Friday, September 30, 2016

Feast of St. Jerome, Doctor of the Church

Today is the feast of St. Jerome, Confessor and Doctor of the Church.


St. Jerome (+420): This irascible doctor is most famous for his translation of the Sacred Scriptures into Latin -- the Latin Vulgate.  A native of Dalmatia, he spent time both in Rome, working for Pope St. Damasus I, in the wilderness of Syria, and he ended his life in Bethlehem.

He is well known for his quotation: "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."

His exchange of letters with the younger St. Augustine is entertaining, indeed.  St. Jerome was known for being a bit of an irascible character and a number of his writings affirm that characterization.  He "plays to win" a wise man once observed to me.

Fore more you should consult:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Jerome

Catholic Saints Info: St. Jerome

On this site, you can find the text of a number of writings of St. Jerome in English translation.  Just scroll down the page to his alphabetical entry:
New Advent: Fathers of the Church

Of course, St. Jerome is buried in the Roman Archbasilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline Hill.  You can make a "virtual visit" here: Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore official site

I close with this text, the preface to his translation of the Gospels, addressed to Pope St. Damasus:
To the blessed Pope Damasus, from Jerome,
You urge me to make a new work from the old, and that I might sit as a kind of judge over the versions of Scripture dispersed throughout the whole world, and that I might resolve which among such vary, and which of these they may be which truly agree with the Greek. Pious work, yet perilous presumption, to change the old and aging language of the world , to carry it back to infancy, for to judge others is to invite judging by all of them. Is there indeed any learned or unlearned man, who when he picks up the volume in his hand, and takes a single taste of it, and sees what he will have read to differ, might not instantly raise his voice, calling me a forger, proclaiming me now to be a sacrilegious man, that I might dare to add, to change, or to correct anything in the old books? Against such infamy I am consoled by two causes: that it is you, who are the highest priest, who so orders, and truth is not to be what might vary, as even now I am vindicated by the witness of slanderers. If indeed faith is administered by the Latin version, they might respond by which, for they are nearly as many as the books! If, however, truth is to be a seeking among many, why do we not now return to the Greek originals to correct those mistakes which either through faulty translators were set forth, or through confident but unskilled were wrongly revised, or through sleeping scribes either were added or were changed? Certainly, I do not discuss the Old Testament, which came from the Seventy Elders in the Greek language, changing in three steps until it arrived with us 2. Nor do I seek what Aquila, or what Symmachus may think, or why Theodotion may walk the middle of the road between old and new. This may be the true translation which the Apostles have approved. I now speak of the New Testament, which is undoubtedly Greek, except the Apostle Matthew, who had first set forth the Gospel of Christ in Hebrew letters in Judea. This (Testament) certainly differs in our language, and is led in the way of different streams; it is necessary to seek the single fountainhead. I pass over those books which are called by the name of Lucian and Hesychius, for which a few men wrongly claim authority, who anyway were not allowed to revise either in the Old Instrument after the Seventy Translators, or to pour out revisions in the New; with the Scriptures previously translated into the languages of many nations, the additions may now be shown to be false.

Therefore, this present little preface promises only the four Gospels, the order of which is Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, revised in comparison with only old Greek books. They do not disagree with many familiar Latin readings, as we have kept our pen in control, but only those in which the sense will have been seen to have changed (from the Greek) are corrected; the rest remain as they have been.
We have also copied the lists which Eusebius the bishop of Caesarea, following Ammonius of Alexandria, set out in ten numbers, as they are had in the Greek, so that if any may then wish through diligence to make known what in the Gospels may be either the same, or similar, or singular, he may learn their differences. This is great, since indeed error has sunk into our books; while concerning the same thing, one Evangelist has said more, into another they have added because they thought it inferior; or while another has differently expressed the same sense, whichever one of the four he had read first, he will revise the other to the version he values most. Whence it happened how in our time that all have been mixed; in Mark are many things of Luke, and even of Matthew; turned backwards in Matthew are many things of John and of Mark, yet in the remaining others, they are found to be correct. When, therefore, you will have read the lists which are attached below, the confusion of errors is removed, and you will know all the similar passages, and the singular ones, wherever you may turn to. In the first list, the four agree, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John; in the second, three, Matthew, Mark, John; in the third, three, Matthew, Luke, John; in the fourth, three, Matthew, Mark, John; in the fifth, two, Matthew, Luke; in the sixth, two, Matthew, Mark; in the seventh, two, Matthew, John; in the eighth, two, Luke, Mark; in the ninth, two, Luke, John; in the tenth some peculiar ones are given which the others don't have. Separately in the Gospels are numbered sections of unequal length, beginning with one and increasing to the end of the books. This is written before the passage in black, and it has under it a red number, which shows to which of the ten (lists) to proceed, with the first number to be sought in the list. Therefore, when the book is open, for example, if you will wish to know of this or that chapter in which list they may be, you will immediately be shown by the lower number. Returning to the beginning (of the book) in which the different lists are brought together, and immediately finding the same lists by the title in front, by that same number which you had sought in the Evangelist, which you will find marked in the inscription, you may also view other similar passages, the numbers of which you may note there. And when you know them, you will return to the single volumes, and immediately finding the number which you will have noted before, you will learn the places in which either the same things or similar things were said.

I wish that in Christ you may be well, and that you will remember me, most blessed Pope.

Translated by Kevin P. Edgecomb, 27 July 1999, Berkeley, California.  As far as I am able to find, this is the first translation of the full letter into
English, modern or otherwise.  


Live well!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Michealmas: the Feast of St. Michael

St. Michael the Archangel by Guido Reni, 1636AD, in the Church of Santa Maria della Concezione in Rome, Italy.

Today is the great feast of St. Michael the Archangel!  While in the reformed calendar, it recalls alll of the archangels, traditionally the feast focused only on St. Michael -- Quis ut Deus.  As the birth of Christ is Christ's Mass, or "Christmas," so this was, to English speakers, Michael's Mass, or "Michaelmas."

