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Sunday, April 29, 2007

On St Peter Martyr

St. Peter Martyr (also known as Peter of Verona) was an early Dominican friar whose vigorous preaching enraged the heretics of his day to the point of killing him, gaining for Peter the distinction of being the first martyr of the Dominican Order. He preached against the Cathari heresy, which was widespread over northern Italy and Southern France in Peter's time. This form of Manicheanism believed that God created the spiritual world and Satan created the material world.
Peter was born around 1205 in Verona, Italy. His parents were Catharists, but as there were no Catharist teachers in Verona, Peter attended a Catholic school. His uncle stopped him in the street one day and demanded to know what the school was teaching him. In response, Peter began to recite the Apostle's Creed, affirming his belief that God created all things spiritual and material. His uncle told him that he was wrong, and tried for some time to convince the young saint that the heretics had the answer, but he could not shake Peter's faith.
Peter later attended the University of Bologna. Although Bologna was infamous for its immoral environment, Peter continued in his life of sanctity. It was during his studies here that he learned of the Dominicans, who were holding their second General Chapter in Bologna in the year 1221. Peter presented himself to the new order and humbly asked for the habit, and was given it by Dominic himself. Peter was among those present at the holy founder's deathbed a few months later for his final blessing.
One thing that certainly characterizes Peter's life is mortification, which he began when he received the habit. In fact, his penances as a novice were so severe that they affected his health. He soon recovered, and thenceforth undertook only those mortifications approved by his spiritual director, which were still severe enough. As a student in the order, Peter constantly devoted himself to both study and prayer.

Thus well formed by his life of study, mortification, and prayer, Peter set out in his initial preaching with great success. He traveled throughout Lombardy and most of Italy, preaching with great success against the heresy he grew up with. Many sought him out for council as well as confession. He was sought after so much that his brothers began to wonder when they so often heard voices coming from near his cell. They charged Peter with admitting women to his cell. His prior asked him about the charge, but Peter simply said that the innocent have no need of defense. The prior took this as an admission of guilt, and he sent Peter into exile at a convent near the Esino River (southeast of Bologna, near the east coast of Italy).
Peter spent his time in exile living a life of prayer, mortification, and service to his brothers. When the order finally discovered that he was innocent, he was called forth from his exile and he resumed his preaching. Though Peter did not think so at the time, his period of exile had been a blessing, for his preaching abilities dramatically improved because of it. Pope Gregory IX was so impressed with Peter's preaching that, about the year 1232, he appointed Peter to the position of Inquisitor General of the Faith. Peter was reappointed to that position under Pope Innocent IV in 1251.
Peter's reputation spread all throughout the land. So many people flocked to hear him preach that they could not fit in the churches, and often Peter had to preach in the streets and fields. In Milan, the people built a portable pulpit to protect Peter from the press of the crowd. Several of the stronger men would carry the pulpit to whatever place in Milan the famous friar was preaching. Many flocked to him because of his reputation as a wonderworker, though his greatest deeds were the conversions he effected in the hearts of his listeners. His holiness was due in no small part to the fact that he persevered in his life of prayer, study, and mortification everywhere he went. He served as prior of Dominican houses at Asti (1240), Piacenza (1241), and Como (1251), and in this post he constantly exhorted his brothers to the conventual observances and to study, especially of the Bible.
Naturally, the heretics opposed Peter, and were frustrated at his continued success. They avoided his preaching at all costs. Finally, four of them were driven to plot Peter's death. They decided to hire an assassin for 40 Milanese Lire. A man by the name of Carino (also known as Peter Balsamone) agreed to undertake the task, choosing as an assistant one Albertino Porro. Peter soon learned of their plotting, but he would not let it daunt him. On Palm Sunday, March 24, 1252, he was preaching in Milan and said, "I know for certain that the Manicheans have plotted my death, and have deposited money for that purpose. Let them do what they will. I will accomplish more against them than I have done during my lifetime" (O' Daniel, 32). He then traveled to Como, where he was prior at the time.

Almost exactly two weeks later, on Saturday, April 6, 1252, Peter was traveling back to Milan with a companion by the name of Brother Dominic. Carino set out after him, and was joined on the way by Porro. Halfway to Milan, they caught up to Peter in a thick forest near Barlasina. Carino struck the first blow against Peter, opening a wound in his head and driving him to the ground. He then turned on Brother Dominic, wounding him several times (Br. Dominic died a few days later from these wounds). Carino then turned back to Peter, who, being unable to speak, had dipped his finger in the blood flowing from his wounded head and written upon the ground the first words of the Apostle's Creed, which he had recited to his heretical uncle as a boy. Carino thrust his knife into Peter's chest, killing him. Peter was 47, and had worn the Dominican habit for 31 years.
Peter's remains were carried to Milan and turned over to the Dominicans, who interred him at St. Eustorgio's Church. He was well loved, and his death affected many, not the least of whom was his murderer. Carino had been arrested, but soon escaped and fled to Forli. There, he was overcome with horror at what he had done. He repented his heresy in the hands of a Dominican priest, and later became a Dominican lay brother, living a holy life from then on.

