He walked in the Truth and blazed a trail for others

Today, 30 April 2012, is the memorial of St Pius V, Pope of blessed memory, Dominican religious and implementer of the reforms of the Council of Trent. Tomorrow is the 440th anniversary of his death in Rome. During the six years of his pontificate he showed a shepherd’s heart in leading the Church.

It is a special joy to honour this holy pastor of the Church today. Each time his name is mentioned I am reminded that God answers prayers. When the Turks were expanding their sway in the Mediterranean of the 16th century, it was St Pius V who turned to prayer first against this threat to Christianity. Calling upon the baptized he asked them to pray the Rosary to win the victory with. And win the battle of Lepanto they did – despite being badly outnumbered.

Each time his name is mentioned I am reminded that God knows how to reward His Saints. In our year 2000 pilgrimage to Rome for the great Jubilee we were able to go and visit the Basilica of St Mary Major. Contained within one of the ornate chapel within the Basilica is the incorrupt body of St Pius X. Now it is one thing to see one’s first relic (St Peter Chanel) and quite another to see one’s first incorrupt body. His was my first, an unforgettable moment even though the body is placed at a distance up the chapel walls. Yes, St Pius V was indeed real. In this body he served God wholeheartedly and in this body he continues to silently proclaim God’s power and generous rewards.

Anyone whom God selects to serve as the successor of St Peter in our times needs our prayers if he is to fulfill the whole mission that God has for them in this important role. So whenever I pray for the Holy Father I invite saintly Popes of the past to pray with me – and St Pius V is always in my roll call of chosen co-intercessors.

St Pius V entered the world in 1504 as Antonio Ghislieri, the son of poor Italian parents. Considering the poverty of the family, Antonio’s dream of becoming a priest seemed impossibly out of reach. But Antonio prayed, and one day God sent two Dominicans to meet with him. God arranged that they would be the instruments by which Antonio started on the road to the priesthood. As a Dominican monk he took the name of Michael and in due timw received the grace of Ordination.

Wondrously God arranged St Pius V’s life so that it would lead gradually to the papacy. First Michael prayed and studied hard, and then lectured in theology and philosophy. Following this he was chosen as an Inquisitor. For doing such a conscientious job as Inquisitor Michael was appointed Cardinal. In time he was consecrated a bishop and began to reveal what a pastoral heart he had for God’s people. Here he began to take the recommendations of the Council of Trent serious and it put them into practice. At the next conclave Michael was elected Pope at the age of 62, choosing to be called Pius V.

Pius V and his team worked hard to bring the Church into unity, compiling  a catechism, and revising the Breviary and the Roman Missal. Recalling his Cardinals to the duty their high calling required of them was not easy, but he did his best. Seeing the truth clearly he walked in its ways and showed others how to return to God.

There is so much more about St Pius V to learn. Every little bit more I learn about St Pius V’s life makes me even more appreciative of him, so I invite you to learn more about him yourself.

St Pius V, pray for us.





Bride of Christ and servant of His Body, the Church

Today, 29 April 2012, is the feast day of St Catherine of Siena, a 14th century Italian mystic, Doctor of the Church, and member of the Third Order of St Dominic. Her life closely mirrored that of Jesus, with a hidden life of prayer and fasting to begin it, a very active period of public apostolate to end it, bearing the stigmata and dying at the same age as Jesus, at the age of 33 in 1380.

The good Lord has raised up many Saints with the name of Catherine, and each one I have come to know holds her own special place in my heart. Since my parents chose the name of Catherine for me, I consider myself under the patronage of all of them. However, St Catherine of Siena holds first place among them, due to her active love, service and intercession for the Church. So it is with particular joy and gratitude that I honour her today.

During my university years I read her Dialogue, despite the English translation of Algar Thorold’s that must have been well received in 1907 but which seems rather formal and stilted today. It’s one of those spiritual classics that deserves re-reading at least every ten years, and which I must be due to re-read again soon.

What I didn’t realise was that many of St Catherine’s letters are still extant. Given that The Dialogue is almost entirely written as a dictation from God the Father, apart from her heartfelt prayers, it bypasses her personality. So using the marvellous material at Project Gutenberg www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/8ltcb10.txt I’m going to honour my patroness today by learning from these letters of hers.

The first extract from one of these letters is from St Catherine to Monna Agnese, the wife of Orso Malvolti and in it she speaks about impatience – something which I give in to on a regular basis:

“I Catherine, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, write to you in His Precious Blood, with the desire to see you established in true patience, since I consider that without patience we cannot please God. For just as impatience gives much pleasure to the devil and to one’s own lower nature, and revels in nothing but anger when it misses what the lower nature wants, so it is very displeasing to God. It is because anger and impatience are the very pith and sap of pride that they please the devil so much. Impatience loses the
fruit of its labour, deprives the soul of God; it begins by knowing a foretaste of hell, and later it brings men to eternal damnation: for in hell the evil perverted will burns with anger, hate and impatience.”

