Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Archangel Michael's Intercession For the Dying and the Faithful Departed


Stained Glass of Holy Archangel Michael, found via Google search

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex gloriæ, libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum de pœnis inferni et de profundo lacu: libera eas de ore leonis, ne absorbeat eas tartarus, ne cadant in obscurum: sed signifer sanctus Michael repræsentet eas in lucem sanctam: quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus. Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus: tu suscipe pro animabus illis, quarum hodie memoriam facimus: fac eas, Domine, de morte transire ad vitam. Quam olim Abrahæ promisisti et semini ejus.

(Translation of the above prayer, which the Offertory prayer from the Requiem Mass of the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Catholic liturgy: "O Lord Jesus Christ, King of Glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit: deliver them from the lion's mouth, that hell swallow them not up, that they fall not into darkness, but let the standard-bearer holy Michael lead them into that holy light; which Thou dist promise of old to Abraham and to his seed. We offer to Thee, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers: do Thou receive them in behalf of those souls of whom we make memorial this day. Grant them, O Lord, to pass from death to that life, which Thou didst promise of old to Abraham and to his seed.")


[The following is excerpted from the booklet "St. Michael the Archangel," published by TAN Books and Publishers, 2006.]

"Not only during life does the glorious Archangel Michael defend and protect souls, but he is their special advocate and consoler at the hour of death. When the last hour of our earthly career draws near and we are confronted by that awful moment when our soul must leave the body, which it has loved so much, satanic hosts, like ravenous lions, will make a last attack upon us. But we need not fear if during life we have been faithful in venerating St. Michael and imploring his aid for the hour of death. In that hour of supreme need, this invincible Archangel, ever ready to assist the faithful soul, will come to our aid with his hosts and do battle on our behalf. He will cover us with his strong shield and lead us safely through the midst of our enemies."

"And when at length our souls have been freed from their earthly bonds, he will conduct us to the judgment seat of Christ, where he will undertake our defense and implore the forgiveness of our sins. Finally, if we have merited to be numbered among the elect, he will take us beneath his glorious banner and conduct us to the blessed home of light, where all the Angels and elect children of God glory in the eternal praise of their Creator. It is therefore a commendable practice daily to invoke St. Michael to lend his assistance at the critical hour of death. Many are the faithful clients of St. Michael who have experienced his help in that hour...."

"In her beautiful prayers in the Mass for the Dead [the Requiem Mass], the Church with maternal solicitude places the souls of her departed children in the hands of St. Michael, that he may lead them into the kingdom of everlasting light. If St. Michael is so solicitous for the welfare of souls during their lifetime and at the hour of death, we may be certain that he will also befriend them during their stay in Purgatory and will hasten to bring them consolation...."

"'The Prince of the heavenly militia,' says St. Anselm, 'is all-powerful in Purgatory, and he can assist the Poor Souls whom the justice and sanctity of the Almighty retain in this place of punishment.' 'It is incontestably recognized since the foudnation of Christianity,' declares St. Robert Bellarmine, 'that the souls of the Faithful departed are delivered from Purgatory through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel.' Let us add to these authorities the words of St. Alphonsus Liguori: 'St. Michael has received the care of consoling and helping the souls in Purgatory.'"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Cunctas haereses sola interemisti in universo mundo" - St. Maximilian Kolbe in Our Lady


Image of the first edition of St. Maximilian Kolbe's "Knight of the Immaculate" periodical, with the Blessed Virgin Mary slaying heresy and Masonry

[The following is excerpted from "Will To Love: Reflections for Daily Living by St. Maximilian Kolbe, 'Prophet of the Civilization of Love,'" published by Marytown Press"]

"'All heresies on the earth, you alone have destroyed.' [from Matins of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary]"

"How is that so? Surely heresies still exist, and here the Church in [Her] prayers to the Blessed Mother speaks of a destruction that is already fulfilled, and what is more, of all heresies."

"When in the course of one battle it was brought back to Napoleon's attention that by surprise an enemy attack had occurred on one front, he replied: 'Good, the enemy has lost.' But the battle was not finished, not even was the victory in sight or evident. However, this ingenious military leader knew that once the enemy had made that attack, there was no longer any hope of his victory."

"Similarly of Our Lady, the Mother of God, we can say: 'You have destroyed all heresies on the earth.' What beautiful words."

