At the shrine featured in the vintage holy cards. Summer 2011.
And remember…it’s a Solemnity…which means that for day..it’s like it’s not Lent! Feast away!
At the shrine featured in the vintage holy cards. Summer 2011.
And remember…it’s a Solemnity…which means that for day..it’s like it’s not Lent! Feast away!
1. I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.
2. And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.
3. Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.
4. For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.
5. He himself said through the prophet: ‘Call upon me in the day of’ trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ And again: ‘It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.’
6. I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.
Posted in Amy Welborn, Books, Catholicism, Good Friday, Lent, Pinterest, Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, Religion, Saints, Writing, tagged books, Lent, Pope Benedict XVI, Reading on February 12, 2013 | 1 Comment »
Doctor of the Church, Patron of writers, educators and confessors.
The life of St Francis de Sales was a relatively short life but was lived with great intensity. The figure of this Saint radiates an impression of rare fullness, demonstrated in the serenity of his intellectual research, but also in the riches of his affection and the “sweetness” of his teachings, which had an important influence on the Christian conscience.
He embodied the different meanings of the word “humanity” which this term can assume today, as it could in the past: culture and courtesy, freedom and tenderness, nobility and solidarity. His appearance reflected something of the majesty of the landscape in which he lived and preserved its simplicity and naturalness. Moreover the words of the past and the images he used resonate unexpectedly in the ears of men and women today, as a native and familiar language.
To Philotea, the ideal person to whom he dedicated his Introduction to a Devout Life (1607),Francis de Sales addressed an invitation that might well have seemed revolutionary at the time. It is the invitation to belong completely to God, while living to the full her presence in the world and the tasks proper to her state. “My intention is to teach those who are living in towns, in the conjugal state, at court” (Preface to The Introduction to a Devout Life). The Document with which Pope Leo xiii, more than two centuries later, was to proclaim him a Doctor of the Church, would insist on this expansion of the call to perfection, to holiness.
It says: “[true piety] shone its light everywhere and gained entrance to the thrones of kings, the tents of generals, the courts of judges, custom houses, workshops, and even the huts of herdsmen” (cf. Brief, Dives in Misericordia, 16 November 1877).
Thus came into being the appeal to lay people and the care for the consecration of temporal things and for the sanctification of daily life on which the Second Vatican Council and the spirituality of our time were to insist.
The ideal of a reconciled humanity was expressed in the harmony between prayer and action in the world, between the search for perfection and the secular condition, with the help of God’s grace that permeates the human being and, without destroying him, purifies him, raising him to divine heights. To Theotimus, the spiritually mature Christian adult to whom a few years later he addressed his Treatise on the Love of God, St Francis de Sales offered a more complex lesson.
At the beginning it presents a precise vision of the human being, an anthropology: human “reason”, indeed “our soul in so far as it is reasonable”, is seen there as harmonious architecture, a temple, divided into various courts around a centre, which, together with the great mystics he calls the “extremity and summit of our soul, this highest point of our spirit”.
This is the point where reason, having ascended all its steps, “closes its eyes” and knowledge becomes one with love (cf. Book I, chapter XII). The fact that love in its theological and divine dimension, may be the raison d’être of all things, on an ascending ladder that does not seem to experience breaks or abysses, St Francis de Sales summed up in a famous sentence: “man is the perfection of the universe; the spirit is the perfection of man; love, that of the spirit; and charity, that of love” (ibid., Book X, chap. 1).
In an intensely flourishing season of mysticism The Treatise on the Love of God was a true and proper summa and at the same time a fascinating literary work. St Francis’ description of the journey towards God starts from recognition of the “natural inclination” (ibid., Book 1, chapter XVI), planted in man’s heart — although he is a sinner — to love God above all things.
According to the model of Sacred Scripture, St Francis de Sales speaks of the union between God and man, developing a whole series of images and interpersonal relationships. His God is Father and Lord, husband and friend, who has the characteristics of mother and of wet-nurse and is the sun of which even the night is a mysterious revelation. Such a God draws man to himself with bonds of love, namely, true freedom for: “love has neither convicts nor slaves, but brings all things under its obedience with a force so delightful, that as nothing is so strong as love nothing also is so sweet as its strength” (ibid., Book 1, chapter VI).
In our Saint’s Treatise we find a profound meditation on the human will and the description of its flowing, passing and dying in order to live (cf. ibid. Book IX, chapter XIII) in complete surrender not only to God’s will but also to what pleases him, to his “bon plaisir”, his good pleasure (cf. ibid.,Book IX, chapter I).
As well as by raptures of contemplative ecstasy, union with God is crowned by that reappearance of charitable action that is attentive to all the needs of others and which he calls “the ecstasy of action and life” (ibid., Book VII, chapter VI).