Ouch! But true! The second extract comes from a letter of St Catherine to Sr Bartolomea Della Seta of Pisa, and speaks about uniting our thoughts to Jesus and how difficult we can find it at times. St Catherine stresses how much perseverance is necessary:

“You, who are a bride of Christ Crucified, ought not to think or will anything apart from Him–that is, not to consent to any other thoughts. That thoughts should not come, this
I do not tell thee–because neither thou nor any created being couldst prevent them. For the devil never sleeps; and God permits this to make His bride reach perfect zeal and grow in virtue. This is the reason why God sometimes permits the mind to remain sterile and gloomy, and beset by many perverse cogitations, so that it seems unable to think of God, and can hardly remember His Name. Beware, when thou mayest feel this in thyself, lest thou fall into weariness or bewildered confusion, and do not give up thy exercises nor
the act of praying, because the devil may say to thee: “How does this prayer uplift thee, since thou dost not offer it with any feeling or desire? It would be better for thee not to make it.” Yet do not give up, nor fall for this into confusion, but reply manfully: “I would rather exert myself for Christ Crucified, feeling pain, gloom and inward conflicts, than not exert myself and feel repose.” And reflect, that this is the state of the perfect; if it were possible for them to escape Hell, and have joy in this life and joy eternal beside, they do not want it, because they delight so greatly in conforming themselves to Christ Crucified; nay, they want to live rather by the way of the Cross and pain, than without pain. Now what greater joy can the bride have than to be conformed to her bridegroom, and clothed with like raiment? So, since Christ Crucified in His life chose naught but the Cross and pain, and clothed Him in this raiment, His bride holds herself blessed when she is clothed in this same raiment; and because she sees that the Bridegroom has loved her so beyond measure, she loves and receives Him with such love and desire as no tongue can suffice to tell.”

So, when dryness and distaste in prayer hits us, let us be consoled by these words of St Catherine’s and see these difficulties from her helpful perspective. The last extract is from a letter of St Catherine to Catarina of the Hospital and advises her that when she sees the Church subject to scandal and disaster, to seek prayer. It is wise advice in our age when it seems that each news report delights in reminding people of the sinfulness and frailty of the priests of the Church.

“We see with our wretched eyes that Blood which has given us life persecuted in the holy Church of God. Then let our hearts break in torment and grieving desire; let life stay in our body no more, but let us rather die than behold God so reviled. I die in life, and demand death from my Creator and cannot have it. Better were it for me to die than to live, instead of beholding such disaster as has befallen and is to befall the Christian people. Let us draw the weapons of holy prayer, for other help I see not. That time of persecution has come upon the servants of God when they must hide in the caves of knowledge of themselves and of God, craving His mercy through the merits of the Blood of His Son. I will say no more, for if I did according to my choice, my daughters, I should never rest until God removed me from this life.”

Do we love the Church, the Body of Jesus, this much? Are we concerned for her welfare and holiness. Do we pray for her, for the Pope who leads her on earth, and for her priests? From St Catherine we can learn to make the desires and interests of Jesus our own. May she help us to do so, that we may please Him better! In each one of her letters, St Catherine writes to people through the Precious Blood of Jesus. One of my favourite prayers is this one about the Precious Blood, which is attributed to her….

Precious Blood, ocean of Divine Mercy, flow upon us! Precious Blood, most pure offering: Procure us every grace! Precious Blood, hope and refuge of sinners: Atone for us! Precious Blood, delight of holy souls: Draw us! Amen.  

St Catherine of Siena, pray for us.

St Catherine of Siena, please continue to intercede for me.

A seed that produced a rich harvest

Today, 28 April 2012, is the feast day of St Peter Chanel,  St Peter Chanel (April 28), priest, missionary, martyr and religious of the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers). To him belongs the title of first martyr of Oceania and first martyr of the Marist Order. As with many martyrs, his life was so holy that he would have been canonised even if he had died peacefully in his sleep at advanced old age.

The good Lord, obviously, wished instead that he be honoured with these titles and with the patronage of all the peoples of Oceania. He, our Redeemer, knows best how to richly reward his servants. 

Of all the many amazing Saints that the Church recalls to memory today, St Peter Chanel has a special place in my heart. Living in Australia is not like living in most other Western nations because we do not yet have a rich heritage of sanctity. It was 1995 before St Mary of the Cross McKillop was beatified, and still she is the only Australian so far raised to honour throughout the universal Church. Because of this relics are something that we but rarely come across. Thus it was around 1977-1979 before I ever laid eyes on a relic, and when I did it was a relic of St Peter Chanel. As a teenager it was deeply moving to be in the actual presence of a part of someone who had died for the sake of the spread of the Gospel. In those moments, Saints were no longer stories, but living, breathing, real people of ardent faith. I remain ever grateful to him.

