Author Archives: joandarc

St. John of Capistrano (1386-1456): “Initiative, Organization, Activity”

St. John Capistrano

Today, October 23rd, the universal Church celebrates the Feast Day of St. John Capistrano.

John lived in a most tumultuous time.  People were suffering from the Bubonic plague, with one-third of the population dying from this horrible disease.  One can only imagine the deplorable atmosphere and the fear involved.  Additionally, England and France were at war and the Western Schism had split the Catholic Church with two or more individuals claiming the Holy See.

He received a superb education and had many talents, including preaching and negotiating.  At the age of 26, he was proclaimed Governor of Perugia.  Whilst he was in prison after a battle against the Malatestas, he went through a process of conversion and decided to reform his life.  Accordingly, he became a Franciscan novitiate at the age of 30, then ordained as a Catholic priest four years later.

John and 12 Franciscans were welcomed into central Europe, as they preached  so wonderfully, giving the people hope and stability during a time of great confusion and difficulty.

The Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, wherein John was appointed to preach one of the Crusades during this time to defend Europe.  He concentrated his noble work in Hungary, leading the army to Belgrade, wherein under General John Hunyadi, they were victorious.  After this battle, he suffered from an infection and died on October 23, 1456.

An entity in Brussels named their organization after John.  Their motto patterned John’s holy qualities, to-wit:  “Initiative, Organization, Activity.”  John was never lazy and worked very hard in his life to bring Our Lord to people and to fight for his Faith and for the right.

He was buried in Villach, wherein the Governor of that place had this inscribed upon his tombstone:

“This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a  man worthy of praise, defender and promoter of the Faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine, praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven.”

Dear St. John, please help us to be bold, courageous and effective today, as we shine our Light for the Lord.  Help us to bring faith, hope and love to everyone we encounter, not being afraid to  speak and live the Truth just as you did.

St.  John, please pray for us!

St. Francis of Assisi – Happy Feast Day – October 4th!

st_francis-animals

I cannot tell you how much St. Francis has helped me in my life with all of the wonderful creatures that Our Dear Lord has entrusted to me, protecting and healing them.  St. Francis is one of my favorite saints, and I love him very much, a “giant” of holiness.  Today, the Universal Church celebrates his Feast Day.

Dante Alighieri, the famous poet, the author of the Divine Comedy, said of St. Francis, “A sun was born into the world.”  Francis was born at the end of 1181 or the beginning of 1182, to a rich family, his father being a successful cloth merchant and being raised by an adoring French mother.  He lived a carefree life, most interested in chivalrous ideals and chivalrous dreams of greatness and nobility.  Francis, age 20, participated in a military campaign, was taken prisoner and later released because he was so very ill.  This illness caused Francis to search his soul and look inward to his purpose in life, to determine and define what was important in life.  He had abandoned his worldly lifestyle and began to notice the beauty, purpose and virtues of God’s creatures, whom he loved and how they lived in simplicity.

One day, Francis rode the plain of Assisi and noticed a disfigured and horrible looking leper man.  Francis got off his horse, wherein the leper outstretched his hands to receive alms.  But Francis did more than give him money, he kissed the leper because he saw Jesus in Him, he saw “Jesus in disguise,” as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say – an event that changed Francis’ life.

After his exchange with the leper, Francis visited hospitals, served the sick and the forgotten, gave clothes and money to those who needed it.  On a particular day in or about 1205, Francis was praying at the Church of St. Damian outside the walls of Assisi when he heard a voice, an interior instruction that he took to heart, “Francis, go and repair my house, which you see is falling down.”  Francis thought that Our Lord meant to repair that specific Church, when indeed and in fact Our Lord was referring Francis to renew and repair His Church.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us, “…that at that moment, St. Francis was called to repair the small church, but the ruinous state of the building was a symbol of the dramatic and disquieting situation of the Church herself.  At that time, the Church had a superficial faith which did not shape or transform life, a scarcely religious clergy, and a chilling of love.  It was an interior destruction of the Church which also brought a decomposition of unity, with the birth of heretical movements.  Yet, there at the centre of the Church in ruins was the Crucified Lord, and he spoke:  He called for renewal, He called Francis to the manual labour of repairing the small Church of St. Damian, the symbol of a much deeper call to Renew Christ’s own Church, with her radicality of faith and her loving enthusiasm for Christ.”

