August 30, 2016

The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition: It Wasn’t as Bloody or as Brutal as Often Described

Pope Sixtus IV

The Spanish Inquisition has frequently been used to portray the Catholic Church as hypocritical and malevolent. However, recent scholarship proves that it wasn’t as bloody or as brutal as the Church’s detractors contend. The BBC documentary, The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition, refutes the false narratives surrounding this Tribunal. Below is a partial transcript of the program:


Starting at 3:02:

"Four centuries of condemnation have made the Spanish Inquisition a byword for cruelty, terror and tyranny. But this image is false. A distortion disseminated 400 years ago and accepted ever since. Now, a new generation of historians is looking at the inquisition afresh. Every one of the cases that came before the Spanish Inquisition during its 350-year history had its own file. These files, gathered together from sources such as this library in Salamanca, are being properly studied for the first time. (Prof. Henry Kamen speaking) 'I think our views of the inquisition have been changed largely by the opening up of the archives of the inquisition. They had everything on tape, as it were, hidden away in their archives. And we can go there, calculate, put it all on computer, and arrive at very firm statistics about its activity. And so all of this has opened wide the debate about the inquisition; and has also demolished totally the previous image which all of us had.'

The files are detailed and exhaustive. The inquisition kept its activities secret from the outside world, but its clerks wrote down every detail, in the confidence that their records were for the eyes of the inquisition only. The huge task of sifting this material, previously scattered throughout Spain daunted earlier generations. Systematic analysis is only just beginning, but already, a very different version of the Spanish Inquisition can be brought to light.

The Spain that gave birth to the Inquisition in the 15th century was barren and isolated, on the fringe of Europe. Half of its land unproductive, half barely sustaining a meager living. A monotonous burning plan. No easy routes, no natural center, no one leader. Spaniards could only dream of Hispania, the country that had been united during the days of the Roman conquest. All that was to change.

On the morning of October 18th, 1469, Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Aragon, and Isabella heiress of Castile, were married. Their wedding ended centuries of rivalry between the two Spanish kingdoms, and would unite the country. Spain, for so long merely a name on the map, had become a historical fact. The itinerant royal court often convened in the city of Ávila, here at the monastery of Santo Tomás its facade triumphantly incorporating an ‘H’ for the reunified Hispania. But for Ferdinand and Isabella there could be no political unity without religious unity. Pressure was exerted on Spain’s large Jewish population to convert. Many did. But traditional Christians were suspicious that these Conversos were practicing their former religion in secret.

Synagogues such as this one in Toledo came under scrutiny. In 1480, a new body was appointed to investigate. Entitled the Santo Oficio de la Inquisición, it is better known to us as the Spanish Inquisition. The Inquisition’s task was to discover heresy, deviation from the true Faith. Conversos accused of continued Jewish worship could be burnt at the stake.

The Inquisition had begun, but the myth had yet to be created.  For while these years between 1480 and 1510 were by far the most active in the entire history of the Inquisition, the rest of Europe did not hurry to condemn it. (Prof. Jamie Contreras speaking.) 'We have precise reports from Italian and French ambassadors who wrote to Catholic Kings congratulating them because at last Spain had become Christian.' The truth is that the Inquisition was applauded for its persecution of Spain’s converted Jews.'"

The Black Legend is Born

In 1517, the Protestant Reformation split the Church in two. For the first time in human history, Protestants fought a deliberate propaganda war against their enemies; accusing them of unspeakable acts, and setting the stage for centuries of anti-Catholic scholarship. The fraudulent accounts of Montanus about the torture methods used by the Inquisitors and the deplorable conditions in which prisoners lived, were especially damaging.

Starting at 9:01:

"The Church’s champion, defender of the faith, was Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. As leader of the Habsburg dynasty, he also commanded the most powerful armies in Europe. But Charles was more than just a Habsburg. As Ferdinand’s grandson, he acceded to the throne of Spain putting that country at the forefront of defending the Faith. At the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547, his enemies were virtually annihilated. Routed on the battlefield the reformers attacked elsewhere…

Protestants used the newly invented printing press to wage a propaganda campaign against the Church and the Spain's Habsburgs. Here is an example of the type of bitter invective they employed:

'This scum of barbarians, this mongrel generation Spain is and ever hath been the sink the puddle and fifthly heap of the most loathsome infected and slavish people that ever lived. Their more than tigress cruelty, their lustful and inhumane deflowering of their matrons, wives and daughters, their matchless and sodomitical ravishings of young boys which these demi-barbarian Spaniards have committed.'