St Peter Louis-Marie Chanel was born in the diocese of Belley in eastern France in 1803 into a rural farming family. When he was young Peter took care of his father’s sheep. As the gift of reason developd in him, Peter became conscious that where the family lived had once been a church – something that must have happened around the time of the French Revolution – and desired to make reparation by dedicating his life to God. A local priest noticed his intelligence and helped to educate him.

Following studies at Meximieux, Belley and Brou, Peter was ordained a diocesan priest in 1827. In the three years that he was in his first parish of Crozet, he completely revitalised it largely by his sincere desire for the welfare of his flock and the special care he lavished upon those who were sick. His desire grew to become a missionary, and in 1831 he received permission to join the newly formed Society of Mary (the Marist order). He hoped to be sent off to mission lands, but was appointed to teach at the junior seminary at Belly. At this seminary he served for 5 years.

In 1836 Peter was at last able to join a group of eight Marists being sent to the Pacific Islands. He was assigned to the island of Futuna (part of the Hoorn island group) together with a young Marist brother and an interpreter. Peter kept a diary to record his slow progress in learning the local language and his activities. He said, ‘On so difficult a mission we must be saints’. Truly his patience was tested, because his one desire was to preach about Jesus to the islanders and until he attained some fluency in the local dialect he was unable to preach with words. Nevertheless he preached with actions, with kindness, generosity and forgiveness.

Bit by little bit their Christian witness and preaching began to bear fruit in 1840, with the baptisms of some dying children and elderly adults. It was said of Peter ‘This man loves us, and he himself practices what he teaches us to do.’ Peaceful relations with the islanders began to break down when the king of the island’s son asked to be baptised. The king’s family were outraged. For them this was a major threat to their traditional way of life. Peter was aware of the danger and said, ‘It does not matter whether or not I am killed; the religion has taken root on the island; it will not be destroyed by my death, since it comes not from men but from God.’

Following an attack on some catechumens, Peter was clubbed to death on April 28, 1841. Within a year of his death almost the whole island had accepted Christianity and been baptised. Pope Pius XII canonized him in 1954. In Peter the promise of Jesus was fulfilled in a particular way, ‘Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but it if dies, it yields a rich harvest’ (John 12:24). The good Lord permitted what could not be accomplished by Peter by preaching to be accomplished through the savage attack which shed his blood and the intercessory power of his prayers before the throne of God in heaven.

Novena Prayer

St Peter Chanel, you left your homeland to proclaim Jesus, Saviour of the world, to the peoples of Oceania. Guided by the Spirit of God, Who is the strength of the gentle, you bore witness to love, even laying down your life. Grant that, like you, we may live our daily lives in peace, in joy, and in fraternal love. May your prayer and example call forth from our midst many workers for the Gospel so that God’s kingdom may reach to the ends of the earth. Amen. 

St Peter Chanel, pray for us.

Channel of grace

Today, 27 April 2012, is the feast day of Blessed Osanna of Cattaro (a.k.a. Ozana Kotorska, Hosana of Kotor and Catherine Cosie). In corresponding to God’s special call upon her life she became a channel of grace to numerous souls. God called her to live a life enclosed in a cell for Him as an anchoress and to devote herself to praise of God, to reparation for sin and in intercession for others.

Blessed Osanna of Cattaro was actually born as Catherine Cosie near the village of Komani in Montenegro in 1493. Montenegro is a small country bordering the Adriatic Sea with Bosnia to the north and Albania to the south. Her parents were poor and brought Catherine up in the Orthodox faith. Growing up she spent lots of time looking after the family’s sheep and goats. In the solitude of this occupation she came to a deep appreciation of the beauties of nature and naturally developed a close prayer life with God.

Her simple heart must have been very pleasing to God, because He chose to appear to her under the appearance of a beautiful baby boy, and later as the Crucified Lord. At this stage she was still a child, but a child who greatly desired God. Using some holy ‘pester power’, Catherine begged her mother to be able to go and live in the nearby coastal city of Cattaro (now called Kotor) which had many beautifully decorated churches. By the age of 12, her mother had given in to the requests and had found a serving girl’s position for Catherine in the home of a wealthy, devout Catholic woman in Cattaro. Here the young teenager could visit churches on her way to and from errands and began to learn to read and write so that she could read the Holy Scriptures and other spiritual books. Learning ,together with the good example of the family she served, brought Catherine to the point of conversion from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism.  

Life continued rather normally, with Catherine deepening her love for Jesus and for his Church, until she heard an annointed sermon on Good Friday. Here her desire to give herself totally to Jesus in prayer, penance and meditation upon His Passion was ignited. To do this, at the age of 20, she sought permission to live the life of an anchoress. It was unusual for one so young to seek this kind of life, but permission was given, and she was installed in a hut attached to the Church of St Bartholomew. Her cell had a window into the Church and another window to the outside world. Through this latter window she received all the necessities of life and also listened to all those who came to seek counsel and prayers. To earn a living, Osanna would take in sewing and embroidery work and give the proceeds to the poor who came to her window. She, herself in poverty subsisted on what was given to her in charity.