Peter was canonized on March 25, 1253, less than a year after his death. His feast was set on April 29, since April 6 often falls during Holy Week or the Octave of Easter. In 1670 he was insert into the Roman Calendar.

Friday, April 27, 2007

On Certain Excesses....

This evening during supper we continued our reading of
The Life of St Philip Neri
who is a Patron of the Redemptorist Congregation.
We are on page 397.

Tonight, quite suitable for the Easter season, St Philip said:

"... Therefore be sure you take all you need in food and drink, in clothing and in sleep. If you must commit some excess, let it be in meekness and patience, in humility and charity, for excesses of that kind will do you good. All bodily exercises, such as fasting, vigils, and other privations and afflictions, are good when they are used as means subordinated to charity and the other interior virtues of the soul. ..."

The Life of St Philip Neri
Alfonso Cardinal Capecelatro

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel

The painting of Our Mother of Good Counsel is an Eleousa, (The Mother of Tenderness). The Christ Child nestles close to his mother. The image is a half figure. The Christ Child rests on Mary's left arm, her head bends toward him, their cheeks touch tenderly. The left hand of the child gently grasps the rim of her dress, indicating the intimacy of nursing.
The image as it is known in the West is traced to the year 1467 to Genazzano, Italy, a small town ca. thirty miles southeast of Rome. It is presently located in a side chapel, built between 1621 and 1629, in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, whence the image derives its name. Measuring approximately 15-1/2 inches by 17-1/2 inches, the painting is a fresco executed on a thin layer of plaster or porcelain not much thicker than paper. One writer describes it as a fresco painted on a material resembling egg shell. It appears suspended in mid-air in its frame, with approximately an inch of space between it and the wall behind it. The only support is on the lower edge where it "rests on a small base on one of its sides, i.e. from the centre to the extreme right" (Joao S. Cla Dias, p. 42). The work itself probably originates as a 14th century Umbrian work.
The Origin
There are two strands to the story of Our Lady of Good Counsel. Most sources refer to the ancient intertwined holy legends of an Albanian image, Our Lady of Shkodra (Good Counsel) and the Italian image in Genazzano. The Albanian Catholic Bulletin Vol. 9, 1988, pp. 12-14 gives a beautiful brief account of the legend:
The story of our Lady of Shkodra (Good Counsel) is in part the story of Albanian Catholicism....O Nane, Zoje e Shkodres, Lutu per Shiqipni (O Mother, Our Lady of Shkodra - pray for Albania) was prayed to in Albania's darkest times of foreign occupation and religious persecution.
The holy legend of the ancient icon...was told from generation to generation and even recorded by Church commissions. Albanians nourished a particular devotion and love for the Virgin Mary, Zoja e Bekueme (The Blessed Lady). Numerous churches and chapels were erected in her honour throughout the nation. Shrines of Mary were placed on the mountain slopes and lowland crossroads. These were decorated with flowers and tree greens as a sign of homage and devotion.
One of those churches dedicated to Zoja e Bekueme lies beneath the old Illyrian fortress of Shkodra. This church was a centre of special devotion because of its beautiful painting of Our Lady. The icon hung on the wall over the main altar. Because of the "motherly expression and uplifting sweetness in her gaze," the Zoja e Bekueme was regarded by Albanians as "an angel come to life." The fame of this painting and stories of protection received by numerous petitioners drew large crowds to the church.
Particularly at the time when the Ottoman Turks were advancing in the 15th century, the church of Zoja e Bekueme became a source of consolation and encouragement. Her patronage was urgently sought following the death of the Albanian warrior Gjergi Kastrioti (Skanderbeg), in 1405. Skanderbeg had often prayed before the painting, seeking advice and strength for his army. Nonetheless, the Turks quickly conquered Albania. The last stronghold of Albanian resistance was Shkodra.
The story continues: "One day during the siege of Shkodra two escaping Albanians stopped at the Church to pray to Zoja e Bekueme for their safe journey. While praying fervently, they suddenly noticed the painting moving away from the wall.... The two Albanians, Gjorgji and De Sclavis," followed the painting, as if it were a bright star, all the way to Rome, where the image disappeared. They heard rumours that a miraculous image had appeared in Genazzano. They ran to the nearby town and there discovered the painting of their beloved Zoja e Bekueme." The two "settled down and made Genazzano their home."
It is here that the second strand of the story begins.
When Pope Sixtus III (432-440) called for help in renovating Saint Mary Major, the people of Genazzano contributed generously. Property was given to the town area that had contributed the most. Eventually a church was built with the title Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Augustinians were entrusted with the church in 1356.
Joan Carroll Cruz writes:
With the passage of time the church became decrepit and ill-kempt. During the year of the miracle, 1467, a local widow named Petruccia de Geneo felt herself called to spend her meagre funds on needed repairs. Her friends and neighbours thought her plan presumptuous and declined to support her praiseworthy endeavour. After the widow had spent all her money on repairs, work had to be halted due to the increased cost of both materials and labour. When the people saw this, they scoffed and ridiculed her, laughingly calling the unfinished work "Petruccia's Folly." Her efforts were nevertheless rewarded in a marvellous manner.
