Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Saint Bartholomew, Apostle and Martyr

Saint John with Saint Bartholomew (right)

August 24 is the feast of St. Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles who is mentioned only a few times in the Synoptic Gospels. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke all include Bartholomew as an apostle, John's gospel does not mention him, but refers to a Nathaniel, whom ancient writers and Catholic tradition have identified as Bartholomew. The name (Bartholomaios) means "son of Talmai" which was an ancient Hebrew name.

He carried the Gospel through the most barbarous countries of the East (India and greater Armenia), baptizing neophytes and casting out demons. Saint Pantænus testified that Bartholomew brought a copy of the Gospel of Saint Matthew to this vast region in the third century. Saint John Chrysostom said that Bartholomew also preached in Asia Minor and, with Saint Philip, suffered there for the faith. Saint Bartholomew’s last mission was in Armenia, where he was martyred. The manner of his death is uncertain. Some report that he was beheaded, while others recount that he was flayed alive and crucified, head downward.

Bartholomew is the patron saint of: bookbinders, butchers, furriers, leather-workers, plasterers, shoemakers, tailors, tanners, vine-growers, Florentine salt and cheese merchants. He is also invoked against nervous disorders and tics.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Saint Rose of Lima

August 23 is the feast of St. Rose of Lima, virgin, who became known for both her piety and her care of the poor. She is the patron saint of embroiderers, florists, gardeners, people ridiculed for their piety, and those who suffer from family problems.

Isabella Flores de Oliva was born April 20, 1586 to a family of educated, but impoverished Spanish immigrants in Lima, Peru. At her confirmation, she took the name of Rose, because as an infant, her face had been seen as transformed into a mystical rose.

She was pious from an early age. At age five, she built a small chapel for herself in the family garden. When she made her first Confession, she obtained permission from her confessor to make a vow of virginity.

Rose had a strong devotion for Jesus and His Holy Mother and spent long hours praying before the Blessed Sacrament. With St. Catherine of Siena as her model, Rose fasted three times a week, offered up severe penances, and when her vanity was attacked, she cut off her beautiful hair, and wore coarse clothing. She frequently deprived herself of food, water, and sleep. As a result of her exterior mortification, she had interior mystical experiences as well as long periods of darkness and desolation. For fifteen years, she went through the "dark night of the soul."

Rose worked hard to support her poor parents (by embroidering and gardening) and she humbly obeyed them, except when they tried to get her to marry. That she would not do. For ten years she fought them on this issue as she had secretly taken a vow of virginity with the permission of her confessor at the age of five. At the same time, she experienced great temptations which resulted in excruciating mental anguish and loneliness.

At age 20, Rose joined the Third Order of St. Dominic and thereafter increased her penances as well as her good works. She moved into a small hut in her parents' garden and served the poor and the sick in a makeshift infirmary. Our Lord frequently manifested Himself to her, filling her heart with peace and joy, leaving her in ecstasy for hours. In her last long, painful sickness, this heroic young woman prayed: "Lord, increase my sufferings, and with them increase Your love in my heart."

Exhausted from her many penances, Rose died of a fever and paralysis at age 31. She was canonized in 1671 by Pope Clement X and became the first American saint.

Rose stands out among Dominican saints in her understanding of the immeasurable value of redemptive suffering. Speaking of the power that directed her life, she wrote, “That same force strongly urged me to proclaim the beauty of Divine Grace.”


“Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.”

“When we serve the poor and the sick we serve Jesus. We must not fail to help our neighbors, because in them we serve Jesus.”

“Would that mortal men might know how wonderful is divine grace, how beautiful, how precious; what riches are hidden therein, what treasures, what joys, what delights. If they but knew, surely they would direct their energy with all care and diligence to procuring sufferings and afflictions for themselves. Instead of good fortune all men everywhere would seek out troubles, illness and suffering that they might obtain the inestimable treasure of grace. This is the final profit to be gained from patient endurance. No one would complain about the cross or about hardships coming seemingly by chance upon him, if he realized in what balance they are weighed before being distributed to men.”

