Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Beheading Of Saint John the Baptist

"I must decrease, as He must increase."

Caravaggio's 1609 Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Benozzo Gozolli, c. 1461-62


Our Blessed Lady's Saturday

Prayer Of Trust In the Immaculate Heart

To the refuge of thine Immaculate Heart, O Heavenly Mother Mary,
I come to be enclosed as in a most choice garden of sweetness and
delight. I am the [son/daughter] of thine Immaculate Heart, O Mother
of God. Thou, O Spouse of the Holy Ghost, Daughter of God the Father,
Mother of the Son, in thy loving relationship to the Most Blessed Trinity,
serve as Mediatrix of all grace that comes to me from the Heavenly
throne, flowing forth from the Sacred Heart of thy Son, passing
through the Immaculate Heart of thy Heavenly intercession.
The love of thine Immaculate Heart showing forth in tender care gives
me confidence in thee, O Heavenly Mother Mary. In thee I trust.
Thine intercession, united to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is powerful to tend
to every need of body and soul upon earth and to lead me lovingly home
to thine eternal embrace, where thou wilt introduce me to thy Divine Son,
with the Holy Ghost dwelling always in my soul, and the Heavenly Father
forever providing for my every temporal and spiritual need as
all three Persons in the one Godhead see in thee, O Mary ,
the Mother of this thy [son/daughter] upon earth.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday At the Foot Of the Cross

by Saint Louis de Montfort

The Cross in mystery
Is veiled for us below;
Without great light to see,
Who shall its splendor know?
Alone the lofty mind
Shall this high secret trace;
And none shall heaven find
Who grasps it not by grace.

Nature the Cross abhors;
Reason gives it a frown;
The learned man ignores It.
Satan tears it down.
Despite a pious art,
Even the fervent soul
Oft takes it not to heart,
But plays the liar's role.

Essential is the Tree,
And we who know its cost
Must mount to Calvary
Or languish and be lost.
As Saint Augustine states
With outcry ominous,
We all are reprobates
Unless God chastens us.

Its Necessity

One road to Heaven runs:
The highway of the Cross.
It was the royal Son's,
His road to life from loss.
And every stone of it
That guides the pilgrim's feet
Is chiseled fair to fit
In Zion's holy street.

Vain is the victory
Of him who, conquering
The world, lacks mastery
Of self through suffering;
Vain if he has not Christ,
Slain Christ, for exemplar,
Or spurns the Sacrificed
For dread of wound and scar.

Its Victories

Christ's Cross, restraining Hell,
Has conquered Eden's curse,
Stormed Satan's citadel,
And won the universe.
Now to His faithful band
He gives that weapon bright
To arm both heart and hand
Against the evil sprite.

In this auspicious Sign
Thou shalt be conqueror,
Said He to Constantine,
Who that proud Standard bore;
A glorious augury,
Of whose prodigious worth
The records all agree
In Heaven and on earth!

Its Glory and Merit

Despite deceitful sense
And reason's fickle shift,
The Cross with confidence
We take as Truth's own gift.
A princess there we see
In whom, let faith confess,
We find all charity,
Grace, wisdom, holiness.

God's love could not resist
Such beauty or its plea,
Which bade Him keep a tryst
With our humanity.
Coming to earth, He said:
This, Lord, and nothing more:
Thy saving Cross imbed
Here in My bosom's core.

He took it, found it fair,
An object not of shame
But honor, made it share
His love's most tender flame.
From childhood's morning hour
His longing kept in sight
As beauty would a flower
The Cross of His delight.

At last in its caress
Long sought for eagerly,
He died of tenderness
And love's totality.
That dear supreme baptism
For which His heart had cried,
The Cross became His chrism,
Love's object undenied.

Christ called the Fisherman
A Satan scandalous
When he but winced to scan
What Christ would bear for us.
Christ's Cross we may adore,
His Mother we may not.
O mystery and more!
a marvel beyond thought!