In reading his book on the love of God and especially his many letters of spiritual direction and friendship one clearly perceives that St Francis was well acquainted with the human heart. He wrote to St Jane de Chantal: “… this is the rule of our obedience, which I write for you in capital letters: do all through love, nothing through constraint; love obedience more than you fear disobedience. I leave you the spirit of freedom, not that which excludes obedience, which is the freedom of the world, but that liberty that excludes violence, anxiety and scruples” (Letter of 14 October 1604).
It is not for nothing that we rediscover traces precisely of this teacher at the origin of many contemporary paths of pedagogy and spirituality; without him neither St John Bosco nor the heroic “Little Way” of St Thérèse of Lisieux would have have come into being.
Dear brothers and sisters, in an age such as ours that seeks freedom, even with violence and unrest, the timeliness of this great teacher of spirituality and peace who gave his followers the “spirit of freedom”, the true spirit.
St Francis de Sales is an exemplary witness of Christian humanism; with his familiar style, with words which at times have a poetic touch, he reminds us that human beings have planted in their innermost depths the longing for God and that in him alone can they find true joy and the most complete fulfilment.
By loving your neighbour, by having care for your neighbour, you are travelling on a journey. Where are you journeying, except to the Lord God, whom we must love with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind? We have not yet reached the Lord, but our neighbour is with us already. So support your neighbour, who is travelling with you, so that you may reach him with whom you long to dwell.
Some books I’ve written that might fit the bill right here. I’m not selling them – don’t have any around. But the page points you to some sources. Always start with your Catholic bookstores. Even if you’re in Rome! Ann Englehart is there right now – on vacation and not on a bona fide whirlwind publicity tour, although she did do interviews with both Vatican Radio and Rome Reports (I’ll let you know when they’re online) – and has seen both CTS/Ignatius books there in bookstores around St. Peter’s, which is exciting!
I’m going to go on a limb here and say that when this book is published (April 30), anyone and everyone who has the least bit of interest in the following topics should read it:
…so that includes almost everyone here, right?
This is an important book, and I’m so grateful to have a review copy. Long - long - time readers might recall what a revelation Fr. Thompson’s previous work, Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes 1125-1325 was to me back in 2006. It was a fascinating example of innovative, close and open-minded scholarship.
St. Francis of Assisi: A New Biography has been researched and written in the same spirit, and does not disappoint. It, too, is a revelation.
As you might guess, producing a biography of St. Francis has distinct challenges. Three stand out:
Fr. Thompson (a Dominican, by the way!) is forthright in his purpose. He knows the limitations of historical scholarship, comparing the search for the “real St. Francis” to the search for the “historical Jesus” over the last two centuries. He grapples directly with the research challenges. And what he emerges with is a work that is illuminating, not only about the life and person of the saint, but also about the project of history – historiography.
The book, one of the few – if not only – truly scholarly biographies of Francis in English – is smartly arranged. For ease of reading, the biography is presented in the first 141 pages of the book without any discursive sidenotes on alternate views of the incidents described. Those discussions are all grouped together in what amounts to a second half of the book – end notes that are far more than a simple listing of sources, but fascinating discussions of those sources, their limitations and perspectives, and alternate views. It’s a very helpful arrangement.
And who emerges from this work?
It is the St. Francis we know – a penitent committed to living the Gospel and conforming himself to the Crucified – but also one we may not be as familiar with.
This book gave me much to think about - and when we get closer to its publication date, I will post on it again, but for now, I’ll share these three points:
Mary and the Christian Life was published by Word Among Press in 2008.
The small, simple book has been out of print for a couple of years, and I’ve finally retrieved the .pdf file of the text and – as I did with The Power of the Cross - am tossing it up on the ‘net for free download.
Thanks to Brandon Vogt for doing a bit of clean-up on the file – it’s just a .pdf – no specific e-book format or anything. But you can probably find some device on which to read it, if you like!
(There are some new and used print copies left on Amazon for cheap – not as cheap as free! I only have one here, though.)
Over at Intentional Disciples, Fr. Mike has a nice reflection:
Today is the feast of St. Therese of Liseux, the “Little Flower,” and by happy coincidence the day’s Gospel (Lk 9:46-50) fits her beautifully. In response to the rivalry and envy Jesus recognizes between his disciples, he has a child stand next to himself and tells them, ““Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” (Lk 9:48).
Children didn’t matter much in Jesus’ culture, and certainly would have been considered among “the least.” To “receive” one such as a child requires something of a death within us. How often have we had the experience of meeting someone who is important, and watched their gaze focus somewhere over our shoulder, searching for someone “greater?” I can tell you I’ve done the same thing to others; after Mass when one of Christ’s anawim (e.g., an adult whom I find to be a bit odd, or the woman who always has a complaint, or the bore) approaches me and craves my attention.