-- St. Rose of Lima

“Affliction is always accompanied by Grace; Grace is proportionate to Suffering. The measure of My gifts is increased with the measure of trials.” – Jesus to St. Rose of Lima

"Our Lord and Savior lifted up his voice and said with incomparable majesty: ‘Let all men know that grace comes after tribulation. Let them know that without the burden of afflictions it is impossible to reach the height of grace. Let them know that the gifts of grace increase as the struggles increase. Let men take care not to stray and be deceived. This is the only true stairway to paradise, and without the cross they can find no road to climb to heaven.’ ” – from the writings of St. Rose of Lima

Litany of St. Rose of Lima

Lord, have mercy on us.
 Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ hear us.
 Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven,
 Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
 Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit,
 Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God,
 Have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, Queen of Virgins,
 Pray for us. (Repeat after each line.)
St. Dominic, glorious Patriarch,
St. Rose, prepared by the dew of heavenly grace,
One in whom the grace of God was not fruitless,
From infancy illustrious for holiness,
Foolish to the world but chosen by God to confound the wise,
Dear to the Virgin Mary while yet a child,
Consecrated to Christ by a vow of virginity,
Disdaining all things to gain Christ,
Shining example of an angelic life,
Lily among the thorns,
Nailed to the Cross of Christ,
Model of patience and mortification,
Refreshed by heavenly consolations,
Favored by appearances of the Mother of God,
Devoted to heavenly contemplation,
Inflamed with seraphic love of God,
Ardently zealous for the salvation of souls,
One whose charity was not extinguished by persecutions,
Dying in the love of Jesus and Mary,
Brought to Him whom she did love,
First flower of sanctity in America,
Ornament of Christian virgins,

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
 Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
 Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,
 Have mercy on us.

Pray for us, St. Rose,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray, Almighty God, the author and giver of all good things, who willed that St. Rose be prepared by the dew of grace from Heaven and bloom in America as a beauteous flower of virginity and patience. Grant to us your servants, to be drawn by the perfume of her virtue that we may deserve to become a sweet fragrance of Christ, who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

On August 22, we celebrate a beautiful Marian Feast -- the Queenship of Mary. This Liturgical Feast was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on October 11, 1954 through his Encyclical Letter Ad Caeli Reginam. The Catholic Church made this proclamation based upon the fact that whether in time of peace or in time of war, the faithful have ceaselessly offered prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven.

Following the dreadful damage and destruction of World War II, the Church turned its eyes towards Mary, the Heavenly Queen, in the hope of her protection. Mary has never failed those who have sought her intercession in prayer, placing their total trust in her.

Mary’s queenship has its roots in Scripture.  At the Annunciation, Gabriel announced that Mary’s Son would receive the throne of David and rule forever. (Luke 1:32 -33) At the Visitation, Elizabeth calls Mary “Mother of my Lord.” (Luke 1:43) As in all the mysteries of Mary’s life, Mary is closely associated with Jesus: Her queenship is a share in Jesus’ kingship. We can also recall that in the Old Testament the mother of the king has great influence in the kingdom.

In the fourth century, St. Ephrem called Mary “Lady” and “Queen” and Church Fathers and Doctors continued to use the title. Hymns of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries address Mary as queen: “Hail, Holy Queen,” “Hail, Queen of Heaven,” “Queen of Heaven.” The Dominican rosary and the Franciscan crown as well as numerous invocations in Mary’s litany celebrate her queenship.

The Saints on Mary's Queenship

“When she became Mother of the Creator, she truly became Queen of every creature.” ~ St. John Damascene

"No one has access to the Almighty as His mother has; none has merit such as hers. Her Son will deny her nothing that she asks; and herein lies her power. While she defends the Church, neither height nor depth, neither men nor evil spirits, neither great monarchs, nor craft of man, nor popular violence, can avail to harm us; for human life is short, but Mary reigns above, a Queen forever."  ~  Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

"Just as Mary surpassed in grace all others on earth, so also in heaven is her glory unique. If eye has not seen or ear heard or the human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9), who can express what He has prepared for the woman who gave Him birth and who loved Him, as everyone knows, more than anyone else?" ~St. Bernard of Clairvaux

"She has surpassed the riches of the virgins, the confessors, the martyrs, the apostles, the prophets, the patriarchs, and the angels, for she herself is the first-fruit of the virgins, the mirror of confessors, the rose of martyrs, the ruler of apostles, the oracle of prophets, the daughter of patriarchs, the queen of angels." ~St. Bonaventure

"[Mary] has a right to be loved as Queen of all hearts so that through her, hearts would be cleansed and themselves become immaculate, similar and like unto her own heart, and so worthy of union with God.” ~ St. Maximillian Kolbe

Saturday, August 20, 2016

St. Bernard of Clairvaux: A Model of Peace for These Troubled Times

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Matthew 5:9

How do we cope with the violence, chaos, and conflicts that we face in our world today?  How can we find peace and also serve as true peacemakers in our twenty-first century culture?

