Category Archives: Saints

A Man Immersed in God

Today is the feast of the illustrious saint and pope, Gregory whom we call “the Great.” In his June 4th 2008 catechesis on Saint Gregory the Great, Pope Benedict said:

 

… [Saint Gregory the Great] proposes his thought through some significant binomials —
esctasy of St Gregpry the Great.jpgknow how/do, speak/live, know something/act — in which he evokes the two aspects of human life which should be complementary, but which often end up by being antithetical. The moral ideal, he comments, consists in achieving always a harmonious integration between word and action, thought and commitment, prayer and dedication to the duties of one’s state: This is the road to attain that synthesis thanks to which the divine descends into man and man is raised to identification with God.

The inspirational principle, which links together the various addresses [of this great Pope], is summarized in the word “praedicator”: Not only the minister of God, but also every Christian, has the duty to make himself a “preacher” of what he has experienced in his own interior, following the example of Christ who became man to take to all the proclamation of salvation. The horizon of this commitment is eschatological: The expectation of fulfillment in Christ of all things is a constant thought of the great Pontiff and ends by being the inspirational motive of his every thought and activity. From here flow his incessant calls to vigilance and commitment to good works.

 

Perhaps the most organic text of Gregory the Great is the Pastoral Rule, written in the first years of his pontificate. In it Gregory intends to delineate the figure of the ideal bishop, teacher and guide of his flock. To this end he illustrates the gravity of the office of pastor of the Church and the duties it entails: Therefore, those who are called to such a task were not called and did not search for it superficially, those instead who assume it without due reflection feel arising in their spirit an onerous trepidation.

Taking up again a favorite topic, he affirms that the bishop is above all the “preacher” par excellence. As such, he must be above all an example to others, so that his behavior can be a reference point for all. Effective pastoral action requires therefore that he know the recipients and adapt his addresses to each one’s situation. Gregory pauses to illustrate the different categories of faithful with acute and precise annotations, which can justify the appraisal of those who have seen in this work a treatise of psychology. From here one understands that he really knew his flock and spoke about everything with the people of his time and of his city.

 

The great Pontiff, moreover, stresses the daily duty that a pastor has to acknowledge his own misery, so that pride will not render vain — before the eyes of the supreme Judge — the good he accomplished. Therefore, the last chapter of the rule is dedicated to humility. “When one is pleased about having attained many virtues it is good to reflect on one’s own insufficiencies and humble oneself. Instead of considering the good accomplished, it is necessary to consider what one has failed to accomplish.” 

 

Amen, for now. 

 

What Providence disposed: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

The September 1st issue of America Magazine, the Jesuit weekly, there is a good article

seton.jpgto read on America’s first canonized saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton. Sister of Charity Regina Bechtle’s article “An American Daughter: Elizabeth Ann Seton and the birth of the U.S. Church” is a good read for those generally interested in matters pertaining to Catholicism in America. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to know that Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is the first American born canonized a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1975?

 

What’s the point of this “stuff” about Seton in late August when her feast day is in January? Well, for one, August 28th marked her 234th birthday and mid-September marks 33 years since Seton was canonized. Too, this year is the 200th anniversary of Pope Pius VII named Baltimore an “archdiocese” along with 4 other Catholic dioceses.

 

We might also consider the possibility of making a pilgrimage to one of the shrines dedicated to Seton. In a real sense it is less important that we end up at a holy spot just for doing it than it is to take stock of our spiritual lives with God’s grace and with assistance of a particularly singular saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton, who made a deliberate choice to follow Christ through His sacrament, the Catholic Church. (BTW, she was a believing Christian but she did not possess the fullness of Truth as we know it in Catholicism.) A pilgrimage, therefore, may open for us an opportunity to acknowledge the exceptional Presence before us like we’ve never understood before now. So, what happens to us on the way to a holy shrine is very important indeed. Hence, we follow Christ!

 

In case you want to visit the shrines of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton on the east coast there

Seton Shrine.jpgare two:

 

1. The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg, Maryland

 

2. The Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, New York City

 

 

Lord God, you blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton with gifts of grace as wife and mother, educator and foundress, so that she might spend her life in service to your people. Through her example and prayers, may we, whose Faith Community is dedicated in her honor, learn to express our love for you in our love for all your children. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

The just shall flourish: the witness of Saint John the Baptist


Martyrdom of St John Baptist.jpg“This great man after a long agony of captivity, ended his life on earth with the shedding of his blood. He who preached the freedom of heavenly peace was thrown into captivity by wicked men. He who was called a burning and shining light by Christ the light, was imprisoned in darkness: he who was granted the privilege of baptizing the Redeemer of the world was given baptism in his own blood” (Saint Bede the Venerable).

 

We beseech Thee, O Lord, may the holy festival of Saint John the Baptist, Thy Precursor and Martyr, obtain for us help unto salvation.

