New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bl. Kateri Tekakwitha - 17th April 2009

Kateri Tekakwitha, known as “the Lily of the Mohawk”, was born in 1656 of a captive Algonquin mother and an Iroquois chieftain. Her mother was a Christian but dared not baptize Kateri or her younger brother. When an epidemic of smallpox broke out in 1660, the little girl lost her mother and brother, perhaps also her father at that time; she herself nearly succumbed to the malady.

Her uncle, who adopted her, later wanted her to marry a young Iroquois her own age, but she refused, having already experienced the horror of the Iroquois brutalities. When in 1675 Father Jacques de Lamberville, Jesuit missionary, discovered on the banks of the Mohawk River this “beautiful lily”, he transplanted her to the mission of St. Francis Xavier near Montreal, which had been founded a few years before. She received her first Communion there on Christmas day of 1676.

In 1679, on the feast of the Annunciation, with the authorization of one of the Fathers at the mission, Kateri privately pronounced a vow of perpetual chastity and consecrated herself to the Blessed Virgin. From that time on, she and her rosary were inseparable. Her health had never been strong, and her penances contributed to weakening it further. It was during Holy Week of 1680 that this young Indian maiden quietly expired, invoking the names of Jesus and Mary. Miracles and favors were attributed to her soon after her death.

In 1943, Pope Pius XII admitted the cause of beatification, approving the decree on the heroism of her virtues. Saint Kateri had appeared to some Polish prisoners during World War II, telling them she was named a patron of their country and brought about their release. They described to the Jesuits of their own country, the young Indian girl whom they had all seen in their vision, and learned who she was — Kateri, Lily of the Mohawk, the Canadian Indian girl who had attained sanctity very young and died at the age of 24 years. She was beatified in 1980, canonized in 1991.

The oldest portrait of Kateri Tekakwitha is an oil painting on canvas 41"x37" painted by Father Chauchetière between 1682-1693. It hangs in the sacristy of St. Francis Xavier Church on the Kanawaké Mohawk Reservation on the south bank of the St. Lawrence River, near Montréal, Québec.

For more about this saint please refer to the following link

Thursday, April 16, 2009

St. Benedict Joseph Labre - 16th April 2009

Benedict Joseph Labre was born 26 March 1748 at Amettes, near Boulogne, the son and eldest child of a shopkeeper. After a private education with an uncle, the parish priest at Erin (who died heroically, ministering to, and himself infected by the victims of a cholera epidemic), he tried his vocation unsuccessfully with a number of strict monastic communities: Carthusians (Val-Sainte-Aldegonde, Neuville), Trappists (La Trappe, twice), and Cistercians (Sept-Fonts). His modern namesake, the Capuchin Father Benedict Groeschel, counts eleven attempts at monastic life!

By 1770, when he was twenty-two, it was clear that Benedict Joseph had no vocation to any religious community, and thenceforth he lived as a destitute pilgrim -- walking to shrines all over Europe. His only possessions, besides the single set of clothes he wore, were two rosaries, and three books: a New Testament, a Breviary, and The Imitation of Christ.

He settled permanently in Rome in 1774 (except for an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Holy House at Loreto), sleeping at night in the Colosseum, and spending his days in the churches of Rome, especially those where the Forty Hours' Devotion was being observed. Santa Maria dei Monti became his favorite Roman church, where he was devoted to a fresco of the Madonna and Child with Saints Stephen, Lawrence, Augustine and Francis. Toward the end of his life, when he had grown severely ill, he did accept shelter sometimes at a hospice for poor men.

By Holy Week of 1783 he was near death, and on Wednesday he collapsed just outside Santa Maria dei Monti after attending Mass. A passerby, a local butcher, picked him up off the street and carried Benedict Joseph to his own nearby home, where, that evening at about eight o'clock, 16 April 1783, Benedict Joseph died after receiving Extreme Unction, aged thirty-five. So great was the crowd thronging his funeral that troops had to be called in to maintain public order.

