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Monday, September 30, 2013

Blessed Feast of St. Therese!

Blessed Feast of St. Therese, patroness of missions!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

St. Jerome

Jerome was a strong, outspoken man. He had the virtues and the unpleasant fruits of being a fearless critic and all the usual moral problems of a man. He was, as someone has said, no admirer of moderation whether in virtue or against evil. He was swift to anger, but also swift to feel remorse, even more severe on his own shortcomings than on those of others. A pope is said to have remarked, on seeing a picture of Jerome striking his breast with a stone, "You do well to carry that stone, for without it the Church would never have canonized you" (Butler's Lives of the Saints).
Monks of the Order of St. Jerome 

St. Jerome, born in North Africa...


St. Jerome!

Blessed Feast of St. Jerome!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

A true Christian has to endure humiliations

Pope Francis: A true Christian has to endure humiliations with joy and patience

Pope Francis said on Friday the proof of whether we are true Christians is shown by our ability to endure humiliations with joy and patience. Speaking at his morning mass in the Vatican's Santa Marta guesthouse, the Pope stressed this need for sacrifice in the Christian's life of faith. 

Listen to the report by Susy Hodges: RealAudioMP3 

In his homily at the mass, the Pope began with the Gospel account from St. Luke where Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was to illustrate his reflections on what is demanded of a Christian who follows the Lord. It was after this question and Peter's correct answer, the Pope continued, that Jesus revealed to the disciples his Passion, his death and his resurrection and he recalled Peter's horrified reaction to this news in the gospel account from St. Matthew. He said "Peter was frightened and scandalized just like many Christians" who declare "this will never happen to you, I will follow you up to this point." 

Pope Francis said "this is the temptation of a spiritual well-being." Like the young rich man in the gospel "who wanted to follow Jesus but only up to a certain point." He said "the scandal of the Cross continues to block many Christians" who, rather than following this path of the Cross, complain about the wrongs and insults they've had to endure.

The Pope said "the proof if somebody is a true Christian is his or her ability to endure humiliations with joy and patience." This, he concluded, is our choice, "whether to be a Christian of well-being or a Christian close to Jesus" who walks along the path of the Cross. 

Text from page 
of the Vatican Radio website 

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Danger of Good Popes

The Danger of Good Popes


Pope Benedict IX was elected pope in 1032 when he was just a teenager: different sources put his age at somewhere between 11 to 20 years old. His father was the Count of Tusculum and used his influence to obtain the papacy for his son. Benedict IX indulged in extreme sexual immorality, including orgies and unnatural acts. TheCatholic Encyclopedia calls him "a disgrace to the Chair of Peter." Papal historian Ferdinand Gregorovius wrote regarding Benedict IX: "a demon from hell in the disguise of a priest . . . occupied the chair of Peter and profaned the sacred mysteries of religion by his insolent courses." In an attempt to end the shame, Benedict's godfather Fr. John Gratian offered Benedict a large sum of money to resign the papacy, and Benedict took it. He's the only pope in history who's known to have sold the papacy.

The sorry situation did not end there though: Fr. Gratian was elected to be his successor as Pope Gregory VI, but after it was discovered he had paid Benedict IX to resign, he too was pressured to resign, which he did. Benedict also changed his mind and decided he wanted to be pope again and twice attempted to retake the papacy.

Another story from papal history: A major dispute in the Church in the seventh century was whether Jesus had one will (monothelitism) or two wills (one human, one divine; dyothelitism). Pope Honorius I sided with monothelitism. Fortunately, forty years after his death, the ecumenical Third Council of Constantinople (approved by Pope Leo II) defined dyothelitism as dogma, and monothelitism as heresy. Pope Honorius I was listed as a heretic among those who had taught monothelitism. That's right: an ecumenical council dogmatically defined a previous papal teaching as heresy and listed the past pope as a heretic.

A number of Catholic authors have endeavored to defend Pope Francis from criticism, particularly stemming from his recent interview. They have tried to defend him not only from misinterpretation, but also from criticisms of what he actually did say, his style, his choice of what to emphasize, etc. Their goal is admirable, and I largely agree with their sentiments, but in an effort to defend Pope Francis, Catholics must be sure to not overstate the role, powers, and privileges of the papacy.

Much of the controversy surrounding Pope Francis' interview has been unmerited, and I believe him to be a great pope in the line of his predecessors, most of whom are at some stage in the canonization process. In an article on the announcement of the impending canonizations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, Fr. John McCloskey, was quoted as saying, "Speaking as a Church historian, I say with complete confidence that starting with Pope Pius XII up to our present pope we are in the greatest epoch of popes in history above all due to their Holiness. Anthony Esolen, Professor of Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College, went further. "We have not had a bad man for pope since the Council of Trent."

And that, ironically, can cause confusion about the papacy. Though even our most recent popes haven't been perfect, it's certainly the case that there has not been an egregiously bad pope in recent memory. That can make it easy to think that popes will always be this good, or that God protects the papacy from grave immorality or stupidity. But that's not the case, as the examples already cited, and many others like them, demonstrate clearly.

How the Pope Can Be a Heretic

But thinking back to the example of Pope Honorius I, how could a pope be a heretic? Isn't the pope infallible? The Third Council of Constantinople was itself approved by a pope, but how could popes contradict each other? The answer is that popes can teach with varying levels of authority, and the bishop of Rome is only teaching with the highest level of authority, infallibility, under certain conditions as defined by the First Vatican Council.

This power has only be used a small number of times in history: different theologians peg the number somewhere between two and forty times. It basically means that no matter how evil or personally heretical a particular pope might be, God will not allow him to definitively teach for the whole Church something that is wrong. Note that papal infallibility is entirely negative. When a pope teaches infallibly, he can't be wrong in what he is teaching, but that doesn't necessarily mean his teaching is complete, prudently worded, or prudently timed.

