Thought for the day:

"Give me grace to amend my life, and to have an eye to mine end, without grudge of death, which to them that die in thee,
good Lord, is the gate of a wealthy life."
St. Thomas More


"Three things are necessary for the salvation of man; to know what he ought to believe; to know what he ought to desire; and to know what he ought to do."
St. Thomas Aquinas


All souls owe their eternity to Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, many have turned their back to him.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

St. Philip Benizi

Our Lady is now reigning in heaven. Her triumph over death cost her no labor; and yet it was through suffering that she, like Jesus, entered into her glory. We too cannot attain eternal happiness otherwise than did the Son of the Mother. Let us keep in mind the sweet joys we have been tasting during the past week; but let us not forget that our own journey to heaven is not yet completed. "Why stand ye looking up into heaven?", said the angels to the disciples on Ascension Day, in the Name of the Lord Who had gone up in a cloud; for the disciples, who had for an instant beheld the threshold of heaven, could not resign themselves to turn their eyes once more down to this valley of exile. Mary, in her turn, sends us a message today from the bright land where we are to follow her, and where we shall surround her after having in the sorrows of exile merited to form her court: without distracting us from her, the apostle of her Dolors, Philip Benizi, reminds us of our true condition of strangers and pilgrims upon earth. (from The Liturgical Year

St. Philip Benizi, Confessor
by Father Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876

St. Philip Benizi was born at Florence, and before his birth the Almighty had revealed to his pious mother, that he would become illustrious for his holiness. It seemed to her that a bright shining light emanated from her, which, spreading more and more, at last illumined the whole world with its rays. This was one of the inducements which led her to neglect nothing that was necessary to form in her son the mind and heart of a Saint. She was still more strengthened in this by the following event. Two Religious of the newly founded order of the Servites came to her house. Philip, at that time only five months old; after looking at them for some moments, said: " Behold the servants of Mary, give alms to them, my mother." All present, greatly surprised at this miracle, concluded rightly that God had ordained a remarkable future for this child. The same might be divined from his entire conduct, while yet but a child: all his actions seemed to be imprinted with the seal of holiness.

Having finished his studies, he was one day thinking about his vocation, and it being the Thursday after Easter, he went into the Chapel of the Servites, which stood on the outskirts of Florence, to attend holy Mass. At the Epistle were read the words of the Holy Ghost to St. Philip: " Draw near, and join thyself to the chariot." Having heard these words, he went into an ecstasy, and it seemed to him that he was alone in a vast wilderness, where nothing was to be seen but sterile mountains, steep rocks and cliffs, or marshes overgrown with thorns, swarming with poisonous reptiles, and full of snares. He screamed with fear, and looking around how to save himself, he saw, high in the air, the Blessed Virgin in a chariot, surrounded by Angels and Saints, and holding in her hand the habit of the Servites. At the same time, he heard from the lips of Mary the words which had just been read in the Epistle. "Draw near, and join thyself to the Chariot." After this revelation, Philip no longer doubted that he was called to enter the order of the Servites, and going, the following day, to the dwelling of the seven founders of this order, he desired to be received as a lay-brother.

He was readily accepted, but after having served in that capacity a few years, his talent, knowledge and holiness were so manifest, that he was made priest: after which he was raised from one dignity to another, until he was at last made General of the entire order. Although he at first humbly opposed this choice, yet when forced to obey, he became zealous in his labors to disseminate the principles of the holy Order, whose object is to reverence the Blessed Virgin and to promote her honor. He sent some of the religious to Scythia, to preach the Gospel and to spread the veneration of the Blessed Virgin. He himself with two companions went through an incredible number of cities and provinces, everywhere exhorting sinners to repentance, endeavoring to calm the contentions which at that period disturbed the Christian world, disabusing by his sermons those who refused obedience to the Pope, and animating all to greater love of God and devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

The Lord aided him visibly in all his undertakings, and obtained for him the highest regard from both clergy and laity. When the Cardinals, assembled at Viterbo to elect a new Pope, were unable to agree, they at length unanimously chose Philip, as all deemed him worthy of this high dignity. Philip, informed of it, was terrified and fled into the desert of Mount Thuniat, where he remained concealed in a cavern, until another was elected Pope: which was not less an evidence of his humility, than his election had been of the high regard in which his virtues and the many miracles he had performed were held by the Prelates of the Church. His innocence and purity he carried unspotted to the grave, but in order to preserve them he was very severe to himself. He possessed in an eminent degree, the spirit of prayer; for, besides occupying a great portion of the night in devotional exercises, he also raised his mind to God, during his various occupations, by means of short aspirations. He never undertook anything without first recommending it in prayer to God, and the more important the affair, the longer and more fervent were his prayers.

The only object of his many and laborious voyages was the glory of God and the good of men, and his constant endeavor was to prevent offences of the Divine Majesty and to work for the salvation of souls. But how shall we express his tender devotion to the Blessed Virgin, whom he had loved and honored as a mother from his earliest childhood? In her honor while yet a youth, he kept several festivals and performed many prayers, and he entered the Order of the Servites, because they regarded it their duty to promote her veneration and honor. In every sermon, he admonished the people to honor Mary and to call upon her in all their troubles. In a word, he neglected nothing which he deemed necessary or useful to institute and disseminate due devotion to the Queen of Heaven. Although in many places, he had to endure much hardship and persecution, his love of God and the Blessed Virgin could not be discouraged from continuing in his apostolic labors.

Meanwhile, the weakness of his body manifested plainly that his last hour was approaching. He therefore went to his convent at Todi, and there first visited the Church. He prostrated himself before the Altar, and when, after a long and fervent prayer, he again rose, he said: "Lord, receive my thanks ; here is my place of rest." On the festival of the Assumption of Our Lady, he preached his last sermon with such eloquence and unction, that all his listeners were greatly moved. On leaving the pulpit, he was seized with a fever, which, although by others thought of no consequence, was regarded by himself as a messenger of death. Hence, he had himself carried into a special apartment and laid down; but could not be persuaded to divest himself of the rough hair-shirt which he constantly wore. The days that he remained on earth after this, he employed in instructing and exhorting his religious, in prayers to God, and invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin; in repenting of his sins and in longing to be admitted to the presence of the Most High. After having received, with great devotion, the holy Sacraments, he requested his brethren to say the litany of the Saints. When they came to the words: "We sinners; we beseech Thee to hear us!" he fell into an ecstasy, and lost his consciousness to such a degree that he seemed already to have expired.

In this state he remained for three hours, when one of his friends loudly called him. He awakened as if from a deep slumber, and related how fearful a struggle he had had with Satan; how the latter had reproached him with his sins, and endeavored to make him despair of the mercy of God. But when the combat was at its height, the Blessed Virgin had appeared to him, and, driving away Satan, had not only saved him from all danger, but had also shown him the crown which awaited him in the other world. Having related this to those around him, who were all awestruck, he requested what he called "his book," the Crucifix, and pressing it to his heart, he intoned the hymn of praise of St. Zachary, and after it, the 30th Psalm: "In thee, O Lord, have I hoped !" Arriving at the words: "Into thy hands I commend my spirit," he looked once again at the Crucifix, and kissing it, ended his holy and useful life, on the octave of our Lady's Assumption, in the year 1285. The biography of this Saint contains many miracles which he performed during his life, and many more which took place, by his intercession, after his happy death.

 I. St. Philip Benizi was tried before his end by a great struggle. Satan reproached him with his sins, although they had been small and had been long since repented of, thus endeavoring to drive him to despair. If this happened to the green wood, what will be done with that which is dry? What combat will be in store for sinners, who during their lives, unheedingly committed iniquities, not troubling themselves about penance? If Satan thus alarmed St. Philip by recalling to him his small sins, how will he terrify those to whom he can point out great sins and perhaps sins not well confessed? If Satan dared to endeavor to cause despair in so holy a man, how much more will he tempt him, who, during his life, has so often and so wantonly offended the Almighty, and who has drunk sin like water! Ah! be careful, oh sinner! and learn not to believe Satan. When he tempts you to do wrong, he represents everything as very easy; he says nothing of the greatness of sin. He speaks to you of the mercy of God, saying: "You can confess it. God is merciful. He will forgive you." Consider it well; by representing to you the mercy of God, he tempts you to sin; but in the hour of your death, he turns that very mercy against you. Then he represents the greatness of your sin and the strict justice of God, in order to fill your soul with despair. Hence, do not believe him now. Place before your eyes at present the greatness of sin and the justice of the Almighty, that you may avoid evil, or, if you have become guilty of it, that you may do penance. If you do this now, you may in your last hour, comfort yourself with the thought of the Divine mercy. "Never trust thine enemy." (Eccl. xii.)

II. St. Philip Benizi was visibly aided in his great struggle by the Divine mother, who drove Satan away, and showed to the dying Saint the crown that awaited him in heaven. Thus did the most loving mother recompense the devotion of her faithful servant. If you wish to receive her aid, honor her with true filial devotion. Ask her frequently and fervently to obtain from God the grace to combat valiantly the temptations of Satan now, as well as at the hour of your death. She will hear your prayers and will assist you. The evil spirits, who fear the name of Mary, will flee from you. "The spirits of hell," says the pious St. Thomas a Kempis, "fear the Queen of heaven and flee as soon as they hear her name." St. Bonaventure writes: "Visible enemies fear not a well drilled army, so much as the evil spirits fear the name of Mary."

