New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity - 7th March 2009

This is the first time I have read this account of these martyrs. Their faith shook me, their courage and faith in God shook me.

The record of the is one of the great treasures of martyr literature, an authentic document preserved for us in the actual words of the martyrs and their friends. It was in the great African city of Carthage, in the year 203, during the persecutions ordered by the Emperor Severus, that five catechumens were arrested for their faith. The group consisted of a slave Revocatus, his fellow slave Felicitas, who was expecting the birth of a child, two free men, Saturninus and Secundulus, and a matron of twenty-two, Vivia Perpetua, wife of a man in good position and mother of a small infant. Perpetua's father was a pagan, her mother and two brothers Christians, one of the brothers being a catechumen. These five prisoners were soon joined by one Saturus, who seems to have been their instructor in the faith and who now chose to share their punishment. At first they were all kept under strong guard in a private house. Perpetua wrote a vivid account of what happened.

"While I was still with my companions, and my father in his affection for me was trying to turn me from my purpose by arguments and so weaken my faith, 'Father,' said I, 'do you see this vessel—water pot or whatever it may be? . . . Can it be called by any other name than what it is?" No,' he replied. 'So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am—a Christian.' Then my father, provoked by the word 'Christian,' threw himself on me as if he would pluck out my eyes, but he only shook me, and in fact was vanquished.... Then I thanked God for the relief of being, for a few days, parted from my father . . . and during those few days we were baptized. The Holy Spirit bade me after the holy rite to pray for nothing but bodily endurance.

"A few days later we were lodged in the prison, and I was much frightened, because I had never known such darkness. What a day of horror! Terrible heat, owing to the crowds! Rough treatment by the soldiers! To crown all I was tormented with anxiety for my baby. But Tertius and Pomponius, those blessed deacons who ministered to us, paid for us to be moved for a few hours to a better part of the prison and we obtained some relief. All went out of the prison and we were left to ourselves. My baby was brought and I nursed him, for already he was faint for want of food. I spoke anxiously to my mother on his behalf and encouraged my brother and commended my son to their care. For I was concerned when I saw their concern for me. For many days I suffered such anxieties, but I obtained leave for my child to remain in the prison with me, and when relieved of my trouble and distress for him, I quickly recovered my health. My prison suddenly became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else.

"My brother then said to me: 'Lady sister, you are now greatly honored, so greatly that you may well pray for a vision to show you whether suffering or release is in store for you.' And I, knowing myself to have speech of the Lord for whose sake I was suffering, promised him confidently, 'Tomorrow I will bring you word.' And I prayed and this was shown me. I saw a golden ladder of wonderful length reaching up to heaven, but so narrow that only one at a time could ascend; and to the sides of the ladder were fastened all kinds of iron weapons. There were swords, lances, hooks, daggers, so that if anyone climbed up carelessly or without looking upwards, he was mangled and his flesh caught on the weapons. And at the foot of the ladder was a huge dragon which lay in wait for those going up and sought to frighten them from the ascent. The first to go up was Saturus, who of his own accord had given himself up for our sakes, because our faith was of his building and he was not with us when we were arrested. He reached the top of the ladder and, turning, said to me: 'Perpetua, I wait for you, but take care that the dragon does not bite you.' And I said: 'In the name of Jesus Christ, he will not hurt me.' And the dragon put out his head gently, as if afraid of me, just at the foot of the ladder; and as though I were treading on the first step, I trod on his head. And I went up and saw a vast garden, and sitting in the midst a tall man with white hair in the dress of a shepherd, milking sheep; and round about were many thousands clad in white. He raised his head and looked at me and said: 'Thou art well come, my child.' And he called me and gave me some curds of the milk he was milking, and I received them in my joined hands and ate, and all that were round about said 'Amen.' At the sound of the word I awoke, still tasting something sweet. I at once told my brother and we understood that we must suffer, and henceforth began to have no hope in this world.

