I appreciate all of your hard work on the topic of the SSPX and just your whole candid approach to speaking clearly about topics that are otherwise ambiguous. I attend the SSPX frequently and have had nothing but wonderful experiences. I wanted to get your take on Pope Benedict and his letter to the Bishops about the remission of the excommunications and his heavy language about the priests “not exercising any legitimate authority” etc. I noticed you had a mini podcast on the letter itself but I wanted to see if in light of the changes under Pope Francis do those changes of themselves remove the weight of the letter from Pope Benedict? This letter is commonly cited by friends and peers that otherwise would in good faith attend the SSPX Chapels but due to the letter being from a Pope (at the time) it has a level of weightiness that lay faithful feel in their guts where the topic generally feels so confused. So to spear head this… Does the letter of Pope Benedict simply reflect the status at the time** and not presently and if it does can we arrive at the conclusion that we can dismiss that letter (with respect) due to Pope Francis’s actions and PCEDs statements? God Bless you and myself and many others thank you deeply.
The 2009 DECREE by which Benedict XVI remitted the excommunications of the SSPX Bishops HERE
Note that the decree says, “This gift of peace, coming at the end of the Christmas celebrations, is also meant to be a sign which promotes the Universal Church’s unity in charity, and removes the scandal of division.”
Remove the “scandal of division”… we still hope and pray.
I wrote two posts about the SSPX which can help people understand the situation more clearly than it is often explained by others, who tend not to know what they don’t know. HERE and HERE
Since the publication of Benedict XVI’s letter a lot has taken place.
For one thing, faculties were granted by Francis to priests of the SSPX regularly (not exceptionally) to receive sacramental confessions and to absolve validly. That’s a “legitimate ministry” in the Church.
For another thing, Francis made it possible for SSPX priests to have the faculty to witness marriages, so that they have proper form. SSPX priests can work with dioceses in this regard. That’s a “legitimate ministry” in the Church.
If you say that Francis is the Pope and that he has the authority to do these things, then, yes, the SSPX now exercises ministries legitimately and conditions described by Benedict in his Letter back in 2009 no longer apply… fully. Something has changed. Not everything. Something.
The canonical situation of the SSPX is really complicated. It doesn’t easily fit into one category or another. As a result, we have to remind ourselves to look on the SSPX with the benevolence heralded by Benedict’s Letter and also discipline ourselves to see the SSPX as an evolving canonical anomaly.
[Edmund Campion] was arraigned and indicted on 4 November 1581 at Westminster with treason -having conspired ‘to raise a sedition in the realm and dethrone the Queen.’ The trial was held on 20th November 1581.
[PART TWO] Trial and Martyrdom of St Edmund Campion
“The pleadings had taken about 3 hours and the jury of 9 consulted for nearly an hour. In this interval, a descendant of Sir Thomas More brought Campion a glass of beer to refresh him after his labours. Bartoli records:
‘I would not want to admit here what was, in a small deed, no small sign of Christian kindness shown by a nobleman of the house of Roper. Since Father Edmund had the joints of both his arms manhandled on the rack, and so lacked the strength to be able to bring his hands to his mouth, this nobleman came forward and, wanting the honour of giving him to drink with his own hands, held the cup to the other’s lips with such a beautiful act of reverence and love that even the Protestants blessed him for it.”
Simpson related the following incident:
“As the jury considered their verdict, there happened a thing which Catholics of the time, whose eyes were ever on the watch for divine signs, relate as a miracle. When Judge William Ayloff, ‘who, sitting to keep the place when the other judges retired, while the jury consulted about the condemnation of Father Campion and his company, and pulling off his glove, found all his hand and his seal of arms bloody, without any token of wrong, pricking, or hurt; and being dismayed therewith, wiping, it went not away, but still returned; he showed it to the gentlemen that sat before him, who can be witnesses of it till this day, and have some of them upon their faiths and credits avouched it to be true.”
Father Henry Walpole SJ wrote his recollections of the trial. He was a Protestant at the time of the trial:
“I was present during his arraignment in Court and indictment and stood near him when sentence was passed…On the second day, he, with seven companions, stood at the bar from eight in the morning till seven in the evening during which time the Queen’s solicitor and Attorney kept heaping up all their odious presumptions against them….It was really a wonder that men such as they…should have made such able answers to arguments on legal matters, and that, too, with an unassuming grace of manner which reflected much credit on their cause and themselves. Here indeed Our Lord’s promises were wonderfully fulfilled: ‘I will give you a mouth and wisdom; which all your adversaries shall not be able to resist and gainsay.’ [Lk 21:15]
Accordingly, in proof of all this, I may point to the conduct of Lord Chief Justice Wray. He addressed Campion with greater courtesy, calling him Master Campion, and afterwards taking someone to task for not speaking in his turn or to the point, said: ‘Look you, imitate the good example of Mr Campion.’ In fact he was, like Pilate, desirous of liberating him, but for fear of Caesar, upon the verdict of the jury, condemned him to death.’
…Never before or since did I listen to anyone with so much pleasure, and I am well assured from the testimony of others that his words and his bearing gave strength to the faithful who heard and saw him and converted many who were not blinded with passion and prejudice.’
At the close of the trial, the Lord Chief Justice inquired: “Campion and the rest, what can you say, why you should not die?
Campion replied: It was not our own death that ever we feared…The only thing that we have now to say is, that if our religion do make us traitors, we are worthy to be condemned, but otherwise are and have been as true subjects as ever the Queen had. In condemning us you condemn all your own ancestors-all the ancient priests, bishops and kings-all that was once the glory of England, the island of saints and the most devoted child of the See of Peter. For what have we taught, however you may qualify it with the odious name of treason, that they did not uniformly teach? To be condemned with these old lights-not of England only, but of the world-by their degenerate descendants, is both gladness and glory to us. God lives; posterity will live: their judgment is not so liable to corruption as that of those who are now going to sentence us to death.”
Simpson observed that “[h]is eloquence made his fellow prisoners confront with boldness the fate that hung over them. Cottam, on his return to the Tower, told Briscoe that now he was quite willing to die, after hearing Campion speak so gloriously.”
The sentence was pronounced straight away:
“Lord Chief Justice: You must go to the place from whence you came: [prison], there to remain until ye shall be drawn through the open city of London upon hurdles to the place of execution, and there be hanged and let down alive, and your privy parts cut off, and your entrails taken out and burnt in your sight; then your heads to be cut off, and your bodies to be divided into four parts, to be disposed of at her Majesty’s pleasure. And God have mercy on your souls.”
All the prisoners, says the reporter of the trial, after this judgment, stormed in countenance, crying, they were true and faithful subjects as ever the queen had any. Only Campion suppressed his affection, and cried aloud, in the words of the ancient hymn: ‘Te Deum laudamus, Te Dominum confitemur’ (‘We praise Thee as God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord’). Sherwin took up the song. ‘Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus, exultemus et laetemur in illa’ (‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and exult in it’: Ps 118:24). The rest expressed their contentment and joy, some in one phrase of Scripture, some in another. The multitude in the hall was visibly astonished and affected.”
It was the feast of Edmund’s patron, St Edmund, King of East Anglia, tortured to death on 20 November in the year 870 AD.
Four accounts say that, at this point, before being led out, Campion stopped to address the crowd, who listened in silence:
“You have heard us condemned as if we were guilty of lese majeste (crime against the sovereign), but how deserving is the case, consider for yourselves. If I had offended Her majesty in so many ways, never would she and the royal council have so bountifully offered me, not only life, but also liberty and an abundant living, if only I were to comply with them in matters of no great moment. In fact, the Lieutenant of the Tower, standing here next to me [Sir Owen Hopton], promised the same, and more, if I would attend Protestant church only once. Now, indeed, he would not have dared to promise such immense favours, nor would the rulers of England have permitted it, if they had established me as guilty of any such thing. Therefore gentlemen, it is not treason, but zeal for true religion, that has brought us to our condemnation to death.”
On 28th November, Campion’s sister visited him in the Tower to say that a life-long benefice had been offered to him if he would recant his religion.
After spending his last days in prayer, he was dragged with his fellow priests, Fathers Ralph Sherwin and Alexander Briant, to Tyburn, where the three were hanged, drawn and quartered on 1st December 1581. Campion was 41 years old.