St. Michael is mentioned in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament (10:13, 10:21, 12:1) several times in the New Testament, most notably in the book of Revelation:
"Chapter 12:7 Fierce war broke out in heaven, where Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought on their part, 8 but could not win the day, or stand their ground in heaven any longer; 9 the great dragon, serpent of the primal age, was flung down to earth; he whom we call the devil, or Satan, the whole world’s seducer, flung down to earth, and his angels with him. " []

Also, in the Epistle of St. Jude:
"Chapter 1:9 (And yet, when the archangel Michael held debate with the devil, in their dispute over the body of Moses, he did not venture to accuse him insultingly; he was content to say, May the Lord rebuke thee.)" []

St. Michael, then, is the champion of God against Satan, and an invaluable ally to the Faithful in their spiritual combat with the evil one.  For early Christians, interestingly enough, he was associated with healing and care of the sick.  Still, the health of the soul demands combat with Satan!  The prayer of Pope Leo XIII is, on that account, an excellent one on this feast:

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle;
be our defense against the wickedness
and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him,
we humbly pray.
And do thou,
O prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God
cast into hell
Satan and all the evil spirits
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio,
contra nequitiam
et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus,
supplices deprecamur:
Princeps militiae caelestis,
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum
pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute,
in infernum detrude. Amen.

For more on St. Michael the Archangel, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Michael the Archangel

Catholic Saints Info: St. Michael the Archangel

For a bit more on this glorious feast, traditionally known as Michaelmas in English, you should read on here:
Fisheaters: Michaelmas

Just because it is named for St. Michael, here is the great Mont St. Michel in France:

...and the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome -- originally just the Mausoleum of Hadrian -- with the holy Angel referenced in the title, and pictured on the top of the structure, being St. Michael the Archangel:

["Chateau-saint-ange-tibre" by 0x010C - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

St. Michael, defend us in battle!

This blog will say a bit more about the other archangels (St. Raphael in October and St. Gabriel in March) on their traditional feast days...

Live well!

Friday, September 23, 2016

St. Pio, St. Linus, & Ember Friday

Today, 23 September, we observe three occasions: the new Memorial of St. Pio, the traditional feast of Pope St. Linus, and the Ember Friday of September.

St. Pio saying Holy Mass.

Today is the relatively new feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina!

St. Pio was an Italian Capuchin that died in 1968AD at San Giovanni Rotondo in the region of Puglia, Italy.  He is rather and rightly famous for his extraordinary holiness, his devotion to Holy Mass and the Confessional, his miracles, and, of course, his stigmata.  He was the first priest to miraculously bear on his body the wounds of the Passion of Christ, this starting in 1918.

Here is the Vatican News Service biography of St. Pio: VNS Biography of St. Pio of Pietrelcina

For more:
Catholic Saints Info: St. Padre Pio

Here is the Italian page dedicated to him: Saint Pio Official Site


We should certainly also note the great pontiff whose feast this is.  Here is a link to information about Pope St. Linus, the first successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome, whose feast traditionally falls on this day: Catholics Saints Info: Pope St. Linus


Today is also the Ember Friday of September.  What is that you ask?

The Ember Days were traditionally a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, occurring in Lent, the Octave of Pentecost, this week in September, and in Advent,  These "Quatuor Tempora" had as their purpose, "besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy." (Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Ember Days).

For more on the Ember Days, you might note: Fisheaters: Ember Days

These days, then, four in number, like the seasons, were a time of gratitude, penance, and prayer.  Indeed, in the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, it provides that: "In the drawing up of the Calendar of a nation, the Rogation Days and Ember Days should be indicated (cf. no. 373), as well as the forms and texts for their celebration, and other special measures should also be kept in mind." (USCCB GIRM: Chapter IX)

Why the practice and celebration of Ember Days has largely disappeared, and is now restricted to traditional communities is tragic, and seemingly contrary to the instructions of Holy Mother Church.

Perhaps if it is not a custom you have, this is the year it will be revived in your family or parish?

Live well!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Autumnal Equinox

Detail from Strasbourg Cathedral; artwork inspired by St. Albert the Great.
["France Strasbourg Cathedral Tympanum" by Rebecca Kennison - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons]

Cæli enarrant gloriam Dei,
et opera manuum ejus annuntiat firmamentum. -- Psalm 19:1

Today happens to be the day of the Autumnal equinox.  This equinox will occur at precisely 10:21AM, Eastern Daylight Time (14:21 UT), this morning, 22 September 2016.

At that moment, the Sun crosses the celestial equator on its path along the ecliptic.

If the Earth sat directly upright on its axis, the Sun would always be directly overhead at noon on the equator, it would appear to move through the stars along the celestial equator, days would always remain the same length, and every day would be like the two equinox days in Spring and Fall -- every day like today. As it happens, the Earth is tilted at about 23.5 degrees on its axis. Thus, the sun appears to diverge as much as 23.5 degrees from the celestial equator in its apparent path through the stars (the ecliptic), and ends up being directly overhead up to 23.5 degrees north or south of the equator (the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) on the two solstice days. This is the reason, of course, for our seasons.

So, if we start at the vernal equinox in March, the sun is directly overhead at the equator at noon, and night and day are the same length. From then until the summer solstice, the Sun appears to move slowly to the north both in the sky, setting a bit further north of west each day, and in its apparent path through the constellations of the zodiac. This continues until the Sun reaches the solstice, where it stops, being directly overhead at 23.5 degrees north latitude (the Tropic of Cancer) at noon, and sitting about 23.5 degrees north of the celestial equator. From that point, the sun drifts back south until reaching the equator once more at the autumnal equinox in September, on this day, going all the way to 23.5 degrees south at the Winter Solstice.

File:Analemma Earth.png
This chart show the analemma for Earth, showing the relative locations of the Sun at noon at the Greenwich Observatory in England. Notice the change in both altitude and azimuth at the different points of the year.

The reason for all of this is that as the Earth orbits the Sun the two hemispheres of the Earth take turns being tilted toward the Sun. The following diagrams might help to illustrate what I am trying to articulate:

File:Ecliptic path.jpg
In this diagram, the sun appears to move against the background of the stars along the red line, the ecliptic, while the white line marks the celestial equator -- the imaginary line through space that is merely the extension of the Earth's equator. The two points where the red and white lines are at greatest divergence are the solstices, while the two points where the red and white lines cross are the two equinoxes. The yellow line shows what the sun would appear to be in front of from the Earth, the Constellation Pisces, at the vernal equinox.
["Ecliptic path" by Tauʻolunga - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

File:North season.jpg
This diagram shows the positions of the Earth in relation to the sun at those four points -- the Summer solstice on the left, with the Northern Hemisphere tilted toward the Sun, and the Winter solstice on the right, with the Southern Hemisphere facing the Sun more directly, with the two equinoxes between, with the Hemispheres equally oriented to the Sun.