"Heresies--and not heretics. The latter she loves, their conversion she desires. Out of love for them she frees them of heresy, and destroys in them the errors of viewpoint and conviction."

"She destroyed the heresies, not simply rendered them immobile or weakened or lessened, but completely removed them, so that there is no longer any trace of them."

"How? By destroying all, she has made no exception to evil. And where? On all the earth. Not in one or another country, but everywhere on earth. And this you have done alone."

Saturday, June 07, 2014

A Franciscan's First-Hand Account of Naziism's Anti-Catholicism

[The following is excerpted from the "Priestlings" chapter of The Shadow of His Wings: The True Story of Fr. Gereon Goldmann, OFM, published by Ignatius Press.]

"...[I] returned to finish off my three-month training period [for the Waffen SS], the last three days of which were being conducted by Reichsfuhrer [Heinrich] Himmler himself. The day of demonstration maneuvers was a bitter one; snow blew from the mountaintop, and one of our units became lost there. At last, a command was given to them that saved them all, and during review of the unit at the close of the maneuvers, Himmler commanded that the officer leading it step forward. No one moved....Finally, a soldier whom I knew well stepped forth. He was our Franciscan brother Roger Ricker. We were all amazed, and Himmler asked him, 'Did you give the order?'

"'Yes, Herr Reichsfuhrer.'"

"'But who gave you, a mere soldier, permission to take over the command?'"

"'Sir, our leader was incapacitated. In our instructions, we have been told repeatedly that, in case of necessity, anyone has the duty to give a saving command.'"

"Himmler exclaimed, 'Bravo. Here is a soldier who knows his duty. You are worthy to be an officer in the SS. I will send you at once to a school for officers.'"

"Roger's clear reply rang out in the stillness, 'Sir, that is no longer possible; I have already been at officers' school.'"

"No one understood his answer, and, when he was asked what he meant, he said loudly and firmly, 'I attended the officers' school of the greatest and best-known army in the world---the army of Jesus Christ in the Order of St. Francis. I am in training to be a priest!'....Himmler talked briefly to those close to him and then said, 'You are free to serve your God. There is no religious coercion here. But you must have observed already that whoever is among us undergoes...a change, and that without force.' I laughed."

"He looked at me and said, 'Why do you laugh?' I blurted out, 'We shall see who changes whom."

"The others stared at Himmler: What would he say now? But he merely looked at us and said, with satisfaction, to his companions, 'These fellows are all right; we need them.' To us, he said, 'You are free to go.' And go we did, with this assurance from him who frightened everyone that we were free to fulfill our religious obligations."

"There was a sequel to this incident. The next morning, one of the higher officers received a communication from headquarters that had been passed on from the highest source. In it, we learned that the final goal of the war was to free not only Germany and Europe but the whole world from two adversaries---the Communists and the Christians. The more dangerous, they said, was the Church, which for two thousand years had enslaved mankind with its religion of hypocrisy and false love. 'Until the last priest hangs on the gallows, the final victory has not been won!' the communique said."

"'Yesterday, we were assured religious freedom from one of the highest sources; what we now hear is just the opposite!' I cried.

"The officer sneeringly replied, 'Yes, indeed. Religious freedom, but all means---as long as the war lasts. Nothing has been said, though, about what happens after the war is ended!'"

"I have an unfortunate tendency to put my foot into it, so I could not refrain from asking, 'Sir, what will happen when we are again in our monasteries?'"

"'If one of my men should dare to enter again into those nests of stupidity, I would personally tie him to the nearest tree for flogging!'"...

"When the officer sharply inquired if I doubted the final outcome, I answered, 'I know only this, sir: that whatever transpires, the will of God will prevail. Only that which is right before [Him], and in keeping with [His] Divine plan, will conquer. This has been proved a thousand thousand times in the history of the Church and surely will not now be changed."

Friday, April 11, 2014

St. Gemma Galgani's Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament


Painting of St. Gemma Galgani, taken from St. Gemma Galgani blog

[The following is excerpted from Chapter 25 of The Life of St. Gemma Galgani, by Venerable Fr. Germanus, C.P., her spiritual director, published by TAN Books. St. Gemma Galgani passed from her earthly life into her eternal reward in Heaven on 11 April 1903, which was Holy Saturday.]

