Wednesday, August 31, 2016

St. Raymond Nonnatus: Evangelizer of Muslims

Here is the brief story of another Saint of whom most people know nothing (which included yours truly until I read this article on EWTN's website), and whose feast day is today, August 31.  St. Raymond Nonnatus underwent severe mistreatment by Muslims for preaching the Gospel of Christ and converting (and saving) many souls.  May his example be of great value for us all in these darkening times.

St. Raymond, ora pro nobis!

St. Raymond Nonnatus
Feast: August 31
Feast Day:August 31
Born: 1204, La Portella, Comarca of Segrià, Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon
Died:August 31, 1240, Cardona, Province of Barcelona, Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon
Canonized:1657, Rome by Pope Alexander VII
Patron of:Childbirth; children; expectant mothers; falsely accused people; fever; infants; midwives; newborn babies; obstetricians; pregnant women

Born 1200 or 1204 at Portello in the Diocese of Urgel in Catalonia; died at Cardona, 31 August, 1240. His feast is celebrated on 31 August. He is pictured in the habit of his order surrounded by ransomed slaves, with a padlock on his lips. He was taken from the womb of his mother after her death, hence his name. Of noble but poor family, he showed early traits of piety and great talent. His father ordered him to tend a farm, but later gave him permission to take the habit with the Mercedarians at Barcelona, at the hands of the founder, St. Peter Nolasco. Raymond made such progress in the religious life that he was soon considered worthy to succeed his master in the office of ransomer. He was sent to Algiers and liberated many captives. When money failed he gave himself as a hostage. He was zealous in teaching the Christian religion and made many converts, which embittered the Mohammedan authorities. Raymond was subjected to all kinds of indignities and cruelty, was made to run the gauntlet, and was at last sentenced to impalement. The hope of a greater sum of money as ransom caused the governor to commute the sentence into imprisonment. To prevent him from preaching for Christ, his lips were pierced with a red-hot iron and closed with a padlock. After his arrival in Spain, in 1239, he was made a cardinal by Gregory IX. In the next year he was called to Rome by the pope, but came only as far as Cardona, about six miles from Barcelona, where he died. His body was brought to the chapel of St. Nicholas near his old farm. In 1657 his name was placed in the Roman martyrology by Alexander VII. He is invoked by women in labour and by persons falsely accused. The appendix to the Roman ritual gives a formula for the blessing of water, in his honour, to be used by the sick, and another of candles.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia; emphasis added)

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Monday, August 29, 2016

The Passion of St. John the Baptist--But, Mercy!

Today the Church commemorates the passion, that is, the suffering and martyrdom, of St. John the Baptist, he who prepared the way of the Lord, baptizing Him in the Jordan and preaching of his coming.

And why was he martyred?  For telling the truth to someone who didn't want to hear it.  He told King Herod that he was an adulterer for "marrying" his brother's wife while his brother was still alive. This somewhat displeased the woman in question, Herodias, who took advantage of her "husband's" rampant lust for her daughter and forced him to have John executed.  See Mark 6: 17-29; Matthew 14: 1-12. 

St. Ambrose, in his Treatise Concerning Virgins, (the third Reading for today's Matins prayers in the traditional Office) states in part:

 “We must not hurry past the record of blessed Baptist John. We must ask what he was; by whom he was slain; and why and how. He was a righteous man, murdered for his righteousness by adulterers. He was a judge, who suffered condemnation to death by the guilty ones because he had justly judged their guilt. He was the prophet whose death was a fee paid to a dancing-girl for a lascivious dance."

Imprisoned and later killed for speaking the truth to those who knew their own guilt but sought to pretend righteousness, John the Baptist is a type for the Church today, which is reviled and scorned and legally attacked for trying to uphold God's moral law.  Oh, wait... 