So today, at the Autumnal Equinox, the sun shines directly overhead at the equator, and both hemispheres are equally lit!

For some excellent charts and information on length of days, sunset, sunrise, and the like, this site is splendid:

This site, too, allows you to customize your location and get a host of details on astronomical objects: Heavens Above

Live well!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Today, 21 September, is the feast day of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist.  He is, of course, famous for being the tax collector called by Our Lord from his table in Capernaum.  The account is recalled in the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, Chapter 9, verse 9.  St. Matthew, as we all should, responded immediately to the call: "Follow me."

The Calling of St. Matthew by Caravaggio, painted around 1600AD.  It hangs in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.  Notice the use of light with its origin behind Christ.

St. Matthew wrote the first of the synoptic Gospels.  His was addressed to an audience familiar and interested in the role of Christ in fulfilling the Old Covenant.  His Gospel memorably begins with the genealogy of Our Divine Lord.

It is said that after the Ascension of Christ, St. Matthew ended up preaching the Gospel in Palestine, and tradition points to his martyrdom in Ethiopia around 60AD while saying Mass.  His relics would end up in Salerno, Campania, Italy.  He is a primary patron of that city to this day, buried in the Cathedral named in his honor.  Here is a link to the cathedral's webpage -- note in particular the virtual tour (Visita virtuale) of the basilica, and, of course, "La Cripta" where St. Matthew is buried: Cathedral of Salerno Website

Cathedral of St. Matthew in Salerno, Italy, where the saint is buried -- the Church was consecrated in 1085AD. ["Salerno 2013-05-17 09-37-10" by Berthold Werner. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

He remains, of course, the patron saint of tax collectors, bankers, accountants, and Trier in Germany.

St. Bede the Venerable (+735AD) observes the following in a homily about St. Matthew:
“Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me.” Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men.” He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: “Follow me.” This following meant imitating the pattern of his life – not just walking after him. Saint John tells us: “Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” “And he rose and followed him.” There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.

Here is the Old Catholic Encyclopedia article on the Apostle and Evangelist: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Matthew

Finally, to close out my thoughts on St. Matthew, from the Patron Saint index: Catholic Saints Info: St. Matthew

Live well!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Feast of St. Januarius & His Liquefying Blood

Today is the feast of the bishop and martyr, St. Januarius (+305AD), or San Gennaro, patron of the city of Naples in southern Italy.

File:Saint Januarius.jpg
St. Januarius by Caravaggio (+1610AD).  The head in the corner reflects the manner in which the saint met his martyrdom.

St. Januarius, Bishop of Beneventum, was martyred in 305AD during the persecution of Diocletian, and this by beheading.  While we don't know a tremendous amount about his life, he is certainly famous for his patronage of the city of Naples, and of the liquefaction of a phial of his blood kept at the Cathedral on his feast day, today.

For a bit more about the saint, here is the patron saints index entry: Catholic Saints Info: St. Januarius of Naples

This is the text of the Acts of the Hieromartyr Januarius, which purports to elaborate on the details of his life and martyrdom: Catholic Saints Info: Life of Januarius

Finally, the Old Catholic Encyclopedia goes into a more detailed discussion of the annual miracle of the blood: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Januarius

The Cardinal-Archbishop of Naples holds the phial containing the blood.  It seems the waving of the white handkerchief is the signal that it has liquefied -- which usually, but not always, happens.

Here is an article, with some great photos, of the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius: Catholic Herald (UK): "The day I saw a saint’s blood become liquid" (2011)

Here is an account from an Italian source on the liquefaction as it happened in 2013: Gazzetta del Sud Article (2013)

Here is a link to a blog with some great video and information on the miracle, including from 2014 Fr. Z's Blog: The blood of San Gennaro liquefied!

Early, in March 2015, there was a unique occurrence of the miracle in the presence of Pope Francis.  It had never taken place at on "off time" before: Pope Francis in Naples & San Gennaro Miracle

UPDATED: Here is an article on the blood this year, 2016: National Catholic Register: Blood of St. Januarius

UPDATED II:  Yet another article on this year's event, 2016: Crux: Famed Blood Miracle

Live well!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino

On this 18th of September we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino, and Italian Franciscan priest that is famous as patron saint of pilots and of test takers.

San Giuseppe da Copertino si eleva in volo alla vista della Basilica di Loreto.jpg
St. Joseph of Cupertino by Ludovico Mazzanti (+1775AD)

St. Joseph of Cupertino was born in Apulia in a stable, as his mother turned out of their home to pay for his deceased father's debts.  St. Joseph was known for both his spiritual experiences and his poor intellectual talents.  It took multiple tries for him to successfully enter religious life.  Eventually he was accepted into the Conventual Franciscans in 1625, after some time working for them and impressing them with his simplicity and devotion.  In a series of events that make him a patron of test takers, he managed to receive ordination to the priesthood in 1628, despite his poor academic abilities.

As a priest, St. Joseph was noted for, among other things, his falling in ecstasy when around holy thing and his practice of miraculous levitation.  Aside from earning for him a place as patron saint of pilots, it also resulted in him being restricted in his public ministry, and being denounced to the Inquisition.

St. Joseph of Cupertino died in 1663AD, and was canonized in 1753.

He is buried in Osimo, in the region of Marche.  The official website of the Church where he is buried can be found here: San Giuseppe Da Copertino

For more information on this saint, you might note:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Joseph of Cupertino

Catholic Saints Info: St. Joseph of Cupertino

Live well!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Memorial of St. Robert Bellarmine, SJ: Cardinal & Doctor

File:Saint Robert Bellarmine.png
St. Robert Bellarmine, SJ (+1621)

This blog, Ars bene moriendi, is named for the great work of the Jesuit, Cardinal, and Doctor of the Church, St. Robert Bellarmine.  This 17th century Saint of the Church was a great champion of the "counter Reformation" and, traditionally, his feast day was observed on 13 May.  In the revised calendar of 1970, the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine was transferred to 17 September, which is the anniversary of his death in 1621AD.