Campion was beatified by Pope Leo XIII in 1886 and canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1970 as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. Richard Simpson’s biography of St Edmund Campion, originally published in 1867, and republished in 2010, ironically, is prefaced by George Cardinal Pell, who, at that time, was Archbishop of Sydney and who, at a later date, underwent his own persecution for his defence of politically unpopular and/or inconvenient doctrine.
In his preface, his Eminence related an extract from Evelyn Waugh’s biography of St Edmund, where he compared “the respective careers of Tobie Matthew and Edmund Campion. Tobie Matthew was a young fellow of Christ Church, Oxford and, like Campion, highly esteemed by Queen Elizabeth. With Elizabeth’s patronage:
‘…a splendid career lay before him. He became Canon of Christ Church four years later; in 1572, at the unusually early age of twenty-six, he was made president of St John’s…four years later he was Dean of Christ Church, later Vice-Chancellor; from there he turned to the greater world, became successively Dean and Bishop of Durham, and finally, Archbishop of York. He was a talkative little man, always eager to please, always ready with a neat, parsonic witticism; the best of good fellows, everywhere, except in his own family. When, on the Council of the North, he was most busy hunting down recusants, he was full of little jokes to beguile his colleagues. He was a great preacher…he married admirably, a widow of stout Protestant principles and unique place in the new clerical caste, which had sprung naturally from the system of married clergy; Frances Barlow, widow of Matthew Parker, Junior; she was notable in her generation as having a bishop for her father, an archbishop for her father-in-law, an archbishop for her husband, and four bishops for her brothers. Tobie Matthew died full of honours in 1628. There, but for the Grace of God, went Edmund Campion.
“Cardinal Pell observed: “It is my prayer that this biography of St Edmund Campion may help Catholics to appreciate the grit and heroism of our Saints, and inspire and challenge other Christians to understand more fully the reasons for the turmoil that led to their separation from the Catholic Church. It is also an invitation to reconsider the claims of the See of Peter, the divinely sustained Rock of stability in our marvellous world. After all, unity was, and still is today, the prayer of St Edmund Campion.”
Each year, on his feast day, the ropes used in his execution are placed on the altar of St Peter’s Church for Mass to celebrate his feast day.
Edmund Campion was the son of “very honest and Catholic” parents. He was born on the feast of St Paul, 25 January 1540, in Paternoster Row, London, “in the thirtieth year of the reign of Henry VIII”, a year described by his biographer, Richard Simpson, as, “marked by the suppression of the great religious houses in England, the inauguration of a persecution of which, forty years later, Campion was to be a victim – and the solemn Papal approval of the Society of Jesus, of which he was to be an ornament.”
A brilliant scholar, Campion was chosen at age 13 to make the complimentary speech to Queen Mary on her coronation procession in 1553.
After the Catholic reign of Mary Tudor, the accession of Elizabeth I to the throne saw the coercion of the State thrown behind acquiescence by the people to the protestant worship, which, tied to loyalty to the Crown, was pitted against the portrayal of the Catholic faith as treachery. The Act of Supremacy, proclaimed in 1559, reasserted the legislation of Henry VIII affirming the Anglican Church and the abjuration of the Church of Rome, attaching the anti-papal oath of 1536 which “all the clergy, all taking degrees at all universities, all judges, justices, mayors and other royal officials were required to take, acknowledging the Queen to be “Supreme Governor in all matters ecclesiastical and spiritual”. The penalty for refusing the oath was loss of goods and imprisonment for a first offence, a second offence being counted as treason and so punishable with death.
The second Act of 1559, the Act of Uniformity, imposed the Protestant concept of worship, with the abolition of Catholic sacraments and the Sacrifice of the Mass. “Any clergyman refusing to perform divine service according to the [Protestant] Prayer Book was now, for a first offence, to lose a year’s income and to be imprisoned for six months. A third offence was to be punished with imprisonment for life. Any layperson who criticized the new service was to be fined a hundred marks. Everyone in the country was now bound, under pain of a fine of twelve pence, to attend the Protestant service every Sunday in his own parish church.” Those refusing to attend Protestant service were termed “recusants” and suffered varying penalties, starting with loss of office and monetary fines, advancing to imprisonment and execution.
Campion attended St John’s College, Oxford, a College which was, “at that time, a breeding-ground for Catholics. The founder, Sir Thomas White, was a devout Catholic…who, in Elizabeth’s first Parliament, had protested, in a reference to the young Cecil and Bedford, [William Cecil, Lord Burghley and the Earl of Bedford – Elizabeth’s advisers and promoters], that ‘it was unjust that a religion begun in such a miraculous way, and established by such grave men, should be abolished by a set of beardless boys.’”
Campion’s intellectual superiority was apparent when, as a representative of his College, he was picked to debate before the Queen, who was much impressed with his oratory skills. Amusingly, the debate had been carefully cultivated by William Cecil and the Queen’s advisers in the Privy Council so as to avoid discussion of any topic that could touch upon religion, a topic of much passion at the time, and discomfort to the Privy Council, but a subject difficult to avoid in a philosophical debate about any topics that mattered. Campion’s friends had extorted from him, for his safety, “a promise to avoid all controverted points in his orations. Nor was the council less anxious to keep such disputes from the queen’s ears.
”The records show Cecil’s tortured attempts to avoid theology, his notes beginning with the inquiry, “Why is opthalmia catching, but not dropsy or gout?”
Campion’s opinion of the power-base of the time may be illustrated by his description of Cardinal Wolsey, the once-powerful prelate who had fallen, to be charged with treason by Henry VIII upon his failure to procure a divorce but, unusually, pre-empting the charge by dying of natural causes:
“A man of excellent genius, not unlearned: born at Ipswich, of humble origin, of most lofty ambition; passionate, confident, impure, insincere. He built two colleges: one at Ipswich, which Henry VIII destroyed; the other at Oxford, so magnificent there is no college in Europe equal to it. This he endowed with an annual income of about 3,000 (pounds). At the present day, Henry is called its founder, simply because he did not upset it and confiscate its revenues after the Cardinal came to the end of his days. Witness the verses carved in great letters over the entrance when Elizabeth made her visit; the last line of the inscription was Imperfecta tui subiens monumenta parentis [Entering the unfinished monument of your father]. I never saw anything more saddening: the memory of the noble patron [Wolsey] obliterated and the honour conferred on one [Henry] who had violated every principle of honour, trampled under-foot all laws, human and divine and destroyed the religion and commonwealth of England.”
Campion was (confusingly), ordained an Anglican deacon and left England for Ireland. There, however, he initially lived openly as a Catholic as the persecution was not at that time rigorous, The Papal Bull excommunicating Elizabeth, however, gave impetus to a renewal of the persecution by the State of English Catholics. When Parliament sat in 1571, a series of Acts made it treason to be Catholic, to reconcile any person to the Catholic faith, to possess Catholic devotional items or to harbor a priest. All priests were liable to execution. The penalty for treason was death.
By that time Campion was on the run; it was too dangerous for him to stay in one place for too long. He was given shelter at Turvey, in the Pale, which saved him from arrest and torture at the hands of the protestant party in Dublin. He authored “A Historie of Ireland” during the three months in which he spent hiding.
He travelled to Rome to join the Jesuits and was accepted into the Society of Jesus in 1573. He was ordained a deacon and priest and said his first Mass in September 1578. He then taught rhetoric and philosophy at the Jesuit College in Prague.
The Jesuit mission to England commenced in 1580, Campion entering England, disguised as a merchant. Intending to meet up with him were three other Jesuits; Thomas Cottam was a former schoolmaster and brother of William Shakespeare’s school teacher; Robert Debdale, a cousin of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary Shakespeare; and Robert Persons, Campion’s Jesuit superior, who was a close friend of Edward Arden, (a second cousin of Mary Shakespeare). Campion stayed at Park Hall, Edward Arden’s residence, near modern-day Birmingham. Edward Arden was later executed and decapitated for keeping a priest, Hugh Hall, at his house.
“Campion went to Northamshire, Oxfordshire and East Anglia; Persons to the West Midlands, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. Their portable altars and surplices hidden in packs, they told travellers whom they met on the road that they were merchants. Persons headed into Warwickshire. Cottam too had planned to come this way, and Debdale wrote a letter commending him [Cottam] to his parents at Shottery. But the letter was intercepted and Cottam captured.”
