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Archive for the ‘Saints’ Category

Today, of course is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Two and a half years ago, we spent a few days at Lourdes, as part of our 2012 Grand Tour.

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We had just spent a few days at a gite near Montignac and the next stop would be another rental in the Pyrenees.

I didn’t know what to expect, since much of what I had read treated Lourdes with a dismissive air, describing it as “Catholic Disneyland.”

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It’s amazing to realize that Lourdes has been a pilgrimage site for a century and a half.  If you ever get a chance, read a good history of the apparition and its consequences and uses by various parties within France and the Church.  It’s really one of the most fascinating events of modern Catholicism in which every aspect of this crazy, mysterious life on God’s earth comes to bear: God’s unexpected grace and movement among us; God’s power; our receptivity; our temptation to manipulate and distort; our fears; our hopes – answered in God’s grace.  Full circle.

(Also, if you have time and the inclination, peruse Zola’s Lourdes. Yes, he has his point of view, but as an account of what 19th century pilgrimage to Lourdes was like, it’s fascinating.)

Anyway, the town of Lourdes isn’t that bad.  Yes, close to the shrine, the religious souvenir shops selling the exact same goods (always a mystery to me) are crammed in shoulder to shoulder – but that’s what you find at Assisi and Rome around St. Peter’s as well. No different, just more concentrated here. The town, as I told someone going the next year, isn’t at all picturesque – if that’s what you’re expecting, forget it.  It’s a busy, ordinary modern mid-sized French town, not a picture-book charming village tucked in the mountains.

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The view from the hotel roof, looking down on the river and the (mostly) hotels lining it. The green-lit building on the bridge was a bar, inhabited by Irish football fans – there for a match v. a Lourdes team – until *very* late.

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But then the shrine.

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I pointed out to the boys the presence of the sick and the pride of place given them.  For every Mass, every procession, every prayer service, the sick are brought in first by the volunteer attendants.  On the walkways, there are specially marked lanes for wheelchairs.  One night, we saw an older man in a wheelchair (being pushed by a young man) get so frustrated with an unaware pedestrian strolling along in the marked lane, he almost poked him with a cane, and would have if the walker hadn’t been alerted Monsieur, pour les malades by someone (er…me).

When I mentioned the place of les malades to the boys, they asked me, “Why?”  I was startled that I had to explain – well, I said, besides being simply polite and compassionate, it’s also a response to the presence of Jesus in those in need, it’s honoring that presence and obeying his command to see him there.  It’s a living expression of what Jesus said: the last shall be first – the sick and weak – like Bernadette herself –  being the last in the world’s eyes.

Les Malades.

They are first to the waters, first to the light, first to the Body because in their physical condition, we can see them, we Christ, and we can even see ourselves.  For we are all the sick, we are all weak, crippled, deaf, paralyzed, suffering, in pain, we are all dying and every one of us yearn to be whole.

And so every night at Lourdes, the darkness illuminated by our thousands of tiny lights, we walk, shuffle, stride, limp and are pushed toward that water. We go on, just as we have always done across time, everywhere  led by the One who bound Himself to this weak, suffering Flesh, awash in the womb of a mother

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This was the line to go into the grotto. Just as he got there…this fellow was turned away. Pas du chien.

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I bought the picture below at a shop well off the beaten path.  The artist made pictures like this and hand-crafted rosaries.  She said to me, “Now you can say that you bought

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— 1 —

Okay – about Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

I’ve written about this before.  Somewhere, to far back to dig up, and I’ve defended the movie, relating how it’s a guilty pleasure for me mostly because of the emotional associations.  When I was a freshman in college, the student center at UT showed it one night and our whole crew – those of us who were active at the Catholic student center – went. There we were, deep in our friendships and community, really into this Catholic thing, in the way that mostly (only?) young people can be, and we all went and saw this movie…and came out even more ecstatic, convinced that this thing was real and beautiful.

If you want your dream to grow…

I know there are those that hate it, but even in adulthood, and even now, no, I don’t hate it, but this most recent viewing last weekend, probably 15 years at least since the last time, revealed its flaws quite clearly.

