New Insights on the Gospels

March for Life 2012

Evil triumphs when good men do nothing - Edmund Burke

Saturday, November 20, 2010

False Pieties - Dr. Plinio

(Blog writers note - I am sure we can all identify ourselves in one of these false pieties, maybe we can pray and work on correction this Advent)

Our spiritual life is the life of grace within us; through it we become children of God.
For our spiritual life to be preserved and to develop, a series of actions are required that constitute the life of piety. How must that life of piety be? What deviations must be avoided? These are the problems we must understand to progress in sanctity.
Concessions to the World
In a speech to university students of Rome in June 1952, the Holy Father Pius XII made an observation that shows well the importance of the subject, and above all, the need to address it in a practical manner. Analyzing the moral crisis that youth usually goes through, His Holiness stated: "Let us leave aside the question of how this crisis was provoked, to which intellectual difficulties and other circumstances have contributed, [reasons] that can be sought... in the wild jungle of unbridled passions and moral deviations, or perhaps in the murky field of concessions people think must be made to the demands of a coveted career.”
Indeed, how many concessions is a fervent Catholic solicited to make in our days! How to avoid compromising with the spirit of the world, except through solid piety? Therefore, what must the characteristics of true piety be?
Before we describe true piety, we will analyze some types of false piety very common in the modern world and will show the moral deviations to which they lead.
Minimalist Piety
In all his acts of piety, a minimalist devotee is contented with what seems to him absolutely indispensable. His prayers are short, quick, almost mechanical. He believes a monthly or weekly Communion suffices and does not even think about receiving it more often. If someone encourages him to receive Communion more often, he will perhaps reply with a kind word but believing he already does enough. St. Ignatius appears a bit exaggerated to him when he recommends daily meditation. In the morning and before going to bed, he says some hasty Hail-Marys and thinks his duty is fully done. To him, weekly confession made out of devotion even without grave sin appears perfectly dispensable. He practices other acts of piety such as spiritual reading, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, prayers before and after meals, and frequent ejaculations without the least warmth.
This slackness in the practice of pious acts is reflected in the whole life of the minimalist. In his conversations he seldom deals with spiritual matters or topics related to the apostolate. His general attitude in society, before his friends and colleagues, or even family, is never as markedly Catholic as should be expected. His way of avoiding near occasions of sin and reacting to temptations is always lukewarm and dubious. The apostolate gives him no pleasure at all; he devotes to it the least, indispensable amount of time so he won’t look bad.
As a consequence, his apostolate produces only rare and weak fruits. If a zealous friend points out the reason for the inefficacy of his work, he defends himself blaming secondary factors. He thus seeks to deceive himself about the real cause. In short, his life is lukewarm, slothful and without enthusiasm.
In order to understand clearly this type of false piety, we must note that minimalism has several degrees. One can be a minimalist even though one receives Communion every day, makes a daily meditation and follows all the rules of the religious association to which one belongs, and even though our apostolate may produce some fruit. Indeed, all that is possible without the desire for perfection that characterizes non-minimalist piety. Even a fervent person can have traits of minimalism: a small defect he does not want to correct because he is “convinced” he has done enough and needs nothing else to be entirely happy with himself.
Since in spiritual life there is no stagnation, in fact the minimalist is always losing ground. That fall can be slow and go unperceived but it is inevitable. A typical example of a minimalist devotee is the rich man of the Gospel. Although he practiced the Commandments since his youth, he did not want to follow Our Lord. Some theologians believe he has even been condemned.
Piety Without Formation
Is the piety of a devotee with a deficient and superficial religious formation and who does not seek to deepen it. He has never studied the truths of our faith and does not even know the catechism. In the life of piety, he is a child.
He does not know why the Church recommends meditation, how to do it or what fruits to draw from it. He does not know why we must pray, frequent the sacraments, have a profound devotion to saints. Everything in him is directed by impressions, impulses and routine; he either becomes enthusiastic with devotions or dislikes them for no reason. In him there is no upright ordination of everything according to the good norms taught by the Church.
The devotee deprived of formation does not even know that the principles of supernatural life exist. He does not know the marvels that divine grace can operate in the human soul.