I would like to end with a couple of quotes which should inspire us to lead good, holy lives, and teach our children to do the same.

St. Teresa of Avila tells us that "we will never do anything great for God is we don't realize the great gifts that God has given us. The very fact that you have the Catholic Faith at this time of apostasy shows that you are especially blessed by God. Count yourselves extremely blessed. Hold onto your Catholic Faith, despite all the things going on around you--not only in your own life but in the world in general and in the Church."

"My children," said the Curé of Ars, St. John Vianney: "I often think that most of the Christians who are lost are lost for want of instruction; they do not know their religion well."

Let's get busy, for we have work to do.

Here's some extra credit reading for you, concerning the Servite Order.

The Seven Holy Founders of the
Servite Order
by C. Kegan Paul, 1895

The Order of Servites, or Servants of Mary, is an order of friars, who follow the rule of Saint Augustine. It was instituted in Italy in the thirteenth century by seven rich men of Florence, and has for its special object meditation on the Dolours of the most holy Virgin, that its members may feel and share them with her, and propagate this devotion among the faithful.

The coming of the Friars marks the very heart of the Middle Ages. St. Dominic was born in 1170, St. Francis in n 82, St. Bonfilius, the eldest of the Servites, in 1198; and the special task of each of the three Orders was closely allied to those of the others. St. Dominic took the doctrine of Christ as his charge, to preach it everywhere, and set it forth in all its splendour; St. Francis embraced Christian morality, to practice it in all its heroism, and show the inexpressible sweetness which underlay its most austere observances. The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order, like loving and tender children, devoted themselves to her, who had borne Christ Himself in her immaculate bosom, Christ, source of all truth and principle of all good; to her, the inseparable coadjutrix of Jesus in the redemption of souls; to her who gave to the world the Word full of grace and truth, the Saviour sacrificed in His infinite love for the salvation and the blessing of all men.

Thus while St. Dominic and St. Francis manifested Christ to those eager to know and to love Him, the seven Saints of Florence showed forth the sweet and radiant face of the Virgin, the Mother who from Bethlehem to Calvary encircles with the aureole of her love Him who wrought the glory of God, who is the Conqueror of souls.

Innocent III. was in the chair of St. Peter, keeping a brave heart among the many distractions of the Christian world. Germany was a prey to civil war between the Emperor Otho IV. and Philip of Swabia; France was under the glorious rule of Philip Augustus who, having returned from the third Crusade, conquered Normandy, Maine, Anjou and Poitou, but showed himself a true son of the Church in submitting wholly to Innocent in the question of his marriage, having wished to repudiate his wife Ingeburge. Not so John in England, more disloyal to the Holy See than any King of England, till he arose who brought about the great apostacy. Spain was in the agony of the Mahomedan invasion. In the East, Jerusalem had again fallen into the power of the Infidel, and the Pope incited and arranged the fourth Crusade. But the Eastern Empire alone fell, and the Holy Places were not freed.

Coming nearer to his own realm, the Pope looked out on a stormy and distracted land. Except the States of the Church and the kingdom of Sicily, then under a Regency, all the important towns were at strife with their neighbours, either forming round them independent communes, or becoming the centres of small republics. They lived in a state of perpetual feud, happy only if they had peace within their own borders, as Florence had for the moment. Later, in Dante's time, who probably knew some of the early Servite Saints, there were no less than seven intrenched camps belonging to different factions within the City of Florence itself. Though of course politically divided by the two great parties, the Guelfs and the Ghibellines, their dissensions were but political; war with those without had not become civil war.

The Church and the offices of religion constituted the whirlwind's heart of peace, and the many confraternities to which pious laymen belonged, brought men together, who would not otherwise have known each other, of all opinions and all stations. In them, Guelf and Ghibelline, merchant and prince, met on an equal footing. Such a Confraternity was that of the " Laudesi," or the Elder Society of Our Blessed Lady, founded in the year 1183. It was in fact just such a confraternity or sodality as we now know, mainly in connection with Jesuit churches, and under one of the titles of Our Lady. It was composed of the nobles and merchants of Florence, and met at the church of Santa Reparata. In the year 1233, just fifty years after its foundation, it numbered two hundred members, all of the best families in Florence, and was under the direction of a young priest, James of Poggibonsi.

Of these two hundred members, seven became the saintly founders of the Servite Order, and the Confraternity of the Laudesi was, in the good providence of God, to serve as their novitiate.

Bonfilius Monaldi was the eldest. He was born in 1198, the year of the election of Innocent III. The Monaldeschi, for such was the original name, were of French extraction, related to the royal House of Anjou. What may have been his occupation in the world is not known, but he was noted as being a young man of prayerful and ascetic life, who took the lead among his friends in all exercises of piety, so that, as soon as there was question among them of community life, they turned to him as their natural superior. He retained in religion his baptismal name.

Alexis Falconieri was born in 1200, of a noble family, originally of Fiesole, but long settled in Florence. He was the eldest son of Bernard Falconieri, a knight, and one of the merchant princes who created the greatness of his native city. The family were all strong adherents of the Pope, and opponents of the Emperor, in their unhappy quarrels. He made his course at the University, studying what were then known as the Humanities, Latin and Greek, the usual classical course, as well as belles lettres, with great success; but he was marked as especially prayerful, fond of reading religious books, and avoiding general society. At an early age he vowed himself to celibacy long before he knew what outward form his life would take. He never became a priest, but remained all his life Brother Alexis, he also keeping his own name.

Benedict de l'Antella was born in 1203, of a wealthy family, of foreign, perhaps German, or, as some think, Eastern extraction, who, long settled at Antella, had but recently come into Florence and become bankers. Benedict was extremely well educated, of very remarkable beauty, and called on by his position to mix much in society. He was afterwards known in religion as Father Manettus.

Bartholomew Amidei was born in 1204, of one of the oldest, richest, and most powerful families of the City. He claimed to be ancient Roman by origin. The Amidei were Ghibellines, and that Bartholomew received a most Christian education is among the many proofs that the bitter political strifes of the age were merely political, and hindered neither side from being good Catholics. His family, who lived much in the world, allowed him to follow a secluded and religious life, which found its natural development in a religious Order. He took in religion his family, rather than his baptismal, name.

Ricovero Uguccioni was born in the same year as Amidei, of a family both noble and mercantile. The lad was from a very early age remarkable for obedience, compassion for the poor, and love of solitude; he was devoted to pious reading, yet none the less was a leader among his young companions who looked to him in all things. In religion he was known as Hugh.

Gherardino Sostegni was born in 1205, of good family, but beyond this little is known of his worldly state. In religion he bore his family name Sostegni.

John Manetti was born in 1206; of the higher ranks of the Florentine aristocracy, both in birth and riches. In religion he was afterwards known as Fr. Buonagiunta, or Bienvenu.

Of these seven the eldest was thirty-four, the youngest about twenty-seven, when their great change in life came to them. They lived in various quarters of the city, they held divers views on politics, their one bond of union was the confraternity of Our Lady, though some among them knew one or two others with more or less intimacy. Monaldi, Amidei, Sostegni and Manetti were married, but Monaldi and perhaps another had already become widowers. Alexis Falconieri alone had, as has been said, taken a vow, but Antella and Uguccioni showed plainly to their families that their wishes tended in the same direction. There were many reasons why even those who sought after perfection should in Italy, and at that time, enter into the marriage state. The Cathari, a sect of heretics who had great success in Florence, made light of marriage, and under pretence of purity were grossly immoral. It was as necessary to uphold true purity by affording examples of holy married life, as of celibacy. But whether married, widowed, or single, these seven were especially eager after a life of perfection, in which they were aided, and to which they were stimulated, by their director.

No new development in the Church of God is sudden; and it had come to pass that Gregory IX. in his pontificate gave special favour to two devotions, afterwards to be so closely associated with the servants of Mary. These were the Angelus and the Salve Regina. In 1230 Ardingo de Forasboschi became Bishop of Florence, himself a native of the city, and belonging to one of the great Guelf families. Both on religious and on social grounds he had an especial affection to the Laudesi, and its members.

On the Feast of the Assumption, August, 15th 1233, these seven young men, with other members of the Laudesi, having confessed and communicated, were each and all making their thanksgiving after Mass. Each, unknown to those about them, fell into an ecstasy. Each seemed to himself surrounded by supernatural light, in the midst of which Our Lady appeared to them accompanied by angels, who spoke to each of them the words; "Leave the world, retire together into solitude, that you may fight against yourselves, and live wholly for God. You will thus experience heavenly consolations. My protection and assistance will never fail you."