Campion remained at liberty for a year. A massive manhunt through the winter of 1580-1 tried to track him down. In the south he used a secret printing press to print his tract Decem Rationes, (“Ten Reasons”), against the validity of the Anglican Church. He printed a challenge to the Privy Council, called “Campion’s Brag” which was effectively, a declaration of the stance of the recusant Catholic English against the persecution by the State.
He then “moved up to Lancashire and stayed with the Hoghton family at Lea Hall and Hoghton Tower where he was for Easter and Pentecost 1581. But in June Robert Debdale was captured, followed by Campion and Cottam. Taken under armed guard to London, Campion arrived beneath a banner reading, ‘Campion the Seditious Jesuit’”.
On arrival in London, in the evening, Campion was taken “secretly by boat to a meeting with three Privy Councillors, the Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas Bromley at his house, the Vice Chamberlain of the Royal Household, Sir Christopher Hatton and Robert Dudley the Earl of Leicester. On behalf of the Queen, they asked Campion his position on her authority and the Papal excommunication. He was offered his freedom, wealth and honours including the possibility of the Archbishopric of Canterbury, if he recanted his religion, an offer which he refused.
“His lengthy interrogation was reinforced by starvation, thumbscrews, needles under fingernails, compression in the metal frame known as the Scavenger’s Daughter and eight days in the pit, a dank and dark well-shaft. On 30 July warrants were issued to use the rack.”
Richard Simpson stated that he was imprisoned in the Tower for more than 4 months and tortured on the rack 2, possibly 3 times, (15th and 22nd August), to extract information about the whereabouts of his fellow priests and the identities of those who had provided shelter, assisted or attended illegal Masses. Answering a letter sent by a fellow prisoner in the Tower, Campion assured him that he would betray no secret, ‘Come Rack, Come Rope”. Nevertheless, false reports of his confession were circulated by William Cecil, “in a desire to destroy the reputation of this popular hero.” The [Privy] Council, however, repeatedly refused to allow him to be publicly interrogated about the purported confession. Different accounts, furthermore, refute the attempted slander, one Protestant account stating:‘
“Whereunto he answered that forasmuch as the Christians did in old time, being commanded to deliver up books of their religion to such as persecuted them, refused to do so, and mislike with them that did so, calling them traditores [traitors], he might not betray his Catholic brethren, which were (as he said) the temples of the Holy Ghost.’”
On 31st August, and 18, 21, 27 September, he participated in theological discussions with Protestant theologians in the Tower, and emerged the victor.
He was arraigned and indicted on 4 November 1581 at Westminster with treason -having conspired ‘to raise a sedition in the realm and dethrone the Queen.’ The trial was held on 20th November 1581.
On November 30, Catholics worldwide celebrate the feast of St. Andrew, apostle and martyr. St. Andrew is said to have spread Christianity in Russia and Asia minor after Pentecost in the first century. He was crucified by the Romans in Greece on an X-shaped cross, which is now his distinctive symbol as well as the symbol of Scotland, of which he is the patron.
Apostle († First century)
Saint Andrew was one of the fishermen of Bethsaida, and was the brother of Saint Peter. He became a disciple of Saint John the Baptist. When called himself by Christ on the banks of the Jordan, his first thought was to go in search of his brother, and he said to Peter, We have found the Messiah! and brought him to Jesus.
It was Saint Andrew who, when Christ wished to feed the five thousand in the desert, pointed out a little lad with five loaves and a few fishes. After Pentecost, Saint Andrew went forth upon his mission to plant the Faith in Scythia and Greece and, at the end of years of toil, to win a martyr’s crown at Patrae in Achaia. When Saint Andrew first caught sight of the gibbet on which he was to die, he greeted the precious wood with joy. O good cross! he cried, made beautiful by the limbs of Christ, so long desired, now so happily found! Receive me into thy arms and present me to my Master, that He who redeemed me through thee may now accept me from thee! After suffering a cruel scourging he was left, bound by cords, to die upon this diagonal cross. For two whole days the martyr remained hanging on it, alive, preaching with outstretched arms from this chair of truth, to all who came near, and entreating them not to hinder his passion.
Reflection: If we would do good to others, we must, like Saint Andrew, receive our cross with loving gratitude and not desire to be separated from it, until God so wills. To take up our cross is Jesus’ command; are we perhaps dragging ours?
(Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea.)
St Andrew’s Prayer
O Glorious St. Andrew, you were the first to recognize and follow the Son of God. With your friend, St. John, you remained with Jesus, for your entire life, and now throughout eternity.
Just as you led your brother, St Peter, to Christ and many others after him, draw us also to Him. Teach us how to lead them, solely out of love for Jesus and dedication to His service. Help us to learn the lesson of the Cross and carry our daily crosses without complaint, so that they may carry us to God the Almighty Father. Amen.
St Andrew’s Call
Brother of Simon Peter, you heard John the Baptist say: “Behold the Lamb of God,” and you chose to follow Jesus. Leaving your nets, you became a successful fisher of souls. Lover of the Crucified Christ, you too were crucified like him. Teach us to live and suffer for Him and to win many souls for Christ. Amen.
O Good Cross (O Bona Crux)
(A prayer reflecting St Andrew’s delight immediately prior to his crucifixion and death.)
“O good Cross, made beautiful by the body of the Lord: long have I desired you, ardently have I loved you, unceasingly have I sought you out and now you are ready for my eager soul. Receive me from among men and restore me to my Master, so that he who, by means of You, in dying redeemed me, may now receive me. Amen.”
You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Too long have we been like those you do not rule, who do not bear your name. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, While you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean men, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; We have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; For you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt. Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.
Shepherd of Israel, listen! From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth Rouse your power, come to save us.
Once again, O LORD of hosts, look down from heaven, and see: take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
May your help be with the man of your right hand, with the son of man whom you yourself made strong. Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
First Letter to the Corinthians1,3-9.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus (Christ). God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark13,33-37.
Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
Saint John Chrysostom (c.345-407) priest at Antioch then Bishop of Constantinople, Doctor of the Church Homily on Psalm 49
Christ’s two comings
At his first coming, God came without any brilliance, unknown by most, prolonging the mystery of his hidden life by many years. When he came down from the mountain of the Transfiguration, Jesus asked his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ. Then he came like a shepherd to look for his lost sheep, and in order to get hold of the unruly animal, he had to remain hidden. Like a doctor who is careful not to frighten his patient right from the start, in the same way, the Lord avoids making himself known right from the beginning of his mission: he only does so imperceptibly and little by little. The prophet announced this event without brilliance with these words: “He shall be like rain coming down on the meadow, like showers watering the earth.” (Ps 72:6) He did not tear open the heavens so as to come on the clouds, but rather, he came in silence into the womb of a virgin and was carried by her for nine months. He was born in a manger as the son of a humble craftsman (…) He went here and there like an ordinary man; his clothing was simple, his table even more frugal. He walked without resting to the point of being tired out. But his second coming will not be like that. He will come with such brilliance that it won’t be necessary to announce his coming: “As the lightning from the east flashes to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mt 24:27) It will be the time of judgment and of sentencing. And the Lord will not appear as a doctor, but as a judge. The prophet Daniel saw his throne, the river flowing at the base of the tribunal, and that device made entirely of fire, the chariot and the wheels (7:9-10) (…) David, the prophet-king, spoke only of splendor, of brilliance, of fire flaming on all sides: “Before him is a devouring fire; around him is a raging storm.” (Ps 50:3) All these comparisons aim at making us understand God’s sovereignty, the brilliant light that surrounds him, and his inaccessible nature.
Traditional Latin Mass readings for the First Sunday of Advent
EPISTLE Romans 13: 11-14
Fratres: Sciéntes, quia hora est jam nos de somno súrgere. Nunc enim própior est nostra salus, quam cum credídimus. Nox præcéssit, dies autem appropinquávit. Abjiciámus ergo ópera tenebrárum, et induámur arma lucis. Sicut in die honéste ambulémus: non in comessatiónibus et ebrietátibus, non in cubílibus et impudicítiis, non in contentióne et æmulatióne: sed induímini Dóminum Jesum Christum.
Brethren, knowing that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is past and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.
GRADUAL Psalms 24: 3, 4
Univérsi qui te exspéctant, non confundéntur, Dómine. Vias tuas, Dómine, notas fac mihi: et sémitas tuas édoce me.