On St. Mark's Day, April 25, 1467, the entire population of the city was participating in the yearly festival in honour of the day's patron. At about 4 o'clock in the afternoon the merrymakers began to hear the strains of exquisite music. Then, while they silently gazed at the sky for the source of the singing, they saw, in an otherwise clear sky, a mysterious cloud that descended until it obliterated an unfinished wall of the church. Before the thousands of awe-struck revellers, the cloud parted and dissipated, revealing a portrait of Our Lady and the Christ Child. This was resting on the top of the unfinished wall that was only a few feet high. It is said that the church bells of the city rang of their own accord, attracting people from outlying areas who hurried to investigate the untimely ringing. Petruccia, who had been praying in another area, rushed to the scene when she heard the bells and fell down in tears before the miraculous image.
Miraculous Character
The provincial of the Augustinian order, Ambrogio da Cori, recorded that:
All of Italy came to visit the blessed image; cities and towns came in pilgrimage. Many wonders occurred, many favours were granted... The very beautiful image of Mary appeared on the wall without human intervention.
So great was the number of healings that a notary was appointed to make a register of the more important cases. This record, which is still preserved, notes that from April 27 until August 14, 1467, 171 miracles occurred.
In a thorough, detailed study, Joao S. Cla Dias writes, "...the fresco has unexplainably remained suspended in the air close to the wall of the chapel in the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel for over five hundred years." Cla Dias' work contains several documents about the miraculous character of the image itself, including the amazing fact that the painting is not mounted or attached at the back. There are also indications that the image appears to bear different expressions according to particular situations.
There is a vast registry of miraculous happenings related to the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel and to its copies. Conversions, healings, and specially requested graces are among the numerous accounts of extraordinary occurrences related in connection with the image.
There is more to the story and its possible translation from Albania. The Christian population of Albania have kept the memory of Our Lady of Good Counsel alive for centuries. The Catholic population of the country celebrates not one, but two feast days in honour of Our Lady of Good Counsel, April 26 for all Albania and the 3rd Sunday of October for the Scutari area. The people come from all over the country to gather by the thousands before the cathedral where Our Lady of Good Counsel once was. There is an ancient hymn with the refrain:
“Mother of Good Counsel, return to us. On the path of peace lead us”.
Copies of the image are found in homes throughout Albania. During the time under Communist rule in this century, the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel was nevertheless to be found in the majority of Catholic homes.
It is the Augustinian Order which has contributed to the worldwide spread of devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Karl Kolb writes:
“During the time of the Counterreformation, the Augustinians decided to place the entire order under the protection of this Madonna, and to honour her wherever they were established. In Germany, for instance, 70,000 images were soon distributed. Today, copies of the image are found in Augustinian churches and cloisters. Many confraternities developed under her patronage.” (p. 861)
On 18 December, 1884, Leo XIII approved of a new Office and Mass of second-class rite for all Augustinians, while on 17 March, 1903, he elevated the church of Santa Maria -- one of the four parish churches at Genazzano -- to the rank of minor basilica; and, on 22 April following, authorized the insertion in the Litany of Loreto of the invocation "Mater Boni Consillii" to follow that of "Mater Admirabilis". The same pontiff, ten years earlier (21 December, 1893) had sanctioned the use of the White Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the faithful.
The image received its papal coronation on November 17, 1682. A canon of Saint Peter's chapter was sent to represent Pope Innocent XI. A report was written five days later describing the image as touching the wall only at the upper edge and not supported by other means. It is from this date on that the existence of the painting as such was considered miraculous, not only because of its arrival at Genazzano, but because it is for the most part suspended in the air. Eyewitnesses also testify to extraordinary phenomena regarding changing features of the image. Since that time, there has been many privileges granted to the shrine, papal visits and honours.
An undated prayer card in one of the Marian Library has a writing behind: "As can be seen from the register at the shrine [in Genazzano, Italy], Benedict XIV, Pius VIII, Pius IX, and Leo XIII are enrolled as members" of the organization then known as the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel. "It was Leo XIII who chose the motto for its members: Children, follow her counsels! Pope Pius XII placed his pontificate under the maternal care of Our Lady of Good Counsel."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Greater Litanies