This Cross, now scattered wide
On earth, shall one day rise
Transported, glorified,
To the celestial skies.
Upon a cloudy height
The Cross, full-brillianted,
Shall, by its very sight,
Judge both the quick and dead.

Revenge, the Cross will cry
Against its sullen foes;
Pardon and joy on high
And blessedness for those
Of proved fidelity
In the immortal throng,
Singing its victory
With universal song.

In life the Saints aspired
To nothing but the Cross;
'Twas all that they desired,
Counting all else but loss.
Each one, in discontent
With such afflictions sore
As chastening Heaven sent,
Condemned himself to more.

St. Peter, prison-chained,
Had greater glory there
Than when at Rome he gained
The first Christ-Vicar's chair.
Saint Andrew, faithful, cried:
O good Cross, let me yield
To thee and in thee hide,
Where death in Life is sealed.

See how the great St. Paul
Depicts with meagre gloss
His rapture mystical,
But glories in the Cross.
More admirable far,
More merit-rich is he,
Behind his dungeon bar
Than in his ecstasy.

Its Effects

Without a Cross, the soul
Is cowardly and tame;
Like fire to a coal
The Cross sets it aflame.
One who has suffered not,
In ignorance is bound;
Only in pain's hard lot
Is holy wisdom found.

A soul untried is poor
In value; new, untrained,
With destiny unsure
And little wisdom gained.
O sweetness sovereign
Which the afflicted feels
When pleased that to his pain
No human solace steals!

'Tis by the Cross alone
God's blessing is conferred,
And His forgiveness known
In the absolving word.
He wants all things to bear
The mark of that great seal;
Without it, nought is fair
To Him, no beauty real.

Wherever place is given
The Cross, things once profane
Become instinct with Heaven
And shed away their stain.
On breast and brow, God's sign,
Worn proudly for His sake,
Will bless with Power Divine
Each task we undertake.

It is our surety,
Our one protection,
Our hope's white purity,
Our soul's perfection.
So precious is its worth
That Angels fain would bring
The blest soul back to earth
To share our suffering.

This Sign has such a charm
That at the altar-stone
The priest can God disarm
And draw Him from His throne.
Over the sacred Host
This mighty Sign he plays,
Signals the Holy Ghost,
And the Divine obeys.

With this adorable Sign
A fragrance is diffused
Most exquisite and fine,
A perfume rarely used.
The consecrated priest
Makes Him this offering
As incense from the East,
Meet crown for Heaven's King.

Eternal Wisdom still
Sifts our poor human dross
For one whose heart and will
Is worthy of the Cross,
Still seeks one spirit rare
Whose every pulse and breath
Is fortitude to bear
The Christ-Cross until death.

Ardent Apostrophe

O Cross, let me be hushed;
In speech I thee abase.
Let my presumption, crushed,
Its insolence erase.
Since thee I have received
Imperfectly, in part,
Forgive me, friend aggrieved,
For my unwilling heart!

Dear Cross, here in this hour,
I bow to thee in awe.
Abide with me in power
And teach me all thy law.
My princess, let me glow
With ardor in thine arms;
Grant me to chastely know
The secret of thy charms.

In seeing thee so fair,
I hunger to possess
Thy beauty, but I dare
Not in my faithlessness.
Come, mistress, by thy will
Arouse my feeble soul
And I will give thee still
A heart renewed and whole.

For life I choose thee now,
My pleasure, honor, friend,
Sole object of my vow,
Sole joy to which I tend.
For mercy's sake, print, trace
Yourself upon my heart,
My arm, my forehead, face;
And not one blush will start.

Above all I possess
I choose thy poverty;
And for my tenderness
Thy sweet austerity.
Now be thy folly wise
And all thy holy shame
As grandeur in my eyes,
My glory and my fame.

When, by your majesty,
And for your glory's sake,
You shall have vanquished me,
That conquest I shall take
As final victory,
Though worthy not to fall
Beneath thy blows, or be
A mockery to all.