St. Robert was a great scholar and a great saint.  The Old Catholic Encyclopedia notes of his life: "A distinguished Jesuit theologian, writer, and cardinal, born at Montepulciano, 4 October, 1542; died 17 September, 1621. His father was Vincenzo Bellarmino, his mother Cinthia Cervini, sister of Cardinal Marcello Cervini, afterwards Pope Marcellus II. He was brought up at the newly founded Jesuit college in his native town, and entered the Society of Jesus on 20 September, 1560, being admitted to his first vows on the following day. The next three years he spent in studying philosophy at the Roman College, after which he taught the humanities first at Florence, then at Mondovì. In 1567 he began his theology at Padua, but in 1569 was sent to finish it at Louvain, where he could obtain a fuller acquaintance with the prevailing heresies. Having been ordained there, he quickly obtained a reputation both as a professor and a preacher, in the latter capacity drawing to his pulpit both Catholics and Protestants, even from distant parts. In 1576 he was recalled to Italy, and entrusted with the chair of Controversies recently founded at the Roman College. He proved himself equal to the arduous task, and the lectures thus delivered grew into the work "De Controversiis" which, amidst so much else of excellence, forms the chief title to his greatness. This monumental work was the earliest attempt to systematize the various controversies of the time, and made an immense impression throughout Europe, the blow it dealt to Protestantism being so acutely felt in Germany and England that special chairs were founded in order to provide replies to it. Nor has it even yet been superseded as the classical book on its subject-matter, though, as was to be expected, the progress of criticism has impaired the value of some of its historical arguments.

In 1588 Bellarmine was made Spiritual Father to the Roman College, but in 1590 he went with Cardinal Gaetano as theologian to the embassy Sixtus V was then sending into France to protect the interests of the Church amidst the troubles of the civil wars....Gaetano's mission now terminating, Bellarmine resumed his work as Spiritual Father, and had the consolation of guiding the last years of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, who died in the Roman College in 1591. Many years later he had the further consolation of successfully promoting the beatification of the saintly youth. Likewise at this time he sat on the final commission for the revision of the Vulgate text. This revision had been desired by the Council of Trent, and subsequent popes had laboured over the task and had almost brought it to completion....In 1592 Bellarmine was made Rector of the Roman College, and in 1595 Provincial of Naples. In 1597 Clement VIII recalled him to Rome and made him his own theologian and likewise Examiner of Bishops and Consultor of the Holy Office. Further, in 1599 he made him Cardinal-Priest of the title of Santa Maria in viâ, alleging as his reason for this promotion that 'the Church of God had not his equal in learning'."

The Old Catholic Encyclopedia concludes by describing him thus: "His spirit of prayer, his singular delicacy of conscience and freedom from sin, his spirit of humility and poverty, together with the disinterestedness which he displayed as much under the cardinal's robes as under the Jesuit's gown, his lavish charity to the poor, and his devotedness to work, had combined to impress those who knew him intimately with the feeling that he was of the number of the saints."

He lived, then, in the era of the Reforms of Trent, the French Wars of Religion, the reign of James I of England, and the Galileo Case, each of which was a matter that St. Robert, as a prince of the Church, had occasion to deal with.  He would die in 1621, and is buried in the Jesuit Church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome.

The Apse of the Roman Church of Sant'Ignazio, where St. Robert is buried.
["Lazio Roma SIgnazio tango7174" by Tango7174 - Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons]

Here is the website of the Church where he is buried in Rome: Chiesa di Sant'Ignazio

St. Robert was canonized in 1930 by Pope Pius XI and named a Doctor of the Church.  His feast until the reforms of Paul VI fell on 13 May -- it was moved to 17 September to correspond to the day of his death in that reform.

For a more detailed life of St. Robert, you might note these links:
Old Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Robert Bellarmine

Catholic Saints Info: St. Robert Bellarmine

For the text of his great work, Ars bene moriendi, on living and dying well, you should visit here:
St. Robert Bellarmine, Ars bene moriendi

In closing, it is interesting to note that, prior to his election, Pope Francis held the title of Cardinal-Priest of San Roberto Bellarmino.

Live well!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

On this day we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, or the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

File:The Madonna in Sorrow.jpg
The Madonna in Sorrow by Il Sassoferrato (+1685AD)

It was she, the Mother of God, that Simeon foretold would have her soul pierced by a sword, as we read in the Gospel according to St. Luke: "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel and for a sign which shall be contradicted. 35 And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed." (St. Luke 2:34-35).

Traditionally, Christians recall, in particular, Seven Sorrows associated with St. Mary:

  • at the prophecy of Simeon;
  • at the flight into Egypt;
  • having lost the Holy Child at Jerusalem;
  • meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary;
  • standing at the foot of the Cross;
  • Jesus being taken from the Cross;
  • at the burial of Christ.

  • The history of the feast, and the source of that list can be found here: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

    Surely, however we might suffer, the Blessed Mother has endured so much more, and can thus, sympathize with our plight, and intercede for us!

