Friday, October 04, 2019
Saint Francis is a great saint, if you can get past the syrupy nonsense people who claim to be devoted to him claim is his legacy. Aside from his personal holiness, and I doubt that many could take holiness to a higher level than Francis did, there is his founding of one of the most important orders in the history of Christendom (actually, he founded three orders, and others have sprung up from that tradition and family of orders), his invention of the Christmas creche scene, his extension of the love of Christ to animals and all creation, and his being a stigmatist, his is also one of the most striking conversion stories in the history of the Church.
The Golden Legend
The Catholic Encyclopedia
Saint Francis took mortification of the flesh very seriously. When he found the desires of the flesh beginning to take hold, he used to roll around in thorn bushes, to drive them away. If only moderns did that, I doubt we would have heard anything of a pervert priest scandal these last 10 years.
There was no humbug about Saint Francis. He truly loved those in need, the poor, and all creation. Where friars since his time have grown fat and overfed, with far too much luxury for a mendicant order, he, who came from wealth, lived a life of real poverty. And where modern friars make a show of doing good works institutionally, but then drive the poor from their own door, Saint Francis adopted a radical love for others that involved genuine giving of himself.
Saint Francis entertained an abiding, even fierce desire to give his life for the Faith. He made several efforts to go to Moslem lands, so that he would be martyred. But obstacles prevented his first efforts. But he persisted. When he finally made it to Moslem-controlled territory, the local emir or pasha listened politely to him, discoursed with him, and then sent him back to Italy. Later, when some seven of his followers were martyred by the Moslems, he exclaimed, "Now I have seven true friars minor!". Thwarted in his own effort to die for the Faith, he recklessly undertook dramatic penances, and did things like embracing lepers.
The stigmata he received, like that of Saint Padre Pio, gave constant pain and discharge. Also like Pio, he had the gift of bilocation.
One thing most people don't know about Saint Francis is that he was never ordained a priest. He could never say Mass. All he could do was assist at Mass. Why wasn't he ordained? Was he illiterate? No. Too stupid to learn the Latin? No. He was too humble to take onto himself the role of the priest.
Put aside the phony "Prayer of Saint Francis" which he had nothing to do with, and was not even written until the 20th century, when it was "discovered" by an American bishop visiting Italy. Pray instead this prayer, truly the work of Saint Francis:
Hail Lady, Holy Queen, Holy Mary Mother of God,
Who art the Virgin made Church
And the One elect by the Most Holy Father of Heaven,
Whom He consecrated with His Most Holy beloved Son
And with the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete;
Thou in whom was and is all fullness of grace and every good.
Hail His Palace;
Hail His Tabernacle;
Hail His Home.
Hail His Vestment;
Hail His Handmaid;
Hail His Mother
And hail all thee holy virtues, which through the grace and illumination of the Holy Ghost are infused into the hearts of the faithful, so that from those unfaithful thou make them faithful to God.
Or this prayer, which he said before the Crucifix of San Damiano, when he was given his commission:
All-highest, glorious God, cast Thy light into the darkness of my heart. Give me true faith, firm hope, perfect charity and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, O Lord, so that I may do what is truly Thy holy Will.
Thursday, October 03, 2019
Today is the feast of the great Carmelite Theresa (or Therese) of Lisieux. For the a Ordinary Form, her feast is October 1st.
I think it is no exaggeration to say that she has become the most celebrated female saint since Jeanne de Arc and Bridget of Ireland. Her autobiographical Story Of A Soul is a modern Catholic classic. The spirituality of her "little way" has become a role model for millions of the faithful (and was a source for the spiritual approach to life of Opus Dei's founder St. Josemarie Escriva de Balaguer).
You may explore her poetry in e-book form here.
Saint Therese of Liseaux, please pray for us!
Wednesday, October 02, 2019
h OK, no mention of the Guardian Angels would be complete without Hansel and Gretel, the image in a million homes and instantly familiar to almost all Christians. Now we move past this chestnut to other, better traditional images of our Guardian Angels at work.
