Category Archives: Saints

Sunday Devotional: On suffering, the human condition

Hebrews 4:14-16

Brothers and sisters:
Since we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

To suffer is to be human — suffering is the human condition.

If you find that unacceptable and demand an explanation, it’s right there in Genesis 3 — in the account of our first parents’ deliberate defiance of God’s explicit instruction, imagining in their preening grandiosity that they can become “like gods”.

But the exercise of free will is not free of consequences. As God had forewarned Adam and Eve, the issues of disobedience were dire indeed. By their fall, a door was opened to chaos; henceforth a price must be paid for being human. Where once was joy and ease, there would be suffering, hardship, and pain. The control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered, and humanity becomes vulnerable to the ravages of sickness and disease, and eventual death.

And yet, narcissists that we are, when we are in the throes of suffering, we lament and wail “Why me?,” as if we alone should be spared from the universal human condition.

Millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain. In 2010, a poll by the American Osteopathic Association found that nearly 70% of Americans said they or someone they cared for had experienced pain. The same poll found that, perversely, 34% of Americans found that the side effects of pain medications are worse than the pain itself.

But researchers have found pain reducers that are not opiates or pharmaceuticals. The website Cracked has an article on six things other than drugs which temporarily reduced pain. Beginning with the least, the six are money, eating, music, imagination, touch, and religious faith.

Researchers found that religious, specifically Christian, faith is the most powerful non-pharmaceutical pain reducer.

As reported by Gary L. Wenk, Ph. D., in Psychology Today:

In a recently published study in the journal Pain, scientists (Wiech and colleagues) measured pain perception in two groups of people, devout practicing Catholics and professed atheists and agnostics, while they viewed an image of the Virgin Mary or the painting of Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci. Devout Catholics reported feeling more peaceful and compassionate when gazing upon a picture of the Virgin Mother. The devout Catholics also perceived electrical pulses to their hand as being less painful when they looked at Mary than when they looked at the lady in the painting by da Vinci. In contrast, the atheists and agnostics derived no pain relief while viewing either picture.… MRI scans demonstrated that the Catholics’ pain relief was associated with greatly increased brain activity in a small area located on the bottom left of their right prefrontal cortex. In contrasts, the atheists and agnostics demonstrated no response in this brain area. There was already ample evidence to suggest that this brain region is involved in controlling our emotional response to sensory stimuli, such as pain. Perhaps this study has, in fact, now shown us the location of the placebo effect.

Much has been written about the value of the placebo effect in the practice of medicine, but how this effect emerges and whether it can be controlled are issues that not yet understood…. Numerous meta-analyses (which are later analyses of other researchers’ data) have shown that only the perception of pain can be statistically demonstrated to be influenced by our minds, which scientists refer to as the emergent property of our brains. The impressive influence of our thoughts and expectations on how we experience pain is a true placebo effect.

If gazing upon a painting of the mother of Jesus reduces pain, how much more powerful would fixing our eyes and minds on the suffering Christ on the cross. As St. Paul reminds us in Hebrews 4:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way.

In other words, no one better understands and empathizes with our suffering than Jesus. So, when you are wracked with pain, physical or emotional, look to our Lord on the cross and ask for His help.

He always answers. Really.

I leave you with the very wise words written more than 5 years ago by Joan, a contributor to Fellowship of the Minds who doesn’t write anymore because her body is broken, with constant excruciating pain from hereditary osteoarthritis, notwithstanding spinal and two knee-replacement surgeries:

All of us suffer and in different ways according to our individual situations. That is the human condition….

One of the effects I have experienced is that suffering helps us to become “Little”, and I say this with a capital “L” to emphasize that I have found it has brought me closer to Our Lord in that I come to Him as a little child most dependent upon Him.

One needs only to look at a Crucifix and embrace Jesus completely because of the greatest act of love ever given — His horrible suffering and death upon the Cross to save us from our sins and to open the gates of heaven for everyone. We need not be morbid for each of our individual experiences with suffering, because then our suffering is offered to Jesus with a poor attitude. I have also found that a sense of humor really helps, because sometimes, when it rains, it pours, and we cannot figure out what is happening. The otherwise little things and chores we try to do become trying and monumental….