Francis took clothes and supplies from his father’s storage house, selling these items, as well as selling his father’s horse.  He brought these monies to the priest at St. Damian, but the priest would not take the money, Francis leaving the money on a window sill.  Francis’ father learned what had happened and demanded that Francis return everything that he had taken from him, reporting the matter to Bishop Guido of Assisi.  The Bishop told Francis to return these monies to his father, “He (God) does not wish His Church to profit by goods which may have been gotten unjustly.”  Francis responded, “The clothes I wear are also his.  I’ll give them back.”  He stripped off his clothes and gave them to his father saying, “Hitherto I have called you father on earth; but now I say, ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven. “ Clothes of a laborer were found and given to Francis, wherein Francis made a cross upon the cloth with some chalk and left.

Pope Benedict tells us about another event that comes to mind , of the dream of Pope Innocent III in 1207.  “…he saw the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the mother of all churches, collapsing and one small and insignificant brother, whom the Pope recognized as Francis , when Francis later visited him.”  Pope Benedict goes on to say, “…it is important to note that St. Francis does not renew the Church without or in opposition to the Pope, but only in communion with him.  The two realities go together:  the Successor of Peter, the Bishops, the Church founded on the succession of the Apostles and the new charism that the Holy Spirit brought to life at that time for the Church’s renewal.  Authentic renewal grew from these together.”

In 1208, Francis lived as a hermit, but then had another internal transformation, affected by the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ discourse to the apostles whom he sent out to evangelize and teach the nations.  Accordingly, Francis went out just as the apostles did to teach by example, living in poverty and preaching the Gospel.  He had other brothers, companions who followed his way of life.  On one particular day, Francis told the brothers they were going to preach.  Francis and his band of brothers walked through a town but said nothing.  One of the brothers asked Francis why they didn’t preach.  Francis told him that they did preach saying, “Preach the Gospel constantly, and when necessary, use words.”  It was, therefore, Francis’ incredible example of holiness, and that of the brother companions, that taught the people of God.

In 1209 Francis and his brother companions travelled to Rome to propose to Pope Innocent III the plan for a new kind of Christian life.  The Pope welcomed Francis and of course, recognized Francis from the dream that he had.  The Pope welcomed Francis and encouraged him.  Pope Benedict XVI tells us that “St. Francis really did have an extremely intimate relationship with Jesus and with the word of God, that he wanted to pursue …: just as it is, in all its radicality and truth.  It is also true that initially he did not intend to create an Order with the necessary canonical forms.  Rather, he simply wanted, through the word of God and the presence of the Lord, to renew the People of God, to call them back to listening to the Word and to literal obedience to Christ.  Furthermore, he knew that Christ was never “mine” but is always “ours”, that “I” cannot possess Christ that “I” cannot rebuild in opposition to the Church, her will and her teaching.  Instead, it is only in communion with the Church built on the Apostolic succession that obedience too, to the Word of God can be renewed.”  And Pope Benedict goes on to say that “Francis knew that the centre of the Church is the Eucharist, where the Body of Christ and His Blood are made present through the priesthood, the Eucharist and the communion of the Church.  Wherever the priesthood and the Eucharist and the Church come together, it is there alone that the world of God also dwells.  The real historical Francis was the Francis of the Church, and precisely in this way he continues to speak to non-believers and believers of other confessions and religions as well.”  Indeed and in fact, in St. Francis’ “First Admonition,” he says very passionately:

“Wherefore, O you sons of men, how long will you be dull of heart (Ps. 4,3)?  Why do you not recognize the truth and believe in the Son of God (John 9, 35)?  Behold:  daily he humbles himself (Phil 2,8) as when from heaven’s royal throne (Wisd 18, 15) he came down into the womb of the Virgin.  Daily He Himself comes to us with like humility; daily he descends from the bosom of the Father (John 1, 18; 6, 38) upon the altar in the hands of the priest.  And as he appeared to the Apostles in true flesh, so now also he shows himself to us in the sacred bread.  And as they by their bodily sight saw only His flesh, yet contemplating Him with the eyes of the spirit believed Him to be very God, so we also, as we see our bodily eyes the bread and wine, are to see and firmly believe that it is His most holy body and blood living and true.  And in this way, the Lord is always with His faithful, as he Himself says:  “Behold, I am with you until the end of the world (Mt 28, 20).”

And in the writings of St. Francis, (Francis of Assisi, Scritti, Editrici Francescane, Padova 2002, 401), Pope Benedict reminds us of the love that Francis had for Jesus in a special way in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, “Let everyone be struck with fear, let the whole world tremble, and let the heavens exult, when Christ, the Son of the living God, is present on the altar in the hands of a priest.  Oh stupendous dignity!  O humble sublimity, that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles himself that for our salvation He hides himself under an ordinary piece of bread.”