Although Pope Honorius I sided with heresy, he didn't do so in a manner that met the conditions of infallibility, which meant there was no contradiction for Pope Leo II and the Third Council of Constantinople to later infallibly teach something different.

This does not mean, however, that Catholics are only obliged to follow the pope when he teaches infallibly. The Second Vatican Council taught:

Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking. (Lumen Gentium, 25)

Catholics are obliged to assent to a teaching to the degree that the pope is intending to teach it authoritatively. To apply this to a current example: it's not at all clear, given "the character of the document," that Pope Francis' remarks in his recent interview were intended by him to be taken very authoritatively. They are coming from the bishop of Rome, and so shouldn't just be dismissed, but they don't seem to be on the same level as, say, his great encyclical Lumen Fidei.

Was the Holy Spirit at the Conclave?

But why would God allow there to ever be a bad pope? Doesn't the Holy Spirit guide the conclave process?

First, although popes have been chosen by election since the early Church, the conclave process as it exists today is largely, if not entirely, man-made. The position of "Cardinal" in the Church was a medieval creation, and though they are often bishops, anyone could theoretically be designated as a Cardinal, including lay people and women. The rules of the voting process, the fact the Cardinals are locked away in conclave (literally cum clave, Latin for "with a key"), etc, all of it has simply developed over time for various reasons, and could theoretically be scrapped or substantially altered by a pope at any time. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI all altered the conclave process before exiting the papacy.

Second, while God's providence certainly extends over all of history, there's no guarantee at all that the Holy Spirit will guide the Cardinals to a good pope or that the Cardinals will listen accurately even if the Holy Spirit is prompting them. I have no reason to doubt that the Cardinals at recent conclaves have taken their duty seriously and prayerfully, but praying before making a decision doesn't make the resulting decision the direct working of God. Very bad people can be chosen to be pope and in fact have been chosen to be pope. The only guarantee is that whoever they choose, the pope won't infallibly teach something that is incorrect.

The Saints Who Criticized Popes

Given the fact that the pope is not protected from being stupid, imprudent, or corrupt, and that he teaches with varying levels of authority, there can be such a thing as legitimate criticism of a pope. Any criticism would have to come from a spirit of great humility and with respect to any authority the pope exercises on a particular subject: heresy and schism are not a part of legitimate criticism. But the same Second Vatican Council which clearly stated that the faithful are to submit to the teaching authority of the bishops, as well as that "the faithful must cling to their bishop, as the Church does to Christ," also taught, "Let [the bishop] not refuse to listen to his subjects, whom he cherishes as his true sons . . . ." (Lumen Gentium, 29)

A poignant example of this in action is found in the life of no less than the great saint and Doctor of the Church Catherine of Siena. For nearly seventy years—a full generation—the bishops of Rome had resided in Avignon, France rather than Rome, Italy. There were people who lived and died knowing only of a pope living in France. The circumstance was quite irregular, to say the least, and was the result of the corrupt influence of the French government. Did St. Catherine go out of her way to defend the wisdom of the popes residing in France as the clear movement of the Holy Spirit? Not at all: she met with Pope Gregory XI and was instrumental in convincing him to move back to Rome.

This tradition of "calling out" popes goes all the way back to apostolic times. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul tells us how he forcefully confronted St. Peter when he wasn't living out his own teachings about the openness of the Church to Gentiles:

When Cephas [Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?" (Galatians 2.11-14)

What these examples illustrate is that there is a place for respectfully criticizing the pope. Neither St. Paul nor St. Catherine campaigned for the Church to "move past" infallible teaching. Rather, they encouraged the pope to do a better job of being pope.

Defending Pope Francis is admirable, but we must be careful to be accurate in what we are defending—or else we may be building another kind of "house of cards", which, with a single bad pope, could come crashing down.

Brantly Millegan is a co-founder and editor of Second Nature. He is studying for a MA in Theology at the St Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St Paul, MN and lives in South St Paul with his lovely wife Krista and their two small children Elijah and Adelaide. His personal website is

Our Lady of Wheaton

Our Lady of Wheaton
Mary, it seems, is a hot Evangelical topic. As a new professor at Wheaton College, I proposed a course focusing on the Virgin Mary and braced for resistance, but intrigued approval was all that came my way. Nor was I alone. I learned that another course on the Virgin was being offered in a different department at Wheaton the same semester; rather than com­peting for student attention, both classes quickly filled.

And so I packed my syllabus with primary sources, supplemented with Tim Perry's excellent Mary for Evangelicals, and off we went, twenty-five students and I, on a journey from Luke to Lourdes, from Matthew to Medjugorje.

Though an overwhelmingly Protestant class, we enjoyed a visit from fervently Catholic students from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, who gave articulate testimony to lived Marian devotion. More importantly still, one of our class members was herself a faithful Catholic and a recent pilgrim to Fátima, the site in Portugal of the twentieth century's most famous Marian apparition—made all the more central when John Paul II placed the bullet fired by his would-be assassin in Our Lady of Fatima's crown.

This student's tender testimony of Marian piety in service to Christ left a lasting impact on all of us. And as she grew frustrated with the apocalyptic speculation still surrounding the secrets of Fatima, we enjoyed some unexpected ecumenical kinship: The end times obsession that plagues Evangelicals has its Catholic equivalent as well.

Still, the Virgin of Wheaton that slowly emerged in our course was a Protestant one, even if she came to light in conversation with the four traditional Catholic Marian teachings: Mary as Mother of God, her perpetual virginity (before, during, and after the birth of Christ), her immaculate conception, and her bodily assumption into heaven. How did each of these teachings fare with my Evangelical students?