Within her cell the divine visitations of Jesus from her childhood continued. Our Lady and the Saints also visited her. One can presume that St Bartholomew, being the patron of the church her cell was connected to, was one of those visitors. After an earthquake destroyed her cell, which must have been very scary, Catherine needed to discern what to do next. She was led to seek admission as a Dominican tertiary and was enclosed into a cell at St Paul’s church. Since she was now a religious, it was appropriate to change her name, and she took the name of Osanna, in honour of Blessed Osanna of Mantua (d.1505), a Italian Dominican tertiary who experienced many mystical phenomena.

Now settled at St Paul’s, Osanna entered into the most fruitful part of her apostolate. Increasing numbers of souls came to seek spiritual direction from Osanna, and to ask for prayers. So many decided to become her spiritual daughters that a new Dominican convent had to be built nearby. Osanna was particularly drawn to the contemplation of the sufferings Jesus endured in His Passion, to seeking relief for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and what was for the time frequent Holy Commuion (three times a week).

With such luminous spiritual gifts there also came demonic attacks, and human ones prompted by jealousy and skepticsm. Despite what she suffered through false witness about her, Osanna continued to serve Jesus with all her heart and to be an instrument for bringing peace into troubled relationships. When disasters of plague and earthquake threatened the city, people implored her intercession and God heard those prayers. A Turkish pirate attack was overcome through her prayers, the city was under seige and the beseigers gave up and left.

The life of this holy and dedicated woman of prayer came to a close on 27 April 1565. Both Catholics and Orthodox Christians honor her. The Dominican convent her disciples founded lasted until the Napoleonic era. By serving Jesus in such cramped conditions, in the extremes of heat and cold, perservering in prayer and in kindness to all who came to her window, Osanna became an extraordinary channel of grace to countless souls.

May the Church soon recognise Blessed Osanna as a Saint for the Universal Church and canonize her soon.

Blessed Osanna of Cattaro, pray for us.

Successful at being unsuccessful

Today, 26 April 2012, is the feast day of St Rafael Arnaiz Baron, a young Spaniard who sought God in the silence of a Trappist monastery. Of particular interest to many is the struggle he had with a particularly nasty form of diabetes. Due to this, many people seek his intercession for the grace to cope with diabetes. Others find his calm trust in the Will of God despite many perplexing situations to be truly inspiring.

St Rafael Arnaiz Baron was born on the 9th of April 1911 in the city of Bourgos, Spain. Being the first child of very devout parents, he was welcomed with joy and seen as a most special gift from God. Rafael grew up in a financially secure environment filled with faith and culture. His education was dogged by periods of illness. After recovering from a bout of illness his father took him to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Pilar at Zaragoza in thanksgiving for having been returned to health.

When the family moved to Oviedo, Rafael continued his studies at another Jesuit college. At the same time he was growing in artistic talent, which was showing itself in drawing, painting, music and increasingly in writing. During a summer holiday, taken after finishing high school, his uncle and aunt took him to visit the Trappist monastery of San Isidoro de Duenas. Experiencing the beauty, the silence and the sung liturgy of the monastery awakened a vocation in Rafael’s heart.

With the vocation growing inside him, Rafael began to study architecture at university. When he was called up for military service he was deemed unfit for duty. Reports vary, but it seems that he returned to study and almost completed his degree. God’s urgent call to his soul intensified and he had to respond. Thankfully his parents generously and joyously gave their permission. At last he was on his way to seek and be found by the One who had called him so vehemently. 

Only four months in, Rafael came down with an acute attack of diabetes. To get medical attention he had to return home. Thus began the final four years of his life. To attempt to live a life of monastic regularity while having a medical condition that produced irregular blood sugar levels- which in turn required immediate action – was a challenge indeed. Hunger, thirst and various forms of illness-induced depression became part of his life. It took a while for him to embrace the vocation within a vocation of being sick, but embrace it he did. Each time he got better Rafael returned to the monastery, and each time be had a severe bout of illness he was returned home. Being a human ‘yo-yo’ like this taught him to trust God’s perplexing ways and to embrace the Cross more deeply.

Longing to be with his brother monks in praying the Liturgy of the Hours, he often found himself in solitude. To each new challenge God arranged, Rafael responded with gratitude for that which would draw him closer to God. Increasingly Rafaels longing was to belong to God solely and forever. Death was something he looked forward to welcoming because it would totally unite him with Jesus and with Mary. Rafael also desired to take monastic vows, but he was never well enough or at the monastery long enough for that to happen. Humiliating though it was, Rafael had to settle for being an oblate instead, someone permitted to live part of the life to which he was called, but not all of it.