English Rendition by Clifford J. Laube, Litt.D.


Saint Augustine

St. Augustine by Botticelli, c. 1445
Here is what The Golden Legend has to say about St. Augustine.

Here is a short biography of this great doctor of the Church.

Saint Augustine's Threnus Prayer
It is sometimes called A Prayer For Those In Tribulation.
This is one of the very best penitential prayers I have ever come across and it reflects a deep understanding of fallen human nature.
(based on the translation by Michael W. Martin of Thesaurus Preces Latinarum). I love to make regular use of this prayer during Lent and during Embertides.

I would be wise to place before Thine eyes, O Lord,
My misdeeds and the wounds I have received.

For if I do, the less I suffer
And the greater I merit.

I feel the punishment for sin,
Yet I do not shun my obstinacy in sinning.

My fragile nature is shattered by Thy scourges,
Yet my evil ways remain unchanged.

My sick mind is wrenched,
Yet my stiff neck is not bent.

My life sighs in pain,
And yet, it does not amend itself.

If Thou waiteth, I do not reform,
If Thou punisheth, I do not last.

When accused, I admit what I have done,
Yet when punished, I forget.

If Thou punisheth, I make promises;
If Thou holdeth back the sword, I do not carry out my promises.

If Thou striketh me, I cry out that Thou might spare me;
If Thou sparest me, I again provoke Thee to strike me.

If difficulties come, I ask for a time for repentance.
If mercy comes to my aid, I abuse Thy patience which has spared me.

Even when my wounds are scarcely healed,
My ungrateful mind forgets.

If Thou hearest me quickly, I become haughty from mercy.
If Thou art slow, I complain bitterly out of impatience.

I am willing to serve Thee because of what Thou hast done,
Yet I do not fear to neglect what Thou willst have me do.

Thou hast in Thy power, O Lord, this guilty wretch who has confessed;
Be merciful, for Thou art kind and loving.

I have known that, unless Thou forgiveth me,
Thou shalt justly punish me.

But with Thee is much pity
And abundant forgiveness.

Grant, without any merit on my part, what I ask,
O Thou, who hast made from nothing him who asks Thee.

Have mercy on me crying out to Thee, O Lord.
May my faithful and tearful voice stir up Thy mercy.

May that forgiveness not consider that I sin,
But may it reflect on the fact I implore mercy.

Since it is a great misery that I am accused,
May the fact that I am miserable make Thy mercy be the greater.

I beg Thy help,
And before Thee I place the evils and sorrows of my crimes.

By my prayers I look for Thy mercy,
The very mercy which I have spurned by my sins.

Raise me up in Thy mercy, O Lord our God,
So that in the fellowship of salvation and the joy of charity,

While I long to be saved,
I may rejoice in the faith and peace of all the nations.

Through Christ our Lord Who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Ghost,
One God, world without end.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Requiescat In Pace

As the whole world knows by now, Senator Edward Kennedy died during the night. Two maxims come to mind immediately: "Concerning the dead, say nothing unless it is good," and "Unless you have something nice to say, say nothing at all."

I hope God granted him the mercy of a true understanding of his sins, remorse for them, final penitence, and remission of his sins.

For the rest, I will leave it to Catholic poet Alexander Pope:

"Let not this weak, unknowing hand presume Thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land on each I judge Thy foe."

God have mercy on him.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Saint Louis, King of France

Saint Louis, pray for us!


John Wayne's Catholic Conversion

I have known about this for a while, but was happy to see someone reminding us of it, as Wayne (along with Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston) is one of my favorite actors.

American Catholic has the details.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

From The Liturgical Year, by Abbot Prosper Gueranger, OSB:

ON this Sunday, which is their twelfth of Saint Matthew, the Greeks read in the Mass the episode of the young rich man who questions Jesus, given in the nineteenth chapter of the Saint’s Gospel. In the west, it is the Gospel of the Good Samaritan which gives its name to this twelfth Sunday after Pentecost.

