Author Archives: joandarc

The “Little Flower” – St. Therese 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.

St. Romuald (950-1027)

St. RomualdToday, June 19th, the universal Church honors St. Romuald, Founder of the Camaldolese Monks and Founder of Monasteries and Hermitages.

Romuald was born in Ravenna, Italy, in or about 951, to the Onesti’s, a noble and wealthy couple. When Romuald was young, he engaged in worldly and sinful pleasures, much like the behavior of St. Augustine of Hippo when he was a youth. When he was 20 years of age, he watched his father, Sergius degli Onesti, participate in a duel, wherein his father killed his opponent and Romuald was absolutely horrified. Accordingly, he fled to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. After reflecting for some time, he became a monk. He desired more of a strict, ascetic life, whereupon he became a hermit on a remote island in that area, with an older monk, Marinus, who was Romuald’s spiritual advisor.

Romuald spent the next 30 years of his life establishing monasteries and hermitages in Italy. He desired to preach the Gospel in Hungary and hopefully become a martyr, wherein the Pope gave him permission to accomplish this daunting challenge. Nevertheless, upon arriving in Hungary, Romuald became extremely ill and every time he tried to begin his preaching in Hungary, he became ill again and the sickness reoccurred. Therefore, Romuald abandoned this goal.

There was a period of time in his life where he experienced a kind of “dark night of the soul,” which is a dryness in spirituality. On a particular day whilst he was praying Psalm 31 (“I will give you understanding I will instruct you”), Romuald received a grace from God, an enlightenment that he had throughout the rest of his life.

At one of the monasteries where he lived, he admonished and rebuked a nobleman because of his sinful life. This nobleman falsely accused Romuald of a scandalous crime, notwithstanding the fact that the fellow monks believed this lie. Consequently, Romuald was given a strict penance, forbidden to offer Mass and excommunicated, an inappropriate sentence that he endured for six months.

The most well-known monastery he established was in Tuscany (Campus Maldoli, name of the owner). There he founded the Order of the Camaldolese Benedictines, in which a monastic life was joined with the life of a hermit.

Romuald died on June 19, 1027 at one of the monasteries he founded, the Val di Castro.

The following is the short Rule for Camaldolese monks that can be taken to heart, where we empty ourselves, say nothing, and let the Triune God speak to us, and during times of frustration, keep yourself centered on Our Lord Jesus Christ, to-wit:

Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms – never leave it.

If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind.

And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.

Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor.

Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.

Thank you St. Romuald for your loving example and your courage, determination and faith. We need more clerics like you, unafraid to identify evil and chastise it, while championing goodness and the right. Your disciplined life which prioritized the Triune God, reminds us what we must do in our life. Dear St. Romuald, pray for us and help us!

With love and respect,

Joan

Source: Vatican website; Franciscan media

St. Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860)

St Joseph CafassoToday, June 17th, the universal Church honors St. Joseph Cafasso, priest and reknown preacher.

Joseph as a youth, dearly loved the Triune God and His Catholic Faith, wherein he loved to attend Mass and participate in the Sacraments. He became a priest and was assigned to serve at the seminary in Turin. At the seminary, Father Joseph preached in part against Jansenism, a heresy that emphasized predestination and the depravity of humankind. Father Joseph used the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori and St. Frances de Sales in part to assist him in fighting against this heresy.

Father Joseph emphasized devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, the true presence, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, encouraging attendance at Mass and reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist, further reiterating as did St. Athanasius, that the Holy Eucharist is “God making Himself accessible to man.” Father Joseph spent long hours of prayer consistently in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and it was this practice that gave him strength, courage, determination and love. The following prayer set forth in a letter of St. Francis to his Order is most appropriate:

“O admirable heights and sublime lowliness! O sublime humility! O humble humility! That the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under the little form of bread! Look, brothers, at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before Him! Humble yourselves, as well, that you may be exalted by Him. Therefore, hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He Who gives Himself totally to you may receive you totally.”

Father Joseph was known as a tremendous preacher, enlightened Confessor and ardent retreat master. He especially worked with criminals, bringing them back to Our Lord.

Indeed and in fact, the famous St. John Bosco was one of Father Joseph’s students. Father John encouraged John Bosco to start the Salesian Order of priests and to work with the youth of Turin.

Father Joseph died in or about 1860 and was canonized as a saint in 1947.

Dear St. Joseph Cafasso, we thank you for your fierce defense of Truth against various heresies, especially against Jansenism, and for your defense of the Faith. We ask you to help us to have that same passion and love of Truth, and to help us remember how important it is for us to remain in the state of grace so that the Blessed Holy Trinity will reside in us as our holy, mighty and immortal guest, receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation and receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. We ask you dear ardent priest, to help us and to pray for us!

With Love and respect,

Joan

Sources: Vatican website; Franciscan Media