Our class had no difficulty assenting to the common Christian teaching of the Council of Ephesus in 431, that Mary is the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God. "That which was formed in the womb is not itself God," insisted the heretic Nestorius. This appeared to us a refusal to acknowledge the extent of Christ's human condition, even while it offered chilling rationale for the culture of abortion. Cyril of Alexandria's question to Nestorius became ours: In light of Christ's divinity even in utero, "How can anyone have scruples about calling the holy Virgin the 'Mother of God'?"

In regard to the second Catholic teaching, the perpetual virginity, of course we accepted Mary's virginity before the birth of Christ. As J. Gresham Machen argued, to dismiss this cardinal doctrine, as fashionable Protestants once did, was to invent a religion other than Christianity. Karl Barth, for whom there is much enthusiasm at Wheaton, asserted against his liberal Protestant colleagues—his own father among them—the necessity of the virgin birth as both a fact of revelation and an indispensible illustration of salvation by grace alone.

Most students were surprised to discover that the chief Protestant Reformers—Luther, Calvin, even Zwingli—as well as later lights like John Wesley, assented to Mary's virginity after the birth of Christ, giving most of us pause before dismissing the notion as necessarily unbiblical. Our difficulties with the teaching of Mary's physiological virginity during the birth of Christ, however, were far more pronounced.

Was this not a refusal to grapple with the gynecological fact of Christmas? Patristic defenses of the issue were ingenious (an appeal to Christ's walking through the door at Emmaus, for example), but did not strike us as necessary, let alone convincing.

This teaching—still upheld by the Catechism of the Catholic Church—smacked of Gnosticism. Why, one student wondered, would a tradition so eager to emphasize Mary's suffering with Christ be hesitant to admit that she suffered in labor as well?In partu virginity, the same student pointed out, also seemed at odds with the Marian interpretation of Revelation 12:2: "She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth." 

Not surprisingly, our strongest objections arose in regard to the Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary was preserved by God from original sin, and the Assumption, the belief that her body was taken into heaven at the end of her earthly life, the first declared by Pope Pius IX in his 1854 Ineffabilis Deus and the second by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in Munificentissimus Deus. We gave these pronouncements the close reading they deserve, concluding—of course—that they are within the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy. In fact, the papal definitions can be understood as a reigning in of excesses in Marian piety that so plagued the "Age of Mary" (roughly 1850 to 1950) in which these pronouncements were made.

But our Protestant scruples were not settled with the evident possibility of these dogmas. Our concern was their de fide necessity. We noticed a stark and unfavorable contrast between the diversity of orthodox views of Mary's conception and the one-sided historical overview offered by Pius IX in Ineffabilis Deus.

Unmentioned by Pius was the fact that the same Cyril who defended Mary asTheotokos also asserted that "the Passion in its unexpectedness had caused even the mother of the Lord to fall." John Chrysostom, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Thomas Aquinas—hardly minor figures—each demurred from Mary's complete preservation from original sin. John Duns Scotus' argument, which anchored Mary's unique preservation to Jesus, seemed another ingenious defense of medieval English piety (devotion to the Immaculate Conception was strongest in England), but for the most part our class sided with Erasmus, who—though a personal believer in the Immaculate Conception—scoffed at the suggestion that it was a matter of orthodoxy or heresy, which it has since become.

Some would suggest that such papal declarations offer a necessary tonic of submission to us free-minded moderns, which I admit we moderns readily need. But I too am a man under authority. Halfway through our course, as I signed my contract for renewal, I found myself again assenting to Wheaton's statement of faith, which stipulates "all human beings are born with a sinful nature that leads them to sin in thought, word, and deed." I see no way of reading this sentence that would not include Mary. As I put pen to paper, perhaps I too modeled the virtue of docility (albeit to a lesser magisterium).

Pius XII's definition of the Assumption fared better for us than the Immaculate Conception, as his phrasing—"the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory"—made some room for a range of Christian opinion as to whether or not Mary died. The best and most recent scholarship on the dormition narratives, after all, testifies to a "synchronic coexistence of a variety of traditions," as Stephen J. Shoemaker described it, in early Christianity.

Still, ecumenical progress lends new resonance to the counsel of the English Reformer William Tyndale on this particular matter: "As pertaining to our lady's body, where it is, or where the body of Elias, of John the evangelist, and many other be, pertaineth not to us to know. One thing we are sure of, that they are where God hath laid them. . . . [I] give [Christians] free liberty to hold what they list, as long as it hurteth not the faith."

Our class was intrigued by the curtailment of Marian piety that seemed to mark the Second Vatican Council, which—in a famously narrow vote—subordinated Mary to ecclesiology. But despite this welcome corrective to Marian devotional excesses, no amount of reform can rescind the papal decrees of 1854 and 1950. Have dissenters on these matters really, in the words of Pius IX, "suffered shipwreck in faith" or, as Pius XII put it, "certainly abandoned divine and Catholic faith"? Such wording seems to permanently close off possibilities for communion with Orthodox and Protestant Christians who differ for the sake of principle, not for the cheap thrill of dissent.

Or so we thought. There are, we discovered, serious Catholics who have suggested ways to mute, without retracting, the two infallible Marian claims. In the American context, Avery Dulles argued at an ecumenical conference in 1974 that the anathemas on the infallible statements could be lifted while still presenting the dogmas as true: "It is inexcusable for the churches to be mutually divided by doctrines that are obscure and remote from the heart of the Christian faith."

Ours was not, however, merely an intra-Christian discussion. Chief among our class's concerns was the continuing challenge of secular feminists, for whom Mary has been a lightning rod. The Christian feminist response to this secular critique, however—from scholars such as Tina Beattie and Sarah Jane Boss—has brilliantly vindicated the Marian tradition.

Strangely though, our most provocative "feminist" text came not from the twenty-first century, but from the seventh. The earliest known Life of the Virgin,attributed to none other than Maximus the Confessor, was finally translated into English just as our course began. The Annunciation is for Maximus the death blow to phallocentrism: "The Word of God himself, united himself with humanity not through seed but by the power of the Most High and the coming of the Holy Spirit."

