New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Saturday, October 24, 2009

St. Anthony Mary Claret - 24th October 2009

Historic-Liturgical Note

The founder of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Anthony Mary Claret died in the Cistercian monastery at Fontfroide in France on this date in 1870. He was canonized in 1950 and listed in the Roman Calendar in 1960. Anthony was born at Salent in the Diocese of Vich in Catalonia, Spain, in the year in which Napoleon invaded Spain. He was trained for manual labor, since his father was a weaver, but in 1829 he entered the seminary at Vich. Ordained to the priesthood in 1835, he was assigned as pastor in his home parish. Later he went to Rome to work for the Propagation of the Faith. He also entered the novitiate of the Jesuits but had to leave because of ill health, so he returned to Spain and was assigned as pastor of a parish. His apostolate consisted of rural preaching, conferences for the clergy and publications (he wrote more than 150 books). Because of his successful apostolate he aroused the animosity of some of the clergy and as a result he left Catalonia for the Canary Islands (1848). After a year he returned to Catalonia and resumed his preaching apostolate.

In 1849 Anthony gathered together five priests who formed the basis of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (popularly known as Claretians). At the suggestion of the Queen of Spain, Isabella II, Anthony was named archbishop of Santiago, Cuba (1850). For the next seven years he made pastoral visitations, preached against the slavery of the Negroes, and regularized numerous marriages. As a result of his activity he was frequently threatened with death and on one occasion an attempt was actually made on his life. In 1857 he was recalled to Spain as confessor to the queen. In this way he was able to exert some influence in the naming of bishops, set up a center of ecclesiastical studies at the Escorial, and work towards the recognition of religious orders in Spain. In 1869 he was in Rome, preparing for the First Vatican Council. He followed Isabella II into exile and at the insistence of the Spanish ambassador, was placed under house arrest in the Cistercian monastery at FontFroide, where he died at the age of 63. His remains were ultimately returned to Vich.

Message And Relevance

In the new Opening Prayer of the Mass for this nineteenth-century apostle we pray: "Father, you endowed Anthony Claret with the strength of love and patience to preach the gospel to many nations." From his earliest years in the priesthood Anthony had a zealous missionary spirit that took him to Rome, the Canary Islands, and eventually to Cuba. Not only did he serve as rector of the seminary at the Escorial in Madrid, but he promoted Catholic publications and founded an academy of St. Michael for artists and literary persons. In Cuba he worked for the general uplifting of the population but did not succeed in founding a school of agriculture, as he had wished. He did, however, establish the Apostolic Institute of Mary Immaculate.

The patience of St. Anthony Claret was tested in the political upheavals of the nineteenth century, both in his native Spain and in Cuba. His efforts at reform stirred up a great deal of hostility. Therefore, we ask in the Opening Prayer that we may "work generously for God's kingdom and gain our brothers and sisters for Christ." In the Office of Readings, an excerpt from the writings of St. Anthony Mary Claret states: "The zealous man desires and achieves all great things and he labors strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end."

This great apostle, whose major work, , reached millions of people, promoted fidelity to the gospel among all classes of people, and especially among the laity and religious. In this way he anticipated the teaching of the Second Vatican Council concerning the vocation of all the faithful to the perfection of charity.

Opening Prayer Father, you endowed Anthony Claret with the strength of love and patience to preach the gospel to many nations. By the help of his prayers may we work generously for your kingdom and gain our brothers and sisters for Christ.

(Courtesy EWTN)

Friday, October 23, 2009

St. John of Capistrano - 23rd October 2009

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of Capistrano, let us read what Dr. Plinio has to say about this saint.

Biographical selection:

Born in 1386 in the city of Capistrano in the Kingdom of Naples, Italy, John entered law school at Perugia where he became a famous jurist and was appointed governor of that city in 1412 at age 26. He entered the Franciscan Monastery of Monte after becoming disillusioned with the world. His superior, Blessed Mark of Bergamo, made strong tests of his late vocation before he was accepted in the Order. For example, once John was ordered to ride through the streets of Perugia on a donkey with his head turned toward the tail of the animal and wearing a cardboard mitre on his head with his worst sins written on it. (Ouch)

With the support of St. James of the Marches and St. Bernardine of Siena, he overcame all the difficulties and met with great success in his apostolate. He had the friendship and support of four Popes, reformed his Order, led a Crusade, and with his extraordinary gift for preaching evangelized in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Poland. He converted countless pagans, fanatic heretics, and obstinate Jews, and brought hundreds of young men to the religious life. He had a special grace to reconcile quarrels. He was named Inquisitor against the Hussites and tenaciously fought this heresy.

He was described by the future Pius II, then a Bishop, as “small, old, dry, thin, wasted, nothing but skin and bones. Always cheerful and tireless, he preached often to audiences of twenty or thirty thousand people. He used to resolve the most difficult questions to the satisfaction of both the simple and the erudite.”

