Author Archives: joandarc

St. Thomas Aquinas, the ‘dumb ox’

Today, Jan. 28, is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose nickname was “the dumb Sicilian ox,” because he was stout in body and slow in manner.

But the mind of St. Thomas was nothing but slow. Not only was he a superb theologian, but — without exaggeration — he one of the greatest minds in human history. Just read a piece of his writings, and you’ll see how he reasoned with unassailable logic.

That is why the Catholic Church not only honors him as a Doctor of the Church, but considers Thomas to be the Church’s greatest theologian and philosopher. I especially love St. Thomas because of his writings on angels. For that reason, he is also called “Doctor Angelicus” or the “Angelic doctor”.

FOTM, therefore, is re-publishing joandarc’s post on St. Thomas, but with this addition — a video of Fr. & Dr. Chad Ripperger on Thomas Aquinas (h/t FOTM‘s Sher):

Fr. Ripperger is the author of the tome, Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, which maintains that the science of modern psychology has not made any real progress in helping the mentally ill because it is fundamentally flawed in that “it has no true understanding of the immaterial, spiritual dimension” of human nature. Highly recommend!

~Eowyn

St. Thomas Aquinas

Today, January 28th, we celebrate one of the most illustrious and influential Saints of the Catholic Church, St. Thomas Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas is by far, the spokesman of the Catholic tradition of reason and divine revelation, being one of the greatest teachers of the Catholic Church, which is why he is named a Doctor of the Church and the Angelic Doctor.

Thomas was born in or about 1225, the youngest of four sons, in the castle of Rocca Secca, to Landulf, a knight, and to Theodora, his mother of Norman descent.  At the age of five, his parents took him to the Benedictine Monastery at Monte Cassino, hoping that he would join this Order and rise to the position of abbot.  In 1239, he went to the University of Naples in Italy, to study the arts and sciences, and it was through this experience that he became interested in Aristotle.

In or about 1243, Thomas joined the Dominicans, which was against his family’s desires.  In fact, his mother ordered that his brothers capture Thomas.  Accordingly, they did so and he actually remained at his home, wherein his family hoped to change his mind.  You might say that he was put under “house arrest” because of his defiance.  While he was imprisoned, he studied the Sentences of Peter Lombard and learned by heart a great portion of the Bible.

After two years, his family gave up and allowed Thomas to go back to his Order of the Dominicans.  Thomas then went to Cologne, finishing his studies under St. Albert the Great.  Thomas, being reserved and a humble man, was not very well liked by his colleagues.  He was a large man, receiving the nickname of “the dumb Sicilian ox.”  However, St. Albert, his professor, said this of Thomas, “We call Brother Thomas the ‘dumb ox’; but I tell you that he will yet make his lowing heard to the uttermost parts of the earth.”  Thomas’ brilliance was exceeded by his piety, and after he had been ordained a priest, he became so very close and united with God.

In or about 1252, St. Albert and Cardinal Hugh of Saint-Cher insisted that Thomas go to the University of Paris to teach.  Four years thereafter, he became a master and received his doctors chair.  His duties included lecturing and preaching.

In or about 1259 to 1268, he was made Preacher General in Italy and taught in the school of selected scholars attached to the papal court, teaching also in other towns and cities in Italy.

His writings created harmony between faith and reason, between divine revelation and natural human knowledge.  But Thomas was so in-depth a thinker and lover of God, that he was able to merge the two in his writings, seeing the whole natural order as coming from God, the Creator, and seeing reason as a gift from God to be used for His honor and glory.  He wrote the Summa contra Gentiles, a textbook for missionaries, a defense of natural theology against the Arabians, and the Summa theologiae, setting forth Catholic theology with faith and reason.  And he wrote about the Angels of God using logic, wisdom and the Bible, which is why he is called, “the Angelic Doctor.”

In 1269, he went back to Paris, wherein St. Louis IX consulted him regularly with regard to important matters of state, as the king so respected Thomas.  But the university referred an issue to him, a question upon which they were divided, whether in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar the accidents remained really or only in appearance.  St. Thomas prayed fervently and with great love asked for direction from God.  He wrote a treatise and laid it upon the altar before he submitted his answer publicly.  Our Lord then appeared to St. Thomas saying to him, “Thou has written well of the Sacrament of My Body,” asking Thomas what He could give him as a reward.  Thomas said, “I want only You, Lord, only You.”  Oftentimes during Mass, especially during the Consecration of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, Thomas would cry, sobbing, being so touched of his role as a priest, and of the precious love of Jesus, knowing that he was in the Real Presence of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

In or about 1272, Thomas was called back to Italy, being appointed regent of the study house at Naples.  On the Feast of St. Nicholas the following year, he was celebrating Holy Mass, wherein he received a revelation that affected him so, that he did not write or dictate anymore, leaving the magnificent work of the Summa theologiae, unfinished.  Thomas told Brother Reginald, “The end of my labors is come.  All that I have written appears to be as so much straw after the things that have been revealed to me.” 

