qui ex singulári benevoléntia me prae millénis homínibus ad tui sequélam et ad exímiam Sacerdótii dignitátem vocásti, largíre mihi, precor, opem tuam divínam ad offícia mea rite obeúnda.
Oro te, Dómine Iesu, ut resúscites hódie et semper in me grátiam tuam, quae fuit in me per impositiónem mánuum episcopálium. O potentíssime animárum médice, sana me táliter, ne revólvar in vítia, et cuncta peccáta fugiam tibíque usque ad mortem placére possim. Amen
for a Holy life
Dearest Jesus, who of Thy great goodness hast called me to be Thy follower in preference to countless others and hast raised me to the high dignity of Thy priesthood, bestow upon me abundantly, I pray, Thy divine help in fulfilling my duties in a right spirit. I beseech Thee, Lord Jesus, to stir up in me Thy grace both today and always, that grace which is in me by reason of the laying on of hands of the bishop. O mighty Physician of souls, heal me in such wise that I may never be entangled in sinful habits, but that I may renounce them all and be enabled to please Thee even to the day of my death. Amen.
Indulgence of 500 days once a day (S.C. Ind., Aug. 14, 1884; S.P. Ap., June 1933)
Taken from the Raccolta, the offical english language version of the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum (1952).
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
It's late at night and I should be in bed but I'm trying to back-up my laptop and so I'm awake. This being the feast of the Chair or See of St. Peter I attach a picture of a little reliquary I have which contains a tiny fragment of St. Peter (among others). It reminds me that my faith is not a philosophy or an opinion but an act of trust and belief in the historical reality of the incarnation of the person of Christ the Word who promised to the first Peter to stand by him and all his successors and build His Church on them. In the darkness and sorrow, humiliation and confusion that threatens to smother the Irish Church it reignites for me the light of hope.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Rome, Italy, Feb 16, 2010 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- Five members of the Irish Bishops' Conference, led by their president and Primate of all Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady, addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon following two days of what they called "intense" discussions with Pope Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia. Cardinal Brady said in his remarks that the bishops should spend the penitential season of Lent doing penance to promote “a change of heart.”
Over "a very productive two days," 24 Irish bishops met with the Holy Father and Vatican officials on the topic of sexual abuse in the Irish Church over the last 40 years. Every bishop had a handful of minutes to speak individually during the meetings.
Present at the Tuesday afternoon press conference were Bishops Michael Smith, Joseph Duffy, Denis Brennan and Brendan Kelly and Cardinal Brady, who relayed some of the exchange between the bishops and the Pope, since the meeting was closed to the press.
Cardinal Brady said he used his time with Pope Benedict to speak of "the amount of support we got after the report from members of other churches" and "the impact this report had on people." He also stressed that the bishops of Ireland need to listen better and should do this by further implementing the structures that already exist in the Church, referring specifically to parish/pastor councils and diocesan councils.
"These are structures which could be used more fully and more meaningfully to involve lay people in a more direct way in the running of our Church," Cardinal Brady said.
Bishop Brennan from the Diocese of Ferns spoke "about the culture that has emerged between the bishops, church leadership and Irish society" and the pain and concern he feels for the current situation of the Church, since "it came about because of a breach of trust between us and the people."
He elaborated on how the issue has affected the Church, saying, "people trusted us to do a better job in this area and many of them are disillusioned that we haven't … .”
"This is a long-term process and every day is a step along that road and what we are determined to do, and more determined after this, is to regain that trust of the Irish people," Bishop Brennan added.
Bishop Smith described the meeting as a very "clear, frank and open discussion," and said that each bishop was "listened to and... responded to."
"The Pope himself was there for all of the meetings, and there was tremendous engagement."
Cardinal Brady added that survivors were the "main concern" throughout the meetings, which he said also served "to help the Holy Father put the final touches to his letter, which will address victims... and address them appropriately.
"At the center of it all was concern about how to help victims heal completely," the cardinal stressed.