I can’t help but imagine that when you encountered Jesus, you knew you mattered. I can imagine his gaze was penetrating, and depending upon the state of your soul, immensely challenging or tremendously comforting – and perhaps both, simultaneously. But you knew you mattered. It can be the same way in prayer, at least when we are able to stop focusing upon ourselves.
The paradox is that the Church relies on St. Therese as patroness of the missions.
However, this irony passes if we look closely at St. Therese’s own sense of vocation.
She had a firm sense of having received a mission from God.
In her self-awareness as one sent on mission, she was very much a twin sister to the apostle St. Paul, the first world missionary of the Christian faith.
In fact, St. Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth provided St. Therese with the insight into her own vocation.
Her vocation, which she explains in her autobiography, was simply love.
After reading St. Paul’s letter, she wrote:
I knew that one love drove the members of the Church to action,
that if this love were extinguished,
the apostles would have proclaimed the Gospel no longer,
the martyrs would have shed their blood no more.
I saw and realized that love sets off the bounds of all vocations,
that love is everything,
that this same love embraces every time and every place.
With that insight, St. Therese lived out her life in the enclosure of a Carmelite monastery.
There she would be a faithful little powerhouse of love that drives to action the members of the Church— including missionaries— love that sets off the bounds of all vocations, love that embraces every time and every place, every mission.
St. Therese’s sense of mission involved the confident perception that she was to teach others this little way of love.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote a very nice book (edited by Michael, btw) on St. Benedict and St. Therese – St. Benedict and St. Therese: The Little Rule and the Little Way.
I had my own experience of meeting Therese. In the summer of 1987 I was still an Anglican priest, and was living in England. I had three months free between jobs and decided to hitch hike to Jerusalem staying in religious houses along the way. One of my first stops in France was Lisieux.
I was brought up as an Evangelical. I had become an Anglican. I had heard of St Therese, but considered her to be a sentimental sort of spiritual saint. She was a saint for girl scouts, a sweet litte thing who said a rosary bead as she went up the stairs one by one on her knees. The an Evangelical with an Anglican sensibility she didn’t appeal.
Once I got to Lisieux it didn’t get better. The road up to the Basilica was crowded with tacky gift shops with dangling glittery rosaries, bright religious cards and plastic holy water bottles shaped like the Blessed Virgin. I wasn’t attracted by the poor taste and commercialism and thought the French ought to have known better.
I got a room at the Hermitage–the pilgrim guest house next to the Carmelit monastery where Therese lived and died. I went back to my simple room after finding my meal in the dining hall. It was a warm summer evening and the high French windows were open as I went to sleep. The net curtains blew gently in the breeze.
Fr. Dwight has a brief entry today, with news that he’ll be leading a Benedict/Therese pilgrimage to France in the spring!
(St. Therese, second from left)
A first fact strikes one based on these references: Jesus does not exclude anyone from his friendship. Indeed, precisely while he is at table in the home of Matthew-Levi, in response to those who expressed shock at the fact that he associated with people who had so little to recommend them, he made the important statement: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2: 17).
The good news of the Gospel consists precisely in this: offering God’s grace to the sinner!
Elsewhere, with the famous words of the Pharisee and the publican who went up to the Temple to pray, Jesus actually indicates an anonymous tax collector as an appreciated example of humble trust in divine mercy: while the Pharisee is boasting of his own moral perfection, the “tax collector… would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’”.
And Jesus comments: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk 18: 13-14).
Thus, in the figure of Matthew, the Gospels present to us a true and proper paradox: those who seem to be the farthest from holiness can even become a model of the acceptance of God’s mercy and offer a glimpse of its marvellous effects in their own lives.
St John Chrysostom makes an important point in this regard: he notes that only in the account of certain calls is the work of those concerned mentioned. Peter, Andrew, James and John are called while they are fishing, while Matthew, while he is collecting tithes.
These are unimportant jobs, Chrysostom comments, “because there is nothing more despicable than the tax collector, and nothing more common than fishing” (In Matth. Hom.: PL 57, 363). Jesus’ call, therefore, also reaches people of a low social class while they go about their ordinary work.
Another reflection prompted by the Gospel narrative is that Matthew responds instantly to Jesus’ call: “he rose and followed him”. The brevity of the sentence clearly highlights Matthew’s readiness in responding to the call. For him it meant leaving everything, especially what guaranteed him a reliable source of income, even if it was often unfair and dishonourable. Evidently, Matthew understood that familiarity with Jesus did not permit him to pursue activities of which God disapproved.
The application to the present day is easy to see: it is not permissible today either to be attached to things that are incompatible with the following of Jesus, as is the case with riches dishonestly achieved.
Jesus once said, mincing no words: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mt 19: 21).
This is exactly what Matthew did: he rose and followed him! In this “he rose”, it is legitimate to read detachment from a sinful situation and at the same time, a conscious attachment to a new, upright life in communion with Jesus.