 At least, it used to be.  These days, we're not really hearing much from the Church about heroes like John the Baptist or St. Thomas More, who similarly lost his head for refusing to condone his king's adulterous desires.  Instead, we're told by various bishops and cardinals that we who stand up for Christ's definition of adultery are "Pharisees" and "fundamentalists" who "throw stones at people's lives."  You can verify all those statements, and more like them, quite easily with a word search or two.  Try names like Paglia, Schornborn, Kasper, Marx...and Francis. Or Bergoglio, as he still apparently prefers to be known, having re-upped his Argentinian passport in that name. 

Yeah, him.  I'm sorry, but I can't let this go. The guy who is supposed to be in charge of defending the Deposit of Faith seems hell-bent (no pun intended) on forcing priests worldwide to give Holy Communion to "the divorced and remarried"--in other words, to persons living in open and notorious adultery, which he and his fellow travelers prefer to call "irregular unions." Don't believe that?  I guess you haven't read the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which attempts to justify such a practice, among other problems.  Never mind those guys who were martyred for insisting that when Jesus defined divorce and "remarriage" as adultery, he meant it.  Because, you know, mercy.  Without repentance and conversion of heart, without a firm purpose of amendment, without any commitment whatsoever to cease engaging in mortal sin as Jesus Himself and His Church have defined it since the beginning.  You see, these definitions are too harsh, too...unmerciful.  As if these men, these fallen humans, can better define mercy than God can.  Righty-o, gentlemen, you go!  That guy Jesus, well, maybe he wasn't really God after all, you know, since he didn't really multiply the loaves and fishes, 'cuz that was just, you know, a miracle of "sharing" according to Bergoglio.  So why should we get hung up on what he said about adultery?

I would really like to see these prelates stand before John the Baptist and Thomas More and tell them how their martyrdom still means anything once unrepentant adulterers are admitted to Holy Communion.  What I don't want to see or imagine, because I really don't want any soul forever to be lost, is those same bishops and cardinals standing before the Lord trying to explain themselves, unless they reverse this perilous course before then.  I pray daily for their conversion of heart.  You should, too. 

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

If You Were Accused Of Being A Christian, Would You Be Convicted?

You may have noticed that I am no longer posting under the assumed user name Aquinas_54.  I also have changed my profile on Disqus and WordPress to substitute my real name for that user name.  The purpose of this post is to explain why I have done this, although the title above pretty much gives that away.

The purpose of this blog is to witness to and discuss my Catholic faith and Catholicism in general, which means to witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ.  For some time I have done as many, many others do in social media, and with the sole exception of Facebook, have posted comments and essays and tweets under assumed names.  My reasons were probably much like most other folks: fear of being personally attacked, stalked, fired from my job (no longer an issue since I'm retired now), or even, as seems increasingly likely in our anti-Christian culture, legally harassed or arrested for what I write.

Well, I'm done with that.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ means being willing to take whatever this fallen world sends our way.  Jesus made clear again and again to his disciples that they should expect to be persecuted and hated, imprisoned and even killed for His sake.  He never promised us an easy road.  Let's take a quick look at some of Our Lord's own words in Sacred Scripture:
(Matthew 10) [32] So every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; [33] but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. [34] "Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. [35] For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; [36] and a man's foes will be those of his own household. [37] He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; [38] and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. [39] He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.
Amid all the warnings, let's not forget, our Lord also promised great things to those who follow him.  See, for example, the Beatitudes, the opening salvo, as it were, of the great Sermon on the Mount:
(Matthew 5) [10] "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11]"Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you"
That's pretty straightforward talk.  And it's God the Son doing the talking.  Somewhat belatedly, it occurred to me not long ago that by masking my social media utterances behind an assumed name, I was failing to acknowledge Jesus Christ before men.  And I was ignoring his warning that being his disciple is not a path to tranquility in this world, but in the next.  The question I used for the title of this post is one I've heard before, though I don't recall where, but it certainly provides food for thought, doesn't it?  When I stand before my Lord at the hour of my death and face his judgment, I want the answer to that question to be a clear and ringing YES! 