Maximus is straightforward about both patriarchy and its reversal: "There was no end to the servitude and pain and affliction of women. But when the archangel said to the holy Virgin, 'the Lord is with you,' all the debts of afflictions were erased. . . . There is no longer the lordship of man over you." Mary emerges in this document almost as a bishop: "The holy mother of Christ was the model and leader of every good activity for men and for women through the grace and support of her glorious king and son. . . . She was a leader and a teacher to the holy apostles."

And so she remains a leader and teacher to us Protestants as well. Mary, once known as "Destroyer of Heresies," can similarly protect Evangelicalism from its own set of foes: from Protestant liberalism's dated conceits; from tired neo-Gnostic assaults; from stubborn divisions that weaken the mission of the Church; from a lingering, unholy patriarchy within the Christian tradition; and from the siren song of secular feminism, which has bargained with the devil on the wrong side of the sanctity of life.

Still, is right doctrine without active piety enough? John Henry Newman did not think so. "I would not give much for that love which is never extravagant," he wrote in regard to Mary, "which always observes the proprieties, and can move about in perfect good taste." The formalization of Marian feeling, continued Newman, "is as repulsive as love-letters in a police report." Which is to say, was our class a mere academic exercise, or did we display actual Marian devotion?

For many of us, it was the latter. Over the semester, our class found itself deeper in the abandoned mine of Protestant Marian piety, deserted without being fully explored. Here, a gem—Marian images saturated the Lutheran churches of Germany, which retained many of her feast days. And there, a ruby—John Donne's Marian poetry could rival even Dante's: "What honour can unto that queen be done / Who had your God for father, spouse and son?" And then came the singing.

In an effort to safeguard ourselves from Marian excesses, we began each class session with Scripture. Our method was a corporate recitation of the Magnificat (Luke 1:46–55). After some experimentation, students came to prefer the version Thomas Cranmer inserted in the original Book of Common Prayer. Before long, we had mastered the passage and began to chant it responsively from memory. If I may say so, we got pretty good.

The Magnificat is neither an Akathistos nor an Angelus nor a Salve Regina—those more traditional songs, each being filled with direct address and effusive praise. But it precedes each of them and calls each of them home.

John Keble—who, to Newman's frustration, never followed him to Rome—precisely articulated what the Magnificat meant to us in his poetic diagnosis of the Protestant Marian condition, "Mother Out of Sight":

Mother of God, O not in vain,
We learn'd of old thy lowly strain;
Fain in thy shadow would we rest,
And kneel with thee, and call thee 
With thee would magnify the
And if thou art not here adored,
Yet seek we day by day the love
   and fear
Which brings thee with all saints
   near and more near.

Such was the devotion ascending last semester from within the Evangelical bastion of Wheaton, Illinois. We may not have sung to her, but Mary, our blessed sister, sang with us.  

Matthew Milliner is assistant professor of art at Wheaton College.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pope will be invited to address European Parliament

Pope will be invited to address European Parliament

CWN - September 26, 2013

Pope Francis will soon be invited to address the European Parliament, the Catholic News Agency (CNA) reports.

Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis on October 11. Citing an anonymous source in the European Union, CNA said that Schulz would ask the Pontiff to address the legislative body.

Blessed John Paul II addressed the European Parliament in 1988. Pope Benedict XVI was invited to address the body, but never made an appearance.

Additional sources for this story
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Prayer Request

Please pray for a friend's dad, Ben, who has been diagnosed with prostate and bone cancer.
Also, for a mother who lost her son to a tragic motor bike accident.

'Adoration of the Trinity'

File:Vicente López Y Portaña - Adoration of the Trinity - WGA13460.jpg

Vicente López Y Portaña - 'Adoration of the Trinity' - 18 century

St. Joseph Asleep

13 century - by Arnolfo di Cambio

Laos: officials say Christians must renounce faith or leave district

Laos: officials say Christians must renounce faith or leave district

CWN - September 25, 2013

Officials in Atsaphangthong announced their policy on September 21, in response to complaints about a large number of conversions to Christianity. The Christians living in the area have said that they will resist the policy, citing their right to religious freedom under the country's constitution.In the Atsaphangthong district of Laos, civic officials have announced that Christians must either renounce their faith or face expulsion from the area, the Fides news service reports.

Additional sources for this story
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Jesus' Love for Us - from 'Lumen Fidei' by Pope Francis

Christ's death discloses the utter reliability of God's love above all in the light of his resurrection. As the risen one, Christ is the trustworthy witness, deserving of faith (cf. Rev 1:5; Heb 2:17), and a solid support for our faith. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile", says Saint Paul (1 Cor 15:17). Had the Father's love not caused Jesus to rise from the dead, had it not been able to restore his body to life, then it would not be a completely reliable love, capable of illuminating also the gloom of death. When Saint Paul describes his new life in Christ, he speaks of "faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Clearly, this "faith in the Son of God" means Paul's faith in Jesus, but it also presumes that Jesus himself is worthy of faith, based not only on his having loved us even unto death but also on his divine sonship. Precisely because Jesus is the Son, because he is absolutely grounded in the Father, he was able to conquer death and make the fullness of life shine forth. Our culture has lost its sense of God's tangible presence and activity in our world. We think that God is to be found in the beyond, on another level of reality, far removed from our everyday relationships. But if this were the case, if God could not act in the world, his love would not be truly powerful, truly real, and thus not even true, a love capable of delivering the bliss that it promises. It would make no difference at all whether we believed in him or not. Christians, on the contrary, profess their faith in God's tangible and powerful love which really does act in history and determines its final destiny: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ's passion, death and resurrection.