To take him to greater heights of holiness, God permitted Rafael to be gradually stripped of all of his dreams.  Learning this divine lesson well, he was able to say, “Real mortification consists in doing what you neither like nor desire, even if your desires seem to you to be holy and good.” Rafael grew in this holy detachment, living fully by the maxims, “Expect nothing from the world and from people… only God.” and “God alone is fully satsfying.”

A final attack of diabetes occurred on 26 April 1938, when he slipped from this life through a coma into the next life. He was only 27, yet even though his life had been dogged by illness, contradictions, humiliations and failures to achive so many things, he succeeded where it really counted – attaining true sanctity. 

Should you get a chance to read ‘God Alone : A Spiritual Biography of Blessed Rafael Arniaz Baron’ by Gonzalo Maria Fernandez and Patricio Peman, make sure you take it. 

The sufferings of this life God transmuted for Rafael into the power to obtain extraordinary graces for those who seek his intercession. The miracles approved for his beatification in 1992 and canonization in 2009 confirm this.

St Rafael Arnaiz Baron, pray for us and especially for all young people seeking God and all WYD pilgrims.

Tenacious to the last

Today, 25 April 2012, is the 85th anniversary of the martyrdom of Blessed Jose Trinidad Rangel y Montano (a.k.a. Blessed Giuseppe Trinita Rangel Montano) a Mexican priest of the archdiocese of Leon. Throughout his whole life he faced obstacles, but with grit, determination and prayer he overcame them all, especially the final test of arrest, torture and execution.

Somewhere there must be a lot more information about this zealous priest, but this is all I could find…

Blessed Jose Trinidad Rangel y Montano was born on 4 June 1887 at a ranch in Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico. Coming from a humble background his family taught him how to love God and how to show that love by caring for the welfare of others. For some, as yet undisclosed, reason he wasn’t able to attend school, but he did have the determination to seek out people to teach him how to read and write and the perseverance to attain fluency.

By the age of 14 the desire to serve God as a priest was burning within him. With the seminary not accepting candidates under 20 years of age and Jose not having the money to attend seminary there were obstacles enough. These were compounded with the political instability that closed the seminary, reopened it and then shut it down again. Such things cannot thwart the will of God, if He wants to make you His priest. So a way was found for Jose to attend the seminary, even though he had to go to the United States for some of his studies and at least one Mexican seminary for the rest.

The ardently desired day of ordination happened in April of 1919, when Jose was almost 32. It had been a long hard road to get there. Overcoming these challenges had forged the virtues of zeal, humility and simplicity in him. He loved to bring souls to Jesus. With holy boldness Jose ministered to the people living in the various parishes of the province of Guanajuato.

The growing climate of political persecution was the next challenge facing Jose. Starting with an anticlerical constitution in 1917, religious persecution of the Catholic Church intensified each year until in 1925 there were attempts to establish a national Church not in union with Rome. By 1926 legislation was enacted that limited the number of priests and religious services in each locality. In protest the Bishops shut down all the church buildings and the laity began to mobilize to win back religious freedoms.

To keep officially serving as a priest, Jose, under these new laws, was required to seek registration on the government register for priests. Signing would severely limit Jose’s ability to minister to souls, so he went into hiding and continued his priestly ministry clandestinely. His brother, sensing the seriousness of the situation, advised Jose to seek refuge in the United States. More powerful than his instinct for self preservation was Jose’s desire to celebrate Holy Week secretly with the Minims at San Francisco del Rincon. So he went to the Minums rather than to the ‘States.

While he was with the Minims he didn’t go on holiday, but sought out every opportunity for ministering the sacraments to souls seeking them. He even visited the sick in the hospital, bringing Holy Communion, hearing confessions, annointing and encouraging suffering souls to place their faith and trust in Jesus. Needless to say, behaviour like this made the authorities suspicious and Jose was duly found and arrested on 22 April 1927.

To his credit he never denied that he was a priest. Now a prisoner, Jose was taken to Leon where he could be officially interrogated and tortured. Together with two companions, Blessed Andres Sola Molist – a priest, and Blessed Antonio Perez Larios – a layman, Jose was shot dead. Prior to their execution they forgave their executioners. Jose was not quite 40 years old when he entered into eternity.

All of the hardships and overcome obstacles in his life served to make Jose a better priest and prepared him to withstand the horrors and pains of his final days, giving radiant witness to the depth of his faith in God and the authenticity of the Catholic faith. May he help us to stand firn with Jesus when trials come our way.

Blessed Jose Trinidad Rangel y Montano pray for us.


From the Church’s treasury…

Jesus himself tells us that ‘every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storehouse things both new and old’. (Matt 13:52). Holy Mother Church has a vast treasury from which most of us rarely draw from, although these spiritual treasures are free for the asking. So, let’s explore some of them; some you might vaguely remember, others might be totally new.

In recent weeks I have been exploring some of the treasures in the ‘The 1910 Raccolta or Collection of Indulgenced Prayers and Good Works’ via Amazon Kindle. Sadly the version provided has a lot of formatting errors and typographic errors (we hope they get fixed soon), but it is still a treasure house and extremely valuable to souls because of this.

