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Saint John Eudes on the Admirable Heart of Mary                        April 10, 2017

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From one of the relatively few of the great mass of writings of the great Saint John Eudes that have been translated into English and survived to the present day (many were lost in the French Revolution against God), comes this excerpt of The Admirable Heart of of Mary.  We are in Holy Week, a very appropriate time for pondering on the wonders of our Immaculate Mother.  Saint John Eudes had enormous devotion to Our Lady and in some respects may be said to have pushed knowledge of Our Lady and veneration of her Immaculate Heart to new heights.  I can say with certainty that the ecumaniacal faction at Vatican II, which went to such pains to limit conciliar statements on the glory of the Blessed Mother, would find some of his statements quite objectionable.  But that says far more about them, than it does this holy man.

From pp. 4-5,7, an exegesis centering on a passage from the Apocalypse (and the amazingly efficacious apparition at Guadalupe) that reveals the wondrous nature of the Holy Mother of God and her admirable heart:

Among the divinely inspired passages of Sacred Scripture I select one from the twelfth chapter of the Apocalypse, which is a compendium of all the great things that can be said or thought of our marvelous Queen: “A great sign appeared in Heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of 12 stars” (Apoc xii:1).

What is this great sign?  Who is this miraculous woman?  Saint Epiphanius, Saint Augustine, Saint Bernard, and many other holy doctors agree that the woman is Mary, Queen among women, the Sovereign of angels and men, the Virgin of virgins.  She is the woman who bore in her chaste womb the perfect man, the God-man. “A woman shall compass a man” (Jer xxxi:22).

Mary appears in Heaven because she comes from Heaven, because she is Heaven’s masterpiece, the Empress of Heaven, its joy and its glory, in whom everything is heavenly. Even when her body dwelt on earth, her thoughts and affections were all rapt in Heaven.

She is clothed with the eternal sun of the Godhead and with all the perfections of the divine essence, which surround, fill, and penetrate her to such an extent that she has become transformed, as it were, into the power, goodness, and holiness of God.

She has the moon under her feet to show that the entire world is beneath her.  None is above her, save only God, and she holds absolute sway over all created things.

She is crowned with twelves stars that represent the virtues which shine so brightly in her soul.  The mysteries of her life are as many stars more luminous by far than the brightest lights of the sky.  The privileges and prerogatives God has granted to her, the least of which is greater than anything shining in the firmament of Heaven, as well as the glory of the saints of Paradise and of earth, are her crown and her glory in a much fuller sense than the Philippians could be said to be the crown and joy of Saint Paul (Phil iv:1).

But why does the Holy Ghost call Mary “a great sign?”  It is simply to tell us that everything in her is wonderful, and that the marvels that fill her being should be proclaimed to the entire world, so that she may become an object of the admiration of the inhabitants of Heaven as well as for mankind on earth, and so that she may be the sweet delight of angels and men.

This is likewise the reason why the Holy Ghost inspires the faithful throughout the world to sing in her praise: Mater admirabilis.  “O Mother Most Admirable.” Moreover, according to the testimony of several trustworthy authors, a holy Jesuit who once asked the Mother of God to reveal to him which of the many titles in her Litany was most pleasing to her received this same answer: Mater admirabilis.

Mary is truly admirable in all her perfections and in all her virtues.  But what is most admirable in her is her virginal heart.  The heart of the Mother of God is a world of marvels, an abyss of wonders, the source and principal of all the virtues which we admire in our glorious Queen: “All the glory of the king’s daughter is within.”  It was through the humility, purity, and love of her most holy heart that she merited to become the Mother of God and to receive the graces and privileges with which God enriched her on earth.  These same sublime virtues of her Immaculate Heart have rendered her worthy of the glory and happiness that surround her in Heaven, and of the great marvels that God has wrought in and through her.

Do not be surprised if I say that the virginal heart of the Mother of Fair Love is an admirable heart indeed.  Mary is admirable in her divine maternity because as Saint Bernadine of Siena says, “to be Mother of God is the miracle of miracles,” miraculum miraculorum.  But the august heart of Mary is also truly admirable, for it is the principle of her divine maternity and of the wonderful mysteries this privilege implies………

Now a prayer composed by the Saint for the blessing of Our Lady on his work, but which I thought many would find worth making their own:

O most holy Mary, Thy divine Son, Jesus, hath created thy heart, and He alone knows the great treasures He has hidden therein.  He it was who lit the fire burning in this furnace, and none but He can measure the heights reached by the flames which leap from its abyss.  He alone can measure the vast perfections with which He has enriched the masterpiece of His all-powerful goodness, or count the innumerable graces He has poured into this ocean of grace: “He created her in the Holy Ghost, and saw here, and numbered her, and measured her” (Eccl i:9).

And now I beseech thee, O most Blessed Virgin Mary, through thy heart and for the honor of that very heart to offer me to thy beloved Son and pray that He may annihilate my personality and set Himself in the place of my nothingness, so that not my voice but His may be heard.  May Jesus Christ be the author of all my works, and I but the instrument of His surpassing love for thee and of the zeal with which He watches over the honor of thy most worthy heart.  May He inspire the thoughts He wishes to see expressed by me and the very words I should use.  May His blessing rest in fullest measure on all who do the same, and may He transform so that hearts may be purified, enlightened, and inflamed with the sacred fire of His love.  In a word, may they become worthy to live according to God’s heart and to be numbered among the children of the maternal heart of God’s own Mother.