The vision faded, the congregation dispersed, only the Seven remained, each meditating what the vision might mean. Bonfilius Monaldi, as the eldest, did violence to his humility and broke the silence. He told what had befallen him, and that he was ready to obey Our Lady's call. Each in order recounted the same experiences, and the same resolve.

As Monaldi had been the first to speak, so the little band at once decided that he must be the first to act; they looked to him for guidance. He decided to seek counsel of their director, James of Poggibonsi, who concluded that was no mere fancy of pious youths, but a fact, a call from their Mother, manifesting to them the will of God, to be obeyed without hesitation. Some were engaged in business, some in offices of state, four had family ties, which it was not easy to break, especially since the Church suffers no married man or woman to enter into religion unless the other party to the marriage contract does so too. It is believed that the two wives who still lived became afterwards Tertiaries of the Order; at any rate the conditions were at the time fulfilled, all social and worldly arrangements were made; and by the eighth of September, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, they were free to obey, they had stripped themselves of all that bound them to the world.

Meantime, and while waiting to know the further will of God, Monaldi and their director sketched out a plan of community life. They adopted a habit of grey wool, with a leathern cincture, and found a house just outside the city walls, where they might pass much of their time in solitude and prayer, yet near enough to the city to give an example to those they had so lately left. All this was done with the approval of the Bishop; although there was as yet no notion of a new Order; it was merely a question of certain men living a mortified life in community; he granted permission to James to live with them as their chaplain, to celebrate Mass in their oratory, and to reserve the Blessed Sacrament.

So soon as their life arranged itself, and Monaldi was formally elected as their Superior, they desired to submit themselves to the Bishop for his blessing. He wished to see the whole Brotherhood. Their entry into Florence was a strange contrast to what they had seemed a few days before, a band of rich young men in all the splendour of the dress of those days. Their appearance drew a crowd of sympathizers, of men indifferent and curious, of former companions, and of some who, recognizing their great renunciation and sanctity, pressed to touch their garments, to kiss their hands and entreat their blessing.

Suddenly, from the midst of the crowd, were heard the voices of children who cried: "Ecco, eceo i Servi di Maria:" "See, the Servants of Mary." The same exclamation was made still more wonderfully on the following thirteenth of January, when, as two of the Brethren, Falconieri and Manetti, were asking charity in the city, again infants in arms gave them their title. One of these children was Philip Benizi, afterwards to be one of the greatest Saints of the Order and its General. He was then only five months old, and spoke for the first time in crying "Mother, those are Mary's Servants, give them an alms." They had by this time, with the approbation of their Bishop, entered on a community life of mendicancy, devoting themselves especially to Our Lady, to whose honour they reserved Saturday in each week. The habitation without the city walls which had seemed to them at first so solitary, and so fitted for an eremitical life became soon thronged by troops of citizens, curious to see the recipients of so great favours; and they therefore began to say among themselves that they were not wholly obedient to the voice which had said as plainly as to the disciples of old "Come ye apart into a desert place, and rest awhile."

There is a windy mountain ten miles to the north of Florence, a spur of the Apennines, lonely and savage; this again was manifested to each of them in a vision as the place of their future abode; while at the same time a voice, sweet and sonorous, distinct yet mysterious, told them that this mountain was called Monte Senario, that on its height they were to dwell, and apply themselves to yet greater austerity; that in this more rigorous and secluded life they might count always on the favour and succour of the Mother of God.

Monte Senario was part of the episcopal domain of Florence, and the Bishop willingly granted to the solitaries the territory whereon they desired to settle. They went without delay from the house wherein they had rested nine months. At dawn of day, after receiving Holy Communion from their director, they skirted the walls of Florence in procession, carrying the Cross before them, and the image of the Blessed Virgin which had stood in their oratory. They climbed the mountain fasting, for it was the vigil of the Ascension; they grounded the Cross, and set down the statue of Our Lady to make their evening prayer, unconscious where they could lay their heads, or even if and how they might raise a shelter for the Blessed Sacrament after the Feast of the morrow. They succeeded however in building a small shelter of boughs as a chapel, and so passed the last day of May, 1234. Their simple monastery, or rather hermitage, was built before the end of the same year; they dwelling till then in caves and crevices of the rocks.

In this monastery they followed a mixture of hermit and community life, broken only by visits of two of their number each week to Florence in quest of alms, and by the acquisition of a small house of refuge in which they might shelter if fatigue or nightfall rendered it impossible for them to regain Monte Senario. Their lives were one unceasing round of austerity and devotion, but their future was still uncertain; they had not ventured to form themselves into a religious Order, though encouraged to do so by their Bishop. They waited and prayed, and in their perplexity they asked a sign. It was given them somewhat as one was given to the Prophet Jonas when his gourd grew up in a night.

Just below the crest of the mountain to the south, where there was some depth of richer soil, the hermits had planted a vine. On the 3rd Sunday in Lent, February 27, 1239, the Brethren saw their vine clothed with green leaves and clusters of ripe grapes. All around smiled the verdure of spring, and the scent of flowers filled the air. They dared not interpret the prodigy. The superior dispatched one of the community to tell to the Bishop the amazing news, and beg that he would give them counsel, for not only was he a man of most holy life, but one to whom also supernatural communication had already been vouchsafed.

To him in a dream heaven revealed the interpretation of the prodigy. The seven hermits were seven branches of the mystic vine, the clusters were those who should join themselves to the Order; the Brethren were again, though as Religious, to mingle in the world. As always they obeyed the divine voice, however given; Easter was near at hand, when they would open their ranks to those who came, till then they would give themselves to earnest prayer.

On Good Friday, April 13, 1240, which that year coincided with the Feast of the Annunciation, all for which the Seven Holy Founders had been preparing found its explanation. On the evening of that day, in their oratory, Our Lady once more appeared to them in a vision, surrounded by angels who bore in their hands religious habits of black, a book containing the Rule of St. Augustine, the title Servants of Mary written in letters of gold, and a palm branch. Then holding in her own hands the habit with which she seemed to clothe each of them; she said: "I come, Servants well beloved and elect, I come to accomplish your desires and grant your prayers; here are the habits in which I wish you should in future be clothed; their black hue should always bring to mind the cruel Dolours which I felt by reason of the Crucifixion and Death of my only Son; the Rule of St. Augustine, which I give you as the form of your Religious Life, will gain for you the palm prepared in heaven, if you serve me faithfully on earth." The vision vanished, and the foundation of the Servite Order was definitely accomplished.

But this was not all. Our Lady at the same hour appeared to the Bishop of Florence, and made to him the same communication. He gladly went to Monte Senario for their Clothing, and erected them so far as rested with him, into a formal Order, giving them their religious names, and allowing them to admit new members. Of these their Director, James of Poggibonsi, was the first. The Bishop also urged on the Seven to prepare for ordination, wherein all obeyed, Alexis Falconieri only excepted. Nothing could overcome the great humility in which he desired to remain Brother Alexis.

It were long to tell how, when the news of the vision went abroad, and the affluence of new numbers was known, other towns in North Italy desired to receive, and received, homes of the nascent Order, and of the new and special practices which distinguished them from others. Immediately--and to this day the practice remains--they began their Mass with Ave Maria, and ended it with Salve Regina, adding other devotions also to Our Lady of Dolours, who under that title had given herself as their special patron. Blessed Bonfilius established also the Third Order, and the Society of the Black Scapular, both of these as well as the Devotions, seeming to appeal to the hearts and satisfying the needs of the time, and all things seemed to promise prosperity. But the Founders had to share in the dolours of their mother, and the time of peace was not yet.

Gregory IX. died in August, 1241, without having formally confirmed the Order, and his successor Celestine IV., who had for the Servites great esteem and affection, who had also visited them at Monte Senario, only lived a fortnight after his election. The See remained vacant for nearly two years, till Innocent IV. was elected in June, 1243. One of his earliest acts was to send Peter of Verona, a Dominican, afterwards known as St. Peter Martyr, as Inquisitor to Northern Italy, with a view to putting down the heresy of the Cathari, and incidentally to enquire into the life of the Religious of Monte Senario.

Peter of Verona conversed with Monaldi and Falconieri, and then prayed earnestly. He was answered by a vision in which Our Lady appeared to him, covered with a black mantle under which she sheltered Religious in the same habit, and in the company were those with whom he had spoken. Then he beheld angels gathering lilies, and among them were seven of surpassing whiteness, which Our Lady accepted, and placed in her bosom. The saint was convinced that the Order was of God, and after visiting Monte Senario reported favourably to the Pope.

This is no place to speak of the favours heaped on the Fathers by various Popes, nor the difficulties which cast shadows on their way, of their missionary efforts, nor the spread of the Order into other lands, even in the life time of the Founders. To do so would be to write the history of the Order, and far exceed our limit. We can but say a few words on their edifying lives, their holy deaths.

St. Bonfilius ruled the community till 1255, when after repeated endeavours, he succeeded in laying down his office, and the choice of the Fathers fell on St. Bonagiunta. Miracle had again marked him out as chosen of God. A merchant in the town, wearied by the Saint's exhortations to virtue, under pretence of aiding the needs of the convent, offered bread and wine, into which he had introduced poison, for the special use of Fr. Bonagiunta. The Saint partook of the food without hurt, then, suspecting the evil, he made over it the sign of the cross; the wine flask burst into shards, the bread was in an instant full of worms; and the terrified servant who had, unwittingly, brought the gift, returned to find his master sick unto death.

