Monday, June 27, 2016

Once Upon a Time in the West

Photo Credit: Teresa Love
A strong place and wonder was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt, the wardens of Gondor upon the West, and wise men that watched the stars. But Saruman had slowly shaped it to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived--for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor; so that what he made was naught, only a little copy, a child's model or a slave's flattery, of that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dur, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival, and laughed at flattery, biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength.
J. R. R. Tolkein, The Two Towers

Sunday, June 26, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 26 ~ St. Gerard

Here the will of God is done, as God wills, and as long as God wills.

When we first started writing about the saints, I would have been surprised if someone had told me that we were going to have posts about St. Jude, St. Dymphna, and St. Gerard. In my mind they are the in the purview of a group of people whose spirituality verges on superstition, and who don't really know much about the saints, but only what they are supposed to do for us. Behind all of the flowery prayers and devotions, however, there are real men and women, who were regarded by those who knew them as being holy people with an extraordinary love for the Lord.

Angelomichele de Spirito, who writes about the piety of St. Gerard's time in a collection of essays on the saint called, St. Gerard Majella: His Writings and Piety, says about this sort of devotion:
Some experts in pastoral theology or historical anthropology describe popular piety as an inferior or degraded state of faith when in reality it's a matter of expressing the relations with the Transcendent in a different way. It might seem that popular piety is somewhat deficient and can find its legitimization only in the liturgy of the Church and in the official cult. But that argument forgets that liturgy, too, is the result of the influence of theological currents on a given epoch and environment. In other words, liturgy, too, is a cultural product.
St. Gerard, as most of you probably know, is the patron saint of expectant mothers and in the past several years, our family has had abundant reason to seek St. Gerard's intercession since we've had thirteen pregnancies in the past 10 years. However, I don't think I really started praying to St. Gerard until February of this year when there had been two recent miscarriages in my family, and my granddaughter was having a very difficult pregnancy. I decided at that time that he would be one of the saints I would write about and have since read some background material, much of which I have, unfortunately, forgotten.

St. Gerard was born on April 6, 1726. The lateness of the date surprised me because after reading about his life, I would have put it much earlier. I think it is because he lived in a small village in Italy, Muro Lucano in Naples, and life in rural villages does not change as rapidly as life in big cities.

Like St. Martin de Porres, his deep spiritual life began when he was a young child, and also like Martin, he was from a young age very generous to those in need, even though he was very poor himself. In the first chapter of the above-cited book, Hamish F. G. Swanston quotes Antonio Maria Tannoia, a contemporary of St. Gerard:
"On seeing how miserably Gerard was dressed, [his Capuchin uncle, Eustachio Gabella] bought him a greatcoat; but when Gerard, coming out of the friary, met a poor man wrapped in rags, he took compassion on him, and immediately took off the coat and gave it to him." Tonnoia records that "his uncle was not best pleased."
He was a sickly youth, and because of that, and also because of the objections of his mother (She locked him in the house when the missionaries were coming, but he escaped through the window.), he had a hard time being accepted into a religious order, but he finally convinced the Redemptorists to take him on trial. After three years, on May 17, 1749, he took his religious vows.

During his religious life, he did a lot of traveling and the people he met along the way valued his visits and ministry. He loved to cheer people up. Swanston says:
Bartolomeo Melchione had been a bright spark about town when a bachelor, but after a year of marriage, "he had become dull and heavy." Gerard cooked him a meal and then spent the evening singing songs with him. Melchione kept up a chorus all the way home to his wife. His friends thought it a miracle. And it must be supposed that his wife forgave Gerard for keeping Melchione out so late. A nice smile turneth away anger.
He was an actor and love to play the fool, not only to make people laugh, but as an act of humility. Tannoia:
What affected him most as he contemplated the Passion was to see the way our Blessed Lord was reviled as a fool; he therefore resolved to simulate madness so that he could share in His humiliation.
And Gerard's passion was the Passion. He longed to suffer the sufferings of Christ. He took part in many Passion Plays, and asked the other actors to beat him in the same way that Christ was beaten, and insisted that the crucifixion be as like the original as possible. Needless to say, his mother did not approve of this--once she fainted during a particularly realistic performance--and I'm pretty sure that his superiors did not let him go to these extremes, although I can't find the reference at the moment.

St. Gerard also had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. When he was young--I don't know how young, he was sitting in the front row of the church on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (This had not yet become a dogma of the Church, but I suppose it was a local feast.), and he was seen to get up, remove a ring, and put it on Mary's finger. From then on he always told people that he was married to the Virgin Mary.