    The great hymn associated with the Sorrows of Our Lady is the Stabat Mater, which I present here:
    STABAT Mater dolorosa
    iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,
    dum pendebat Filius.
    AT, the Cross her station keeping,
    stood the mournful Mother weeping,
    close to Jesus to the last.
    Cuius animam gementem,
    contristatam et dolentem
    pertransivit gladius.
    Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
    all His bitter anguish bearing,
    now at length the sword has passed.
    O quam tristis et afflicta
    fuit illa benedicta,
    mater Unigeniti!
    O how sad and sore distressed
    was that Mother, highly blest,
    of the sole-begotten One.
    Quae maerebat et dolebat,
    pia Mater, dum videbat
    nati poenas inclyti.
    Christ above in torment hangs,
    she beneath beholds the pangs
    of her dying glorious Son.
    Quis est homo qui non fleret,
    matrem Christi si videret
    in tanto supplicio?
    Is there one who would not weep,
    whelmed in miseries so deep,
    Christ's dear Mother to behold?
    Quis non posset contristari
    Christi Matrem contemplari
    dolentem cum Filio?
    Can the human heart refrain
    from partaking in her pain,
    in that Mother's pain untold?
    Pro peccatis suae gentis
    vidit Iesum in tormentis,
    et flagellis subditum.
    Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
    she beheld her tender Child
    All with scourges rent:
    Vidit suum dulcem Natum
    moriendo desolatum,
    dum emisit spiritum.
    For the sins of His own nation,
    saw Him hang in desolation,
    Till His spirit forth He sent.
    Eia, Mater, fons amoris
    me sentire vim doloris
    fac, ut tecum lugeam.
    O thou Mother! fount of love!
    Touch my spirit from above,
    make my heart with thine accord:
    Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
    in amando Christum Deum
    ut sibi complaceam.
    Make me feel as thou hast felt;
    make my soul to glow and melt
    with the love of Christ my Lord.
    Sancta Mater, istud agas,
    crucifixi fige plagas
    cordi meo valide.
    Holy Mother! pierce me through,
    in my heart each wound renew
    of my Savior crucified:
    Tui Nati vulnerati,
    tam dignati pro me pati,
    poenas mecum divide.
    Let me share with thee His pain,
    who for all my sins was slain,
    who for me in torments died.
    Fac me tecum pie flere,
    crucifixo condolere,
    donec ego vixero.
    Let me mingle tears with thee,
    mourning Him who mourned for me,
    all the days that I may live:
    Iuxta Crucem tecum stare,
    et me tibi sociare
    in planctu desidero.
    By the Cross with thee to stay,
    there with thee to weep and pray,
    is all I ask of thee to give.
    Virgo virginum praeclara,
    mihi iam non sis amara,
    fac me tecum plangere.
    Virgin of all virgins blest!,
    Listen to my fond request:
    let me share thy grief divine;
    Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
    passionis fac consortem,
    et plagas recolere.
    Let me, to my latest breath,
    in my body bear the death
    of that dying Son of thine.
    Fac me plagis vulnerari,
    fac me Cruce inebriari,
    et cruore Filii.
    Wounded with His every wound,
    steep my soul till it hath swooned,
    in His very Blood away;
    Flammis ne urar succensus,
    per te, Virgo, sim defensus
    in die iudicii.
    Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
    lest in flames I burn and die,
    in His awful Judgment Day.
    Christe, cum sit hinc exire,
    da per Matrem me venire
    ad palmam victoriae.
    Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
    by Thy Mother my defense,
    by Thy Cross my victory;
    Quando corpus morietur,
    fac, ut animae donetur
    paradisi gloria. Amen.
    While my body here decays,
    may my soul Thy goodness praise,
    safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.

    From the Liturgia Horarum. Translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878)

    Here is that great hymn chanted:

    Finally, here is that hymn, the Stabat Mater, in a setting by Claudio Casciolini (+1760AD):

    UPDATED: The New Liturgical Movement post this article for the feast on a newly discovered aspect of the history of the sequence: New Liturgical Movement: Recent Discoveries on the Origins of the Stabat Mater

    Live well!

    Wednesday, September 14, 2016

    Exaltation of the Cross & its History

    Today is the Feast of the Triumph or Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  On this day we recall the instrument of our salvation: Behold the Wood of the Cross on which hung the Salvation of the World!

    Cristo crucificado.jpg
    The Crucifixion by Diego Velazquez, 1632AD

    You might read, further: Fisheaters: Roodmas (This entry focuses on the Finding of the Cross, "Roodmas," by St. Helen, which was originally celebrated on 3 May, but has since been combined with the September celebration)

    Old Catholic Encyclopedia: True Cross (This notes the origins of both Finding and Exaltation, which are now celebrated on the same day.)

    Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Mount Calvary

    The Communion Antiphon for this feast is splendid, indeed: Per signum Crucis de inimicis nostris libera nos, Deus noster.  By the sign of the Cross, deliver us from our enemies, O Thou our God.

    Most folks are not familiar with the historical origin of this September feast day, and the circumstances that gave rise to this particular observance.  Let us turn our thoughts back to the 7th century, in the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, where the Emperor is Heraclius I.

    Heraclius I (610-641) was son of the governor of Africa – and he was a Catholic.  Persia, the Sassanid Empire, would be his first concern.  There had been a long standing feud between these two Empires – indeed, Emperor Valerian had been stuffed with straw after being captured by them in the 200sAD.

    The war with Chosroes II was not going well at all for the Byzantines, as Heraclius was still trying to gain full control of the Empire.  The Persian offensive launched in 611 overran Syria, Antioch, the Holy Land, and much of Asia Minor.  A counterattack in 613 was fruitless.  On Easter, in 614, Jerusalem was besieged, and would be sacked by the Persians.  It fell after a thirty day siege and a three day rampage, and major portions of the True Cross were lost to these pagans, who gave the city to the Jews.  Persian Christians, it would seem, did ensure that the relic was preserved.  In 616 Alexandria and Egypt fell to the Persians – 80,000 thought killed in the city.

    File:Piero della Francesca 021.jpg
    A fresco of a battle between Heraclius and the Sassinid Persian forces by Piero della Francesca (+1492AD).

    At this point, Heraclius contemplated falling back to Africa, and abandon Constantinople itself.  The Patriarch Sergius, however, offered the treasures of the Church to the Emperor to fund a defense.  In 622 Heraclius and his trained army was ready to march – to get the venture off on the right foot they attended a huge liturgy at the Cathedral, and marched with image of Our Lord.  This was it – the final hope of the Christian Empire.  Heraclius marched into the mountains above Armenia in the winter of 623 – and won three battles!  The next year (624), with his force of 120,000 he invaded Armenia itself, avoiding Persian traps.  In 625, he smashed several Persian armies, and turned to Persia itself.  In 626 a Slav-Avar army under Persian command besieged Constantinople.  Heraclius had sent a relief force under his brother that saved the city – it had held out long enough with the encouragement of the Patriarch.  This forced then rejoined Heraclius for the final march into Persia in 627 – plus Mongol allies.  The commander of the Persian army fought Heraclius in one-on-one combat, and the Emperor killed him!  Victory!  Chrosroes II was killed the next year, in 628!

    File:Bernat, Martin Saint Helena & Heraclius taking the Holy Cross to Jerusalem.jpg
    Heraclius returning the Cross to Jerusalem by Miguel Bernat, image from 1480AD.

    The Persian agreed to withdraw from the Empire and return the cross – and in 630AD Emperor Heraclius carried the relics of the True Cross into Jerusalem himself – the origin of our Feast of the Triumph of the cross.

    Recommended Source: Byzantium at War by Haldon

    Live well!