All they that wait on Thee shall not be confounded, O Lord. Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me: and teach me Thy paths.
Allelúja, allelúja. Osténde nobis, Dómine, misericórdiam tuam: et salutáre tuum da nobis. Allelúja.
Alleluia, alleluia. Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy: and grant us Thy salvation. Alleluia.
GOSPEL Luke 21: 25-33
In illo témpore: Dixit Jesus discípulis suis: Erunt signa in sole, et luna, et stellis, et in terris pressúra géntium præ confusióne sónitus maris et flúctuum: arescéntibus homínibus præ timóre et exspectatióne, quæ supervénient univérso orbi: nam virtútes cælórum movebúntur. Et tunc vidébunt Fílium hóminis veniéntem in nube cum potestáte magna, et majestáte. His autem fíeri incipiéntibus, respícite, et leváte cápita vestra: quóniam appropínquat redémptio vestra. Et dixit illis similitúdinem: Vidéte ficúlneam et omnes árbores: cum prodúcunt jam ex se fructum, scitis quóniam prope est æstas. Ita et vos cum vidéritis hæc fíeri, scitóte quóniam prope est regnum Dei. Amen dico vobis, quia non præteríbit generátio hæc, donec ómnia fiant. Cælum et terra transíbunt: verba autem mea non transíbunt.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves: men withering away for fear and expectations of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved. And then they shall see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And He spoke to them a similitude: See the fig tree and all the trees: when they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away.
“And this do, understanding the time, for it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we came to believe.”Rom. 13:11
Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 1: Advent comments:
“If …we would penetrate into the profound mystery which occupies the mind of the Church during this season, we find that this mystery of the coming, or Advent, of Jesus is at once simple and threefold. It is simple, for it is the one same Son of God that is coming; it is threefold, because He comes at three different times and in three different ways. ‘In the first coming,’ says St. Bernard, ‘He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.’ This, then, is the mystery of Advent. Let us now listen to the explanation of this threefold visit of Christ, given to us by Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon de Adventu: ‘There are three comings of our Lord; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third at judgement.The first was at midnight, according to those words ofthe Gospel: ‘At midnight there was a cry made, ‘Lo the Bridegroom cometh!’ Mt. 25:6 But this first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love Him, He will come unto us and will take up His abode with us (cf. Jn.14:23).So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God!They are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but when He cometh or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is surer than death and nothing less sure than the hour of death. When they shall say, peace and security say the apostle, then shall sudden destruction come upon them as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape. So that the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love; the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in his second, He renders us just by His grace; in His third, He will judge all things with justice. In His first, a lamb; in his last a lion; in the one in between the two, the tenderest of friends.’” Gueranger, p. 28-9
The Coming of the Messiah
The prophet Isaiah tells of the coming peace the Messiah will bring to not only the Jews but to the whole world. “It will be a great time for all peoples: ‘Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the House ofGod of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in his paths.’” Is 2:3 Today’s Gradual, Ps. 24:3-4 uses veiled language to tell us the times in which the Messiah will come: “All they that wait on Thee shall not be confounded, O Lord. Show, O Lord, Thy ways to me: and teach me Thy paths.” All those who trust in the promises of God about the coming Messiah will not be confounded especially since they pray that God will teach them His ways and His paths. All the world is in readiness. This is what St. Paul tells the Romans in today’s Epistle (Rom. 13:11-14).
The Middle Coming ofthe Spirit of God
In the Epistle to the Romans, St Paul spells out for us what we must do to live in the peace of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who will come into our lives through His grace by the Holy Spirit. This second (or Middle Coming) is what Peter of Blois says: “They are raised out of themselves by the desire for heavenly things.” St. Paul reminds us that now is the time to repent and think of the heavenly things of the light: “The night is far advanced: the day is at hand.Let us thereforelay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” Rom. 13:12. We all need to realize that time goes by very fast and that we should not remain in the darkness of sin. We need to “Put on the armour of light” which is to say, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 13:12-14. We need to give up sin which keeps us in darkness: “Let us walk becomingly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy.” Rom. 13:13 Sin is the only real evil in the world and when man sins, he becomes unhappy! He is in great darkness! Sin never makes us happy! Those who sin become “slaves of sin.” Jesus told us this when He said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commitssin is a slave of sin.” Jn. 8:34 This is why St. Paul tells us that true happiness and true freedom can only be achieved by living a virtuous life through imitating Jesus Christ and avoiding sin: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh take no thought for its lusts.” Rom. 13:14 We need to put on Jesus’ holiness. The Church reminds us in today’s Alleluia verse that Jesus will help us because He has come to save us: “Show, O Lord, Thy mercy; and grant us Thy salvation.”
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.”
Lk. 21: 27
The final advent or Third Coming (according to Peter of Blois) in this Advent Season is the final redemption of the world with the coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the world. The Gospel (Luke 21:23-33) today takes on apocalyptical overtones with Jesus’ prophecy of the end of the world: “And there will be signs in the sun and the moon and the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations bewildered by the roaring of the sea and waves; men fainting for fear and expectation of the things that are coming to the world; for the powers of heaven will be shaken.
It is very clear to see how the whole world, the sun, the moon, the stars and the sea will reveal a time when men will be faint with fear at the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus Christ, true God and true man, will not come as the meek and humble babe as He did the first time in Bethlehem. He will come as an all-powerful and just judge. The whole universe will testify to His power: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light.” (Mt. 24:29) And Jesus will come on clouds and in glory surrounded by a multitude of angels: “And then they will see the Son of Man coming upon a cloud with great power and majesty.” Lk. 21:27 In order to be ready for Jesus’ coming, we must, as St. Paul says in today’s epistle, be ready: “Brethren, knowing that it is now the hour for us to rise from sleep. For now, our salvation is nearer than when we believed. The night is passed, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, put on the armour of light.” Rom. 12:11-12
St. Teresa’s Advent Prayer for Jesus
Let us pray with St. Teresa of Avila: “O my God, Word of the Father, Word made flesh for love of us, You assumed a mortal body in order to suffer and be immolated for us.I wish to prepare for Your coming with the burning desires of the prophets and the just who in the Old Testament sighed after You, the one Saviour and Redeemer. ‘O Lord, send Him whom You are going to send… As you have promised, come and deliver us!’ I want to keep Advent in my soul, that is, a continual longing and waiting for this great Mystery wherein You, O Word became flesh to show me the abyss of your redeeming sanctifying mercy….Come, O Lord, come! I, too wish to run to You with love, but alas!My love is so limited, weak, and imperfect!Make it strong and generous; enable me to overcome myself, so that I can give myself entirely to You… What a consolation it will be, O Lord, at the moment of death to think that we shall be judged by Him whom we have loved above all things!Then we can enter Your presence with confidence, despite the weight of our offenses!” (The Way, 40)
PRAYER TO OBTAIN FAVOURS
Hail and blessed be the hour
and moment in which the Son
of God was born of the most
pure Virgin Mary, at midnight,
in Bethlehem, in piercing cold.
In that hour vouchsafe, O my
God! to hear my prayer and
grant my desires.Through the merits of Our Savior JesusChrist,
and of His Blessed Mother.Amen
(It is piously believed that whoever recites the above prayer fifteen times a day from the feast of Saint Andrew (30th Nov.) until Christmas will obtain what is asked.)
Kibeho is a small village located in southwestern Rwanda. Our Lady’s apparitions in Kibeho, Rwanda, began on November 28, 1981, and ended on November 28, 1989. November 28, 1981 was a time of increasing tension between the Tutsi and Hutu groups. The apparitions occurred at Kibeho College, a secondary school for girls, and included an apocalyptic vision of Rwanda descending into violence and hatred which many believe foretold the 1994 genocide.
Over the course of the 1980s, the Virgin Mary appeared to three young women, identifying herself as Nyina wa Jambo (Kinyarwanda for “Mother of the Word”), which was synonymous with Umubyeyi W’Imana (“Mother of God”). The teenaged seers reported that the Virgin asked everyone to pray to prevent a terrible war. In the vision of August 19, 1982, they all reported seeing violence, dismembered corpses, and destruction.