How can he have a life of profound and serious piety if he does not know the value of a well-made Communion? If his meditation is poor and without horizons? If he does not know how to pray? If he does not know the mysteries of our faith? If he does not know about the communion of saints, the final resurrection, the Immaculate Conception and so on?
Let us take only one example. Saint Paul wrote: “I can do everything in Him who strengthens me.” What source of energy and courage does this message convey! It preserves us from all discouragement. It incites us to the most daring and heroic spiritual enterprises. A devotee without formation does not know all that.
Inconstant Piety
In defining inconstancy in piety toward Our Lady, St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort writes: "Inconstant devotees are those whose devotion to Our Lady is practiced in fits and starts. Sometimes they are fervent and sometimes they are lukewarm. Sometimes they appear ready to do anything to please Our Lady, and then shortly afterwards they have completely changed. They start by embracing every devotion to Our Lady. They join her confraternities, but they do not faithfully observe the rules. They are as changeable as the moon, and like the moon, Mary puts them under her feet. Because of their fickleness they are unworthy to be included among the servants of the Virgin most faithful, because faithfulness and constancy are the hallmarks of Mary's servants. It is better not to burden ourselves with a multitude of prayers and pious practices but rather adopt only a few and perform them with love and perseverance in spite of opposition from the devil the world and the flesh."
This inconstancy can be manifested in all practices of piety and in every life of apostolate.
How will an inconstant devotee behave, for example, when he is in charge of directing a Marian Congregation? As soon as they give him that post, his soul is filled with enthusiasm. He makes perfect plans and resolutions worthy of all praise. But when the time for concrete achievement comes, the phase of the moon changes. His hollow enthusiasm vanishes before the slightest difficulty and he abandons all plans without hesitation. At a certain point he hears about a new work of apostolate and warmly decides to put it into practice in his Congregation. He organizes meetings to deal with the matter; makes insistent invitations to those who appear reluctant; and only talks about that new work. In a little while, his enthusiasm disappears because a new idea has appeared or simply because he forgot.
Thus our inconstant devotee, from enthusiasm to enthusiasm, carries on with life.
His life of piety is made of unfulfilled resolutions and his life of apostolate is made of unachieved plans. What will he have to present to God at the Last Judgment?
Interested Piety
“And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain town, there ten men met him that were lepers who stood far away. They lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Whom when he saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God. And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, were not ten made clean? And where are the nine? There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.”
The nine lepers who did not return to thank Our Lord did have some piety. Seeing that Our Lord was passing near their town, they went to meet him, which shows they had faith that He could cure them. They were not like those who remained indifferent as Our Lord passed by. They asked Jesus to have pity on them and even called Him master. However, what was the ultimate reason for their devotion? Self-interest. They wanted to be cured. Not one among them returned to give glory to God, for in fact they did not care about the glory of God.
Does self-interested piety exist nowadays? Certainly. Giving glory to God and doing good to souls may not be the primary intention of a Catholic who is zealous in his works of apostolate, but rather to obtain a personal advantage such as, for example, becoming a congressman. Apostolate for him is a way to make a career. Self-interested piety can exist out of convenience, economic, social or other advantages.
In most cases the self-interested side of piety appears in a disguised fashion. People avidly look for personal advantages they can gather along the way. If an interested devotee must give a public speech, he is much more concerned about showing off and displaying his natural qualities than in doing good to souls. Note that self-interested piety is often subconscious, but no less culpable on that account.
A self-interested devotee is opportunistic and dislikes sacrifices that procure him no personal gain; he does not understand the spirit of penance and has no gratitude at all for the graces he receives.
Sentimental Piety
Sentimental piety consists of a hypertrophy of sentiments that makes the whole spiritual life of a person be based on emotions and sensations. In true piety the will must be governed by intelligence; in the final analysis, the whole spiritual life must be oriented by rational motives. That does not mean that feelings do not play a role in true piety; they must accompany reason by favoring and encouraging the practice of virtue. But they are not essential to the spiritual life and can be absent, particularly in moments of trial. In general, a prayer made without consolation is more meritorious than when accompanied with emotions and bouts of enthusiasm in the soul.