— 2 —

  • It’s not exactly Christocentric.  Not surprising, right?  Of course Christ is mentioned – Francis does say he wants to live like Christ and the apostles, but it’s not presented as his central motivation.  And naturally, Francis’ whole focus on penance – that was what he was doing, really – embracing the life of a penitent, not a homesteader, is absent. (it’s absent from most contemporary takes, even Catholic ones, as well, though. When you actually read St. Francis, it’s very clear – his motive wasn’t primarily “simplify” or even “the poor.”  It was “penance for my sins.”
  • The scene in Rome with the Pope is over the top and almost laughable.
  • He didn’t have as much actual contact with Clare after she embraced poverty as the movie suggests.  In fact, after they had established how she was to live, he didn’t see her again until he was dying.
  • I’m pretty sure it doesn’t snow in Assisi as much as the film suggests.

Good things?

  • The atmosphere is wonderful.
  • So many haunting images that might not be historically accurate but are, well.. truthy. 
  • My favorite scene in the film is this one:

And there are other good ones.  Yes, the Jesus-centeredness of Francis is not..central. But if you can balance that out with what you’ve learned from Fr. Thompson’s biography and this fantastic book….all the better.

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Aside:  The first time Francis encounters Clare, he follows her to an area where, to his horror, lepers gather to wash. She has brought them bread, which she lays on a rock. She then warbles, “Brothers! Brothers!”   Years ago, when my daughter was maybe 5 or so, we watched the movie and for days, she would call her own (perhaps to her, leprous) big brothers by trilling, “Brothers! Brothers!” herself.

— 3 —

Speaking of Hansen’s Disease, I’m still reading The Colony, which is about the history of the leper colony at Molokai.  It’s quite fascinating, and perhaps the most important figure I’ve learned about was one who was quite well known during the early part of this century and who now has, following his presently more famous colleagues, Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai, his canonization cause in process:

Brother Joseph Dutton:

In late July 1886, a ship pulled into Molokai, Hawaii’s leper colony. Father Damien de Veuster always greeted the newcomers, usually lepers seeking refuge and comfort. But one passenger stood out, a tall man in a blue denim suit. He wasn’t a leper; he was Joseph Dutton, and at age 43 he came to help Father Damien. The priest warned he couldn’t pay anything, but Dutton didn’t care. He would spend forty-five years on Molokai, remaining long after the priest’s death of leprosy in 1889.

Joseph’s journey to Molokai was full of twists and turns. 

Well worth reading and contemplating!

More here

Here 

….

Before his death on March 26, 1931, he said: “It has been a happy place—a happy life.” It had been a restless life until he found happiness among the lepers of Molokai. At the time of his death, the Jesuit magazine America noted: “Virtue is never so attractive as when we see it in action. It has a power to believe that we too can rise up above this fallen nature of ours to a fellowship with the saints.”

Here.

Father Damien—then a patient himself—greeted him as “Brother” on July 29, 1886, and from that moment until Damien’s death on April 15, 1889, the two maintained an intimate friendship.  Dutton dressed Damien’s sores, recorded a statement about the priest’s purity, and worked tirelessly to honor his memory and legacy in following years.  He led the movement to name the main road “Damien Road” and wrote both personal letters and newspaper columns about his sacrifice.  Included in Dutton’s collection at Notre Dame are strips of Damien’s cloak and several finger towels that he saved in envelopes.

In his 44 years in Kalaupapa, Dutton touched thousands of lives through his selfless service.  He headed the Baldwin Home for Boys on the Kalawao side of the peninsula, where he cared physically and spiritually for male patients and orphan boys.  From laboring as a carpenter and administrator, to comforting the dying, to coaching baseball, Dutton immersed himself in his community without accepting credit; to him, work was always about answering God’s call instead of personal fame or selfish desire.

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— 4 —

A good week for saints this week, eh?  Well, it always is, but I’m also struck by the aptness of this week’s saints for Catholic Schools Week:  Angela Merici, Thomas Aquinas and Don Bosco.

Read their lives. Contemplate their lives. Called to take different paths in varied circumstances, all listened and responded.  They prayed, they thought, they wrote, they were all creative as they, shall we say…reached out to the peripheries?

Who’d have thought it possible….

