New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Thursday, February 19, 2009

St. Conrad of Piacenza - 19th February 2009


Born of a noble family in northern Italy, Conrad as a young man married Euphrosyne, daughter of a nobleman.

Saint Conrad was living peacefully as a nobleman of Piacenza. He had married when quite young and led a virtuous and God-fearing life. One day, when engaged in his usual pastime of hunting, he ordered his attendants to set fire to some brushwood where game had taken refuge. The prevailing wind caused the flames to spread rapidly, and the surrounding fields and forest were soon in a state of conflagration. A mendicant who happened to be found near the place where the fire had originated was accused of being the author; he was imprisoned, tried and condemned to death. As the poor man was being led to execution, Conrad, stricken with remorse, declared the man innocent and confessed his own guilt openly. In order to repair the damage of which he had been the cause, as he then volunteered to do, he was obliged to sell all his possessions. He repaid his neighbors for all the losses they had suffered, then retired to a distant region where he took the Third Order habit of Saint Francis, while his wife entered the Order of Poor Clares.

After visiting the holy places in Rome, he went to Sicily and dwelt for forty years in strict penance, sleeping on the bare ground with a stone for pillow, and with dry bread and raw herbs for food. God rewarded his great virtue by the gift of prophecy and the grace of miracles. He died while praying on his knees in 1351, surrounded by a bright light, in the presence of his confessor, who was unaware for some time of his death because of his position. He is invoked especially for the cure of hernias.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blessed John of Fiesole - 18th February 2009

A famous painter of the Florentine school, born near Castello di Vicchio in the province of Mugello, Tuscany, 1387; died at Rome, 1455. He was christened Guido, and his father's name being Pietro he was known as Guido, or Guidolino, di Pietro, but his full appellation today is that of "Blessed Fra Angelico Giovanni da Fiesole". He and his supposed younger brother, Fra Benedetto da Fiesole, or da Mugello, joined the order of Preachers in 1407, entering the Dominican convent at Fiesole. Giovanni was twenty years old at the time the brothers began their art careers as illustrators of manuscripts, and Fra Benedetto, who had considerable talent as an illuminator and miniaturist, is supposed to have assisted his more celebrated brother in his famous frescoes in the convent of San Marco in Florence.

Fra Benedetto was superior at San Dominico at Fiesole for some years before his death in 1448. Fra Angelico, who during a residence at Foligno had come under the influence of Giotto whose work at Assisi was within easy reach, soon graduated from the illumination of missals and choir books into a remarkably naive and inspiring maker of religious paintings, who glorified the quaint naturalness of his types with a peculiarly pious mysticism. He was convinced that to picture Christ perfectly one must need be Christlike, and Vasari says that he prefaced his paintings by prayer. His technical equipment was somewhat slender, as was natural for an artist with his beginnings, his work being rather thin dry and hard. His spirit, however, glorified his paintings. His noble holy figures, his beautiful angels, human but in form, robed with the hues of the sunrise and sunset, and his supremely earnest saints and martyrs are permeated with the sincerest of religious feeling. His early training in miniature and illumination had its influence in his more important works, with their robes of golden embroidery, their decorative arrangements and details, and pure, brilliant colours. As for the early studies in art of Fra Angelico, nothing is known. His painting shows the influence of the Siennese school, and it is thought he may have studied under Gherardo, Starnina, or Lorenzo Monaco.

On account of the struggle for the pontifical throne between Gregory XII, Benedict XIII, and Alexander V, Fra Giovanni and his brother, being adherents of the first named, had in 1409 to leave Fiesole, taking refuge in the convent of their order established at Foligno in Umbria. The pest devastating that place in 1414, the brothers went to Cortona, where they spent four years and then returned to Fiesole. There Fra Angelico remained for sixteen years. He was then invited to Florence to decorate the new Convent of San Marco which had just been allotted to his order, and of which Cosmo de' Medici was a munificent patron. At Cortona are found some of his best pictures.