A love of God fixed deep in the heart: remembering Saint Augustine

Today is the great feast of Augustine, the convert (at age 32 at the hands of St. Ambrose in Milan) who was ordained a priest in 391 and elected bishop of Hippo in 395. His life and work are remarkable to say the least. In addition to Saint
St Augustine1.jpgThomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine is one of the Church’s most significant theologians.

 

Calling Augustine “the greatest Father of the Latin Church,” Pope Benedict spoke on three occasions in January 2008 to the gathered people in Vatican City about Augustine’s life, his thought and his pastoral ministries. The texts of the Pope are found here:

 

 

In the meantime, I offer a 1930 text by Pope Pius XI on Augustine together for our reading pleasure right now.

 

For to begin with the queen of all the virtues, our Saint, leaving all else aside, made the love of God so completely the goal of his desires and efforts, and fed its flame so steadfastly in his soul, that he is fittingly portrayed as holding in his hand a burning heart. No one, who has even once turned the pages of the “confessions,” can forget the conversion between mother and son, at the window of the house in Ostia. The narrative, with its lifelike charm, makes us feel that we see Augustine and Monica there, side by side, absorbed in the contemplation of heavenly things. He writes: “Alone together we held most sweet converse. Forgetting the things that lay behind and stretching out to those that were before, we questioned each other, in the presence of Truth, which Thou art, about the nature of the eternal life of the Saints, which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the mind of man to conceive. Mentally with parted lips we hung over the supernal rills of Thy fountain–the fountain of life with Thee–if happily we might be refreshed, so far as our condition would allow, and in some sort ponder so profound a mystery… And while we conversed with eager longing, with the heart’s supreme effort we made some approach thereto. We sighed and there left fettered the firstlings of the spirit, then to return to the sound of our voices, where the word begins and ends. Yet what bears any likeness to Thy Word, who is our Lord, who abides within Himself and ages not, who makes all things new?”



St Augustine.jpgWe must not imagine that it was an exceptional thing for Augustine thus to lift mind and heart above the life of the body. Any time he could spare from his daily duties and tasks, he devoted to meditation on the Sacred Scriptures he knew so well, that he might draw thence the relish and the light of truth. Rising on thought’s pinions from a consideration of the works and mysteries that reveal God’s surpassing love for us, he was borne aloft little by little to the Divine perfections themselves, into which he plunged–if we may so speak–as deeply as the heavenly grace given him allowed.

 

“Often I do this [he says, sharing with us his secret], this is my delight, and withdrawing from such activity as necessity imposes, I take refuge in this kind of pleasure. In all the things traversed by my mind, while I confer with Thee, I find no safe place for my soul except in Thee. In Thee are linked in unison my wandering strains. From Thee may nothing of mine depart. Sometimes, too, Thou dost admit me to a deep and unwonted interior emotion, to an indescribable sweetness. If that he brought to its perfection within me, I know of nothing which that life will not contain.”

Hence it was that he cried: “Too late have I loved Thee, O beauty so ancient, yet so new! Too late have I loved Thee!”

Again, how lovingly he contemplated the life of Christ, striving to reproduce an ever more
St Augustine4.jpgperfect image of it in himself and to repay love with love. In his counsel to virgins, he impressed on them the same lesson: “Let Him be fixed deep in your heart, who for you was fastened to the cross.” As his love of God burned with a more ardent flame as days went on, so too did he make incredible progress in the rest of the virtues. No one can refuse his admiration to a man–whom all venerated, extolled, consulted, hearkened to for his lofty genius and sanctity–both in his writings destined for publication and in his letters, making it his great concern not only to refer to the Author of all good the praise offered himself, as being due to God alone, and to encourage and praise others, as far as truth allowed, but also to lavish honor and reverence on his colleagues in the episcopate. These were especially his mighty forerunners, such as Cyprian and Gregory of Nazianzus, Hilary and John Chrysostom, Ambrose–his master in the Faith–whom he revered as a father and whose teaching and life he was wont to recall. But especially there shone with luster in our Saint the love of souls, a love inseparable from love of God, of those souls particularly who were committed to his pastoral care.

 

Pope Pius XI, Ad Salutem Humani  (On Saint Augustine), 20 April 1930

Saint Monica: THE example of perseverance



Death of St Monica.jpg[Monica] is the unflagging prayer, the piety that does not fall asleep. She knows no great fluctuations in prayer. She is very much surrendered to God and also to the Church. The intensive dimension of her prayer lies above all in its perseverance. She is able to repeat one and the same prayer for the longest time with the same energy. Vocal prayer, for her, never becomes merely something mouthed with the lips. She possesses in fact the prayer of children, those who are able to pray in a very intensive way, but without knowing an answer will come from God, without even expecting such an answer, but also without at all thinking that no answer will come. One simply brings before God what one has to say to him, with the greatest possible love. There is not much more to it than this. (
Adrienne von Speyer, Book of All Saints.)

 

Let us pray. O God, the comforter of the sorrowful and the salvation of them that hope in Thee, Who had merciful regard to the pious tears of blessed Monica in bringing about the conversion of her son Augustine: grant us by their united intercession to grieve over our sins and obtain Thy merciful pardon. Through Christ our Lord.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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