— 5 —

Speaking of Catholic schools, it was nice to see the Diocese of Birmingham featured in this NCRegister article on the impact of vouchers on Catholic schools.  This past fall, Ann Engelhart and I spoke at St. Barnabas, one of the schools mentioned, and I was so impressed with the children, who knew quite a bit about (guess who) ..St. Francis of Assisi already.

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— 6 —

Did a homeschool roundup post here yesterday.  Here’s how Guatemala has progressed.  It will be painted today:

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I mean…I wouldn’t have done the mountains that way, but it’s not my salt dough map of Guatemala!

— 7 —

 (Repeat from last week…but…still pertinent)

Lent is coming!  Full list of resources here, but take special note today, if you don’t mind, of these Stations of the Cross..and pass it on to your parish!

John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press.  This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app.  Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)

"amy welborn"A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love,  published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!

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For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a homeschool post, so here goes, based mostly on just what we did today.  Today:

  • Every day begins with prayer, which is a mash-up of the daily Mass readings and Morning prayer, based on Universalis    or Magnificat if I can find it. So….Thomas Aquinas today. Talking about the saint of the day also gives an opportunity to briefly and painlessly review bits of geography (we generally look at a map to see where the saint was from and traveled to), chronology (for example, practicing understanding the concept of centuries…born in 1225…what century is that?) and art. (We use this book(wonderful!) and this one – when the saint of the day is featured.  Also these to illuminate the Scripture readings.)  Much of the time, when we read the Gospel, we also pull out the Bible atlas and review where Jesus lived and walked.  (Next year, I think we will focus a lot on the Old Testament. as well).  This week, as we discussed the Conversion of Paul (in retrospect!) , we talked, of course, about Paul, his life, and used the actual real Bible to review the contents of the New Testament, what epistles are, and so on.  He practices looking passages up in the Bible and understanding Book, Chapter: Verse notation. Did the same for the feastday of Timothy and Titus.
  • And do you know what?  That is the core of religious education here.  In addition, when various seasons approach we do activities related to that. He, with his brother, regularly serves at the Casa Maria retreat house. This means that in the training to serve, he’s received an superb education in the basics of the Mass, and as he serves Masses that are celebrated by the priests who have led that weekend’s retreat, he gets an opportunity to hear generally above-average preaching. (And he is a kid who pays attention – and given where he has to sit – a couple of feet away from the ambo – it would be hard not  to listen.)  Finally, he’s part of the children’s schola at the Cathedral, where they are using the Words with Wings curriculum and he’s learning a lot through that.   So no, I’m not pushing any particular catechism on him.  He might start something like that next year, but given our household – and the mom who is insanely focused on TEACHABLE MOMENTS – I think we’re good for now. He’s 10.
  • Copywork this week has consisted of: 1 Timothy 1:1-2 (on his feast); “A Word is Dead” by Emily D (with discussion of its meaning) and this quote from Benjamin F: Never confuse motion with action. Again, with discussion of its meaning.  I think tomorrow he’ll do a bit of Bill S’s Sonnet 116 because he’s starting to memorize it. (more on that in a bit).
  • Cursive practice from this book.  I don’t buy them. Don’t spend a dime, because we have them already.  These are the books Joseph used in that grade in brick n’ mortar school that were never finished.  Apparently – as I learned at some point – the practice in class was to distribute the cursive practice books at the beginning of the year and then give them goals for finishing them, goals which were then never followed up on.  So.  There are plenty of usable pages left. Yeah.
  • Since the math that he’s doing at the moment is logic (more in a minute), he does a set of math review problems – 5 minutes’ worth – just to keep his skilz sharp.
  • Spelling – he’s in “4th grade” and a good speller but to allay his anxiety about keeping up with those in brick n’ mortar school, I have him do spelling – from a 5th grade book.  The routine?  I read him the words.  He spells all but maybe one correctly.  He shakes his head and says, “Oh, that’s right. I forgot. I’ve got it now.” Spelling done for the week, and he feels better.
  • (All of this up to this point (after prayer)  takes maybe 15-20 minutes)
  • Math:  He’s on Beast Academy 4B.  The last chapter has been on logic, and it’s stretched both of us.  A lot of puzzles, of course, and I’ve had to regularly explain to him the purpose, as I understand it:  to teach him how to view a problem, how to discern what is important and what is not and to sort out how parts relate to a whole.  I admit, it’s not my favorite. I mean….

