Category Archives: Saints

Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist

Beheading the Baptist detailThe Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (cf. Mark 6:17-29) is liturgically recalled today. For centuries, St. John the Baptist served as the principal model for those in religious life and as a model for Christian manhood. I always find John the Baptist a figure that convicts my Christian life.

There was a time when images of sainted founders of religious orders and other holy personages were painted with an image of the Baptist to remind the viewer many Christian virtues: the pursuit of and willingness to die for the truth, the discipleship needed to be a proclaimer of the Gospel, to build a relationship with the Messiah, to be in pursuit of the virtue of perseverance of the seeker, living the ascetic ideal, and the like.

We have to attend to St. John the Baptist not only because he was a cousin of Our Savior, but he also presents to us a method of how to live in relation to Him from whom we have eternal life. The Church gives us a rare example of holiness to contemplate that is not given to other saints: a feast of birth and death.

On the score of what the Baptist faced with passion, that is, the categorical rejection of sugar-coating the truth, and the refusal to be politically correct, the saint is images the correspondence of faith and reason. The high degree of intercourse with reality is something we don’t much appreciate today and much less desire to walk in the same footsteps. We too often lack courage –the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The enduring importance of St. John the Baptist’s example, hence, is the important call to each of us to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gifts we need to be disciples of the Lord and missionaries in the world today. We can’t be faithful to God’s holy word with Divine Help, the same help St. John the Baptist relied upon.

St Augustine

St Augustine

Today, though Sunday, is the liturgical feast day of the great saint of Hippo, Augustine. While his point in some areas of out theological life are germane today, his work requires us to wrestle with his ideas and spiritual journey. The Church prays for this grace through Saint Augustine’s intercession which I think is some for all of us to ponder a little more: we are looking for the Mystical Body of Christ on earth to be renewed in the same spirit given Augustine –that we may thirst for God,
the sole fount of true wisdom, and seek God, the author of heavenly love.

Do we seek the face of God –Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

In the Confessions we read:

O Eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and far distant from you, and I thought I heard your voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men; grow then, and you will feed on me. Nor will you change me into yourself like bodily food, but you will be changed into me.”

I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you. But I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all, God blessed for ever. He was calling me and saying: I am the way of truth, I am the life. He was offering the food which I lacked the strength to take, the food he had mingled with our flesh. For the Word became flesh, that your wisdom, by which you created all things, might provide milk for us children.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

St Pius X

St Pius X as cardinalWith Saint Pius X we have an example of a man who was given the mission “to safeguard the Catholic faith and to restore all things in Christ,” based on “heavenly wisdom and apostolic fortitude.” This is what we need to attend to. From the Office of Readings given today for the liturgical memorial of Saint Pius X comes from the 1911 apostolic constitution Divino Afflatu written by himself:

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says, the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.

The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions. Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.

Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal

St Jane de Chantal“Should you fall even fifty times a day, never on any account should that surprise or worry you. Instead, ever so gently set your heart back in the right direction and practice the opposite virtue, all the time speaking words of love and trust to our Lord after you have committed a thousand faults, as much as if you had committed only one. Once we have humbled ourselves for the faults God allows us to become aware of in ourselves, we must forget them and go forward.”

Many of us have few personal connections with Saint Jane Frances (1572-1641) as the holy foundress –and the co-founder Saint Francis deSales– of the Order of the Visitation in 1610.. A native of Dijon, France, Jane Frances was a wife and mother and who united her sufferings with the Heart of Jesus.

There are monasteries of the Order of the Visitation around like the Georgetown Visitation, the Tyrringham Visitation, the Toledo Visitation, or the Brooklyn Visitation. In 2010, the Order celebrated 400 years of monastic witness and began a new era in their holy vocation.

The impression one gets from the Visitation Order is that while being serious contemplatives their stamina for a more traditional form of life is different and no less holy and inviting; the Visitation has a certain suppleness of life that is not easily explained –it needs to be experienced. The journey of a nun of the Visitation is accompanied with these words of the foundress: “Daughters of the Gospel, established especially to be imitators of the Sacred Heart of the Word Incarnate in His gentleness and humility. These virtues are, as it were, the foundation and basis of their Order, giving them the incomparable grace and privilege of bearing the title of Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, pray for us!

St Lawrence

Bernardo Daddi St LawrenceThe martyr with a sense of humor, St Lawrence is honored today by the Church. He was roasted on a gridiron. This little piece of Chant gives voice to the saint:

“Blessed Lawrence, while burning on the grid-iron,
said to the impious tyrant:
‘This side is done, turn me over and then eat;
the riches of the Church, which you demand,
have been carried into the heavenly treasury by the hands of the poor.'”

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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