The longest series of visions were attributed to Alphonsine Mumureke, who had received the initial vision shortly after her admittance into Kibeho High School in October 1981 after her primary education, and the last on November 28, 1989. Nathalie Mukamazimpaka was the next one to have visions, which lasted from January 1982 to December 3, 1983. These emphasised endless prayer and expiation, with the Virgin even instructing Mukamazimpaka to perform penances through mortification of the flesh. Marie Claire Mukangango, who had initially bullied Mumureke at school because of the visions, herself experienced apparitions which lasted from March 2 to September 15, 1982. The Virgin told Mukangango that people should pray the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows to obtain the favour of repentance.
The visions may be regarded as an ominous foreshadowing of the Rwandan genocide, and particularly the second Kibeho Massacre in 1995. The school where the visions occurred became a place of slaughter during the Genocide as dozens of children were shot and hacked to death by Hutu terrorists. The visionaries had either fled the violence or were among the casualties of the Genocide. Marie Claire Mukangango and her husband were among those killed in the April 1995 massacre.
Nathalie Mukamazimpaka, one of the three visionaries of Kibeho recalls:
“Our Lady taught me to pray the Rosary Crown of the 7 Sorrows because she said that a tragedy was brewing in Rwanda. Our Lady asked us to change our lifestyle, to love the sacraments, to do penance, to pray without ceasing by reciting the Rosary of the 7 Sorrows for the conversion of the hearts of those who have departed from God, and to be humble in asking for forgiveness and in forgiving.”
Augustin Misago, the Bishop of Gikongoro, the diocese on which Kibeho depends, approved public devotion linked to the apparitions on 15 August 1988 (the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary) and declared their authenticity on 29 June 2001. He recalls the amazement and anxiety generated by the story of the visionaries:
“We realize now that the Rwandan tragedy had been foretold. But I remember that on August 15, 1982, on the feast of the Assumption, the visionaries, instead of seeing the Virgin full of joy, witnessed terrible, frightening visions of corpses from which sprang abundant streams of blood, left unburied on the hills. No one knew what these terrible images meant. Now we are able to interpret the events anew, and see that they were probably a vision of what happened in Rwanda and in the region of the Great Lakes where blood was flowing, in Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
The Bishop of Gikongoro added that Our Lady of Kibeho’s messages concern the whole world. “A conversion of hearts is needed.”
The Marian sanctuary at Kibeho was named “Shrine of “Our Lady of Sorrows” in 1992.
In her widely acclaimed book, Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa, author Immaculée Ilibagiza draws on her first-hand experiences, visiting the sites before and after the holocaust. There, she witnessed true miracles and had direct contact with the visionaries themselves. Her discoveries tell a powerful message of reconciliation, enlightenment and peace. This deeply personal and moving story is certain to help spread the message of love, hope and peace delivered in Kibeho throughout the world – a world desperately in need of Divine inspiration.
Over the last few weeks several of the world’s most important pharmaceutical companies have announced the imminent production of vaccines against Covid 19. Commenting on this news, an esteemed Italian virologist, Professor Andrea Crisanti, issued a statement of supreme common sense. In response to the question whether he would take the vaccine or not, he replied: “Normally it takes about five to eight years to produce a vaccine. For this, without available data, I wouldn’t take the first vaccine that should be arriving in January. I’d like to be sure that this vaccine has been tested properly and that it satisfies the safety and efficacy criterion. As a citizen I have this right and I’m not willing to accept shortcuts.”
It is an answer of complete common sense, sound, for that matter, with the principle of precaution, invoked so much today for the protection of the environment and it is not clear why this shouldn’t be applied in the field of health as well. Prof. Crisanti is not against vaccines, but retains correctly, that the press releases by the pharmaceutical companies are not enough to guarantee safety and so he is waiting for the scientific data, which the regulatory agencies will verify. As a result of these prudent words he’s been demonized by the mass-media and some of his colleagues.
Cristanti defended himself with a letter published in the Corriere della Sera of November 23, wherein among other things, he states: “The custodians of scientific orthodoxy do not admit hesitations or vacillations; they demand a leap of faith from those who don’t have access to privileged information. ‘The vaccine will work’, they thunder indignantly. I’m the first to hope this is true; nonetheless, allow me to object: the vaccine is not a sacred object. Let’s leave faith to religion and doubt and discussion to science which are its stimulus and guarantee.”
I give space to these declarations because it seems to me they are the voice of common sense at a time when the good use of reason is often lacking. Those like us, who are neither immunologists nor microbiologists and thus incapable of making scientific predictions, can only make an effort not to renounce the good use of logic and can do nothing other than agree with Professor Crisanti. But, seeing that, in addition to reason, it is necessary to live through this pandemic in the light of faith, we can indicate the existence of a remedy against the Coronavirus which is by far the most effective since it prevents not only bodily ills – which everyone fears – but also the much more dangerous ones, those of the soul – which nobody addresses.
I am referring to the Miraculous Medal which we celebrate on November 27th. It was Our Lady Herself Who appeared to Catherine Labourè that day in 1830. She was 24 years old at the time and a novice at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity, in Rue du Bac, Paris. Catherine Labouré recounts that she saw: “a somewhat oval frame forming around the Holy Virgin, upon which in a half-circle from the right to the left of Mary these words written in gold-letters could be read:“O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you,” Then a voice was heard that said to me: ‘Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck’. In an instant it seemed to me the frame turned around and I saw the other side of the Medal. There was the letter M (Mary’s initial) surmounted by a cross without a crucifix which had as a base the letter I (initial of the name of Iesus –Jesus). Then further below there were two hearts, one encircled by thorns (representing Jesus’ heart), the other pierced by a sword (Mary’s). Lastly, twelve stars encircled everything. Then everything vanished, like something switching off, and I was left filled with – I don’t know how to express it – good sentiments, of joy and consolation.”
The first 1500 examples of the medal requested by Our Lady were produced in 1832. Since then, graces and miracles have multiplied the requests for the medals: sinners converted, the dying healed, dangers thwarted and graces of every type obtained. The parish of Notre-Dame des Victoires in Paris became a center of extraordinary propagation. Catherine Labouré was the silent apostle of the Miraculous Medal until her death on December 31, 1876. The total number of medals already distributed up until that date were over a million. The most astonishing fruit of the new devotion was the conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne, to whom Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal appeared on January 20, 1842, in the Roman Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte.
In 1894, Leo XIII, on the fiftieth anniversary of the apparitions at Rue du Bac, declared the miraculous conversion of Ratisbonne authentic and proclaimed the Feast of the Miraculous Medal for November 27th every year. On July 27, 1947, Catherine was proclaimed a Saint by Pius XII and today her body is venerated in the Chapel of the Apparitions in Rue du Bac, alongside that of St.Louise Marillac, foundress, with St.Vincent de Paul, of the Daughters of Charity.
Why did Our Lady choose a simple medal to distribute Her graces? For the same reason She chose a humble novice as the recipient of Her message: to demonstrate that Providence always uses apparently insignificant instruments to overthrow enemies who think they are invincible. As St. Paul says: “But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; […] And the base things of the world, and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that are not, that he might bring to nought things that are.” (I Cor. 1, 27-29).
In the apparition of November 27th to St. Catherine Labouré, Our Lady stands victoriously on the globe – the World – and holds another smaller globe in Her hands, offering it to God. If She is offering it to Him, it is because it belongs to Her. Mary Mediatrix of all graces, Co-Redemptrix of the human race, is also the Queen of Heaven and Earth. The world belongs to Her and not to the leaders of Globalism. There is a world order which is holy and it is Hers.
Pius XI, on July 19, 1931, on the occasion of the process for the Beatification of Catherine Labouré, touching upon the evils afflicting the Church, he said: “In these days the Miraculous Medal is resplendent, as if to call us back in a visible and tangible way to prayer where no holds are barred, even miracles, and especially miracles. It is indeed a great miracle that the blind can see…but there is another miracle we must ask Mary, Queen of the Medal for, and it is that those who don’t want to see – see…”
The Miraculous Medal should be blessed and then worn, preferably round the neck. May its devotees not only wear it round their neck or on their clothes, but diffuse it, in their homes, in places of pain and those of sin, wherever it can be distributed.
The Miraculous Medal, worn with faith by many Catholics all over the world, still continues its extraordinary mission today and is a prodigious vaccine against the evils of our time. The last great miracle we ask of it, is the dissipation of the darkness of chaos, enveloping the world we live in.