Pope Gregory bid Thomas, although ill, to attend the general council at Lyons for the reunion of the Greek and Latin churches and to bring with him his work, “Against the Errors of the Greeks.”  He became worse during his journey and was consequently taken to the Cistercian abbey of Fossa Nuova.  He was lodged in the abbot’s room and the monks attended to him.  After Thomas made his last confession receiving the Holy Eucharist from the abbot, he stated these famous words:

“I am receiving thee, Price of my soul’s redemption:  all my studies, my vigils and my labors have been for love of thee.  I have taught much and written much of the most sacred body of Jesus Christ; I have taught and written in the faith of Jesus Christ and of the holy Roman Church, to whose judgment I offer and submit everything.”  Two days later, March 7, 1274, being about 50 years of age, he died.  St. Albert who was in Cologne, burst into tears in front of his community and said,  “Brother Thomas Aquinas, my son in Christ, the light of the Church, is dead.  God has revealed it to me.”

St. Thomas was canonized in 1323, wherein his body lies in the cathedral of Saint-Sernin.  St. Pius V conferred upon him the title of Doctor of the Church, and in 1880, Leo XIII declared him the patron saint of universities, colleges and schools.

Thomas’ theological and philosophical writings fill twenty thick volumes and he was the first to comment on Aristotle, whose teaching he utilized in order to build up a complete system of Christian philosophy.  Indeed, his most important work was the Summa theologiae, the most thorough and full exposition of theological teaching ever given to the world.  This work was one of the three reference works used at the Council of Trent, the other two being the Bible and Pontifical Decrees.

His achievements were not just attributed to his incredible writings.  When Pope Urban IV, influenced by the visions of Blessed Juliana of Liege, decided to institute the Feast of Corpus Christi, he deferred to St. Thomas to compose the liturgical office and the Mass for the day, wherein Thomas showed his remarkable expression, known for doctrinal accuracy as for their tenderness of thought.  Famous hymns, Pange lingua, O salutaris and Tantum ergo, written by Thomas, are regularly sung at Benediction.

In spite of his greatness, he thought the best of others, thinking they were better than him, being extremely modest whilst he stated his opinion.  He did not lose his temper in an argument and was extremely poised.

St. Thomas Aquinas has always been one of my favorite saints.  Whilst I was in high school studying philosophy, I would take books home containing his writings.  I was drawn to these books, so I did not go out with my friends because I would rather stay home with St. Thomas and read what he said in my cozy bedroom.  In fact, though they were kidding, my friends called me a “wallflower” because of my devotion to St. Thomas.  I would laugh and tell them that they did not know what they were missing, and that at some point, they might understand. . .

It is my childlike vision in my mind’s eye that sees a great celebration in Heaven today for our dear and great St. Thomas Aquinas!  We love and respect you! We hope to some day be with you in Our Lord’s heaven, and maybe you can teach us there too!  God be praised for this great and holy man!

With respect and love,

Joan

Sources:

  • One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press.
  • Saint of the Day, Edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M.
  • Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Edited by F.L. Cross.
  • Read more about St. Thomas Aquinas on Wikipedia.

St. Nicholas, model for Santa Claus

Did you know that the legend of Santa Claus actually is based on a saint?

Saint Nicholas (270-343) was a bishop of Myra in modern day Turkey, who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in shoes, and thus became the model for Santa Claus.

In fact, Santa Claus is the modern name of the Dutch Sinterklaas, which is a corruption of the transliteration of “Saint Nikolaos”.

st-nicholas

On December 6, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of St. Nicholas, from whom Santa Claus evolved. St. Nicholas is highly honored throughout the world, with many churches dedicated in memory to his holiness and his effective advocacy.