———–End Quote————-

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga – Model of Christian Youth April 4, 2017

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A little excerpt from Saint Aloysius Gonzaga: Patron of Christian Youth by Fr. Maurice Meschler, SJ, which concerns the first great flowering of sanctity in the youth of 10 (pp. 34-5), when he made the decision to consecrate his purity to Our Lady for his entire life.  While this Saint certainly enjoyed the benefit of particular Graces and his example, while an incredible case of sanctity, is one that is vital for young people of all times to strive to emulate, especially in this fallen age.  Not all may be called to his very nearly perfect practice of chastity and purity, but all will benefit from attempting to conduct their lives in accord with his example, especially the young who face so many temptations, and who lack the experience of life that many wiser, older, sadder souls have obtained – much to their pain:

About this time a book on the Rosary, by Fr. Caspar Loarte, SJ, fell into the hands of Aloysius.  It so increased his love and devotion to Our Lady, tha this heart overflowed with consolation when he reflected upon the mysteries of her life, and he was seized with an ardent longing to do something that would please her and give her great honor, that he might thus win her love and favor.  One day, as he was kneeling in rapt devotion before the picture, he was inspired with the thought of consecrating his virginity to Our Lady, as the most acceptable gift that he could offer her.  Acting quickly on this inspiration, with a heart filled with love and joy, he solemnly consecrated himself to her by a vow of perpetual chastity.  Mary accepted the offering of his innocent heart, and in return, as he afterwards acknowledged to his confessor, obtained for him from God the extraordinary Grace of never experiencing throughout his entire life the slightest breath of a temptation against the virtue of holy purity.

This is a most unusual favor, seldom granted even to the Saints, and the more wonderful, seeing that Aloysius’ life was passed in the higher circles and at princely courts, where there are so many dangers and temptations.  it is true that he had had from his earliest childhood a natural aversion to the very shadow of anything impure, and even to any intercourse whatever with persons of the opposite sex; but this gives us all the more reason to wonder that, after taking his vow….he redoubled his precautions and had recourse to all kinds of means in order to guard his purity against the slightest shadow of danger.  It might be thought that he, who enjoyed such privileges, would have contented himself with the ordinary care prescribed to all Christians; on the contrary, he it is who most exceeds most, even of the Saints, in precautionary measures such as flight from the very slightest occasion of sin, and mortification of the flesh.  He, who was preserved by a special grace of God from any temptation of this kind, went on his way through life as though he had been threatened on all sides by special dangers.

From this time he accustomed himself to never raise his eyes, either in company or when going through the streets.  He not only avoided all intercourse with women more scrupulously than ever, but he withdrew from all games and amusements, although his father would have wished him to take part in them.  He now began to inflict all kinds of austerities upon his innocent flesh.  Aloysius’ vocation was that he should be a striking and a bright example for youth, in the preservation of angelic purity.  What was unnecessary for himself, was to be done by him for the sake of those who were to follow him – for the general welfare of Christian youth.

The young are not proof agaisnt danger as he was, and yet they often rush thoughtlessly into it; the fire of concupiscence burns within them, and they willfully add fuel to it; they are not so blameless as Aloysius, and yet they will not hear of mortification, vigilance, and seclusion.  The picture of this holy youth is a warning, an earnest admonishment to the world of frivolous, self-indulgent  young people, bent upon the enjoyment of sensual pleasures.

———-End Quote———

Raising children in the moral sewer of the fatally corrupted culture with which we are confronted is especially challenging.  In centuries past, there were cultural/societal norms in many places and times that helped keep many temptations to concupiscence in check.  Parents then did not have to deal with the mass availability of pornography and other destructive forces brought directly into the home.  They did not have to tell their children to avert their eyes from scandalously pernicious advertisements or scantily clad individuals.  There was no mass media bringing temptations to lust, perversion, self-abuse, and destructive behaviors of every kind into the home, the car, the school, etc., on a constant basis.  There were certainly temptations in those days, to be sure, but these past several decades have seen the attack on innocence rise to levels never seen before in history.

It can be a difficult line to walk, shielding children from dangerously seductive immoral influences, while at the same time not keeping them under practical lock and key.  There are certainly reasonable and prudent steps that can be taken: homeschooling, having a good internet filter/reporting system installed on ALL computers, not just the one(s) you think your kids access, not subscribing to cable or satellite TV systems, monitoring children’s friends and social engagements, carefully choosing what music kids are exposed to, etc.  All these things are good and reasonable.  Even more, parents should guard against perceptions of hypocrisy in frequently allowing for themselves what they deny their children.

One might think in this age it is not possible to go too far in efforts to preserve their innocence, but even here there can be danger. Tightening the apron strings too much can lead to its own form of rebellion.  I have seen this happen several times, and have heard numerous cautionary tales from priests, of parents who placed such a tight hold on their children they eventually rebelled and slipped through their fingers. In fallen creatures, protection can unintentionally turn to severity, good intentions can morph into forced submission to the parents’ will in all matters.

An absolutely vital step for parents to take is to engage in family prayer, especially prayer of the Rosary.  While preserving children’s innocence is absolutely vital, the preservation will not be successful unless buttressed with a vibrant interior life.  Parents must set the example here, demonstrating to children the great value of prayer and the concrete benefits such devotion provides in the formation of a devout, pious soul.