It was at Florence, however, where he spent nine years, that he painted his most important works. In 1445, Pope Eugenius IV invited Fra Angelico to Rome and gave him work to do in the Vatican, where he painted for him and for his successor, Pope Nicholas V, the frescoes of two chapels. That of the cappella del Sacramento, in the Vatican, was destroyed later by Paul III. Eugenius IV than asked him to go to Orvieto to work in the chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio in the cathedral. This work he began in 1447, but did not finish, returning to Rome in the autumn of that year. Much later the chapel was finished by Luca Signorelli. Pope Eugenius is said to have offered the painter the place of Archbishop of Florence, which through modesty and devotion to his art he declined. At Rome, besides his great paintings in the chapels of the Vatican, he executed some beautiful miniatures for choral books. He is buried in Rome in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Among the thirty works of Fra Angelico in the cloisters and chapter house of the convent of San Marco in Florence (which has been converted into a national museum) is notable the famous "Crucifixion", with the Saviour between the two thieves surrounded by a group of twenty saints, and with bust portraits of seventeen Dominican fathers below. Here is shown to the full the mastery of the painter in depicting in the faces of the monks the emotions evoked by the contemplation of heavenly mysteries. In the Uffizi Gallery are "The Coronation of the Virgin", "The Virgin and Child with Saints", "Naming of John the Baptist", "The Preaching of St. Peter", "The Martyrdom of St. Mark", and "The Adoration of the Magi", while among the examples at the Florence Academy are "The Last Judgement", "Paradise", "TheDeposition from the Cross", "The Entombment", scenes from the lives of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, and various subjects from the life of Christ. At Fiesole are a "Madonna and Saints" and a "Crucifixion". The predella in London is in five compartments and shows Christ with the Banner of the Resurrection surrounded by a choir of angels and a great throng of the blessed. There is also there an "Adoration of the Magi". At Cortona appear at the Convent of San Domenico the fresco "The Virgin and Child with four Evangelists" and the altar-piece "Virgin and Child with Saints", and at the baptistry an "Annunciation" with scenes from the life of the Virgin and a "Life of St. Dominic". In the Turin Gallery "Two Angels kneeling on Clouds", and at Rome, in the Corsini Palace, "The Ascension", "The Last Judgment", and "Pentecost". At the Louvre in Paris are "The Coronation of the Virgin", "The Crucifixion", and "The Martyrdom of St. Cosmas and St. Damian". Berlin has, at the Museum, a "Last Judgment", and Dublin, at the National Gallery, "The Martyrdom of St. Cosmas and St. Damian". At Madrid is "The Annunciation", in Munich "Scenes from the Lives of St. Cosmas and St. Damian", and in St. Petersburg a "Madonna and Saints". Mrs. John L. Gardner has in the art gallery of her Boston residence an "Assumption" and a "Dormition of the Virgin". There are other works at Parma, Perugia, and Pisa. At San Marco, Florence, in addition to the works already mentioned are "Madonna della Stella", "Coronation of the Virgin", "Adoration of the Magi", and "St. Peter Martyr". The Chapel of St. Nicholas in the Vatican at Rome contains frescoes of the "Lives of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen", "The Four Evangelists", and "The Teachers of the Church". In the gallery of the Vatican are "St. Nicholas of Bari", and "Madonna and Angels". The work at Orvieto finished by Signorelli shows Christ in "a glory of angels with sixteen saints and prophets".

(Courtesy Catholic Encyclopedia)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Seven Holy Founders of the Servites - 17th February 2009

Today we celebrate the feast of the Seven Holy Founders of the Servites. Let us read what Dr. Plinio has to say about these saints.

On the feast of the Assumption, 1233 the Blessed Virgin appeared to seven noble Florentines exhorting them to leave the world and retire to live in solitude and prayer.

The seven retired to La Camarzia. After a time they returned to Florence and the inhabitants came outside the city to receive them in great joy. Newborn infants from the arms of their mothers called out on seeing them: “These are the Servants of Mary!”