But a sentimental devotee does not think so. As far as he is concerned, spiritual vibrations are the thermometer of the spiritual life. If when praying before a statue he feels that all the fibers of his heart are vibrating, he goes away certain that his prayer was well done. If he feels no emotion whatsoever he thinks his prayer was useless and generally abbreviates it as much as he can.
On finishing a retreat, he spends a few days with great “fervor” and fulfilling all his duties. But when sensible emotions go away – something that is inevitable – all his fervor disappears and he goes back to being the same person as before.
He combats his defects only when he feels an impulse to do so. He only does apostolate with people who are pleasant to be with, or when he feels like doing it.
Romantic Piety
Like sentimental piety, romantic piety overvalues feelings. But what makes a romantic devotee vibrate is different than what makes a sentimental one tick. The latter vibrates with pious practices. The romantic vibrates with liturgical, social or aesthetic exteriorities of religious practices. He does not look for sensations in prayer but in the ceremonial that surrounds prayer.
A romantic devotee goes to Sunday Mass. If the organist was not brilliant; if inexperienced altar boys messed up the harmony of the liturgy; if the sermon, though excellent, contained a grammatical error; or if the audience was not very select, our romantic believes the Mass had no value.
As it were, he despises simple, though pious, prayer. His meditation – if he makes it – is populated with dreams, fantasies and interior declamations. If his works of apostolate do not allow him to imagine himself a knight of the Round Table, he soon becomes discouraged and apathetic. He almost only appreciates “great gestures,” original sayings and romantic attitudes in general.
In short, spiritual life for him is an ensemble of apparatuses without supernatural content.
“Enlightened” Piety
We call “enlightened” the piety of a proud and naturalist devotee who thinks he is sufficiently cultured and educated to deny the value of simple pious practices.
An “enlightened” Catholic is always up-to-date about the latest scientific developments; he knows the cultural movements of our times; he holds his own intellectual capabilities in the highest esteem. He believes he has an open and superior mind. So he does not think much of simple devotions such as the recitation of the Rosary, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, novenas to Our Lady and the saints, frequent ejaculations. He believes it is childish to wear medals or scapulars, something useful perhaps for the common people but ridiculous for him. For – the “enlightened” devotee thinks – an intellectual is superior to those superstitions.
Catholic doctrine teaches that since man is made of soul and body, interior practices of piety are not sufficient so that exterior devotions are also indispensable. If interior piety is not exteriorized through concrete practices and sensible signs, it tends to wither.
In the sixth rule of Sentire cum Ecclesia “to have the mind of the Church”, St. Ignatius says: “Have a great esteem for relics, venerating them and praying to the saints they belong to; appreciate the solemnities of the “Stations,” pilgrimages, indulgences, jubilees, crusade bulls, the custom to light candles at church and other similar things that aid our piety and devotion.”
Naturalist Piety
Let us imagine a naturalist devotee who has to organize the apostolate of a religious association. What will his orientation be like? In his accomplishments, he will leave to a second place, or even forget, pious practices and everything else related with supernatural life.
As for the rest, a naturalist devotee has a bulletproof dedication. He is capable, active, untiring, a real shaker and mover. As soon as he takes over his post he will make a magnificent plan to organize lectures about burning issues of the day. He will create a sports department, which he holds in the highest esteem, and greatly encourage it. He will prepare courses and invite professors who shine for their natural qualities though their doctrine is dubious. Our naturalist devotee will organize databases, plans for apostolate, advertising for the association and a thousand other activities.
The only thing he will not think about is what Jesus Christ in the Gospel called the only thing necessary: “Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord's feet, heard his word. But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me. And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
A naturalist devotee has the same conception of virtue as Martha’s. He organizes lectures and mailing lists but almost does not think about incrementing the life of piety in the association. The consequences of that will be most disastrous. Without frequent Communion, a life of prayer and recourse to grace, all of his plans for apostolate will be fruitless, as Our Lord said: “Sine me, nihil potestis facere” – “Without Me you can do nothing.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Modesty of Dress and the Love of God: An Effective Way to Defend the Family and Restore Christian Culture