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a Doctor of the Church, a contemplative, theologian, and mystic of the twelfth century is an excellent example for us to follow. He found peace in God through a devout prayer life as a contemplative. However, he also led a very active life, performing works of peace and love in the secular world.  He traveled throughout Europe, which was plagued by various schisms, restoring peace and unity. Not only did he resolve divisions in the Church, but he also mediated in secular disputes and was sought out as an adviser and an arbitrator by the ruling powers of his era. What was his secret for restoring peace and unity to a troubled world? He was merely a modest monk with no worldly power or possessions. What made him so influential and valuable to others was the fact that he was a man of heroic virtue. Which virtues made him effective as a peacemaker in his environment and which should we strive to imitate today? Let us look at his heroic virtues and listen to his voice, as St. Bernard Clairvaux, instructs us in his own words.


St. Bernard had a burning flame of love in His heart for God. He was on fire with love for the Lord! As a contemplative, he practiced a strong prayer life, which led him into a deep and intimate union with his Creator. In his treatise On Loving God, he reveals that the manner of loving God is to love Him without measure and describes the ascent up the spiritual ladder through four degrees of love. In his Sermon on the Song of Songs, St. Bernard interprets the Song of Songs in terms of the love between God and the soul. He emphasizes that God is profoundly in love with each one of us, and desires our love in return. This love between the soul and God, which is the most intimate love imaginable, is expressed in the analogy of bride and bridegroom.

How does he describe love the love between God and the soul?

Love is sufficient of itself, it gives pleasure by itself and because of itself. It is its own merit, its own reward. Love looks for no cause outside itself, no effect beyond itself. Its profit lies in its practice. I love because I love, I love that I may love. Love is a great thing so long as it continually returns to its fountainhead, flows back to its source, always drawing from there the water which constantly replenishes it.

Of all the movements, sensations and feelings of the soul, love is the only one in which the creature can respond to the Creator and make some sort of similar return however unequal though it be. For when God loves, all he desires is to be loved in return; the sole purpose of his love is to be loved, in the knowledge that those who love him are made happy by their love of him.

The Bridegroom’s love, or rather the love which is the Bridegroom, asks in return nothing but faithful love. Let the beloved, then, love in return. Should not a bride love, and above all, Love’s bride? Could it be that Love not be loved?

Rightly then does she give up all other feelings and give herself wholly to love alone; in giving love back, all she can do is to respond to love. And when she has poured out her whole being in love, what is that in comparison with the unceasing torrent of that original source? Clearly, lover and Love, soul and Word, bride and Bridegroom, creature and Creator do not flow with the same volume; one might as well equate a thirsty man with the fountain.

What then of the bride’s hope, her aching desire, her passionate love, her confident assurance? Is all this to wilt just because she cannot match stride for stride with her giant, any more than she can vie with honey for sweetness, rival the lamb for gentleness, show herself as white as the lily, burn as bright as the sun, be equal in love with him who is Love? No. It is true that the creature loves less because she is less. But if she loves with her whole being, nothing is lacking where everything is given. To love so ardently then is to share the marriage bond; she cannot love so much and not be totally loved, and it is in the perfect union of two hearts that complete and total marriage consists. Or are we to doubt that the soul is loved by the Word first and with a greater love?

--  Excerpted from Sermon on the Song of Songs

He tells us that loving our neighbor involves self-sacrifice:

A temperate and righteous love practices self—denial in order to give one’s brother what he needs.

He stresses the importance of serving others:

There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge; that is Curiosity. There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others; that is Vanity. There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve; that is Love.

He divulges how deep intimacy with God brings inner peace:

O place of true rest. . . For we do not here behold God either, as it were, excited with anger, or as though distracted with care; but His will is proved to be 'good and acceptable and perfect.' This vision soothes. It does not frighten. It lulls to rest, instead of awakening our unquiet curiosity. It calms the mind instead of tiring it. Here is found perfect rest. God's quiet quietens all about Him. To think of His rest is to give rest to the soul.


St. Bernard was filled with hope, never despairing, despite the difficulty of his duties. How can we, too, remain hopeful in the midst of our trials?

He encourages us to place our hope in the ‘Safe Haven’:

Place all your hope in the Heart of Jesus; it is a safe asylum; for he who trusts in God is sheltered and protected by His mercy. To this firm hope, join the practice of virtue, and even in this life you will begin to taste the ineffable joys of Paradise.