On this day there used to be celebrated at Rome the Robigalia, which were replaced in later days by the Christian procession that passed along the Via Flaminia to the Milvian Bridge and from there to St. Peter’s. Consequently the feast of St Mark the Evangelist was not regularly inserted in the Roman Calendar until about the twelfth century. This delay is all the more surprising because Mark was among the first heralds who, together with Peter, brought the glad tidings to Rome. Moreover, he wrote his Gospel in the Eternal City, at the request of the Romans themselves, and when, some time afterwards, Paul suffered there his first imprisonment, Mark, together with Luke, gave him the same devoted help as he had given to the Prince of the Apostles.
On this day the Greater Litanies conclude with the stational Mass at St. Peter’s. The procession is, therefore, in no way related to the feast of St Mark; so far is this from being the case that, when the feast is transferred to another day, the Greater Litanies are not likewise transferred. The only exception is for Easter Sunday; because if it should fall on April 25, the procession would then take place on the following Tuesday.
Why did St Gregory choose April 25 for a procession and Station in which everything reminds us of compunction and penance, and which would seem so out of keeping with the joyous season of Easter? The first to give a satisfactory answer to this difficulty was Canon Moretti, a learned liturgist of the 18th century. In a disertation of great erudition, he proves that in the 5th, and probably even in the 4th century, April 25th was observed at Rome as a day of great solemnity. The faithful went, on that day, to the Basilica of St Peter, in order to celebrate the anniversary of the first entrance of the Prince of the Apostles into Rome, upon which he thus conferred the inalienable privilege of being the capital of Christendom. It is from that day that we count the 25 years, 2 months and some days that St Peter reigned as bishop of Rome. The Sacramentary of St Leo gives us the Mass of this solemnity, which afterwards ceased to be kept. St Gregory was anxious to perpetuate the memory of a day which gave to Rome her grandest glory.
In the Middle Ages all recollection of the Robigalia had entirely passed away in Rome, together with the traditional route of the classic procession of the Roman youth along the Via Flaminia. Therefore the procession with the Litanies was accustomed to proceed from the Lateran to the Basilica of St Mark, and thence towards St. Peter’s, this rule continuing in force until the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Feast of St. Evangelist Mark

St. Mark was from the tribe of Levi and was a disciple of Saint Peter. Peter closes his first letter: "The church that is in Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you: and so doth my son Mark." (1 Peter 5, 13)
St. Peter instructed him in the Christian Faith and baptized him. He followed Peter to Rome and preached the Gospel with him there. St. Mark wrote the life of Our Lord according to the accounts of St. Peter who, after examining his work, testified that it was perfectly exact and approved it to be read by all the faithful. His is first Gospel to be written.
The Gospel (Luke X, 1-9) is as on February 6, for the feast of St. Titus, with the narrative of the calling and sending forth of the seventy-two disciples by Our Lord. In all probability Mark was not of this number, but being called afterwards to fellowship with Paul, Barnabas, and, later, with Peter, he also nobly fulfilled the duties of the Apostolate.
Modern historians have claimed to get a glimpse in the Holy Scriptures of a certain timidity in the character of Mark. When on the evening on which Jesus was made a prisoner, the young man Mark, suddenly aroused from sleep, had gone out into the street wrapped only in a large linen sheet and was arrested, he, struck with fear, swiftly threw off the sheet and escaped naked from the hands of the soldiers. “Then his disciples leaving him, all fled away. And a certain young man followed him, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and they laid hold on him. But he, casting off the linen cloth, fled from them naked.” (Mark 14:50-52)
This incident must certainly have alarmed him, and in boldness and was more adapted for working faithfully in a subordinate position than for assuming the responsibility of venturesome enterprises.
Having been brought up in an honourable family at Jerusalem, and having lived among the apostles, when he accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their first apostolic mission to Pamphylia, the youthful Mark ended by losing courage in face of the daring zeal of the two Jewish missionaries, who, in a pagan country, held free intercourse with the Gentiles scorned by the Torah, and admitted them to a share in the inheritance of the sons of Abraham. In these circumstances Mark felt that his hour for serving in the vanguard has not as yet come; so, taking leave of the two missionaries, he returned to the quiet harbour of Jerusalem. “Paul and Barnabas continued at Antioch, teaching and preaching, with many others, the word of the Lord. And after some days, Paul said to Barnabas: Let us return and visit our brethren in all the cities wherein we have preached the word of the Lord, to see how they do. And Barnabas would have taken with them John also, that was surnamed Mark; But Paul desired that he (as having departed from them out of Pamphylia, and not gone with them to the work) might not be received. And there arose a dissension, so that they departed one from another; and Barnabas indeed taking Mark, sailed to Cyprus. But Paul choosing Silas, departed, being delivered by the brethren to the grace of God.”
Yet there was within him, although dormant, the vocation to the apostleship, consequently Mark did not feel altogether at peace in the tranquillity of the Upper Room. Some time afterwards he desired to make amends, as it were, for that which he now considered to have been a weakness, and suggested to the two apostles that he should accompany them on their second mission. This time, however, Paul, who knew that his character was not yet fully formed, fearing that his presence would be rather a hindrance than a help in the conversion of the Greeks, refused to accept him, so Mark set off for Salamina with his cousin.
When at last in 61-62, Paul is kept a prisoner at Rome, we find mark, together with the Evangelist Luke, again in the immediate surroundings of the apostle. After a brief absence in Asia Minor and at Colossae, he is recalled to Paul’s side by means of the Second Epistle to Timothy, as being a person mihi utilis in ministerium. It is evident that in those great and generous minds the momentary disagreement between Paul, Barnabas, and his cousin had left no trace.
During the journey of Paul to Spain, Mark remained at Rome, and acted as interpreter to Peter, whose teaching he afterwards wrote down at the request of the faithful. After the martyrdom of the two apostles, an old tradition asserts that Mark went to Alexandria, where, at the beginning of the fourth century, a sepulchral memorial of the Evangelist was to be seen.
St. Peter sent St. Mark to Alexandria, where he was the first to preach the Word of God and he established the Church there. St. Peter consecrated him Bishop of Alexandria.
When St. Mark came to preach in Alexandria it was a bestial and decadent world of Paganism. Imagine this opulent city of Alexandria when St. Mark first arrives. He is there for the first time walking through its streets, with his stately bearing, his sanctity, his spirit of recollection; he approaches a first group of people, finds them open to him, and begins to preach. Some of the wayfarers laugh at him, others are indifferent, but one here, another there, come to join the small group that is already listening to him. In a short time he has a circle of people around him. The words of St. Mark open a new perspective of eternal live. He speaks about spiritual things, of the resurrection of the body, of Heaven and eternal happiness, and also of Hell and Purgatory. He explains that there is a God who is Goodness, Justice and Wisdom Itself to whom we should pray and ask for help. He speaks about Our Lady and the Sacraments, the Holy Eucharist, Confession and the great privilege of having our sins forgiven.
People start to talk about the things they hear, about Our Lord Jesus Christ, His cross, the need to follow a way of austerity, chastity, and sanctity. Grace accompanies the words of St. Mark, and those people for the first time contemplate a completely different life. Here is a wife abandoned by her husband, there a young man whose eyes begin to open to the gross immorality of this society, further along is a drunk who stops to see what was going on. To men accustomed to the orgies of Alexandria, these topics cause contradictory reactions. One feels an irresistible attraction, and another a complete repulsion.
It came to pass when he was celebrating the feast of the Resurrection in the year 68 A.D. that the same day coincided with the great pagan celebration for the feast of the god Syrabis. Thus a multitude of pagans assembled, attacked the church at Bokalia, and forced their way in. They seized St. Mark, bound him with a thick rope, and dragged him through the streets crying, "Drag the dragon to the place of cows." They continued dragging him with severe cruelty. His flesh was torn and scattered everywhere, and the ground of the city was covered with his blood. They cast him that night into a dark prison.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him: "O Mark, the good servant, rejoice, for your name has been written in the book of life, and you have been counted among the congregation of the saints." The angel disappeared, then the Lord Christ appeared to him and gave him peace. His soul rejoiced and was glad.
The next morning, the pagans took St. Mark from the prison. They tied his neck with a thick rope and did the same as the day before, dragging him over the rocks and stones. Finally, St. Mark delivered up his pure soul into the hands of God and received the crown of martyrdom.
Nevertheless, St. Mark's death did not satisfy the rage of the pagans. They gathered much firewood and prepared an inferno to burn him. The air became turbulent, and lighting and thunder broke through the sky. His assailants, who had planned to burn his body, all fled. Thus Mark’s disciples were able to collect and piously bury his remains.
After his death, his relics were sent back to Italy, so the land where he wrote his Gospel had the honour of preserving his body.