Bl. Julian Maunoir, SJ

Bl. Julian Maunoir, SJ

Born : Oct 1, 1606
Died : Jan 28, 1683
Beatified : May 20, 1951

Julian Maunoir was born in Brittany, in a small hamlet in Rennes. At fourteen he entered the Jesuit college in Rennes for his studies. When his superiors came to know of his interest for a spiritual life, they instructed him in mental prayer and spoke often to him about the Jesuit missionaries in China, Japan, and Canada. Julian entered the Society in Paris at nineteen with the Canadian mission in mind. He studied philosophy at La Fleche and later assigned to the college at Saint-Ives at Quimper, Brittany where he taught Latin and Greek. He resolved to study the difficult Breton language in order to teach the faith to the neglected Breton peasants. He worked hard at it and within two months he was sufficiently fluent to be able to preach in Breton, a success he attributed to our Lady whose help he implored. He continued preaching to the Breton peasants in the hamlets until he went to Tours to begin his theological studies prior to ordination.

Julian was torn between two mission fields: was it to be Canada or Brittany? While he entered the Society to go to Canada, yet he felt God was especially calling him to Brittany. The solution came when he contracted a fever which almost killed him. His left arm became inflamed and gangrene set in. He received the Last Sacrament on Christmas Eve, where he vowed to devote his life preaching God's salvation to the Bretons if his health was restored. The infection ceased, the swelling receded , and within a few days he was out of bed. There was no doubt what God was asking of him. He was ordained in 1637 and returned to Brittany in 1640 and was assigned again to Quimper.

Fr Maunoir had a mission to fulfill but did not know how to begin it. He met the former priest, Fr Nobletz , the one-time itinerant missionary of Lower Brittany, now retired because of poor health and decided to use the same methods to reach out to the poor, hardworking peasants and fishermen. Fr Maunoir together with his companion, Fr Pierre Bernard visited the cities and towns of the mainland as well as the offshore islands, preaching and hearing confessions. As many of the Bretons were ignorant of their faith, Fr Maunoir insisted on giving them a good foundation in Christian doctrine. His mission usually lasted four to five weeks focusing on God, the purpose of life, the commandments, the sacraments. He used visual aids in catechizing the people, with charts depicting the life of Christ, the seven deadly sins, hell and so on. From Fr Nobletz he also learned the need for instructional hymns to teach the faith and moral values and composed most of the hymns, setting them to well-known tunes.

Fr Maunoir's mission bore great fruit and his audiences were not just single parishes but several parishes came together, totalling 10,000 to 30,000 individuals. On these occasions he asked the parish priests whose parishioners were attending the mission to help in hearing confessions, catechizing, and distributing Holy Communion. When these priests saw the fruit resulting from these missions, seven asked their bishop's permission to help the "Good Father" as Fr Maunior was called. Fr Maunior was so overjoyed that he immediately began training his assistants. In 1651 there were seven; by 1665 there were 300, and by 1683 almost 1000. Fr Maunoir organized them into the "Breton Missionaries" who carried on his work after his death.

Fr Maunoir gave forty-three years of his life to the Breton people to whom he gave some 400 missions, an average of ten a year. He would take off one month each year to rest and write spiritual books. During his final years, 1681 and 1682, he gave only six missions a year because of ailing health. When he sensed his end was near at the end of 1682, after completing a mission at Scrignac, he asked his companion to return with him to Plevin. Upon arrival, he went to bed because of sheer exhaustion and contracted pneumonia. After weeks of pain, "Good Father", the "Apostle of Brittany" returned his soul to the God who gave him life. The bishop at Quimper arranged for Fr Maunoir to be buried in the cathedral, but finally acquiesced to the people of Plevin's wish to have him buried in the Plevin parish church.

MISSION / Canada: St. John de Brébeuf, SJ (1593–1649)

A Great Hero of the Faith !  :)

St. John de Brébeuf, SJ (1593–1649)

By Bert Ghezzi
From Voices of the Saints
How I grieve, my God, that you are not known, that this savage country is not yet wholly converted to faith in you, that sin is not yet blotted out!
—John de Brébeuf
john-de-brebeufSome saints I feel I know a little better because I have met someone like them. But I have never met anyone like St. John de Brébeuf, the Jesuit missionary and martyr. Large and handsome, his presence commanded attention. A brilliant student, gifted linguist, and competent manager, he could make things happen. I have met others like that, but none like this saint who was willing to endure anything if only he could thank Christ by giving his life for the salvation of others.
Even though weakened by tuberculosis, John joined the Canada mission in 1625. For a quarter of a century with only a four-year interlude, he evangelized the Hurons in Quebec. He lived with them, embraced their customs, mastered their language, and wrote a catechism for them.
At first he had little success because the odds were stacked against him. The Indians viewed him as member of a conquering race. They also blamed him for rampant diseases and everything else that went wrong. But John persevered with the good humor you see in this letter inviting other Jesuits to join the mission:

When you reach the Hurons, you will find us with hearts full of love. We shall receive you in a hut, so mean that I have scarcely found in France one wretched enough to compare it with. Fatigued as you will be, we shall be able to give you nothing but a poor mat for a bed. Besides you will arrive when fleas will keep you awake most of the night.

Instead of being a great theologian as you may be in France, you must reckon on being here a humble scholar, and then good God! with what masters—exposed to the laughter of all the savages. The Huron language will be your St. Thomas and your Aristotle. Glib as you are, you must decide for a long time to be mute among the barbarians.

Without exaggeration, you will pass the six months of winter in almost continual discomforts—excessive cold, smoke, the annoyance of the savages who surround our fireplace from morning until evening looking for food.

For the rest, thus far we have had only roses. As we have Christians in almost every village, we must expect to make rounds throughout the year. Add to all this that our lives depend upon a single thread. Your cabin might burn down at any moment or a malcontent may cleave your head open because you cannot make it rain.