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Wut.

Well, 4C is on the way, so next week, we’ll be all about normal things like fractions….

(and for the record I love this curriculum and, as a non-math person, am a huge fan of everything Art of Problem Solving does.  Joseph said to me once, “Mom, do you sometimes watch Richard’s videos when we’re not here?” Er, no. What ever made you think that? Adjust volume.)

  • Then Latin.  As I said before, we’re taking it slowly, using this. Today he covered 2nd and 3rd person singular of "amy welborn"spectare. We also took a slight detour to the Gloria as I reminded him of what the -mus ending would be about. (glorificamus te, adoramus te…etc) He said, “We are moose. That’s how I’ll remember it.”  Whatever works.
  • A bit of geography.  He did a few of the daily geo problems from this book – reinforcing latitude and longitude.  We also use Evan-Moor, but have gone through them up through grade 6. Yesterday he learned about legends and scale by first measuring his own foot with a ruler, then pacing out the dimensions of the dining room, then drawing a map complete with the proper number of feet, then working out the scale (1 Michael Foot = 8 inches), then working out the dimensions of the room in feet and inches.
  • Science: Again, to alleviate his fears about “keeping up,” I purchased the science textbook they use in his old school.  We follow it in a general way with a lot of supplementation.  Last week, we were very science-heavy, and did quite a few demonstrations about heat transfer.  Today, he read and reviewed and went over the chapter-end test. We’ll pick up sound & light next week. I need prisms. PRISMS.
  • Watched this video, and a few related.
  • Independent reading time, reading from the mostly animal-related books he’d checked out of the library. This one is quite amywelborn8interesting and well-done.
  • History: reading the historical fiction, Michael and the Invasion of France. Discussing related issues, looking at a map of how France was divided after the Nazi invasion.
  • We had checked out two children’s books from the Eats, Shoots, Leaves crew and read them earlier in the week, and today, he played this online game. 
  • As I mentioned last year, I discovered this neat-o free poetry memorization curriculum from Mensa.  We did “No Man is an Island” before Christmas, and it’s taken us this long to get back to it.  (And when I say, “we,” I mean it.  I’m memorizing them, too.) The second poem is Sonnet 116, so we (finally)  started that today.  We talked about what a sonnet is, read it, discussed its meaning, then watched a couple of videos of recitations of the poem in both modern English pronunciation and (presumed) original pronunciation.  Then, just because, watched a video of David Tennant declaiming 18.  (There’s a Sonnet app that looks really good, but I haven’t yet invested in it).
  • Read a chapter from Alice in Wonderland and looked at this post about interesting and varied illustrations of the book and talked about how they were the same as or different from what he had envisioned as we read.
  • Then, art!  First, a quick and easy project – this one, from my favorite, That Artist Woman.  It’s a project she did with kindergartners, but that’s okay. He enjoyed it, it took 15 minutes, and the result was very nice, plus we repurposed some of the fruit of last week’s printmaking for the trees.
  • Then we started on….a salt dough map of Guatemala.  Yes!  I had seen this post and thought it was a great idea (we’d done salt dough ornaments at Christmas).  So I told him last week that I wanted him to think of what country he’d like to do, and although I thought he’d go for Mexico, I’m not shocked that Guatemala was the choice.  If told the kid tomorrow that we were going to Tikal, he would probably levitate.