Francis and his friars became numerous and established themselves at the Portiuncula, or the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the center of Franciscan spirituality.  Clare, a young woman of Assisi from a noble and wealthy family loved Franciscan spirituality, and established the Order of Poor Clares, the second Franciscan order.

Pope Innocent III’s Successor, Pope Honorius III, in 1218, issued a “Bull” which is a formal document, a pronouncement, which supported Francis and his development of the first Friars Minor, who began to spread the Gospel to other European countries, and even in Morocco.  In 1220, Francis visited the Holy Land, sowed the seed which is evident in today’s world, making this place the Site for the Order, showing today the great merits of the Franciscans in the Holy Land.  After Francis returned to Italy from his missions, he developed his “Rule” which was approved by the Pope.

Francis also had great communication skills with God’s creatures and control of them, a gift given to Him by God.  “His love for and power over the lower animals were noted and often referred to by those who knew him:  his rebuke to the swallows while he was preaching at Alvian, “My sisters the swallows, it is now my turn to speak.  You have been talking enough all this time;” the birds that perched around him while he told them to praise their Creator; the rabbit that would not leave him at Lake Trasimene; and the tamed wolf at Gubbio…”  Francis even had a pet falcon that he loved very much, who accompanied him where he went.

In 1224, Francis saw a vision of Jesus crucified in the form of a seraph, and after that vision, received the stigmata from the Seraph Crucifix, becoming one with the Crucified Jesus.  Francis, thus, suffered with the wounds of Christ.  Francis died humbly, on the earthen floor, on October 3, 1226, in the Portiuncula with his brother friars.

Pope Benedict XVI I believe summarizes St. Francis beautifully.  He said:  “It has been said that Francis represents an alter Christus, that he was truly a living icon of Christ…Indeed, this was his ideal: to be like Jesus, to contemplate Christ in the Gospel, to love him intensely and to imitate his virtues.  In particular, he wished to ascribe interior and exterior poverty with a fundamental value, which he also taught to his spiritual sons.  The first Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3) found a luminous fulfilment in the life and words of St. Francis.  Truly, dear friends, the saints are the best interpreters of the Bible.  As they incarnate the word of God in their own lives, they make it more captivating then ever, so that it really speaks to us.  The witness of Francis, who loved poverty as a means to follow Christ with dedication and total freedom, continues to be for us too an invitation to cultivate interior poverty in order to grow in our trust of God, also by adopting a sober lifestyle and a detachment from material goods…”

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI  says, “Dear friends, Francis was a great Saint and a joyful man.  His simplicity, his humility, his faith, his love for Christ, his goodness towards every man and every woman, brought him gladness in every circumstance.  Indeed, there subsists an intimate and indissoluble relationship between holiness and joy.  A French writer once wrote that there is only one sorrow in the world:  not to be saints, that is, not to be near to God.  Looking at the testimony of St. Francis, we understand that this is the secret of true happiness:  to become saints, close to God!”

Happy Feast Day, dearest St. Francis!  I hope you are having a big party in heaven today with Our Lord, the Blessed Mother Mary whom you loved and honored, with the angels and the saints, along with all of God’s blessed creatures!  I love you!

Sources: General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI, Paul VI Audience Hall, January 27, 2010, website of the vatican, the “Holy See”

“The Body of the Lord,” website of the vatican, the “Holy See”

One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group

The “Little Flower” – St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus

Today is the feast day of one of my most favorite saints: St. Thérèse of Lisieux, better known as St. Thérèse of the Little Flower. FOTM, therefore, is re-publishing Joan’s post from last year in honor of this lovely soul.

~Eowyn

St. Thérèse of Lisieux at age 24

My first introduction to the Saints came from my beautiful mother, Mary Agnes, when I was a five-year-old girl.  She took my hand and asked me to sit on the chrome kitchen stool that had red vinyl on the top of it.  She brought over to me a book called, “The Treasure Book.”  She said that she wanted to teach me about the Saints in heaven, and especially about one lady whom she admired and loved.  We looked at the book together and she came to the page that she wanted, as I awaited with excitement.  My mother paged to “The Little Flower,” whose Feast Day we celebrate today, October 1st.  I looked at all of the lovely pictures.  My mother then read to me the Little Flower’s life story and told me something that I will always remember, and have remembered, all of my life.  My mother said to never forget St. Therese’s “Little Way,” to do all things, no matter how small, with great love, and your actions will rise to heaven to Jesus, making Him very happy.  My mother served as a wonderful example to me of the “Little Way” as I have been trying to model my life after it.