Nicholas was born at Patara in Lycia, a province of Asia Minor in modern-day Turkey. Nicholas’ parents were well off and they died when he was a young man, leaving him many assets. Nicholas, filled with generosity and goodness, with empathy for his fellow brothers and sisters, devoted himself to works of charity and the needy he found in his community. For example, a citizen of Patara, with three daughters, lost all of his money. Because of this circumstance of poverty, the three ladies could not find husbands, wherein they were destined to become prostitutes. Nicholas discovered their horrible upcoming fate. He then took a bag of gold and under cover in the dark, threw the money into the window of the man’s home. Therefore, the oldest daughter now had a dowry and she was soon married. Nicholas did the same act of charity for the other two daughters. The father recognized and thanked Nicholas as his benefactor.

At the beginning of the fourth century, Nicholas went to the city of Myra, the capital of Patara in Lycia. It so happened that the Catholic clergy in this episcopal see were electing a new bishop and the clergy chose Nicholas for his reputation had preceded him.

“As he was the chief priest of the Christians of this town and preached the truths of faith with a holy liberty, Nicholas was seized by the magistrates, tortured, then chained and thrown into prison with many other Christians.  But when the great and religious Constantine, chosen by God, assumed the imperial diadem of the Romans, the prisoners were released from their bonds and with them the illustrious Nicholas, who when he was set at liberty returned to Myra.”

Nicholas continued on with his works of charity, taking strong measures against paganism, setting free prisoners who had been falsely accused, and caring for his people in Myra. It is believed that he was present at the Council of Nicea which arose the Nicene Creed that we say today. Additionally, Nicholas condemned one of the heresies of his time, Arianism, which denied the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Trinity. St. Methodius states that “thanks to the teaching of St. Nicholas the metropolies of Myra alone was untouched by the filth of the Arian heresy.”

St. Nicholas died and was buried in Myra. He is honored as the patron saint of sailors and children. It is said that during his lifetime, Nicholas had appeared to storm-tossed mariners who asked for his assistance wherein they were brought safely to port. As the patron saint of children, Nicholas is particularly associated with the giving of gifts at Christmas time. With St. Andrew, he is patron of Russia, Greece, Apulia, Sicily and Lorraine.

Let us during this Christmas Season remember this dear saint, be generous to others, giving our love with joy and happiness, always remembering the true meaning of Christmas (Christ’s Mass), the birth of Our Dear Savior, Jesus Christ, coming into the world through the Blessed Virgin, God Incarnate, and being protected and cared for by the wonderful St. Joseph.  LOVE was born to the world.  Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Joan

Sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • Lives of the Saints, Edited by Michael Walsh.
  • One Hundred Saints, Fulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group.

All Souls’ Day – November 2nd; We Pray for the Faithful Departed

Yesterday, in my Church History post on All Hallows’ Eve/Halloween and All Saints Day, I indicated I would set forth the importance of the next day attached to the three important days, November 2nd, All Souls’ Day.

On this day is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven (October 31st – All Hallows’ Eve/Halloween, preparation for All Saints’ Day and November 1st, All Saints Day) strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city.”  Roman Martyrology

The Church, after celebrating All Hallows’ Eve/Halloween, October 31st, the preparation for All Saints Day, and All Saints Day, November 1st, today prays for all those who, in the purifying suffering of purgatory await the day when they will be joined to the company of saints in the Church Triumphant.  A union exists between the Church Triumphant, those saints in heaven, the Church Militant, those of us on earth and the Church Suffering, those souls experiencing the cleansing of purgatory so that they will be ready to go into heaven.  These branches, the Church Triumphant, the Church Militant and the Church Suffering compose the Mystical Body of Christ.

We celebrate the Mass for All Souls’ Day in commemoration of all of the Faithful Departed.

“The writer of 2 Maccabees praises the offering of prayers and sacrifices for the dead (see 12:38-46).  Why do the departed need such assistance from us?  So that their sins “might be fully blotted out” (12:42).

The final destiny of the redeemed is to live in heaven eternally with God, where “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 Jn 3:2).  Since God is holy, to be like Him we, too, must be  holy (see Mt. 5:48).  Without that holiness, “no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14), for “nothing unclean will enter” the glory of heaven” (Rv 21:27).

Nevertheless, few people, even among devout Christians, are fully cleansed of sin and its effects when they die.  And God will not reject any penitent sinner, even one who has been notoriously wicked yet repents at the last moment before death (see Lk 23:39-43).  How, then, can we enter heaven immediately at death if we aren’t yet perfected in holiness?

St. John tells us that everyone who hopes to be holy as God is holy, and to see Him face-to-face, “makes himself pure, as he is pure” (1 Jn 3:3).  That process of purification begins in this life as we submit in faith to the dealings of God that help to make us whole.  “Purgatory” is simply the name given to that process of purification as it continues after death.  (Like “the Holy Trinity”, “purgatory” is a term not occurring in Scripture; but the reality it refers to is implied by scriptural truths.)