So….a start.  Tomorrow, I plunge in and make my hands think I hate them as I immerse them in salt (although..hmmm…he should probably do his fair share…yeah….) and flour, and we’ll talk about “topography” and such and he’ll make his map. Then it will dry for a couple of days and he’ll paint it.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • Lunch!  (Yes, all this before lunch….) I just discovered that Fantasia is on Netflix, so that was lunchtime viewing while I chopped carrots and onions for Italian Wedding Soup.
  • Practice piano. Bach Invention #1 and this Beethoven (not played at even close to that tempo yet).  Agony because the (excellent) piano instructor changed up the Bach fingering on him.  But…onward!
  • And….we’re done.
  • Wednesday and Thursdays are our only really “full” days of “school.” (and once the weather warms up…see below)  Mondays, he has piano for an hour mid-day, and Tuesdays he either has his homeschool boxing sessions in the afternoons or (once a month) 2-hour science center homeschool class. Fridays are also short-ish because brother gets out of school at 2 on Fridays.
  • But today: Full day, then pick up brother at 3, they shoot hoops for a few minutes here, then take him (Michael) to schola downtown, then back to eat that soup, then out to brother’s Scout meeting where one of Michael’s friends who also has a Scout sibling will be hanging out as well – and they and another child will play outside on the grounds and inside on the basketball court for a good 90 minutes.
  • Home. Shower, then settle down in his room to read – mostly Percy Jackson, with detours to Asterix, Lucky Luke and TinTin, probably until 11 or so. He doesn’t have a “bedtime”  – as long as he’s reading, he can stay up for as long as he likes.
  • So unsocialized! So overprotected and sheltered!

That’s today.  Tomorrow:  More Shakespeare, work on Guatemala in salt dough. Etc. Basketball practice.

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Once the weather warms up (which will probably be next week.  Sorry, Minnesota!) we’ll venture out for hikes and walks and field trips and such.  I just have no tolerance for sub-50 degree weather. I mean…none. I just sit inside and fume until God cooperates and raises the temperature.

Also, I am trying to settle on a spring break destination.  It’s dependent on airfare.  Once I do that, we’ll shift gears a bit and start preparing for that through reading in geography, history and so on.

Teachable Moments!

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Well, here you go!

As you know, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI gave several series of General Audiences on the great men and women of the Church, beginning with the apostles.  Thomas Aquinas, not surprisingly, takes up three sessions:

June 2, 2010 – an Introduction.

In addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour. The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives.

The last months of Thomas’ earthly life remain surrounded by a particular, I would say, mysterious atmosphere. In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realized, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then “was worthless”. This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas’ personal humility, but 220px-Thomas_Aquinas_by_Fra_Bartolommeoalso the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God’s greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven. A few months later, more and more absorbed in thoughtful meditation, Thomas died while on his way to Lyons to take part in the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope Gregory X. He died in the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova, after receiving the Viaticum with deeply devout sentiments.

The life and teaching of St Thomas Aquinas could be summed up in an episode passed down by his ancient biographers. While, as was his wont, the Saint was praying before the Crucifix in the early morning in the chapel of St Nicholas in Naples, Domenico da Caserta, the church sacristan, overheard a conversation. Thomas was anxiously asking whether what he had written on the mysteries of the Christian faith was correct. And the Crucified One answered him: “You have spoken well of me, Thomas. What is your reward to be?”. And the answer Thomas gave him was what we too, friends and disciples of Jesus, always want to tell him: “Nothing but Yourself, Lord!” (ibid., p. 320).

June 16, 2010- Thomas’ theology and philosophical insights

To conclude, Thomas presents to us a broad and confident concept of human reason: broadbecause it is not limited to the spaces of the so-called “empirical-scientific” reason, but open to the whole being and thus also to the fundamental and inalienable questions of human life; and confident because human reason, especially if it accepts the inspirations of Christian faith, is a promoter of a civilization that recognizes the dignity of the person, the intangibility of his rights and the cogency of his or her duties. It is not surprising that the doctrine on the dignity of the person, fundamental for the recognition of the inviolability of human rights, developed in schools of thought that accepted the legacy of St Thomas Aquinas, who had a very lofty conception of the human creature. He defined it, with his rigorously philosophical language, as “what is most perfect to be found in all nature – that is, a subsistent individual of a rational nature” (Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 29, a. 3).

The depth of St Thomas Aquinas’ thought let us never forget it flows from his living faith and fervent piety, which he expressed in inspired prayers such as this one in which he asks God: “Grant me, O Lord my God, a mind to know you, a heart to seek you, wisdom to find you, conduct pleasing to you, faithful perseverance in waiting for you, and a hope of finally embracing you”

June 23, 2010 – what we can learn from Thomas

In presenting the prayer of the Our Father, St Thomas shows that it is perfect in itself, since it has all five of the characteristics that a well-made prayer must possess: trusting, calm abandonment; a fitting content because, St Thomas observes, “it is quite difficult to know exactly what it is appropriate and inappropriate to ask for, since choosing among our wishes puts us in difficulty”(ibid., p. 120); and then an appropriate order of requests, the fervour of love and the sincerity of humility.