    Monday, September 12, 2016

    Holy Name of Mary & Vienna 1683AD

    Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.  It was instituted by Blessed Pope Innocent XI to honor the name of she who said Fiat to the angel Gabriel and accepted the Divine Will in bringing about the Incarnation of Christ for the Salvation of Mankind.

    You might read here for some more specifically on the feast: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Feast of the Holy Name of Mary

    File:Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg 
    The Virgin in Prayer by Giovanni Batitsta Salvi da Sassoferrato (+1685AD)

    Before I move to recall the great historical event and battle that inspired the feast, you might enjoy this polyphonic setting of the Ave Maria by Tomas Luis Victoria:

    The origin of having this commemoration of the Name of Mary on 12 September dates to the 17th century.  The feast was instituted by Blessed Innocent XI in gratitude to Our Lady for the victory given to Christian arms at the Austrian city of Vienna, which, in 1683AD, was harried by the conquering forces of the Islamic Ottoman Empire.

    Blessed Pope Innocent XI (reigned 1676-1689AD)

    Coming into the campaign against Vienna, the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed IV, ruling a rejuvenated      Empire and looked to crush the Christian world.  His military commander and Grand Vizier, was Kara Mustafa.  Aside from their own forces, the Ottomans could rely on Protestant Hungarian rebel allies.  Standing in the way of their goals of conquest was the Holy Roman Empire, under Leopold I, and the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania, under John III Sobieski.  In the campaign that would take place in 1683, Charles, Duke of Lorraine, commanded the Imperial forces, Sobieski the Poles, and Count Ernst von Starhemberg commanded the garrison of Vienna.
    In May 1683, a massive Ottoman army of 100,000+ sat in Belgrade when Mehmed IV gave Kara Mustafa leave to begin an invasion.
    By July, the Ottomans were at the border of the Empire and the Duke of Lorraine withdrew his forces rather than give battle at their first meeting in Hungary.  Lorraine only had about 22,000 troops with which to confront the massive Islamic force.  The Duke of Lorraine fell back to Vienna – and Emperor Leopold I along with 60,000 residents evacuated the capital on 7 July.  At that point Ottoman raiders in the vanguard of their army were within 40km of the city.  The main army was not far behind, and on 11 July a pile of heads of the councilmen of the town of Hainburg rolled at the feet of Mustafa -- this army was leaving destruction in its wake.  The Imperial forces held a council on 12 July, and it was decided that the main force under Lorraine would withdraw further (in order to wait for anticipated reinforcements) while Count von Starhemberg would remain in the city with but 12,000 troops.  On 13 July Kara Mustafa first beheld the city and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  The siege and bombardment began the next day after Von Starhemberg declined the request to accept Islam. (The Ottomans deployed 20,000 to the siege, and left 70,000 to protect their force against a relief attack)  So it begins.  Meanwhile, elsewhere, a rebel Hungarian army (with 25,000) attempted to reach Vienna to help the Turks, but the outmatched Charles of Lorraine (with 10,000) beat them at the Battle of Pressburg (Bratislava) on 30 July.  The Duke of Lorraine called for help and reinforcements from the Emperor, Bavaria, Saxony, and Poland.

    St. Stephen's Cathedral exterior, Vienna, Austria.  Watercolor by Jakob Alt, 1847.
    Meanwhile, in Vienna, the siege of horrific.  The Turks elected not to outright storm the city, but to lay siege to it.  The cannons weren’t the best, and Vienna had good defenses – including a ravelin in front of the main city walls.  The Turks dug a series of trenches to approach the walls, and then, on 23 July, early in the morning, they detinated a mine to demolish the city walls.  The Austrians would begin countermining on 26 July.  By August the mining was quite intense.  12 August saw double mines go off that filled in a section of the moat – the Ottoman assault that followed was fierce, but resisted, with the ill Count von Starhemberg leading his forces in person.  The pattern of the siege was this: artillery in the morning, mines in the later afternoon, assault, and night repairs.  Occasionally, as on 25 August, the     Austrians made sorties out of the city.
    File:Battle of Vienna 1683 11.PNG
    The Battle of Vienna, 1683.  Artist unknown.

    September started grimly – a section of wall collapsed from mining on 2 Sept, and on 4 Sept the Turks launched a major assault.  The city held, however.  A double mine attack on 8 Sept weakened another section of the wall – and the situation for the Austrian cause was becoming critical.  Vienna had only 4,000 fit men left in its garrison.  Then, that very night, rockets were seen in the forests to the northwest – the relief army was approaching.  It consisted of: the Duke of Lorraine (now with 18,000 men), John George III of Saxony (9,000), Bavaria (20,000), and John III Sobieski with his Polish force (37,000).  They were in position to attack the Turks on 11 Sept from the heights to the west of Vienna(Kahlenberg).  On 12 September, the battle was on – a field fight outside the city.  The Battle cry: Jesus and Mary Help!  The Imperial German forces formed the left wing of the relief army, while the Poles formed the right wing.  The Christian armies launch their attack at 8:00AM – the Poles on the right took longer to emerge from the woods and swing into the battlefield, and did so at 2:00PM to cheers, and by 6:00PM the Turkish army, despite counter strikes, was exhausted and in full retreat.  They were defeated and Vienna was saved!  Jan III Sobieski wrote to Blessed Pope Innocent XI:  "Venimus, Vidimus, Deus vicit"   "We came, we saw, God conquered."  On 14 September 1683, John III met Emperor Leopold I and the two heard Mass at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

    File:Grottger-Jan III Sobieski i Leopold I pod Schwechat.jpg 
    Jan III Sobieski meeting Emperor Leopold I by Artur Grottger (+1867AD)

    The war with the Turks would continue, but they never again threatened central Europe.  On Christmas, 1683, Kara Mustafa was strangled with a silken cord for his failure.

    St. Stephen's Cathedral interior, Vienna, Austria.
    ["Stephansdom Wien 2" by Aconcagua - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons]

    Trivia: The Croissant is thought to have come from the siege of Vienna, as a reminder of who caused the bread shortage.  Also, the Austrians captured coffee from the Turks, and John d’Aviano, a Capuchin chaplain added milk and honey to sweeten it: this is said to be the origin of cappuccino!  Also, the cannons of the Turks were melted to make the largest bell of the cathedral: the massive Pummerin.