Modesty of Dress and the Love of God: An Effective Way to Defend the Family and Restore Christian Culture

pacifist
Two pacifist protesters.
“I love vulgarity. Good taste is death, vulgarity is life." These words by English fashion designer Mary Quant, who took credit for inventing the miniskirt and hot pants, reveal one of the most important, though rarely pointed out, aspects of the “fashion revolution” that started in the sixties: vulgarity.

Indeed, fashions have increasingly tended toward vulgarity. It is a vulgarity that tramples upon not only good taste and decorum but which reflects a mentality opposed to all order and discipline and to every kind of restraint, be it esthetic, moral or social, and which ultimately suggests a completely “liberated” standard of behavior.

Are Comfort and Practicality Supreme Criteria?

The rationale for introducing ever shorter skirts was “to be practical and liberating, allowing women the ability to run for a bus.” The notion that comfort, practicality and freedom of movement must be the only criteria for dress has led to a breakdown in the general standard of sobriety and elegance, not to speak of the norms of modesty.

Thus, casual dress, being more comfortable and practical, increasingly becomes the norm regardless of people’s sex, age and circumstances. Jeans and the T-shirt (formerly a piece of underwear) became part of common attire.

Though one can wear less formal clothes at times of leisure, these clothes should not convey the impression that one is abandoning one’s dignity and seriousness. They should not give the idea that one is actually on vacation from one's principles.

In the past, even leisure dress, though more comfortable, maintained the dignity that one should never abandon.

It is curious to note that many companies require employees to wear business suits to convey an image of seriousness and responsibility. This is proof that clothes do transmit a message. They can express seriousness and responsibility or on the other hand, immaturity and a carelessness.

Unisex Garb

The premise that comfort and practicality must preside over the choice of clothes had yet another consequence: clothes no longer reflect one's identity. In other words, they no longer indicate a person’s social position, profession, or even more fundamental characteristics such as sex and age.

Thus, unisex garb has become widespread: jeans and shorts have come to be worn by people of both sexes and all generations. Young men and women, the youth and the aged, single and married, teachers and students, children and adults, all mix together and wear one and the same clothing which no longer expresses that which they are, think or desire.

The Habit Does Not Make the Monk but Identifies Him

Saint Therese of Lisieux,
a model of modesty.
One could object that “the habit does not make the monk.” The fact that a person dresses with distinction and elegance does not mean, of itself, that he has good principles and good behavior. Likewise, the fact that a person always wears casual dress does not necessarily indicate that he has bad principles or a reprehensible conduct. At first sight, the argument appears logical and even obvious. However, analyzed in depth, it does not stand.

True, the habit does not make the monk. Nevertheless, it is a strong element that identifies him. Furthermore, it influences not only the way people look at the monk but the way he looks at himself. No one will deny that the loss of identity by many nuns and monks that took place over the last forty years was largely due to their shedding the traditional habits, which adequately expressed the spirit of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as an ascetic lifestyle proper to consecrated persons.

The Need for Coherence Between Dress and Convictions

Given the unity that exists in our tendencies, principles, convictions and behavior, the way we dress cannot fail to influence our mentality.

Wearing a certain type of clothing constitutes a form of behavior; and when clothing no longer adequately reflect our tendencies, principles and convictions, one’s mentality begins to undergo an imperceptible change to remain ‘in sync’ with the way one presents oneself. This is because human reason, by the force of logic inherent in it, naturally seeks to establish consistency between thought and behavior.

This rule is magnificently summed up in the famous phrase of French writer Paul Bourget: "One must live as one thinks, under pain of sooner or later ending up thinking as one has lived."

The process of transformation or erosion of principles can be slowed down or impeded by a person’s religious fervor, deeply rooted tendencies or ideas, and other factors. However, if inconsistency between behavior - reflected in the way one dresses - and one’s principles and convictions is not eliminated, the process of erosion, no matter how slow, becomes inexorable.