Within a few months of his death, more than 130 miracles ascribed to the Saint had been carefully recorded. That year, G. L. Marconi, a priest who had been his confessor, published a biography. Benedict Joseph Labre was canonized by Pope Leo XIII, 8 December 1881.

Part of the butcher's house where he died (near Santa Maria dei Monti) was converted into a chapel with an altar, two cupboards containing the scanty relics he left, and a life-size recumbent statue of the Saint, marking the spot where he died, over which hangs a painting of the Madonna. He was buried beneath an altar in a chapel of Santa Maria dei Monti, where there is another life-size marble effigy. The death mask that was made before his burial is extant. Also preserved is one portrait made during his life. While the saint was in an ecstasy before an image of our Lady, he was painted by Antonio Cavallucci, and this portrait hangs in the National Gallery, Rome (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica).

For More about this saint and his writing refer to this link

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

St. Maro - 15th April 2009

St. Maro chose a solitary abode not far from the city of Cyrrhus in Syria, and there in a spirit of mortification, he lived mainly in the open air. He had indeed a little hut covered with goatskins to shelter him in case of need, but he very seldom made use of it. Finding the ruins of the heathen temple, he dedicated it to the true God, and made it his house of prayer. St. John Chrysostom, who had a great regard for him, wrote to him from Cucusus, the place of his banishment, and, recommending himself to his prayers, begged to hear from him as often as possible. Maro was a disciple of St. Zebinus. He drew great crowds by his spiritual wisdom. He trained many hermits and monks and founded three monasteries. It is believed the Maronites take their name from Bait-Marun monastery near the source of the Orantes river, where a church was erected over his tomb. His feast day is April 15th.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saint Lidwina - 14th April 2009

Saint Lidwina (Lydwine) lived in Schiedam (Holland). We know a lot about her thanks to many books, including a book about her written by J.K. Huysmans (translated by Agnes Hastings. into English) and reprinted by Tan Books and Publishers of Rockford, IL., in 1979).

The original work is dated 1923 and was published in French.The preface of this work reveals that Jan Gerlac, the sacristan of the Augustinian Monastery of Windesem, was a relation of
hers and he lived a number of years near Lidwina (later in the same house as Lidwina) and thus writes from personal observation and was quoted by Huysmans.

Two other gentlemen are quoted his book. One of these is Thomas à Kempis who was subprior of the Augustinians of Mount Agnes near Zwolle. We know à Kempis as the author of the Imitation of Christ. Lidwina lived in Holland at the time of the Great Schism when the Church was split due to two anti-popes.

At the age of 15 Lidwina broke a rib while ice skating and remained bedridden for the rest of her life. She put her illness to a supernatural purpose. She was suffering voluntarily for the welfare of the Church. She fasted during this entire time when she was bedridden and was found often in ecstacy. She is one of the most heroic victim-souls of all time.

During her lifetime, there was a school of ascetics in Deventer that followed the teachings of Blessed Jan van Ruysbroeck, who preached at Campen, Zwolle, Amsterdam, Leiden, Zutphen, Utrecht, Gouda, Haarlem and Delft. He and his pupil, Florent Radewyns, a Deventer priest, founded the aforementioned Institute of Brothers and Sisters of Communal Life. This order, although it never bore that name, were really oblates of Saint Augustine.

It is interesting to note that the name Lidwina a formalization of Lidie comes from the Dutch word "lijden" which means to suffer. The aid of physicians were enlisted by Lidwina's parents to seek a cure for her disease. She was in intense pain, sobbed on her bed in a state of terrible abandonment, was given to constant vomiting, suffered burning fevers and could not hold down food of any kind. This situation lasted for three years.

Then followed a relatively blissful period but she was still confined to bed and could not get up. In the following years she still suffered greatly from abscesses, inflamed sores, and
it was said she was near death twenty-two times. At the age of 28, the coldest winter ever experienced in Holland set in, when even the fish froze in the rivers, the tears she shed at night froze to her face.