St. Therese was born on January 2, 1873, the youngest of five children, to Louis Martin, a watchmaker of Alencon and Azelie-Marie Guerin, a maker of point d’Alencon (lace and fabric).  She enjoyed a very happy childhood, was highly intelligent and full of enthusiastic love of life.  She enjoyed her sisters and loved to be in plays, thoroughly enjoying acting as Joan of Arc, whom she admired very much.

In 1877, Therese’s mother died and her father sold her business at Alencon and went to live at Lisieux, so that his daughters’ aunt, Madame Guerin, could help him with his children from time to time, even though Marie, Therese’s older sister, ran the household and Pauline, the eldest sister, made herself responsible for the religious upbringing of her sisters.

Pauline entered the Carmel at Lisieux and Therese began to be drawn to that same vocation.  Therese went to the school run by the Benedictine nuns of Notre-Dame-du-Pre.  When Therese was nearly fourteen, Marie joined Pauline in the Carmel.  On Christmas Eve of that same year, Therese underwent an experience that she later referred to as her “conversion.”  She said, “On that blessed night the sweet child Jesus, scarcely an hour old, filled the darkness of my soul with floods of light.  By becoming weak and little, for love of me, He made me strong and brave; He put His own weapons into my hands so that I went on from strength to strength, beginning, if I may say so, ‘to run as a giant.’ “

During the next year, Therese told her father that she also wanted to enter Carmel, but because she was 14, the Carmelites and the Bishop of Bayeux refused to hear of her desires because she was too young.  A few months later, being in Rome with her father, Therese visited with Pope Leo XIII, saying to the Pope, “In honor of your jubilee, allow me to enter Carmel at fifteen.”  Pope Leo was impressed with Therese, but upheld her superiors’ decision and told her, “You shall enter if it be God’s will,” dismissing her with kindness.  But at the end of the year, Biship Hugonin gave his permission to Therese, and she entered the Carmel at Lisieux, professing on September 8, 1890.  A few days before she professed, she wrote this to Pauline, known as Mother Agnes-of-Jesus:

“Before setting out my Betrothed asked me which way and through what country I would travel.  I replied that I had only one wish: to reach the height of the mountain of Love….Then our Savior took me by the hand and led me into a subterranean way, where it is neither hot nor cold, where the sun never shines, where neither rain nor wind find entrance: a tunnel where I see nothing but a half-veiled light, the brightness shining from the eyes of Jesus looking down….I wish at all costs to win the palm of St. Agnes.  If it cannot be by blood it must be by love….”

One of the principal duties of a Carmelite nun is to pray for priests, which St. Therese did with great fervor and devotion, carrying out also the austere lifestyle of the Carmelite Order.  In 1893, Therese, now 20, served to assist the novice mistress and was in fact the mistress in all but not in name.  And in that capacity, she said:

“From afar it seems easy to do good to souls, to make them love God more, to mold them according to our own ideas and views.  But coming closer we find, on the contrary, that to do good without God’s help is as impossible as to make the sun shine at night….What costs me most is being obliged to observe every fault and smallest imperfection and wage deadly war against them.”  During this time with the novices under her care, inspired by the Word of God and inspired by the Gospel to place love at the center of everything, she discovered the “Little Way” of spiritual childhood and taught it to the novices.

Therese’s sister, Celine, cared for their Father who died in 1894.  Thereafter, Celine also entered Carmel.  In 1895, Therese wrote her first autobiographical manuscript, which she presented to Mother Agnes for her birthday on January 21, 1896.  Several months later, Therese experienced a hemorrhage at the mouth.  This happened at the same time Therese had planned to respond to help the Carmelites at Hanoi.  But the last eighteen months of her life was a time of great trial, a time of horrible suffering and spiritual darkness.  Therese said, “I have never given the good God aught but love, and it is with love that He will repay.  After my death I will let fall a shower of roses.  I will spend my Heaven in doing good upon earth.  My ‘Little Way’ is the way of spiritual childhood, the way of trust and absolute self-surrender.”  While she was suffering, she continued to write another manuscript.  Her sisters and other religious women collected her sayings.

On September 30, 1897, she said, “I am not dying, I am entering life….My God…, I love you!”  At the age of 24, Therese died.

Her teaching and example of holiness was received by not only the Catholic Church and Catholics, but by other Christians and non-Christians.  She was canonized by Pope Pius XI on May 17, 1925, having proclaimed Therese Universal Patron of the Missions, alongside St. Francis Xavier, on December 14, 1927.