The Martyrdom of St. Mark

Monday, April 23, 2007

Feast of St. George - more than a myth!

This renowned and glorious martyr was born in Cappadocia, the son of rich and God-fearing parents. His father suffered for Christ, after which his mother moved to Palestine. When George grew up, he went into the army, in which he rose, by the age of twenty, to the rank of tribune, and as such was in service under the Emperor Diocletian.

When this Emperor began a terrible persecution of Christians, George came before him and boldly confessed that he was a Christian. The Emperor threw him into prison, and commanded that his feet be put in the stocks and a heavy weight placed on his chest. After that, he commanded that he be bound on a wheel, under which was a board with great nails protruding, and thus be turned. He then had him buried in a pit with only his head above the ground, and left there for three days and nights. Then he gave him deadly poison, but in the face of all these tortures, George prayed unceasingly to God, and God healed him instantly and saved him from death, to the great amazement of the people. When he also raised a dead man to life by his prayers, many embraced the Christian faith.
Among these was the Emperor’s wife, Alexandra, and the chief pagan priest, Athanasius, the governor Glycerius and Valerius, Donatus and Therinus. Finally, the Emperor commanded that George and the Empress Alexandra be beheaded. Blessed Alexandra died on the scaffold, and St. George was beheaded. This happened in the year 303. Soon after His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.
A church built in Lydda during the reign of Constantine I (reigned 306–337), was consecrated to "a man of the highest distinction", according to the church history of Eusebius of Caesarea; the name of the patron was not disclosed, but later he was asserted to have been George. The church was destroyed in 1010 but was later rebuilt and dedicated to Saint George by the Crusaders. In 1191 and during the conflict known as the Third Crusade (1189–1192), the church was again destroyed by the forces of Saladin, Sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty (reigned 1171–1193). A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing.
The miracles that have been performed at his grave are without number. Also are his appearances in dreams to those who, thinking on him, have sought his help, from that time up to the present day. Consumed by love for Christ, it was not difficult for holy George to leave all for this love – his status, wealth and imperial favor, his friends and the whole world. For this love, the Lord rewarded him with a wreath of unfading glory in heaven and on earth, and with eternal life in His kingdom. The Lord further endowed him with the power to help in need and distress all who honour him and call on his name.
George was canonized by Pope Gelasius in 494 AD. The Pope said St. George was one of those "...whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God." St. George exemplified courage, devotion, piety, leadership, truthfulness and dedication. Crusaders venerated him and wore his cross (red on a white background). Of old time, when Christian armies had been about to fight, they have been used to call as patrons upon holy George, Maurice, and Sebastian. King Edward III of England (reigned 1327 – 1377) chose George to be the patron Saint for the Knights of the Garter. The Supreme Pontiff Benedict XIV declared him Protector of the whole kingdom.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday of Good Shepherd

