March 21: Saint Benedict of Norcia

March 21 is the feast day of Saint Benedict. He was born in Norcia in 480 and died in Monte Cassino in 543. Benedict is acknowledged as the founder of western monasticism, yet the famous Rule of Benedict, a book of precepts for monks living under the authority of an abbot, originally was written for lay people who wished to live a domestic life ordered by Christian principles. It was only later that the Rule of Benedict was adopted for monastic (clerical) life. Indeed, it became the foundation for thousands of Christian monasteries.

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Ora et labora

Prayer and work, especially the latter, were critical to living a true Christian life. Saint Benedict believed that idleness is the Devil’s workshop. Therefore, he insisted that those living under the Rule of Benedict work very hard, always with the glory of God as the ultimate end of labor.

From the Prologue of the Rule of Benedict:

Listen carefully, my child, to your master’s precepts, and incline the ear of your heart (Prov. 4:20). Receive willingly and carry out effectively your loving father’s advice, that by the labor of obedience you may return to Him from whom you had departed by the sloth of disobedience.

To you, therefore, my words are now addressed, whoever you may be, who are renouncing your own will to do battle under the Lord Christ, the true King, and are taking up the strong, bright weapons of obedience.

And first of all, whatever good work you begin to do, beg of Him with most earnest prayer to perfect it, that He who has now deigned to count us among His children may not at any time be grieved by our evil deeds. For we must always so serve Him with the good things He has given us, that He will never as an angry Father disinherit His children, nor ever as a dread Lord, provoked by our evil actions, deliver us to everlasting punishment as wicked servants who would not follow Him to glory.

Why does Saint Benedict appeal to us today?

Saint Benedict went to Rome as a young man to receive an education, but he left before finishing his studies, and retreated into a life of solitude in Affile, 50 km east of Rome. He was disgusted by the immoral and dissolute lives of young men in Rome.

As our own society disintegrates into a cesspool of depravity and chaos, we, too, wish to leave it behind and retreat to a place of sanity, governed by Christian virtues. Indeed, the popularity of Rob Dreher’s book, The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, attests to the profound distress that many people feel, immersed in a society governed by the worship of money, pleasure and celebrity.

What can you do today without becoming a hermit or joining a monastery?

Pray to Saint Benedict and ask him to help you develop a habit of praying everyday and devoting at least 15 minutes a day to mental prayer. If you don’t pray, you will become despondent and angry.

Pray the Rosary. Read the daily Mass readings. Work hard, but make sure that your work glorifies God.

You can also join the Oblates of the Order of Saint Benedict. An oblate is a lay or clerical, single or married, person formally associated to a particular monastery. The Oblate seeks to live a life in harmony with the spirit of Saint Benedict as revealed in the Rule of Saint Benedict and its contemporary expression.

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January 29 Saint Francis de Sales

January 29 is the feast day of Saint Francis de Sales. When I came back to the Catholic Church, one of the first books I bought was Introduction to the Devout Life, a series of short teachings addressed to “Philothea” on how to live a devout life in a secular world. It’s a very practical guide for every man and woman. It is a true classic, having been in print since 1609.

Mid-November: Saint Albert the Great

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November 15 is the feast of Saint Albert the Great. He is the patron saint of the natural sciences (chemistry, biology, physics). He was born in 1206 in Lauingen (in the region of Schwaben in Germany) and died in Cologne in 1280. Because of his genius and extraordinary achievements in every branch of learning in his day, he is called “Doctor Universalis”. Among those who were greatly influenced by his lectures was Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Saint Albert the Great said:

“The aim of natural science is not simply to accept the statements [narrata] of others, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature.”

(De Miner., lib. II, tr. ii, i).

In his treatise on plants, he lays down the principle:

Experimentum solum certificat in talibus (Experiment is the only safe guide in such investigations).

(De Veg., VI, tr. ii, i).

Deeply versed as he was in theology, he declares:

“In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power: we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.”

(De Coelo et Mundo, I, tr. iv, x).

And though, in questions of natural science, he would prefer Aristotle to St. Augustine (In 2, Sent. dist. 13, C art. 2), he does not hesitate to criticize the Greek philosopher:

“Whoever believes that Aristotle was a god, must also believe that he never erred. But if one believe that Aristotle was a man, then doubtless he was liable to error just as we are.”

(Physic. lib. VIII, tr. 1, xiv).