“On 24 August, at the close of the Eucharistic Celebration at the Twelfth World Youth Day in Paris, in the presence of hundreds of bishops and before an immense crowd of young people from the whole world, Pope John Paul II announced his intention to proclaim Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face a Doctor of the Universal Church on World Mission Sunday, 19 October 1997.” 

Accordingly, this Little Flower serves as a Doctor of the Church with her “Little Way” to teach all men and women to love Our Lord and to give Him everything we have, to serve Him in our vocation, whatever it may be, and to do all things, no matter how small, with great love.

Sources:

The Life of Saint Therese of Lisieux, Vatican website “Holy See”

One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press, Compilation Copyright @ 1993 By Little, Brown and Company, Inc.

Edith Stein – now St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith SteinEdith Stein (l) became St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (r).

First of all, I want to thank the Holy, Mighty and Eternal Triune God for allowing me to see so well now after my recent left-eye cataract surgery.  This process took my left eye several weeks to heal, whereupon new glasses were fitted and I picked them up Tuesday.  Just before my surgery, I mentioned to Dr. Eowyn that the post had to be done on Edith Stein, thinking that her Feast Day was in July, whereupon I discovered that it was actually on August 9th.  Therefore, I am able to draft this post myself now and am joyful to do so for such a brilliant and holy lady, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (1891-1942).

Edith was born into a prominent and well-respected Jewish family in Breslau (now Wroclaw), Poland.  She abandoned her Jewish faith whilst she was a teenager.  In fact, at the age of fourteen she was an atheist.  Edith, while a student at the University of Gottingen, became fascinated by phenomenology as an approach to the study of philosophy; indeed, her mentor was Edmund Husserl, one of the leading phenomenologists.  In 1916, Edith earned a doctorate in philosophy and served as a university professor until 1922, at which time she moved to a Dominican school in Speyer.  She was a lecturer at the Educational Institute of Munich, but that position ended because of the influence and policies of the Nazis.

It was at this time in 1922, at or around October 15th, that Edith met Our Lord Jesus Christ by reading the autobiography of one of the great Doctors of the Catholic Church, also a mystic, St. Teresa of Avila.  This began her spiritual journey to being baptized a Catholic in 1922.  Twelve years later, she imitated St. Teresa of Avila by becoming a Carmelite nun, taking the name, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Sister Teresa then lived at the Cologne Carmel  (1934-1938), moving to reside in the Carmelite monastery in Echt in the Netherlands, a country that was occupied by the Nazis.  The Dutch bishops publicly renounced Hitler and Nazism, which motivated revenge and retaliation, whereupon all Dutch Jews who had become Christians were arrested.  Thus, Sister Teresa and her sister Rosa, who also became a Catholic, were both executed in a gas chamber in the concentration camp in Auschwitz on August 9, 1942.  Whilst she was at this camp, she was kind and encouraging to those who suffered there.  Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1987 and she was canonized as a saint twelve years later.  During the canonization Mass, Pope John Paul II stated in his homily:

“Because she was Jewish, Edith Stein was taken with her sister Rosa and many other Catholics and Jews from the Netherlands to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, where she died with them in the gas chambers.  Today we remember them all with deep respect.  A few days before her deportation, the woman religious had dismissed the question about a possible rescue:  “Do not do it!  Why should I be spared?  Is it not right that I should gain no advantage from my baptism?  If I cannot share the lot of my brothers and sisters, my life, in a certain sense, is destroyed.” 

The Pope then said to all present at this Mass, “Your life is not an endless series of open doors!  Listen to your heart!  Do not stay on the surface but go to the heart of things!  And when the time is right, have the courage to decide!  The Lord is waiting for you to put your freedom in his good hands.” 

I construe this as a directive to “Get to the Point” of your life by serving God and His people with true love and courage, standing up for Truth and for your Faith.  I say, everything else will then follow. . .

I have always admired this great lady because of her sincere search for Truth, and when she found it, she gave up everything for Him, for Our Dear Lord, for her Catholic Faith.  She used her brilliance to serve the Triune God and His people, with great love, bravery, kindness and passion.

St. Teresa was a prolific writer, and her writings fill seventeen volumes, many of which have been translated into English.  She sought truth in her life, finding that Truth was actually a Person, Jesus.  One of her findings included in part, “Truth Is Love, and Love Is Truth.”  I can only imagine that a great celebration is taking place in heaven with the members of the Church Triumphant over this most exemplary and amazing lady!