But really, we simply must say, “Jesus, I Trust In You,” in every juncture of our lives. Remember what Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

It is no secret that I love the angels and the saints, members of the Church Triumphant. Below are some thoughts about suffering from your family in heaven which might assist you in your individual suffering:

“To suffer much, yet badly, is to suffer like reprobates. To suffer much, even bravely, but for a wicked cause, is to suffer as a martyr of the devil. To suffer much or little for the sake of God is to suffer like saints.” – St. Louis-Marie de Montfort

“An unpitied pain wins greater merit beofre God. Never say to God: ‘Enough’; simply say, ‘I am ready!’” -Bl. Sebastian Valfre

“Christ tells us that if we want to join Him, we shall travel the way He took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go His way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor.” – St. John of Avila

“Reason should dominate pain, for our Redeemer has sanctified pain and by so doing has given us Christians a right way of facing it. For us, pain does not come to hurt and destroy but to raise to the heights.” –Bl. Placid Riccardi

“I shall remind myself of the labors He undertook in preaching, of his weariness while traveling, of the temptations He suffered while fasting, of His vigils while praying, and of the tears He shed out of compassion. I will remember, moreover, His sorrows, and the insults, spittle, blows, ridicule, rebukes, nails, and all the rest that rained down upon Him in abundance.” -St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“Say always, ‘My beloved and despised Redeemer, how sweet it is to suffer for you.’” -St. Alphonsus Liguori

Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, willingly suffered and died for us as reparation for the terrible sin of our first parents, because sin — every sin — requires atonement to make things right again.

But the sin of Adam and Eve must have been so monumentally catastrophic that it tore the very fabric of the Universe. No man (human) can atone for this monumental sin. Only God can — and did.

We, too, can make our suffering redemptive for our sins and those of others. Offer it to Jesus — join your suffering to Him. And don’t compare your suffering to others because each person has a Cross to bear. But if we join our suffering to Jesus in sincerity, with a contrite heart, our suffering will become sanctity and joy.

Isaiah 53:11

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,

~Eowyn

See also:

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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

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St. Barnabas, Patron Saint of Cyprus

St. Barnabas

Today, June 11th, the universal Church honors St. Barnabas, a great evangelizer and martyr.

St. Barnabas was a Jew of the Tribe of Levi, born in Cyprus. He was not one of the chosen twelve apostles, but because of his important apostolic works, the Early Church Fathers and St. Luke himself referred to him as an apostle because of the special commission he received from the Holy Spirit. His original name was Joseph. However, the apostles changed it to Barnabas which is interpreted, “man of encouragement.”

We find St. Barnabas first mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, wherein there is an explanation how the converts at Jerusalem lived in common and that as many were landowners or homeowners, those properties were sold and the proceeds of those sales were given to the apostles for distribution. Hence, St. Barnabas’ property is therein mentioned.

Subsequently, the apostles thought that one of them should be sent by the Church in Jerusalem to Antioch, to instruct the Faith. They chose St. Barnabas who enlisted the assistance of St. Paul, who spent a year with him teaching the Gospel in Antioch. St. Barnabas and Paul were very successful and many converts were made.

Sometime later, the flourishing Christian Church in Antioch raised money to help their brethren in Judaea as the people there were suffering from a famine. This money was given to St. Paul and St. Barnabas and they returned to Judaea giving the members of the Church there this generous gift.

St. Paul and St. Barnabas received a commission to go on a missionary journey to Iconium, the capital of Lycaonia. They escaped this jurisdiction, having almost been stoned to death. However, a miraculous cure of a crippled individual occurred at Lystra through St. Paul, which inspired the people there to believe that actual “gods” were among them. Therefore, they referred to St. Paul as the god “Hermes,” and St. Barnabas as the god “Zeus” or “Jupiter.” Of course, both St. Paul and St. Barnabas set forth the real Truth and preached the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They then went to Derbe, making many Christian converts, retracing their steps wherein they went to those cities to confirm the converts and to ordain presbyters. They then returned to Antioch, being very pleased with what happened.

paulSt. Paul’s journeys (click map to enlarge)

It is most likely that St. Barnabas was still living and working in 56 A.D. or 57 A.D. pursuant to I Corinthians ix, 5 and 6. However, St. Paul’s invitation to John Mark to join him whilst he was a prisoner in Rome, infers that by on or about 60 or 61 A.D. St. Barnabas must have died. It is said that St. Barnabas was stoned to death at Salamis.