He called these meetings "one of many steps that will have to be taken" and said that Pastoral Letter from Benedict XVI will provide the Church in Ireland with a "message of encouragement to deal with this problem honestly and courageously," but that "then it will be up to us to continue this work.”
"It is a great problem, and at the center of it all must be the welfare of victims," the cardinal stated.
Speaking about the draft of the pastoral letter from Pope Benedict to the Irish Church, Cardinal Brady said that "generally, the pastoral letter was pleasing," although the Irish bishops did express some "reservations" to certain points which "were listened to very respectfully."
According to a statement released by the Press Office of the Holy See at the conclusion of the meetings the pastoral letter will be finished and presented during the Lenten season.
The Vatican statement also included the Pope's concern over a "more general crisis of faith" in the country, which he indicated as a contributing factor to the phenomenon of abuse, along with a lack of respect for the human person.
Cardinal Brady said that Pope Benedict had told them in the discussions that "at the heart of this is a renewal of faith because faith ultimately is the real and true protector of human dignity and that is the dignity of every human being, who is made in the image and likeness of God."
"That dignity," he continued, "has been wounded by sin and then there is the reality of Jesus who came into the world to heal the wound brought be sin and our job is to go back and continue to bring and preach and live the love of Jesus Christ in our own lives and to express that, especially to those who have suffered so previously as a result of these hideous crimes."
The Holy Father had emphasized the necessity of "a deeper theological reflection on the whole issue, and called for an improved human, spiritual, academic and pastoral preparation both of candidates for the priesthood and religious life and of those already ordained and professed," according to the Vatican statement.
Bishop Smith specified that Holy Father had told them that the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, "Gaudium et Spes," had been "totally misrepresented in some of the moral teaching and attitudes that came into theology."
He said the Pope called on them "to 'refind' the deep vision of humanity and the human person as contained in that particular document."
Bishop Smith also recalled that Pope Benedict has "spoken of it many times: that there is a poverty to the teaching of moral values and moral theology... in the Church.
Summing up the situation and the next step, Cardinal Brady affirmed, "Yes, there have been failures, of course, in our leadership," and "the only way that we will regain that credibility would be through our humiliation. Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent. It is a time of penance and we must begin with ourselves."
"Real penance," he said. "A change of heart."
Thursday, February 4, 2010
St. Joseph of Leonessa
On his 17th birthday, 8th January 1573, Euphronio Desideri made his profession in his home town of Leonessa as a Capuchin Franciscan friar. He took on the simpler name of Joseph. His vocation had survived serious obstacles and he persisted with a single-minded resolve to reach what he called "the inexpressible joy of being a son of St. Francis."
Joseph was born third in a family of eight children but was doubly orphaned by the age of twelve. An uncle, a teacher at Viterbo, accepted the care of the children and foresaw an excellent future for Joseph who was a bright student. A local gentleman cast a critical eye over him also for Joseph would be an ideal spouse for his only but richly endowed daughter. Both guardians were keen on such an arrangement but not so Joseph. His heart was set on other matters and the tension generated by adult insistence on their future plans for him affected his health. He was relieved to be sent back to Leonessa where he quickly recovered.
An unwelcome attraction
The Franciscans were a long established Order at this time. They had a three hundred and fifty year history but the Capuchin reform were not fifty years established. They were newly arrived in Leonessa. A local doctor had just joined them and Joseph would follow his example. Uncle Battista was not pleased and so to avoid this temptation Joseph was sent off to school at Spoleto. But the Lord was providing. There was a Capuchin hermitage in the hills nearby. Joseph made contact and then made his application to the Provincial Superior. He was accepted. He renounced his goods and family just as St. Francis had done. Of course, Battista was not happy. The family came and tried to force him to return home. Joseph would not budge.