Here we have nothing that incites toward good. We are among peoples who are astonished when you speak to them of God.

In 1649, the Iroquois attacked the Huron village where John was living. They brutally martyred him, Gabriel Lalement, his companion, and their converts. Their suffering is indescribable: bludgeoned, burned with red-hot hatchets, baptized with boiling water, mutilated, flesh stripped off and eaten, hearts plucked out and devoured. But John de Brébeuf had his prayer answered. He traded his life for the seven thousand souls he had converted and baptized.

My God and my savior Jesus, what return can I make to you for all the benefits you have conferred on me? I make a vow to you never to fail, on my side, in the grace of martyrdom, if by your infinite mercy you offer it to me some day.

—John de Brébeuf


Excerpt from Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi.
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Viet bishop asks international help to counter government attacks

Viet bishop asks international help to counter government propaganda campaign

CWN - September 18, 2013

Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop of Vinh, Vietnam, has issued a plea for international support as he faces a campaign of "lies and slander" orchestrated by the government.

In an interview with the AsiaNews service, the bishop underlined the "dangerous and worrying situation" in his diocese, where the Church is under attack and the faithful are fearful after violent assaults by police on peaceful demonstrators. "We want peace, freedom, and dignity of human rights," the bishop said.

Thousands of Catholics in the northern Vietnamese diocese risked another police raid on September 16 by demonstrating at a shrine close to the place where police clubbed dozens of protesters just a week earlier.

The dispute in the Vinh diocese traces back to requests by Catholic lay people for the release of two human-rights activists who were arrested in June and remain in jail, being held without charges. Government officials had promised that the two men would be released, but have not fulfilled that promise.

Vietnamese authorities move to control Catholic Church

Vietnamese authorities step up campaign to control Catholic Church

CWN - September 23, 2013

Vietnamese authorities have stepped up their campaign against the Catholic Church. In Hanoi, public officials are planning to seize more land from the Redemptorist order, while in Saigon state-owned media outlets are giving prominent attention to a meeting of a "patriotic" Catholic association.

Parishioners in the Thai Ha parish, administered by Redemptorist priests, are protesting what they insist is an illegal seizure of land. The Redemptorists have clashed with government officials repeatedly about the expropriation of property, which has been continuing piecemeal for years.

In Saigon, local television crews have given extensive coverage to the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity of Catholics, a pro-government group set up by the Communist Party in 1955 with the goal of establishing a "patriotic Church" after the model established by the Chinese Communist Party. Catholics suspicious of the group were concerned to see that 500 priests, religious, and lay people attended the 2-day meeting of the state-sponsored group.


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Alexandre de Rhodes, SJ (1591–1660)

Alexandre de Rhodes, SJ (1591–1660)

alexandre-de-rhodesAlexandre de Rhodes, SJ, was a missionary in Vietnam.

Alexandre de Rhodes was born in France in 1591. Entering the Jesuits, de Rhodes soon decided to dedicate his life to missionary work. A Jesuit mission had been established in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1615, and de Rhodes arrived there soon after. He spent 10 years in and around the Court at Hanoi, where he wrote the first Vietnamese Catechism. He wrote many books about Vietnam, but de Rhodes's most significant work was the first Portuguese-Latin-Vietnamese dictionary. The dictionary was later used by scholars to create a new Vietnamese writing system, based on the Roman alphabet, which is still used today. 

Suspicion of Christians led to a 10-year exile in the Portuguese colony of Macau, off the Chinese coast. De Rhodes was able to return to Vietnam for six years before being sentenced to death for his missionary work. The sentence was commuted to exile, and de Rhodes spent time in Rome before beginning a new mission in Persia. He died in Persia in 1660.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Benedict XVI breaks silence, addresses Italian non-believer

Benedict XVI breaks silence, addresses Italian non-believer

CWN - September 24, 2013

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has broken his public silence for the first time since his resignation, with a lengthy letter to an Italian intellectual.
The retired Pontiff wrote and 11-page personal letter to Piergiorgio Odifreddi, the author of a book responding to Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth. With Benedict's permission, substantial portions of the letter have been published in the Italian daily La Repubblica.
For La Repubblica, the letter from Benedict XVI was the 2nd lengthy contribution from a Roman Pontiff in recent days. Earlier this month the paper published a long letter by Pope Francis, responding to an editorial comment by Eugenio Scalfari. In each of these cases the papal message was addressed to a prominent Italian non-believer, and the appearance of the second letter, from Benedict XVI, has prompted speculation that the past and president Pontiffs are coordinating their efforts to reach out to a secular audience.
In his letter to Odifreddi, Benedict XVI welcomes an "open dialogue" on questions of faith, and addresses the Italian writer's points on Biblical scholarship and the understanding of Jesus. The retired Pontiff strongly defends the role of faith as a companion of scientific reason, and questions whether secular scientists sometimes overreach the boundaries of their own fields, venturing into "science fiction" to explain matters that strictly empirical analyses cannot explain.
Benedict takes Odifreddi to task for using mathematical logic as, in effect, his own religion. He remarks: "I'm amazed that with one stroke you eliminate freedom, which… is the fundamental principle of the modern era."
Pope-emeritus Benedict also addresses the sex-abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, and his own role in addressing the scandal. "I never tried to cover up these things," he assures Odifreddi.
The retired Pope reminds Odifreddi that sexual abuse is not a problem unique to the Catholic Church. He points out that the proportion of priests guilty of abuse is similar to the proportion of abusers in other fields—although he concedes that this is not a comforting statistic. He concludes that "one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism."
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‘Ordinariate Use’ Mass text to debut in October

'Ordinariate Use' Mass text to debut in October

CWN - September 24, 2013

With the approval of the Holy See, the Ordinariate Use – a text of the Mass that incorporates language from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer into the Roman Rite – will make its debut on October 10.
"The new text has been devised for use by Ordinariates throughout the English-speaking world as a way of putting into practice Pope Benedict XVI's vision of allowing former Anglicans who wish to enter the full communion of the Catholic Church to do so whilst retaining aspects of their spiritual and liturgical traditions," according to the Friends of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
"For some time, the Ordinariate has had its own liturgy, approved by the Holy See, for marriages and funerals and the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham already provides a daily office in the Anglican tradition," said Msgr. Andrew Burnham. "But the introduction of this new Ordinariate Use is very important because it means that we now have our own distinctive liturgy for the Mass which brings to the Roman rite beautiful Anglican words which have been hallowed for generations. It gives the Ordinariate unity and a corporate identity."