I have often thought, though it is utterly inadequate, and probably impossible, that I would love to sit down with my Guardian Angel, and chat about things over a cigar and a glass or two of Drambuie, and a darned fine steak. A meaningless impulse, since Angels probably do not consume things like that. But, one born of gratitude and love, nevertheless.
One notion about Angels that I am pretty sure we need to dispel is that Angels are the souls of people who have died, gone to Heaven, and "earned their wings." Frank Capra, God love him, really planted that one firmly in the American psyche in It's A Wonderful Life. But it is wrong. Angels are a separate order of creation. People do not become Angels. They can become Saints. Not Angels. Angels never were people living on earth. Saints were. Therefore, we ask for the intercession of "All the Angels and Saints." We are praying for the prayerful assistance of two different and non-overlapping groups.
People who thrive off popular culture over the last 20 years or so have gone absolutely ga-ga over Angels. Most of what we see about them is sickly-sweet and sentimental in the extreme. And even in these very traditional Catholic images of Guardian Angels, the people they are guarding are always depicted as children. Why are there no good traditional depictions of Guardian Angels watching over adults? My own upbringing did not emphasize the presence of our Guardian Angels. But I have felt the presence of mine strongly as an adult, and never more than in the last 9 years.
The powers of our Guardian Angels are impossible for us to fathom. They work in numerous ways. I know I have benefited from my Guardian Angel's power to delay me with something that annoys me, but delays me just enough to keep me from some catastrophe, like a wild car wreak.
The number of ways in which my own Guardian Angel watches out for me is incomprehensible. He must be working non-stop, and working not just in my vicinity and on what I am concentrating on at the moment, but in numerous vicinities and numerous spheres of my existence simultaneously. The power of the Guardian Angel to protect me in so many ways all the time is, while awesome to me, just a pale shadow of the power of God.
In a family, the various Guardian Angels of the household must cooperate with each other in interesting ways. They must be very sad when families break up.
We, each of us, owe our Guardian Angel thanks in so many ways, we can never adequately express it. Our Guardian Angel has done more for us than even our earthly parents. And, unlike our earthly parents, our Guardian Angel is always there until the moment we die, and probably still protecting us in Purgatory. Thank you, Guardian Angel. I love you.
Angel of God, my Guardian dear,
To whom God's love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and to guard, to rule and to guide.
Monday, September 30, 2019
The Golden Legend
The Catholic Encylopedia
A familiar image to old readers, once a banner image here at Recta Ratio
Saint Jerome, please pray for us!
Sunday, September 29, 2019
Today is Michaelmas, the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels.
Saint Michael, perhaps the greatest of the Archangels, is the protector of the Church.
Michaelmas was a quarterly rent day in England and Ireland. It is the start of the university term at both Oxford and Cambridge. Presents and feasts featuring geese were very much the custom at this time of year.
Check here and here for Michaelmas customs.
Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude.
Saint Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the
Wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him,
We humbly pray.
And do thou,
O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
By the Divine Power,
Thrust into Hell
Satan and all the other evil spirits
Which prowl about the world,
Seeking the ruin of souls.
St. Michael protecting a newly deceased soul from the clutches of demons lurking by the deathbed.
Saint Michael also has another important duty. He is the principal usher of newly deceased souls to heaven. Medieval Books of Hours, as part of the Office of the Dead, often included a deathbed scene, where the soul of the just-departed leaves the body, and St. Michael has to fight off various demons who try to snatch the soul and carry it off to Hell. St. Michael is, therefore, one of the saints whose intercession is customarily invoked for a happy death, along with Our Blessed Lady, St. Joseph, and St. Peter.
And of course, St. Michael is believed to be the one who will measure the worthiness of souls at the Last Judgment, as seen in this detail from Memling's Last Judgment triptych.
Here is a site with prayers to Saint Michael, including the variations of the basic prayer above.