I could go on forever.  It’s an exceedingly difficult high wire act to perform, raising kids in this age.  And sometimes, even with practically ideal family life, kids still fall away.  But if they have been given the gift of a strong interior/devotional life, odds are for most that fall will be temporary, and, God willing, the kids will return to leading a morally upright life and the practice of the Faith.

Meditation for the Annunciation: Love Our Lady in Her Sufferings March 21, 2017

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From The Victories of the Martyrs by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, one of my two “favorite” Saints, some excerpts from a sermon he gave  on The Dolors of Mary.  The excerpt is cut and pasted from pages towards the back of the book which are not numbered, which makes referencing them extra fun.  At any rate, with the “Little Christmas” of The Annunciation coming up this Saturday, I thought it timely to post this material, which closes with the four promises made to St. Elizabeth of Hungary by our Blessed Lord, concerning the benefits He would shower on those who develop a deep devotion of, and meditation on, the Dolors of Our Sorrowful Mother:

To understand how great was the grief of Mary we must understand, says Cornelius a Lapide, how great was the love she bore her Son.”  But who can ever measure this love?  Blessed Amadeus says that “natural love towards Him as her Son, and supernatural love towards Him as her God, were united in the heart of Mary.”  Those two loves were blended into one, and this so great a love that William of Paris does not hesitate to assert, that Mary loved Jesus “as much as it was possible for a pure creature to love Him.”  So that, as Richard of St. Victor says, “as no other creature ever loved God as much as Mary loved Him, so there never was any sorrow like Mary’s sorrow.”…….

…….St. Bernadine of Siena even says that “the sufferings of Mary were such, that had they been divided amongst all creatures capable of suffering, they would have caused their immediate death.”  Who, then, can ever doubt that the martyrdom of Mary was without its equal, and that it exceeded the sufferings of all the martyrs; since, as St. Antoninus says, “they suffered in the sacrifice of theri own lives; but the Blessed Virgin suffered by offering the life of her Son of God, a life which she loved far more than her own.”

………[L]et us be devout to the dolors of Mary, Saint Albert the Great writes, that “as we are under great obligations to Jesus Christ for His death, so also are we under great obligations to Mary for the grief she endured when she offered her Son to God by death for our salvation.”  This the angel revealed to St. Bridget: he said that the Blessed Virgin, to see us saved, herself offered the life of her Son to the Eternal Father; a sacrifice which cost her greater suffering than all the torments of the martyrs, or even death itself.  But the divine Mother complained to St. Bridget that very few pitied her in her sorrows, and that the greater part of the world lived in entire forgetfulness of them.  Therefore she exhorted the saint, saying: “Though many forget me, do not thou, my daughter, forget me.”  For this purpose the Blessed Virgin herself appeared in the year 1239 to the founder of the Order of Servites, or servants of Mary, to desire them to institute a religious order in remembrance of her sorrows; and this they did.

Jesus Himself one day spoke to Blessed Veronica of Binasco, saying, “Daughter, tears shed over My Passion are dear to Me; but as I love My Mother Mary with an immense love, the meditation of the sorrows which she endured at My death is also very dear to Me.”  It is also well to know, as Pelbart relates it, that it was revealed to St. Elizabeth of Hungary, that our Lord had promised four special graces to those who are devout to the dolors of Mary: first, that those who before death invoke the divine Mother, in the name of her sorrows, should obtain true repentance of all their sins; second, that He would protect all who have this devotion in their tribulations, and that He would protect them especially at the hour of death; third, that He would impress upon their minds the remembrance of His Passion, and that they should have their reward for it in Heaven; fourth, that He would commit such devout clients to the hands of Mary, with the power to dispose of them in whatever manner she might please, and to obtain for them all the graces she might desire.

———–End Quote———-

I have great appreciation for the all the writings of the Moral Doctor (Liguori), but I have found The Victories of the Martyrs the least best of the nine volumes of his ascetical writings that I have read to date.  Saint Alphonsus, probably due to limitations of time, focused exclusively on the early martyrs of the Roman Empire, and then skipped ahead to covering the 17th century martyrs of Japan, which he covered in detail one might describe as excruciating.  There is nothing in between, even with the martyrdom (white or red) of millions of Catholics at the hands of muslims, or Eastern Orthodox, or pagans in northern Europe, or wherever.

Certainly a volume attempting to category every major Christian martyr from every time would quickly turn into a library itself, but I was hoping that the saint might cover a bit broader range of martyrs both chronologically and geographically.  Perhaps my expectations were out of line.

Please understand, I am not saying I don’t like the book.  Only that compared to the sublime excellence of the other eight volumes I’ve read, this one was only very good.  So far, I still have probably 50-60 pages left (it’s hard to tell, with the inexplicable editorial decision not to number the last 100-odd pages).  Perhaps I’ll be blown away in the 10% or so remaining, but perhaps not.

I am looking forward to seeing other volumes by Liguori, who wrote torrentially, translated into English (or re-printed, since there are translations long out of print).  The twenty-two volumes of his ascetical works were only a small portion of his total output. Since good souls have taken on the project of translating much of Bellarmine’s writings into English (previously available only in Latin), I pray they consider delving into this saint, as well.

That is, if anyone at Mediatrix Press is listening reading.  Hint.