Living Faith, Inadequate Clothing

This subtle erosion is often manifested by a loss of sensitivity regarding the fundamental points of one’s mentality. One example would be the respect one must have for the sacred.

In some way, concessions to the principle that comfort must be the only rule of dress have ended up by giving a casual note to more serious and holy activities. How can one explain, for example, that persons who have true faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and who make admirable sacrifices to frequent perpetual adoration, nevertheless see no contradiction in presenting themselves before the Blessed Sacrament wearing shorts as if they were on a picnic?

The same person who shows up thus dressed for perpetual adoration would never don those clothes for an audience, say, with Queen Elizabeth II. This contradiction shows how, though the person has maintained his faith, to a certain degree the notion of the majesty of the Sacrament of the Altar -- the Real Presence -- has vanished from his soul.

Egalitarianism...

There is a general tendency in our times to establish a most radical egalitarianism at all levels of culture and social relations between the sexes, and even, in the tendency of egalitarianianism, between men and animals.

In dress, this egalitarianism is manifested by the growing proletarianization, the establishment of unisex fashions and the abolition of differences between generations. The same garb can be worn by anybody no matter his position, age or circumstance (e.g. in a trip, a religious or civil ceremony).

Chaos reigns in the domains of fashion today. It is often difficult to distinguish, by their clothes, men from women, parents from children, a religious ceremony from a picnic. Haircuts and hairstyles follow the same tendency to confound age and sex and to break down standards of elegance and good taste.

...That Leads to Infantilization

One of the aspects that stand out the most in the modern dictates of fashion is the desire to create an illusion of eternal youth, even perpetual adolescence with no responsibility, a phenomenon that has been called the “Peter Pan Syndrome."

Modern fashion shows a tendency to infantilize people. A Brazilian fashion critic thus expressed herself: “For a long time now, we have seen on catwalks, both international and domestic, fashions that should be displayed at the Children’s Expo, such is the level of infantilization they suggest. Stylists over 25 years old were designing (and wearing) clothes that could be worn by children in a day care center.”

Modesty is Essential to Chastity

In addition to the extravagant, egalitarian and infantilizing tendency of modern fashion, one needs to consider the attack on virtue and the complete lack of modesty.

The human body has its beauty, and this beauty attracts us. Due to the disorder which Original Sin left in man, the disorder of concupiscence, the delight in contemplating bodily beauty, and particularly of the feminine body can lead to temptation and sin.

That is not to say that some parts of the body are good and can be shown and others are bad and must be covered. Such a statement is absurd and was never part of Church doctrine. All parts of the body are good, for the body is good as a whole, having been created by God. However, not all body parts are equal, and some excite the sexual appetite more than others. Thus, exposing those parts through semi-nudity or risqué low cut dresses or wearing clothes so tight as to accentuate one’s anatomy poses a grave risk of causing excitation, particularly in men in relation to women.

Therefore, clothes must cover that which must be covered and make stand out that which can be emphasized. To cover a woman’s face, like Muslims do, shows well the lack of equilibrium of a religion that does not understand true human dignity. The face, the noblest part of the body because it more perfectly reflects the spiritual soul, is precisely the part that stands out the most in the traditional habits of nuns.

Just as masculine clothes should emphasize the manly aspect proper to man, feminine fashion should manifest grace and delicacy. And in this sense, having longer hair is a natural adornment to frame a woman’s face.

Immorality in Fashions and Destruction of the Family

Garb that does not show a person’s self-respect as an intelligent and free being (and, through baptism, as a son or daughter of God and a temple of the Holy Ghost), contributes to a large extent to the present destruction of the family. It does this by favoring temptations against purity. It also does this by its vulgarity and childishness that corrodes the notion of the seriousness of life and the need for ascesis (self-discipline), all of which are fundamental elements that maintain family cohesion and stability.

The struggle for the restoration of the family by opposing abortion, contraception, and homosexuality will be much more effective if done together with efforts to restore sobriety, modesty and elegance in dress.

Dress and the Love of God

The role of clothing is not only to protect the body from the elements but also to serve as adornment and symbolize someone’s functions, characteristics and mentality. Garb must be not only dignified and decent but also as beautiful and elegant as possible (which requires more good taste than money).