"After a few days there was a report that we were to be examined. My father arrived from the city, worn with anxiety, and came up the hill hoping still to weaken my resolution. 'Daughter,' he said, 'pity my white hairs! Pity your father, if I deserve you should call me father, if I have brought you up to this your prime of life, if I have loved you more than your brothers! Make me not a reproach to mankind! Look on your mother and your mother's sister, look on your son who cannot live after you are gone. Forget your pride; do not make us all wretched! None of us will ever speak freely again if calamity strikes you.' So spoke my father in his love for me, kissing my hands and casting himself at my feet, and with tears calling me by the title not of 'daughter' but of 'lady.' And I grieved for my father's sake, because he alone of all my kindred would not have joy at my martyrdom. And I tried to comfort him, saying, 'What takes place on that platform will be as God shall choose, for assuredly we are not in our own power but in the power of God.' But he departed full of grief.

"The following day, while we were at our dinner, we were suddenly summoned to be examined and went to the forum. The news of the trial spread fast and brought a huge crowd together in the forum. We were placed on a sort of platform before the judge, who was Hilarion, procurator of the province, since the proconsul had lately died. The others were questioned before me and confessed their faith. But when it came to my turn, my father appeared with my child, and drawing me down the steps besought me, 'Have pity on the child.' The judge Hilarion joined with my father and said: 'Spare your father's white hairs. Spare the tender years of your child. Offer sacrifice for the prosperity of the emperors.' I replied, 'No." Are you a Christian?' asked Hilarion, and I answered, 'Yes, I am.' My father then attempted to drag me down from the platform, at which Hilarion commanded that he should be beaten off, and he was struck with a rod. I felt this as much as if I myself had been struck, so deeply did I grieve to see my father treated thus in his old age. The judge then passed sentence on us all and condemned us to the wild beasts, and in great joy we returned to our prison. Then, as my baby was accustomed to the breast, I sent Pomponius the deacon to ask him of my father, who, however, refused to send him. And God so ordered it that the child no longer needed to nurse, nor did my milk incommode me."

Secundulus seems to have died in prison before the examination. Before pronouncing sentence, Hilarion had Saturus, Saturninus, and Revocatus scourged and Perpetua and Felicitas beaten on the face. They were then kept for the gladiatorial shows which were to be given for the soldiers on the festival of Geta, the young prince whom his father Severus had made Caesar four years previously.

While in prison both Perpetua and Saturus had visions which they described in writing in great detail.

The remainder of the story was added by another hand, apparently that of an eyewitness. Felicitas had feared that she might not be allowed to suffer with the rest because pregnant women were not sent into the arena. However, she gave birth in the prison to a daughter whom one of their fellow Christians at once adopted. Pudens, their jailer, was by this time a convert, and did all he could for them. The day before the games they were given the usual last meal, which was called "the free banquet." The martyrs strove to make it an or Love Feast, and to those who crowded around them they spoke of the judgments of God and of their own joy in their sufferings. Such calm courage and confidence astonished the pagans and brought about many conversions.

On the day of their martyrdom they set forth from the prison. Behind the men walked the young noblewoman Perpetua, "abashing the gaze of all with the high spirit in her eyes," and beside her the slave Felicitas. At the gates of the amphitheater the attendants tried to force the men to put on the robes of the priests of Saturn and the women the dress symbolic of the goddess Ceres, but they all resisted and the officer allowed them to enter the arena clad as they were. Perpetua was singing, while Revocatus, Saturninus, and Saturus were calling out warnings to the bystanders and even to Hilarion himself, as they walked beneath his balcony, of the coming vengeance of God. The mob cried out that they should be scourged for their boldness. Accordingly, as the martyrs passed in front of the , or hunters, each received a lash.

To each one God granted the form of martyrdom he desired. Saturus had hoped to be exposed to several sorts of beasts, that his sufferings might be intensified. He and Revocatus were first attacked half-heartedly by a leopard. Saturus was next exposed to a wild boar which turned on his keeper instead. He was then tied up on the bridge in front of a bear, but the animal refused to stir out of his den, and Saturus was reserved for one more encounter. The delay gave him an opportunity to turn and speak to the converted jailer Pudens: "You see that what I desired and foretold has come to pass. Not a beast has touched me! So believe steadfastly in Christ. And see now, I go forth yonder and with one bite from a leopard all will be over." As he had foretold, a leopard was now let out, sprang upon him, and in a moment he was fatally wounded. Seeing the flow of blood, the cruel mob cried out, "He is well baptized now!" Dying, Saturus said to Pudens, "Farewell; remember my faith and me, and let these things not daunt but strengthen you." He then asked for a ring from Pudens' finger, and dipping it in his own blood, returned it to the jailer as a keepsake. Then he expired.