St. Peter of Alcantara’s Counsels to Overcome Temptations Against the Prayer Life January 31, 2017

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There are actually nine counsels in total, but that would make far too long of a post, so I picked a few I thought might be common temptations people experience when trying to focus on prayer and/or meditation.  I pray you find this commentary useful, they come from pp. 136-9 of St. Peter’s Treatise on Prayer and Meditation:

Against temptations to infidelity, the remedy for a man is to reflect on the littleness of human nature, on the one hand, and on the greatness of God on the other.  Let him think of the Commandments of God without being curious to05cecc367a9b9a3717ba3a33e7b1083e scrutinize His works, since much that we see altogether exceeds our understanding.  As for one who would enter into this sanctuary of the works of God, let him approach with great humility and reverence and lift up the simple eyes of the dove, not those of a malevolent serpent, and let his heart be as that of a disciple and not as that of one ready to judge rashly.  Let him become as a little child, for to such does God declare His secrets.  Let him not strive to know the why of the works of God; let him close the eye of his understanding and open that of his faith, for this is the instrument with which to examine the works of God.  For studying the works of man, it is excellent, this eye of human reason; but for seeing those that are divine, there is nothing more completely unfit.

As this temptation is also usually most trying……..so is the remedy the same – viz;, to make light of it. It is a trial rather than a fault.  There can be no fault where the will is opposed, as we have already declared.

Some people, when the set themselves to pray alone and by night, are harassed by terrifying imaginations.  The remedy for this temptation is to do violence to oneself and to persevere in one’s exercises. Our fear increases if we fly from it, while our courage grows stronger as we resist.  It is well to reflect that neither the devil nor any power at all can devise anything to our harm without Our Lord’s permission.  Useful also is it to remember that we have by our side our Angel Guardian and that he is even nearer to us in prayer than at other times, for then he stands by to help us and to bear our prayers heavenwards and to shield us from the enemy, who thus is powerless to do us any harm.

…….As for temptations to distrust and to presumption, these being contrary vices, differing remedies must naturally be applied.  For distrust, the remedy is to consider that in this business success is not to be achieved by personal efforts alone, but by the Grace of God, which is secured all the more promptly in proportion as a man is distrustful of his own strength and confident in the sole goodness of God, to whom all is possible.

For presumption, the remedy lies in remembering that there is no surer sign of being far away from God than fancying one is near, for on this journey those who cover the more ground are those precisely who are the quicker to see how very much is still wanting to them.  Hence they make little of what they have when they compare it to what they long for.  Use the lives of the Saints and of other holy persons still living as you would a mirror; consider yourself therein, and finding that compared to them you are like a dwarf in the presence of a giant, you will no longer be filled with presumption.

———–End Quote————

I especially like that last one.  If souls striving to be devout have a weakness, it might be towards presumption or self-exaltation.  Thank God I am not like those dirty sinners over there.  Being always cognizant of our own sins and failings is, as Saint Peter relates, a great means to overcome this particular temptation to pride.

This book is very good.  I strongly recommend it.

A Beautiful, Edifying Episode from the Life of St. Simeon Stylite January 26, 2017

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The man who stood upon ever-taller stone columns for decades, St. Simeon Stylite is probably better known among Eastern Christians than those in the West.  Fortunately, St. Francis de Sales included the following episode from the life of St. Simeon Stylite in some of his letters, letters which were compiled into a book called Finding God’s Will For You. There are serious lessons regarding obedience in this tale, too, but obedience is an issue so fraught with peril in today’s Church, where so much of the leadership has gone amok.  How to deal with authority that is demanding 135794-004-971f6b9eacceptance of grave sin and destructive error under threat of severe persecution?  There are writings from the Tradition that help guide us, but they are not terribly voluminous or comprehensive.

This situation we are going through is not entirely unique.  In the protestant revolt, whole bishops and princes tried to take dioceses and countries into error.  Did souls go along, under obedience or more prurient motives?  Most did.  But in almost every locale, some remained faithful.  Many of those are called Saints or Blesseds today.

I think the lesson, as it develops below, also serves as a guide to us.  Worthy shepherds will give broad latitude to subordinates who show a willingness to be obedient.  But those seeking to impose their will, and heterodox beliefs, on the Church, will always seek to impose their will in virtually every regard, and won’t grant such latitude.  Whenever it comes down to promotion of error, subordinates are freed from their duty of obedience.  Unfortunately, those seeking to impose a different religion often know how to mask their efforts to at least some degree, making the process of discernment a most difficult one.  Pray that God may enlighten you as to which matters require your obedience.

Anyway, from Finding God’s Will For You, pp. 61-2:

While the incomparable Simeon Stylites was still a novice at Telada (a monastery in Syria), he refused to respond to the advice of his superiors who wished to keep him from practicing the many strange forms of austerity he observed with inordinate severity.  For this reason he was expelled from the monastery as a man not very susceptible to mortification of heart and much given to that of the body.  Afterward he came to his senses, became more devout and wiser in the spiritual life, and behaved quite differently, as is proved by the following event.
download-15When the hermits who were scattered about the desert regions near Antioch learned of the extraordinary life he led on his pillar, where he seemed to be either an angel on earth or a man from Heaven, they sent him a representative whom they instructed to speak for them in the following fashion: “Simeon, why have you left the great path of the devout life, trodden by so many great and holy predecessors, and followed another path unknown to men and far distant from everything seen or heard of up to the present?  Simeon, get down from that pillar, and join the others in the way of life and method of serving God used by those good fathers who were our predecessors.”