If the “way of beauty” leads us to God by seeing Him as the exemplary cause of Creation, the “way of ugliness” turns us away from the Creator and places us on the slippery slope of sin. That is why ugliness is the very symbol of sin and is so well expressed by the expression “ugly as sin.”

St. Juliana of Cornillon Helped to Institute Corpus Christi

In today's general audience, celebrated in St. Peter's Square, the Pope focused his attention on St. Juliana of Cornillon who contributed to instituting the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Born in the Belgian city of Liege towards the end of the twelfth century, Juliana was orphaned at the age of five "and entrusted to the care of the Augustinian nuns of the convent-lazaretto of Mont-Cornillon". Later she also took the Augustinian habit and went on to became prioress of the convent.

The Pope explained how the Belgian saint "possessed great culture, ... and a profound sense of the presence of Christ, which she experienced particularly intensely in the Sacrament of the Eucharist".

At the age of sixteen she had a vision which convinced her of the need to establish a liturgical feast for Corpus Christi "in which believers would be able to adore the Eucharist so as to augment their faith, increase the practice of virtue and mend the wrongs done to the Blessed Sacrament", said the Holy Father.

Juliana "confided [her revelation] to two other fervent adorers of the Eucharist " and the three together "formed a kind of 'spiritual alliance' with the intention of glorifying the Blessed Sacrament".

"It was", Pope Benedict continued his catechesis, "Bishop Robert Thourotte of Liege who, following some initial hesitation, accepted the proposal made by Juliana and her two companions and instituted, for the first time, the Solemnity of Corpus Domini in his diocese. Other bishops later imitated him and established the same feast in the areas under their pastoral care".

Juliana, said the Pope, "had to suffer the harsh opposition of certain members of the clergy, including the superior upon whom her convent depended. She therefore chose to leave Mont-Cornillon with a number of companions and for ten years, between 1248 and 1258, was accommodated in various houses of Cistercian nuns". At the same time "she zealously continued to spread Eucharistic devotion. She died at Fosses-La-Ville in Belgium in 1258".

The Holy Father recalled how "in 1264 Urban IV chose to institute the Solemnity of Corpus Domini as a feast for the Universal Church on the Thursday following Pentecost" and, by way of personal example, "himself celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Domini in Orvieto, the city in which he was then residing". And the cathedral of Orvieto still houses "the famous corporal with traces of the Eucharistic miracle which had befallen at Bolsena the preceding year, 1263".

"Urban IV asked one of the greats theologians in history, St. Thomas Aquinas who was with the Pope at that time in Orvieto, to write the texts for the liturgical office of this great feast, ... as an expression of praise and gratitude to the Blessed Sacrament".

"Although following the death of Urban IV the celebration of Corpus Domini was restricted to certain regions of France, Germany, Hungary and northern Italy, in 1317 Pope John XXII reintroduced it for the whole Church".

"Joyfully I wish to affirm that there is a 'Eucharistic springtime' in the Church today", said the Holy Father. "How many people remain in silence before the Tabernacle sustaining a dialogue of love with Jesus! It is consoling to know that many groups of young people have rediscovered the beauty of prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. I pray that this 'Eucharistic springtime' may become increasingly widespread in parishes, and especially in Belgium, homeland of St, Juliana".

"Recalling St. Juliana of Cornillon, let us too renew our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. ... Faithfully encountering the Eucharistic Christ at Sunday Mass is essential for our journey of faith, but let us also seek to visit the Lord frequently, before His presence in the Tabernacle. ... By gazing at Him in adoration the Lord draws us to Him, to His mystery, in order to transform us as He transforms the bread and wine".

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

St Margaret of Scotland - 16th November 2010

Margaret's ancestry tells a lot about why she grew up in Hungary, returned to England, and how she came to be Queen of Scotland.