We thank you for your holy example of faith, hope and love, as well as your immense courage, to preach the Gospel to everyone who would listen, to bring Christ to everyone and to die for Jesus and His Church. We ask you to help us in this world, inasmuch as there is tremendous “in your face evil.” St. Barnabas, please pray for us that we may be the Light of Christ to everyone.

With love and respect,

Joan

Sources: Franciscan Media; One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press; Vatican website

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Blessed Daniel Brottier

Fri, 28 Feb 2014 18:36:26 +0000  joandarc

Blessed Daniel Brottier

Today, February 28th, the universal Church honors Blessed Daniel Brottier, a devoted priest and decorated chaplain.

Daniel was born in France on September 7, 1876, the second son of the coachman for the Marquis Durfort, Jean-Baptiste Brottier, and his wife, Herminie.  Daniel desired to become a priest during his childhood.  His mother related the story that when she asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, that he replied: “I won’t be either a general or a pastry chef – I will be the Pope!”  Herminie reminded her son that he would first have to be ordained a priest to ever become a pope.  Daniel replied: “Well, then I’ll become a priest.” 

He received his First Holy Communion when he was ten, enrolling a year later in the minor seminary at Blois.  On October 22, 1899, he was ordained a priest, never faltering from his childhood representations and vocation call.  After his ordination, he taught at a secondary school in Pontlevoy, France.

Daniel did not find his niche as a teacher, as he was determined to serve as a missionary somewhere in the world.  With that desire as a goal, in 1902 he joined the Congregation of the Holy Spirit at Orly.  Upon completing his novitiate in the order in 1903, the congregation sent him to serve as a vicar in a  mission parish in Saint-Louis, Senegal.  However, Father Daniel remained disappointed at this assignment, as he wanted to serve in the rough country in Senegal.

In any event, Father Daniel enthusiastically worked hard at his position, instructing secondary school students, finding a center for child welfare and publishing a parish bulletin, “The Echo of St. Louis.”  Daniel suffered from the effects of the climate in Senegal, and went back to France in 1906 to recover from his health issues.  Unfortunately, in spite of his missionary zeal, in 1911 he returned to France permanently because of his ongoing health problems.

The Apostolic Vicar of Senegal, Bishop Hyacinthe Jalabert, requested that Father Daniel conduct a fund-raising effort to build a cathedral in Dakar, Senegal.  Even though Father Daniel resided in France, he conducted this campaign for seven years during two distinct periods of time, 1911-1914 and 1919-1923.  The five year difference in time was a result of the First World War.  Nevertheless, the “African Memorial Cathedral” was consecrated on February 2, 1936, just 26 days away from Father Daniel’s death.

With regard to the five-year interval period, Father Daniel volunteered to serve as a chaplain for France’s 121st Infantry Regiment during the First World War.  He served the soldiers with great love and courage, having been cited six times for bravery, and having been awarded the Croix de guerre and the Legion d’honneur.  Father Daniel indicated that it was through the intercession of St. Therese of the Little Flower that he was able to help the soldiers as he did, wherein he built a chapel for her at Auteuil when she was canonized a saint, which was the first church ever dedicated to the Little Flower.  After the war, Father Daniel founded the “National Union of Servicemen”, an organization for French veterans of various wars.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Louis-Ernest Dubois, requested that the Congregation of the Holy Spirit manage an orphanage in Paris, the “Orphan Apprentices of Auteuil.”  Of course, Father Daniel with his excellent and creative leadership skills, became completely involved in this project, and worked for 13 years from 1923 on forward, with the help of his associate chaplain, Yves Pichon, to expand the orphanage, working very hard for the care, best interests and welfare of the orphans that he served.  Father Daniel once again dedicated his efforts to the intercession of the Little Flower, and also, to serve the most poor and unfortunate.

Indeed and in fact, in 1933, Father Daniel started a program placing children in the households of Catholic individuals associated with the Orphan Apprentices.  His work gave much fruit, as he constructed workshops, a printing house, a cinema, even publishing magazines.  To show how effective Father Daniel was in his work, when he started with the orphanage, there were 140 orphans; when he died, there were more than 1400 orphans served.

Father Daniel was a remarkable fund-raiser, mastering the use of the camera, where he even taught film making to the children.  To show his love for the Little Flower and so that people would learn about her, he produced a film on the life of St. Therese.