Have you heard of Blessed Miguel Pro? He chanted “Long Live Christ the King!” as he gave his life to Christ! Listen below to this amazing conversation about Christian martyrs. Are you prepared for the possibility of dying for Christ? Did you know that there are more Christians being martyred for their Faith today than in the first centuries of implacable persecution of Holy Christendom? There are many Christians around the world who are suffering daily martyrdom for heroically refusing to renounce their Faith. Torture, imprisonments, exile etc, are ongoing atrocities that the uninterested MSM in the West turns a blind eye to and a deaf ear. A Nigerian bishop has said “Our land is now a pool of blood,” as reported here.
Blessed Miguel Pro died a martyr proclaiming: “Long live Christ the King!”
Listen here to more on the audio from Relevant Radio starting at the 23:18 mark. The interview with Dr. Robert Royal begins at the 32:30 mark and ends at 48:00.
Don’t ever say the martyrdom of Christians could not happen here; it couldn’t possibly happen to me! If things don’t change soon – an unlikely event – a call to martyrdom is on the cards. Faithful Christians are already suffering a form of white martyrdom in progressive western nations: ridiculed, harassed and threatened for holding to the precepts of our Faith. We are an impediment to the plans of the New World Order thugs. We are a troublesome stumbling block for the Great Reset, the ungodly socialist “paradise” they want to force upon the world. “Who will rid us of these pesky Christians?” (Do those chilling words ring a bell?)
“We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful; as unrecognized and yet acknowledge; as dying and behold we live; as chastised and yet not put to death; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor yet enriching many; as having nothing and yet possessing all things!” (2 Cor 6:8:-10)
Be joyful! But be prepared!
“Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! And we do always have so much to be thankful for!
When we think on it, thanksgiving is the language of heaven and all of our favorite saints were proficient at this most joyous virtue. This morning, I was mindful of this as I read the following from dear Saint Catherine, who personifies thanksgiving in all she writes:
“Oh! Good! oh! Eternal Greatness! You made Yourself low and small to make man great. On whichever side I turn I find nothing but the abyss and fire of Your charity. And can a wretch like me pay back to You the graces and the burning charity that You have shown and show with so much burning love in particular to me beyond common charity, and the love that You show to all Your creatures?
. . . You alone, most sweet and amorous Father, are He who will be thankful and grateful for me, that is, that the affection of Your charity itself will render You thanks, because I am she who is not, and if I spoke as being anything of myself, I should be lying by my own head, and should be a lying daughter of the Devil, who is the father of lies, because You alone are He who is. And my being and every further grace that You have bestowed upon me, I have from You, who give them to me through love, and not as my due.
I do not wish, oh! Eternal Father, ineffable Fire of Love, that my heart should ever grow weary, or my eyes fail through tears, in desiring Your honor and the salvation of souls, but I beg of You, by Your grace, that they may be as two streams of water issuing from You, the Sea Pacific. Thanks, thanks to You, oh! Father, for having granted me that which I asked You and that which I neither knew nor asked; for by thus giving me matter for grief, You have invited me to offer before You sweet, loving, and yearning desires, with humble and continual prayer.
Now I beg of You that You will do mercy to the world and to the holy Church. I pray You to fulfill that which You caused me to ask You. Alas! what a wretched and sorrowful soul is mine, the cause of all these evils. Do not put off any longer Your merciful designs towards the world, but descend and fulfill the desire of Your servants. “Ah me! You cause them to cry in order to hear their voices! Your truth told us to cry out, and we should be answered; to knock, and it would be opened to us; to beg, and it would be given to us.
Oh! Eternal Father, Your servants do cry out to Your mercy; do You then reply. I know well that mercy is Your own attribute, wherefore You can not destroy it or refuse it to him who asks for it. Your servants knock at the door of Your truth, because in the truth of Your only-begotten Son they know the ineffable love which You have for man, wherefore the fire of Your love ought not and cannot refrain from opening to him who knocks with perseverance. Wherefore open, unlock, and break the hardened hearts of Your creatures, not for their sakes who do not knock, but on account of Your infinite goodness, and through love of Your servants who knock at You for their sakes. Grant the prayer of those, Eternal Father who, as You see, stand at the door of Your truth and pray.
For what do they pray? For with the Blood of this door – Your truth – have You washed our iniquities and destroyed the stain of Adam’s sin. The Blood is ours, for You have made it our bath, wherefore You can not deny it to any one who truly asks for it. Give, then, the fruit of Your Blood to Your creatures. Place in the balance the price of the blood of Your Son, so that the infernal devils may not carry off Your lambs. You are the Good Shepherd who, to fulfill Your obedience, laid down His life for Your lambs, and made for us a bath of His Blood.
That Blood is what Your hungry servants beg of You at this door, begging You through it to do mercy to the world, and to cause Your holy Church to bloom with the fragrant flowers of good and holy pastors, who by their sweet odor shall extinguish the stench of the putrid flowers of sin.
You have said, Eternal Father, that through the love which You have for Your rational creatures, and the prayers and the many virtues and labors of Your servants, You would do mercy to the world, and reform the Church, and thus give us refreshment; wherefore do not delay, but turn the eye of Your mercy towards us, for You must first reply to us before we can cry out with the voice of Your mercy. Open the door of Your inestimable love which You have given us through the door of Your Word. I know indeed that You open before even we can knock, for it is with the affection of love which You have given to Your servants, that they knock and cry to You, seeking Your honor and the salvation of souls.
Give them then the bread of life, that is to say, the fruit of the Blood of Your only-begotten Son, which they ask of You for the praise and glory of My name and the salvation of souls. For more glory and praise will be Yours in saving so many creatures, than in leaving them obstinate in their hardness of heart. To You, Eternal Father, everything is possible, and even though You have created us without our own help, You will not save us without it.
I beg of You to force their wills, and dispose them to wish for that for which they do not wish; and this I ask You through Your infinite mercy. You have created us from nothing; now, therefore, that we are in existence, do mercy to us, and remake the vessels which You have created to Your image and likeness. Re-create them to Grace in Your mercy and the Blood of Your Son sweet Christ Jesus.”
(St Catherine of Siena. “The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena.”)
Did you notice her words?
“Thanks, thanks to You, oh! Father, for having granted me that which I asked You and that which I neither knew nor asked; for by thus giving me matter for grief, You have invited me to offer before You sweet, loving, and yearning desires, with humble and continual prayer.”
See how she thanks God for giving her “matter for grief”, thus acknowledging the treasures of grace to be found in our crosses. This is wisdom! How practical is this saint!
Another point, think how the good and wise saint begins with thanksgiving, especially remarking that even the fact that she is able to thank God is a gratuitous act of mercy on His part – for we, on our own, are not able to do so much as thank Him – it is He who grants us this grace before we even are able to conceive the thought. But this grace, the gratuitous gift of God, is available to us all from the loving Providence of Our Father in heaven. Let us rejoice and be glad!
We are being granted tremendous graces in this time of crisis – let us resolve to thank God for them and not allow a single cross to pass without bearing fruit in us, for the salvation of many souls is here for the asking! Let us rejoice and be glad, thanking God in all things!
So one of my absolute favorite, make-the-hair-on-my-arms-stand-up dynamics is when God, in His perfect and unsearchable Providence, causes even His enemies to testify, unknowingly but unmistakably, to His Godhead and His infinite love. For me, these episodes are even more compelling and convincing than levitating saints (St. Philip Neri, my direct patron, for example).
This tidbit comes from the second session ofDr. Mazza’s Church History Course, which is almost over, but we are all loving, and looking forward to next semester, God willing. This is something that I feel like I SHOULD have known, but when Dr. Mazza said it, I was so shocked and overjoyed that I think there is no way I could have forgotten something so cool.