"...[H]ere...I have to relate great things, things so singular as to lead us to believe that God, by a special providence, raised up this child of Heaven [St. Gemma] at a time of so much falling away in piety as an example and stimulus to Christians to venerate and love the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. The Blessed Eucharist is by excellence the Mystery of Faith – Mysterium Fidei."

"...She was humble and simple as a little child, and Our Lord has said that to such souls He manifests the hidden things of His wisdom and goodness. Thus then...with the vivid light that faith infused into her during her sublime contemplations, she was able to see clearly into this Sacrament and to measure the width and the depth of Its mysteries....turning to the altar in thought, she at once beheld Our Lord exposed thereon, felt Him present with her, and with her whole being and almost, I must say, with all her bodily senses, she rejoiced in the presence of that sweet Majesty."

"...It would be impossible to give all of Gemma's inspired words regarding this mystery in this biography. But I cannot withhold from my readers a selection of edifying extracts that I have collected from her thoughts, as expressed in writing, her sayings to others, and the outpourings of her soul while in ecstasy. I begin with her ideas of the Blessed Eucharist."

[Emphasis mine]"...Let me speak of Holy Communion; I cannot contain myself. Is it possible that there are souls who do not understand what the Blessed Eucharist is? Who are insensible to the Divine Presence, to the mysterious ardent effusions of the Sacred Heart of my Jesus? O Heart of Jesus! Heart of Love!"
"...In an ecstasy, speaking with her God, she was heard to express her happiness and thankfulness as follows: 'I know that Thou hast not given me temporal and passing riches, but Thou hast given me the true wealth that is the nourishment of the Eucharistic Word. What would become of me if I did not dedicate all my affections to the Sacred Host? Oh, yes, I know it, Lord; that in order to make me deserve a paradise in Heaven, Thou givest me Communion here on earth!'...."

"Although this blessed child was always deep in thought and always found herself in spirit before the sacred Tabernacle, yet she was not fully satisfied unless she could go to church and there adore her hidden God. In order to avoid singularity, which she detested, she contented herself with going to the church only twice a day: in the morning when she went to hear Mass and receive Holy Communion, and in the evening for the public Adoration. 'I am going to Jesus,' she used to say, 'let us go to Jesus. He is all alone and no one thinks of Him. Poor Jesus!'"

..."'Oh, what immense happiness and joy,' she has said, 'my heart feels before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament! And if Jesus would allow me to enter sacred Tabernacle where He, Soul, Body, Blood, and Divinity is present, should I not be in Paradise?...Soul of my soul, my Paradise, Holy Victim, behold me all Thine. I felt that Thou wert seeking me and I ran.'..."

Thanking Our Lord for the victories gained over the enemy, she was once heard to say:

"This morning Thou hast conquered, O Jesus. After I received Thee I began to think of the hard-fought battles in which with Thy help I conquered the devil. Oh, I counted many such victories. [Emphasis mine] Who knows how many times without Thy aid my faith, hope, and charity would have failed me? My understanding would have been darkened if Thou, Eternal Sun, hadst not enlightened it. And my love, how many times would it not have grown weak if Thou hadst not come to strengthen it with Thy Presence? But Thou with Thy fire didst inflame it. I know it; all was the work of Thy Love; all were victories of this, Thine Infinite Love. And now, O Lord, ought not I to be grateful?"
"...We read in the lives of different Saints that, as sometimes they were unable to go to church for Holy Communion, God made use of an angel, who, to satisfy their hunger for the Blessed Eucharist, acted instead of the priest and took the consecrated species to them. It appears that Our Savior Himself willed to take this great gift to Gemma, and that happened quite three times. Here is how it was told us by one who was an eye-witness:"


Depiction of St. Gemma Galgani in ecstasy, as she receives the marks of Our Lord's Passion.
Taken from St. Gemma Pictures and Photographs 2