The Introit begins with that beautiful verse of Psalm lxix.: ‘Come to mine assistance, O God! O Lord, make haste to help me!’ Cassian, in his tenth Conference, has admirably drawn out the beauty of these words, and shows how they are appropriate for every circumstance of life, and how fully they respond to every sentiment of the Christian soul.1 Durandus applies this Introit to Job, because the lessons for the Divine Office, which are taken from that Book of Scripture, sometimes, though not often, coincide with this Sunday.2 Rupert looks on this Introit as the fitting prayer of the deaf and dumb man, whose cure was the subject of our reflexions this day last week. He says: ‘The human race, in the person of our first parents, had become deaf to the commandments of God, and dumb in His praise; the first use he makes of his untied tongue, is to call upon the God who has healed him.’3 The same words are the Church’s first address, each morning, to her Creator, and her opening of each of the canonical hours, both day and night.

The glorious promises mentioned in the concluding words of our Collect are described to us in the Epistle, which seems, at first sight, to be entirely in praise of the apostolic ministry; but the glory of the apostles is the glory of Him whom they announce; and this one glory, which is His, Christ, the Head, communicates to all His members, making it also their one glory. This divine glory flows, together with the divine life, from that sacred Head; and they both flow copiously through all the channels of holy Church.4 If they do not come to all Christians in the same proportions, such difference in no wise denotes that the glory and the life themselves are of a different kind for some from what they are for others. Each member of Christ’s mystical Body is called upon to form his own degree of capacity for glory; not, of course, as the apostle says, that we are, of ourselves, sufficient even to think anything as of ourselves—but, what diversity there is in the way in which men turn to profit the divine capital allotted to each by grace!

Oh! if we did but know the gift of God!5 if we did but understand the supereminent dignity reserved, under the law of love, to every man of good will!6 Then, perhaps, our cowardice and sluggishness would, at last, go; then, perhaps, our souls would get fired with the noble ambition which turns men into saints. At all events, we should then come to realize that Christian humility, of which we were speaking on the last two Sundays, is not the vulgar grovelling of a low-minded man, but the glorious entrance upon the way which leads, by divine union, to the only true greatness. Are not those men inconsistent and senseless who, longing by the very law of their nature for glory, go seeking it in the phantoms of pride, and allow themselves to be diverted, by the baubles of vanity, from the pursuit of those real honours which eternal Wisdom7 had destined for them! And those grand honours were to have been heaped upon them, not only in their future heaven, but even here in their earthly habitation; and God and His saints were to have been admiring and applauding spectators!

In the name, then, of our dearest and truest interests, let us give ear to our apostle, and share his heavenly enthusiasm. We shall understand his exquisite teaching all the better, if we read the sequel to the few lines assigned for to-day’s Epistle. It is but fully carrying out the wishes of the Church, when her children, after or before assisting at her liturgical services, take the sacred Scriptures, and read for themselves the continuation of passages, which are necessarily abridged during the public celebrations. It were well, if they did this all through the year. What a fund of instruction they would thus acquire! To-day, however, there is an additional motive for the suggestion, inasmuch as this second Epistle to the Corinthians is brought before us for the first and only time during this season of the liturgy.