Dear Father Daniel died on February 28, 1936, in the hospital of St. Joseph in Paris.  Approximately 15,000 people attended his funeral Mass.  He was buried in the Chapel of St. Therese in Auteuil on April 5, 1936, which is the chapel that he built.  On January 13, 1983, Pope John Paul II declared Father Daniel, “venerable,” and he was beautified on November 25, 1984.  Noteworthy was the fact that in 1962, his body was incorrupt as on the day of his burial; and, many  miracles were attributed to his intercession. 

I am so happy to meet Brother Daniel Brottier today.  He is such a dedicated hard worker, full of innovation and creativity.  He was a great leader, notwithstanding the fact that during his four years in the front during World War I, he ministered to the suffering and dying soldiers, risking his life constantly, to care for them.  I also am drawn to him because of his love for St. Therese of the Little Flower, who taught the “Little Way,” which means to do all things with great love.  There is no doubt in my mind that Blessed Daniel followed this maxim completely, and look at the improvements and successes that took place as a result of his efforts.  Clearly, the beautiful Little Flower was helping him in his vocation.  Let us remember the example of this great “mover and shaker” of God, asking for his intercession and guidance.

Blessed Daniel Brottier, pray for us!

With Love and Respect,

Joan

Sources:  Franciscan Media; Catholic Encyclopedia

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St. Apollonia, Virgin and Martyr

Mon, 10 Feb 2014 00:22:34 +0000  joandarc

The-Martyrdom-Of-St-Apollonia“The Martyrdom of St. Apollonia” by Francesco Granacci

Today, February 9th, the universal Church honors St. Apollonia, Virgin and Martyr, who gave her life for Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Early Christians at this time were being persecuted by the heathen population of Alexandria in the last year of the reign of the Emperor Philip in 249 A.D.  Many of the Christians escaped, but Apollonia was seized.

Her persecutors beat her face and knocked out all of her teeth.  They then kindled a huge fire outside the city, threatening to cast her in the fire if she would not renounce her Faith and utter certain impious words.  She considered this proposal and miraculously, found herself free.  She leaped into the flames of her own accord.

St. Augustine set forth his thoughts on how she died, indicating that she died by a particular direction of the Holy Spirit.  This courageous woman is asked to intercede for those individuals with dental health issues and/or diseases.

It is remarkable to imagine once again, the absolute pain and horror this incredible woman experienced.  Even if you have a problem with one tooth, the pain is excruciating.  Her captors desired to throw her into the fire, and so, voluntarily, she did as they requested.  Her love for Our Lord Jesus Christ was so great, that Jesus was all that mattered to her.  We will remember your love and courage, dear St. Apollonia, especially when we have to suffer physically, or make important moral choices.  We hope to have that same brave spirit of immediately choosing the truth and the right, as you did.  Much love to you dear Saint!

Respectfully,

Joan

Sources:  One Hundred Saints, Bulfinch Press; catholic.org 

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St. Joan de Lestonnac (1556-1640)

Sun, 02 Feb 2014 19:52:16 +0000  joandarc

St. Joan de Lestonnac

Today, February 2nd, the universal Church honors St. Joan de Lestonnac, an incredible wife, mother and founder of the religious order of Notre Dame of Bordeaux.

Joan was born in 1556 in Bordeaux, France, of a well-to-do family.  Richard de Lestonnac, her father, was a member of Parliament and her mother, Jeanne Eyquem, was the sister of the humanist philosopher, Michael de Montaigne.  She was educated in the Renaissance atmosphere, receiving a wonderful education.

During this time, Calvinism spread through all of France, which adversely affected the unity of the country.  Joan’s mother chose Calvinism and tried to convince her daughter to also join the Reformation.  Nevertheless, Joan rejected her mother’s pleas, remaining true to her Catholic Faith, with the support of her father and her uncle.  Therefore, during this time of her adolescence, her Faith was tested.

Joan married Gaston de Montferrant when she was 17, having seven children.  Joan’s husband, her eldest son, her father and her uncle died, wherein Joan experienced great suffering and terrible sorrow.  One can only imagine the grief and tears she experienced.  Nevertheless, Joan saw to it that the rest of her children were properly raised and educated, as she had a resolute and strong spirituality.

After her children were raised, at the age of 46, she entered the Cistercian Monastery in Toulouse, with her name being changed to Jeanne of Saint Bernard.  She desired this life of prayer, finding great peace in it, experiencing  penance and also silence.