Christ the power and the wisdom of God
Joseph was ordained priest on 24th September 1580. He had been formed in the thought of St. Bonaventure and we get an insight into his heart in a "Prayer of Commitment" in which he thanks the Lord for his vocation, pledges to be faithful to the Church even unto death, under the protection of Our Lady and St. Francis. The reforms and programmes of the Council of Trent had just begun. He would implement them, for he knew and preached Christ alone, the power and the Wisdom of God." As in the famous exhortation of St. Ambrose, Christ was for him, the answer to all problems.
In union with God
Intimate union with God was the secret of his life. In the canonical process we read, "With the greatest care he gathered together all the powers of his soul, the better to relish God. He did this not only at the assigned periods of prayer, but at all times. As he walked along the road he would grasp his crucifix and contemplate the wounds of Christ. While he meditated life the expression of his face would change according to the various mysteries. At times he would look drawn and haggard, then flushed as if he harboured a burning fire within. The same reactions occurred when he was preaching." As lie lived Christ, so he preached him.
His nephew Francis, also a Capuchin, testifies, "Wherever he found hatred and quarrels he went there in hope of restoring peace. He paid no heed to storms, snow, impossible roads." "Lord make me an instrument of your peace!" Clutching the crucifix to his heart or raising it to the heavens, no one could resist him. An early story tells of the fifty bandits who terrorised Central Italy like the wolf of Gubbio. He went to their hide-out, led them to the local church, and with the crucifix raised above them spoke of the mercy of God. They responded fully. Gratefully each accepted a rosary as they left the church, and became his most faithful listeners as he preached the Lenten course shortly afterwards in that same church.
Prepared to go among the infidels
Five Jesuits had died serving Christian slaves in Turkey and France and Venice requested Capuchin help. Joseph was among the volunteers. He prepared well, studing the culture, language and beliefs of the people. He learned that the best way to dialogue with them was to listen long and well and allow their weak points to surface. Alas he was not chosen, and he humbly wrote, "Anyone who without qualms thinks himself fit to be a missionary among the Turks is guilty of pride."
Labouring among the infidels
One of those originally selected became ill and to his own great joy Joseph was chosen in his place. In August 1587 the group set out. Joseph was given care of four thousand Christian slaves. More than once he offered to take the place of a slave. Once he overstayed his time consoling those sentenced to hard labour. At the prison gates he found himself locked in for the night. He lay down and slept. Next morning he was thrown into prison as a spy. There he remained for a month until the Venetian Ambassador obtained his release. Plague killed many prisoners and only Joseph and Gregory survived among the Capuchins. Joseph reconverted a Greek bishop to union with Rome and emboldened by this sought an audience with the Sultan asking for "human rights and freedom of conscience." Several requests were in vain, so, like Francis, he decided to drop in on the Sultan uninvited. He reached the inner private rooms before being caught.
For his rashness Joseph was condemned to the "hook." This was an unusually cruel form of torture. The victim is hung from a high scaffold by means of a meat-hook through one hand and one leg. A slow smoking fire is lit underneath. So Joseph hung suffering great pain, dying slowly, burning with thirst and fever. His whole body shook convulsively while guards mocked him and added wet rags to the fire to suffocate him with smoke. After three days they left him expecting he would not survive the night.
Rescue and new mission
Peter and Paul had escaped prison and chains with angelic help. "A young man came that night, released the hook and bound up my wounds. He said, "Your mission here is over. Go back to Italy and preach the gospel there!" Was it an angel? Or was the half-conscious Joseph rescued by a messenger of the Sultana Bofa? 'She was a Venetian by birth. Either way it was "the hand of God."
Preach good news to the poor
To whom should he preach? Back in Assisi huge crowds attended his Advent sermons. They had heard of the "attempted martyrdom." He might have preached to such crowds in urban comfort for the next thirty years. Instead he pleaded to be allowed go to the impoverished villages in the mountains. He became their wandering visitor teaching the catechism and simple prayers and the Mercy of God in the Cross and the Eucharist. He would speak to every gathering and then forge ahead to where his messengers had gone before him. Indeed the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach the good news to the poor! Unjust judges and moneylenders heard the sharp clear words of Scripture. He founded Credit Unions and grain stores for food security. The first store was for "poor ladies who administered it themselves." He promoted hospitals, guest-houses and always peace! Christian charity embraces both body and soul.