In the event that Simeon agreed with their advice and showed himself ready and willing to descend from his pillar so as to condescend to their will, the  hermits had instructed their messenger to leave him free to persevere in the kind of life he had begun.  Bu such obedience, those good fathers said, they could easily recognize that he had entered this kind of life  under divine inspiration. On the contrary, if he resisted, despised their exhortation, and wished to follow his own will, then they resolved that it would be necessary to take him down by force and make him give up his pillar. [These were most wise shepherds with the love of Christ in their hearts.  They are happy to give wide space for novel forms of devotion, even when they do not fully understand them, provided sufficient submission to Christ and His Church is evident]

When the deputy had arrived at the pillar, he had no sooner announced his mission than the great Simeon without delay, without reservation, and without any reply, started to descend with obedience and humility worthy of his rare sanctity.  When the delegate saw this, he said, “Simeon, stop and stay there, persevere with constancy, and have saintsimongood courage.  Follow valiantly your enterprise. Your sojourn on that pillar is from God.”

….I implore you to observe carefully how those holy anchorites of old in general meeting found no surer mark of heavenly inspiration in a matter so extraordinary as the life of St. Stylites than to see that he was simple, gentle, and tractable under the laws of most holy obedience.  God blessed the submission of that great man and gave him the grace to persevere for thirty whole years upon a column more than fifty feet high….Thus this bird of paradise, living in air and not touching earth, was a spectacle of love for angels and of admiration for men.  In obedience, everything is safe, apart from obedience, all is subject to suspicion……..

……..A man who ways that he is inspired and then refuses to obey his superiors and follow their advice is an impostor.  All prophets and preachers inspired by God have always loved the Church, always adhered to Her Doctrine, and always had Her approval……… [When the superiors give evidence of being impostors by not adhering to Doctrine, the entire machine breaks down.  Especially when even the highest authority gives such evidence.  The great trouble is, after 50 years of successively advancing inculcation of error in souls, there are very few who don’t hold erroneous beliefs, who don’t support some form of abuse.  If it were not for her supernatural element, I daresay, the machine stops.]

———–End Quote———–

I get in “trouble,” sometimes, as I am viewed as not being sufficiently supportive, or critical, of groups like the SSPX.  But in this time of mass confusion and untold calamity, I have a difficult time telling someone “you err” in their differing responses to the crisis.  I do have some limits – I think sede vacantists go too far, and those who reject the Church altogether and leave for some other sect/church – but overall I have a hard time blaming someone, in this unending mass of confusion and conflict, from arriving at a little bit different conclusion than my own.  I think the key remains: “Love God, and do what you will.”  I pray He will be merciful and understanding with us all who are groping about in the dark in this time of so little light.

Ten Hindrances to Devotion by St. Peter of Alcantara January 24, 2017

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Part two, as promised in yesterday’s post, which provided aids to developing a rich interior life.  Today’s post covers those things that tend to inhibit the development of a strong practice of devotion to Our Lord and Lady.  From Treatise on Prayer and Meditation pp. 128-131:

Just as there are certain things which help with devotion, so there are others which impede it.  Among the latter:

1] Sin is the first, and not merely mortal sin, but venial sins also; for these, although they do not deprive us of charity, diminish the fervor of charity, which is practically the same thing as devotion.  Consequently, we should be very much on our guard against them, not so much for the evil they work in us as for th egreat good of which they despoil us.

2] A second hindrance is the remorse of conscience, when it is excessive, which proceeds from these sins, for it disturbs and casts down the soul, frightens it and makes it unfit for every good work. [Excessive lamentations or remorse can also be a sign of pride, as in thinking one too good to have done X or Y.  Just something to keep in mind.  We certainly should have remorse for our sins, but that remorse should lead to humility and an understanding of our total need for God’s Grace, and not deep depression or other disturbances of our interior life]

3] Scruples, for the same reason, constitute another hindrance.  They are like thorns, allowing the soul no rest, so that it can neither repose in God nor enjoy true peace. [Being afflicted with scruples can be a truly hellish experience, and one almost always self-inflicted. I have a daughter that is struggling with certain scruples, please pray for her.]

4] Every kind of bitterness and sourness of heart and unreasoning depression are also hindrances, for then one can hardly relish the taste and sweetness of a good conscience and of spiritual joy.

5] Overmuch worry is a further hindrance.  Cares are like the flies of Egypt, which distress the soul and prevent it from enjoying that spiritual rest which is experienced in prayer.  It is precisely then, more than at other times, that they disturb the soul and turn it away from this exercise. [A trend should be discernible – anything that tends to rob the soul of peace for long periods are detrimental to the interior life.  Something to consider when we get exercised over the state of things in the Church and world today.  A certain level of knowledge is of course beneficial and even necessary, but if reading news begins to seriously affect our peace of soul or derail our practice of the Faith – or even, God forbid, tempts us to fall away –  then we need to retract from whatever is causing us to lose peace and focus on other, happier things, at least for a while]

6] Too many occupations are also a hindrance, for they take up much time, stifle the soul, and leave a man without leisure or heart for divine things.  [Recreation is necessary.  So are distractions, at times.]

7] Pleasure and worldly consolations, if indulged in to excess, hinder a man from prayer. “He who devotes himself overmuch to the delights of the world,” says St. Bernard, “does not deserve those of the Holy Ghost.”

8] Delicacy and abundance in food and drink form another hindrance, and especially long-drawn-out meals.  These are a very bad foundation for spiritual exercises and devout watching.  When the body is weighed down and charged in excess with food, the soul is very unfitted to soar aloft.