Perpetua and Felicitas were exposed to a mad heifer. Perpetua was tossed first and fell on her back, but raised herself and gathered her torn tunic modestly about her; then, after fastening up her hair, lest she look as if she were in mourning, she rose and went to help Felicitas, who had been badly hurt by the animal. Side by side they stood, expecting another assault, but the sated audience cried out that it was enough. They were therefore led to the gate Sanevivaria, where victims who had not been killed in the arena were dispatched by gladiators. Here Perpetua seemed to arouse herself from an ecstasy and could not believe that she had already been exposed to a mad heifer until she saw the marks of her injuries. She then called out to her brother and to the catechumen: "Stand fast in the faith, and love one another. Do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you." By this time the fickle populace was clamoring for the women to come back into the open. This they did willingly, and after giving each other the kiss of peace, they were killed by the gladiators. Perpetua had to guide the sword of the nervous executioner to her throat. The story of these martyrs has been given in detail for it is typical of so many others. No saints were more universally honored in all the early Church calendars and martyrologies. Their names appear not only in the Philocalian Calendar of Rome, but also in the Syriac Calendar. The names of Felicitas and Perpetua occur in the prayer "Nobis quoque peccatoribus" in the Canon of the Mass. In the fourth century their were publicly read in the churches of Africa and were so highly esteemed that Augustine, bishop of Hippo, found it necessary to protest against their being placed on a level with the Scriptures.

(Courtesy EWTN LIbrary)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

St. John Joseph of the Cross - 5th March 2009

Self-denial is never an end in itself but is only a help toward greater charity—as the life of Saint John Joseph shows.

John Joseph was very ascetic even as a young man. At 16 he joined the Franciscans in Naples; he was the first Italian to follow the reform movement of Saint Peter Alcantara. John’s reputation for holiness prompted his superiors to put him in charge of establishing a new friary even before he was ordained.

Obedience moved John to accept appointments as novice master, guardian and, finally, provincial. His years of mortification enabled him to offer these services to the friars with great charity. As guardian he was not above working in the kitchen or carrying the wood and water needed by the friars.

When his term as provincial expired, John Joseph dedicated himself to hearing confessions and practicing mortification, two concerns contrary to the spirit of the dawning Age of Enlightenment. John Joseph was canonized in 1839.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

St. Casimir - 4th March 2009

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Casimir. Let us contemplate what Dr. Plinio has to say about this great saint.

Biographical section

St. Casimir, prince of Poland, was born in the royal palace at Krakow on October 3, 1458.

When the King went to Lithuania to arrange affairs there, Casimir was placed in charge of Poland and from 1481 to 1483. He administered the State with great prudence and justice. About this time his father tried to arrange a marriage for him with the daughter of Frederick III, but Casimir preferred to remain single. Shortly afterward he fell sick, and died at the court of Grodno on March 3, 1484. He is the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

I would like to emphasize that St. Casimir lived in the royal court of his parents, Casimir IV the Great and Queen Elizabeth of Habsburg, to point out that he lived his life at court and became a saint there.

Sometimes, because of a certain erroneous vision of sanctity, one is led to think that only persons in the religious life – priests, monks and nuns – can become saints. According to this mentality, it is so rare for a layperson to become a saint that one who does so should be considered an exception to the rule, a kind of miracle. However a lay saint is not an exception to the rule; it is the normal accomplishment of the plan of Divine Providence for lay persons.

The fact that St. Casimir became a saint living in a royal court shows that the court was a place where one can live and be a saint. In this sense, it constitutes a kind of eulogy to the ambience in which he lived. This fact refutes the revolutionary propaganda that says that the courts were necessarily corrupt. Frequently, as we can verify on our calendar, there were saints who were kings and queens, saints who were princes and princesses, and saints who were nobles. Very often sanctity perfumed the courts. Therefore, those courts, instead of being seats of moral corruption and perdition, were often places where sanctity throve, flourished, and exerted a considerable influence.