Also – from Fr. Robert Barron, 10 of his own resources on St. Thomas Aquinas. 

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From Paul, servant of God, an apostle of Jesus Christ to bring those whom God has chosen to faith and to the knowledge of the truth that leads to true religion; and to give them the hope of the eternal life that was promised so long ago by God. He does not lie and so, at the appointed time, he revealed his decision, and, by the command of God our saviour, I have been commissioned to proclaim it. To Titus, true child of mine in the faith that we share, wishing you grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our saviour.   - Paul to Titus

In 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke of these missionary saints in his general audience (part of the series he did on the Apostles, gathered in this volume and other similar titles by different publishers. Study guide that I wrote here.).  After going over what Scripture and Tradition reveal to us about the two, he concluded:

To conclude, if we consider together the two figures of Timothy and Titus, we are aware of certain very significant facts. The most important one is that in carrying out his missions, Paul availed himself of collaborators. He certainly remains the Apostle par excellence, founder and pastor of many Churches.

"timothy and titus" January 26Yet it clearly appears that he did not do everything on his own but relied on trustworthy people who shared in his endeavours and responsibilities.

Another observation concerns the willingness of these collaborators. The sources concerning Timothy and Titus highlight their readiness to take on various offices that also often consisted in representing Paul in circumstances far from easy. In a word, they teach us to serve the Gospel with generosity, realizing that this also entails a service to the Church herself.

Lastly, let us follow the recommendation that the Apostle Paul makes to Titus in the Letter addressed to him: “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men” (Ti 3: 8).

Through our commitment in practice we can and must discover the truth of these words, and precisely in this Season of Advent, we too can be rich in good deeds and thus open the doors of the world to Christ, our Saviour.

In case you missed it, Saturday was the memorial of St. Francis de Sales – and from today, here’s a good introductory post to that saint at the Word on Fire site from seminarian and blogger Joe Heschmeyer:

 It would have been easy for him to give up, but by the grace of God, he didn’t. His persistence paid off. Over the span of a few years, fruit began to sprout up. Ultimately, the mission was a huge success, with nearly every one of the 72,000 souls living in the Chablais returning to Catholicism. Mackey describes it this way: “At the end of four years the whole country was Catholic, the parishes organized, churches being restored and scarcely one hundred Calvinists remained.”
 

This legacy continues to the present day, in the form of a continual Catholic presence. For example, the great Church of Saint Hippolytus, built in the 12th century, became Calvinist in 1536. Under the influence of St. Francis de Sales, it returned to the Catholic Church in 1594, and remains Catholic today.

So what contributed to the success of St. Francis’ mission to the Chablais? Certainly, his natural talents play some role, but I would suggest that God made great use of his charity and his persistence.

He combined a solid orthodoxy with an intense pastoral devotion. On doctrine, he wouldn’t move an inch; pastorally, there was nothing he wouldn’t do. In fact, he coined the saying, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar.” He lived out Matthew 18:12 in a radical way, going to extreme (sometimes life-threatening) ends to save even a few souls. He’s the Patron Saint of the Catholic press, because of the way that he used media (at the time, printed tracts and books) to evangelize when all of the other doors were shut, and to provide spiritual direction. He’s also the Patron Saint of the deaf, for an even more radical reason: in order to teach a deaf man about God, St. Francis invented a form of sign language.

 

After becoming Bishop of Geneva, he visited every one of his diocese’s 450 parishes, five abbeys, six conventual priories, four Carthusian monasteries, and five convents. Even those who disagreed with his theology couldn’t doubt his love for the people of God. Rightly has he been called the “Gentleman Saint,” and named the Doctor of Charity.

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First, if you are not familiar with this saint whose memorial is Saturday the 24th…fix that! 

Bishop, evangelist, teacher, writer, spiritual director and friend.