She spent six months at the Monastery, but her health could not bare the austerity of that lifestyle; hence, she left.  At this time, Joan experienced an inner vision advising her what to do next:  it was about a response to many young souls in danger of being lost.  Joan knew that Our Lady was also helping her.  She formed a group of women to perform acts of charity.  These brave women served those individuals suffering from the horrible plague.

Two Jesuit priests, Fathers de Bordes and Raymond, whilst they celebrated Mass, received an understanding that they should assist in founding an order to counteract the surrounding heresies and that Joan must be the first superior.  The rule and constitutions of the Order were founded on those of St. Ignatius and the first house was opened in the Holy Ghost priory at Bordeaux.

In 1608, Joan and her companions received the habit from Cardinal de Sourdis, Archbishop of Bordeaux, with Joan being elected the superior in 1610.  Ladies came quickly to join the order, with their aim of teaching young girls of any and all classes of society.  The schools prospered all over France, with the sisters living in poverty and peace.

But with great goodness also comes great evil. . .One of the sisters and one of the directors of one of the houses conspired against Joan, telling lies about her actions and her reputation.  Remarkably, the Cardinal believed them and Joan was no longer the superior of the order, with Blanche Herve, the accusatory party, being elected superior.  Joan was treated terribly by Blanche, who insulted Joan in every possible way, even being physically violent towards her.  However, Blanche’s heart was moved by Joan’s response and her incredible patience, wherein Blanche repented of her wrongdoing.  By this time, Joan was now an elderly woman and did not want to serve as the superior; hence, Mother de Badiffe was elected.

During the last few years of her life, Joan spent it in retirement, preparing for death.  She died right after her nuns had renewed their vows, on the Feast of the Presentation in 1640, which is February 2nd.  We also celebrate this Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord today, February 2, 2014.

Joan was canonized in 1949.  She is the patroness of widows, and those who have been physically abused.  I find her accomplishments remarkable, her busy role as a devoted mother of seven, the fact that her husband died when therefore, she had to serve as a single parent, educating and caring for her large family.  And even when she lost so many members of her family, she was brave and resolute to be productive and to serve God, that she became the great foundress of Our Lady of Bourdeaux.  Finally, her great love shown by her patient example even whilst she was being emotionally, spiritually, psychologically and physically abused, with her reputation being ruined as a result of lies and hatred, she still remained firm in her Faith and love of God, even converting the person who was so mean and cruel to her.  Let us remember the extraordinary example of this beautiful and incredible woman always!  St. Joan is a true feminist, true to her Faith, true to her abilities and never afraid to love, even her most vicious enemies!  God be praised for this magnificent lady!

With love and respect,

Joan

SourcesButler’s Lives of the Saints, Edited by Michael Walsh; www.lestonnac.org

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St. Augustine and St. Monica

http://fellowshipoftheminds.com/2013/08/28/st-augustine-and-st-monica/  Wed, 28 Aug 2013 18:05:10 +0000  joandarc

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Monica and today is the feast day of her son, St. Augustine. In recognition and in celebration of these two great saints, FOTM is re-publishing Joan’s essay from last year.

~Eowyn

Saint_Augustine_and_Saint_MonicaSaint Augustine and Saint Monica (1846), by Ary Scheffer

I cannot write about St. Augustine, unless I write about his incredible mother, St. Monica, whose Feast day was celebrated yesterday, August 27th.  St. Monica was the mother of the great Doctor of the Church, theologian, philosopher and writer, St. Augustine of Hippo, whose Feast day we celebrate today, August 28th.  This incredible lady did everything she could for her children and with regard to her son, not only gave him birth into this world, but gave him his spiritual birth as he languished in sin and licentious living.

She was born in Tagaste, sixty miles from Carthage, North Africa, in 332 A.D. of Christian parents.  When she had reached the age of marriage, her parents gave her as a wife to a citizen of Tagaste, Patricius, a pagan who was generous, but who was also violent-tempered and dissolute.  Monica put up with this man, but yet, he admired her piety and respected her, Monica not being the recipient of his rage.  Apparently, her mother-in-law also lived with her, being described as “cantankerous”.  Due in part to Monica’s prayers and her example, both her husband and her mother-in-law became Christians, with Patricius dying in 371, a year after his baptism.