The seven adopted that name and dedicated their lives to propagate the devotion to the Passion of Our Lord and the Sorrows of Mary. Later, on the Feast of the Assumption in 1240 Our Lady appeared to them carrying a black habit, and a nearby angel bore a scroll reading Servants of Mary. She told them:

“You will found a new Order, and you will be my witnesses throughout the world. This is your name: Servants of Mary. This is your rule: that of Saint Augustine. And here is your distinctive sign: the black scapular, in memory of my sufferings at the foot of the Cross.”

The Order developed rapidly not only in Italy but also in France and Germany, where the Holy Founders spread devotion to the Seven Sorrows of Mary. Their Order was duly approved by the Pope in 1259. They were canonized by Pope Leo XIII in 1888.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

This is one of the oldest Orders specially dedicated to spread devotion to Our Lady. It is a very beautiful title, The Servants of Mary, which was miraculously inspired when infants still unable to speak began to shout it in praise of the, Seven Holy Founders who were retuning to Florence. This title designates a special devotion to Our Lady that would reach its full form centuries later with the explications of St. Louis Grignion de Montfort in his Treatise of True Devotion to Mary.

Essentially to be a servant of Our Lady is the same thing as to be her slave. It represents the renunciation of one’s past, present, and future merits and goods – both spiritual and material. It is an excellent designation that marks the distinction between the true Catholic position and the revolutionary one.

Today many people, including progressivist theologians, think that it is shameful for the modern man to be a servant or a slave of Our Lady. It would be acceptable in the past, but since the abolition of slavery, there should no longer be servants or slaves, even for Our Lady. So, regarding our relations with Our Lady, we should call ourselves her children but not her servants or slaves, because it is not in accordance with human dignity. This is obviously an egalitarian and revolutionary affirmation.

In reality, it is an honor to be the servant of Our Lady, who is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. The principal desire of our lives is to be her true slaves. Because as her servants we are also her children, a special kind of children who desire her glory above all and renounce everything for this end.

The name of the Order of the Servants of Mary, or Servites, was clearly a name desired not only by the Seven Saints who founded it, but also by Our Lady, who affirmed their choice. This name was also endorsed when the Pope approved the Order, and when the Church canonized the Founders in the 19th century. Therefore, it is an excellent name.

It is a work of the Devil, the inspirer of the Revolution, to strive to destroy every kind of superiority, not only on this earth, but even in the supernatural order. The Revolution cannot abide acknowledging the immense inequality God put between His Mother and all other creatures – Angels, Saints and the rest of mankind. Between Our Lady and all creatures there is a veritable abyss. It is irrational to deny this or even raise a doubt about it.

Notwithstanding, this is what the Revolution does. Denial of every hierarchy is a characteristic of its spirit. It also is the root of Atheism, which in effect is hatred for the fact that there is a Lord in Heaven Who reigns over all of us. The revolutionary spirit rejects every form of lordship.

Karl Marx formulated this hatred of any superiority: he said that the goal of Marxism was to do away with every kind of alienation. This word originates from the Latin: alienatio, which is the transfer of the right of ownership from one person to another. For Marx, no one should ever cede dominion over himself to any other person. Any form of superiority and authority would be evil because it would cause an unjustifiable alienation of the inferior person, which would be to usurp his right and will, and to exploit his labor.

So, it causes alienation when the father commands his children; the husband, his wife; the teacher, his pupil, employer, his employees; the noble, his plebeians; etc. Any sort of authority would cause alienation. The worst alienation for Marx, however, is the one produced by God. According to him, God does not exist; God is a myth. Therefore, in addition to being hateful, the alienation toward God would be something empty and idiotic.

Therefore, man should be absolutely independent, complete master of himself, and never obey anyone. This is the ideal of Marxism, which coincides with the ideal of the Revolution.

It is the opposite of the true Catholic spirit. I do not think that I need to offer proof of this here.

What should we ask the Seven Holy Founders of the Servites? If these 13th century men were to resurrect and see what is going on in the Church and the world today, what would they say? What kind of indignation and censures would they make?