In this sense, the ambience of court in many ways realized the ideal of Christian Civilization. What should an ideal court be in a Christian Civilization? The king is an earthly image of God, and his court should be an image of the heavenly court. In an ideal Catholic court, the saintly king would be surrounded by courtesans who should be images of the angels and saints before God thrice holy. Now, the fact that this ideal has been partially realized at certain times in History is something that should fill us with joy. These examples show that the Catholic courts were good, and they also demonstrate how the revolutionary propaganda lies when it talks about the courts.

Someone could object and say that in one thousand years of History, anyone can find anything to prove a thesis. Therefore, just because many saints can be found in the courts, this does not prove what I said

I can answer this objection. First, the argument is not true. If it were true, we should have a proportional number of saints in the governments and representative houses of the liberal republican system. This system has been established almost everywhere since the American and French Revolutions – for more than 200 years. We do not find saints, however, flourishing in these political ambiences, but quite the opposite.

Second, according to the laws of History, normally great virtue or great vice does not appear isolated. It appears, to use a metaphor, like a mountain peak on a whole chain of mountains. That means that if you have a saint in one place, surrounding him you normally have a number of people who are very good Catholics even though they are not saints, a greater number of upright people, and a multitude of just decent people. Sanctity is the greatest fruit of a whole social group that aspires to follow Our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, by showing that many saints existed in the Catholic courts of times past, we demonstrate that those ambiences were compatible with sanctity and good on many levels. So, the saints who lived in those courts were not just exceptional cases, but reflections of the whole.

I think that St. Casimir is pleased that we are remembering these points about him. I hope and pray that from his heavenly throne he will protect us in our counter-revolutionary fight.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

St. Katharine Drexel - 3rd March 2009

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. on 26 November 1858, Katharine was the second daughter of Francis Anthony Drexel, a wealthy banker, and his wife, Hannah Jane. The latter died a month after Katharine's birth, and two years later her father married Emma Bouvier, who was a devoted mother, not only to her own daughter Louisa (born 1862), but also to her two step-daughters. Both parents instilled into the children by word and example that their wealth was simply loaned to them and was to be shared with others.

Katharine was educated privately at home; she travelled widely in the United States and in Europe. Early in life she became aware of the plight of the Native Americans and the Blacks; when she inherited a vast fortune from her father and step-mother, she resolved to devote her wealth to helping these disadvantaged people. In 1885 she established a school for Native Americans at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Later, during an audience with Pope Leo XIII, she asked him to recommend a religious congregation to staff the institutions which she was financing. The Pope suggested that she herself become a missionary, so in 1889 she began her training in religious life with the Sisters of Mercy at Pittsburgh.

In 1891, with a few companions, Mother Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. The title of the community summed up the two great driving forces in her life—devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and love for the most deprived people in her country.

Requests for help reached Mother Katharine from various parts of the United States. During her lifetime, approximately 60 schools were opened by her congregation. The most famous foundation was made in 1915; it was Xavier University, New Orleans, the first such institution for Black people in the United States.

In 1935 Mother Katharine suffered a heart attack, and in 1937 she relinquished the office of superior general. Though gradually becoming more infirm, she was able to devote her last years to Eucharistic adoration, and so fulfil her life’s desire. She died at the age of 96 at Cornwell Heights, Pennsylvania, on 3 March 1955. Her cause for beatification was introduced in 1966; she was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 26 January 1987, by whom she was also beatified on 20 November 1988.

(Courtesy EWTN Library )

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fetal Stem Cells Do not work

We should listen to the wisdom of Mother Church or else we will have to make our mistakes and hopefully learn from them

Boy Who Received Fetal Stem Cell Treatment Develops Tumors

Rome, Italy, Feb 25, 2009 (CNA).- The scientific magazine PLoS Medicine" reported in its latest edition that an Israeli boy who suffers from a rare genetic disease has developed tumors in his brain and spine after being injected with fetal stem cells, thus raising more doubts among scientists about the usefulness of such therapies.