Her father, Edward Atheling was the Saxon heir to the throne of England when the Danes took over the country for a time. This put Edward in danger, and so he was forced to find safety at the court of King Andrew in Hungary. At that time, the Hungarian court was a place that fostered Christianity and welcomed royal exiles. There, Edward Atheling found both refuge and a pious wife, Agatha, who was a German princess. There, too, Edward and Agatha started a family. Their first child was Margaret, born in 1045, followed by Christina and Edgar. In Hungary, Margaret was trained to be a princess by her parents and taught to be a devout Christian by Benedictine nuns. She absorbed the lessons well.

Back in England, the Saxons threw out the Danes and Edward the Confessor became king in 1042. He had no children, so in 1054 he asked his nephew Edward Atheling to return with his family to England and prepare to become king when the time came.

Edward Atheling, Agatha, and their children arrived in England around 1057. Before the end of the year, Edward Atheling was dead, never having met his uncle King Edward the Confessor. According to the writer of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Edward Atheling's death made William the Conqueror's Norman Conquest at the Battle of Hastings, and thus the end of Anglo-Saxon England, inevitable. When Edward the Confessor died in 1066, no one of the Saxon royal house remained to become a strong king.

Once again, Margaret's family had to seek refuge. This time, they found it in Scotland, landing at a spot known since then as St. Margaret's Hope.

The Scottish nobles were an unruly bunch, staging frequent raids into the north of England and quarreling among themselves. The young prince Malcolm, who was to become Margaret's husband, was still a child when his father, King Duncan, was killed by Macbeth. It was not until 1054 that Macbeth was driven out and Malcolm established on the throne of Scotland, as readers of Shakespeare's Macbeth will remember.

When Margaret and her family arrived in his land in 1070, King Malcolm greeted them graciously. Margaret had hoped to become a nun and devote her life to the Church, but Malcolm had other plans. He courted her and she, aware of the power for good that the position of Queen of Scotland could give her, agreed to his proposal of marriage. They were married when Margaret was 24 and Malcolm almost 40. Her first act as Queen was to build a great church dedicated to the Holy Trinity at Dunfermline, the site of their wedding.

or 23 years, Malcolm and Margaret ruled Scotland. Margaret was deeply pious and taught Malcolm the ways of prayer and charity. His political preoccupation continued to be invading England, while she, with his consent built schools, established abbeys, and personally cared for pilgrims and the poor by distributing money for food with her own hands. The coins shown in her hand on our statue of St. Margaret symbolize her very great charity.

The book Margaret is holding on our statue represents one of her most treasured possessions -- a Gospel Book ornamented with gold and precious jewels. This book was said to have been dropped in a river and, when rediscovered much later, showed no damage. Its miraculous preservation was attributed to Margaret's holiness. Such a Gospel book that once belonged to Queen Margaret is now in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

Margaret saw that the Church in Scotland had fallen into lax ways. As Queen, she prompted the Scottish clergy to hold church councils to bring Scottish practices into line with disciplines of Rome. With her encouragement, abuses were curtailed, the proper ritual of the Mass reestablished, and the rules for Lenten fasting and Easter Communion restored. Her zeal inspired a return to the religious and ecclesiastical observances that were common practice in England and on the continent of Europe, both places where she had lived.

As a Christian wife and mother, Margaret trained her eight children in the ways of God. Her daughter Edith married Henry I and became known as Good Queen Maud of England for her holy ways. Her son Ethelred became an abbot. As kings of Scotland, her three youngest sons "carried on her policies, inaugurating a golden age for Scotland that lasted 200 years" (Joanne Turpin, Women in Church History). The youngest of these sons of Margaret and Malcolm, King David of Scotland, was also canonized as a saint.

It was during one of his invasions of England that Malcolm and his oldest son Edward were killed in battle in November of 1093. Margaret had been sick for some time, and she died just a few days after her husband and son. She was canonized as Saint Margaret in 1250, and her feast day is the date of her death, November 16.

Margaret's second daughter Mary asked Margaret's confessor and friend Turgot to prepare a biography of her mother, in which he wrote: "Queen Margaret was a virtuous woman, and in the sight of God she showed herself to be a pearl, precious in faith and works."