"On the morning of the Friday on which dear Gemma for the first time underwent the cruel punishment of the Scourging [St. Gemma not only received the five wounds of the stigmata regularly during the latter part of her life, but also received the marks of Jesus' Scourging and His Crown of Thorns], on seeing her horribly lacerated all over, I forbade her to get up. The poor child obeyed, and collecting her thoughts, she set to prepare herself for a spiritual Communion, for which she used to make her preparation in the same way as for her sacramental Communion in the church. She went into ecstasy, and at a given moment I saw her join her hands and return to herself, while her eyes sparkled and her face suddenly lit up as usually happened when she had some extraordinary vision. [Emphasis mine]At the same moment she put out her tongue and soon withdrew it, returning into ecstasy to make her usual thanksgiving. The same thing happened on the following Friday, and we believe it happened at other times as well, but I was not then a witness. I learned from Gemma herself, who quite candidly told me of it, that it was Jesus and not and Angel who came to communicate her."
"...We have seen that this Sacrament of Love was Gemma's Heaven. Jesus on the Altar was everything to her. She lived in this ravishing Mystery, and found in It all her happiness....What has been related in this chapter goes far to show how wonderfully God manifests Himself to faithful souls in the Divine Eucharist."

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

St. Joseph, Model of Sanctity in Family Life


Painting of St. Joseph and the Christ Child from an exhibit of art in the Cusco School style in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, August 2008

[The following reflection by Dom Bernard Maréchaux is taken from "The Glories of St. Joseph," compiled by the Monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Flavigny, France.]

"Families who wish to be Christian should resort to the patronage of St. Joseph. In this they will receive very special help in order to realize their noble ideal."

"'Joseph leads us directly to Mary, and Mary leads us to the source of all holiness, to Jesus who has consecrated family virtues by His own submission to Joseph and Mary. Thus our desire is to see all Christian families renewed by modeling themselves upon such beautiful examples of virtue. In this way, when the human community rests upon the foundation of the family, the day that the domestic social unit shall acquire more stability, when conjugal sanctity, harmony and fidelity shall be safeguarded more religiously, at that very instant shall be seen a new kinship, like a new force, spread across all the members of the human society, and the virtue of Christ penetrate into its very depths. That day we shall see flower not only the reform of personal morals, but also the reform of social and national life' (Pope Benedict XV)."

"These are words to meditate on. They reveal to us the secret of the intercession and the influence of St. Joseph. He works together with Mary and Jesus. He has his very own powerful influence, but he is likewise the mediator of the incomparable flow of graces which emanate from Mary his spouse, and of the graces which flow from the source of all graces, Jesus, his adopted Son."

"If he is invoked as the noble head of the Holy Family, he acts in this capacity. His action is, so to speak, reinforced by Mary's and carried with it the all-powerful action of Jesus. Such is the union of [the] three persons within the Holy Family, that it would be impossible to separate their manner of operating. Joseph, as the head, represents the Family in its entirety, and from this position his intervention seems decisive to us."

"Let us address ourselves to him with confidence so that he may heal the evils and disastrous lesions which disfigure the contemporary family, that he may make the impious law of divorce return to the depths of hell from whence it was ejected, that he may also correct and make disappear from the souls of spouses the latent separation of wills and contradictory tendencies which make the good upbringing of children impossible, that he may give back to spouses the sentiment of their dignity as procreators."

"O St. Joseph, grant that under the married roof spouses may be united, unanimes in domo, one in faith, one in the love of God and in attachment to His holy will, so that the family may be a seed-bed of Christians and of the elect."

"It is a question of rendering a Christian sense of things to souls, which will make them enter into the true meaning of the present life, a life of labor and of trial, not of enjoyment, but also a life of hope and of merit. By this are lusts extinguished, worries calmed. Souls, accepting the order willed by God, walk in a peace which nothing can trouble and which spills over onto society. Doubtless this infusion of Christian meaning constitutes a great miracle of grace. Let us pray with confidence for St. Joseph to make it come about. It is not beyond his power."

"It is to St. Joseph then that we must have recourse, the minister of the counsels of the Most High, who has been proclaimed the Protector of the Universal Church."

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

St. John Fisher on Why Christians Should Frequently Pray the Seven Penitential Psalms


Image of St. John Fisher, found via Google search on Pinterest

Note: In her introduction to her edition of St. John Fisher's sermons, Dr. Anne Barbeau Gardiner wrote, "Fisher regards the seven penitential psalms as medicine of proven efficacy for healing souls. He states that [King] David was healed by composing Psalm 6 and by repeating it often with a contrite heart, and so we can be, too. Again, in [his sermon on] Psalm 37, he explains that we should use the Psalms every day: they rouse the mind from spiritual sleep as by a sweet melody, and they are 'letters of supplication' to God that are truly effective. While God accepts all prayers from contrite hearts, the prayers most acceptable to him are those approved by Holy Church and made by holy people, prayers that ask for forgiveness, strength of soul, and perseverance in the right way, all of which is 'notably done in the psalms of David.'"

