John 5:35). Like the Holy Forerunner, Saint Bernard was, and remains even today, a burning and shining lamp set upon a lampstand in the Church so that all might enjoy his brightness. By burning, he enkindled others; by shining, he enlightened others.

Those who read the works of Saint Bernard know that his fire has not been extinguished nor has his flame become less bright. When the Holy Ghost sets a heart aflame, nothing earthly can extinguish the blaze. “Love is strong as death,” says the Canticle, “the lamps thereof are fire and flames. Many waters cannot quench charity, neither can the floods drown it” (Canticle 8:6-7). Many waters and great floods have come and gone, assailing the Church over the centuries, and sweeping away the grandest monuments in their torrents. Still, after the nine centuries that separate us from Saint Bernard, his fire burns with the same intensity and his light is undimmed.

amplexus1.jpgThe Most Contagious Man of His Century
It was said in the twelfth century that Saint Bernard was — spiritually — the most contagious man alive. So powerful was his very presence that when Abbot Bernard of Clairvaux passed through a village or town, women would hide their husbands and sons, fearing that their menfolk, seduced by Bernard’s preaching, might abandon wives and mothers, children and homes to follow him into the cloister. And so it happened! When Saint Bernard preached in the universities, the lecture halls would be packed with eager young listeners. Scores of students would follow him, like a kind of monastic pied-piper, begging for the grace of the holy habit and for a place in his abbey. When Saint Bernard preached, fire leaped out of his mouth into the hearts of his hearers and, when he explained the Scriptures, souls were flooded with light.

The Mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Like John the Baptist hidden in his mother’s womb, Saint Bernard received the grace of Christ and grew in it, day by day, through the mediation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “This, he says, “is the will of Him who wanted us to have everything through Mary…. God has placed in Mary the plenitude of every good, in order to have us understand that if there is any trace of hope in us, any trace of grace, any trace of salvation, it flows from her…. God could have dispensed His graces according to His good pleasure without making use of this channel (Mary), but it was His wish to provide this means whereby grace would reach you.” This not mere theological speculation on the part of Saint Bernard, it is testimony to his personal experience. For Saint Bernard the Virgin Mother is the Mediatrix of All Graces. All that comes to us from Christ, our one Mediator with the Father, comes, necessarily, through Mary, Mother of us all, and Mediatrix with the Son.

The Liturgy
Again like Saint John the Baptist, Bernard saw himself as “the friend of the bridegroom who rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice” (John 3:29). Saint Bernard heard the voice of the Bridegroom in Sacred Scripture proclaimed, and sung, and held in the heart during long hours of the Opus Dei. The friend of the Bridegroom never seeks to draw the bride to himself or to possess her in any way; his whole desire is to hear the bride say: “As the apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my Beloved among the sons. I sat down under His shadow, whom I desired, and His fruit was sweet to my palate. He brought me into the cellar of wine, he set in order charity in me” (Ct 2:3-4).

The friend of the Bridegroom is jubilant when the bride is brought into the banqueting house; there, the banner of love is raised over her head. Bernard, the friend of the Bridegroom became the servant of the Divine Hospitality; he was, in truth, the herald of the Bridegroom-King sent out of his cloister into the streets and lanes of the city, into the highways and the hedges, at the hour of the wedding banquet, to bring in “the poor, and the feeble, and the blind, and the lame” (Luke 14:21).

The misery of mankind was never far from Saint Bernard’s heart, never absent from his prayer. Having experienced the sweet compassion of the Mother of God in his own life, Saint Bernard looked upon the world even as she does from her place of glory in heaven, with “eyes of mercy.” Addressing Our Lady in a sermon for her Assumption, he asks her to obtain “pardon for the guilty, health for the sick, courage for the fainthearted, help and deliverance for the endangered.”|

The Bread of Life and the Water of Wisdom
Ecclesiasticus describes Divine Grace coming in the form of a mother and of a virgin bride to meet Bernard. What is warmer than the welcome of a mother? And what more enthusiastic than that of a young bride? Again, the grace of Christ came to Saint Bernard through Mary. “With the bread of life and understanding, she shall feed him, and give him the water of wholesome wisdom to drink: and she shall be made strong in him…. And in the midst of the Church she shall open his mouth, and shall fill him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding, and shall clothe him with a robe of glory” (Ecclesiasticus 15: 3-5).

Devotion to Sacred Scripture
“By what doth a young man correct his way? By observing thy words” (Psalm 118:9). The Abbot of Clairvaux knew that when God speaks, He communicates Himself. For Saint Bernard to be steeped in the Word of God was, as Origen teaches, to be steeped in the very Blood of Christ. Saint Bernard’s lifelong attraction to Sacred Scripture was an expression of his lifelong attraction to the Sacred Side of Jesus, the wellspring of purity and of love.