Anchored in the Eucharist and the Mass
Joseph drew strength and inspiration for his many apostolic and charitable activities from the sacrament of love. As for so many Capuchin preachers the Forty Hours devotion was a special experience. His was a faith that lived in continual Union with Jesus present in the Tabernacle and expressing itself in good works. A companion asked why he went into church so often. He replied, "I go to visit my Lord, to see how he is doing and if he needs anything. Courtiers are at the beck and call of their prince day and night. As sons, servants and ministers we should always be close to Our Lord, called as we are to be mediators between God and man. Many graces come from such visits to the Most Blessed Sacrament."
Suffering as a proof of love
The Eucharist, Sacrament and Sacrifice as memorials of the Passion are inseparable from the Cross. Joseph was always willing to suffer in order to advance God's work. "When we suffer anything we give proof of our love." Towards the end of his life he had to undergo surgery. Doctors prepared to tie him down. "No! No!" he said. "Just give me my crucifix and then go ahead. Cut and burn as you need." Surgery was no gentle art in those days. The surgeons worked away as Joseph murmured his favourite prayer, "Holy Mary, help the suffering." But all was in vain. His illness was incurable.
Dying like St. Francis
Joseph asked to be taken to Leonessa. In tears he bade goodbye to his family and friends until they should meet in heaven. He went out to a nearby hill, and raised the crucifix to bless his home town. He was taken to Amatrice where his nephew was guardian. It had been their mutual prayer that which ever of them died first would be ministered to by the other. "Today is a Saturday dedicated to Mary. Like Francis, I will be happy to die on this day." Too weak to continue with the Divine Office he simply repeated, "Holy Mary, help the suffering." He passed away quietly on the 4th February 1612. He was beatified by Pope Clement XII in 1737 and nine years later he was canonised by Pope Benedict XIV together with St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen - the attempted martyr and the Proto-martyr together.
Simple profound teaching
Joseph could express his message with beautiful simplicity as we see from his homilies. "The Good News is written not on parchment but in our hearts. The written law was engraved on stone. The law of grace is imprinted on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Every Christian should be a living book in which the gospel can be read. So Paul wrote, "You are our letter of recommendation written not by ink but by the Spirit of the living God." Would that the Holy Spirit enable my tongue, dipped in the blood of the spotless Lamb, to write in your hearts today. But how can one script be imposed on another? First remove the old so that the new may be written. Out with avarice, lust, pride.... , so that humility, honesty…may be inscribed."
Exhortation of St. Ambrose
“Out of love for us Christ became all things. Christ is everything for us. If you wish to have your wounds healed, he is the doctor.
If you are living with fever, he is the water of refreshment.
If you are burdened with faults, he is your justification.
If you have need of help, he is your resource.
If you fear death, he is your life.
If you are longing for heaven, he is the way.
If you wish to escape from darkness, he is the light.
If you are looking for nourishment , he is your food.
Taste and see that the Lord is sweet.
Blessed is the one that trusts in him.”
From Saints and Blesseds of the Capuchin Franciscan Order by my confrere and member of my community Br. Donatus McNamara.
The above image shows the remains of St. Joseph. They're in the town in a church near the town square.
Above: Relics of St. Joseph including his breviary, cord, sandals, celice, and the chains and collar he wore.
Donatus fails to mention that Joseph was known as the 'companion killer' by his fellow friars. In those days the friars travelled in twos. So energetic and unstinting was Joseph in his evangelizing that he wore not a few friars into the ground. I have visited Leonessa (his remains are on display there) and can confirm that the surrounding hills are very steep so it's no wonder his companions found it hard to keep up.
I also offer this video of the inside of the Capuchin chapel just outside the town of Leonessa. It shows sgraffito work and tells of some of Joseph's more well-known miracles.