Points from today’s sermon
Alleluia ! Exultate! Jubilate!
  • Every day in the Divine Office and the Mass the Church exclaims Alleluia 125 times at least... Now how many times you daily exclaim 'Alleluia!' only you will be able to answer...

  • Alleluia is a Hebrew word that signifies ‘Praise God’ but which expresses at the same time a movement or a transport of joy, which it was thought could not be expressed by any word in Greek or Latin; thus it was conserved in its original language.

  • In all times we must praise God; and even when the Church stops singing Alleluia, from Septuagesima until Holy Saturday, She sings Laus tibi Domine, rex aeternae gloriae: Praise be to Thee, O Lord, king of eternal glory; this expression contains the principal sense of the word Alleluia but without the effusion or the transport of joy that the Alleluia inspires.

  • That transport of joy will never cease in heaven, but it is often interrupted in this life.
    Tobias, wanting to mark the joy of the last beautiful times of the Church or of the New Jerusalem, said that on all sides could be heard the Alleluia.
    “All its streets shall be paved with white and clean stones: and Alleluia shall be sung in its streets.”
    (Tobit XIII:22)
    Saint John in the Apocalypse tells us that Alleluia is the chant of heaven.
    “After these things, I heard as it were the voices of much people in heaven saying: Alleluia ...and again they said; Alleluia.
    And the four and twenty ancients and the four living creatures fell down and adored God that sitteth upon the throne, saying: Amen. Alleluia.
    ” (Apoc. XIX 1,3,4)

Pius XII blesses Easter lambs (c.1950)
  • It is because of this that it is the chant of the greatest solemnities of the Church at which times we strive to anticipate and participate in the joy of heaven.

  • The Jews recited a psalm with the Alleluia, when they renewed every year the memorial of the eating of the Passover lamb, which was immolated at Jerusalem when they had the Temple. The Christians could well have taken from this the usage of saying the Alleluia during the Easter season, and on all Sundays destined to renew the memorial of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, our true Passover. And as the Alleluia Verse is preceded and followed by an Alleluia, we could well have imitated the Israelites, who in their assemblies often sung psalms, which began and ended with an Alleluia.

  • This custom of the Church to sing the Alleluia is praised by St Augustine in several places in his Commentary on the Psalms, as a practise of the greatest antiquity. “We do not say the Alleluia before Easter, because the time of the passion of Jesus Christ marks the time of the afflictions of this life; and the resurrection designates the beatitude that we will enjoy one day. It is in that blessed life that one will praise God without end; but to praise Him eternally, you must begin to praise Him in this world. That is why we sing several times: “Alleluia, ... praise God,” by exciting ourselves and one another to praise God; but make sure that all in you praises Him, your tongue, your voice, your conscience, your life and your actions.”

  • We should note here that the first Alleluia in the Alleluia Verse has always been seen as an exhortation to praise God; and the second, as an exclamation full of joy, or a transport of joy of all the people, who animate themselves to praise God.
    On this point there have been joined to the Alleluia a great number of notes of plain-chant which are called neume or jubilation, which gives to each the facility of joining his voice, and of overtly expressing the joy which he feels in these solemnities.

  • Neuma or pneuma (as in pneumatic drill) is the Greek work meaning breath, respiration the carrying of the voice; and when the voice is supported to express sentiments of joy it is called by the Latin's jubilatio: Because ‘jubilation, says St Augustine, is nothing other than the voice without words. Those who rejoice in the fields while gathering in an abundant vintage or a great harvest, sing and often leave the words and produce only the sounds.’

  • The assemblies of Jews and Christians often sends out from itself, in regard to God, this kind of jubilation, so as to make heard what can only be beyond words and cannot be expressed by words. It is ineffable language ‘and to Whom can one more properly address such a language than to God, who is ineffable? (cannot be expressed in words; unspeakable, unutterable, inexpressible.) He must be praised: we cannot remain silent; we do not have the words; what else remains for us to do than to let ourselves go in jubilation, so that the heart rejoices without words, and the extent of charity is not restrained by syllables?’