    Go ahead, take a listen to the bell Pummerin:

    Recommended Source: Vienna 1683 by Simon Millar and Peter Dennis.

    Live Well!

    Sunday, September 11, 2016

    9/11 and Zenta: Remember

    This date is associated with the horrible tragedy of the events of 2001AD, and the great courage of some of those that selflessly reacted to such a vile and cowardly destruction of innocent life.

    We ought not forget, however, that today is also the anniversary of one of the most decisive and crushing defeats ever sustained by an Islamic army.

    On 11 September 1697 the Islamic Ottoman Empire was dealt a crippling blow.  Never again would this once powerful Empire seriously threaten the Christian world as it had.  This was the Battle of Zenta.  Deus lo vult!

    File:Prinz Eugene of Savoy.PNG
    Prince Eugene of Savoy by Jacob von Schuppen.

    The great strategist and general, Prince Eugene of Savoy, who would later make his mark in the War of the Spanish Succession led the army of the Holy League (primarily an Imperial army of Germans, Austrians, and Hungarians) against the Ottomans in the area of what is now Serbia.  At Zenta, or Senta, the Christian force of about 50,000 was able to set upon and strike a surprised Ottoman army of 100,000 as they were in the process of fording the River Tisa.

    File:Battle of Zenta.png
    The Battle of Zenta by Parrocel.

    Despite being much larger, and under the direct command of the Sultan Mustafa II and his Grand Vizier, panic took the Islamic host, and the victory of the Holy League was complete: Prince Eugene lost 500 men killed and just 1,500 wounded to 20,000-30,000 Ottoman killed or drowned in the river.  This was as lopsided and dramatic a victory as you will find in the annals of history.
    (cf., Encyclopedia Britannica: Battle of Zenta)

    This victory resulted in the great 1699 Treaty of Karlowitz in which the Ottoman Empire was forced to cede Hungary and Transylvania.  The Islamic power that just a few years before, in 1683AD, was able to threaten the Imperial capital at Vienna, Austria, was humbled.

    Even as we mourn those tragically murdered on this day in 2001, let us also drink a toast to the victory of 1697AD.  Deus lo vult!

    Live well!

    Thursday, September 8, 2016

    Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

    Today, 8 September, falls nine months after the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: today is the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In other words, the birthday of the mother of Jesus Christ.

    File:Giotto - Scrovegni - -07- - The Birth of the Virgin.jpg
    The Birth of the Virgin by Giotto (+1337AD)

    You can read about the history of this feast day here: Old Catholic Encyclopedia on Nativity of Our Lady.

    This site has a bit more about the feast day, as well: From Goffine's Devout Instructions

    On the occasion of the feast, here is a setting of the Magnificat by Spanish-born Hernando Franco (+1585AD) who would be musically active in Guatemala and Mexico:

    Finally, it seems fitting to quote from the Encyclical Letter of Pope St. Pius X, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, published in 1904.  He writes, in part:

    "10. For is not Mary the Mother of Christ? Then she is our Mother also. And we must in truth hold that Christ, the Word made Flesh, is also the Savior of mankind. He had a physical body like that of any other man: and again as Savior of the human family, he had a spiritual and mystical body, the society, namely, of those who believe in Christ. "We are many, but one sole body in Christ" (Rom. xii., 5). Now the Blessed Virgin did not conceive the Eternal Son of God merely in order that He might be made man taking His human nature from her, but also in order that by means of the nature assumed from her He might be the Redeemer of men. For which reason the Angel said to the Shepherds: "To-day there is born to you a Savior who is Christ the Lord" (Luke ii., 11). Wherefore in the same holy bosom of his most chaste Mother Christ took to Himself flesh, and united to Himself the spiritual body formed by those who were to believe in Him. Hence Mary, carrying the Savior within her, may be said to have also carried all those whose life was contained in the life of the Savior. Therefore all we who are united to Christ, and as the Apostle says are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones (Ephes. v., 30), have issued from the womb of Mary like a body united to its head. Hence, though in a spiritual and mystical fashion, we are all children of Mary, and she is Mother of us all. Mother, spiritually indeed, but truly Mother of the members of Christ, who are we (S. Aug. L. de S. Virginitate, c. 6).

    11. If then the most Blessed Virgin is the Mother at once of God and men, who can doubt that she will work with all diligence to procure that Christ, Head of the Body of the Church (Coloss. i., 18), may transfuse His gifts into us, His members, and above all that of knowing Him and living through Him (I John iv., 9)?

    12. Moreover it was not only the prerogative of the Most Holy Mother to have furnished the material of His flesh to the Only Son of God, Who was to be born with human members (S. Bede Ven. L. Iv. in Luc. xl.), of which material should be prepared the Victim for the salvation of men; but hers was also the office of tending and nourishing that Victim, and at the appointed time presenting Him for the sacrifice. Hence that uninterrupted community of life and labors of the Son and the Mother, so that of both might have been uttered the words of the Psalmist"My life is consumed in sorrow and my years in groans" (Ps xxx., 11). When the supreme hour of the Son came, beside the Cross of Jesus there stood Mary His Mother, not merely occupied in contemplating the cruel spectacle, but rejoicing that her Only Son was offered for the salvation of mankind, and so entirely participating in His Passion, that if it had been possible she would have gladly borne all the torments that her Son bore (S. Bonav. 1. Sent d. 48, ad Litt. dub. 4). And from this community of will and suffering between Christ and Mary she merited to become most worthily the Reparatrix of the lost world (Eadmeri Mon. De Excellentia Virg. Mariae, c. 9) and Dispensatrix of all the gifts that Our Savior purchased for us by His Death and by His Blood.

    13. It cannot, of course, be denied that the dispensation of these treasures is the particular and peculiar right of Jesus Christ, for they are the exclusive fruit of His Death, who by His nature is the mediator between God and man. Nevertheless, by this companionship in sorrow and suffering already mentioned  between the Mother and the Son, it has been allowed to the august Virgin to be the most powerful mediatrix and advocate of the whole world with her Divine Son (Pius IX. Ineffabilis). The source, then, is Jesus Christ "of whose fullness we have all received" (John i., 16), "from whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in charity" (Ephesians iv., 16). But Mary, as St. Bernard justly remarks, is the channel (Serm. de temp on the Nativ. B. V. De Aquaeductu n. 4); or, if you will, the connecting portion the function of which is to join the body to the head and to transmit to the body the influences and volitions of the head -- We mean the neck. Yes, says St. Bernardine of Sienna, "she is the neck of Our Head, by which He communicates to His mystical body all spiritual gifts" (Quadrag. de Evangel. aetern. Serm. x., a. 3, c. iii.).