Within a year of the Battle of Mühlberg, a stream of anti-Spanish invective began to pour off the printing presses of the Reformation. But the polemic needed a focus. It found one in the body expressly designed to uphold the Catholic faith -- the Inquisition. A myth was in the making.

All the different acquisitions came together in this document: A Discovery and plain Declaration of Sundry and Subtill Practices of the Holy Inquisition of Spain, printed in 1567. Within the year, it was translated into English, French, Dutch and German. Its author, masquerading as a Protestant victim of the Inquisition, wrote under the pseudonym Montanus.

By identifying with the victim, Montanus brought the supposed horrors of the Spanish Inquisition vividly alive. It is his work which introduced to the world an image of the Inquisition which has persisted ever since." (The "Black Legend" originated as an anti-Spanish propaganda campaign disseminated through the printing press. The Inquisition and the Catholic Church were its primary targets.)

Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Novena for Marriage and Families 2016 | Day 1

 Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph
The Marriage of the Virgin, Raphael, 1504.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary novena for marriage and families begins today. Strong families are indispensable in building a culture of life that protects human dignity. We pray that the sacrament of marriage is strengthened and that families are sanctified. Saint John Paul II's apostolic exhortation Famillaris Consoetio underscores the importance of the family in God's plan of salvation:

"At a moment of history in which the family is the object of numerous forces that seek to destroy it or in some way to deform it, and aware that the well-being of society and her own good are intimately tied to the good of the family, the Church perceives in a more urgent and compelling way her mission of proclaiming to all people the plan of God for marriage and the family, ensuring their full vitality and human and Christian development, and thus contributing to the renewal of society and of the People of God."

Novena Prayers for Marriage and Family

Say the following three times:

Jesus, I trust in You. Please grant through Your mother’s intercession that I may always bring Your hope into my family.

Then say:

Our Lady, on this feast of your birth, please pray for stronger and holier marriages. Amen.

Day 1

Most lovable Mother Mary, our Father in Heaven created you with delight. You are His creature whom He made worthy to become the holy Mother of His Son. You were born into a family of Saints. Pray for me today that my joy in your Son will increase and that my family may become more holy.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 2

Oh most holy daughter of Adam, your precious Son chose you as the vessel for his entry to the world. Where our first mother, Eve, fell short, you fulfilled God’s call for a Mother’s holiness. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may be born to new life through your Son.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 3

Immaculate daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne, you are the door to the Eternal Word who made you the source of His Sacred Blood. You are a model for all Christian sons and daughters. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul and that I may have a greater devotion to your Son’s Precious Blood.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 4

Oh most holy daughter of the line of King David, the Redeemer of the world loves you with the singular love of a Child for His mother. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may have a greater love and devotion to my Mother and Father.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 5

Most holy Mary, the Holy Spirit preserved you from sin so that our Lord would have a fitting vessel to enter the world. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may remain faithful to your Son until the end.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 6

Oh holy Mother, St. Joachim and St. Anne were delighted to love and care for so holy a child. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may show greater charity to my parents and grandparents in word, prayer and deed.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 7

Holy Mother, your birth caused great joy to the angels, because they saw your holiness caused by your Son’s resurrection. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that your graces may rain down on all married couples.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 8

Heavenly Mother, your birth gave great joy to all the world because it signaled the coming of Jesus Christ, who would save the whole world by His life, death and resurrection. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may be exceedingly patient with my family and loved ones.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Day 9

Mother Mary, you pray for me as your child. Thank you for welcoming me into the Holy Family. Pray for me today that the feast of your birth may give great joy to my soul that I may increase my devotion to the Holy Family.

Dearest Mother, please pray for me and for these my intentions…

(State your intentions)

Hail Mary…

Click for more on this novena and to receive daily reminders by email.

August 29, 2016

Saint Jeanne Jugan, Virgin and Foundress of the Little Sisters of the Poor

St. Jeanne Jugan
August 30th, the Church celebrates Saint Jeanne Jugan, (1792-1879) also known as, Mary of the Cross, a French religious remembered for her dedication to the elderly indigent, who founded the Little Sisters of the Poor. She was born in Cancale, Brittany, (France) the sixth of eight children of Joseph and Marie Jugan.