549093_ph.jpgThe Prayer of Christ
The effect of the monastic life, with its relentless immersion in the Word of God, is that the soul loses herself, her own words, desires, inclinations, and aspirations in the prayer of the Heart of Jesus to the Father. One seasoned in monastic life begins to be able to say, “It is no longer I who pray, but Christ who prays in me.” In the presence of the Father, the soul shaped by the monastic tradition has no words apart from the words of the Word, uttered in the power of the Holy Ghost.

And this, of course, is the great reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When the priest goes to the altar as the representative of Christ and of the Church, he lifts his hands in prayer. At that moment, it is no longer we who pray for ourselves and by ourselves. It is Christ the Eternal High Priest who, through the priest standing before the altar, prays for us to His Father. In every Mass, too, the embrace of Jesus Crucified is offered to each of us as it was offered to Saint Bernard. Detaching His arm from the cross, Our Lord draws us sacramentally to the wound in His Sacred Side. Through that mystic portal we pass over to the Father, in the Holy Ghost. The secret of Saint Bernard was this: guided by the Virgin Mother of Jesus, he yielded to the embrace of the Crucified and drank deeply from His open Side. May Mary, “our life, sweetness, and our hope,” obtain that same grace for us today.

Eight Days Would Be Enough

Pedro Julian Eymard.jpgIt is good, I think, to be reminded of Saint Peter Julian Eymard’s “secret” for arriving at a fully Eucharistic life:

The secret for arriving quickly at a life centred in the Eucharist is, during a certain period of time, to make Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament the habitual object of the exercise of the presence of God, the dominant motive of our intentions, the meditation of our spirit, the affection of our heart, the object of all our virtues.

And if the soul is generous enough, one will come at length to this unity of action, to familiarity with the adorable Sacrament, to think of it with as much and even greater ease than of any other object.

Easily and gently one’s heart will produce the most tender affections. In a word, the Most Holy Sacrament will become the magnet of devotion in one’s life and the centre of perfection of one’s love.

Eight days would be enough for a simple and fervent soul to acquire this Eucharistic spirit; and even if one should have to put weeks and months to acquire it, can this ever be compared with the peace and the happiness which this soul will enjoy in the Divine Eucharist? (Saint Peter Julian Eymard)

Saint Peter Julian Eymard

0802Eymard.jpgA Priest-Adorer
When Blessed John XXIII canonized Peter Julian Eymard on December 9, 1962, at the close of the First Session of the Second Vatican Council, he was, I think, acting prophetically. He directed the eyes of the universal Church to the image of a priest-adorer impassioned by the Most Holy Eucharist. During the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, marked by the abundant graces of the Year of the Eucharist, Saint Peter Julian Eymard’s particular expression of sacerdotal holiness came into focus more clearly for me.

A Priest for Priests
Saint Peter Julian was a priest for priests. In every brother priest he recognized a living image of Jesus Christ. He was known even to leave his prie-dieu before the Blessed Sacrament during his designated hour of adoration in order to receive a priest in need.

Sanctuaries of Adoration
Père Eymard ardently desired to do still more. In the first place, he resolved to number among the chief Apostolic Works of the Society of the Blessed Sacrament that of receiving into its Sanctuaries of adoration all priests who might desire to spend some days at the foot of the holy tabernacle.

I Want to Get the Priests
“Sanctify the priests by the Eucharist,” he wrote. “That embraces everything. With the priests, we have the parishes, the whole country.” Some months before his death, he exclaimed, “Now listen! I want to get the priests. That is our principal apostolate.” “To labour for priests,” he used to say, “is to labour for multipliers. Let the Holy Eucharist become the centre of their thoughts, the end of their labours, and they will have at their disposal the most efficient means for the conversion and sanctification of their people. Let them find in Jesus of the tabernacle a Friend in their loneliness, insurmountable strength in their struggles, constantly renewed vigour in their weariness, for He is the Source of grace, which produces abundant fruits.”

Saint Peter Julian entertained the idea of founding a society of diocesan priest-adorers, not unlike the Oblates associated with monasteries: “I want to form . . . secular priests, to bind them together by prayer, by determinate statutes, and to sanctify them by the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. This work is ours, but I do not want to undertake now on a large scale. Oh, when will the time come! Priests sharing in the life of the Blessed Sacrament, should live according to the Eucharistic life of Jesus, which consists above all in self-abnegation and the love of sacrifice. . . . They should perform all their duties under the protection of the Blessed Virgin, the Adoratrice of the Cenacle, for through that sweet Mother we more easily approach Jesus. Their studies, their energy, and their piety they should direct to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. They should bear in mind that adoration is their chief duty: Nos autem orationi instantes erimus — But we will give ourselves continually to prayer” (Acts 6, 4).