  • The Roman Order teaches us that this jubilation or the repeated notes on the last ‘a’ of the Alleluia are called sequentia, which means the follow-on from the Alleluia; this is the name that the Customs of Cluny give them in the 10th century. Amalaire, Etienne d’Autun and the abbot Rupert say that this jubilation without words reminds us of the state of the blessed in heaven, where we will have no need of words, but where the thought alone will have us know what is in the mind. This cry of joy could not be better placed than at the moment when one is preparing to hear the Gospel.

  • Let us remark that, because of the length of the jubilation or sequence that followed the last ‘a’ of the Alleluia, by the 9th century words were often fitted into the notes. They were a few sparse words that held the jubilation together. These words developed into what we call today the Sequence. It was a great continuation of the jubilation and put into words: there are only 5 that remain in the Roman Church. Easter’s Victimae Paschali, Pentecost’s Veni Sancte, Corpus Christi’s Lauda Sion, Our Lady of Sorrows’ Stabat Mater and the Dies irae of the Requiem.
  • [Now this last, the Dies irae, was composed only in 1569 and as you will note there is no Alleluia in the Requiem Mass - the origin of the sequence. In 1576, only 7 years after its composition, the Dominicans of Salamanca in Spain printed in their Missal that it should not be used because it was against the rubrics (because there was no Alleluia in the Mass of the Dead and therefore no continuation of the ‘a’ in Jubilation). But by then the reason for the sequences was lost from sight and the sequence was understood as a note of solemnity which nobody wanted to take away from it. But probably it is for this reason that the Missal no longer prescribes that the Dies Irae must be said in the Daily Low Mass of Requiem; leaving it optional.]

Saturday, April 21, 2007

I's a wrap!

After three days of hard work, our Catholic newspaper is finaly ready to ship. Rev. Fr Anthony Mary, C.SS.R. (left) and Br. Dominic Mary, C.SS.R. (right) provide the man power to move all 4205 newspapers from the packing room, to the trailer, filling more than three palettes!

They are then moved by tractor to the Monastery's ferry "Sancta Maria". They begin their long journey from this tiny island above mainland Scotland, and will go on to 52 different countries around the world, from Argentina to Gabon, from Wales to Papua New Guinea - the word of God goes from Papa Stronsay to the world.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Catholic wrapping is going fast...

Every paper, which you will get, was folded with prayer...

Our Novices, Br Joannes and Br Matthew, are folding hundreds of newspapers.

Br Wolf Maria, C.SS.R. prepares the papers for their long journey... by bulk mail...

Monday, April 16, 2007

St. Magnus, Earl and Martyr, Patron of the Orkney Islands, 1st Class Feast day

St. Magnus was born in the Orkney Isles of noble parentage. His father was Earl of the islands, and his mother was likewise of noble blood. While nobility of birth is frequently joined to ignobility of mind, such was not the case with St. Magnus, who from his tenderest youth was taught that the grandeur of virtue excels that of blood. Even in his childhood, he had the bearing of an adult: he was candid and open, amiable and affable, modest and grave; and thus his innocent conduct was pleasing to all.
After the death of his father, the earldom was divided in two between Magnus and his cousin, Hakon. The latter, however, eager to possess control of all the isles, plotted with his henchmen how to kill Magnus. It was decided to lure him to the isle of Egilsay on the pretext of a meeting with his cousin during which they might discuss a peaceful issue to the conflict concerning the rule of the islands.
St. Magnus accepted this plan, and arrived on Egilsay with two longboats, suspecting nothing of his cousin’s treachery. While waiting for Hakon, Magnus went to the church to attend Holy Mass. Meanwhile, his cousin arrived with seven or eight ships, and proceeded to the church where Magnus was praying. Four of Hakon’s hencemen broke into the church while Mass was still being offered, and the just Magnus was dragged outside to meet his cousin Hakon.
Hakon would be satisfied with nothing less than the death sentence for his holy cousin. Magnus however received the sentence with such joy of soul that, after having offered a few prayers to God for his people, he willingly offered himself to death. Two strokes of the axe fell upon his skull, and his soul flew to Heaven. St. Magnus received the crown of martyrdom on 16 April, 1104
The relics of the Patron of the Orkneys, including his skull, are preserved in the Cathedral dedicated in his honour in Kirkwall, on Mainland Orkney. Some of his other bones, however, were later taken to the Continent; and his shoulder bone was given by Emperor Charles IV in 1372 to the Metropolitan Church of St. Vitus in Prague, now the capital of the Czech Republic.

Relics of St. Magnus, Patron of the Orkney Islands
Versiculi ad Vesperas

Magne Dei miles, tua festa tuere colentes:
Orcades alme Comes, digne rege te venerantes.
Pelle, Pater, pestes: nostra pius ablue sordes.
Funde preces, tecum regnemus ut omne per aevum.

Versicle at Vespers

O St. Magnus, soldier of God, defend us who celebrate thy feast.
O holy Earl of Orkney, deign to rule us who venerate thee.
Put to flight all dangers, Father Magnus. Deign to cleanse us of our sins.Pour forth thy prayers to God, that we may reign with thee forever in Heaven.