Due to the religious persecution of the French Revolution. Jugan was catechized and attended Mass in secret. To support her family, she worked as a shepherdess. Later, she became a domestic servant to the Viscountess de la Choue, a devout Catholic. When the viscountess visited the sick and the needy, Jeanne would accompany her.

She declined the marriage proposals of several potential suitors saying that God was calling her to, "a work which is not yet founded." At 25, she entered the Third Order of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary founded by Saint John Eudes. During this period, she worked as a hospital nurse and assisted a fellow member of the Eudist Third Order, until the woman's death. Along with two other women, Jeanne rented a room to minister to the old and the sick.

One night, in the winter of 1839, Jeanne met Anne Chauvin, a blind, elderly woman with no one to care for her. Jugan carried Chauvin home, giving the woman her bed and tending to her ailments. Jugan resolved that the rest of her life would be dedicated to helping abandoned elderly. She would take in two more women within the month. Eventually she was providing shelter and medical care to a dozen needy women. In 1841, she acquired an unused convent building that could accommodate 40.

The future saint established four additional homes in Saint-Servan, Dinan, Tours, and Angers. Many young women joined her. By 1850, the Little Sisters of the Poor had over 100 members. In 1852, the Bishop of Rennes formally recognized the Congregation, naming Father Le Pailleur the Superior General of the Order. The new superior's first act was to consign Sister Jeanne to the Motherhouse for a retirement that was to last the rest of her life.

For the next 27 years, Jeanne served her order through tireless prayer and by accepting the trial and abasement permitted by God. She died peacefully on Aug. 29, 1879. At the time of her death, she was not acknowledged as the foundress of the order. In the fullness of time, however, thanks in part to her cause of canonization, she was finally honored for her life of heroic virtue. Her example speaks to the sanctity of all human beings and our obligation to each other. It is said that upon meeting Jugan, Charles Dickens said, "there is in this woman something so calm, and so holy, that in seeing her I know myself to be in the presence of a superior being. Her words went straight to my heart, so that my eyes, I know not how, filled with tears."

St. Jeanne Jugan was beatified by Saint John Paul II on October 3, 1982, and canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI, who said of her, "In the Beatitudes, Jeanne Jugan found the source of the spirit of hospitality and fraternal love, founded on unlimited trust in Providence, which illuminated her whole life." God of might, giver of every good gift, put into our hearts the love of your name, so that, by deepening our sense of reverence, and, by your watchful care, we may keep safe what you have nurtured and imitate Christ more fully.

August 28, 2016

The Passion of Saint John the Baptist

The beheading of St. John the Baptist

August 29th, the Church celebrates the passion of Saint John the Baptist. He was the cousin of Jesus, the son of Elizabeth and Zachariah, and the nephew of the Blessed Virgin Mary. John heralds Christ in his miraculous birth and his ministry as preacher, and martyr. Apart from Jesus and our Lady, John the Baptist is the only one whose birth and death are commemorated by the Church. Mark's Gospel relates the events of his execution (Mark 6:17-29):

"Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife." Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. She had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. Herodias’ own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, "Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you." He even swore many things to her, "I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom." She went out and said to her mother, "What shall I ask for?" She replied, "The head of John the Baptist." The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, "I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist." The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison. He brought in the head on a platter and gave it to the girl. The girl in turn gave it to her mother. When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb."

"A Voice Crying Out in the Wilderness"

It is John the Baptist who urged repentance and proclaimed to the world the imminence of the Messiah. On the day of Christ's baptism, John immediately recognized Jesus as the long awaited "Anointed One". Later, upon hearing of John's imprisonment, Jesus said, "Then why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way before you.’ Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matthew 11:9-11). In reflecting upon the passion of John the Baptist, we call to mind the wisdom of Saint Paul: "The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18) O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of your Son both in his birth and in his death, grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what you teach.

Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 4, 2016, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

Christ preaching to his disciples
(Click here for today’s readings)

About 3,350 years ago an Egyptian Pharaoh named Akhenaten decided to make worship of the Sun God the only religion in Egypt. He destroyed images of other gods and fired their priests, imposing an uncompromising monotheism.