God doesn’t purify us instantly in this life by waving a magic wand, bypassing the cooperation of our free will.  So we shouldn’t expect Him to do so at our death, either.  And since His work to heal us of the effects of sin is usually painful now – just as surgery for our bodily health is painful – the purgatorial process will likely be painful as well.

The traditional image of cleansing purgatorial fire comes from such Biblical passages as 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, which speaks of those who “will be saved, but through fire” (3:15).  The Bible also speaks of God’s holiness in this regard as “a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29).  Yet just as the physician’s cauterizing fire burns in order to heal, so does any pain we might experience in purgatory.  In the end it is a work of God’s mercy.”

Why do we pray for the Dead?

One day as the Jewish general Judas Maccabeus and his men were burying comrades fallen in battle, they discovered that the slain soldiers had been secretly practicing idolatry (see 2 Mc 12:39-40).  “Turning to supplication”, Scripture says, “they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out” (12:42).  Then Judas took up a collection for an expiatory sacrifice for them in the temple.”  In doing this, he acted in a very excellent and noble way ….Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin” (12:43, 46).

Why did the ancient Jews pray for the dead?  For the same reason they prayed for the living:  It was an act of fraternal charity.  They recognized that the departed needed their help to be cleansed of their sins.  And they were confident that such spiritual works would benefit those who had died, just as it would have benefited someone who was still living.

The first Christians, who were Jews, maintained this “excellent and noble” practice.  For example, St. Paul prayed for a friend named Onesiphorus, who was apparently deceased (see 2 Tm 1:16-18). . .

Not surprisingly, then, many inscriptions on ancient Christian tombs ask the living to intercede for those buried within.  Clearly, from earliest times, the Church has offered prayers and sacrifices for the faithful departed – especially the most valuable of all, Holy Mass.

Some Christians object to praying for the dead.  For those who are in heaven, they insist, our prayers are unnecessary.  And for those who are in hell, our prayers are useless.

But there are faulty assumptions here.  First, most people who go to heaven still require purification after they die before they are ready to live with God forever.  Our prayers can help in that process.  Second, we don’t know for sure who is in hell, so we should still pray in hope for even the worst of sinners.

In short, charity demands that we should pray for the dead.  And humility demands that we should ask others to pray for us when our day comes to depart this life.”

Let us pray today for all of the Souls of the Faithful Departed with earnest faith, hope and love.  In fact, in the Universal Catholic Church, we pray especially for all the Souls of the Faithful Departed for the entire month of November.

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.  May they rest in peace.  Amen.

O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

O God, the creator and redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of your departed servants the remission of all their sins that through our prayers they may obtain that pardon which they have always desired.  Amen.”

Joan

Sources:  The New Catholic Answer Bible;

http://www.catholicculture.org

All Saints Day

Yesterday, October 31, was All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween, that is, the evening before the holy ones.

As explained in “Reclaim Halloween as the holy All Hallows’ Eve!,” the word “hallow” is “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate,” while the word “e’en” means “evening.”

The word “saint” means holy. Halloween, therefore, means Holy Evening or the Evening of the Hallowed or Holy Ones, i.e., the Evening of the Saints.

In other words, Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day, which is today!

saints in Heaven1

Then I saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God.  He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”  I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites.” Rev. 7:2-4 

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice:  “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”  All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen.  Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”  I said to him, “My Lord, you are the one who knows.”  He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  Rev. 7:9-14.

“For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple.  The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.  They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.  For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  Rev. 7:15-17.

saints in Heaven

Through the “communion of saints,” a doctrine proclaimed in the Apostle’s Creed, the blessed in heaven assist those of us on earth; we pray with the saints so that they may intercede on our behalf before Our Lord.  Remember, these incredible, courageous and wonderful individuals see God face to face!  How cool is that?