He reassures us that the Blessed Virgin Mary will be our protection:

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips; never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer; neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal.

If the hurricanes of temptation rise against you, or you are running upon the rocks of trouble, look to the star- call on Mary!


A member of the nobility, the brilliant St. Bernard gave up wealth, ambition, and notoriety to become a humble monk.  In The Steps of Humility and Pride, he takes the reader down the steps of pride to teach us what true humility is.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux, when asked what the four cardinal virtues were replied: Humility, humility, humility, and humility.

As patience leads to peace, and study to science, so are humiliations the path that leads to humility.

It is no great thing to be brought humble when you are brought low, but to be brought humble when you are praised is a great and rare achievement.

You will never have real mercy for the failings of another until you know and realize that you have the same failings in your soul.

Great graces cannot be obtained without humility. When you yourself experience humiliation, you should take it as a sure sign that some great grace is in store.

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann August 2014, updated 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

St. John Eudes: Apostle of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary

On August 19, we commemorate St. John Eudes, a French priest who founded of the Society of Jesus and Mary (the Eudists) and the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity.  Pope Leo XIII proclaimed him to be the “father, doctor and apostle of the liturgical cult of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.”

John Eudes was born at Ri, Normandy, France, on November 14, 1601, the son of a farmer.  Prior to John's birth, his parents who had been praying for a child and when he was born, they consecrated him to God through Mary.

He attended the Jesuit college at Caen, joined the religious order of the Oratorians, and was ordained a priest at the age of 24. John worked as a volunteer, caring for the victims of the plagues that struck Normandy in 1625 and 1631. In order to avoid infecting his fellow religious, he lived in a huge cask in the middle of a field during the plague.

At age 32, John became a parish missionary, building a reputation as an extraordinary preacher and confessor. During his long life, he preached more than one hundred missions in various parts of France. He strongly opposed the heresy of Jansenism, which taught that human nature was immoral, original sin was flourishing, and perfection was both necessary for salvation and virtually unattainable. In contrast, John promoted the tender love of Jesus and his Mother and devotion to their Sacred Hearts.

He became interested in helping prostitutes, and in 1641, with Madeleine Lamy, founded a haven for them in Caen under the direction of the Visitandines. John resigned from the Oratorians in 1643 and founded the Congregation of Jesus and Mary (the Eudists) at Caen, composed of secular priests not bound by vows but dedicated to upgrading the clergy by establishing effective seminaries and to preaching missions.

In 1650, the Bishop of Coutances invited him to establish a seminary in that diocese. The same year the sisters at his refuge in Caen left the Visitandines and were recognized by the Bishop of Bayeux as a new congregation under the name of Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge.  He also established the Society of the Heart of the Mother Most Admirable -- a third order group.

St. John Eudes is known for his writings, especially The Ideal Confessor, The Wondrous Childhood of the Holy Mother of God, The Admirable Heart of Mary, and The Apostolic Preacher. Above all, St. John Eudes taught that Jesus was the source of all holiness and Mary was the example of a Christian life.

He died at Caen on August 19, 1680 at the age of 79. He was beatified in 1909 by Saint Pius X, and canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1925.


"He belongs to you, but more than that, He longs to be in you, living and ruling in you, as the head lives and rules in the body. He wants His breath to be in your breath, His heart in your heart, and His soul in your soul."

“Our wish, our object, our chief preoccupation must be to form Jesus in ourselves, to make his spirit, his devotion, his affections, his desires and his disposition live and reign there. All our religious exercises should be directed to this end. It is the work which God has given us to do unceasingly.”

"I ask you to consider that our Lord Jesus Christ is our true head, and that you are one of his members. He belongs to you as the head belongs to its members; all that is his is yours. . . . You must make use of all these as of your own, to serve, praise, love, and glorify God."

Prayer by St. John Eudes to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

O Heart all lovable and all loving of my Savior, be the Heart of my heart, the soul of my soul, the spirit of my spirit, the life of my life and the sole principle of all my thoughts, words and actions, of all the faculties of my soul, and of all my senses, both interior and exterior. Amen.

