- Tuesday, 17 November 2015 06:25
Today, the Church celebrates the liturgical memory of Queen Saint Elizabeth of Hungary or Thuringia (1207-1231), patroness of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, the Franciscan “Third Order.” (The Third Order has evolved over time: today it has a the Third Order Laity known as the Secular Franciscan Order, and the Third Order Regular, which is the group of men and women who take the evangelical counsels and live in religious houses as priests, brothers, & sisters.)
Elizabeth was the daughter of the King of Hungary who at the age of four was sent to be raised with her future husband, heir to the country of Thuringia, at the Wartburg Castle, near Eisenach, Germany. Elizabeth’s heart was always drawn to prayer and works of charity. As a consequence of good preaching, teaching and good example, particularly her education in the ways of Saint Francis, Elizabeth’s compassion for the poor grew and was extroverted. The presence of dynamic Franciscans in Eisenach was a good help.
There seems to be contradictory information floating around that her husband was against the charitable work of his wife, Queen Elizabeth. The Franciscan tradition actually holds Ludwig in esteem as being loving and supportive of her efforts. When King Ludwig died in 1228, Elizabeth made a consequential gift of self allowing herself to take up the God-given mission of giving all “to the things that our Savior had counseled in the Gospel” and by placing herself under the spiritual authority of the Franciscan friars at the church in Eisenach. She dispossessed herself of her material belongings and devoted herself to the care of the sick in a hospital she had established in Marburg. Queen Elizabeth died at the age of 24, and was canonized in 1235.
Saint Elizabeth lived out Holy Father Saint Francis’s call: “Let us love our neighbors as ourselves . . . Let us have charity and humility and give alms because it washes the stains of our sins from our souls. For although people lose everything they leave behind in this world, they, nevertheless carry with them the rewards of charity and the alms they have given, for which they will receive a reward and a fitting repayment from the Lord” (Admonition and Exhortation, 30, known also as The Letter to the Faithful).
With the feast day of Saint Elizabeth, we ought to have a special concern for those Catholics who have as their particular charism the care for the marginalized, those who require hospital care, and other works of charity influenced by Matthew 25.
- Sunday, 08 November 2015 16:19
Blessed John Duns Scotus is liturgically remembered today but because it is Sunday his memorial is skipped this year. Sad really. As you know, Blessed John was born in Scotland in 1266, studied and taught in London and Paris and spent the end of his life in Cologne having died in 1308. His sarcophagus in the Minoritenkirche. At Scotus’s sarcophagus is the plate showing us that he was declared to be “blessed” when John Paul II visited Cologne.
Blessed John is widely known as the high point of medieval philosophy. Martin Heideggers did his second doctorate to teach in the university (the “Habilitationsschrift”), on a topic from the philosophy of John Duns Scotus. The modern era of philosophy is credited for being full of errors, especially for the errors of modernity (the univocity of being). Blessed John seems to be at the heart of the controversy.
Philosophically, I remember Scotus for two things: 1.) his exposition on the Blessed Virgin Mary and 2.) haecceitas.
It was his work, the year before his death, on the Virgin Mary that led the Church under Pope Pius IX to define the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
On this second point develops a theory of haecceitas, or this-ness –the metaphysical cause of individual being. Haecceitas speaks to what makes this rhubarb (or cat or dog or human being) different from that other plant (or car or dog or human being). This metaphysical cause was picked up by Jesuit Father Gerard Manly Hopkins in his poetry.
At any rate, Blessed John’s philosophy is not what he’s liturgically remembered for, it is his holiness of life. Let us pray that Blessed John Duns Scotus mediates for us before the Throne of Grace.
- Saturday, 03 October 2015 17:33
This evening let’s recall the Transitus (the passing from life to Life) of Saint Francis. This image from a fresco by Giotto in the Bardi chapel in the Franciscan church of Santa Croce (Florence), fittingly captures the intensity of the experience. One that we know very well.
As you know Catholic prayer begins its daily observance in the evening. So, tomorrow is the feast of Francis of Assisi, yet tonight at Vespers (evening prayer) the feast day begins. The Church remembers the death of Francis, hence, in the evening of 3 October 1226.
Father Daniel Grigassy, OFM, remarks: The Transitus has become a significant, even necessary annual event. To ritually revisit the story of Francis’s passing is vital. Without it something significant is missing (from our celebration of his feast). It specifies the living memory of Francis; it intensifies our common commitment to follow Christ in the way of the poor man of Assisi.” Indeed, what kind of person could say, “Welcome Sister Death”? It reminds us that Francis had been dying to himself and being born to newer, deeper levels of life since he first began following in the footsteps of Jesus. This last step would complete his journey and bring him to total union with the Risen Christ and with all people in the fullness of God’s life.
- Friday, 14 August 2015 08:18
Today is the feast day of one of the great saints of the 20th Century, the Conventual Franciscan Maximilian Kolbe. I can remember hearing his name for the first time and his canonization by Saint John Paul. Years later I visited the cell in which he lived his last days at the concentration camp. A rather moving and unforgettable experience.
Saint Maximilian is known for his great devotion to our Blessed Mother in devotion to her Immaculate Heart. There is no coincidence that Kolbe’s feast day comes before Mary’s Assumption (Dormition) -the glorification of her body and soul, assumed into heaven. We know that “Hail Mary!” were the last words on the lips of Saint Maximilian, as he offered his arm to the executioner for the injection. He has taught us what is meant by the words we pray to Immaculate Mary when we say “now and at the hour of our death.”
Kolbe and others were accused by the powers of Nazi Germany of promoting anti-Nazi causes and housing Jews; he was severely mistreated for being a Catholic priest and remaining steadfast to the Faith: Christ was everything, not just some abstract priority. Kolbe regularly celebrated the Holy Sacrifice in secret and heard confessions of fellow prisoners. In 1941, the time came for him to make a sacrifice of his own life, in place of a married prisoner who was father to young children. Kolbe was executed by lethal injection after three weeks of starvation and dehydration. A horrible death.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
- Tuesday, 11 August 2015 11:24
Today, August 11, the Church liturgically honors the memory of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-1253).
As you know from Church history, Clare was born of a noble family of Assisi, and a serious disciple of Jesus by the time she met the famous Francis. The Franciscan tradition indicates that she had already decided as a young woman to embark on a life of penance when she spoke with Francis in 1212; she joined Francis’s new movement at the Portiuncula.
A witness that attracts
Clare was followed by other women who joined her at the Church of San Damiano. There Clare and her sisters lived simply and prayerfully for over 40 years, supporting themselves by the work of their hands. Religious life was bursting forth with new forms when Clare and Francis founded the Friars and Sisters Minor. It is noted in the tradition that Clare had to fight to maintain her distinctive vision of religious life waiting for her Rule to be approved by the Pope shortly before her death in 1253.
Let’s recall an excerpt of a letter Saint Clare sent to Saint Agnes of Prague: “As you know, i am sure, that the kingdom of heaven is promised by the Lord only to the poor, for the one who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. . . What a great and laudable exchange: to leave the things of time for those of eternity, to choose the things of heaven for the goods of earth, to receive the hundred-fold in place of one, and to possess a blessed and eternal life!”
Let us pray for the women who follow the Rule of Saint Clare.