Although St. Gerard did not have much formal education, he was extremely knowledgeable about the Faith. He loved to read theology and the teachings of the Church and did so whenever he had free time. Eventually people started coming to him for advice in these matters and even priests in high positions were impressed with his knowledge.

As with any saint, especially a saint like this whose sanctity was first acknowledged by the people, there are many stories of miraculous happenings. Once when he was a boy, St. Gerard was given a loaf of bread by a little boy. When he took it home, his mother wanted to know where he had gotten such a fine loaf--not the usual fare of the people in that town. When he was older, he told his sister that he had not realized it at the time, but now he thought that it had been the child Jesus. Thus, the above picture.

In a story told by Tannoia, Gerard was once riding on a treacherous road, surrounded by fog, when a footpad accosted him saying, "Behold, my hour is come. You are in my power." Gerard, recognizing that this was the evil one said, "I command you in the name of the most adorable Trinity to take my horse's bridle and lead me safely to Lacedonia." And he did.

He multiplied food, he bi-located and led fishermen safely to shore, and he could read people's hearts. From Tannoia:
He laid open the deepest wounds of their souls to some, and set before others the duties of their station, and their infidelities in the performance of them.
Maybe not always the most comfortable person to have around,

Although there were are many stories about his prayers for women who wanted to conceive or knowledge about pregnancies, the event that led to him becoming the patron of expectant mothers can be found on the Redemptorist website.
His miraculous apostolate for mothers also began during his lifetime. Once, as he was leaving the home of his friends, the Pirofalo family, one of the daughters called after him that he had forgotten his handkerchief. In a moment of prophetic insight Gerard said: "Keep it. It will be useful to you some day." The handkerchief was treasured as a precious souvenir of Gerard. Years later the girl to whom he had given it was in danger of death in childbirth. She remembered the words of Gerard, and called for the handkerchief. Almost immediately the danger passed and she delivered a healthy child. On another occasion the prayers of Gerard were asked by a mother when both she and her unborn child were in daTnger. Both she and the child came through the ordeal safely.
One of the most difficult events of St. Gerard's life occurred when he was falsely accused of sexual misconduct by a woman whom he had counselled. He never defended himself because he believed that the rule of his order prevented him from doing so, and he was removed from ministry. In the end, the woman admitted that she had lied.

During the year of  1755, the saint was increasingly being weakened by tuberculosis and he died in October of that year at the age of 29. Suffering alone because he was in quarantine, he believed that he was reliving the Passion of Christ, his most devout wish. He was canonized by Pope St. Pius X on December 11, 1904 and his feast day is on October 16.

Nine Days with St. Gerard Majella is a little Kindle book which contains a nice novena to St. Gerard. I like it better than most novenas. It was written by a man whose wife is a nurse and daily asks St. Gerard to intercede for her patients. It only costs $.99.


Janet Cupo is the proprietor of this blog.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 25 ~ Pope St. Pius X

Pope St Pius X was a pastor – a shepherd – more than anything else. Born to fairly poor parents, he was always giving away his possessions after he became Pope in 1903. He loved God, Our Lady, the poor and all souls.

This clip of Fr Paul Scalia, son of the late Justice Scalia, at about 41:22-43:00 tells us something of the great love he had for souls, and the zeal he had in trying to help them get to heaven.

St Pius X was born, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, on 2 June 1835, in Riese, Italy, and was called by the nickname of Beppo. He reigned as Pope from August 1903 to his death on 20 August in 1914 and his motto was Instaurare Omnia in Christo (restore all things in Christ). He was canonized in 1954.

A young Beppo
From Wikipedia: “Pius X is known for vigorously opposing modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox theology. His most important reform was to order the codification of the first Code of Canon Law, which collected the laws of the Church into one volume for the first time. He was also considered a pastoral pope, in the sense of encouraging personal holiness, piety and a daily lifestyle reflecting deep Christian values.”

St Pius X promoted the regular reception of Holy Communion and the lowering of the age at which children could receive, saying, "Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to Heaven." Correspondingly, he encouraged frequent confession, so that people would receive Holy Communion in a state of grace. He encouraged the use of Gregorian chant in the liturgy, which had fallen out of fashion. He encouraged the laity to read scripture more. I believe he said, “Nothing would please us more than to see our beloved children form the habit of reading the Gospels – not merely from time to time, but every day.”

Again from wikipedia: “Pius X's attitude toward the Modernists was uncompromising. Speaking of those who counseled compassion to the "culprits" he said: "They want them to be treated with oil, soap and caresses. But they should be beaten with fists. In a duel, you don't count or measure the blows, you strike as you can.””