Since most people these days don’t know what an Indulgence is, here are some excerpts from the 1910 Raccolta that go some way towards explaining them….

‘An Indulgence is the remission by the Church, on specified conditions, of the whole or a part of the debt of satisfaction remaining due for sin. The Church has power to absolve from guilt; she has also power to remit the punishment. The one she exercises in the Sacrament of Penance; the other she exercises when she grants an Indulgence. And it is clear from what has been said that an Indulgence is supplemental to Absolution, and presupposes the forgiveness of the guilt of sin. Theologically considered, an Indulgence is not a mere exercise of spiritual power and authority on the part of the Church ; it is truly a payment of the debt, made out of her Treasury of satisfactory merit; for in this are stored up the superabundant merits of JESUS CHRIST, and the accumulated merits of our Lady and all the Saints. With this inexhaustible fund at her command, she has the means of satisfying the debts due from her children to the justice of GOD…Indulgences are either Plenary or Partial, according as a remission of all, or of part, of the debt of punishment due is granted. In either case the actual benefit obtained depends upon the dispositions of the penitent, and the care and accuracy he employs in fulfilling the conditions laid down.’ Ambrose St John (2009-05-30). The 1910 Raccolta or Collection of Indulgenced Prayers and Good Works (Kindle Locations 858-864,869-871). St Athanasius Press. Kindle Edition.

One of the treasures I came across was the recitation of the 3 Glory Be’s, once in the morning, once in the middle of the day, and once at evening, in thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for the graces and privileges granted to Our Lady, particularly in her Assumption. This would make a very easy Novena in preparation for Marian feast days, specially in preparation for the Assumption on August 15.

Another treasure is making the Sign of the Cross. For praying it properly with the words ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ there is a partial indulgence. That partial indulgence is doubled if the Sign of the Cross is made with holy water. The good news is that the indulgence implies each and every time the Sign of the Cross is made. Needless to say, I have been a bit more diligent about starting and finishing prayers with the Sign of the Cross since reading this.

How simple, and yet profound is this next treasure! It, too, can be prayed as many times a day as you wish, obtaining a partial indulgence each time. All a person has to do is pray the Glory Be 7 times asking God for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the spread of the Faith and the intentions of our holy Father, the Pope. This is short enough to pray each time before you teach or preach. If you are in the midst of a discussion at uni, work or elsewhere and you need an inspired answer to contribute to that discussion, it is short enough to pray under your breath, begging the Holy Spirit for His aid.

Another treasure that can be obtained frequently each day is praying ‘Jesus. my God, I adore You here present in the Sacrament of Your love’. It can be prayed on a visit to the Blessed Sacrament AND whenever passing by a church or chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Most people pass by a church or chapel on their way to work, to school or the shops. 

Often during the day in conversations, overheard in public places or on the television or other visual media we will be exposed to someone uttering a blasphemy (ie using the name of God or Jesus as a swear word or without any intent of prayer at all). As many times as such an assault on our ears occurs, praying ‘Blessed be God’, will attract a small partial indulgence. How easy is that!

Some of you might visit hospitals and nursing homes on a regular basis. Should you come across someone taking Holy Communion to the sick in those places and you feel inspired to follow them – go with that inspiration. There is a partial indulgence for anyone who accompanies the Blessed Sacrament carried to the sick.

Here is an indulgenced prayer that St Thomas Aquinas composed, to be used before beginning a study session or classroom teaching, which is short enough to commit to memory. ‘O merciful God, grant that I may eagerly desire, carefully search out, truthfully acknowledge, and ever perfectly fulfill all things which are pleasing to You, to the praise and glory of Your name. Amen.’ 

I’ve only scratched the veriest tip of the iceberg with these small offerings. Each one is Holy Mother Church saying to us, ‘Your brothers and sisters in the Faith who lived in centuries past found these prayers and spiritual practices extremely helpful for growing in holiness. With great love they are passed on to you. It is their hope and the Church’s hope that you will use at least some of them and experience great spiritual profit thereby. Don’t forget that these indulgences can be used to pay the debts of your loved ones suffering in Purgatory. Offering indulgences for them will greatly shorten their time of purification, advancing the moment of utter happiness when they are welcomed into Heaven by Jesus and all the Saints and Angels.’

All the holy Popes who approved these indulgences, especially Blessed Pius IX and St Pius X, pray for us.

Not just about dragons

Today, 23 April 2012, is the happy feast day of St George, one of the most well known martyrs of the Church and saintly patron of many professions, cities and countries. Most people think of him only in the context of slaying a dragon, but he is a far greater Christian witness and model than that.

St George was born in Cappadocia to Christian parents. When his father died, he traveled with his mother to Palestine, her native country. Humility, hunger for the things of God, self denial, self discipline and constant belief in the power of the sign of the Cross were characteristic of him. Because he was strong and fit George became a soldier in the army of the pagan emperor, Diocletian. His courage and fidelity made him one of Diocletian’s favourite soldiers.