Am I being a big brave guy by doing this?  No, I don't think so.  After all, this isn't a totalitarian dictatorship or Islamic caliphate...yet.  And I have no job or business to lose, no children for whom to fear.  I'll admit I am still a little bit worried about how some of my friends may react to the things I write (and have written, now searchable...yikes!), and maybe even concerned about all the other people "out there" who may see my words and find them offensive, hateful, bigoted, stupid, or whatever other labels they may have for someone who tries to adhere to the ancient teachings of the Catholic Church.  But that's what being a real Christian means.  He told us so himself.  It's time to pay attention and practice what I preach.  If that means I lose some friends, then maybe those people aren't really my friends in the first place.

God bless everyone, and onward we march!

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Saint Augustine of Hippo, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

In the Novus Ordo liturgical calendar, today (August 28) is the feast day of St. Augustine of Hippo, (354-430), one of the more successful of all converts to the Faith (after the original Apostles, of course, who were all converts!)  However, the feast is superseded by the weekly Sunday solemnity, so it may not be mentioned at Mass.

Augustine is widely recognized as one of the most brilliant theologians in Christian history. He is among the 36 men and women designated as Doctors of the Church.  What does this mean? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"The requisite conditions are enumerated as three: eminens doctrina, insignis vitae sanctitas, Ecclesiae declaratio (i.e. eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and proclamation by the Church). Benedict XIV explains the third as a declaration by the supreme pontiff or by a general council. But though general councils have acclaimed the writings of certain Doctors, no council has actually conferred the title of Doctor of the Church. In practice the procedure consists in extending to the universal church the use of the Office and Mass of a saint in which the title of doctor is applied to him. The decree is issued by the Congregation of Sacred Rites and approved by the pope, after a careful examination, if necessary, of the saint's writings. It is not in any way an ex cathedra decision, nor does it even amount to a declaration that no error is to be found in the teaching of the Doctor. It is, indeed, well known that the very greatest of them are not wholly immune from error. No martyr has ever been included in the list, since the Office and the Mass are for Confessors. Hence, as Benedict XIV points out, St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, and St. Cyprian are not called Doctors of the Church." [Note: although this entry is from the "old" C.E. which dates back to the first half of the 20th Century, the procedure and requisites for naming a Doctor of the Church remain essentially the same today.]
Augustine was an original party animal, who spent his youth and early adulthood pursuing an openly hedonistic lifestyle, to the great distress of his mother, (St. Monica, who prayed for his conversion for many years), before he finally took instruction in the Christian Faith from St. Ambrose of Milan and was baptized. His prolific writings are a source of many famous quotations. One of my favorites: "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depends on you."
My other favorite is: "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."

Despite Augustine's towering intellect and years of study, even he was unable to develop a rational way to understand the greatest of all Christian mysteries, the Holy Trinity. At the conclusion of a lengthy and densely-reasoned treatise on the subject, (nearly 100 pages in my English translation), Augustine concluded that the Trinity is beyond human comprehension. Heck, I could have told him that in a lot fewer words.

One very interesting thing about St. Augustine's writings is the degree to which some Protestants purport to be subscribers to his theology.  Calvinists, especially, are inclined to do this.  Their adherence to Augustine's thought is, of course, highly selective, ignoring the many aspects of his writings which are undeniably and completely Catholic.  But I still find it fascinating, and it is, I think, an indication of just how brilliant Augustine's theology is.

St. Augustine, ora pro nobis!

Laudator Jesus Christus 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Feast of St. Louis IX of France (Yes, THAT St. Louis!)

Today the Church honors Louis IX of France, the patron of the great City of St. Louis, Missouri, where I and two generations of my forebears entered this world.  My first knowledge of this Saint came from the famous statue that stands in front of the Art Museum in St. Louis, a work by C.H. Niehaus entitled "The Apotheosis of St. Louis."

