In Case You Missed It…

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Merry Christmas!  Hopefully you are still celebrating on this fourth day of the Christmas Octave.  Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, one of the many important feasts celebrated during these Christmas days.  In the monastery this was an occasion to sing the very beautiful (musically, anyway, despite the tragic subject matter) Coventry Carol.  It written in 1534, just missing the Late Middle Ages, but we can talk about it in this post since   we have a copy it being performed by the Mediaeval Baebes (ha, ha).  It is traditionally sung acapella, as you will hear, which makes it so haunting.  

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-10-37-19-amIn case you missed last week’s episode of A Good Habit, you might want to take a listen, as we discussed Christmas in the Middle Ages with the Modern Medievalist, James Griffin.  I was so looking forward to this show since we were privileged to have James in studio with us, but I was kept at home by a nasty cold and laryngitis.  The first time I ever missed a show in three and a half years and it had to be this one…It was a great episode, and really could have gone on for another hour or two, since there were so many subjects they didn’t screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-10-43-34-amget to, like the Boar’s Head Feast (which I don’t know anything about, but I did find this engraving of it, and I know the MM could probably write a fascinating blog about it).  After you whet your appetite listening to the show, you’ll want to add his blog, Modern Medievalism, to your favorites and grab a cup of coffee, there are lots of fascinating articles to read there and you will always find something to interest you.  Keep an eye on it, and perhaps he will add some posts on Christmas in the Middle Ages that he didn’t get to on the radio.  You may have heard James on our radio show earlier this year to discuss Requiem Masses and other topics related to praying for the dead, but here’s another link that will be of interest to you as well: His appearance on Radio Maria to discuss lay piety in the Middle Ages.

Prayers for Paris

9190483_f520As more details unfold from Paris, we pray for those who have been killed in the terror attacks, for those injured, and for all who are suffering.

Prayer for Victims of Terrorism

Loving God,
Welcome into your arms the victims of violence and terrorism.
Comfort their families and all who grieve for them.
Help us in our fear and uncertainty,
And bless us with the knowledge that we are secure in your love.
Strengthen all those who work for peace,
And may the peace the world cannot give reign in our hearts.  Amen.

In 1638, King Louis XIII consecrated himself, his family and the nation of France to Our Lady of the Assumption, as a way to thank her in advance for the birth of an heir to the throne (his wife was two months pregnant at the time, and she did give birth to a son, the future Louis XIV).  Here is part of the royal edict consecrating France to Our Lady: Continue reading

The Great War

Gassed, by John Singer Sargent

The world marks a sad anniversary today, the beginning of the Great War.  Tragically, the war to end all wars was not.  World War II gets a lot of attention in the media, being fresher in our minds, but World War is worth pondering.  This excellent video from Catholic News Service, which we first found here at Rorate Coeli, sheds a lot of light on the role the Great War played in the disintegration of Europe and Christianity.  Then, as in recent wars, the lone voice of the pope, crying out for peace, went unheeded. If hindsight is 20/20, the century that has passed since the outbreak of the war has given us ample time to understand its far-reaching effects, and often unanticipated, effects.

A Pope Under Our Lady’s Mantle

Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs…These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God who are raging on all sides. They will be exceptionally devoted to the Blessed Virgin. Illumined by her light, strengthened by her food, guided by her spirit, supported by her arm, sheltered under her protection, they will fight with one hand and build with the other… By word and example they will draw all men to a true devotion to her and though this will make many enemies, it will also bring about many victories and much glory to God alone. 

– St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin

Today is the feast day of Bl. Pope John Paul II.  Only last year was it approved as an optional memorial in the US, and next year it will be celebrated as the feast of Saint John Paul II.  For those of you who pray the liturgy of the hours, the proper texts for today’s optional memorial can be found here.

The Little Flower Basilica will be celebrating a Solemn Mass for his feast day today at 5:30pm.  If you are in the San Antonio area it would be a nice way to end the day, commemorating this great saint who visited San Antonio in 1987.  Just recently we visited Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in St. Hedwig, outside of San Antonio.  This beautiful church, built by Polish immigrants in 1868, has, as you can imagine, a fervent love for John Paul II.  They are actually the guardians of the Papal chair which the pontiff used during his historic visit to San Antonio.  It was a privilege for us to offer up a prayer while standing before a chair used by the 263rd successor of St. Peter, one of the greatest saints of our time.

O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind. Who lives and reigns.

Salus Populi Romani

The image known as Our Lady of Czestochowa is most likely familiar to all of you – it is attributed to St. Luke.  In fact, over the centuries, many, many images of Our Lady have purportedly been painted by the evangelist himself, but the one we want to share with you today, in honor of his feast day, is the Salus Populi Romani (Health of the Roman People, or Protectress of the Roman People) to which our present holy father has a special devotion.

The icon is housed in the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome. St. Luke is said to have painted the image on a tabletop which belonged to the Holy Family, while listening to Our Lady herself recount stories of her Son’s life.  St. Helena brought the icon from Jerusalem to Constantinople.  In the painting, Mary’s eyes fall upon us, the viewer, and we are held in her gaze.  Jesus, whose hand is raised in blessing, looks to her, blessing those whom His Mother looks upon with tender mercy.

Many miracles have been associated with the ancient image, particularly when it is honored in procession.  Pope St. Gregory the great processed with the icon in the sixth century, imploring an end to the Black Plague.  St. Pius V carried the image in procession in 1791 begging Our Lady for a victory in the naval battle of Lepanto.  Victory was indeed granted through her intercession, and today that miraculous trouncing of the Turkish fleet is celebrated each year on October 7th as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, formerly known as Our Lady of Victory.  In 1834 Pope Gregory XVI honored Our Lady’s icon with a procession, pleading for an end to a cholera epidemic.