Preaching Energized by Adoration
For Saint Peter Julian Eymard, Eucharistic adoration was the soul of the ministry of holy preaching. “Like Moses,” he wrote, “full of zeal to announce the teaching of the Divine Master when he came down from Mount Sinai, like the Apostles coming from the Cenacle, so should the priests [of this Society] go from the church straight to the people to announce to them the Word of God: Et ministerio verbi — to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6, 4).

Drawing Souls to the Eucharist
A priest who seeks first the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, and has learned to linger close to His Eucharistic Heart, will be given all other things besides. His ministry will be prodigiously fruitful, even if, in this present life, its fruitfulness remains hidden. The priest is the friend of the Bridegroom, pointing souls to the tabernacle and, even more, inviting them to follow him into the radiance of His Eucharistic Face and the warmth of His Open Heart. Saint Peter Julian says it this way: “They should bind themselves to defend always and under all circumstances the interests and the honour of Jesus Christ, and by every possible means to multiply visits to the Blessed Sacrament as well as frequent and daily Communion. In a word, in all their actions, they should unite with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the Eternal High Priest, the Model of the grace of the priesthood.”

Monsieur Vincent et Mère Mectilde

When Saints Help Saints
I have long believed that saints, like the fruit of the vine, grow in clusters. The history of the saints in every age bears this out. Saint Vincent de Paul was no exception. He was in relation with a myriad of other holy souls of France’s Grand Siècle, the age of what Henri Brémond called her “mystical invasion.”

Saint Vincent de Paul
The ravages of The Thirty Years War in Mother Mectilde’s native Lorraine stirred Saint Vincent de Paul to an active compassion. As soon as Monsieur Vincent was informed of the woes that we desolating the Lorraine, he moved quickly to collect offerings everywhere. He sent to this unfortunate country twelve of his missionaries to whom he joined some brothers of his Congregation, who had secrets to treat the plague and knew medicine and surgery. Thus did Saint Vincent’s Congregation of the Mission bring relief to those distressed by the war, those turned out of their homes and reduced to a miserable poverty.

Homeless Benedictines
In 1639 Mother Mectilde and her Benedictines were among the many refugees of the War in wandering from place to place in search of a home. One of Saint Vincent’s priests, a certain Julien Guérin, sought to arrange for hospitality at the Abbey of Montmartre in Paris. The Lady Abbess of Montmartre refused to receive the homeless Benedictines professed to the same Rule as herself and the nuns of her great abbey; she argued that the admission of strangers into religious houses caused disorder, and that it was better to refuse the nuns hospitality than to have to turn them out later for unsuitable conduct.

Pilgrimage to Benoîte-Vaux
Mother Mectilde was saddened but undaunted. Five leagues away from Saint-Mihiel, towards the city of Verdun, a little to the left of the course of the Meuse, there was valley made famous by the miraculous revelation of a statue of the Blessed Virgin to a group of lumberjacks, and by the manifestation of Angels singing Ave Maria. (Interesting detail: Had Mother Mectilde followed the Meuse north, she would have arrived in Tegelen in The Netherlands where her daughters have a monastery to this day.) The sanctuary built on the spot was a place of pilgrimage. Mother Mectilde, together with two other nuns, set out on foot for the sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Benoîte-Vaux on 1 August 1641. Upon arrival there, they entrusted their written petition to a Premonstratensian in attendance, who placed it on the altar. Prostrate at the feet of the Blessed Virgin, Mother Mectilde and her companions spent the whole night imploring her protection and assistance. They heard Holy Mass and received Holy Communion at 4:00 in the morning on the second day of August; it was the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. With all possible fervour they recommended their sorry plight again to the Mother of God.

To Paris
When they returned to Saint-Mihiel, it was obvious to all who saw Mother Mectilde and her two companions that they had received extraordinary graces; they seemed transfigured. Much later, Mother Mectilde let slip a few words that intimated that, in the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, Our Lady revealed to her God’s designs on her life. A few days later, a commissary of Monsieur Vincent, named Mathieu Renard, asked to see the prioress and, with no preliminaries, said, “I have come, Mother, to take two of your religious to Montmartre, I have orders to do this, and Madame the Duchess of Aiguillon has provided me with money for the journey.” What happened at Montmartre that caused the Abbess to have so complete a change of heart? On the very night that Mother Mectilde and her companions were praying at the sanctuary of Benoîte-Vaux, the Lady Abbess of Montmartre woke up all of a sudden and summoned the two religious who slept in her bedchamber to look after her in illness. The Abbess was in a dreadful state of fright. She said that it seemed to her that she saw the Most Holy Virgin and her Divine Son reproaching her for her lack of hospitality to the poor homeless Benedictines in the Lorraine; they threatened her with a rigourous judgment should they, through her fault, perish in their misery and need. The next day the Abbess convened her senior religious; all agreed that they had to execute the manifest will of God.