From the Third Order of Saint Francis in Schiedam she received a woolen shirt to wear, however she was not a member of that lay order. Historically, at that time William VI, a duke, was the Count of Holland. As he traveled with his wife, the Countess Marguerite through Schiedam, he granted Lidwina's father, who had fallen on bad times free rent on the premises they occupied. In the 13th and 14th Century, Holland began to see some economic development and William was proclaimed German king in 1247.

There was yet another war, the 100-Year War, but also during that time a number of cities obtained municipal rights, as Hecht already mentioned but also Middelburg, Dortrecht, Delft, Leiden, Haarlem, Arnhem, Nijmegen, Zutphen, Deventer and Kampen obtained municipal privileges. According the Encyclopediae Britannica: "The rise of the towns was accompanied by their struggle for political influence in their respective territories, in which they co-operated with the nobility and the clergy. This led to the growth of representative assemblies which were to become essential political institutions."

Returning to the story of Saint Lidwina, she continued to suffer and the more she suffered, apparently, the more she was given God's Gift of contemplation and bilocation. She was given to be in two places at once, when Jesus asked her to be with him at Golgotha. In answer to His request, Lidwina replied: "O Saviour, I am ready to accompany you to that mountain and to suffer and die there with you!" (Huysmans, 1923)

"He took her with Him, and when she returned to her bed, which corporeally she had never left, they saw ulcers on her lips, wounds on her arms, the marks of thorns on her forehead and splinters on her limbs, which exhaled a very pronounced perfume of spices." A number of miraculous healings were reported. For example, Lidwina prayed for a woman, a friend of hers, who had a frightful toothache. The woman's pain ceased immediately. Also, another woman came to her to ask for her intercession for her child who was screaming with pain. When the child was placed on Lidwina's bed his troubles disappeared. When the child grew up, he became a priest in memory of Lidwina.

Additional miracles continued after her death and she is not forgotten. Her feast day occurs on April 14th.

Monday, April 13, 2009

St. Martin I - 13th April 2009

Today is the feast of St Martin I, let us read what Dr. Plinio has to say about this great Pope and saint.

Biographical selection:

St. Martin was named successor of Pope Theodore I in the year 649. The soul of the new Pope had to be great to face the great difficulties of the times. To save the Church in the East, he condemned Monothelism, which claimed Christ had only one will.

Shortly after, Emperor Constans II, who was a Monothelist, ordered his agents to kidnap the Pope. They took Pope Martin and brought him by ship to stand before the Emperor at Constantinople. The Pope suffered enormously during the voyage and arrived in Constantinople very weak. There he was held in a filthy, freezing cell in a prison for three months. Finally, in handcuffs, he was dragged before a tribunal, and under the depositions of false witnesses he was condemned to death as a traitor and heretic. After the sentence was read, he was taken to a terrace of the palace near the imperial stables where a multitude was gathered.

The judge who had presided at the tribunal approached St. Martin and mocked him: “You see how God delivered you into our hands. You were against the Emperor, and thus has God abandoned you.”

Then the soldiers slashed his clothing and took away his shoes. He was delivered to the prefect of the city with the order of execution. The judge tried to incite the populace to anathematize St. Martin, but the mob remained silent gazing at the ground, with the exception of some 20 people who followed the order. After a while, the crowd dispersed.

The soldiers stripped the Pope of his shredded clothes and dressed him in a grotesque tunic, open on both sides, to humiliate him. They put an iron ring around his neck with a rope attached to it, and dragged him to a prison of common criminals. In the freezing cold, St. Martin trembled and awaited death. But at the last moment his death was commuted to life imprisonment.