Alexandre de Rhodes, SJ - Codifier of the Vietnamese Language

BIG HEART Open To God - Pope Francis interview :)

A Carthusian

Benedict XVI on monasticism

Pope Benedict throws light on the value of the monastic life

Pope and Carthusians 2011.jpgIn speaking at a Charterhouse on October 9, Pope
Benedict contrasted modern life and the monastic life saying that society
"throws light on the specific charism of the Carthusian monastery as a
precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift which contains a
profound message for our lives and for all humanity. I would summarise it in
these terms: by withdrawing in silence and solitude man, so to speak, 'exposes'
himself to the truth of his nakedness, he exposes himself to that apparent
'void' I mentioned earlier. But in doing so he experiences fullness, the
presence of God, of the most real Reality that exists. … Monks, by leaving
everything, … expose themselves to solitude and silence so as to live only
from what is essential; and precisely in living from the essential they
discover a profound communion with their brothers and sisters, with all

Pope and Carthusian Prior 2011.jpg

This vocation, the Pope went on, "finds its response in a
journey, a lifelong search. … Becoming a monk requires time, exercise,
patience. … The beauty of each vocation in the Church lies in giving time to
God to work with His Spirit, and in giving time to one's own humanity to form,
to grow in a particular state of life according to the measure of maturity in
Christ. In Christ there is everything, fullness. However we need time to
possess one of the dimensions of His mystery. … At times, in the eyes of the
world, it seems impossible that someone should spend his entire life in a
monastery, but in reality a lifetime is hardly sufficient to enter into this
union with God, into the essential and profound Reality which is Jesus

"The Church needs you and you need the Church", the
Holy Father told the monks at the end of his homily. "You, who live in
voluntary isolation, are in fact at the heart of the Church; you ensure that
the pure blood of contemplation and of God's love flows in her veins".

Our Lady of the Rosary and Dominicans!


Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Our Lady of Mercy! BLESSED FEAST !!!

St. Padre Pio - letter

May your heart always be the temple of the most holy Trinity; may Jesus increase in your soul the ardour of his love and may he always smile on you as on all souls whom he loves. May most holy Mary smile on you throughout all the events of your life, and abundantly replace the earthly mother you lack [or who is distant ;)]. 

May your good guardian angel always watch over you; may he be your guide on the rugged path of life. May he always keep you in the grace of Jesus and sustain you with his hands so that you may not stumble on a stone.  May he protect you under his wings from all the snares of the world, the devil and the flesh.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

CONSECRATED LIFE: Revival for Men in Religious Life

Surprising Revival for Men in Religious Life

Overall numbers are down, but new communities continue to emerge

 11/25/2011 Comments (13)
Courtesy of the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel

AT HOME. Members of the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel in Texas in their chapel: from left, Brothers Joseph Mary and John David, Father Fabian Rosetti and Brothers Jason, Martin Mary and Albert Mary.

– Courtesy of the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel

CHRISTOVAL, Texas — Father Fabian Rosetti had a dream. The Cuba-born Carmelite wanted to build a hermitage on land that would provide monks with the necessary isolation they needed.

He found a suitable tract in central Texas, but the man who owned it made it clear that he was not willing to help.

"He was very blunt," Father Rosetti recalled of the encounter he had with the landowner in 1991. "He said to me, 'I don't like you, and these are my reasons why: One, you're Catholic. Two, you're a priest. And three, you're Hispanic.' He had no plans whatsoever of helping me."

Yet, this outspoken Protestant would eventually soften and agree to let Father Rosetti use 200 acres of his property.

"When God wants something to get done, it gets done, and he uses whomever he pleases to get it done," the priest surmised. "St. Thérèse of Lisieux said that her invincible arms were prayer and sacrifice, and that continues to be true for Carmelites today."

And that, perhaps, is the case with religious life today, particularly the Catholic religious brotherhood. Once almost as omnipresent as women religious, religious brothers have become almost an endangered species. Their numbers in the U.S. have declined sharply in recent decades. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), there were 22,707 religious priests in 1965, but only 12,629 in 2011.  The center reports 12,271 religious brothers in 1965, with the number falling to 4,606 in 2011.

But new religious communities such as Father Rosetti's Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmelhave emerged in recent years, offering signs of hope. From Wyoming to Connecticut, men are being drawn to lives of intense prayer and labor within the framework of poverty, chastity and obedience, and to communities that are overtly faithful to Church teaching.

The breakthrough with the landowner in Texas was only the beginning of a witness to the local Christian community. Through the deep commitment to prayer and work displayed by the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, local Protestants gradually became less hostile and more willing to help.

In fact, the assistance needed to build a hermitage chapel was given mostly by non-Catholics. 

"We had about 50 men working together to build our chapel, and almost all of them were Protestants. Can you imagine that?" said Father Rosetti. "Now, about half the people who come to our Mass in the chapel on Sunday are Protestants. I don't give them holy Communion, but they attend Mass, and I preach pure Catholic doctrine."

'A Vocation, Not a Vacation'

Sound Catholic doctrine is greatly valued among new men's religious communities, among them the Franciscan Brothers of the Eucharist, based in Meriden, Conn. Their website states unequivocally: "We fully believe and support the teachings of our Holy Father and the Roman Catholic Church."