Monday, November 15, 2010

St. Albert the Great - 15th November 2010

He was known as the "teacher of everything there is to know," was a scientist long before the age of science, was considered a wizard and magician in his own lifetime, and became the teacher and mentor of that other remarkable mind of his time, St. Thomas Aquinas.

St. Albert the Great was born in Lauingen on the Danube, near Ulm, Germany; his father was a military lord in the army of Emperor Frederick II. As a young man Albert studied at the University of Padua and there fell under the spell of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the Dominican who made the rounds of the universities of Europe drawing the best young men of the universities into the Dominicans.

After several teaching assignments in his order, he came in 1241 to the University of Paris, where he lectured in theology. While teaching in Paris, he was assigned by his order in 1248 to set up a house of studies for the order in Cologne. In Paris, he had gathered around him a small band of budding theologians, the chief of whom was Thomas Aquinas, who accompanied him to Cologne and became his greatest pupil.

In 1260, he was appointed bishop of Regensberg; when he resigned after three years, he was called to be an adviser to the pope and was sent on several diplomatic missions. In his latter years, he resided in Cologne, took part in the Council of Lyons in 1274, and in his old age traveled to Paris to defend the teaching of his student Thomas Aquinas.

It was in Cologne that his reputation as a scientist grew. He carried on experiments in chemistry and physics in his makeshift laboratory and built up a collection of plants, insects, and chemical compounds that gave substance to his reputation. When Cologne decided to build a new cathedral, he was consulted about the design. He was friend and adviser to popes, bishops, kings, and statesmen and made his own unique contribution to the learning of his age.

He died a very old man in Cologne on November 15,1280, and is buried in St. Andrea's Church in that city. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. His writings are remarkable for their exact scientific knowledge, and for that reason he has been made the patron saint of scientists.

Thought for the Day: St. Albert the Great was convinced that all creation spoke of God and that the tiniest piece of scientific knowledge told us something about Him. Besides the Bible, God has given us the book of creation revealing something of His wisdom and power. In creation, Albert saw the hand of God.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Litany of the Holy Souls

Litany of the Holy Souls

O Jesus, Thou suffered and died that all mankind might be saved and brought to eternal happiness. Hear our pleas for further mercy on the souls of:

My dear parents and grandparents,* (*My Jesus Mercy!)
My brothers and sisters and other near relatives,*
My godparents and sponsors of Confirmation,*
My spiritual and temporal benefactors,*
My friends and neighbours,*
All for whom love or duty bids me pray,*
Those who have suffered disadvantage or harm through me,*
Those who are especially beloved by Thee,*
Those whose release is near at hand,*
Those who desire most to be united with Thee,*
Those who endure the greatest sufferings’*
Those whose release is most remote,*
Those who are least remembered,*
Those whose are most deserving on account of their services to the Church,*
The rich, who are now the most destitute,*
The mighty, who are now powerless,*
The once spiritually blind, who now see their folly,*
The frivolous, who spent their time in idleness,*
The poor, who did not seek the treasures of heaven,*
The tepid, who devoted little time to prayer,*
The insolent, who neglected to perform good works,*
Those of little faith, who neglected the frequent reception of the Sacraments,*
The habitual sinners, who owe their salvation to a miracle of grace,*
Parents who failed to watch over their children,*
Superiors who were not solicitous for the salvation of those entrusted to them,*
Those who strove for worldly riches and pleasures,*
The worldly-minded, who failed to use their wealth and talents in the service of God,*
Those who witnessed the death of others, but would not think of their own*
Those who did not provide for the life hereafter,*
Those whose sentence is severe because of the great things entrusted to them,*
The popes, kings and rulers,*
The bishops and their counselors,*
My teachers and spiritual advisers,*
The deceased priests of this diocese,*
The priests and religious of the Catholic Church,*
The defenders of the holy faith,*
Those who died on the battlefield,*
Those who fought for their country,*
Those who were buried in the sea,*
Those who died of apoplexy,*
Those who died of heart attacks,*
Those who suffered and died of cancer,*
Those who died suddenly in accidents,*
Those who died without the last rites of the Church,*
Those who shall die within the next twenty-four hours,*
My own poor soul when I shall have to appear before Thy judgement seat.*