St. Bonagiunta was the first to pass away. Worn with travel, always on foot, for the good of his Order, and the conversion of heretics, he felt his end approaching. On the last day of August 1257 he said Mass with extraordinary devotion, and, calling his brethren together, spoke in prophetic words, of trouble which was soon to fall on the Order; and then set himself to meditate aloud on the Passion. When he came to the words "In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum--Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit," he extended his arms in the form of a cross and fell forward against the altar. His brethren, among whom was St. Philip Benizi, at his wish, supported him in that position, and so kneeling at the tabernacle of his Lord, he breathed forth his soul.

St. Bonfilius was the next to hear his Master's call. He was Vicar General in the absence of the third General in Germany and in France. He too retired to Monte Senario, and died on January 1st, 1262, "less of any definite disease than of those heavenly flames which burnt up his heart." He and those around him were consoled by special revelations from her whose faithful servant he had been.

Three years later came the turn of St. Amideus. For a year he had felt his force failing, and had remained at Monte Senario. He led a hermit life, constantly remaining whole hours alone in his grotto. Alone he died on the third Sunday after Easter, April 18th, 1265. His death was made known to his brethren by a wondrous sign. A tongue of fire shot from Monte Senario to heaven, while a sweet odour filled the whole convent: the Fathers did not doubt that, under this sign of flame, his heart, which had burnt with so vehement love, went to God. He was succeeded by Fr. Manetti as General, and he in his turn by the young Philip Benizi, into whose hands when he had committed his charge, St. Manetti also retired to Monte Senario, and died in St. Philip's arms.

The three brave men who were left spared no fatigue. One, St. Alexis continued his hard life as a lay brother, two in spite of advancing years wore themselves with missionary labours in foreign lands with their new General, St. Philip. In the spring of 1282, SS. Hugh and Sosthenes returned to Monte Senario. And as they went they spoke of all that their Lady had done for them, of the spread of the Order, of the deaths of those who had gone before. Raising their eyes to heaven, they desired that they also might be removed from this valley of tears and united to their Sovereign Good. Then they heard a voice which said: "Fear hot, ye men of God, your consolation is at hand." At once on their arrival they were stricken with fever, and died at the same hour on May 3rd, 1282.

St. Philip Benizi was at that time in Florence, and, praying, he fell into a trance. He saw on Monte Senario, two angels pluck each a lily of perfect whiteness, and present them to Our Lady. He called his brethren around him, and knowing well what the vision meant, announced to them the deaths of the two holy Founders.

Not till 1310 was St. Alexis called away. In his last years it was only in virtue of holy obedience that he allowed himself to lie on a couch of straw, and to relax his rule of rigid abstinence. When he knew that his hour was come he called his brethren round him, and recited one hundred Aves, during which the angels circled around him in the form of doves. As he recited the last Ave he saw our Lord approach, and crown him with sweet flowers. He cried: "Kneel my Brothers, see ye not Jesus Christ, your loving Lord and mine, who crowns me with a garland of beauteous flowers? Worship Him and adore. He will crown you also in the same manner, if, full of devotion to the holy Virgin, you imitate her immaculate purity, her profound humility."
So closed the life story of the Seven Founders, who, during the time they spent on earth, did all that in them lay to hide their merits under the veil of profound humility. Their sanctity was attested, not only by their heroic virtues, as they came to light, and by the miracles which accompanied them in their career, and illuminated their deaths, but also by an whole generation of saints, who arose on their traces, and became, as it were, their guard of honour.

Foremost of these was St. Philip Benizi, whom we have so often named, whose life merits a separate essay. He was the most brilliant disciple of the Seven Founders, and did honour to his masters by his work and sanctity. Indeed so great was the renown of his virtue, that he seemed even to cast into the shade the heroism of those who formed his character, as he is their abiding honour. No other ever reflected their spirit more faithfully, seized their thought more accurately, carried out their designs with such fidelity. Philip made a saint by saints, was in his turn the father of saints, of whom SS. Peregrine Laziosi and Juliana Falconieri, foundress of the Mantellate or Servite nuns, are the best known.

The spread of the Order in its early days was remarkable, and it was soon divided into six provinces, containing about one hundred convents, four provinces in Italy, one consisting of Germany, one of France. Only in these later days has the order spread to England and to America, where to it, as to the Catholic Church in general, a vast field seems opening.

More than four hundred years passed away after the death of St. Alexis during which the Order had its vicissitudes, its triumphs of grace, its dangers, alternations of honour and scorn. But in the course of the year 1752, the Seven Holy Fathers were solemnly declared Blessed, in 1888 they were canonized. Lovely and pleasant in their lives, in death they were not divided; their invocation is collective, none in the Sacred Order is greater or less than another; the miracles necessary to their canonization were not wrought in connection with this or that one amongst them; all together continue the work they began in common.

Sancti Patres Fundatores, orate pro nobis.
Tu autem, praecipue, Domina Septem Dolorum,
Regina Servorum tuorum; Ora pro nobis.

Holy Father Founders, pray for us.
Thou too, especially, our Lady of Seven Dolours,
Queen of thy Servants, pray for us.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


In 1917, our Lady of Fatima in Portugal asked for the Consecration of Russia to her Immaculate Heart to obtain world peace and for the conversion of Russia.  In Tuy, Spain, in 1929, where sister Lucy was at the time, our Mother said "Now is the time."  To it must be added devout prayers, true repentance and penance for the sins of mankind.  In 1942, Pope Pius XII consecrated the 'world' to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  In 1945, the sovereign Pontiff established this new Feast to promote devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and extended it to the Universal Church. (Notice that the Pope consecrated the world instead of Russia specifically, thus making it NOT what our Mother asked for)

August is the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We have this month for devotion to her. Older books don't have much on this, since it only happened last century. However, at least some kind of devotion has been directed toward her since she presented Jesus in the Temple, when Simeon stated that 'a sword shall pierce thy heart'. Her heart was always thought of, but, since her appearing at Fatima, Portugal (1917), devotion has become more evident. The two Hearts, that of Jesus, and that of Mary, are always connected. If you honor one of them, the other is close by. We honor both.

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior’s Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes (whose feast day was the other day), preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today’s feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession “peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue” (Decree of May 4, 1944).

The attention of Christians was early attracted by the love and virtues of the Heart of Mary. The Gospel itself invited this attention with exquisite discretion and delicacy. What was first excited was compassion for the Virgin Mother. It was, so to speak, at the foot of the Cross that the Christian heart first made the acquaintance of the Heart of Mary. Simeon’s prophecy paved the way and furnished the devotion with one of its favorite formulas and most popular representations: the heart pierced with a sword. But Mary was not merely passive at the foot of the Cross; “she cooperated through charity”, as St. Augustine says, “in the work of our redemption”.
It is only in the twelfth, or towards the end of the eleventh century, that slight indications of a regular devotion are perceived in a sermon by St. Bernard (De duodecim stellis). (His feast day was also the other day)

Stronger evidences are discernible in the pious meditations on the Ave Maria and the Salve Regina, usually attributed either to St. Anselm of Lucca (d. 1080) or St. Bernard; and also in the large book 'De laudibus B. Mariae Virginis '(Douai, 1625) by Richard de Saint-Laurent.

In St. Mechtilde (d. 1298) and St. Gertrude (d. 1302) the devotion had two earnest adherents. A little earlier it had been included by St. Thomas Becket in the devotion to the joys and sorrows of Mary, by Blessed Hermann (d.1245), one of the first spiritual children of St. Dominic, in his other devotions to Mary, and somewhat later it appeared in St. Bridget’s Book of Revelations.

St. Ambrose perceived in her the model of a virginal soul. St. Bernardine of Siena (d.1444) was more absorbed in the contemplation of the virginal heart, and it is from him that the Church has borrowed the lessons of the Second Nocturn for the feast of the Heart of Mary. St. Francis de Sales speaks of the perfections of this heart, the model of love for God, and dedicated to it his Theotimus.

In the second half of the sixteenth century and the first half of the seventeenth, ascetic authors dwelt upon this devotion at greater length. It was, however, reserved to St. Jean Eudes (d. 1681) to propagate the devotion, to make it public, and to have a feast celebrated in honor of the Heart of Mary, first at Autun in 1648 and afterwards in a number of French dioceses.

In 1799 Pope Pius VI, then in captivity at Florence, granted the Bishop of Palermo the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary for some of the churches in his diocese. In 1805 Pope Pius VIImade a new concession, thanks to which the feast was soon widely observed. Such was the existing condition when a twofold movement, started in Paris, gave fresh impetus to the devotion. The two factors of this movement were first of all the revelation of the “miraculous medal” in 1830 and all the prodigies that followed, and then the establishment at Notre-Dame-des-Victoires of the Arch-confraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, which spread rapidly throughout the world and was the source of numberless graces. On 21 July 1855, the Congregation of Rites finally approved the Office and Mass of the Most Pure Heart of Mary without, however, imposing them upon the Universal Church.