Monica and Patricius had three children, but their ambitions centered upon their eldest son, Augustine, who was born November 13, 354 in North Africa.  They gave him the best possible education as he was brilliant and clever.  Nevertheless, Augustine loved pleasure and led a wicked life, enjoying the physical pleasures of life, fathering a son out of wedlock, embracing the Manichaean heresy.  Yet, Augustine’s life was a passionate search for the truth  She endured difficulties with Augustine but she never ceased her efforts on his behalf.  She prayed for him, she asked members of the clergy to argue truth with him, wherein she was told, “The heart of the young  man is at present too stubborn, but God’s time will come,” was the reply of a wise bishop who had formerly been a Manichaean himself.  (According to the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Manichaeism was a radical offshoot of the Gnostic traditions of E. Persia.  It taught that the object of the practice of religion was to release the particles of light which Satan had stolen from the world of Light and imprisoned in man’s brain and that Jesus, Buddha, the Prophets, and Manes had been sent to help in this task. For the Manichaean believer, the whole physical universe was mobilized to create this release.)  Monica kept persisting, but this bishop said to her, “Go now, I beg of you:  it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.” 

Augustine was 29 years old when he decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric, still a heretic and still living in a licentious manner.  Monica wanted to go with him and followed him to the port where they were to embark.  Nevertheless, Augustine had no intentions of his mother accompanying him to Rome.  Augustine told his mother that he was going to say good-bye to a friend.  In the meantime, she spent the night in prayer in the church of St. Cyprian.  Needless to say, Augustine left her there on the port, but she persistently followed after him.  One would have liked to have been a fly on the wall to see Monica confront her son!  Monica went to Rome but then discovered that Augustine had went to Milan instead.

Again, Monica tracked Augustine down to Milan and she discovered that Augustine had met the incredible and amazing St. Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan.  She discovered much to her joy that Augustine was no longer a Manichaean and that he was under the influence of this wonderful bishop who could teach Augustine, argue with Augustine and teach him Truth.

In August of 387, Augustine announced his complete acceptance of the Catholic Faith.  Augustine, his mother and friends went to a villa to prepare for Augustine’s baptism.  They engaged in philosophical and religious conversations, with Monica displaying excellent knowledge and judgment, being very well versed in Biblical Scriptures.  At Easter Vigil in 387, St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine, as well as his 15-year-old son, Adeodatus (who was to die not long afterwords) and his friend, Alipius.  Soon thereafter, Augustine returned to Africa.  They made it to Ostia, where they awaited a ship, but Monica was dying and she said, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight.  I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled. . .God has granted me more than this in making you despise earthly felicity and consecrate yourself to His service.”  On the 9th day of her illness, she died, happily knowing that Augustine was now spiritually reborn and healthy.

While in Augustine’s African home in Tagaste where he lived three years, he served God by fasting, through prayer, doing good works, by meditating and instructing others through his discourses and his books.  In 391 he was ordained as an assistant to Valerius, Bishop of Hippo, wherein he had moved to Hippo in a house that adjoined the church.  He established a sort of monastery, living there with Alipius, Evodius, Possidius and others.  Because Bishop Valerius had a speech impediment, he appointed Augustine to preach to the people in his own presence.  We have almost 600 sermons drafted and/or taken down by others as he delivered his sermons.

In 395, he was consecrated bishop as coadjutor to Valerius and succeeded him in the see of Hippo.    According to One-Hundred Saints (Bulfinch Press), “Augustine established regular and common life in his residence, and required all the priests, deacons, and subdeacons that lived with him to renounce property and to follow the rule he established there; nor did he admit any to holy orders who did not bind themselves to a similar manner of life.  He also founded a community of religious women to whom he addressed a letter on the general ascetic principles of the religious life.  This letter, together with two sermons on the subject, constitutes the Rule of St. Augustine, which is the basis of the constitutions of many canons regular, friars and nuns.  St. Augustine employed the revenues of his church in relieving the poor, as he had before given his own patrimony. . .”

He served 35 years as the Bishop of Hippo.  In Pope Benedict’s “General Audience” recorded on August 25, 2010, Pope Benedict said, “As you know, I too am especially attached to certain Saints:  among them in addition to St. Joseph and St. Benedict, whose names I bear is St. Augustine whom I have had the great gift to know, so to speak, close at hand through study and prayer and who has become a good “travelling companion” in my life and my ministry.  I would like to stress once again an important aspect of his human and Christian experirence, which is also timely in our day, in which it seems, paradoxically, that relativism is “truth” which  must guide our thoughts, decisions and behaviour.”