It makes sense really. Every morning a star we call the sun rises. Where have the other stars gone? You can almost hear the sun saying, “Don’t bother with those other puny stars. They’re cute but useless. I’m the only star that matters to you. I give you light. I give you heat. Where would you be without me? I am numero uno, the real star of the show known as earth.”

Psalm 19 reflects in part a similar fascination with the sun.
[At the utmost bounds of the world God] has placed a tent for the sun; it comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his tent,
rejoices like a champion to run its course.
At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun;
to the furthest end of the sky is its course.
There is nothing concealed from its burning heat.
When each one of us rises, a similar phenomenon occurs. Maybe we don’t think of ourselves as numero uno in the universe, but each of us really wants and needs to be the star in someone’s life. This usually occurs in families. Spouses are supposed to be the light of each other’s life, likewise parents and kids, at least for a significant period of time; friends can assume that role as well.

Losing that “star status” is devastating. Worse still is the fear of or resentment at losing it. This can lead to seriously dysfunctional situations. In an old Ann Landers column a teenager wrote an open letter to her parents, complaining that her Dad’s promotion forced her to move away in her junior year from the high school, where she had been quite a star. She concluded with: “I hate you, Mom and Dad, for doing this to me. I will never forgive you as long as I live.”

When Jesus said we need to “hate” spouses, parents and children, this is definitely not what he meant! What he is saying is that he has to be the first, he has to be the sun outshining all the other stars.

Yes, his claim is outrageous. But in fact he is the only one who has the right to make it. It’s like the 2nd and 3rd steps of AA. “A power greater than ourselves” was acknowledged, and only then was it possible to make “a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

That’s the point of today’s first reading. We cannot rely on ourselves alone. We need God’s wisdom.

Saint Paul was generally not shy about imposing his authority, but in the second reading he wisely chooses not to do so. He sends the slave Onesimus back to his master, “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a brother.” It’s clear that this “brother” is not the object of hatred; he is now “beloved” precisely because he has become a Christian.

The Third Eucharistic Prayer uses the biblical turn of phrase, “from the rising of the sun to it’s setting.” Jesus is the one sun that never sets. No other star even comes close.

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for September 2016

Pope Francis' coat of arms Please remember the Holy Father Pope Francis' intentions in prayer through the month of Septenber:

Universal: Centrality of the Human Person

That each may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center.

Evangelization: Mission to Evangelize

That by participating in the Sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize.

Fr. Butler's Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 28, 2016, Year C

Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.
Provincial Superior, La Salette Missionaries of North America
Hartford, Connecticut

Jesus at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
(Click here for today’s readings)

I lived a total of twenty-three years outside of the USA, mostly in an international community of Europeans, South Americans, Africans, and Asians. You can imagine the puzzlement of many of them when they heard American presidents and others constantly refer to the US as the “Greatest nation on earth,” and “Leader of the free world.”

That we are a great and influential nation, no one could doubt. But that doesn’t make us better than anyone else.

We aren’t alone in this arrogance. The French traditionally claim to be the greatest thinkers, and of course they have the best wines, chefs, etc. Italians claim the greatest artists, and of course they also have the best wines, chefs, etc. Ireland prides itself on being the land of saints and scholars. The list goes on.

Should we go around saying we are the worst nation on earth? Of course not. There is such a thing as honest and healthy pride.

We all understand what false humility is, and we know that Jesus is not promoting it in today’s Gospel. But we also understand what false pride is, and can see exactly what Jesus thinks of that.

The last part of this Gospel text is easily missed. Jesus takes his teaching a step further. It’s not enough to have humility and not consider ourselves better. We ought to associate with those who are naturally humble because life has humbled them.

That’s the real challenge in today’s Gospel. How can we respond to it?

The obvious choice is to be involved in an activity like serving community dinners, soup kitchens, etc. Even then, do we just distribute the food to those in need, or do we sit down and eat with them once the serving is done?

Other possibilities exist. You might have a neighbor or friend who is widowed or divorced or fallen on hard times and feeling desperately alone. Jesus mentions specifically the physically handicapped who, in his world, had no income but what they could get by begging, with no hope of improving their lot.

Today’s second reading declares in a solemn and poetic way just how blessed and privileged we Christians are. The first reading tells us, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.”

We may be better off than others in many ways. That doesn’t make us better than anyone else. The willingness to reach out to others is what makes us better, not by comparison to anyone else, but “better than ourselves,” better than we might otherwise be, as persons, as Christians.