He described modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies” and waged a battle against it, which sadly, only drove it underground. It really is about time I read his encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis ("Feeding the Lord's Flock") against modernism. From 1910 onwards, teachers, priests and bishops were required to take “The Oath Against Modernism.” This lasted until 1967, when it was rescinded by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Pope St Pius X, the Great War, and the loss of Religion

Pope Pius X was heartbroken at the prospect of The Great War. Apparently, a short time before his death, he said to his doctor, “I am offering my miserable life as a holocaust to prevent the massacre of so many of my children.”

“Pope St. Pius X, Giuseppe Melchior Sarto, stopped before the Lourdes grotto during his walk in the Vatican gardens in the spring of the year 1914. He turned to Monsignor Bressan, his confessor, and said, “I am sorry for the next Pope. I will not live to see it, but it is, alas, true that the religio depopulata is coming very soon. Religio depopulata.” The term “depopulated religion,” refers to the prophecy coming from the Irish Saint Malachy, and was to be applied to the reign of the successor on the Throne of St. Peter of Pius X himself. That St. Pius X could foresee the depopulation of Europe, especially in so far as that tragedy would affect the Catholic Church is truly one of the most salient features of the relationship between this pope and World War I (1914-1918). Many geo-political strategists and high-level observers could clearly envision some kind of altercation between two or more of the six Great Powers of Europe (i.e., Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria-Hungary, Italy, and Germany), no one foresaw the downfall of traditional Christian civilization, except for Pope St. Pius X. Even his own Secretary of State and intimate confidant, the Anglo-Spanish Cardinal Merry del Val, was at a loss to explain the Pope’s insistence that what he foresaw was not just war and blood, but the loss of the Common European Home; a loss which spelt travail for the Catholic Church and misery and loss for the preponderance of humanity.” (Source)

Just weeks after the start of the Great War, Pope St Pius X died, it is said, of a broken heart, with the names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph on his lips.

His will stated that he did not wish to be embalmed and when his body was exhumed in 1944, it was found to be well preserved.

Pope St Pius X, pastor of souls, pray for us.

Louise LaMotte is a friend from Light on Dark Water. Since she lived in Australia at the time we met online, I never thought we would meet in person. I was wrong. She has written here about St. Mary of the Cross  and St. Damien of Molokai.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 24 ~ St. Augustine of Canterbury

Multiple sources concur that almost everything we know about Augustine of Canterbury comes through Bede (673-737), a monk and a scholar. The purpose of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 730, is to show how the Church brought unity to England, ending an era of violence and barbarism. Bede, seeing himself as a direct beneficiary of Augustine’s mission, knew from his own experience the struggle among the warring kingdoms.

The Romans’ occupation of Britain three centuries earlier had introduced Christianity to the British Isles, but when the Roman forces withdrew, invasion by the pagan Anglo-Saxons forced the Britons to the forests and hills of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, places to which they withdrew to avoid assimilation by the conquering tribes.

Bede gives credit to Gregory the Great for reintroducing Christianity and bringing unity to Britain. For his mission, Gregory looked to a Sicilian individual, the Prior of Saint Andrew’s monastery, which Gregory had founded, who had taken the name of Augustine, for Augustine of Hippo, at his confirmation. Gregory’s chose this prior, Augustine, to lead a mission to England, the first missionary endeavor sponsored by the Papacy outside the boundaries of the Empire. On the journey to England, Augustine, with about forty persons, wanted to turn back, but he received encouraging letters from Gregory urging him forward. Augustine, working with the Kentish king Aethelberht and his Christian queen, Bertha, was enormously successful. According to Maksymilian Sas, in “Augustine of Canterbury Converting the Anglo-Saxons: A Contribution to the Identity of the Medieval Missionary” De Medio Aevo 3 (2013 / 2) ISSN-e 2255-5889, found online at, “The king, therefore, permitted [Augustine] to proselytize the Anglo-Saxons, while not accepting yet the baptism himself. Bede [states] that the missionaries were singing a litany while coming to Canterbury, where they could use the church of St. Martin, in which Queen Bertha used to pray.” The chanted litany was a paraphrase of Daniel 9:16: “O Lord, in view of all your righteous acts, let your anger and wrath, we pray, turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain . . .” According to Sas, “Canterbury was to become the new Jerusalem, from which the missionaries [would] be sent to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, just as the apostles left Jerusalem to convert the people of Roman Empire.” Sas goes on to say that Augustine performed miracles, events which caused large numbers of Anglo-Saxons to convert to Christianity. Augustine wrote his bishop that during the Christmas season of 598, more than ten thousand Angles were baptized. Sas states that the epitaph on Augustine’s tombstone (from Bede) states “Here lies the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, who was formerly sent hither by St. Gregory, bishop of Rome; being supported by God in the working of miracles, he led King Aethelberht and his nation from the worship of idols to faith in Christ.” In addition to faith, the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons connected them to a wider Christian world with a new set of values. (Source)