[The following is excerpted is from St. John Fisher's sermons on Psalms 6 and 37, "translated" into modern English by Anne Barbeau Gardiner in Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms, published by Ignatius Press. I previously excerpted from the great saint's sermon on Psalm 129 here: Commentaries on Psalm 129, for the Fourth Anniversary of Dignare Me.]

From the sermon on Psalm 6 – The First Penitential Psalm:

"...David, son of Jesse, a man especially chosen of almighty God and endowed with many great benefits, afterward sinned very grievously against God and [His] law. For the occasion of his great offense he made this holy psalm and thereby got forgiveness for his sins....The benefits he received of almighty God are innumerable and impossible for me now to show entirely. God defended him against the envious minds of his brothers, defended him from the dangers and perils of two cruel beasts, the lion and the bear, saved him unharmed from the envious persecutions of King Saul and, moreover, from the hatred of the Philistines. And finally, when King Saul was dead, [He] made him king of Israel. By these great and manifold gifts, we may understand how much David ought to have humbled himself unto almighty God, how much he was bound to [Him], how unkind he ought to appear in our regard if he failed to serve his Lord and maker with a whole mind and a loyal heart."

"But after he was made king, had lived in peace and ease, and had taken many wives, David, not content with these wives, dismissed the goodness and gentleness of almighty God from his mind and took another man's wife, committing adultery with her against God's law. This woman was the wife of his true knight called Uriah....David then found the means, by letters sent to Joab, chief captain of his host, that Uriah should be placed in the foremost line of battle and be slain, which was done according to his desire, so that this good knight Uriah there suffered death. Behold the accumulation and heaping of sin upon sin. He was not satisfied with the great offense of adultery done against almighty God, but shortly afterward committed manslaughter....Yet let us call to our minds how merciful God was to him despite all this. Of [His] infinite goodness and meekness, our blessed Lord almighty God sent him a prophet who warned him of his great offenses. And as soon as David had the will to know himself guilty and said, peccavi Domino, my Lord God, I have offended, immediately all his sins were forgiven (2 Samuel 12:13)....Yet notwithstanding all this, David immediately forgot the goodness of almighty God and again fell into the sin of pride....What might he look forward to, then, except the punishment of God? Greatly fearing this, he was marvellously penitent, and knowing that he had grievously offended our Lord God, he asked mercy of [Him] and made this psalm with great contrition and sorrow of soul, by which he again obtained forgiveness."

"Now you understand who made this psalm, what occasion caused him to write it, and what profit he got by it. Which of us now being sick in any part of the body and in jeopardy of death would not diligently search for a medicine by which to be healed? Would we not first inquire of one who had the same sickness before us? Would we not trust and hope to find a remedy for our disease in a medicine that had cured similar sicknesses and diseases before? Since now, therefore, we have heard tell [told?] how greatly sick and diseased this prophet David truly was, with a sickness not of the body but of the soul, and also with what medicines he was cured and made whole, let us take heed and use the same for our speedy cure when we are sick by our sins in the same way he was. For he was a sinner as we are, but he did wholesome penance when he made this holy psalm, by which he got forgiveness and was restored to his soul's health. By often saying and reading this psalm with a contrite heart like his, and by asking for mercy, we shall likewise undoubtedly purchase and get forgiveness for our sins from our best and merciful Lord God...."

From the sermon on Psalm 37 – The Third Penitential Psalm:

"...All we Christian people are indeed duty-bound to give great and undying thanks to the holy prophet David, who so diligently left us in writing his most devout psalms for us and our posterity to read. And he did so, it seems to me, chiefly for three reasons: first, that the minds of sinners might be raised up and excited by these holy psalms, as by a sweet melody, to receive and grasp the study and learning of virtues; secondly, that if any man or woman had fallen into great and abominable sins, they should not despair but put their entire and steadfast hope of forgiveness in God; thirdly, that they might use these holy psalms as letters of supplication and efficacious prayers to obtain the remission and forgiveness of sins from almighty God....the holy fathers [the Church Fathers] think all sinners are under the power of an evil spirit. Let us, therefore, turn again to these sweet melodies our prophet once sang with his spiritual harp, by which we can chase and put away all the sluggishness and sloth that wicked spirits put into us...."