August 27, 2016

The Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Altarpiece of the Seven Joys, by the Master of the Holy Family, c. 1480.

The Seven Joys of the Blessed Virgin (Also known as The Franciscan Crown Rosary)

Today is the traditional feast of the Seven Joys of Mary. The origin of the prayer can be found in the Manual for Franciscan Tertiaries:

"About the year 1420, a young man, deeply devoted to Our Lady, took the habit of St Francis. Before joining the Order, he had, among other practices, been accustomed daily to make a chaplet of flowers, and with it to crown a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Having in his novitiate no longer an opportunity of making this crown for his Most Beloved Queen, he, in his simplicity, thought that she would withdraw her affection from him; this temptation of the devil disturbed his vocation, and he resolved to abandon the cloister. The merciful mother appeared to him, and gently rebuking him, strengthened him in his vocation by telling him to offer her instead of the chaplet of flowers, a crown much more pleasing to her, composed of seventy-two Ave Marias and a Pater after each decade of Ave Marias, and to meditate at each decade upon the seven joys she had experienced during the seventy-two years of her exile upon the earth. The novice immediately commenced reciting the new crown or rosary, and derived therefrom many spiritual and temporal graces. This pious practice spread quickly through the whole Order, and even throughout the world… St Bernardin of Siena used to say that it was by the Crown of the Seven Joys that he had obtained all the graces which Heaven has heaped upon him."

The Joys of Mary remembered in this devotion are:

The Annunciation of the Angel to Mary
The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth
The Nativity of Our Lord
The Adoration of the Magi
The Finding of Jesus in the Temple
The Resurrection of Our Lord
and The Crowning of Our Lady, Mary, in Heaven as Queen

August 26, 2016

Memorial of Saint Monica

Death of Saint Monica,
Death of Saint Monica, scene from Life of Saint Augustine,
Ottaviano Nelli, 1420-1425.

August 27th, is the Memorial of Saint Monica, (333-387) the mother of Saint Augustine. Augustine’s life of sin and embrace of worldly pleasures is well known. In turning her son’s heart to God, Monica’s fervent prayers won for the Church a revered scholar and saint. She exemplifies those women in ancient Christianity whose quiet witness was powerfully efficacious. Despite suffering abuse, addiction and discouragement, Monica never lost hope or her faith in God.

She was born in Tagaste, a town in Northern Africa, (present day Algeria) the oldest of three children to Christian parents. She was given in marriage to a pagan Roman official named Patricius. They had three children, sons Augustine and Navigius and a daughter Perpetua. Her husband and mother-in-law treated Monica with disdain. Monica answered their maltreatment with charity. Her prayers and kindness opened Patricius’ eyes to the error of his ways. He was baptized into the Church in 370, one year before his death.

All of Monica’s children would enter religious life. Before doing so, Augustine, most famously, had a child out of wedlock and studied Manicheanism, a religion diametrically opposed to Christianity. When her husband died, Monica sent the 17-year-old Augustine to Carthage for schooling. There, he became a Manichean. Upon returning home, Augustine disclosed his new found beliefs to his mother, who threw him out of the house. According to tradition, Monica received a vision urging her to make amends with her wayward son. A short time later, she consulted an unknown bishop concerning her anguished attempts to evangelize Augustine. The prelate told her, "It is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost." Monica shed more tears for Augustine’s spiritual death than other mothers shed for the bodily death of a son. She prayed for his conversion for 17 years, fasted, and made Holy Communion her only daily sustenance.

After completing his studies, Augustine founded a school in Carthage for the teaching of Manicheism. Soon, he realized that the Manicheans were more skilled in attacking Christianity than in arguing the truth of their precepts. Seeing the folly of Manicheism, Augustine traveled to Rome to teach rhetoric. Determined to join him, Monica set out for Rome. Meanwhile, Saint Symmachus offered Augustine a chair in rhetoric in Milan. When Monica arrived in Rome, Augustine had already departed.

In Milan, Augustine visited the future saint, Bishop Ambrose. It was Ambrose who would instruct Augustine in the truths of the Faith. When Monica came to Milan she too visited the Bishop. The two together would overcome Augustine’s objections to Christianity. Upon his conversion, Augustine attributed his change of heart to his mother. He was baptized by Ambrose on Holy Saturday, 387.