9] The vice of curiosity in the senses and in the intellect is a hindrance too.  Seeking to hear and see all sorts of things, wishing to have about oneself things that are pretty or quaint…..all this takes up time, embarrasses the senses, disturbs the soul and diverts it in every direction, and thus impedes devotion. [We must be very careful in what we allow ourselves, and our families, to be exposed to.  Everyone has their own needs, their own limits, and their own weaknesses.  The best way to proceed is experientially, paying attention to how we feel and how we behave, internally and externally, to see if new or changed levels of stimuli produce a positive or negative effect in our spiritual lives. Anything that tends towards the negative must be eliminated or sharply curtailed.]

10] Finally, any interruption of the holy exercises, unless for a good and pious reason, is a hindrance, for as a learned writer said, the spirit of devotion is something very delicate, and once it goes, it either does not return at all, or at least only after much difficulty.   [While St. Peter was originally writing primarily for religious, thus the seriousness of an interruption of the exercises religious are required under duty and obedience to perform, we can still take from this an understanding that we should try to develop a regular prayer regimen for ourselves, to the extent possible, and not deviate from it.  We should not allow our concentration to be interrupted during prayer time by needless distractions.  Prayers said mechanically are unworthy of significant grace.  Strive to grow in focus during periods of prayer and meditation]

———-End Quote———-

Thank you for the kind comments to the previous post on St. Peter of Alcantara.  His book is excellent.  He’s been hard to excerpt, but these two short chapters were perfect for a blog.  I’ll certainly share anything else I can that is not too onerous for online reading.

Some Spiritual Gems from the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer          January 9, 2017

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A few excerpts from recent issues of the awesome Catholic newspaper, published by the Transalpine Redemptorists quarterly.  The first is on humility, the second contains statements by various Saints in praise of Our Blessed Mother.

On Humility: These lessons may seem superficial, even credulous, but they are actually very powerful.  What we learn below is that all our acts of piety – hours of prayer, great acts of penance, numerous devotions, fasting, etc. –  can all be  undone of spiritual benefit if we lack humility.  In fact, humility is the prerequisite for advance in the interior life.  It’s also one of the most difficult to obtain virtues, so contrary to our nature is it.  Humility comes from meekness, which comes from willed embrace of suffering – something our natures and the entire world scream at us is unnatural and unacceptable.  Enough of me, the quote from Catholic:

The most powerful weapon for overcoming the devil is humility, because as he is a perfect stranger to the employment of it, so he knows not how to defend himself against it – St. Vincent de Paul

One day, as St. Macarius was returning to his cell, he met the devil with a scythe in his hand: the fiend endeavored to wound him, and cut him in two with it; but he was unable to do so, because the moment he came near to him he lost all his strength.  Upon which, being filled with rage, he said to him, “I suffer great violence from thee, O Macarius, because though I greatly desire to hurt thee, I am unable to do so.  Strange indeed it is! I do all that you do, and even more: you fast sometimes, and I never eat at all; you sleep but little, it is true, but I never close my eyes; you are chaste and so am I; in one respect alone you surpass me.”  “And what is that?” replied Macarius.  The devil answered, “It is in your great humility.” And having said this, he disappeared without letting the saint behold him another moment.

On a certain occasion the devil appeared to a monk in the form of the Archangel Gabriel, and told him that he was sent to him by God; but the monk feeling himself altogether unworthy of such a visit replied, “See if you were not sent to another,” and forthwith the devil disappeared.

As an aged priest was exorcising a possessed individual, the devil said he would never leave that body until he had told him who were the goats and who the lambs.  The good priest immediately replied, “the goats are all those who are like me; who the lambs are is known to God.”  At which words the devil cried out aloud, “I am forced by thy humility to go away,” and forthwith he fled.

In Praise of Mary: No introduction needed.

Seek refuge in Mary because she is the city of refuge.  We know that Moses set up three cities of refuge for anyone who inadvertently killed his neighbor.  Now the our-lady-of-the-expectationLord has established a refuge of mercy, Mary, even for those who deliberately commit evil.  Mary provides shelter and strength for the sinner. – St. Anthony of Padua

Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish on the Mother; for the more she is honored, the greater is the glory of her Son.  There can be no doubt that whatever we say in praise of the Mother gives equal praise to the Son. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux [Dang right!  Listen to that, protestants!]

Never be afraid of loving the Blessed Virgin too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did. – St. Maximilian Kolbe

We never give more honor to Jesus than when we honor His Mother, and we honor her simply and solely to honor Him all the more perfectly.  We go to her only as a way of leading to the goal we seek – Jesus, her Son. – St. Louis Grignon de Montfort

Let us run to her, and, as little children, cast ourselves into her arms with a perfect confidence. – St. Francis de Sales

With reason did the Most Holy Virgin predict that all generations would call her blessed, for all the Elect obtain eternal salvation through the means of Mary. – St. Ildephonsus  [I believe it!]

The devotions we practice to the glorious Virgin Mary, however trifling they may hc-olvic__89945__40559-1405695358-1280-1280be, are very pleasing to Her Divine Son, and He rewards them with eternal glory. – St. Teresa of Avila

As in the natural life a child must have a father and a mother, so in the supernatural life of grace a true child of the Church must have God for his Father and Mary for his mother.  If he prides himself on having God for his Father but does not give to Mary the tender affection of a true child, he is an impostor and his father is the devil. [ouch]  – St. Louis de Montfort

Alright, one more on a different subject, from the Angelic Doctor himself, Thomas Aquinas:

Nothing created has ever been able to satisfy the heart of man.  God alone can fill it infinitely.