The Church's teaching on the Eucharist anchors and nourishes the order's community life. Brother Leo Maneri stated, "Our day is centered on the Eucharist. We rise early, recite Morning Prayer, attend Mass, work during the day, and then return to the Blessed Sacrament for evening prayer. Jesus is the very foundation of our community life, so everything we do emanates from him."

"There is variety in our work, but what remains unchanged is our prayer life centered around the person of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist," Brother Maneri said. "Once there is a firm foundation of respect and veneration for the dignity of Jesus Christ, then respect for the dignity of others is made possible. This is in harmony with our counterpart order, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist."

Upholding the dignity of the human person is the brothers' primary charism. Since the community began in 2002, the brothers have engaged in many activities, including public pro-life prayer vigils, counseling the mentally ill, caring for the elderly and coordinating outdoor adventure programs for youth.

"We see work as an opportunity to share as co-creators with God in building up the Church," Brother Maneri explained. As we give of ourselves in hard work, we are transformed by the power of communal effort and interaction with the elements of God's creation. It's a Franciscan way of seeing things."

Brother Maneri sees work and community life in general as a joyful challenge: "There's a misconception in some minds that religious life is a prolonged vacation. There is an element of solitude, but it's not idleness. We enjoy working with our hands, especially in the outdoors. Like many religious communities, we grow vegetable gardens, flower gardens, and raise small farm animals, such as chickens. It's a vocation, not a vacation."

Solesmes in Oklahoma

Men with a vocation to the contemplative life have been attracted to Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Okla., since 1999.  The Benedictine Monks of the Solesmes Congregation, a community of strict observance, chant the Divine Office in Latin and celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

Abbey visitors appreciate the solemnity and reverence of the liturgical celebrations, one prominent aspect of which is chant. Abbot Philip Anderson observes that "Gregorian chant has a simplicity, respect and peace that is very conducive to divine worship. The majesty of God is made manifest by a decrease of attention on our own personalities and an increase of attention on the divine. This is what prayer is about."

While not everyone can visit the abbey in person, the monks have made CD recordings available at their website. They hope listeners will feel as though they are present with the monks in an atmosphere of prayer, which is the first pillar of the Rule of St. Benedict.

"Prayer and work — ora et labora — are central to our rule," said Abbot Anderson. "The primary aim of the monks is contemplation, but this is complemented by rigorous work. I've sometimes called it 'spiritual boot camp' to those interested in joining."

The day for this "spiritual boot camp" begins at 4:50am with morning prayer, continues with Mass and more prayer, then spiritual reading and a second Mass. Study or work is followed by more prayer, along with three hours of manual labor, more prayer, spiritual reading, and … more prayer.

"Our charism is contemplation," said the abbot. "While we do manual labor and other tasks on a daily basis, the very foundation and heart of our life is prayer. Without prayer, we would not be able to engage in the other things we do, so that remains unchanged."

Abbot Anderson believes unnecessary change plagued the religious life from the mid-1960s to the late-1990s. "Following the Second Vatican Council, an unrealistic enthusiasm for change — without adequate discernment — brought about the loss of a great number of vocations," he stated.  "In the later 1990s a healthier attitude among candidates for the religious life began to appear."

These candidates, often coming from what is referred to as the "John Paul II Generation" or "Benedict Boomers," are less inclined to dissent from Church teachings or wish for a rejection of discipline in the religious life. Abbot Anderson sees these as prime reasons for the success of newer religious vocations: "They are having much better success in persevering in their vocation, albeit not without many challenges."

Worth the Sacrifice

Challenges are just what many young men are looking for, according to Michael Wick, executive director of the Institute on Religious Life. "Young people today want to be drawn to a clear ideal that is worth sacrificing for. If there's no clear goal, then discipline doesn't really have a place in religious life anymore. If that's the case, why bother joining? No, young men today take religious life seriously and joyfully accept the necessary sacrifices that are a part of it."

Wick notes that this is essential to any vocation. "Whether it's priesthood, religious life, marriage or dedicated single life, you have to take it seriously and do what's necessary to keep it alive," he said. "One thing that keeps a vocation alive is other people with a different vocation keeping theirs alive. I'm married with four children, and it's a great support and inspiration to see dedicated priests and religious living out their vocations."

Wick has observed that solid marriages help religious vocations as well: "Couples living out their vows can inspire religious to do the same, but even more than that, marriages are where religious vocations come from in the first place. Married people can help to promote religious vocations by passing on their faith to their children through word and deed. Religious vocations will then become more common because many of the myths and misconceptions about religious life will have been pre-empted.

One popular misconception is that religious brothers are men who are not smart enough to be priests. "Catholics tend not to have a problem with women religious, but when it comes to non-ordained men religious, they are a bit uncertain," Wick said. "What they might not realize is that a religious brother has just as legitimate a consecrated vocation by striving to be a brother to all." 

Some religious communities of men include no priests at all and look outside their communities to have their sacramental needs met. This is the case with the Franciscan Brothers of the Eucharist. Others include priests on an as-needed basis, which is true with the Hermits of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. Father Rosetti is the only priest in the Texas hermitage, and he points out that this is similar to the first desert monks, who were mostly laymen. The Benedictine Monks of Clear Creek Abbey have 13 priests and 26 others (brothers and students).

Wick sees all of these communities as unique expressions of the Holy Spirit in the Church. "There are so many different charisms," he said. "We have the older, more established orders, newer communities in the tradition of an older order, and then altogether new orders. There's something for everyone, but a common thread among the communities doing well is their faithfulness to the magisterium."

While overall numbers are down, there is a surprising, quiet revival of religious men in the United States, and Abbot Anderson believes "if these young people continue to pray, they will rebuild religious life in America."

Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.

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