Let’s go back to Pontius Pilate’s court. Pilate knows Our Lord is innocent and does NOT want to execute Him, but the Jews, led by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin have passively threatened Pilate. Oh – this is ANOTHER thing Dr. Mazza explained. Did you know that there was a man named Lucius Aelius Sejanus, who was the head of the Praetorian Guard, and was essentially the number 2 to Tiberius Caesar? Me neither. When Tiberius withdrew to the Isle of Capri in ARSH 26 (some of you may have been to Capri as tourists, apparently it is very beautiful), Sejanus was left to essentially administer the entire Roman Empire. Sejanus APPOINTED PONTIUS PILATE the governor of Judea. So Pilate was Sejanus’ boy, not Tiberius’. Sejanus was executed by Tiberius in AD 31 because pretty much everyone suspected Sejanus of plotting to take over. SO, when the Jews, led by the High Priest and Sanhedrin in Pilate’s Court yelled out to Pilate…
“If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar’s friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar.” — John 19: 12
…what they were doing was passively threatening Pilate, an appointee of Sejanus, that they would denounce him to Tiberius as NOT LOYAL TO TIBERIUS, but rather to Sejanus’ faction. “Not Caesar’s friend.” Which could have very, very easily meant Pilate’s execution, and the execution of his family.
Isn’t. That. Interesting.
NOW, for the amazing part.
Pilate, as we all know, NOT wanting to execute an innocent man, but desperate (and now we know exactly why) to appease the Jews led by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, tried to appeal to the annual “release one prisoner” Jewish tradition. And we all know the prisoner that was offered was Barabbas. And as we all know, the Jews, led by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin cried out: “Give us Barabbas!”
STOP. Do you know what the name BARABBAS means? I’m ashamed for not making this connection. Dr. Mazza laid this out for us:
“BAR” means “the son of” in Aramaic. As in Peter’s original name being “Simon Bar-Jonah” – Simon the son of Jonah. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah!” Matthew 16: 17. The Apostle Bartholomew is “the son of Timothy”, Bar-Timaeus.
And we should know what the Aramaic word “Abba” means from Our Lord’s words in the throes of His Agony in the Garden: “And He saith: Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee: remove this chalice from Me; but not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” –Mark 14: 36
“Abba” means “father”.
So the criminal Barabbas’ name literally means “Son of the Father”.
So Our Blessed Lord, standing beside Pilate on the loggia of Pilate’s palace, looked down into the packed courtyard, upon Israel, the historical proxy for mankind, led by the High Priest of the Temple, and they shouted with murderous hatred and narcissistic rage:
GIVE US THE SON OF THE FATHER! LET HIS BLOOD BE UPON US AND UPON OUR CHILDREN!
And Our Lord, infinite power, infinite LOVE, infinite mercy, said…
Amen. So be it.
And so it was, and so it is. And so we ARE redeemed, and so we might be saved. God is so powerful that His Providence causes even His most intransigent enemies to unwittingly testify to His Godhead, and His Sacrificial Love.
(And we worry about the likes of Antipope Bergoglio or the New World Order, or the Deep State in Washington…?)
This moment is made manifest at EVERY Mass, because the Mass is the bending of space-time behind a supernatural veil such that the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Our Lord’s Passion is made literally present upon the altar. This moment in which the the entire Church cries out, “GIVE US THE SON OF THE FATHER! LET HIS BLOOD BE UPON US AND UPON OUR CHILDREN!” occurs at the elevation of the Chalice. Angels come and dip supernatural hyssop branches into the Precious Blood in the Chalice and sprinkle the world, and the Poor Souls in Purgatory, AND YOU, with Our Lord’s Blood, the Blood of the Lamb.
Now you know why I prefer to be in the front row. Maximum angelic sprinklage. I’m only about 30% kidding. At every elevation of the Chalice, I now say inaudibly, “Give us the Son of the Father. Let His Blood be upon us and upon our children!” I have said “Let His Blood…” for many years, after a conference in Denver in which the visions of St. Gaspar del Bufalo were shared. But now I complete the moment with, “GIVE US THE SON OF THE FATHER!”
And THIS, friends, is why we GO TO MASS. We go to Mass because Our Lord stood at the top of Pilate’s steps and fallen man (which is me) begged for Him and His Blood. Not even knowing what they were actually saying or doing. But Our Lord knew, and knew what Love demanded, and what we all need and want: HIM. Our Lord knew why He created mankind, and the entire universe for man, in the first place. And Our Lord in His Providence even had the infinite Mercy to arrange for fallen man, mired in sin and consumed with hatred for Him, to testify to His Divinity and the Power and Glory of His Blood.
And Our Lord said, “Amen.” So be it.
If you aren’t teared up, you should be.
Here is Gibson’s version of the incident. This clip is good because there are no subtitles. Now that you know exactly what was going on, and EXACTLY what was being said and by whom, it is far more powerful without the subtitles. And consider – Our Lady, there present in the courtyard with St. John, certainly “got” what was being said, and St. John very probably understood too.
The name Memorare, meaning “remember,” is the first word in the Latin version of the prayer. There are various English translations of the prayer but the following one is the most common: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.”
As you can see, the prayer is one of confidence in the power of Mary’s intercession. It is only right to have complete trust in Our Lady. After all, she is the Mother, Daughter and Spouse of God, and God will answer her every request.
The one who says this prayer comes before Our Lady with humility admits that he is “sinful and sorrowful,” and, trusting in her mercy, begs her to grant him favors. It is a good idea when saying the Memorare to have a particular petition in mind.
It is believed that Saint Bernard of Clairvaux composed the Memorare. But we also know that Father Claude Bernard, a French priest, made this prayer famous in the seventeenth century. His devotion to the Virgin Mary under the title “Comforter of the Afflicted” moved him to promote the recourse to Mary’s intercession among the poor as well as prisoners facing execution.
Trusting his charges into the care and intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Father Bernard used the Memorare extensively in his work of evangelization, with great effect.
Many a criminal was reconciled to God through his efforts. At one time he had more than 200,000 leaflets printed with the Memorare in various languages so he could distribute them wherever he felt they would do some good.
Part of the reason Father Claude Bernard held the Memorare in such high regard was that he thought he had been miraculously cured by saying it when he was gravely ill. After saying the prayer, he started to get well again. Feeling himself unworthy of such a miracle, he attributed his cure to natural causes. But then an Augustinian Brother told him that Our Lady had appeared to him and had told him that Father Bernard’s cure was due to her intercession. Farther Bernard then begged God’s forgiveness for his lack of faith and gratitude.
“For as the lightning comes forth from the east and shines even to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man… And he will send forth his angels with a trumpet and a great sound, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Matthew 24:27 ff.)
Literary critics are a prickly and opinionated group, but they have always agreed that one of the greatest works of Western Literature is Dante’s Divine Comedy, both as poetry and as human epic. A few years ago a human rights organization called Gherush 92, which acts as a consultant to the United Nations body on racism and discrimination called for the banning of Dante’s Divine Comedy, specifically the first part called the Inferno, from the classroom. Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president. She went on to say: “We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged , clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism”. She goes on to say that school children who studied the work lack the “filters” to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism.
One could not ask for a better example of where post-modern Western culture is than this irrational screed from Signora Sereni. And for us here this morning we just heard the gospel for this Sunday [in the Extraordinary rite] which speaks of the Last Things, and speaks in graphically violent and unambiguous terms: that all of this will come to an end and an integral part of the end is judgment, judgment by God on every person who is part of, as we say, this world. This business about banning the Commedia Divina is of existential interest to me, for I taught the Inferno in my Advanced Latin Class at my school along with the sixth book of Vergil’s Aeneid, both of which have to do with depictions of the Underworld, or, in impolite circles, Hell. The fact is, and this is what is relevant to Catholics, that Signora Sereni’s fears of students lacking filters to screen out the trash in the Inferno are quite unfounded. For the fact is that there are no filters to screen anything out. Or rather, the filters work very well indeed in a culture in which the individual and his wants are central to understanding anything at all. Most students, including Catholic students, would treat the Inferno as they would any literary composition of the Past, as if they were reading Paradise Lost, or Don Quixote, or Huckleberry Finn, or, better still, Alice in Wonderland. The very premise of the Inferno, that God’s justice demands the existence of Hell of which the denizens are tortured by various punishments for eternity, is incomprehensible to most students of today in Western culture, including those Catholics who have undergone the “rigors” of religious education in order to gain the prize of Confirmation. They are what concern us here today, but we cannot dismiss our concern as well for those who are the products of a denatured and de-Christianized Protestantism for which post-modern culture has effectively neutralized the sting of the Gospel.