Lord, do I ever know that.  I tried to fill it with everything imaginable, but it remained a vacuum until I at least tried to start filling it with You.  It feels much fuller now. I pray it is.

Start Novena to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Today! November 29, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Domestic Church, family, General Catholic, Interior Life, Novenas, Our Lady, Saints, sanctity, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, Virtue.
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That’s today, 11/29/16.  Ideally, you’d start today.  If you would, in your charity, consider adding MJD, who provided the prayer below, to your intentions.  She is having eye surgery next week (on Dec. 8th itself).

Prayer of the Novena of the Immaculate ConceptionHeart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, pray for us Bouasse Lebel

Immaculate Virgin Mary, you were pleasing in the sight of God from the first moment of your conception in the womb of your mother, St. Anne. You were chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I believe the teaching of holy Mother the Church, that in the first instant of your conception, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race and beloved Son, you were preserved from all stain of original sin. I thank God for this wonderful privilege and grace he bestowed upon you as I honor your Immaculate Conception.

Look graciously upon me as I implore this special favor:(mention your request).

Virgin Immaculate, Mother of God and my Mother, from your throne in heaven turn your eyes of pity upon me. Filled with confidence in your goodness and power, I beg you to help me in this journey of life which is so full of dangers for my soul. I entrust myself entirely to you, that I may never be the slave of the devil through sin, but may always live a humble and pure life. I consecrate myself to you forever, for my only desire is to love your divine Son Jesus. Mary, since none of your devout servants has perished, May I too be saved. Amen.

Another version of the Novena is below, so that you may have your choice:

O most pure Virgin Mary conceived without sin, from the very  first instant, you were entirely immaculate. O glorious Mary full of grace, you  are the mother of my God – the Queen of Angels and of men. I humbly venerate you  as the chosen mother of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Prince of Peace and the Lord of Lords chose you for the  singular grace and honor of being His beloved mother. By the power of His Cross,  He preserved you from all sin. Therefore, by His power and love, I have hope and  bold confidence in your prayers for my holiness and salvation.

I pray first of all that you would make me worthy to call you  my mother and your Son, Jesus, my Lord.

I pray that your prayers will bring me to imitate your  holiness and submission to Jesus and the Divine Will.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are  you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother  of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Stunning

Stunning

Now, Queen of Heaven, I beg you to beg my Savior to grant me  these requests…

(Mention your  intentions)

My holy Mother, I know that you were obedient to the will of  God. In making this petition, I know that God’s will is more perfect than mine.  So, grant that I may receive God’s grace with humility like you.

As my final request, I ask that you pray for me to increase in  faith in our risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in hope in our  risen Lord; I ask that you pray for me to increase in love for the risen  Jesus!

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are  you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother  of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Finally, the Saint Andrew 25 day Novena for Christmas also starts tomorrow 11/30.  The prayer is below, though I know you already know it:

The 25 day St. Andrew Novena starts today, Nov. 30.  The prayer is as follows, pray it 15 times a day through Christmas Eve:

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 BETHLEHELM, IN PIERCING COLD.
IN THAT HOUR, VOUCHSAFE, O MY GOD,  TO HEAR MY PRAYER AND GRANT MY PETITIONS,

(MENTION YOUR INTENTIONS HERE)

THROUGH THE MERITS OF OUR SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST AND OF HIS BLESSED MOTHER.  AMEN.

I typically just make an en bloc petition for the day for all 15 recitations. If you say them all together, it only takes a few minutes.

lourdes-immaculate-conception-2

Two Great Saints on Prayer November 28, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, catachesis, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, Saints, sanctity, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, true leadership, Virtue.
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From the first Chapter of St. Peter of Alcantara’s Treatise on Prayer and Meditation, two meditations on the absolutely vital role of our prayer lives in the working out of our salvation through God’s Grace.  The first is ostensibly from St. Bonaventure, but may in fact come from another Franciscan called Joannes a Caulibus.  The second most definitely comes from St. Lawrence Justinian.  Both clearly relate the importance – the absolutely vital role – a deeply committed prayer life must play in our development of virtue and growth in the interior life.  Just some spiritual fruit for you as we launch into a new liturgical year and a season that should be deeply immersed in prayer and penance, Advent.  I pray you find this excerpt edifying:

“If you would endure with patience the adversities and miseries of this life, be a man of prayer.  If you would acquire strength and courage to download-13vanquish the temptations of the enemy, be a man of prayer.  If you would crush your self-will, with all its inclinations and desires, be a man of prayer.  If you would know the wiles of satan and defend yourself against his snares, be a man of prayer.  If you would live with a joyous heart and pass lightly along the road of penance and sacrifice, be a man of prayer.  If you would drive away vain thoughts and cares which worry the soul like flies, be a man of prayer.  If you would nourish the soul with the sap of devotion and have it always filled with good thoughts, be a man of prayer.  If you would strengthen and establish your heart in the ways of God, be a man of prayer.  Finally, if you would uproot from your soul all vices and plant virtues in their place, be a man of prayer. For herein does a man receive the unction and grace of the Holy Ghost, who teaches all things.  Nay more, would you mount to the summit of contemplation and enjoy the sweet embraces of the Spouse, exercise yourself in prayer, for it is the road that leads to contemplation and to the taste of what is heavenly.  Do you see now how great is the strength and power of prayer?  In proof of all that has been said – apart from the witness of the divine Scriptures – let that suffice for the moment as proof sufficient what we have heard and seen, what we see every day, viz., many simple persons who have achieved all we have enumerated above, and even greater, by the exercise of prayer.