...[T]he wretched and sinful can trust by these psalms to have God's forgiveness. We have the example of this holy prophet. For every man knows that that the prophet David was a wretched and grievous sinner, yet afterward he lived in a holy manner and by the merits of his life was lifted up to heaven. The medicine and remedy he used to remove his sins was pure and clear penance, at which he labored so much by often reciting these psalms that he was soon made perfectly clean. Therefore, why should we wretched sinners doubt that we can be made clean from all our sins, however grievous, when we know that this prophet's life was unclean before with such a great filthiness of sin and has now been made so bright and spotless by penance, which the true purger of sin?...Is not the same medicine and remedy he used, that is to say, penance, present and ready at hand for all of us? Yes, truly. For it was said to every person, penitenciam [poenitentiam] agite, do penance (Matthew 4:17). Have we not the same God, and is [He] not as rich and plentiful in [Hi]s mercy as ever [He] was before? Yes, certainly....Do you believe [Him] partial to any condition, does [He] not offer [His] grace to every creature everwhere? Yes, truly, for Saint Peter the apostle says in veritate comperi quia non est personarum acceptor Deus: sed in omni gente, qui timet Deum et operatur iustitiam: hic acceptus est illi, I have observed and perceived for a truth that God is no respecter of persons, but among all peoples, whoever fears almighty God and does justice, that person is acceptable to [Him] (Acts 10:34-35). Therefore, if we fear almighty God and do righteous penance, we can trust indeed to have [His] forgiveness and without doubt to be accepted by [His] mercy. To this the holy prophet David both admonishes and entices us by his holy psalms, the matter of which ought to give great comfort and hope of forgiveness to all wretched sinners."

"...[I]t shall be made clear that the holy psalms are like letters of supplication that we can give to almighty God as helpful movers and stirrers of [His] infinite mercy toward us....[W]ho is wiser...to make our business succeed, that is to say, to obtain forgiveness, than our prophet David?..Truly, he was a sinner as we are and an active pursuer of forgiveness. With great diligence he made these holy psalms, offered them up daily to almighty God with great devotion...and thus greatly moved God in [His] goodness to forgive him. Therefore, knowing the virtue and efficacy of these holy psalms, let us use them in our similar business and never doubt to have forgiveness, provided we do it as lovingly as he did in his time. In truth, every prayer offered up from a penitent heart is acceptable to our most good and merciful Lord God, but that prayer is above all others acceptable to [Him] which is approved by Holy Church, which is made by a man of marvellous and known holiness, and which asks first for forgiveness of sins, strength of soul to withstand sin, and continuance of virtue, something nobly done in the Psalms of David, especially in the seven penitential psalms, which we have take upon ourselves to interpret. Therefore, let us gladly and lovingly desire them and offer them up often to almighty God, meekly asking [Him] to forgive our sins, which we have discourteously committed and done against [His] goodness...."

"...[L]et us go by prayer to our best and merciful Lord God with steadfast hope and true penance, meekly beseeching [Him] for [His] help, that since only [He] may defend us from our enemies [that is, the world, the flesh, and the devils], [He] will vouchsafe to deliver us, neither go away nor forsake us, but always give heed to our help. Quoniam ipse est Dominus Deus, salutis nostr[a]e, for [He] is God and Lord of our health. He gives to our bodies temporal health, to our souls the health of grace in this life, and, in the general resurrection to come, which we trust indeed, everlasting health both to body and soul, to which may our Lord by [His] ineffable mercy bring us. Amen."

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

St. Barbara, Virgin and Martyr


Painting of St. Barbara, by Hans Holbein the Younger, found at WikiPaintings

(The following is excerpted from the 4 December entry in Volume I of the 1983 Marian House edition of the English translation of Dom Prosper Guéranger's 'The Liturgical Year' by the Benedictines of Stanbrook.)