After the fall of Constantinople at Islamic hands, he preached the Crusade against the Muslim Turks, exhorting Catholics to raise an army to resist the invaders, who were threatening Christendom by their victorious march into the northwest of Europe. At age 70 he was commissioned by Pope Callistus II as delegate and adviser for the war against the Turks.

He traveled to Belgrade to encourage the 40,000 Catholic soldiers who were surrounded by Mohammed II. By a clever feint, he got past the Turkish guard, entered the city and began to preach constancy in the fight and confidence in the victory. All of Christendom was praying for a successful outcome for the city. The soldiers, under the influence of the Saint, fought and prayed. John Capistrano accompanied the troops in their more difficult maneuvers: the surprise attacks and recoups. Although he took the greatest risks, he was never wounded by a single bullet. It was due to him, above all, that Belgrade was saved. This victory stalled the Turkish invasion, which in turn saved all of Europe.

Then, worn out from the battle, he was taken in the field by the bubonic plague. A few months later, he died in 1486 in the Franciscan Monastery of Villach, Austria.

Comments of Prof. Plinio:

One could try to make a classification of the saints. Some were founders of nations, others were organizers of nations, still others were founders of religious orders. Then, there is a category of saints who were the defensive walls of the House of God. They constitute a kind of saint whose principal goal is to fight, to destroy the enemies of God. They have the capacity to put fire in souls to stimulate them to the defense of God, to lead them to combat. And in the combat they know how to sustain the courage of the good as well as how to attack the enemies. Doing this, they defend the walls of the House of God. Such is the mission of this category of saints. St. John of Capistrano was one of these saints.

Consider his vocation: First, he was an Inquisitor and a great fighter against heretics on the doctrinal level, a fighter who also converted many of them. I do not think that to fight against heretics and destroy them is a negative mission, because the heretics are already negative, and to place a negative with the negative is to make a positive. No one would say that a physician who destroys the viruses that attack the human body would be doing something negative. The same principle applies to the Inquisitors. They were the physicians who destroyed the viruses that attacked the spiritual health of the Church and Christendom.

Second, he was a great orator who preached to audiences of 20-30,000 people. There is a curious thing that the text does not report, which is the way the people of that time used to listen to an orator. There was no hall large enough to receive these multitudes, so the speaker would deliver his speech outdoors. But a problem would arise when the wind would change, because then the voice could no longer be heard in some places among the crowd. To resolve this problem the custom was established to have a flag hanging at a high site that everyone could see. When the wind would change, the waving flag would indicate the change, and the people would know where they needed to stand to hear the voice of the speaker and they would move there to accommodate the wind change. Thus, it was a moving audience. But let us return to our St. John of Capistrano.

Third, he preached a Crusade and made the necessary diplomatic arrangements for the Catholics to fight against the Turks. But he was not satisfied with this. He went a step further. He thought it necessary to be present on the battlefront. Although he did not personally take up weapons, since a priest is not supposed to shed human blood, he was there as the soul of the combat. He was everywhere giving support and encouragement. It was his action that saved Belgrade, which at that moment was the strategic weak point of Christendom. He broke the march of the Turks into the West and foiled their plan to enter Hungary, Austria, and Italy until they reached Rome to subjugate the Holy See.

Rich in merit and years, he died. His figure remains in History as a great fighter. Perhaps it is for this reason we do not hear much praise today of St. John of Capistrano.

A final point that requests comment in this text is that of the convivium of saints. This association of fellow-saints is one of the most beautiful things in the History of the Church. One saint is already a rare and admirable thing. But this fellowship of many saints, the convivium that sometimes existed among them, and the way that the distinctive holiness of one influences another and in this sense multiplies the sanctity – all this is truly wonderful.

St. John of Capistrano lived in an ambience of sanctity. His superior was Blessed Mark of Bergamo. He was a disciple of St. Bernardine of Siena and a fellow student with St. James of the Marches. There were four saints in a small region of Italy. Four saints of the same religious order living at the same time. Can you imagine the supernatural atmosphere that reigned there under such conditions?

The only thing that remains for us to do is to recommend ourselves to the prayers of the great St. John of Capistrano.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin - 20 October 2009

Anna Francesca Boscardin was born at Brendola, Veneto in 1888. She lived in fear of her father, a poor, violent and jealous farmer who was often drunk. As a child she could attend school irregularly as she was needed to help at home and in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the target of jokes. She acquired the nickname of "the goose", and all her life this nickname will remain with her both at home and in the convent.

In 1904 she joined the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart at Vicenza, taking the name "Maria Bertilla". She was then sent to Treviso to learn nursing at the municipal hospital there, which was under the direction of her order.

She began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings.

She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor.

Her reputation for simplicity and devoted, caring hard work had left a deep impression on those who knew her. She was canonized in 1961.