Pope Benedict teaches us in his General Audience recorded February 20, 2008, that: “The list of Augustine’s works was drafted with the explicit intention of keeping their memory alive while the Vandal invasion was sweeping through all of Roman Africa, and it included at least 1,030 writings numbered by their Author, with others “that cannot be numbered because he did not give them any number. . .In the literary corpus of Augustine, more than 1,000 publications divided into philosophical, apologetic, doctrinal, moral, monastic, exegetic and anti-heretical writings in addition precisely to the letters and homilies – certain exceptional works of immense theological and philisophical breadth stand out.  First of all, it is essential to remember the Confessions…, written in 13 books between 397 and 400 in praise of God.  They are sort of an autobiography in the form of a dialogue with God.  This literary genre actually  mirrors St. Augustine’s life, which was not one closed in on itself, dispersed in many things, but was lived substantially as a dialogue with God, hence, a life with others. . .Thanks to the Confessiones, moreover, we can follow step by step the inner journey of this extraordinary and passionate man of God.”  Augustine lays open his entire self, the sins and errors that he committed, giving to God his complete contrition and trust.

Pope Benedict then tells us about Augustine’s great work, “Of the City of God,” written between 413 and 426 in 22 books.  Pope Benedict says that Of the City of God it “was an impressive work crucial to the development of Western political thought and the Christian theology of history.  The occasion was the sack of Rome by the Goths in 410.  Numerous pagans still alive and also many Christians said:  Rome has fallen; the Christian God and the Apostles can now no longer protect the city.  While the pagan divinities were present, Rome was the great capital, and no one could have imagined that it would fall into enemy hands.  Now, with the Christian God, this great city no longer seemed safe.  Therefore, the God of the Christians did not protect, he could not be the god to whom to entrust oneself.  St. Augustine answered this objection, which also touched Christian hearts profoundly, with this impressive work, explaining what we should and should not expect of God, and what the relationship is between the political sphere and the sphere of faith, of the Church.  This book is also today a source for defining clearly between true secularism and the Church’s competence, the great true hope that the faith gives to us.”  Clearly we could find this work so relevant today, given the corruption and evil going on in our country and in the world.

We also learn from Pope Benedict of the book authored by Augustine, “De Trinitate,”  a work in 15 books on the central core of the Christian faith, faith in the Trinitarian God. . .Here he reflects on the Face of God and seeks to understand this mystery of God who is unique, the one Creator of the world, of us all, and yet this one God is precisely Trinitarian, a circle of love.  He seeks to understand the unfathomable mystery:  the actual Trinitarian being, in three Persons, is the most real and profound unity of the one God.”

Augustine’s last years were full of turmoil, difficulties and sufferings, inasmuch as King Genseric of the Vandals invaded the African provinces.  Augustine’s friend, Possidius, described the absolute horror they incurred upon the cities, where people either were slain or had to flee.  In fact, Mass was offered up in private houses or not at all, as the bishops and clergy had to escape.  There were many churches in Africa, but now hardly three remaining in Carthage, Hippo and Cirta.  Nevertheless, the Vandals appeared in Hippo about the end of May in 430 with an ongoing 14 month siege.  Augustine endured a severe fever and died on August 28, 430, 76 years of age, spending forty of those years in the labor of his ministry.

Pope Benedict tells us that Augustine “remained the model of the jouney towards God, supreme Truth and supreme Good.”  In Augustine’s Confessions, he says, “Late have I loved you, beauty, ever ancient and ever new, late have I loved  you.  You were within me and I was outside of you, and it was there that I sought you…You were with me and I was not with you…You called, you cried out, you pierced my deafness.  You shone, you struck me down, and you healed my blindness.” 

May St. Monica and St.Augustine be models and examples for us in their sincere and profound encounters with Jesus.  May those people who are seeking the truth on the wrong paths and getting lost in the blind direction of relativism and self-love, be guided to Jesus, to the Truth, and may these wonderful saints help us fight for what is right and true and good, and help us to recognize what is evil.   We see in their lives the familial troubles, the anguishing love for those we love, the attempt to understand the meaning of our lives and what is going on around us, and most of all, the journey to the Truth, who is a Person.  “JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU!”