Indeed, they are the ultimate role models, heroes and heroines-people who chose to do extraordinary things and behaved always with serving Our Lord as their first priority in their lives, no matter what the cost.  They were no different as human beings than we are, with faults, talents, proclivities towards temptation and bearing all qualities incident to human beings.  What made them different were their choices, to serve God first above anything and everything.  To put it more eloquently were the words of St. Thomas More on the day he was beheaded, wherein he stated, “I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

saints in Heaven2

In the communion of saints, “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home and those of us who are still pilgrims on earth.”  (CCC 1475)

St. Thomas More said this about the saints.  “We venerate the saints as God’s servants, as we would on earth welcome the servants of a great man we esteemed.  If the goodness we bestow upon our poor brethren is considered by Christ as bestowed upon Himself, as He tells us (Mt 25:40), and if those, as He says, who welcome His apostles and disciples welcome Him (Mt. 10:40), assuredly those who honor the saints are likewise honoring Christ.  Our Lord Himself showed that He would have His saints partake in His glory when He promised the apostles that they would be seated at His side on the final Day of Judgment (Mt. 19:28).  Moreover, He promised that Martha’s sister Mary (whom More identified as Mary Magdalen) would be honored throughout the world for her deed of anointing Him with ointment (Mt. 26:13).”

As to honoring the saints, and our desire to request their advocacy and intercession on our behalf, as to whether or not the saints can either hear us or help us, St. Thomas More provided, “Yet how can we doubt whether they hear us?  Their souls are not dead, and therefore as living souls the love and charity toward their fellowman that characterized them to this world cannot have diminished in the next.  The closer one draws to heaven, the greater is his solicitude toward his brethren here on earth, as was the case with the martyr Saint Stephen, who after seeing heaven opened, prayed for his enemies who were stoning him (Acts 7:55-60).  In view of this, is it conceivable that Saint Stephen would not pray for those who honor him on earth, now that he is in heaven?”  And the question is further posed, how can the saints in heaven help us?  More reasoned that since “the saints were certainly able to assist others while on earth where their human nature was as weak as ours, surely they can do so in heaven.”

More further reasoned that even while Our Lord lived on this earth, He permitted people to come to His apostles rather than directly to Himself for help and allowed the Twelve to work miracles in His stead.  Indeed, on some occasions the apostles assumed the role of intercessors with Christ, presenting the petitions of others to their Master.  “If this was the case when the apostles were with Christ on earth, it must surely be so now that they dwell with Him in heaven.  God is pleased to have us honor and call upon His saints, His especial beloved friends, for it becometh us and well behoveth us to make friends of such as he hath in favour.”

Have not you ever asked someone, “Please pray for my mother, she is very ill,” or “Please pray for me; I am about to make a very important decision that will affect my life.”  Indeed and in fact, we have set forth these petitions to others on FOTM.  Ergo, we pray with the Saints, inhabitants of the Church Triumphant, for their intercession, for their guidance that they receive from Our Lord Himself.  If we ask those we know on earth for their advocacy and prayers, all the more reason to ask the Church Triumphant to enter our lives, to give us direction and to ask through them the Grace from God necessary to live our lives according to the Will of God, to the fullest extent, using all of our talents and gifts given to us by God.  The Saints are with us; we are foolish not to have camaraderie with them and to enjoy intimate and meaningful relationships.

We end this post by honoring the particular Saints in our respective lives who have inspired and helped us:

We love you, we admire you, and we thank you!

May Our Lord Always Be First Served!

Christ with angels

For the Saint posts we’ve published, go to FOTM’s “Saints and Angels” page!

Sources:

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • James Monti, The King’s Good Servant but God’s First, The Life and Writings of Saint Thomas More (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997).
  • Sister Mary Raphael is Gone, But Not Forgotten!  Daily Catholic 2000, January 18, 2000, volume 11, no. 12.

~Joan & Eowyn

Francis of Assisi, a saint for the Church in disarray

When former Argentinian archbishop Jorge Bergoglio was elected pope in 2013, he selected Francis as his papal name — St. Francis of Assisi.

St. Francis is an unusual saint in that he is known and admired by even non-Catholics and non-Christians. Lamentably, most of his admirers know only one facet of St. Francis — his endearing closeness with birds and animals. But there is so much more to this saint.

Did you know that St. Francis was called by Jesus Christ our Lord to reform and repair the Catholic Church, which had fallen to a corrupt and heretical clergy?

History repeats itself, and we find a Church similarly in disrepair in our own time. May St. Francis be a reminder and role model for all faithful clergy and laity as we are called, as he was, to repair and reform a Church in disarray. See:

To that end, I’m republishing excerpts from joandarc’s post from a year ago, “St. Francis of Assisi – Happy Feast Day – October 4th!“.

~Éowyn

St. Francis of Assisi

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.

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’ example of holiness, and that of the brother companions, that taught the people of God.

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.”  

St. Francis of Assisi with birds and animals

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 wherever 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.

Consequently, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast Day of St. Francis every year on October 4.

Pope Benedict XVI summarized St. Francis beautifully. He said, “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!”

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

~Joan 

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.

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.