Monica died a few months after Augustine's baptism. Before her death, she had a profound mystical insight which she shared with Augustine: "Son, for myself I have no longer any pleasure in anything in this life. Now that my hopes in this world are satisfied, I do not know what more I want here or why I am here."

St. Monica’s remains rest in the Basilica of Sant'Agostino, Rome. Through prayer and persistence, she gave Augustine to the Church, thereby earning a place of distinction in the history of God's kingdom on earth. She is the patron of abuse victims, addicts, wayward children and difficult marriages. O God, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon.

August 25, 2016

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 9

St. Monica

Saint Monica demonstrated heroic patience during her trials. She suffered greatly, but never lost her abiding faith in God's goodness. Let us pray that we may have the faith of St. Monica and so possess heroic patience in the face of all difficulties. Only then, can we truly be instruments of God's peace.

Day 9 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

King Saint Louis IX's Observation on the Importance of One's Soul

King St. Louis IX

King Saint Louis IX never forgot his upbringing in the Faith. His friend and biographer, the Sieur de Joinville, who joined him on his first crusade to the Holy Land, relates that the King once asked him, "What is God?" Joinville replied, "Sire, it is that which is so good that there can be nothing better." "Well," said the King, "now tell me, would You rather be a leper or commit a mortal sin?" The spectacle of the wretched lepers who wandered along the highways of medieval Europe might well have prompted a sensitive conscience to ask such a question. "I would rather commit thirty mortal sins," answered Joinville, in all candor, "than be a leper." Louis expostulated with him earnestly for making such a reply. "When a man dies," he said, "he is healed of leprosy in his body; but when a man who has committed a mortal sin dies he cannot know of a certainty that he has in his lifetime repented in such sort that God has forgiven him; wherefore he must stand in great fear lest that leprosy of sin last as long as God is in Paradise."

Source: "Sant Louis, Confessor, King of France", EWTN.

August 24, 2016

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 8

St. Monica

O God, who consoles the sorrowful and who mercifully accepted the motherly tears of Saint Monica for the conversion of her son Augustine, grant us, through the intercession of them both, that we may bitterly regret our sins and find the grace of your pardon. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Day 8 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.

Saint Joseph Calasanz, Priest and Founder

St. Joseph Calasanz
August 25th, is the Optional Memorial of Saint Joseph Calasanz, (1556-1648) the Spanish priest and educator who founded the Order of the Poor Clerks Regular, (the Piarists) a community devoted to the instruction of youth. He was born in Petralta, Aragon, and educated in philosophy, law and theology. His father desired that he marry, but upon recovering from a life threatening illness, Joseph resolved to become a priest. He was ordained in 1583, after which he served as a secretary, administrator and theologian in the diocese of Albarracín, Spain.

In 1592, Joseph traveled to Rome, where he worked as a theologian for Cardinal Marcoantonio Colonna. While residing there, he visited the seven principal churches each evening, as well as venerating the graves of the Roman martyrs. At that time, the Eternal City was afflicted with a series of deadly plagues. Alongside Saint Camillus de Lellis, Joseph tended to the afflicted and helped carry the bodies of the dead to burial. The two future saints engaged in a kind of holy rivalry to see which of them, in aiding the sick and the stricken, could do so more perfectly.

Together with the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Joseph opened a school for homeless youth. Within a decade, he founded a community for teaching poor children, which became known as the Piarists. With financial backing from Popes Clement VIII and Paul V, the Piarists soon had a thousand children in their charge. Joseph Calasanz was instrumental in establishing the first free public schools in Italy. In 1617, Pope Paul V approved the Congregation of the Pious Schools, the first religious order so dedicated to teaching. In the following years, Joseph started Pious schools throughout Europe.

At Joseph’s insistence, the Piarists accepted Jewish children into their schools and ensured they were treated equally. Textbooks were in vernacular languages, not Latin. Joseph gave priority to the study of mathematics and science. As a friend of the scientist Galileo Galilei, he sent some of his Piarists to study with him. He agreed with and defended Galileo’s heliocentric view of the planets. This caused him to be viewed unfavorably in influential quarters and he was forced to resign as superior general of the Piarists.