    14. We are then, it will be seen, very far from attributing to the Mother of God a productive power of grace -- a power which belongs to God alone. Yet, since Mary carries it over all in holiness and union with Jesus Christ, and has been associated by Jesus Christ in the work of redemption, she merits for us "de congruo," in the language of theologians, what Jesus Christ merits for us "de condigno," and she is the supreme Minister of the distribution of graces. Jesus "sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high" (Hebrews i. b.). Mary sitteth at the right hand of her Son -- a refuge so secure and a help so trusty against all dangers that we have nothing to fear or to despair of under her guidance, her patronage, her protection. (Pius IX. in Bull Ineffabilis).

    15. These principles laid down, and to return to our design, who will not see that we have with good reason claimed for Mary that -- as the constant companion of Jesus from the house at Nazareth to the height of Calvary, as beyond all others initiated to the secrets of his Heart, and as the distributor, by right of her Motherhood, of the treasures of His merits,-she is, for all these reasons, a most sure and efficacious assistance to us for arriving at the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Those, alas! furnish us by their conduct with a peremptory proof of it, who seduced by the wiles of the demon or deceived by false doctrines think they can do without the help of the Virgin. Hapless are they who neglect Mary under pretext of the honor to be paid to Jesus Christ! As if the Child could be found elsewhere than with the Mother!

    16. Under these circumstances, Venerable Brethren, it is this end which all the solemnities that are everywhere being prepared in honor of the holy and Immaculate Conception of Mary should have in view. No homage is more agreeable to her, none is sweeter to her than that we should know and really love Jesus Christ. Let then crowds fill the churches -- let solemn feasts be celebrated and public rejoicings be made: these are things eminently suited for enlivening our faith. But unless heart and will be added, they will all be empty forms, mere appearances of piety. At such a spectacle, the Virgin, borrowing the words of Jesus Christ, would address us with the just reproach: "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Matth. xv., 8).

    17. For to be right and good, worship of the Mother of God ought to spring from the heart; acts of the body have here neither utility nor value if the acts of the soul have no part in them. Now these latter can only have one object, which is that we should fully carry out what the divine Son of Mary commands. For if true love alone has the power to unite the wills of men, it is of the first necessity that we should have one will with Mary to serve Jesus our Lord. What this most prudent Virgin said to the servants at the marriage feast of Cana she addresses also to us: "Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye" (John ii., 5).

    Now here is the word of Jesus Christ: "If you would enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. xix., 17). Let them each one fully convince himself of this, that if his piety towards the Blessed Virgin does not hinder him from sinning, or does not move his will to amend an evil life, it is a piety deceptive and Iying, wanting as it is in proper effect and its natural fruit.

    18. If anyone desires a confirmation of this it may easily be found in the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. For leaving aside tradition which, as well as Scripture, is a source of truth, how has this persuasion of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin appeared so conformed to the Catholic mind and feeling that it has been held as being one, and as it were inborn in the soul of the faithful? "We shrink from saying," is the answer of Dionysius of Chartreux, "of this woman who was to crush the head of the serpent that had been crushed by him and that Mother of God that she had ever been a daughter of the Evil One" (Sent. d. 3, q. 1). No, to the Christian intelligence the idea is unthinkable that the flesh of Christ, holy, stainless, innocent, was formed in the womb of Mary of a flesh which had ever, if only for the briefest moment, contracted any stain. And why so, but because an infinite opposition separates God from sin? There certainly we have the origin of the conviction common to all Christians that Jesus Christ before, clothed in human nature, He cleansed us from our sins in His blood, accorded Mary the grace and special privilege of being preserved and exempted, from the first moment of her conception, from all stain of original sin.

    19. If then God has such a horror of sin as to have willed to keep free the future Mother of His Son not only from stains which are voluntarily contracted but, by a special favor and in prevision of the merits of Jesus Christ, from that other stain of which the sad sign is transmitted to all us sons of Adam by a sort of hapless heritage: who can doubt that it is a duty for everyone who seeks by his homage to gain the heart of Mary to correct his vicious and depraved habits and to subdue the passions which incite him to evil?

    20. Whoever moreover wishes, and no one ought not so to wish, that his devotion should be worthy of her and perfect, should go further and strive might and main to imitate her example. It is a divine law that those only attain everlasting happiness who have by such faithful following reproduced in themselves the form of the patience and sanctity of Jesus Christ: "for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be made conformable to the image of His Son; that He might be the first-born amongst many brethren" (Romans viii., 29). But such generally is our infirmity that we are easily discouraged by the greatness of such an example: by the providence of God, however, another example is proposed to us, which is both as near to Christ as human nature allows, and more nearly accords with the weakness of our nature. And this is no other than the Mother of God. "Such was Mary," very pertinently points out St. Ambrose, "that her life is an example for all." And, therefore, he rightly concludes: "Have then before your eyes, as an image, the virginity and life of Mary from whom as from a mirror shines forth the brightness of chastity and the form of virtue" (De Virginib. L. ii., c. ii.)

    21. Now if it becomes children not to omit the imitation of any of the virtues of this most Blessed Mother, we yet wish that the faithful apply themselves by preference to the principal virtues which are, as it were, the nerves and joints of the Christian life -- we mean faith, hope, and charity towards God and our neighbor. Of these virtues the life of Mary bears in all its phases the brilliant character; but they attained their highest degree of splendor at the time when she stood by her dying Son. Jesus is nailed to the cross, and the malediction is hurled against Him that "He made Himself the Son of God" (John xix., 7). But she unceasingly recognized and adored the divinity in Him. She bore His dead body to the tomb, but never for a moment doubted that He would rise again. Then the love of God with which she burned made her a partaker in the sufferings of Christ and the associate in His passion; with him moreover, as if forgetful of her own sorrow, she prayed for the pardon of the executioners although they in their hate cried out: "His blood be upon us and upon our children" (Matth. xxvii., 25)."

    Live well!