With Faith, Hope and Love,

Joan

Sources:

Oxford Dictionary of the  Christian Church, Edited by F. L. Cross, Second Edition by F. L. Cross and E.A.Livingstone REVISED

 Vatican- Holy See:  The General Audiences of Pope Benedict XVI of February 20, 2008 and August 25, 2010

One Hundred Saints, Bulfrinch Press

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The Empty Tomb

Mark 16:1-6

When the sabbath was over,
Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome
bought spices so that they might go and anoint him.
Very early when the sun had risen,
on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb.
They were saying to one another,
“Who will roll back the stone for us
from the entrance to the tomb?”
When they looked up,
they saw that the stone had been rolled back;
it was very large.
On entering the tomb they saw a young man
sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe,
and they were utterly amazed.
He said to them, “Do not be amazed!
You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.
He has been raised; he is not here.”

John 20:2-9

So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead.


Below is a reconstruction of what happened from the book, The Truth About the Shroud of Turin (Regnery, 2010), pp. 189-191, by my friend Robert K. Wilcox. No matter how many times I read this, it never fails to move me to tears.
The tomb, a rocky chamber carved out of a hillside, a stone rolled against the door, is dark and silent. Lying on a slab is a long, rectangular cocoon, the hills and valleys of which are clearly the contours of a human body. The body of Jesus lies there, face up, a ribbon around the head and chin to keep the mouth closed, packed on all sides with bags of spices.
At some unknown moment in the dead of night, the air in the tomb becomes electric.
At first the vibrations are minute, the sort that could be detected by sensitive twentieth-century instruments; then they dramatically increase until they shake the ground and blow the boulder from the door.
A glow, faint at first, emanating from the shroud suddenly intensifies until rays of light shoot through the threads, star-filled golden rays filling the tomb and pouring out the door.
For thirty seconds — no more — the blinding, pulsating movement continues.
The source of the activity is the corpse, the body, somehow being revitalized, dematerialized, its mass being converted into energy, pure energy, which in the material world is radiant white light.
The body rises from the slab through the cloth, hovers for a moment in midair, then disappears.
The cocoon collapses. Darkness returns. Shouts of “Earthquake! Earthquake!” diminish as the guards run for their lives. And in the air, the distinct odor of scorched linen.
When dawn comes, the women in Jesus’ life draw tentatively toward the tomb, look in the opening, and see the shroud unopened, still wrapped, but definitely deflated. The body is gone. At sunrise the disciples come. John enters the tomb, puts his hand on the cloth, and presses it to the slab. Jesus is there no longer. The disciples and the women quickly gather up the burial garments — the chin band is still in the shroud — and the spice bags and leave before the Romans can return.
At another time, in another place, when they have a chance to gather their wits, they will discover the figure of their master imprinted on the inside of the shroud. The images would be faint, probably not as dark as the passage of time and exposure to air have made them; and the images would be negative ones, a phenomenon that would also become clearer with the passage of time. Regardless, they would view these images as holy — imprints of their precious Lord. The disciples would pay more attention to the images on the shroud if they weren’t already waiting, with the greatest anticipation, for Jesus himself, who, before his death, had promised to visit them after he rose from the dead.

Our Lord is Risen!

Colossians 3:1-4

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.

A Joyous Easter to all!

See also:

~Eowyn
lilies

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Holy Saturday: Our Lord stormed the gates of Hell

“. . . was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead….” –Apostles’ Creed

The Saturday between Good Friday (when our Lord was crucified) and Easter Sunday (when He rose from the dead) is given little attention, although what Jesus did in that interregnum is no less significant.
On Holy Saturday, Jesus Christ our Lord undertook some of the most dramatic and important work of His salvific mission.
He went into the depths of “hell” — a realm of the dead called “the limbo of the patriarchs,” which was without the punishments of the damned and which no longer exists.
There, awaiting His coming, were the departed just. Among them were Adam and Eve, St. John the Baptist, and Jesus’ foster-father Joseph. To the souls of the just, Jesus proclaimed He had won their salvation and led them as the first entrants into Heaven.
What a magnificent sight that must have been!

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday:

Something strange is happening – there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.
He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him, Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.” Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.” He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:
“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.
I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise.
I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth.
For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.
See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.
I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.
Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God.
The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.”

Be Joyous!
~Eowyn

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All Saints Day

Wed, 01 Nov 2017 12:00:51 +0000

joandarc

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

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