Links to his works – start with the most familiar, Introduction to the Devout Life, and go on from there.  Don’t forget his correspondence with St. Jane de Chantal, either. 

From Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s General Audience presentation on Francis de Sales, back in 2011: 

In his harmonious youth, reflection on the thought of St Augustine and of St Thomas Aquinas led to a deep crisis. This prompted him to question his own eternal salvation and the predestination of God concerning himself; he suffered as a true spiritual drama the principal theological issues of his time. He prayed intensely but was so fiercely tormented by doubt that for a few weeks he could "amy welborn"barely eat or sleep.

At the climax of his trial, he went to the Dominicans’ church in Paris, opened his heart and prayed in these words: “Whatever happens, Lord, you who hold all things in your hand and whose ways are justice and truth; whatever you have ordained for me… you who are ever a just judge and a merciful Father, I will love you Lord…. I will love you here, O my God, and I will always hope in your mercy and will always repeat your praise…. O Lord Jesus you will always be my hope and my salvation in the land of the living” (I Proc. Canon., Vol. I, art. 4).

The 20-year-old Francis found peace in the radical and liberating love of God: loving him without asking anything in return and trusting in divine love; no longer asking what will God do with me: I simply love him, independently of all that he gives me or does not give me. Thus I find peace and the question of predestination — which was being discussed at that time — was resolved, because he no longer sought what he might receive from God; he simply loved God and abandoned himself to his goodness. And this was to be the secret of his life which would shine out in his main work: the The Treatise on the Love of God.

…..

As the Pastor of a poor and tormented diocese in a mountainous area whose harshness was as well known as its beauty, he wrote: “I found [God] sweet and gentle among our loftiest rugged mountains, where many simple souls love him and worship him in all truth and sincerity; and mountain goats and chamois leap here and there between the fearful frozen peaks to proclaim his praise” (Letter to Mother de Chantal, October 1606, in Oeuvres, éd. Mackey, t. XIII, p. 223).

Nevertheless the influence of his life and his teaching on Europe in that period and in the following centuries is immense. He was an apostle, preacher, writer, man of action and of prayer dedicated to implanting the ideals of the Council of Trent; he was involved in controversial issues dialogue with the Protestants, experiencing increasingly, over and above the necessary theological confrontation, the effectiveness of personal relationship and of charity; he was charged with diplomatic missions in Europe and with social duties of mediation and reconciliation.

….

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.

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If you don’t know about today’s saint - St. Andre Bessette (who died on 1/6, but whose memorial is today) – just take a quick look.

Born Alfred Bessette in Quebec in 1845, he was orphaned by the time he was 12. With little-to-no formal education, he became a Holy Cross brother and because of his sickly nature, was assigned as the doorkeeper at Notre Dame College in Montreal, a post he held for nearly 40 years. It was in this role as a porter that St. André was able to minister to the sick.

He prayed with them to God and St. Joseph, as an intercessor. Hundreds credit their healing to St. André’s prayers. The walls of  St. Joseph’s Oratory are lined with crutches of those who were healed, but St. André always gave credit to God and St. Joseph’s intercession as Jesus’ earthly father.

As he became known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal,” St. André was later assigned full-time as the caretaker of the church that he built to honor St. Joseph. He spent his days seeing healing the sick. By the 1920s, the Oratory hosted more than a million pilgrims annually, and hundreds of cures were attributed to his prayers every year.

St. André Bessette died in Montreal on Jan. 6, 1937. It is estimated that more than a million people made the pilgrimage to the Oratory to say their good-byes to their beloved Brother André. He was beatified on May 23, 1982, and canonized in October 2010, becoming the Congregation of Holy Cross’ first saint. Worldwide the Congregation of Holy Cross community observes St. André’s Feast Day on Jan. 7, because the Vatican and many nations observe the feast of Epiphany on Jan. 6

Anyway, quickly – I’ve been to the amazing St. Joseph’s Oratory twice. The last time, in 2011, I was amazed at the busloads of Latino pilgrims present. Start off the photos with some vintage holy cards:

"amy welborn"

This one interests me because it predates the large oratory’s construction.

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

"amy welborn"

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