But let us examine what is this glory of the new Testament, which so fills the apostle with ecstasy, and, in his mind, almost entirely eclipses the splendour of the old. Splendour there undoubtedly was in the covenant of Sinai. Never had there been such a manifestation of God’s majesty, and omni- potence, and holiness, as on that day, when, gathering together, at the foot of the mount, the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob, He mercifully renewed, with this immense family, the covenant formerly made with their fathers,8 and gave them His Law in the extraordinarily solemn manner described in the Book of Exodus. And yet, that Law, engraven as it was on stone by God’s own hand, was not, for all that, in the hearts of the receivers; neither did its holiness prevent, though it condemned, sin—sin which reigns in man’s heart.9 Moses, who carried the divine writing, came down from the mount, having the rays of God’s glory glittering on his face;10 but this, glory was not to be shared in by the people of whom he was the head; it was for himself alone, as was likewise the privilege he had enjoyed of speaking with God face to face;11 it ceased with him, thus signifying, by its short duration, the character of that ministration, which was to cease on the coming of the Messiah, just as the night’s borrowed light vanishes when the day appears. And, as it were, the better to show that the time was not as yet come, when God would manifest His glory—the children of Israel were not able to gaze steadfastly on the face of Moses; so that, when he had to speak to the people, he had need to put on a veil. Though a mere borrowed light, the brightness of Moses’ face represented the glory of the future Covenant, whose splendour was to shine, not, of course, externally, but in the hearts of us all, by giving us ‘the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus.’12 Light, living and life-giving, which is none other than the divine Word,13 the Wisdom of the Father,14 and which the energy of the sacraments, seconded by contemplation and love, makes to pass from the Humanity of our divine Head to the very recesses of our souls.

We shall find our Sunday giving us a second reminder of Moses; but the true and enduring greatness of the Hebrew leader lies in what we have been stating. In the same way that Abraham was grander by the spiritual progeny which was the issue of his faith, than he was by the posterity that was his in the flesh—so the glory of Moses consisted not so much in his having been at the head of the ancient Israelites for forty long years, as in his having represented, in his own person, both the office of the Messiah King, and the prerogatives of the new people. The Gentile is set free from the law of fear and sin15 by the law of race, which not only declares justice, but gives it; the Gentile, having been made a son of God,16 communes with Him in that liberty which comes of the Spirit of love.17 But, this privileged Gentile has no type which so perfectly represents him, in the first Covenant, as this the very lawgiver of Israel, this Moses who finds such favour with the Most High as to be admitted to behold His glory,18 and converse with Him with all the intimacy of friend to friend.19 Whereas God showed Himself to this His servant —as far, that is, as mortal man is capable of such sight20—and as He was seen by him without the intermediation of figures or images21 so, when he approached thus to God, Moses took from his face the veil he wore at other times. The Jew persists, even to this very day, in keeping this veil between himself and Christ.22 The Christian, on the contrary, with the holy daring of which the apostle speaks,23 removes all intermediaries between God and himself, and draws aside the veil of all figures. ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord with face uncovered, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord,’24 for we become other christs, and are made like to God the Father, as is His Son Christ Jesus.

Thus is fulfilled the will of the almighty Father for the sanctification of the elect. God sees Himself reflected in these predestinated, who are become, in the beautiful light divine, conformable to the image of His Son.25 He could say of each one of them what He spoke at the Jordan and on Thabor: ‘This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.’26He makes them His true temple,27 verifying the word He spoke of old: ‘I will set my tabernacle in the midst of you: I will walk among you, and will be your God;28 I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north: "Give up!" and to the south: "Keep not back!" Bring my sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth!’29

Such are the promises, for whose realization we should, as the apostle says, be all earnestness in working out our sanctification, by cleansing ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and of the spirit, in the fear of God,30 and in His love. Such is that glory of the new Testament, that glory of the Church and of every Christian soul, which so immensely surpasses the glory of the old, and the brightness which lit up the face of Moses. As to our carrying this treasure in frail vessels, we must not, on that account, lose heart, but rather rejoice in this weakness, which makes God’s power all the more evident; we must take our miseries, and even death itself, and turn them into profit, by giving the stronger manifestation of our Lord Jesus’ life in this our mortal flesh. What matters it to our faith and our hope, if our outward man is gradually falling to decay, when the inner is being renewed day by day? The light and transitory suffering of the present is producing within us an eternal weight of glory. Let us, then, fix our gaze, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen; the visible passes, the invisible is eternal.31

The human race, delivered from its long ages of dumbness, and blessed at the same time with God’s gifts, sings, in the Gradual, the hymn of its warmest gratitude.


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