Such are the words of St. Bonaventure.  What treasure could one find richer or fuller than that?  Listen again to what another very religious and holy doctor says on this subject, speaking of the same virtue (St. Lawrence Justinian):st-lawrence-justinian-01

In prayer the soul cleanses itself from sin, charity is nourished, faith is strengthened, hope is made secure, the spirit rejoices, the soul grows tender, and the heart is purified; truth discovers itself, temptation is overcome, sadness takes to flight, the senses are renewed, failing virtue is made good, tepidity disappears, the rust of sin is rubbed away.  In it are brought forth lively flashes of heavenly desires, and in these fires rises the flame of divine love.  Great are the excellences of prayer, great its privileges.  The heavens open before it and unveil therein their secrets, and to it are the ears of God ever attentive.”

———-End Quote———-

I don’t know about you, but I found both exhortations to prayer moving and beautiful.  May God be praised for sharing His Divine wisdom with such Saints, who in turn share it with us, prayerfully groping along the hard and rocky path to salvation, while we watch others laughing at us and mocking us as they speed by on the wide road to perdition.

Spare some prayers for them, too.  And may God keep us on the narrow way to salvation, rather than the superhighway to destruction.  Pray for the grace of always making good, thorough confessions!  Many souls are lost because they are too embarrassed to share some sin they keep hidden away in the recesses of their soul.  The priests have heard everything!  Don’t let embarrassment and shame – tricks of the devil – keep you from making a good, full, detailed confession, and implore God the grace also to have true contrition for your sins and the firmest purpose of amendment.

Two Powerful Prayers for the Family to St. Anne October 19, 2016

Posted by Tantumblogo in awesomeness, Basics, Domestic Church, family, General Catholic, Glory, Grace, Interior Life, mortification, Saints, sanctity, Spiritual Warfare, Tradition, Virtue.
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Well, one really just mentions the parents of the only sinless entirely human person to ever live – the Blessed Mother – but they are download-11both very good and apropos in this time of constant assaults against, and undermining of, the family.  More than that, so many individual families are under particular assaults from satan, his minions, and the democrats, but I repeat myself.

The second prayer in particular is of enormous benefit in this time when the world, the flesh, and the devil are having so much success at fooling children off the narrow path towards salvation and onto the wide, 400 lane highway to perdition.  We lose so many kids out of the Church in these times, and gravest sin is, many of those are lost because of errors and sins they are taught are perfectly OK by authority figures in the Church.  But I’ll demure from riding that hobby horse for now, and get to the prayers, which are from a small booklet on Good Saint Anne and are really short and easy to say:

Prayer for God’s Blessing on the Married

I bless Thee, most gracious Lord Jesus Christ, for having ordained that Thy holy Mother, the Virgin Mary, of whom Thou, O Redeemer of all men, didst will to assume flesh, should proceed from the chaste union of Joachim and Anne.  By Thy goodness, I beseech Thee, through the merits of the holy parents Joachim and Anne, have mercy on <my spouse and I or all on> all who, in their memory, sanctify their life in the state of holy Matrimony.  Give them peace and rest, health of body and soul; make them fruitful in good children, and after this exile, grant them eternal glory to Thy praise and honor, O sweetest and most gracious Savior.  Amen.

Prayer for a Wayward Child

O Holy Mother, St. Anne, so rich in graces!  Thou wilt never leave unheard the pleadings and tears of a mother <parent> who invokes thee for a wayward child.  Thou knowest my grief and the anguish of my heart.  Look down with thy maternal eyes upon this poor erring child, and bring him (her) back upon the way of salvation, that he (she) may again serve God faithfully and thus obtain eternal happiness.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

Hail Mary (three times)

———-End Prayers———–

I know several of my regular readers are suffering with children or spouses who have gone off the reservation, so to speak, or seem to anne5-2abe about to do so. Of course, sometimes kids, no matter how well raised, no matter what parish/kind of Mass you attend, go crazy.  I’ve seen it happen many times.  But if they’ve been raised well, which I’m certain most all the kids raised by readers of this blog have, many will come back.  It may take a while, but I’ve seen that happen many times, as well.  The key thing is not to give up.  Keep praying for them. Pray Novenas.  Make a perpetual Novena to St. Anne using the prayer above or some other prayer.  Of course, pray the Rosary as often and as devoutly as possible.  Offer sacrifice and self-denial for your wayward child (or spouse, for that matter, there’s been a sudden flap of spouses going crazy and leaving the wife/husband and Church of late).  Have Masses offered for their conversion.  Just don’t give up!  That doesn’t mean you have to give in and become indifferent to their sin.  Don’t give up on their salvation, which is the only thing that really matters in this life.  God often surprises us with sudden conversions from out of the blue.

And that’s it.  I told you they were short and easy.  Unfortunately for me, I’m out of time for the day.  It’s been one of those days where finding even 5 minutes to hit the blog has been all but impossible.  Till now, but I’ve got more things to do before I wrap them up.