In 1917 the Mother of God appeared six times at Fatima in Portugal. After showing the three children a vision of hell, She informed Lucy of Fatima, the oldest of the visionaries: "You have seen hell, where the souls of poor sinners will go. To save them, the Lord desires to establish devotion to My Immaculate Heart in the world." The Saviour Himself, when He appeared to Lucy again on December 10, 1925 with His Mother, indicating with His hand the Heart of His Mother, said: "Have pity on this gentle Heart, continually martyred by the ingratitude of men."
Christians have long known that at the very origin of the world God threatened the ancient enemy, disguised under the form of a serpent, that the Woman he had seen in vision with Her Son, the Son of God, would eventually crush his head. "I Myself," God told him, "will place an irreducible enmity between Her race and your race." Thus Satan was informed at that moment, after he had just seduced the first human couple, that in the end, it would be this other Woman and Her Son, who would vanquish him. He had refused to honor the incarnate Son of God in His future human nature, inferior to his own angelic nature; his pride would not permit him to abase himself to serve God in that form. Christian hope has been nourished ever since by the prospect of this victory; nonetheless, the Mother of God wanted the twentieth century from its early years to understand that the time was drawing near when Her Immaculate Heart would triumph, as She explicitly said at Fatima, but that it was only through Her, uniquely by Her maternal aid, that this victory could be attained.
Mary is indispensable to the sanctification of each soul. This is the great truth which in the Latter Times must be better understood. For that purpose, consecration to Her Immaculate Heart was given us at Fatima, as the means She Herself desired, with the daily Rosary. Devotion to Her Heart is not new in the Church; Saint John Eudes, Saint Louis Mary de Montfort, how many others, in truth all the Saints have loved the Heart of their Mother in Heaven. But to know Her well, each one must individually establish the relationship of a child with its loving Mother. For this purpose She asks for our personal and effective consecration to Her Immaculate Heart. The child of Mary turns to Her constantly for counsel, force and courage, gentleness and humility in the affairs of daily life. Many prayers of consecration to Mary exist, in particular that of Montfort; but one may use any simple formula such as the following:

"Blessed and beloved Mother, I am Your child and I wish to belong to You; I give and consecrate myself forever to Your Immaculate Heart, renewing in Your hands my baptismal promises, and I ask You to ratify my filial homage to Your Immaculate Heart - that of my person and my activities, my temporal and spiritual goods, my resolution to have frequent recourse to Your maternal and merciful intercession. And, insofar as it is within my scope to do so, I offer You also my family, my homeland and all of humanity."

 Following is just one of the visits (July,1917) Our Lady made to the children at Fatima. We NEED to wake up!

*The Terrifying Vision
of Hell, July 13th, 1917

Our Lady told the Children, "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: `O Jesus, it is for Thy love, for the conversion of sinners and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
Lucia Santos then narrates what happened next:

“She opened Her hands once more, as She had done the two previous months. The rays [of light] appeared to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a vast sea of fire. Plunged in this fire, we saw the demons and the souls [of the damned]. The latter were like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, having human forms. They were floating about in that conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames which issued from within themselves, together with great clouds of smoke. Now they fell back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fright (it must have been this sight which caused me to cry out, as people say they heard me). The demons were distinguished [from the souls of the damned] by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals. That vision only lasted for a moment, thanks to our good Heavenly Mother, Who at the first apparition had promised to take us to Heaven. Without that, I think that we would have died of terror and fear." Our Lady then gravely spoke these words:

"You see Hell, where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wishes to establish in the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If they do what I will tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace... But if they do not stop offending God... He is going to punish the world for its crimes by means of war, of hunger, and of persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father."
We are NOT told the entire truth of what happened at Fatima in 1917. Probably because the messages refer to our times, where the Church will be under attack; even from those within the walls. No matter what you hear, the Consecration of Russia has not been done per her request: with all the Bishops of the world in union with the pope, on the same day, at the same time, consecrating Russia specifically to Her Immaculate Heart for peace in the world. So, if a priest or religious does not love Mary, stay away from them, for the Truth is NOT in them! You can't convert them; God has to do that. (Note: If this has been done per her request, the world would be in an uproar. 'How dare they!', they would probably say.)

Prayer to the Immaculate HeartO Heart of Mary, Mother of God and our Mother; Heart most worthy of love, in which the adorable Trinity is ever well-pleased, worthy of the veneration and love of all the Angels and of all men; Heart most like to the Heart of Jesus, of which thou art the perfect image; Heart, full of goodness, ever compassionate toward our miseries; deign to melt our icy hearts and grant that they may be wholly changed into the likeness of the Heart of Jesus, our divine Saviour. Pour into them the love of thy virtues, enkindle in them that divine fire with which thou thyself dost ever burn. In thee let holy Church find a safe shelter; protect her and be her dearest refuge, her tower of strength, impregnable against every assault of her enemies.

Be thou the way which leads to Jesus, and the channel, through which we receive all the graces needful for our salvation. Be our refuge in time of trouble, our solace in the midst of trial, our strength against temptation, our haven in persecution, our present help in every danger, and especially at the hour of death, when all hell shall let loose against us its legions to snatch away our souls, at that dread moment, that hour so full of fear, whereon our eternity depends. Ah, then, most tender Virgin, make us to feel the sweetness of thy motherly heart, and the might of thine intercession with Jesus, and open to us a safe refuge in that very fountain of mercy, whence we may come to praise Him with thee in paradise, world without end. Amen.

 (1943 Raccolta--An indulgence of 500 days.)


Messenger of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1876

 The object of the devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is twofold, material and spiritual; the former secondary, the latter primary. The material object is the material heart of the Mother of the Word Incarnate. The spiritual object is her spiritual heart, that is to say, the ardent charity with which she was inflamed for God, as well as that which she bore towards men. There is neither distance, separation nor opposition between these two loves; it is precisely because she loves God that Mary loves us, and the more perfectly she loves God the greater her affection for us.

The love which Mary bears us is similar to that manifested towards us by her Divine Son when, while on earth, he sought sinners rather than the just; our condition as sinners, far from opposing an obstacle, is rather a claim upon her. In this point, as in all others, Mary walks faithfully in the footsteps of her Son and model, and if she loves the just with a love of complacency because of their virtues, the love of compassion and mercy which she feels for sinners is still greater, not because they are worthy of it, but because of their greater necessities. Finally the material heart of Mary, by means of which we should raise our thoughts to the spiritual, is ordinarily represented not only with New flames escaping from it, which figure her love, and crowned with flowers, emblems of her virtues, but also pierced with a sword, to call our attention to her sorrows.

The end proposed by devotion to the Immaculate Heart, is to urge us to a greater love towards Mary; for this object we are invited to consider her heart which is the most perfect master-piece which nature and grace combined have ever formed of a simple creature;--besides this, in our regard, it is the heart of the most tender of mothers who loves us far better than we love ourselves. In these two considerations is to be found her claim upon our love; can we refuse it? This general end contains several partial ones, some of which it will be well to indicate: such as gratitude towards Mary, confidence in her, lively compassion for her sufferings, and imitation of her virtues.

The love of Mary for us merits our gratitude. The efficacy of this love is shown in the blessings she heaps upon us. The graces we are constantly receiving are, it is true, the fruit of the merits of Jesus; but these graces He has deposited in the hands of Mary, constituting her the treasurer and dispenser thereof. She is the channel by which God's favors are conveyed to us. When we call to mind all that we owe to the loving heart of Mary, it will surely be sufficient to excite in us the liveliest feelings of gratitude towards her.

When we picture to ourselves an image of this Immaculate Heart, we are irresistibly moved to confidence in it. We can hardly fitly express the tender affection of Mary for all men, but especially for sinners; if therefore she loves us so much, why should we hesitate to put our trust in her? Does not the Church address her: "Spes nostra, Salve." She can and will obtain for us all that we need. If in the natural order we see mothers every day accomplishing so much for their offspring, what may not the heart of Mary in Heaven obtain, through her intercession with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for us her children, especially when there is question of our eternal salvation, of snatching our souls from Hell, or opening to us the gates of Heaven?

The Holy Fathers and Doctors and the Liturgy of the church have assigned to Mary the title of Queen of Martyrs; let us not refuse her the tribute of our compassion. The martyrdom of Mary was more cruel than the torments of all the martyrs put together, for she suffered not in the flesh but in heart and in soul; it was also longer in duration; for from the moment of the prophecy of Simeon until her death, it had no respite. Moreover it exceeded all others in intensity, for her incommensurable love for her Son and for us was the executioner that tortured her; and this it was which caused her to experience something analogous to what our Lord Himself suffered. For this reason, in order to express the sorrows of Mary, we use the word compassion, which signifies suffering shared, endured in common, though in a lesser degree, with the King of Martyrs.