Although, in the Roman liturgy, St. Barbara is merely commemorated in the Office of St. Peter Chrysologus, yet the Church has approved an entire Office for the use of those Churches which honour the memory of this illustrious virgin in a special manner. The legend which follows, although of considerable weight, has not, consequently, the authority of those which are promulgated for the use of the whole Church, in the Roman breviary. Let us not, on this account, be less fervent in honouring this glorious marytr, so celebrated in the east, and whose feast has been for so many ages admitted, with more or less solemnity, into the Roman Church. The acts of her martyrdom, though not of the highest antiquity, contain nothing in them but what redounds to the glory of God and the honour of the saint....Let us admire the constancy wherewith this virgin waited for her Lord, who came at the appointed hour, and was for her, as the Scripture speaks, a Spouse of blood, because He put the strength of her love of Him to the severest of all tests.

Barbara, a virgin of Nicomedia, the daughter of Dioscorus, a nobleman but a superstitious pagan, came readily, by the assistance of divine grace, from the contemplation of the visible things of creating to the knowledge of the invisible. Wherefore, she devoted herself to God alone and to the things of God. Her father, desirous to preserve her from all danger of insult, to which he feared her great beauty might expose her, shut her up in a tower. There the pious virgin passed her days in meditation and prayer, studying to please God alone, whom she had chosen as her Spouse. She courageously rejected several offers of marriage, which were made to her, through her father, by rich nobles. But her father hoped that, by separating himself by a long absence from his child, her intentions would easily change. He first ordered that a bath should bed built for her in the tower, so that she might want for nothing; and then he set out on a journey into distant countries.

During her father's absence, Barbara ordered that to the two windows already in the tower a third should be added, in honour of the blessed Trinity; and that on the edge of the bath the sign of the most holy cross should be drawn. When Dioscorus returned home, and saw those changes, and was told their meaning, he became so incensed against his daughter, that he went in search of her with a naked sword in his hand, and, but for the protection of God, he would have cruelly murdered her. Barbara had taken to flight: an immense rock opened before her, and she found a path by she reached the top of a mountain, and there she hid herself in a cave. Not long after, however, she was discovered by her unnatural father, who savagely kicked and struck her, and dragging her by the hair over the sharp rocks, and rugged ways, he handed her over the governor Marcian, that he might punish her. He, therefore, having used every means to shake her constancy, and finding that all was in vain, gave orders for her to be stripped and scourged with thongs, to have her wounds scraped with potsherds, and then to be dragged to prison. There Christ, surrounded by an immense light, appearing to her, strengthened her in a divine manner for the sufferings she was yet to endure. A matron, named Juliana, who witnessed this, was converted to the faith, and became her companion in martyrdom.

At length Barbara had her body torn with iron hooks, her sides burnt with torches, and her head bruised with mallets. During these torments she consoled her companion, and exhorted her to fight manfully to the last. Both of them had their breasts cut off, were dragged naked through the streets, and beheaded. The head of Barbara was cut off by her own father, who in his excessive wickedness had hardened his heart thus far. But his ferocious cruelty was not long left unpunished, for instantly, and on the very spot, he was struck dead by lightning. The emperor Justinus had the body of this most holy virgin translated from Nicomedia to Constantinople. It was afterwards obtained by the Venetians from the emperors Constantine and Basil; and having been translated from Constantinople to Venice, was deposited with great solemnity in the basilica of St. Mark. Lastly, at the earnest request of the bishop of Torcello and his sister, who was abbess, it was translated in the year of grace 1009, to the nuns' church of St. John the Evangelist, in the diocese of Torcello; where it was placed in a worthy sepulchre, and from that time has never ceased to be object of the most fervent veneration.
Such is the account of the life and martyrdom of the courageous virgin of Nicomedia. She is invoked in the Church against lightning, on account of the punishment by divine justice on her execrable father. The same incident of the saint's history has suggested several Catholic customs: thus her name is sometimes given to the hold of men-of-war where the ammunition is stowed; she is the patroness of artillery men, miners, etc.; and she is invoked by the faithful against the danger of a sudden death....

Pray...O glorious martyr, that the faith in the blessed Trinity may be ever increasing in this world. May our enemy, Satan, be confounded by every tongue confessing the threefold light, and the triumphant cross which sanctifies the waters of Baptism. Remember, O blessed Barbara, thou bride of Jesus, that He has put in thy gentle hands the power not of hurling, but of staying and averting the thunderbolt. Protect our ships against the fires of heaven and of war. Shield by thy protection the arsenals where are placed the defences of our country. Hear the prayers of them that invoke thee, whether in the fierceness of the storm, or in the dark depths of the earth; and save us all from the awful chastisement of a sudden death.