We should ask them to intervene for the Catholic Church and re-enkindle true devotion to Our Lady among the faithful, along with its correlated hierarchical sense and counter- revolutionary spirit.

Monday, February 16, 2009

St. Gilbert of Sempringham - 16th February 2009

Gilbert was born in1083 in Sempringham, England, into a wealthy family, but he followed a path quite different from that expected of him as the son of a Norman knight. Sent to France for his higher education, he decided to pursue seminary studies.

After studying in France, he returned home and established a local school, to which he was to return as household secretary to the Bishop of Lincoln, who ordained him priest. When Gilbert's father died he was thus both parish priest and squire of the family domain. Gilbert formed a small village community of seven women, who lived in a local house under his spiritual direction and under an adaptation of the Rule of St. Benedict. This was to develop into an Order, with both lay sisters and lay brothers, and several other houses were to, follow, principally in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. In all there were 13 Gilbertine houses, four for canons, who followed the Rule of St. Augustine, and nine double monasteries, of both men and women.

Over the years a special custom grew up in the houses of the order called "the plate of the Lord Jesus." The best portions of the dinner were put on a special plate and shared with the poor, reflecting Gilbert's lifelong concern for less fortunate people.

The Order was out of, favour for some time because Gilbert was in sympathy with Thomas Becket. In his later years, too, there was a revolt led by the law brothers who complained of being over-worked and under-fed. Nevertheless, the Gilbertines were amply supported by Rome; Gilbert himself died in 1189, aged 105 and was canonised as early as 1202. All the Gilbertine houses were destroyed at the Reformation and never re- constituted, thus bringing to an end a branch of monasticism which happily harmonised the male and female religious vocations with social concern (leper-hospitals, orphanages were founded by the Gilbertines).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

St. Claude la Colombiere - 15th Febraury 2009


This is a special day for the Jesuits, who claim today’s saint as one of their own. It’s also a special day for people who have a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus—a devotion Claude la Colombière promoted, along with his friend and spiritual companion, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. The emphasis on God’s love for all was an antidote to the rigorous moralism of the Jansenists, who were popular at the time.

He was the third child of the notary Bertrand La Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St. Symphorien d'Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.

It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he "had a terrible aversion for the life embraced". This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments.

At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.

In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV's Munster of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert.

His theological studies concluded and now a priest, Claude returned to Lyon. For a time he was teacher in the College, then full-time preacher and moderator of several Marian congregations.

Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.

The year 1674 was a decisive one for Claude, the year of his Third Probation at Maison Saint-Joseph in Lyon. During the customary month of the Exercises the Lord prepared him for the mission for which he had been chosen. His spiritual notes from this period allow one to follow step-by-step the battles and triumphs of the spirit, so extraordinarily attracted to everything human, yet so generous with God.

He took a vow to observe all the constitutions and rules of the Society of Jesus, a vow whose scope was not so much to bind him to a series of minute observances as to reproduce the sharp ideal of an apostle so richly described by St. Ignatius. So magnificent did this ideal seem to Claude that he adopted it as his program of sanctity. That it was indeed an invitation from Christ himself is evidenced by the subsequent feeling of interior liberation Claude experienced, along with the broadened horizons of the apostolate he witnesses to in his spiritual diary.

On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors' knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of his Heart, but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promise and send her "my faithful servant and perfect friend" to help her realize the mission for which he had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of his love.

After Father Colombière's arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard, and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude's spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve. In these notes it is also clear that, even before he became Margaret Mary's confessor, Claude's fidelity to the directives of St. Ignatius in the Exercises had brought him to the contemplation of the Heart of Christ as symbol of his love.

After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York - a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.

In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: "I could write a book about the mercy of God I've seen Him exercise since I arrived here!"

The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.

Of a sudden, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates "papist plot". After two days he was transferred to the severe King's Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree. This suffering further weakened Claude's health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.

During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. On 15th February 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe hemorrhage which ended his life.

On the 16th of June 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Claude La Colombière, whose charism, according to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, was that of bringing souls to God along the gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us.