Lambing season began today...

We got......... Gotland lambs!!! Today two of our first Gotland lambs were born. Beginning Papa Stronsay's lambing season. These two female black beauties, born on the feast of St Magnus, are named Magna and Minor.

The symbolism of Christ the Lamb of God at Easter time is difficult to miss on Papa Stronsay, where the lambing season begins each year at this time. The life of the Redemptorist is foreseen as being a direct imitation of that of the Most Holy Redeemer. Here on the monastery farm, far away from the noise of the world, the veil which separates us from the realities of the world in which Christ Our Saviour lived is often a very thin one.

Orkney Saints in April

6 April: St Berthamus, bishop of Kirkwall. “He was filled with a heavenly sweetness.” He died in 839.
9 April: St Dotto, abbot. Said to have died in Orkney.
15 April: St Mundus, abbot. He is said to have died in Orkney, renowned for sanctity, in 962.
16 April: St Magnus, Earl and Martyr. From a life of vice, he was converted to a life of virtue. He was slain on Egilsay on this day in 1104, and the cathedral of Kirkwall is dedicated to the great and holy patrons of all Orcadians. There is also a church dedicated to St Magnus in London, near Tower Bridge. Although the present church was designed by Christopher Wren, there had been a Catholic church on the site since the early Middle Ages.
The following is a beautiful Hebridean hymn to St Magnus:

O Magnus of my love,
Thou it is who would guide us,
Thou fragrant body of grace,
Remember us.
Remember us, thou saint of power,
Who encompassed and protected the people;
Succour us in our distress,
Not forsake us

Oration from the Mass of St Magnus

Sancti Magni Martyris tui, Domine, merita pretiosa nos tueantur, in quibus Majestatis tuae opera praedicantes, ut praesens capiamus adjutorium pariter et futurum.

May the precious merits of the martyr St Magnus protect us, O Lord, by which, preaching the works of Thy Majesty, may we receive Thine aid both now and forever.

Ever since the canonisation of St Magnus in the twelfth century, this prayer was traditionally used in Catholic Masses offered in the Cathedral of St Magnus, as well as in each church throughout the Orkney Islands, and indeed throughout the Aberdeen diocese. We continue to use this same prayer in honour of St Magnus on Golgotha Monastery Island – thus assuring the continuity of the Catholic history of Orkney as manifested through devotion to this great saint of God.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Frying the Easter eggs...

And adding a pinch of salt..

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Easter Vigil

The blessing of the Paschal Candle from the Holy Fire
(Photographed in the dark - night shot)

Celebrant, Deacon and Sub-deacon listen to the Prophesies
(Photographed in the dark - night shot)

Br Magdala Maria, C.SS.R., assisted by Br. Xavier, chants a prophesy.
(Photographed in the dark - night shot)

The solemn incensing of the altar

Celebrant, Deacon and Sub-deacon sitting on their places during Gloria...

Ecce Agnus Dei...

Deacon incensing the celebrant at the end of Mass

Altar of the Holy Face Church after Midnight Mass

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Passion devotions on Good Friday in honour of the Burial of Our Lord

After the Liturgy of Good Friday we had evening devotions in memory of the deposition of Our Lord’s body from the Cross and its burial in the tomb. In the pictures you see four brothers in a black copes are Our Lord’s pall bearers…

... followed by the ancient relic of the Holy Cross and the instruments of the Passion.

Good Friday Holy Mass of Presanctified

On Good Friday, Holy Church commemorates the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so that it is the saddest and most solemn day of Holy Week. The officiating clergy enter the sanctuary vested in black and prostrate themselves before the altar, which is still stripped. The candles are not lighted, the organ is not played, nor are the bells rung. Then the Passion is chanted.

Then follow the so-called “Solemn Prayers”, or supplications for all conditions of men. Their use is now restricted to Good Friday.

The solemn prayers being ended, the officiating priest divests himself of his black cope, and having received from the deacon the altar cross, which was veiled at the beginning of Passion-tide, he uncovers, before all the people, first, the head of the crucifix, next, the right arm, and lastly the entire cross. While doing this, he goes from the Epistle corner to the centre of the altar, lifting the cross higher at each step and thrice chanting, each time on a higher note: Ecce lignum crucis… Behold the wood of the cross…

Then the priest is passes the crucifix to the acolytes, and they hold it, while he removes his shoes and, genuflecting three times, humbly kisses the feet of the Crucified Lord. Then other clergy and people venerate it.
The most striking and singular feature of Good Friday is the omission of Holy Mass. In its place is the Mass of the Presanctified in which the priest and people receive Holy Communion. The Blessed Sacrament is borne from the altar of repose where it was placed yesterday, while the choir sings the hymn: 'Adoramus te Christe, ... we adore Thee O Christ and bless Thee, for by Thy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world.' The Priest then places the ciborium on the altar and the candles are lighted.

I will take the bread of heaven and will call upon the name of God.

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