My parents, who were semi-practicing Presbyterians, couldn't explain to me what the title "Saint" meant, other than to say it was a great honor of some kind.  They did not, to their credit, use it as an occasion to bash the Catholic Church.  Upon my conversion and entry into the Church in 2005, after I started paying attention to the solemnities, feasts and memorials of the liturgical calendar, I was pleased to learn more about the man for whom the city of my birth was named.  Here are the last few paragraphs from the Catholic Encyclopedia's quite lengthy entry about St. Louis:

"St. Louis led an exemplary life, bearing constantly in mind his mother's words: "I would rather see you dead at my feet than guilty of a mortal sin." His biographers have told us of the long hours he spent in prayer, fasting, and penance, without the knowledge of his subjects. The French king was a great lover of justice. French fancy still pictures him delivering judgements under the oak of Vincennes. It was during his reign that the "court of the king" (curia regis) was organized into a regular court of justice, having competent experts, and judicial commissions acting at regular periods. These commissions were called parlements and the history of the "Dit d'Amiens" proves that entire Christendom willingly looked upon him as an international judiciary. It is an error, however, to represent him as a great legislator; the document known as "Etablissements de St. Louis" was not a code drawn up by order of the king, but merely a collection of customs, written out before 1273 by a jurist who set forth in this book the customs of Orléans, Anjou, and Maine, to which he added a few ordinances of St. Louis.
St. Louis was a patron of architecture. The Sainte Chappelle, an architectural gem, was constructed in his reign, and it was under his patronage that Robert of Sorbonne founded the "Collège de la Sorbonne," which became the seat of the theological faculty of Paris.
He was renowned for his charity. The peace and blessings of the realm come to us through the poor he would say. Beggars were fed from his table, he ate their leavings, washed their feet, ministered to the wants of the lepers, and daily fed over one hundred poor. He founded many hospitals and houses: the House of the Felles-Dieu for reformed prostitutes; the Quinze-Vingt for 300 blind men (1254), hospitals at Pontoise, Vernon, Compiégne.
The Enseignements (written instructions) which he left to his son Philip and to his daughter Isabel, the discourses preserved by the witnesses at judicial investigations preparatory to his canonization and Joinville's anecdotes show St. Louis to have been a man of sound common sense, possessing indefatigable energy, graciously kind and of playful humour, and constantly guarding against the temptation to be imperious. The caricature made of him by the envoy of the Count of Gueldre: "worthless devotee, hypocritical king" was very far from the truth. On the contrary, St. Louis, through his personal qualities as well as his saintliness, increased for many centuries the prestige of the French monarchy (see FRANCE). St. Louis's canonization was proclaimed at Orvieto in 1297, by Boniface VIII. Of the inquiries in view of canonization, carried on from 1273 till 1297, we have only fragmentary reports published by Delaborde ("Mémoires de la société de l'histoire de Paris et de l'Ilea de France," XXIII, 1896) and a series of extracts compiled by Guillaume de St. Pathus, Queen Marguerite's confessor, under the title of "Vie Monseigneur Saint Loys" (Paris, 1899)."

You can read the whole thing here.

Laudator Jesus Christus! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

The Church, in both the traditional and Novus Ordo calendar, today honors St. Bartholomew, Apostle.  As the following entry shows (copied from The Catholic Encyclopedia via EWTN's website), not a great deal is known about this man, one of the Twelve who, as was the case with all but St. John the Evangelist, won the crown of martyrdom for the Faith.

St. Bartholomew, pray for us!

St. Bartholomew
Feast: August 24

Feast Day:August 24
1st century AD, Iudaea Province (Palaestina)
Died: 1st century AD, Armenia
Major Shrine:Bartholomew-on-the-Tiber Church, Rome, the Canterbury Cathedral, cathedral in Frankfurt, and the San Bartolomeo Cathedral in Lipari
Patron of:Armenia; bookbinders; butchers; cobblers; Florentine cheese merchants; Florentine salt merchants; leather workers; nervous diseases; neurological diseases; plasterers; shoemakers; tanners; trappers; twitching; whiteners

One of the Twelve Apostles, mentioned sixth in the three Gospel lists (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:14), and seventh in the list of Acts (1:13).