Can we remain insensible while contemplating the Heart of Mary pierced with a sword of sorrow? Shall we not compassionate, that is associate ourselves with the sufferings of the Mother of God, who is at the same time our Mother? But let not our sympathy remain sterile. We cannot, it is true, dry up the source of Mary's tears, but we can take from them something of their bitterness. Mary weeps over the outrage done to God by our sins and the misfortunes which sinners draw down upon themselves by their impenitence. Do we wish to comfort her? Let us be zealous in carefully avoiding the smallest faults ourselves; let us endeavor to save souls by our prayers, by our example and our sacrifices, and thus bring back to God and to happiness so many sinners whose disorders deprive Him of His glory and condemn them to frightful torments in the life to come. This is the kind of compassion which Mary expects from us and which alone is agreeable to her.

The instinct of love is imitation; someone has called it a painter, who in all the figures which his pencil traces upon the canvas, reproduces unconsciously the features of the object which has captivated him. The imitation of Mary is inseparable from the love which we should bear her. It is true that there is a more perfect model proposed to us, no less than Christ Himself, Whom we should strive to resemble; but the superhuman sanctity of the Word Incarnate, although it excites our admiration, while considering it, at the same time is apt to intimidate our weakness or dampen our courage, when there is question of imitating it. In presenting to us Mary by the side of Jesus, God has had pity on us and has come to our assistance. In the person of Mary, a daughter of Adam like ourselves, God sets before us an accomplished model, but one more adapted to our weakness, at the same time that it is only a faithful copy, an exact imitation of Jesus.

Let us therefore courageously strive after the virtues which adorn the Heart of Mary; her purity, her humility, her patience, her recollection, her spirit of prayer,--let us endeavor like her, to be humble, obedient, faithful to grace, a friend of labor, of poverty, of silence; let us have, like her, a firm faith and an unbounded trust in Providence; a hope which nothing can shake, an ardent love of God and our neighbor, let us spare no effort to approach as near as possible to that high and sublime sanctity which, increasing each moment that she lived upon the earth, has established her today Queen of Heaven, as much by her merits as by her dignity of Mother of God. The motives which should attach us to devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary are, proportionately the same as those which recommend that towards the Sacred Heart of Jesus; namely, that our Lord Himself desires it, that it recommends itself by its solidity, its opportuneness, and the advantages to be derived from it.

The wish of our Lord that we should honor the heart of His mother was sufficiently manifested by the circumstances under which this devotion, already in existence, although for some time dormant, was suddenly revived among us. Nothing can be more solid or better founded than this devotion to the immaculate heart. The heart of Mary is the noblest part of the body of the most privileged of creatures, the queen of angels and of men. It is this heart which furnished the blood that flowed in the veins of Jesus and which became the ransom of the world; this heart is the organ of the purest, the greatest, the holiest soul, after that of Jesus, which ever has existed or ever can exist; it is the instrument of the greatest love which God has ever received from any creature, and from which He derives the most complete glory. It is the most august sanctuary inhabited by the Holy Spirit, and enriched with a profusion of His most perfect gifts. In a word, the heart of Mary most closely resembles that of Jesus, and is so agreeable to Him, that He prefers it, not only to any other one, but to all others collectively.

After all, devotion towards the Immaculate heart is but one method of acquitting ourselves of our duty to Mary. And why should we fear to go too far? Is our heart so precious that we might do too much in consecrating it to her? Tradition does not understand it so, nor did he who cried out: "De Maria nunquam satis! " God Himself has invited us to honor her by His example; the love which He has shown for Mary, and the glory with which He has surrounded her, have placed her in a position high above all other creatures. Shall we then be blamed for paying her reverence?

The heart of Mary brought us forth in sorrow at the foot of the cross of her Son; her heart is that of our Mother, and God Himself has recommended us not to forget the groaning of her from whom we have received our life; it is at the same time that of the Mother of our God, hence, devotion towards her, instead of diminishing the worship of God, is its complement and perfection, because it all refers to Him. Can God take it amiss that we are full of respect and veneration for her from whom He has received life? Would He not on the contrary have reason to complain if we showed only coldness and indifference for His Mother?

The opportuneness of this devotion is sufficiently apparent. When was this world ever so truly called the "Valley of tears" as now? Do we not see sorrow and distress on every side; eyes that weep and hearts broken by affliction? Is not our greatest need to be consoled and helped? And where shall we find this, if not in the heart of Mary? The world is full of such consolers as tried the patience of Job; they irritate the wounds of the soul instead of healing them. The heart of Mary is that of the model woman of whom the Scripture says: "When the woman is absent, the sick man sighs without assistance." Religion alone possesses the art of consoling, but no one to such a degree as she who is invoked as the "Consoler (Comforter)of the Afflicted."

The heart of Mary will console us because it is capable of deep commiseration. The sources of pity are dried up in the heart by egotism, the germ of which was deposited in the soul by original sin, and developed by subsequent faults; innocence, on the contrary, preserves the treasures of the heart and is prepared to pour them out upon all unfortunate objects worthy of compassion. The heart of Mary being Immaculate from the beginning, is especially predisposed to be moved in our favor. The heart of Mary will console us, because it has suffered so much. Whoever has not wept himself cannot wipe away the tears of others. Who can bind up the wounds of his neighbor, who has not first healed them in himself? Mary knows sorrow by experience; from Bethlehem to Calvary, her life was one long agony, so that she is justly called the " Queen of Martyrs." She will not only console us, but she will finish her work by delivering us from the evils which surround us. We are stricken down because we have drawn upon ourselves the anger of God by our sins; we acknowledge ourselves guilty, but we do not dare to address ourselves to God directly, so much are we in awe of His justice. Who will obtain a reconciliation? Ah! let us turn to the "Refuge of Sinners," she will make our peace with God, her heart has not been, charged to uphold the interests of justice, but only to extend the domain of mercy. She is all-powerful with Jesus.

As to the advantages which this devotion will procure for us, it is true we have no special guarantees for them, but we do not complain of this, since we have something better than any promise, in the realization of all the blessings we could hope to obtain. Promises relate to something in the future; but they are superfluous when we are already in possession of the good desired. We know that this devotion to the Immaculate heart has been in the past, as it continues to be in the present, a means of obtaining the most signal favors from heaven. What more can we desire?

In embracing this devotion we acquire a new claim upon Mary, who has made manifest her wish that her heart should receive our homage. If we accept her invitation she is so beneficent, so generous, that she will come to our assistance without waiting for us to ask her; if she sees us docile to her voice and animated with respect, love and confidence towards her heart, there will be no limit to her bounty. She will not allow herself to be outdone in generosity, but will repay us a hundred fold for what we do for her.

Let it not be forgotten that devotion to Mary, and consequently to her amiable heart, is a pledge of abundant blessings, is characteristic of the elect, is a token of predestination, according to the Doctors of the Church. In fine how happy for us if we could flatter ourselves that devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus had taken full and firm possession of our souls! To obtain this grace from Heaven there is no means more sure, more prompt and easy than recourse to the heart of Mary, which will conduct us infallibly to Jesus. These two hearts are never separated; he who finds one finds the other. Mary disposes of the Heart of Jesus, inclines it to whom she pleases, exercises over it the greatest influence.

Let us see if we can alleviate some of these wounds to her Heart by living our lives as God intends for us to do.

Monday, August 21, 2017

St. Jane Frances de Chantal

Foundress of the Order of the Visitation of The Blessed Virgin Mary

 At the age of sixteen, Jane Frances de Fremyot, already a motherless child, was placed under the care of a worldly-minded governess. In this crisis she offered herself to the Mother of God, and secured Mary's protection for life. When a Protestant sought her hand in marriage, she steadily refused to marry "an enemy of God and His Church." Later, as the loving and beloved wife of the noble Baron de Chantal, she made her house the pattern of a Christian home. But God had marked her for something higher than domestic sanctity. Two children and a dearly beloved sister died, and then, in the full tide of their prosperity, her husband's life was ended by an accident, through the innocent hand of a friend, when a small group went hunting in the forest.

For seven years the sorrows of her widowhood were increased by ill usage from servants and inferiors, and the cruel importunities of those who urged her to marry again. Harassed almost to despair by their entreaties, she branded on her heart the name of Jesus, and in the end left her beloved home and children, to live for God alone. It was on the 19th of March, 1609, that Madame de Chantal bade farewell to her family and relatives. Pale and with tears in her eyes, she passed around the large room, sweetly and humbly taking leave of each one. Her son, a boy of fifteen, used every entreaty, every endearment, to induce his mother not to leave them, and finally flung himself passionately across the doorsill of the room. In an agony of distress, she passed over the body of her son to the embrace of her aged and disconsolate father. The anguish of that parting reached its height when, kneeling at the feet of the venerable old man, she sought and obtained his last blessing, promising to repay his sacrifice in her new life by her prayers.