One day he came across a city near a swamp, called Sylene, that had a dragon. When the city ran out of sheep to keep it from eating them, they chose lots to offer a maiden instead. Armoured with faith in the power of Jesus, George promised the latest maiden that he would deliver her with God’s aid. Having subdued the dragon George told the people not to fear, but to believe in Jesus and be baptized, and then he would kill the dragon, which he did. In gratutide George was offered magnificent gifts by the leaders ofthe city, but he refused them all. Instead he advised them to give these gifts to the poor and to take steps to encourage everyone to live as true members of the Church that Jesus founded upon the Apostles. 

When Diocletian decided to persecute the Christians, St George knew that he would soon face this persecution himself. So instead of waiting for the persecution to come to him, he actively prepared for spiritual battle. Giving all his possessions to the poor, George left the military and openly preached in public places about the one true God. Following his arrest and imprisonment George witnessed to faith in Jesus before the emperor and his court. For this he was tortured and imprisoned for a long time. He told the judge ‘ I despise your promises and do not fear your threats. The emperor’s power is of short duration, and his reign will soon end. It were better for you, to acknowledge the true God and to seek His kingdom.’ As a result of this a heavy block of stone was placed on his chest. The next day he was attached to a wheel set with knives, which was rolled around in order that the blades would cut into his body. During this, St George saw a vision of Jesus, who said to him, ‘George, fear not; I am with you.’

His patience, courage and cheerfulness under various extreme tortures caused many to become converted to Jesus and martyrs themselves. When the sentence of death was passed, George continued praying. Particularly he asked the good Lord that if anyone requested a favour of Him through George’s intercession that it would be granted. Heaven revealed that God accepted his petition. Finally, St George was led through the city of Lydda and beheaded, in Palestine, around the year 303. Ever since, all kinds of miracles, in every century, have been obtained through seeking St George’s intercession before the throne of God. 

St George is the patron saint of soldiers, boy scouts and of the country of England. 

St George, pray for us always.

Novena to St George

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, Saint George; favoured by God with the gift of faith, and inflamed with an ardent love of Christ, You fought valiantly against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, sword nor death could part you from the love of Christ. I fervently implore you for the sake of this love to help me by your intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry the cross which is placed upon me; and let neither distress nor difficulties separate me from the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Valiant champion of the Faith, assist me in the combat against evil, that I may win the crown promised to them that persevere unto the end. My Lord and my God! I offer up to You my petition in union with the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ, Your Son, together with the merits of His immaculate and blessed Mother, Mary ever Virgin, and of all the Saints, particularly with those of this Holy Helper in whose honour I make this novena. Look down upon me, merciful Lord! Grant me Your grace and Your love, and graciously hear my prayer. Amen.


Holiness has a long term impact

Today, 22 April 2012, is the memorial of St Opportuna, a Benedictine nun who lived in 8th century France. Her life must have been extraordinarily pleasing to God because amazing miracles have been worked down the centuries due to her intercession and many of her relics are still extant despite the many wars fought on French soil between 770 and the present. Considering that many people, over quite a number of centuries, took pains to preserve her relics speaks volumes about the continuing power of her intercession before the throne of God.

St Opportuna was born into a family of holiness, probably around the 710-720 mark. Her brother became St Chrodegang of Metz and a cousin of hers, St Lantildis, also achieved sanctity. For someone to become holy almost certainly requires belonging to a community of holy individuals. Any Saint we venerate is usually the peak of a local mountain of holiness and not a single luxurious tree in a whole valley of mediocrity. While she was still young, Opportuna entered the Benedictine convent near Almeneches in the diocese of Sees. Taking full advantage of the opportunities to grow closer to God through the full living out of the Benedictine Rule, she became a source of edification for all of those in the convent.

In time, Opportuna was elected abbess. Because she was so imbued with the love of Jesus, Opportuna was able to be a true mother to the nuns under her care and to guide them with well chosen words and good example. While it may have been commonplace for physical punishment to accompany infringements of the Rule in other convents of the time, Opportuna never had to resort to that.

One day a peasant decided to steal a donkey from the convent grounds. Even though the donkey definitely belonged to the convent, the peasant strenuously denied it. Instead of remonstrating with words, Opportuna turned to God and to prayer, begging Him to sort things out perfectly. The very next day the peasant was at the convent door with the donkey. Frightened, he told how he found his field covered in salt and useless for farming. Not only was he giving back he donkey, he wanted the nuns to have the now useless field as well.

Opportuna served as abbess until her health ran out. News of her brother’s death was a huge blow to her, and hastened her own. The happy day of her entry into eternity was 22 April 770 and there is a story about Our Lady appearing to Opportuna on her deathbed, but I have yet to have found any details of that event.