Prayer by St. John Eudes to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Hail Mary! Mother of God the Son.
Hail Mary! Spouse of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary! Temple of the Most Blessed Trinity.
Hail Mary! Pure Lily of the Effulgent Trinity.
Hail Mary! Celestial Rose of the Ineffable Love of God.
Hail Mary! Virgin pure  and humble,of whom the King of heaven willed to be born and with thy milk to be nourished.
Hail Mary! Virgin of Virgins,
Hail Mary! Queen of Martyrs, whose soul a sword transfixed.
Hail Mary! Lady most blessed! unto whom all power in heaven and earth is given.
Hail Mary! My Queen and my Mother! my Life, my Sweetness and my Hope,
Hail Mary! Mother Most Amiable,
Hail Mary! Mother of Divine Love,
Hail Mary! Immaculate! Conceived Without Sin!
Hail Mary! Full of Grace! The Lord is with Thee!
Blessed art thou among women! And blessed is the Fruit of thy womb, Jesus!
Blessed be thy spouse, Saint Joseph,
Blessed be thy father, Saint Joachim,
Blessed be thy mother, Saint Anne,
Blessed be thy guardian, Saint John,
Blessed be thy holy angel, Saint Gabriel,
Glory be to God the Father, Who chose thee,
Glory be to God the Son, Who loved thee,
Glory be to God the Holy Spirit, Who espoused thee.

O Glorious Virgin Mary, may all people love and praise thee.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Saint Helena of Constantinople

On August 18, we commemorate Saint Helena of Constantinople (246-330), mother of Constantine the Great, and finder of the True Cross of Jesus Christ. St. Helena is the patroness of archaeologists, converts, difficult marriages, and divorced people.

St. Helena was the daughter of an innkeeper in Bithynia, Asia Minor. She was married to an ambitious Roman general and they had one son, Constantine.  When her husband was named emperor, he promptly divorced Helena to marry another woman for political gain. Following the death of his father, Constantine became emperor of Rome, and one of his first acts as ruler was to declare his mother empress. Constantine had converted to Christianity, and with his encouragement, Helena also became a Christian.

As empress, Helena spent her days in acts of charity, and built magnificent churches on the holy sites of the faith, frequently tearing down pagan temples that had been built on those sites. She worked tirelessly for the poor, released prisoners, and humbly mingled with ordinary worshipers in modest attire. Throughout her life, she spread the Gospel of Christ, bringing many to the faith through her witness.

At the age of 80, she led a group to the Holy Land to search for the True Cross. On a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she discovered the True Cross. She built a church on the spot where the True Cross was found. The Feast of the Holy Cross on September 14 celebrates the event. Thus in art, she is usually depicted holding a wooden cross.

Holy and blessed Saint Helena, with the anguish and devotion with which you sought the Cross of Christ, I plead that you give me God's grace to suffer in patience the labors of this life, so that through them and through your intercession and protection, I will be able to seek and carry the Cross, which God has placed upon me, so that I can serve Him in this life and enjoy His Glory ever after. Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

St. Clare of Montefalco

August 17 is the feast of St. Clare of Montefalco (1268-1308), an Augustinian nun noted for her devotion to the Passion of Christ. For that reason, she is sometimes called St. Clare of the Cross.

In her community of sisters, she was a model of religious life according to the ideals of Augustine. As superior of her convent, she constantly urged her sisters to practice self-denial and to seek holiness. She was given the gift of knowledge, which she used to defend the Faith.

Clare was born in Montefalco, Italy, around 1268. While still young, she went to live with her sister Joan, who had established a community of cloistered nuns. Together they would spend long hours in prayer.

As a young woman she became a member of that community, professing religious vows under the Rule of Saint Augustine. Soon after, she experienced a great trial. Her heart was filled daily with spiritual turmoil. She lost any sense of pleasure in prayer. Temptations assaulted her. She wondered if God had abandoned her. All this continued for 11 years.

After Joan, who was Abbess of the community, died, Clare was chosen to succeed her. At first she refused the office. But the nuns kept insisting that only Clare was called to serve as Abbess and she reluctantly accepted. Clare was a wise Abbess who governed with love and holiness. She continued to serve as Abbess until the time of her death August 17, 1308.

Her wisdom and holiness soon became known to people outside the monastery. Troubled persons, including Bishops, Priests, Friars, theologians, judges, educated and illiterate alike, came seeking Clare's counsel. Her advice was scriptural and logical, and almost always right on target.

Because of her great love for the Cross of Jesus, she used to say that she bore that Cross in her heart. After her death, a post-mortem examination revealed that her heart did indeed contain a representation of the Cross and other symbols of Christ's suffering and death.

Her remains are at the Augustinian Convent in Montefalco.