Most recently, Pope Francis had the icon brought from St. Mary Major to the Vatican, to be venerated during the special prayer service for peace in Syria and the Middle East.  The fact that Pope Francis brought the actual icon, not a copy, is quite telling – it speaks not only of his love for Our Lady, (about which friends from his past have already shared many stories), but also of his abiding trust in her maternal intercession.  Our Lady, Protectress of the Roman People, is a mother who comes to her children in their need, meets them where they are, and brings healing and peace.

It isn’t hard to understand how the image of a mother and queen who assists her children, not from her throne, but side by side with them, would resonate with the heart of Pope Francis, who has the tender heart of a pastor, a “shepherd with the odor of sheep”. It seems to fit perfectly with the Holy Father’s emphasis on encounter, something which has shaped his life and mission since he experienced a life-changing encounter with God’s mercy in the confessional at age 17.  It was at this time that he first recognized God calling him to the priesthood, though it would be several years before he would finally pursue his vocation by entering the Society of Jesus.  That idea of an encounter with mercy is what lead him to choose the Episcopal motto miserando atque eligendo (more on that here) when he was made bishop.

The icon of Salus Populi Romani has long been associated with the Jesuits, who spread this devotion around the world, being the first to obtain permission from the pope to duplicate the image for their houses of study.  In fact, it is sometimes called “the Jesuit Madonna”.  Their founder, the great St. Ignatius of Loyola, also had a devotion to Our Lady’s icon, and it was at St. Mary Major that he celebrated his first Mass, on Christmas night in 1538.

There is also an interesting link between devotion to Salus Populi Romani among the Jesuits, and the devotion of Our Lady of the Knots, which a very famous Jesuit has recently popularized.  But we’ll save that story for another time.  Instead, we’ll leave you with the words of Pope Paul VI, who, the same day he proclaimed Mary Mother of the Church, (at the closing of the third session of Vatican Council II in 1964) offered this prayer to the Madonna at St. Mary Major.

With a spirit full of trust and filial love, we raise our glance to you, despite our unworthiness and our weakness. You who have given us Jesus, the source of grace, will not fail to help your Church, at this time when she is flowering because of the abundance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and is committing herself with renewed zeal to her mission of salvation.

A Unique Church

Throughout the history of the Church, missionary priests have spread the faith to many lands and peoples. But the story of the Church in Korea is unique, because the seeds of the faith were sown by the laity and fostered by the laity, without any priests.  Indeed, without even the Mass. The first Korean convert was baptized in China in 1784, then returned to his native land where he founded the first Christian community.  Twelve years after the first light of faith was kindled there, a Chinese priest secretly entered the country to find 4,000 Catholics who had never set eyes on a priest. Later, two Chinese priests were sent, whose ministry was brief, and then forty years passed before the Paris Foreign Mission Society began sending priests and missionaries to Korea.

Thousands and thousands of martyrs shed their blood for the faith in various waves of persecution – over 10,000 to be exact, of whom 103 (people of diverse ages and walks of life) have been canonized.  Today the Church honors their fidelity to Christ, and we also pray for those Korean Christians who continue to risk their lives in the practice of their faith.  South Korea has one of the most vibrant Christian communities in Asia, second only to the Philippines.  But in North Korea, Christians are forced to practice their faith in secret.  Let us pray especially for them today.

O God,
who have been pleased to increase
your adopted children in all the world,
and who made the blood of the Martyrs
Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon and his companions
a most fruitful seed of Christians,
grant that we may be defended by their help
and profit always from their example.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Below is an excerpt from the final exhortation of Andre KimTaegon, the first native-born Korean priest, who was beheaded in 1846.

My brothers and sisters, my dearest friends, think again and again on this: God has ruled over all things in heaven and on earth from the beginning of time; then reflect on why and for what purpose he chose each one of us to be created in his own image and likeness. In this world of perils and hardship if we did not recognize the Lord as our Creator, there would be no benefit either in being born or in our continued existence. Continue reading

A day to rejoice

Hence, the august Mother of God, mysteriously united from all eternity with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a virgin inviolate in her divine motherhood, the wholehearted companion of the divine Redeemer who won complete victory over sin and its consequences, gained at last the supreme crown of her privileges—to be preserved immune from the corruption of the tomb, and, like her Son, when death had been conquered, to be carried up body and soul to the exalted glory of heaven, there to sit in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the ages.

                                 -Pope Piux XII, Munificentissimus Deus

The feast of Our Lady’s Assumption is a day of joyful celebration for us – not only because of the importance of this feast, but because of three very important anniversaries which are also celebrated today, days which have had a great impact on us:  On this day in 1944, Rita Rizzo entered the monastery of the Franciscan Nuns of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Cleveland, Ohio.  Thirty-seven years later on this same day, with incredible faith in God’s providential care she launched the Eternal Word Television Network, the world’s first global Catholic tv network.  Two years after that, Christopher Phillips, an Episcopalian cleric, who despite much personal hardship and sacrifice had crossed the Tiber, was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, and established the first Anglican Use parish, Our Lady of the Atonement.

God has woven all of these threads together in the life and mission of our little community, and used each one of them to bring us to San Antonio.  With much gratitude for Mother Angelica and Father Phillips – for the ‘yes’ each of them wholeheartedly gave to God, their sacrifices and fearlessness – we give thanks to Our Lord and His Blessed Mother!