She had no visions like those of Bernadette Soubirous. She wrote no book, like Story of a Soul by Thérese of Lisiseux. But she is compared with these higher-profile saints. And all because she had a gift for nursing and a courageous dedication to her vocation, even when war and disease threatened. She nursed terribly sick children while the bombs of World War I fell around her. “Here I am, Lord,” she wrote in a diary, “to do your will whatever comes—be it life, death, or terror.”

She gave up nursing and returned uncomplaining to the kitchen when a superior thought better of her assignment. She was sent back to nursing by another superior. “She is said to have prayed to Our Lady not for ‘visions, or revelations, or favors, even spiritual ones,’ but ‘to suffer joyfully without any consolation [and] to work hard for you until I die.” Die she soon did, of a painful tumor. “Crowds thronged to her funeral in Vicenza,” according to Richard P. McBrien’s Lives of the Saints.

When Maria Bertilla Boscardin was canonized in 1961, some who had been her patients forty years before were in attendance at St. Peter’s. In the intervening years, there had been reports of miracles. “At the . . . ceremony Pope John XXIII pointed out that the source of Maria Bertilla’s ‘greatness’ was her humility, that her sacrifices were ‘heroic,’ and that hers was a life of ‘simplicity arising from an abundant trust in God.’”

Monday, October 19, 2009

St. Paul of the Cross - 19th October 2009

Paul Francis Danei, founder of the Passionists, was born in Ovada, Italy in 1694 on January 3, the eldest son of noble parents. At fifteen while still at home in Lombardy he adopted an austere way of life that included great mortification. In 1714 he joined the Venetian army to fight the Turks , and when discharged a year later, he resumed his life of prayer and penance, refusing marriage. He remained at home in Castellazzo for several years as a retreat; but in 1720 he had a vision of Our Lady in a black habit with the name Jesus and a cross in white on the chest in which she told him to found a religious order devoted to preaching the Passion of Christ.

He received permission to proceed from the bishop of Alessandria, who decided the visions were authentic, and Paul drew up a rule during a forty-day retreat that became the basic role for the congregation he was to found. With his brother, John the Baptist, who became his inseparable companion and closest confidant, he went to Rome for papal approval, was refused at first, but on their return to Rome in 1725 were granted permission to accept novices from Pope Benedict XIII, who ordained them in 1727.

They set up a house on Monte Argentaro, lost many of their first novices because of the severity of the rule, opened their first monastery in 1737, and in 1741 received approval of a modified rule from Pope Benedict XIV, and the Barefooted Clerks of the Holy Cross and Passion [the Passionists] began to spread throughout Italy, in great demand for their missions, which became famous. Paul was elected first superior general, against his will, at the first general chapter at Monte Argentaro and held that position the rest of his life. He preached all over the Papal States to tremendous crowds, raised them to a fever pitch as he scourged himself in public, and brought back to the faith the most hardened sinners and criminals. He was blessed with supernatural gifts-----prophecy, miracles of healing, appearances to people in visions in distant places-----and was one of the most celebrated preachers of his time. People fought to touch him and to get a piece of his tunic as a relic. One of his particular concerns was for the conversion of sinners, for which he prayed for fifty years.

The Passionists received final approbation from Pope Clement XIV in 1769, and two years later, Paul's efforts to create an institute of nuns came into being with the opening of the first house of the Passionist nuns, at Corneto. He was ill the last three years of his life, and died in Rome on October 18, and was canonized in 1867. His Feast day is October 19 in the traditional calendar.

Prayer to Saint Paul of the Cross

O glorious Saint Paul of the Cross, on earth thou wast a mirror of innocence and a model of penance! O hero of saintliness, chosen by God to meditate day and night on the bitter Passion of His only-begotten Son, and to spread devotion thereto by word and deed as well as by means of thy religious family! O Apostle, mighty in word and work, thou didst spend thy life in bringing back to the foot of the Cross the erring souls of countless unfortunate sinners! Do thou mercifully look down once more from Heaven upon my poor soul and hear my petitions. Obtain for me so great a love of Jesus suffering, that by constant meditation on His Passion I may make His sufferings mine. Let me realize in the deep Wounds of my Savior the wickedness of my transgressions, and obtain from them, as from the fountain of salvation, the grace of bitter tears and an effectual resolution to imitate thee in thy penance, if I have not followed thine example of innocence. Obtain for me, also, Saint Paul, the favor that I now especially ask of thee, as I humbly kneel before thee . . . Obtain, moreover, for our Holy Mother the Church, victory over Her foes; for sinners, the gift of conversion; for heretics, the grace of returning to the unity of the Catholic faith. Finally, intercede for me that I may, by the grace of God, die a holy death, and come at last to enjoy with thee His blessed Presence in Heaven for all eternity. Amen.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.