His heroic patience and humility in the face of great persecution earned him the approbation, "the Second Job". Despite garnering support from many, in 1586, Joseph was paraded through the streets of Rome by the Inquisition as a criminal. His life is an example of how God allows misunderstandings and hostility, even from the Church, to frustrate honorable undertakings. Joseph died in 1648, at the age of 90. At the time of his death his Order was facing demise. Eight years after his death, Pope Alexander VII cleared his name and that of the Piarist Order. The Order once again flourished and continued to spread across Europe.

Joseph Calasanz was beatified in 1748 by Pope Benedict XIV and canonized by Pope Clement XIII in 1767. In 1948, Pope Pius XII declared him the patron saint of Catholic schools. Among those educated in Piarist schools were: Francisco Goya, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Gregor Mendel and Victor Hugo. O God, who adorned the Priest Saint Joseph Calasanz with such charity and patience that he labored tirelessly to educate children and endow them with every virtue, grant, we pray, that we, who venerate him as a teacher of wisdom, may constantly imitate him, for he was a co-worker of your truth.

Optional Memorial of Saint Louis IX, King of France

Blanche of Castile and King Louis IX

August 25th, is the Optional Memorial of Saint Louis IX, (1214 – 1270) the French King known for his personal holiness and wise rule. As a monarch, he dedicated himself to the concerns of his kingdom and those of Christendom. Accounts of his life hold that Luis ministered to the poor and the sick, often personally tending to their needs. People from every walk of life sought his assistance. He was a tertiary of the Order of the Holy Trinity and Captives (the Trinitarians). King Luis was a great admirer of the mendicant orders, and aided several, especially the Franciscans.

Louis was born in Poissy, near Paris, the son of Prince Louis and Princess Blanche. He was tutored in Latin, literature, rhetoric, military arts and government. Louis' mother trained him to be a judicious leader and a Godly man. She instilled in him love and awe for the things of God, and would often say to him: "I love you my dear son, as much as a mother can love her child; but I would rather see you dead at my feet than that you should commit a mortal sin."

When Louis was 9, his father became King Louis VIII. After reigning only two years, Louis VIII died. His wife, Queen Blanche, was made regent of the kingdom. To prevent an uprising of nobles, she hastened her son’s coronation. The ceremony took place at Rheims on the first Sunday of Advent, 1226.

In May, 1234, Louis, then 19, married Margaret, the oldest daughter of Raymond Beranger, Count of Provence. They had five sons and six daughters. After taking control of the government, Louis’ first act was to build the monastery of Royaumont. He installed the Carthusians in the palace of Vauvert in Paris, and together with his mother, founded the convent of Maubuisson. Desirous to make France foremost in Christendom, Louis  purchased the Crown of Thorns and other holy relics from the Eastern Emperor of Constantinople. He commissioned a shrine be built on the island in the Seine to house the relics. The result, the Sainte-Chapelle, is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in existence. Its contents were tragically plundered during the French Revolution.

King Louis participated in two crusades; the Seventh Crusade, in 1248, and the Eighth Crusade in 1270. On his feast day, the Breviary speaks of his courage and piety: "'He had already been king for twenty years when he fell victim to a severe illness. That afforded the occasion for making a vow to undertake a crusade for the liberation of the Holy Land. Immediately upon recovery he received the crusader's cross from the hand of the bishop of Paris, and, followed by an immense army, he crossed the sea in 1248. On the field of battle Louis routed the Saracens; yet when the plague had taken large numbers of his soldiery, he was attacked and taken captive (1250). The king was forced to make peace with the Saracens; upon the payment of a huge ransom, he and his army were again set at liberty.' While on a second crusade he died of the plague, with these words from the psalm upon his lips: 'I will enter Thy house; I will worship in Thy holy temple and sing praises to Thy Name!'" (Ps. 5).

Saint Louis IX was brave in battle, devout in his veneration of God and steadfast in fasting and mortification. He was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII on July 11, 1297. He is the only French monarch to be declared a saint. Louis IX is often considered the model of the ideal Christian leader. O God, who brought Saint Louis from the cares of earthly rule to the glory of a heavenly realm, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that, by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom and there spend forever with You.

Saint Monica Novena 2016 | Day 7

St. Monica

Saint Monica is the patron saint of abuse victims. She suffered verbal abuse from her husband's violent temper for years. Such maltreatment is a consequence of our fallen humanity. Today, let us pray for all victims of abuse.

Day 7 - The St. Monica Novena

Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your son.

(Mention your intentions here)

With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.

Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.