With deep respect and love,

Joan

Source:  Saint of the Day, Sixth Revised Edition, Edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist

InfantJesus_JohnBaptistJohn the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting in the 1600s by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo

Today, June 24th, the universal Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Martyr, and Forerunner Prophet to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is important to remember that John the Baptist was related to Our Lord Jesus. When the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary, Our Lady, that she would be the Mother of the Savior, he also told her that her cousin, Elizabeth, who was past child bearing age, would bear a son and that she must visit her, telling her that “nothing is impossible with God.” The child born to Elizabeth was John the Baptist. Mary did visit Elizabeth who greeted her with, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

If anyone “tells it like it is,” it is John the Baptist. He was not afraid to confront Herod and Herodias, reminding them that it was a sin for them to be together since Herodias’ husband was still alive. He shouted this fact to these self-proclaimed royals and the Jewish people knew that John was telling the truth. He warned them to repent for the coming of the Lord is near.

John lived the life of an ascetic in the desert, eating locusts and honey and whatever else the desert provided. John knew that his purpose in life was to prepare the way of the Lord. He encouraged those who came to listen to him to repent, to amend their lives and to be baptized. But John acknowledged to the people that One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, that he was not even worthy to carry his sandals. I think one of the most important communications from John is, that “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30) This is something we all must do; we must die to ourselves and let the Triune God increase, being a Light that shines to others of His presence.

Our Lord Jesus Christ came to John to be baptized and John was utterly amazed saying, “I need to be baptized by you.” (Matthew 3:14). Nevertheless, Jesus insisted that he needed baptism from him saying, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) Jesus set this example to the Jewish people fulfilling what good Jews should do with their lives – repent and amend their lives.

John had many disciples coming from all over the area to be baptized. But John always deferred to the coming of the Messiah, and that it was the Lord whom they must follow. John lived an austere life in complete discipline and penance, for he knew that he must “Prepare the Way of the Lord,” and that no other trappings could have any import in his life or his purpose.

Although the Church honors St. Stephen as the first Christian martyr, I believe that St. John the Baptist was the first martyr for Our Lord Jesus Christ. Because St. John confronted Herod and Herodias with their sin, he was put in Herod’s prison to suffer. Herodias took her revenge upon St. John. Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod, wherein Herod told her before she danced that he would grant her any wish or privilege she desired if she danced for him, “unto the half of his kingdom.” After she danced, her request was to have the head of St. John the Baptist delivered to her on a platter. Accordingly, St. John was martyred, being the final Prophet preparing God’s people for the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Dear St. John the Baptist, we face terrible “in your face evil” in the world at this time. Please help us to fight this evil and to be loving soldiers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to not be afraid to call evil, evil, and good, good as you did to Herod and Herodias. We ask that you help us to speak plainly and boldly, acknowledging Our Lord Jesus Christ both in word and in deed. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

Respectfully,

Joan

Sources: Holy Scriptures

Do This in Remembrance of Me

“This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” ~Luke 22:19

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Today is a day of joyous significance when we commemorate and celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist, which is the definitive meaning of the Jewish Passover.

The word “Eucharist” is an action of thanksgiving to Our Lord, from the Greek words, “eucharistein and eulogein.” (Lk 22:19, 1 Cor 11:24; Mt 26:26; Mk. 14:22) As such, “Eucharist” recalls the Jewish tradition about the blessings that are announced particularly during a meal regarding God’s works of creation, redemption, and sanctification.

The following dialogue took place while Jesus was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, which is set forth in John 6: 22-71. It is the occasion of the first announcement of the Holy Eucharist — Corpus Christi or the Body of Christ.

Jesus says in John 6:48-58:

“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. The Jews quarreled amongst themselves saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

John continues in 6:60-69:

“Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it.?” “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Accordingly, Jesus chose the time of the Passover, the eve of His Passion, to fulfill what he had announced previously when he was teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum – giving His Body and His Blood to His disciples.

In Luke 22:7-8, we are told, “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.”

With this command, the disciples did as Jesus had commanded and made the necessary preparations. Then it is revealed in Luke 22:14-20:

“When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him.  He said to them, I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying,“This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper saying,“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my Blood…

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains in 1340-1344:

“By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus’ passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the Kingdom.” 

And, “The command of Jesus to repeat his actions and words “until he comes” does not only ask us to remember Jesus and what he did. It is directed at the liturgical celebration, by the apostles and their successors of the memorial of Christ, of his life, of his death, of his Resurrection, and of his intercession in the presence of the Father.

From the beginning the Church has been faithful to the Lord’s command.  Of the Church of Jerusalem it is written:  “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . .Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.”( Acts 2:42, 46.)