Well might Saint Francis de Sales call her "the valiant woman." She founded under his direction and patronage the great Order of the Visitation. Sickness, opposition and want beset her, and the deaths of children, friends, and of Saint Francis himself followed, while eighty-seven houses of the Visitation rose under her hand. Nine long years of interior desolation completed the work of God's grace in her soul. The Congregation of the Visitation, whose purpose was to admit widows and persons of fragile health, not accepted elsewhere, was canonically established at Annecy on Trinity Sunday of 1610. The Order counted thirteen houses already in 1622, when Saint Francis de Sales died; and when the Foundress died in her seventieth year, there were eighty-six. Saint Vincent de Paul saw her soul rise up, like a ball of fire, to heaven. At her canonization in 1767, the Sisters in 164 houses of the Visitation rejoiced.

It may strike some as unusual that a saint should be subject to spiritual dryness, darkness, interior anguish. We tend to think that such things are the usual condition of “ordinary” sinful people. Some of our lack of spiritual liveliness may indeed be our fault. But the life of faith is still one that is lived in trust, and sometimes the darkness is so great that trust is pressed to its limit.


St. Vincent de Paul said of Jane Frances: “She was full of faith, yet all her life had been tormented by thoughts against it. While apparently enjoying the peace and easiness of mind of souls who have reached a high state of virtue, she suffered such interior trials that she often told me her mind was so filled with all sorts of temptations and abominations that she had to strive not to look within herself...But for all that suffering her face never lost its serenity, nor did she once relax in the fidelity God asked of her. And so I regard her as one of the holiest souls I have ever met on this earth”. (Butler’s Lives of the Saints).
Reflection: Profit by the successive trials of life to gain the strength and courage of Saint Jane Frances, and difficulties will become stepping stones from earth to heaven.

Some quotes from this saint: "When shall it be that we shall taste the sweetness of the Divine Will in all that happens to us, considering in everything only His good pleasure, by whom it is certain that adversity is sent with as much love as prosperity, and as much for our good? When shall we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of our most loving Father in Heaven, leaving to Him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and reserving only the desire of pleasing Him, and of serving Him well in all that we can?"

"We should go to prayer with deep humility and an awareness of our nothingness. We must invoke the help of the Holy Spirit and that of our good angel, and then remain still in God's presence, full of faith that he is more in us than we are in ourselves."

"Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him. That is all the doing you have to worry about."

Catholic saints are holy people and human people who lived extraordinary lives. Each saint the Church honors responded to God's invitation to use his or her unique gifts. God calls each one of us to be a saint.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

11th Sunday after Pentecost

"And they bring to Him one deaf and dumb, and they besought Him that He would lay His hands upon him."--Mark 7, 32.

Today is the 11th Sunday after Pentecost. First of all, St. Paul will tell us about him being the least of the Apostles, since he had been instrumental in persecuting the early Christians. We have all been guilty of this at some time or other. Whether we talk bad about someone, being intolerant of others at times, and, generally not doing all the time what God expects from us. Admit it. The great saint, St. Augustine, was this way for 30+ years, doing whatever he wanted, disregarding all that is good. Thanks to his holy mother, Monica, and St. Ambrose, he reformed his life and became one of the great Doctors of the Church, and one of its most prolific writers. As our beloved Abbot Gueranger says, he (Augustine)was as Saul was for a period of time:

'Like Augustine, who was but imitating Paul, 'he glorifies the just and the good God by publishing both the good he has received and the evil of his own acts; and this in order to win over to the one sole Object of his praise and his love the minds and hearts of all who hear him.' Augustine, in his 'Confessions', talks about himself: 'Great art Thou, O Lord, and exceedingly to be praised. Great is Thy power, and of Thy wisdom there is not number.' 'And yet,' says the saint, 'man wishes to praise Thee--man, a mere speck of Thy creation, who carries about him his own mortality, and the testimony of his sin, and the testimony that Thou resists the proud; and yet this man wishes to praise Thee--man, a mere speck of Thy creation. Receive, then, the homage which is offered by the tongue that was formed for the purpose of praising Thee. Let my flesh and all my bones, that have been healed by Thee, cry out: "Who, O Lord, is like unto Thee?" Let my soul praise Thee, that she may love Thee; and; that she may praise Thee, let her confess Thy mercies. I wish now to go over in my mind all my long wanderings, and I will confess the things which fill me with shame, and will make of them a sacrifice of joy. Not that I love my sins, but it is that I may love Thee, O my God, that I recall them to mind; it is out of love of Thy love that I now recur to those bitter things, that I may taste Thy delights, O Sweetness that never deceives! O Thou that collects all my powers, and recalls them from the painful scattering into which they had been thrown by my separation from Thee. O Thou one centre of all being! What am I to myself, when I have not Thee, but a guide that leads me to the abyss? Or, what am I, when all is well with me, but a little one that is sucking in the milk which Thou provides, or enjoying Thee, the Food that knows not corruption? And what manner of man is any man, for he is but a man? Let them that are strong and mighty--them that have not as yet had the happiness of being laid low and cast down--let them laugh at me! I am a weak man, and poor, and I give Thee praise. For that I need neither voice nor words; the cries of the thought are what Thou hearest. For when I am wicked, my being displeased with myself is a real praise to Thee; but when I am pious, my not attributing it to myself is again a real praise to Thee; for if Thou, O Lord, bless the just man, it is because Thou hast first justified him when he was ungodly.' Makes you think, doesn't it?

Now in the Gospel we hear about Jesus healing the deaf and dumb man. We know He does it, but here is what the Holy Fathers of the Church tell us:

'This man represents the entire human race, exclusive of the Jewish people. Abandoned for four thousand years in the sides, that is, in the countries of the north, where the prince of this world was ruling as absolute master, it has been experiencing the terrible effects of the seeming forgetfulness on the part of its Creator and Father, which was the consequence of original sin. Satan, whose perfidious craftiness caused man to be driven out of Paradise, has made him his own prey, and nothing could exceed the artifice he has employed for keeping him in his grasp. Wisely oppressing his slave, he adopted the plan of making him deaf and dumb, for this would hold him faster than 'chains of the adamant' could ever do. Dumb, he could not ask God to deliver him; deaf, he could not hear the divine voice; and thus the two ways for obtaining his liberty were shut against him. The adversary of God and man, satan, may boast of his tyranny. The grandest of all God's creations looks like a failure; the human race, in all its branches, and in all nations, seems ruined; for even that people which God had chosen for His own, and which was to be faithful to Him when every other privileges than to deny its Lord and its King, more cruelly than all the rest of mankind...The Church brings him to Jesus, beseeching Him to lay His divine hand upon him. No human power could effect his cure. Deafened by the noise of his passions, it is only in a confused way that he can hear even the voice of his own conscience; and, as to the sounds of tradition, or the speakings of the prophets, they are to him but as an echo, very distant and faint. Worst of all, as his hearing, that most precious of our senses, is gone, so, likewise, is gone the power of making good his losses; for, as the Apostle teaches, the one thing that could save him is Faith, and Faith cometh by hearing.' (Notice that Faith comes by hearing, NOT by reading. Reading can help us, but hearing is the KEY!)

And, by means of God's Holy Word, man is told of the joys of heaven, the glory therein, and of the terrible and eternal torments which are prepared for sinners in hell. It penetrates the ears of the body, but the spiritual hearing is gone. The human race goes recklessly on, living in a state of indifference as if wholly unconcerned for the future. Alas! Christians--Catholics--are no better, if they were only aware of it! They act as did the Jews, when St. Stephen preached to them: "They stopped their ears;" that is, they resolutely avoid attending service at those hours, when they would be reminded of their duties to God; or, when they are present, they attend not to the word of salvation, even if they hear it exteriorly. O folly! folly! To seek after the transitory joys and honors of earth in preference to listening to the Divine Word; to plunge, perhaps, into the vilest dissipations, rather than mortify their passions; to listen to the voice of the worldling or infidel, yet to close their hearts against the warning voice of God's minister, who seeks to win souls for Christ.

O Lord, preserve us from the evil of willful deafness of the soul; for, when it becomes chronic, all hope of salvation is over forever! Amen!

Christ put His finger into the ears of the deaf and dumb man. What signifies this? It admonishes us, that if we take an interest in the conversion of sinners to a holy life, or of heretics to the One True Faith, we should not make use of lengthy arguments and abstruse explanations to lead them to the path of right and truth; for plain reasons, based on admitted truths, and confirmed by experience, have most weight.

For heretics and infidels, the consideration of the following truths would be most beneficial: There is but one God and Creator; as a rational being, I am immortal; therefore, between God and me there exists a relation which is called Religion, and which is founded upon the revelation of God to man, since reason alone, and of itself, is not explicit concerning the consequences of that relationship. Christ was the first teacher of this divinely revealed religion, and after Him, by His own appointment, the Apostles and their successors--the bishops and priests of the Church. This Church, founded by Him, is the Catholic Church, which is therefore the Only True One, and, the only one in which salvation can be found. If those who are separated from the fold of Christ, either by infidelity or some perverted form of religion, show themselves inclined to enter her fold, it is unwise to lose time in lengthy discussions; but go to meet them, rather, with outstretched arms. Show them the truth in all its sublimity, and pray earnestly to God that He may bless your efforts for Christ's dear sake.