The life of Saint Albert Magnus reminds us that one of the most important virtues of a scientist is humility: to know the limitations of the scientific method and to persevere in knowing what you can know.

On this day of the feast of Saint Albert the Great, we pray:

O God, Who made blessed Albert, Thy Bishop and Doctor, eminent in the submission of human wisdom to divine faith, grant us, we beseech Thee, so to follow the path of his teaching, that we may enjoy perfect light in heaven.

Deus, qui beatum Albertum Pontificem tuum atque Doctorem in humana sapientia divinae fidei subicienda magnum effecisti: da nobis, quaesumus; ita eius magisterii inhaerere vestigiis, ut luce perfecta fruamur in caelis.

 

 

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Father Zuhlsdorf has posted the long form prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and urges us all to pray daily, seeking the mighty archangel’s help in battling the Evil One and his minions.

Here is the short form of the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel in English and Latin:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium. Ímperet ílli Déus, súpplices deprecámur: tuque, prínceps milítiæ cæléstis, Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos, qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in múndo, divína virtúte, in inférnum detrúde. Ámen

Below is a photo I took of the main portal to the 15th century Church of St. Michel in Lavardens, France. The Latin inscription “Quis ut Deus” means “Who is like God?”, a literal translation of the Hebrew name, Mikael. St. Michael the Archangel is depicted in full battle armour – helmet, sword and shield – defeating the dragon (Satan) and his followers.

st michael archangel lavardens

Lavardens is a tiny village in the Gers region of southwestern France. It has been named one of the most beautiful villages in France. Sadly, the church of St. Michel is in dire need of repair and its clock tower is in danger of toppling down. France is full of these ancient churches and abbeys, many of which are in a state of ruin or if renovated, are no longer used for masses or monastic orders. All the more reason for us to ask for St. Michael the Archangel’s assistance.

Why I love All Saints Day

November 1 is All Saints Day (Todos los Santos). I remember it as the day when my entire family would go to the graves of our ancestors (grandparents and great-grandparents) and have a picnic. It was one big party! All the other families would be around us, visiting the graves of their ancestors, and of course, we would talk, laugh, and share food.

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Fra Angelico’s Forerunners of Christ with saints and martyrs

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates November 1 as the feast of All Saints. Pope Boniface IV instituted it in the year 610 and dedicated the Pantheon in Rome (the temple previously dedicated to all the Roman gods, hence “pantheon”) to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. That is why the Pantheon is also known as the Basilica Santa Maria ad Martyres. Pope Gregory IV extended the feast to the entire Church in 840.

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The Pantheon in Rome built by Hadrian between 113-126 AD

Why did the Church institute the feast of All Saints? To remind us of the Church Triumphant, whose help we can seek when we encounter difficulties in our lives; to encourage us to follow their example – striving for purity and sanctity; and to honour those saints who don’t have a particular feast day.

Here is the prayer for All Saints Day:

Almighty, eternal God, Who granted us to honour the merits of all Thy Saints in a single solemn festival, bestow on us, we beseech Thee, through their manifold intercession, that abundance of Thy mercy for which we yearn. Through Jesus Christ, thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Oremus, Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui nos omnium Santorum tuorum merita sub una tribuisti celebritate venerari: quaesumus; ut desideratam nobis tuae propitiationis, abundantiam, multiplicatis intercessoribus largiaris. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, Filium Tuum: qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Santi Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Let’s celebrate All Saints Day with great joy and ask our saints to help us in all endeavours of our life. You may have a favourite saint or two – pray to them and tell them how much you appreciate their sacrifices and ask them to help you.

My favourite saints are:

  • Saint Teresa of Avila (I ask her for wisdom. She’s a Doctor of the Church whose works on Catholic mysticism are brilliant and inspiring);
  • Saint Mary Magdalene (I ask her to help make me a true friend of Our Lord because she was such a faithful friend (unlike the Apostles who went into hiding during Our Lord’s Passion, she was there through it all, she stood at the foot of the Cross together with Our Lady), and she was truly repentant, as I am for my past horrible, sinful life);
  • Saint Joseph (I ask him for humility and faith in God);
  • Saint Francis de Sales (as a writer, I need the help of the patron saint of writers); and
  • Saint Bernard of Menthon (I love hiking and he is the patron saint of hikers – I ask for protection from harm and for extra energy when going up steep mountain passes).

Everyday, I look at whose feast day it is and I pray to the saint (or saints) for help in my daily life, for faith and I ask them to intercede with Our Lord on my behalf, for mercy.