It was above all on “the first day of the week,” Sunday, the day of Jesus’ Resurrection, that the Christians met “to break bread.” ( Acts 20:7.)  From that time on down to our own day the celebration of the Eucharist has been continued so that today we encounter it everywhere in the Church with the same fundamental structure.  It remains the center of the Church’s life.  Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the Paschal mystery of Jesus “until he comes”, the pilgrim People of God advances, “following the narrow way of the cross,” toward the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table of the kingdom.” 

Jesus came to make a new Covenant with not just Jews, but with all who believe in Him — Jew and Gentile. On this wonderful Feast of Corpus Christi, we are reminded that the manna given by God to the Israelites while they were trying to survive in the harsh desert is replaced by Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ.

“This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” ~Luke 22:19

The Holy Eucharist is our manna which the Lord Jesus has chosen to feed and nourish us, through which He gives Himself to us, during our remembrance of His sacrifice, in Mass.

~Joan & Eowyn

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher

This is the first in FOTM’s new series on the Celestial Army. (Please see my post, “Calling on the Army of Angels and Saints,” for the reason for this series.)

Today, June 22nd, is the Feast Day of St. Thomas More and tomorrow, on June 23rd, is the Feast Day of St. John Fisher — two very brave men who died for the Truth, for their Faith, and for Christ.

Their joint feast day is a timely reminder to Christians in America that we, too, are called to defend our Faith against the Obama administration’s assault on Catholic institutions, under the guise of Obamacare’s contraceptives mandate. Today, it’s Catholics; tomorrow, it will be the Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Evangelicals….

St. Thomas More

Thomas was born in 1478 in England. His father, John, was a barrister and a judge and his mother was Agnes. He received his childhood education at St. Anthony’s school and, at age 13, was received into the household of Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury who was impressed with the lad. Thomas was then sent to Oxford, where he studied at Canterbury College.

Thomas thought he might have a calling to the priesthood and for four years he lived with the London Carthusian monks. However, he did not find a calling to the priesthood. Thomas then studied law and was called to the Bar in 1501 and in 1504 he entered Parliament. In 1505 he married Jane Colt and they had four children, Margaret, Elizabeth, Cecilia and John. Thomas was adamant that his daughters received a scholarly education just like his son. Many religious and learned people of London visited Thomas and his family in their home which was known as a congenial center of learning. In 1510 Jane died, but he later married Alice Middleton, a widow. In 1516, Thomas wrote Utopia, a work of fiction and political philosophy.

Thomas was brought to King Henry VIII’s court and in October of 1529, appointed Lord Chancellor of England, the highest office in England under the King. Thomas became a friend and confidant of Henry VIII, as the King had great respect for Thomas, admiring his intellect, wit, good judgment and holiness.

Henry VIII desired to obtain an annulment from the Pope to his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Pope Clement VII refused to grant an annulment, finding no valid grounds. Henry was enraged at this denial and forced the English clergy to acknowledge him as “Protector and Supreme Head of the Church of England.”

At this, Thomas resigned as Chancellor; his property confiscated by the King. Thomas and his family became poverty stricken. For 18 months he lived in quiet austerity, engaging himself in writing and with the needs of the household. After King Henry married Anne Boleyn, Thomas refused to attend her coronation.

On March 30, 1534, the Act of Succession provided that the King’s subjects take an oath, which required all English subjects to agree to three clauses: that any heir or offspring of Henry and Anne was a legitimate heir to the throne; that the marriage between Henry and Catherine was null and void; and that the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, had no more authority or power in England than any other bishop. Anyone who refused to sign the oath was guilty of high treason punishable by death.

On April 13, 1534, Thomas and John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, were given the oath to sign, but they both refused to sign it because of the latter two clauses. Consequently, on April 17, 1534, both Thomas and Fisher were imprisoned in the Tower of London. During this time, Thomas suffered greatly, separated from his family whom he loved so much. But it was also during his incarceration that Thomas began to write the Dialogue of Comfort against Tribulation, the best of his spiritual works, and The Sadness of Christ.

Toward the man who put him in prison, Thomas not only prayed daily for Henry, he thanked the King for his imprisonment, which Thomas called “the very greatest” of “all the great benefits” the king “has heaped so thickly upon me.” With prescience, Thomas wrote to his daughter Margaret that “no matter how bad it seems,” great good would come from his death.

On February 1, 1535, the Act of Supremacy came into operation, giving the title of “only supreme head of the Church of England” to the king and made it treason to deny it. Thomas was asked while he was in the Tower his opinion of the Act, but he refused to give his opinion. On June 22nd, now-Cardinal John Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill. Nine days after, on July 1, 1535, Thomas was indicted and tried in Westminster Hall for opposing the Act of Supremacy, with false testimony from Richard Rich, the Solicitor General of Wales.