Paris, Saint Louise de Marillac and Saint Vincent de Paul
Mother Mectilde and Mother Louise were chosen to go to Montmartre. They began their journey on 21 August and arrived in Paris on August 28, 1642. Matthieu Renard led them to the home of Mademoiselle Legras (Saint Louise de Marillac) in the Faubourg Saint Martin. Saint Louise de Marillac received the homeless Benedictines with an exquisite charity. The next morning, Mother Mectilde and her companions were presented to Saint Vincent de Paul. The very same day the doors of the grand Abbey of Montmartre opened to welcome them. Once the Lady Abbess had met Mother Mectilde, she wanted nothing more than to keep her at the Abbey of Montmartre.

Towards a New Beginning
It was in uncertainty and poverty that Mother Mectilde de Bar arrived in Paris. After vicissitudes too many to be counted, it was in Paris that Mectilde de Bar laid the foundations of the Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament.

Our Own Need
Seven years ago, my own little Benedictine community was searching for a permanent home to allow our vocation of Eucharistic adoration and intercession for priests to grow and flourish. We entrusted our need and our search to Saint Vincent de Paul. He who helped Mectilde de Bar was not indifferent to our plight. He guided us all the way to Silverstream in County Meath. For this, I want, today, to give public thanks to Saint Vincent.

Supplica to Saint Vincent de Paul

Thank You to Saint Vincent de Paul
A Supplica is a prayer of supplication composed according to a certain literary genre that remains popular in Italy to this day. The most famous of these prayers would be the Supplica to the Queen of the Holy Rosary of Pompei composed by Blessed Bartolo Longo. Nearly every parish or chapel in southern Italy has a Supplica to its patron saint recited by all the people in unison on the saint’s feast. On 19 July 2011 I was inspired to write a Supplica to Saint Vincent de Paul. I asked his intercession for my monastery, trusting that he would find us a suitable permanent home. He did. Thank you, Saint Vincent de Paul. Here, then, is the Supplica to Saint Vincent that I wrote and first prayed seven years ago today.

O glorious Saint Vincent de Paul,
priest of Jesus Christ,
servant of the poor,
consoler of the sorrowful,
father of orphans,
providence of the homeless,
giver of alms to the destitute,
enlightened guide of souls,
compassionate visitor of the imprisoned,
attentive nurse of the sick,
comfort of the dying,
zealous teacher of the clergy,
who can describe the innumerable works of thy charity,
and who can measure the hospitality of thy heart?

The weak and the infirm,
the wounded and the needy,
the unloved and the shamed
all find a place in the folds of thy great protecting mantle.
Never did one of Christ’s poor turn to thee in distress
without receiving from thee the alms of thy mercy
for soul and body.

O thou, Apostle of Charity,
O thou, Image of Jesus Christ,
thou in whom the Heart of Christ burns
with an inextinguishable fire,
look upon us in our present need.
Consider that we too are poor, weak, and without earthly resources.
We cast ourselves upon the infinite mercy of Divine Providence,
and place our trust in thy pleading on our behalf.

We know that thou wilt obtain for us
an answer to our prayer,
a solution to our pressing plight
and, above all else,
the grace of entire abandonment to the adorable Will of God,
outside of which we desire nothing.

Support the monks of Silverstream Priory:

Situated amidst pasture land and forest in the eastern reaches of County Meath, Silverstream Priory was founded in 2012 at the invitation of the Most Reverend Michael Smith, Bishop of Meath, and canonically erected as an autonomous monastery of diocesan right on 25 February 2017. The property belonged, from the early 15th century, to the Preston family, premier Viscounts of Ireland and Lords of Gormanston. In 1843 Thomas Preston (1817-1903), son of Jenico Preston, the 12th Viscount (1775-1860), built what today is Silverstream Priory.

Silverstream Priory is a providential realisation of the cherished project of Abbot Celestino Maria Colombo, O.S.B. (1874–1935), who, following the impetus given by Catherine–Mectilde de Bar in the 17th century, sought to establish a house of Benedictine monks committed to ceaseless prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation. The community of Silverstream Priory holding to the use of Latin and Gregorian Chant, celebrate the Divine Office in its traditional Benedictine form and Holy Mass in the “Usus Antiquior” of the Roman Rite. Praying and working in the enclosure of the monastery, the monks of Silverstream keep at heart the sanctification of priests labouring in the vineyard of the Lord. They undertake various works compatible with their monastic vocation, notably the development of the land and gardens, hospitality to the clergy in need of a spiritual respite, scholarly work, and publishing.

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