Where can one begin to address Signora Sereni’s difficulties with those in Dante’s Hell? With the lustful? With the heretics? With the blasphemers, with the sodomites, with the usurers, with the panderers, with the murderers, with those who betrayed their country and their friends, with Judas Iscariot, with Lucifer? There is nowhere to begin, for the decadent Western world in which we live will not tolerate judgment of any kind: except that judgment that is safe, the judgment that does not concern them. And so they revel in condemnation of corporate greed (a bit close to the bone all too often in this part of the world), of the rich not caring enough about the poor, about the state of education for minorities, about the inequality of the sexes in the workplace, and so forth. But this condemnation is of the moment and of no personal moment. It has no eternal consequences. It is posturing, it is posing, for none of this relates to the judgment of God and the Last Things, over which they or we have any control.
When one teaches the Inferno, one has a choice: to teach it as one of the greatest literary work of the Western canon and to comment on it as if one were commenting on an insect preserved in aspic, talking only about the beauty of the poetry, the sweep of history, the relationship to Classical literature, etc, etc. Or, while teaching all of the above, one teaches the context of the Inferno which is Dante’s deep Catholic understanding of the essence of things: the Natural Law that is given by God, the presence and meaning of the Catholic Church in everyday life and in history, the terrible reality of sin and its consequences, the awe-ful justice of God, but also the harrowing of Hell and the reality of redemption in Jesus Christ and the mercy of Purgatory and the joy of Heaven: all this, all this, but yet and also the reality of the horror of Hell that is the place forever of those who have rejected in an absolute way the offer of the mercy of God in the redemption made real by the Cross of Jesus Christ. The Divine Comedy, the journey to God, is the essence of the drama of what it means to be a man, a human being. It is not the base existential allure of Waiting for Godot. It is not the insane but plausible Superman of Nietzsche. It is not the debased sentimentality of contemporary belief that all is permissible as long as it hurts no one else. It is not the Catholicism that is reduced to the mawkish strains of “Let there be peace on earth” and “Eagles’ wings” against which the gates of Hell are more than a match.
We have heard so much in the past few years about the mercy of God, as if the mercy of God does not depend on the justice of God. Without justice there can be no mercy. The mission of the Church is not primarily to proclaim the mercy of God. The mission of the Church is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The mercy of God is surely seen and exemplified once and for all in the Cross of Jesus Christ. There is no greater symbol of God’s mercy and love. Those silly “resurrected Christs” that are placed on a cross over an altar in some Catholic churches are a product of sentimentality and denial of the justice of God. And yet when one looks at the Cross one sees there the terrible, horrible, judgment of God on this world of sin, that God would have to have his Son die in this way: what does that say about this world, about you and me? The obvious answer is quite negative. But you see, the deepest answer to that question is Love, there is the answer. But not the cheap love the world would have us believe in, love defined as what I want to do, love defined apart from the laws of God, love defined so as to upturn reality into perversity, a false love that is doomed to hell, as Dante saw, as Christ told us, as St. Paul wrote, that is doomed to death, for it is the opposite of Love.
The gospel speaks clearly of the second coming of Christ, a time of judgment, a time when the justice of God will be revealed and will be exacted. This will be a time, yes, a time of mercy on those sinners who have repented and who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. And those will hear those words: “Come ye blessed of my Father…” But this will also be a time of justice, when the wicked who have not repented, who have reveled in their sinfulness, who have spit at the law of God, will receive their reward.
And it will probably be much worse than anything Dante could have imagined.
France, 1827, at the height of the same time period Les Misérables was set.
A young servant girl was working in a household ’til such time as her employers moved to Paris and took her with them. She had such a strong devotion to the holy souls that every month without fail she used a portion of her meager earnings to have a Mass offered for the holy souls.
The servant girl fell prey to a devastating illness, and had a long sojourn in hospital. So long was she away from scrubbing floors that her employers fired her. The girl’s plight is reminiscent of that of Fantine’s, the chief female character from Les Misérables. In France of the 1800s, Fantine slaved to feed herself and the daughter she bore out of wedlock, and resorted to selling her front teeth and becoming a street-walker.
Fantine’s life of unmitigated hardship was fiction, but a true portrait of the time, yet the case of the servant girl is a genuine account. The servant girl feared for her future; she was newly out of hospital, she had no where to live and no job.
She had occasion to go to the church of St Eustache, that awe-inspiring gothic church. Inside the church where the long thin stone pillars seem to reach Heaven, she remembered her devotion to the holy souls and she considered being faithful to her custom of having a Mass offered for them. But she only had one franc left, and were she to part with it, she had nothing to buy food. Dying to self, she summoned the nerve to request a Mass be offered for the holy souls and she parted with the last of her money to pay for it.
That same day, the Mass she requested was offered, and she assisted at it with great love for the suffering souls. After mass, she roamed the streets, her mind was pierced with anxiety as to how she was to find her way. A young man with a pale face, thin build and noble bearing came up to her and abruptly told her she would find a job at a certain address, and he added that she would be happy there. With that, the pale-faced man disappeared into the crowd.
The servant girl hastened through the streets of Paris and found the house. She was greeted by a chaotic scene; a bitter, obnoxious servant was leaving the house for the last time in a huff, and she rudely announced she was never coming back. She was welcomed in by a kindly old lady. “Madame,” she addressed the old lady, “I learned this morning that you are in need of a servant, and I came to offer my services. I was assured that you would received me kindly.” The old lady was flabbergasted, “What you tell me is very extraordinary. This morning I had no need of a servant, it is only within the last half-hour that I have discharged an insolent domestic, and there is not a soul in the world except her and myself who know it. Who sent you, then?” The girl replied guilelessly, “It was a gentleman,, a young gentleman whom I met on the street. And it is absolutely necessary for me to find a place today because I have not a penny in my pocket.” The servant girl revealed she had spent her last on a Mass for the holy souls before she met the pale-faced gentleman.
The old lady was lost in thought; how could a young gentleman have known she needed a servant and have sought out this girl on the busy Paris streets? Suddenly the servant girl’s attention was seized by a portrait that hung on the wall, “Wait, Madame, do not puzzle yourself anymore. This is the exact picture of the young man who spoke to me. It is on his account that I am come.” The second that the servant girl said these words, the old lady shrieked in emotion and almost fainted. But she recovered strength and threw her arms around the girl. The old lady exclaimed, “You shall not be my servant, you are my daughter! It is my son, my only son whom you saw, dead for the past two years, who owes to you his deliverance, whom God directed to send you here.”
A certain F. Rossignoli received the account above, but as of now, I do not know more about Rossignoli.
These days I am frequently asked if we are living in the “End Times.” As the grace of Holy Orders does not make me a seer, I defer, as is prudent, to the King of Universe: “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). So the answer simply is that we do not know, but as the Coast Guard’s “Semper Paratus” motto exhorts, we must constantly be prepared. That vigilance is contingent on everyone’s immediate obligation to be recollect for the end of one’s own life. For the Christian, this is a stimulus to faith rather than neurosis. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).
The prophets were not like the boy who cried “Wolf!” They were inspired by God to tell what he wants his people to know about spiritual readiness, so that his kingly rule is that of a shepherd guiding his flock through the variables of human experience. In the film The Lion in Winter, Katharine Hepburn as Henry II’s queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, remarks with regal resignation about her dysfunctional family: “What family doesn’t have its ups and downs?” Christ’s family the Church has always had its ups and downs, often big time, and many times it has been the lamentable case that the Shepherd King is tasked with herding cats rather than sheep.
The Church began with a crucifixion when no one expected a resurrection. That sequence of death and life is repeated time and again. There were the persecutions under so many Caesars, heresies with volatile schisms in consequence, sieges, desecrations, destructions, corruptions and civilly institutionalized blasphemies. But each of these crucifixions was followed by a resurrection. This is to be remembered when distress in the Church is accompanied by a confluence of unrest and fear in politics and pandemics. Through it all, the Carthusian motto grows ever more stolid and incontestable: “Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis”—the Cross stands steady while the world revolves. This is most vivid when the revolving world seems to be whirling out of control.
On November 5, the ninety-year-old Cardinal Tumi of Cameroon was briefly kidnapped by separatists who demanded that he endorse their propaganda. He told his captors that he must preach only what is true: “Nobody has the right to tell me to preach the contrary because I was called by God.” In every cultural crisis, this is the kind of witness that transcends any attempt to speculate about the end of the world, for it takes its strength from the assurance that Christ Crucified in Jerusalem is also Christ the King of the Universe.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:14)