At the trial, Thomas broke his long silence and defended himself with competence, brilliance, and holiness, which intimidated his accusers and judges. He argued that, just as London lacked authority to annul an act of Parliament for the whole of England, so Parliament lacked authority to transfer governance of the Church to the king, since the Church had been entrusted by God to the bishops and the Pope. Thomas noted that this was codified in the Magna Carta 200 years earlier and affirmed in the king’s coronation oath.

Intimidated by King Henry, the jury convicted Thomas of treason. On July 6, 1535, Thomas was taken to be beheaded at Tower Hill. Weak and emaciated, he asked the Lord Lieutenant of the Tower to help him up the steps of the scaffold, but still managed wryly to quip, “As for my coming down, let me shift for myself.” A Paris newsletter published this description by an eye-witness:

“He spoke little before his execution. Only he asked that bystanders to pray for him in this world, and he would pray for them elsewhere.  He then begged them earnestly to pray for the King, that it might please God to give him good counsel, protesting that he dies the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

The husband of Thomas’ daughter, Margaret, recorded that Thomas asked those present “to pray for him, and to bear witness with him that he should now there suffer death, in and for the faith of the Holy Catholic Church.”

400 years after his martyrdom, on May 19, 1935, the bells in St. Peter’s Basilica rang with joy as Thomas More was canonized a saint, along with St. John Fisher. In November of 2000, Pope John Paul II proclaimed St. Thomas More the patron saint of politicians “for proclaiming the truth in season and out.”

St. John Fisher

John was born in 1469 in Beverly, Yorkshire, the eldest of four children of Robert and Agnes Fisher. Robert Fisher died when John was only 8; his mother remarried and had five more children. John attended Beverly grammar school and later, Cambridge University. He became Proctor of Cambridge in or about 1494, and was appointed Master Debator three years later. On July 5, 1501, he became a doctor of sacred theology; 10 days later, he was elected Vice Chancellor of the University. From 1505 to 1508, John served as the president of Queens’ College: He created scholarships, introduced Greek and Hebrew into the university curriculum, and brought in the world-famous Erasmus as Professor of Divinity and Greek. John was known as a great theologian through his writings in defense of the Sacraments, especially the priesthood and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In 1504, he became both Bishop of Rochester, the poorest diocese in England, as well as Chancellor of Cambridge. As Chancellor, he tutored then Prince Henry, who later became King Henry VIII. John loved his flock in Rochester as they also loved him, tending especially to the poor and the children.

From 1527 on forward, Bishop Fisher resolutely opposed Henry VIII’s divorce proceedings against Queen Catherine. Unlike all of the other bishops, John Fisher refused to take the Oath of Succession for the same reasons as Thomas More. Therefore, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in April of 1534. That very next year while he remained in prison, the Pope made him a Cardinal. Angered by this, Henry VIII retaliated by beheading Cardinal Fisher within a month.

A half hour before his execution on June 22, 1535, Cardinal Fisher opened his New Testament to this passage in the Gospel of John:

“Eternal life is this: to know You, the only true God, and Him Whom You have sent, Jesus Christ. I have given You glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do. Do you now, Father, give me glory at Your side.” 

Fisher then closed his New Testament and said, “There is enough learning in that to last me the rest of my life.”

William Rastell, Thomas More’s nephew, witnessed the martyrdom of Cardinal Fisher. He said that Fisher in a strong and very loud voice spoke to the large crowd, “Christian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s Catholic Church.” He asked for their prayers and prayed, “God save the king and the realm, and hold His holy hand over it, and send the king a good counsel.” He then knelt, said the hymn of praise, Te Deum, and some short prayers, laid his neck upon the block, and was executed.

On May 19, 1935, along with Thomas More, John Fisher was canonized a saint.

In his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, St. Thomas More urges us to have the courage and conviction to “die for the truth” with Christ.

We live in a time in America of a culture war against Christ and Christianity. The culture war is now a political war because of the Obama administration’s assault on religious autonomy and liberty. Against the tide of false political correctness and the threat of punishment and sanctions, will we stand firm and remain true to Christ and to our Faith?

St. Thomas and St. John so loved Jesus, they willingly died for Him. May we find inspiration in their examples as we live our faith with courage, integrity, honor and steadfastness.

We are not servants of Obama or any ruler. We are God’s servants, first and last!

~Joan

Sources:

Butler’s Lives of the Saints, edited by Michael Walsh
The King’s Good Servant But God’s First, by James Monti
Catholic Insight
Catholic Online
Catholic Wisdom, edited by John A. Hardon, S.J.