The name (Bartholomaios) means "son of Talmai" (or Tholmai) which was an ancient Hebrew name, borne, e.g. by the King of Gessur whose daughter was a wife of David (2 Samuel 3:3). It shows, at least, that Bartholomew was of Hebrew descent; it may have been his genuine proper name or simply added to distinguish him as the son of Talmai. Outside the instances referred to, no other mention of the name occurs in the New Testament.

Nothing further is known of him for certain. Many scholars, however, identify him with Nathaniel (John 1:45-51; 21:2). The reasons for this are that Bartholomew is not the proper name of the Apostle; that the name never occurs in the Fourth Gospel, while Nathaniel is not mentioned in the synoptics; that Bartholomew's name is coupled with Philip's in the lists of Matthew and Luke, and found next to it in Mark, which agrees well with the fact shown by St. John that Philip was an old friend of Nathaniel's and brought him to Jesus; that the call of Nathaniel, mentioned with the call of several Apostles, seems to mark him for the apostolate, especially since the rather full and beautiful narrative leads one to expect some important development; that Nathaniel was of Galilee where Jesus found most, if not all, of the Twelve; finally, that on the occasion of the appearance of the risen Savior on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Nathaniel is found present, together with several Apostles who are named and two unnamed Disciples who were, almost certainly, likewise Apostles (the word "apostle" not occurring in the Fourth Gospel and "disciple" of Jesus ordinarily meaning Apostle) and so, presumably, was one of the Twelve. This chain of circumstantial evidence is ingenious and pretty strong; the weak link is that, after all, Nathaniel may have been another personage in whom, for some reason, the author of the Fourth Gospel may have been particularly interested, as he was in Nicodemus, who is likewise not named in the synoptics.

No mention of St. Bartholomew occurs in ecclesiastical literature before Eusebius, who mentions that Pantaenus, the master of Origen, while evangelizing India, was told that the Apostle had preached there before him and had given to his converts the Gospel of St. Matthew written in Hebrew, which was still treasured by the Church. "India" was a name covering a very wide area, including even Arabia Felix. Other traditions represent St. Bartholomew as preaching in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Armenia, Lycaonia, Phrygia, and on the shores of the Black Sea; one legend, it is interesting to note, identifies him with Nathaniel.

The manner of his death, said to have occurred at Albanopolis in Armenia, is equally uncertain; according to some, he was beheaded, according to others, flayed alive and crucified, head downward, by order of Astyages, for having converted his brother, Polymius, King of Armenia. On account of this latter legend, he is often represented in art (e.g. in Michelangelo's Last Judgment) as flayed and holding in his hand his own skin. His relics are thought by some to be preserved in the church of St. Bartholomew-in-the-Island, at Rome. His feast is celebrated on 24 August. An apocryphal gospel of Bartholomew existed in the early ages.

(Taken from Catholic Encyclopedia)

Laudator Jesus Christus!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wisdom of Solomon- Words For Our Time

Here I am again. I run hot and cold with this blog, and haven't posted anything since February. I came very close to shutting down and deleting everything, but then I recalled how much time goes into even the briefest posts, and decided to let it live a while longer.

Today I will share something I posted over on Facebook under my real name. :)  It struck me while praying Matins today...

From today's first and second Lessons in Matins, in the Traditional Divine Office.  Some secular as well as Church leaders ought to pay attention. They most likely won't, of course.  But pray for them anyway. 🙏🏻

Wisdom Chapter 6

1 Wisdom is better than strength, and a wise man is better than a strong man.
2 Hear therefore, ye kings, and understand: learn, ye that are judges of the ends of the earth.
3 Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations:
4 For power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the most High, who will examine your works, and search out your thoughts:
5 Because being ministers of his kingdom, you have not judged rightly, nor kept the law of justice, nor walked according to the will of God.
6 Horribly and speedily will he appear to you: for a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule. 7 For to him that is little, mercy is granted: but the mighty shall be mightily tormented.
8 For God will not except any man's person, neither will he stand in awe of any man's greatness: for he made the little and the great, and he hath equally care of all. 9 But a greater punishment is ready for the more mighty.

Laudator Jesus Christus.