Thursday, June 22, 2017

When the devil again tempts you to sin

When the devil again tempts you to sin,
telling you that God is merciful,
remember that
the Lord "showeth mercy to them that fear Him" but
not to them who despise Him.

St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More

The lives of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher are very closely linked, and thus it is quite appropriate that the Church celebrate their feasts together. They are both renowned Englishmen martyred within two weeks of each other for the same cause of defending religious liberty, the sanctity of marriage and Papal authority against State usurpation. They were both associates of King Henry VIII before his apostasy, and it was at his hands that they both suffered martyrdom.

Sir Thomas More was a distinguished statesman in the English Parliament. First and foremost, however, he was a faithful Catholic, a loving husband, and a devoted father. More was widely known for his “unfailing moral integrity, sharpness of mind, his open and humorous character, and his extraordinary learning." He was a close friend and confidant of Henry VIII, and the King himself eventually promoted Thomas to the prominent office of Lord Chancellor. However, the two were alienated when Thomas refused to compromise his conscience and faith when Henry openly defied Church teachings and divorced his wife to marry Anne Boleyn, choosing instead to renounce the King’s friendship, his own public career, wealth and worldly prestige. Thomas was consequently imprisoned in the Tower of London and eventually condemned and beheaded on July 6, 1535. He was named patron saint of statesmen and politicians by Pope John Paul II.

A friend of St. Thomas More’s, St. John Fisher also had a close connection to Henry VIII, having once been his tutor, and was a friend of the royal family. As the Bishop of Rochester, he was known as a man of great leaning and deep and unshakable faith. He was supported by the King and appointed to the lifetime position of Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. However, he too fell into disfavor with Henry when he also opposed the King’s unlawful divorce of Queen Catherine of Aragon. Bishop Fisher courageously warned Parliament of Henry’s encroaching powers over the Church in England in direct disregard of the Papal audit, and publicly preached against the divorce from the pulpit at the same time as Sir Thomas More was resigning his high office. By thus calling down the King’s fury on himself, the holy Bishop of Rochester suffered multiple imprisonments in the Tower, during which time he was made a Cardinal by the authority of Pope Paul III – an appointment which Henry rejected. Fisher was condemned to be hung, drawn and quartered; and, although originally sentenced to be killed on June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist, the King had a superstitious fear of executing him on that feast because of the strong resemblance of the deaths of these two saints, and instead had him beheaded – ironically just like John the Baptist after all – two days earlier, on June 22, 1535.

Thomas More and John Fisher were beatified together by Pope Leo XIII in 1886, and canonized together by Pius XI in 1935. One a layman and statesman, the other a priest and bishop – they stand together as models and heroes of religious freedom against encroaching government powers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Do you love God?

He who wishes to love God
does not truly love Him
if he has not
an ardent and constant desire
to suffer for His sake.

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

St. Aloysius Gonzaga

Aloysius was born in the Italian province of Lombardy in 1568, the first-born son of a Marquis and the lady of honor to the Queen of Spain. When he was seven, he experienced a spiritual awakening: he made a vow of perpetual virginity, keeping his eyes downcast in the presence of women to safeguard himself from possible temptation, and dedicated most of his time to prayer, especially the Office of Our Lady.

When he was just eleven years old he fasted in the manner of a monk, eating only bread and water three days a week, practiced austerities and taught poor children the catechism. The next year, he received his First Holy Communion from the hands of the great saint and cardinal, Charles Borromeo.

By age fourteen, Aloysius had resolved to join the Society of Jesus and become a missionary. He was to suffer much from his family's strenuous opposition to this decision, particularly from his father, who hoped Aloysius would join the military. However, he persevered, and his father finally relented.

In 1585, the seventeen-year-old Aloysius was admitted into the Jesuit novitiate in Rome where he took the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience two years later. While the young Gonzaga was ordained a deacon at twenty, he was never to realize his dream of becoming a priest and missionary in this life.

As had been foretold to him in a vision, Aloysius died on the octave of Corpus Christi in 1591 after contracting the plague while caring for the sick in the Jesuit hospital. He was twenty-three years old. He was canonized in 1726 and his relics remain under the altar dedicated to the Jesuit founder in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome. The virtue that had so marked him in his youth – purity – and which he preached and practiced to a heroic degree during his short life, became the spiritual crown by which he will be forever known.
Second Photo by: Philippe Alès

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What is the reward of faith?

Faith
is to believe what you do not see;
the reward of this faith
is to see what you believe.

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Silverius

Born in Italy, Silverius was son of Pope Hormisdas, who had been married before becoming one of the higher clergy. He was only a subdeacon, when, upon the death of Pope St. Agapetus in 536, the Ostrogoth King Theodehad of Italy forced him on the Catholic Church. Soon afterwards, Silverius was formally accepted as pope by the Roman clergy.

Silverius soon incurred the wrath of the Empress Theodora. He refused to accept and recognize the heretical Eutychian patriarchs – Anthimus of Constantinople, Severus of Antioch, and Theodosius of Alexandria – who had all been excommunicated and deposed from their episcopal sees by the previous pope. Silverius is said to have remarked that by his signing the letter of refusal to Theodora's imperial request, he was also signing his own death warrant. And so it proved to be.

Theodora had Silverius kidnapped and imprisoned on the island of Ponza, and the empress nominated her supporter, Archdeacon Vigilius, for the papal throne. Vigilius was named pope, but upon taking the position, he ceased to support the Empress’ heresy and became a strong defender of orthodoxy.

In 537, after a reign of just a year, Silverius died of neglect during his imprisonment. He is now recognized as the patron saint of the island of Ponza, where he died.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Keep our hearts open

We should strive to keep our hearts open
to the sufferings and wretchedness of other people,
and pray continually that God may grant us that spirit of compassion
which is truly the spirit of God.

St. Vincent de Paul