In Crimea, where he was exiled, his suffering increased daily until the Creator called his soul in 655. Pope Martin left praiseworthy letters, full of wisdom, as well as his answers to the tribunal, written in a noble and sublime style, worthy of the majesty of the Apostolic See.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

There are various aspects of this martyrdom that are very instructive to us.

First, the extreme respectability of Pope St. Martin and the special form of torment to which he was subjected. He was a saint and, therefore, aware of the supreme dignity of the Pontifical Throne. He knew it was the highest dignity on earth. The dignity of any King or Emperor cannot be compared to the dignity of the Vicar of Christ, to whom Our Lord gave the keys of Heaven and Earth.

Further St. Martin was a man of noble spirit. The selection allows us to see that he was very intelligent and highly educated. His letters reflected a noble and elevated spirit. He loved what is high and sublime.

Second, he was exposed to one of the worst humiliations a Pope had to suffer since the beginning of the Church. We know that St. Peter was crucified, but few Popes suffered a martyrdom as terrible as that of St. Martin. The Roman Pontiff who knew he was the legitimate representative of Our Lord was badly treated during his trip; when he arrived in Constantinople, he was kept in cruel confinement for three months before he was dragged before a court of Monothelist heretics. The tribunal was already prepared to condemn him.

After the condemnation, he was dressed in ridiculous apparel with an iron ring placed on his neck, as if he were an animal to be pulled here and there by a rope at their pleasure. He was mocked by the judge, who far from being an impartial man, instigated the multitude to laugh at and condemn the Sovereign Pontiff. Next, he was dragged barefoot to a prison of common criminals.

We can see the humiliation this represented for a man who respected himself. Further, it was intensely cold and he was trembling. Some bystanders could possibly interpret his trembling as a symptom of fear and have laughed at him. Finally, he was condemned to exile in the Crimea. He died there as a consequence of such bad treatment. For this reason the Church considers him a martyr.

He faced the worst public ordeals, such as the questioning before the Emperor and the judge, with panache and gave the answers that should be given. To the end he did not compromise. It is a noble example of fortitude.

Third, the cruelty of Emperor Constans II and the Monothelist heretics who surrounded him is notable. The Emperor committed an unspeakable crime practiced in the presence of all the people. An Emperor who exposes the Pope to public humiliation commits a sacrilege and brings the curse of God over the Empire. He and his sycophant, the judge, had planned that the people should laugh at the Pope and anathematize him. Even though they were a bad people, they did not do this.

The people remained silent and walked away. If they had been faithful, they would have risen in indignation and liberated the Pope from that outrage. The fact that they did not do this reveals the stage of decadence into which they had fallen.

Fourth, this episode also points to the centuries of rivalry that existed between Constantinople and Rome, the two largest cities in the world. This rivalry would lead to the Schism in the 11th century and the establishment of the Schismatic Church, which is called schismatic by a kind of historical condescendence, since it had always been heretical.

I read the report of a witness present in Constantinople when it was taken by the Turks in the 15th century. This man observed that the heretical people of Constantinople were literally terrified by the bloody invasion of the Turks. He noted, however, that if that people were to be given the alternative of returning to the Catholic Faith in order to stop the invasion, they would prefer to continue in the heresy and be destroyed by the Turks. That is, among them there was such a blind hatred toward the truth that nothing else mattered.

We see the fanaticism that the enemies of the Church can have.

How can we explain it? I remember a phrase of Donoso Cortes, a great Spanish thinker. He said that, without the grace of God, men normally like only partial truths; they do not like the whole truth, the universal truth. Normally men hate the whole truth more than anything else.

The Catholic Church offers the total truth. This is why she is hatred by so many people. They prefer any error to the whole truth. This explains why those schismatics and heretics of the 15th century hatred the Church; this also explains why Modernists, Progressivists, Communists and others hate the universal truth. For this they will be punished by the justice of God.

These are the comments that the edifying martyrdom of Pope St. Martin suggests. Let us ask him to give us his fortitute and the love for the whole truth.