Our Jesus groans when they have brought this poor creature before Him...' He opens the ears and loosens the tongue of this man. We should all be attentive to the teachings (ALL OF THEM) and await those words Jesus used to this man; Let Him say in regard to us and our senses: "Ephpheta! Be thou opened!' Let us hear what we're to hear and speak what we are suppose to, and to do it in the manner He expects of us.

St. Bernard, Abbot/Doctor

Today we honor a saint who is yet another one who loves the Blessed Virgin, St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church. I have gleaned just some of has been said about him. Let's start with a prayer to Her by him.

O Mary Refuge of Sinners

"Take not your eyes from the light of this star if you would not be overwhelmed by the waves; if the storms of temptation arise, if you are thrown upon the rocks of affliction, look to the star, invoke Mary. Are you confounded at the enormity of your sins, are you ashamed at the defilement of your conscience, are you terrified on account of the dreadful judgment, so that you begin to be overpowered by sadness, or even to sink into the abyss of despair, then turn your thoughts to Mary. In dangers, in distress, in doubt, call on Mary. She will not be far from your mouth, or your heart; and that you may obtain her intercession omit not to imitate her conduct. When you follow her, you will not go astray; when you invoke her, you will no longer be in doubt; when she supports you, you will not fall; when she leads you, you will surely come to eternal life, and will find by your own experience that she is justly called Maria--that is, Star of the Sea."

St. Bernard, illustrious throughout the whole Christian world for his great learning, holiness and miracles, was born of very pious parents who had, besides him, six sons and one daughter. Before he was born, his mother dreamed that she was bearing a dog, which barked while still in the womb. The priest to whom she related this, said: "Fear not; you will give birth to a child, who will enter the religious state, watch over the Church of God, combat her enemies, and heal the wounds of many with his tongue." The mother was greatly comforted, and when her child was born, she endeavored to educate him most carefully. To her great joy, she perceived that, early in childhood, he possessed a most tender love for God and the Blessed Virgin, a great horror for sin, a most watchful care to preserve his innocence and purity, a great contempt for all temporal goods, and a high esteem of all that related to God and the salvation of souls. One day, while still a small boy, he suffered intensely from headache; and when a woman came to him to pronounce some superstitious words over him, the pious child, perceiving her intentions, leaped out of bed and drove her from the room, saying that he would rather die of pain than be relieved by sin. The Almighty recompensed this heroic conduct by immediately relieving him of his pain.

In his early youth, he was visited by the Infant Jesus, one Christmas eve, from which dates the tender love St. Bernard always felt for the Saviour. Having early lost his pious mother, he had much to suffer from wicked persons on account of his manly beauty. He always showed himself brave, however, and either escaped by flight, or drove away those who endeavored to tempt him to sin, or saved himself by loudly calling for help. An unchaste person had, one day, secretly entered the chamber of the youth to tempt him. Bernard immediately cried out: "Murder! Murder!" Those who came to his rescue, on seeing no one who would kill him, asked him why he called for help. "Are they then no murderers who endeavor to rob me of the priceless treasure of my purity, and thus deprive my soul of life everlasting?" said the pious youth. To guard this treasure more securely, he prayed with the greatest devotion, most carefully controlled his senses, especially his eyes, severely chastised his body, and cherished a filial love for the Blessed Virgin.

Pages could be filled with the description of his virtues, his humility, his severity towards himself, his love for God and man, his devotion at prayer. He was no less remarkable for his wisdom and the talents with which he was gifted.

The holy man, already completely exhausted by his many journeys, penances, and illnesses, was seized with a painful malady. He could retain no food whatever, while he suffered, at the same time, from swelling of the feet and other disorders. He bore it all not only with patience but with cheerfulness, and received the holy sacraments with great devotion. Many prelates of the church and other persons of distinction visited him and sympathized with him on account of his sufferings; but he answered; "I am a useless servant; an old barren tree ought to be felled and uprooted." Amidst the tears of all present, he yielded up his soul to God, at the age of 64, in the year 1153, having founded one hundred and sixty convents, written a great many works against heresies, in defense of the Catholic faith, and for the instruction of the faithful, and performed many other works for the welfare of the church and the salvation of souls.

At Spire, a miraculous picture of the Blessed Virgin is still preserved, before which St. Bernard, one day, three times bowed his knees, exclaiming: "O gracious, O mild, O sweet Virgin Mary," and when he said: "I salute thee, Queen of Heaven," a voice came from the picture distinctly saying: "I salute thee, Bernard." In another city, a crucifix is shown, before which St. Bernard was fervently praying, when the Saviour stretched out His arms to embrace His faithful servant. Many other great favors which God granted to this Saint are to be found in the histories of his life. His works abound with the most wholesome advice to all classes of people. Often and emphatically he admonishes all to love God, to honor the Blessed Virgin and ask her intercession, and to practice good works. (I hope for this one practice)

A great deal is to be found in the life of this Saint, which ought to inspire us to imitate him. I will here place a few of the principal points before you.

I. St. Bernard, when only a boy, would not allow anyone to alleviate or cure a headache by superstitious means. Take care that you resort to superstitious practices in sickness or on other occasions; for, it is committing a great sin against God. If you doubt whether a thing is superstitious or not, ask some priest before using it.

II. St. Bernard looked upon those who would tempt him to sin, as murderers, and called for help, as if his life had been in danger. May you so regard those who tempt you to sin; for, they are murderers, because they seek to kill the spiritual life of your soul, and place you in danger of forfeiting eternal life and happiness. Therefore treat them as assassins. We do not laugh and jest with a murderer, but we call for help and defend ourselves with all our might. Earnest and brave must we show ourselves when we are tempted to do wrong. God commanded His people, in the Old Testament, to stone a fallen woman together with her seducer. Why? "Because she cried not out, being in the city (Deut. xxii.)." She ought to have cried out; but not doing this was a sign that she did not seriously desire to defend herself.

III. This holy man punished with an unguarded look at something impure, by throwing himself into the river and remaining there till he was almost frozen. He shows by this, that those who would lead a chaste life must carefully guard their eyes. What shall we say then of looking curiously or unnecessarily at the other sex, or at obscene pictures or certain theatrical scenes?

IV. St. Bernard induced many, by his example and exhortations, to embrace the religious life. A zealous servant of God is not content with serving the Almighty himself, but seeks also, by his words and example, to lead others to the same path.

V. When he was tempted to weariness in the service of God, he reanimated himself by saying: "Bernard, why art thou here?" Animate yourself in a similar manner, by recalling the destiny for which you were born, and ask yourself: "Why am I upon earth? For what was I created?"

VI. St. Bernard bore, with great patience, the derision and persecutions which he had to suffer on account of the unhappy end of the war to which he had called and encouraged the Christian princes. Do not regret too deeply if your plans and undertakings do not succeed as you expected. Be not disturbed if others mock you and persecute you.

VII. St. Bernard regarded himself as a useless servant, as a barren tree which deserved to be cut down; so deep was his humility. How then can you feel so elated, when you have done some good action? Ought you not to have done much more? Should not your laziness, your negligence humble you before God?

VIII. The holy man, by founding one hundred and sixty convents, left many servants of the Lord, and by his books, many wholesome instructions which are yet very beneficial to all who read them. Take care that when you die, you do not leave the spirit of Satan in your children or in those whom you scandalized or tempted to do wrong. Especially, leave no obscene books or pictures which may be occasion of sin to others. Furthermore, St. Bernard was remarkable for his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He called to Her in all his trials, and advised others to do the same, as is evident from his sermons. "Let us," says he, "venerate Mary. It is the will of Him, who wishes that we should receive everything through her. In danger, in anxiety, in doubt, think of Mary, call to her." Somewhere else he says: "Let us have admittance to thy Son through thee, thou giver of graces, O Mother of life, O Mother of salvation." Follow the Saint's advice and example in this, and you will live free from sin, under the protection of Mary; find help in all your needs, and most surely gain your salvation.

Admonitions from St. Bernard:
We are not innocent before God if we punish that which we should pardon, or pardon that which we should punish.

If you would know whether you have made a good confession, ask yourself if you have resolved to abandon your sins.

As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.

Prayer without fervor has not sufficient strength to rise to heaven.

"It is impossible that the Mother of God be not heard."

"It is the will of God, that all who receive from Him should pass through the hands of Mary."

Saint Bernard aptly says: "The angel announces, 'thou hast found grace before God." O supreme happiness! Mary shall always find grace. And what else could we wish? If we seek grace, let us seek it through Mary; for what she seeks, she finds. Never can she plead ineffectually."

"Devotion to the Blessed Virgin," says St. Bernard, "is a mark of predestination."

"Oh, how good and pleasant a thing it is to dwell in this Heart! Who, is there that does not love a heart so wounded? Who can refuse a return of love to a Heart so loving?"

So much could be said concerning this great saint. The following is most probably the prayer we say and remember the most, if you ask me.

A Devout Prayer of Saint Bernard To the Blessed Virgin.
(The Memorare)

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother! To thee I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate; despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

(Indulgence of 3 years.)