Scientists from the Sheba Medical Center in Israel explained to the Associated Press that the boy, who suffers from ataxia telangiectasia, had traveled to Russia at age 9, when he was injected with fetal neural stem cells in his brain and spinal cord.

However, in 2005, he began to suffer from headaches. Tests revealed the growth of abnormal cells in the brain and spinal cord fluid. The following year, doctors removed the cancerous cells from the spinal cord fluid, and after analysis it was determined that the origin of the tumors was the fetal stem cells.

St. Agnes of Bohemia - 2nd March 2009

St. Agnes was the daughter of Queen Constance and King Ottokar I of Bohemia. At the age of three, she was betrothed to the Duke of Silesia, who died three years later. As she grew up, she decided she wanted to enter the religious life.

After declining marriages to King Henry VII of Germany and Henry III of England, Agnes was faced with a proposal from Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor. She appealed to Pope Gregory IX for help. The pope was persuasive.

On learning that St. Agnes had left him to become the spouse of Christ, Frederick II is said to have remarked: "If she had left me for a mortal man, I would have taken vengeance with the sword, but I cannot take offence because in preference to me she has chosen the King of Heaven."

After Agnes built a hospital for the poor and a residence for the friars, she financed the construction of a Poor Clare monastery in Prague. In 1236, she and seven other noblewomen entered this monastery. Saint Clare sent five sisters from San Damiano to join them, and wrote Agnes four letters advising her on the beauty of her vocation and her duties as abbess.

Agnes became known for prayer, obedience and mortification. Papal pressure forced her to accept her election as abbess; nevertheless, the title she preferred was "senior sister." Her position did not prevent her from cooking for the other sisters and mending the clothes of lepers. The sisters found her kind but very strict regarding the observance of poverty; she declined her royal brother’s offer to set up an endowment for the monastery.

Devotion to Agnes arose soon after her death on March 6, 1282. She was canonized in 1989 by Pope John Paul II

Sunday, March 1, 2009

St. David of Wales - 1st March 2009

St David of Wales or Dewi Sant, was a saint of the Celtic Church. He was the son of Sandde, Prince of Powys,and Non, daughter of a Chieftain of Menevia whose lands included the peninsula on which the little cathedral town of St David's now stands. St David is thought to have been born near the present town of St David's. The ruins of a small chapel dedicated to his mother, Non, may be seen near St. David's Cathedral

David became the Abbot of St David's and died on 1st March 589. A.D. An account of his life was written towards the end of the 11th century by Rhygyfarch, a monk at Llanbadarn Fawr near Aberystwyth. Many miracles were attributed to him. One miracle often recounted is that once when Dewi was preaching to a crowd at Llandewi Brefi those on the outer edges could not hear, so he spread a handkerchief on the ground, and stood on it to preach, whereupon the ground rose upbeneath him, and all could hear.

He was buried in what is today St David's Cathedral in Pembrokeshire. His holiness was such that medieval pilgrims equated two pilgrimages to St David's were worth one pilgrimage to Rome - a great saving in journeying at that time! Fifty churches in South Wales alone bear his name.

March 1st , St David's Day, is now the traditional day of the Welsh. March 1 is the date given by Rhygyfarch for the death of Dewi Sant, was celebrated as a religious festival up until the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. In the 18th century it
became a national festival among the Welsh, and continues as such to this day.

The celebration usually means singing and eating. St. David's Day meetings in Wales are not the boisterous celebrations of that accompany say St Patrick's Day in Ireland, but that may be because Welsh nationalism is kept in check.The singing of traditional songs followed by a Te Bach, tea with teisen bach and bara brith. Y Ddraig Goch, the Red Dragon, is flown as a flag or worn as a pin or pendant, and leeks are worn, and sometimes eaten. St David's Day is now celebrated by Welsh people all over the world.

St. David is pictured standing on a mound with a dove on his shoulder. The legend is that once while he was preaching a dove descended to his shoulder and the earth rose to lift him high above the people so that he could be heard. Over 50 churches in South Wales were dedicated to him in pre-Reformation days.