Robin Mackintosh, in Augustine of Canterbury: Leadership, Mission, Legacy (which I viewed on asserts that the land of England itself provides a witness to Augustine’s mission:

In England, within a mile or so of the shores of Kent, the crumbling walls of the ancient Roman fort of Richborough still stand and the beach where Augustine allegedly first met Aethelberht is preserved beneath the rolling turf of, appropriately, Saint Augustine’s Golf Course, owned by the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral. . . . The city of Canterbury itself is still surrounded by its Roman wall for nearly half of its perimeter, following the same boundary that was familiar to the first missionaries. Saint Martin’s Church, dedicated by Queen Bertha on a hillside overlooking the city and still in a remarkable state of preservation, continues as the oldest place of worship continuously in use in England.

The people, the land, and the Church attest to the witness of Augustine of Canterbury.

The daughter and granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Methodist ministers (from the English Church), as I seek to be faithful and to follow God’s leading, the English Church for me is the path I follow. I am indebted for my faith and the faith of my ancestors to Augustine of Canterbury, on whose feast day, May 26, I wrote this tribute. Perhaps we, like Augustine of Canterbury, may commit ourselves to seeking peace among warring tribes, pointing to the One who transcends all time and space.

Mary is my longest-running online friend. We met over C. S. Lewis and Elizabeth Goudge.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

52 Saints ~ Week 23 ~ St. Gertrude the Great

St Gertrude the Great (1256-1302)
While her birthplace, parentage and ancestry are shrouded in obscurity—it is known that at the age of five, Gertrude entered the cloistered convent of Helfta, in Germany. Despite her cheerful disposition, she did not care to play with the others—preferring to spend her time in church conversing with the heavenly Playmate of her childish soul.

Gertrude was a true Bride of Christ and a devotee to the Sacred Heart. To please Jesus in all things was the one aim of her life. Though every movement of her body and soul was offered to God and directed to His glory...she did not neglect her exterior occupations, happily combining active labor with interior union with Christ.

Saint Gertrude understood that confidence is the key which opens the treasures of the infinite mercy of God—and it was to her confidence alone that she attributed all the gifts she received. As a child has to its mother, in all things, Gertrude had recourse to Jesus—nothing was too trivial to ask of Him.

On the 27th of January, 1281, she was favored for the first time with a vision of her Bridegroom and from this hour she discontinued all secular studies. As God taught her heart to penetrate the most hidden sense of Holy Scripture—the Bible alone became very dear to her and she was able to use the texts to comfort and refresh all who came to her, according to each one's need.

Like all of us, Gertrude had her favorite saints and frequently they came to converse with her. On the feast day of St. John, her favorite, our Savior appeared to her along with the beloved disciple. In a dialogue with him she asked St. John why he wrote so little of the Heart of Jesus and his reply was that his mission was to write of the Eternal Word---the Sacred Heart is reserved for latter times, when the world having grown cold would have need to rekindle its love. Four centuries later on this same feast, our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary urging devotion to His Sacred Heart.

Our Lord often instructed St. Gertrude regarding the advantages of frequent communion and urged all to seek his Sacred Heart in the Eucharist.

Though this saint was never formally canonized, in 1606 her liturgical office was approved and extended to the universal church by Clement XII and Benedict XIV conferred on her the title of 'Great' recognizing the depth of her spiritual and theological insight.

Of her numerous writings, The Herald of Divine Love, a collection of spiritual exercises can still be used by anyone aspiring to deepen their spirituality. Philip Neri and Frances de Sales used her prayers and recommended them to others as well. St. Theresa of Avila's confessor urged her to take Gertrude as her spiritual mistress and guide.

Each time it is said, the following prayer will release 1,000 souls from purgatory as told by our Lord to St. Gertrude. The prayer was later extended to include living sinners as well.

“Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and within my own family. Amen.”

APPROVAL AND RECOMMENDATION: M. Cardinal Pahiarca at Lisbon, Portugal, March 4, 1936

Sue is a dear friend from homeschooling days. Now she has moved back to her home state and I miss her all the time. I really appreciate her participation in this series.

If you want to see all of the posts in this series, click HERE.