Following her death, Opportuna’s final resting place became a place of pilgrimage. Numerous miracles were granted to those who sought her intercession. One such case was the demon-afflicted wife who received healing and freedom through Opportuna’s intercession and who was called by God to separate from her husband and dedicate the rest of her life to His service.

As we have frequently seen, the good Lord loves to honour His Saints and to recall to the minds of His people their exemplary lives. Around a century after Opportuna’s death, a new bishop was appointed to Sees, but due to opposition he had trouble being installed as bishop. Turning to his local Saint, he promised that if he became bishop he would write an account of her life and her miracles. Her intercession worked, but the new bishop failed, initially, to keep his solemn promise. All kinds of trials beset him until he called on Opportuna again for help. Now he realised that his troubles were due to not keeping his vow, so as soon as he was able escape from his captors and to return to his diocese he set about writing about Opportuna’s holy life and powerful intercession.

So should you have a knotty difficult in your path, seek out the intercession of St Opportuna, and experience the long term impact of her holiness for yourself and those dear to you. I’m going to ask her to arrange the sorting out of a particular situation myself.

St Opportuna, so pleasing to God, pray for us.

Novena Prayer to St Opportuna

Dear Saint Opportuna, God granted you the grace to put Him in the first place in your life, and to generously serve Him in poverty, chastity and obedience under the Benedictine Rule. When ever you had troubles in life, you turned to God in prayer and obtained all you ever asked for, and more besides. As abbess you cared for all the needs of the religious women entrusted to you, their spiritual; needs and their temporal needs, depending upon the Providence of God. Even after your death, you are still pleading before God on behalf of all those who entrust themselves to your prayers. You have been successful in obtaining changes of heart among the clergy. Encouraged by this, I ask you to obtain for me all of the favours I seek (….here mention your requests ….). Dear St Opportuna, please take these prayers to your heart and obtain favourable answers for them all, as well as all of the spiritual and temporal graces I need to join you in Heaven praising God’s goodness. Amen.



In the fight against heresy there are casualties

Today, 21 April 2012, is the memorial of Blessed Bartholomew of Cervere, a Dominican monk and martyr. He lived and died in that region of northern Italy closest to the French border. To be able to call those in heresy back to truth, you need personal holiness and an excellent grasp of theological doctrine. For this purpose Blessed Bartholomew was highly suited.

Blessed Bartholomew of Cervere was born in Savigliano, within the Piedmont region of Italy around the year 1420. His family was a land owning one of influence, so young Bartholomew could have had quite a brilliant secular career had not God called him to serve as a Dominican. From quite early in life it was obvious that Bartholomew was an outstanding student. Accordingly, when he entered the Dominicans, they sent him to study in Turin. He continued to be academically impressive and obtained his dotorate, licentiate and postion on the teaching faculty on the same day. Learning of the ways of God is fruitless unless you put them into practice, and from all accounts Bartholomew’s piety was indeed as solid as his intellectual abilities.

Following a year teaching at the university he returned to the monastery. Here Bartholomew was twice elected to the position of prior – a role requiring great wisdom, sold virtue and a pastoral heart. From this base at Saviglino, Bartholomew proved to be highly gifted at helping those estranged from the Church by heresy to return home to the Catholic Church. Either because of these talents, or because someone really didn’t like him, or both, Bartholomew was apponted as an Inquisitor for the Piedmont region. 

It was now his special task to seek out heresy, and to eradicate it. The Cathars certainly had some odd ideas about God’s ways, yet they lived attractively ordered lives full of penitential practices. Being threatened by the Inquisition, some of the Cathars turned toward violence. To travel from town to town as an Inquisitor was to take the risk of being ambushed. All three men prior to Bartholomew’s appointment were martyred. It was a very risky business being an Inquistitor. To his credit, Bartholomew accepted the appointment.Perhaps partly his decision was based on obedience, perhaps partly to bring souls from error into the fulness of truth. He knew what he was getting himself into, and yet he continued to serve.

Having pleased Jesus with his success in bring souls back to the true faith, Bartholomew was shown mercy himself through the internal warnings given to him that Martyrdom was inevitable. Bartholomew quickly put his spiritual affairs in order by making a general confession – (by going over his whole life before a fellow-priest and confessing all the sins he remembered from that lifetime, both those already confessed and all those sins not yet confessed for the first time). Then he courageously set out towards the township of Cervere having been warned by God that ambush and death awaited him on the way, and that the name of that township would always be mentioned in connection with his life.

Sure enough Bartholomew and his assistants were set upon, but only Bartholomew died immediately from the stab wounds to his body. God was pleased to quickly bring attention to his martyrdom and holy life, by marking the place with a bright star and granting many miracles at his gravesite. 

Even though Bartholomew was a casualty in fight against heresy, that martyrdom of his was a catalyst for many to return to the Catholic faith. His death took place in 1466, and his beatification took place during the pontificate of Blessed Pius IX.

Blessed Bartholomew of Cervere, pray fo us.