Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ. -- Saint Augustine of Hippo from “The City of God

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Saint Josemaria Escriva-Founder of Opus Dei



There has been much controversy of late involving the Order of Opus Dei, much of it malicious and driven by ignorance. Let us examine the life if its founder, Josemaria Escriva.

Josemaria was born in the year 1902 the birth of a new century. He was born in Spain to very devout parents, he also had one brother and four sisters, three of whom would die young. This gave the young Josemaria a feeling of the temporariness of life, and perhaps led to his making the best of what life offered with a spirit of thanksgiving to God.

The family was not wealthy, and due to financial difficulties the Escriva family moved to Logrono in order for his father to find work within the textile industry. The family lived devout lives of worship and prayer but also hard work. In order to feed the family everybody had a job to do which they fulfilled with a spirit of cheerfulness but also hardiness. It was also in Logrono that Josemaria first felt a 'calling' from God, that gentle whisper that moves within the soul. As air brushes upon the face leaving no mark but the knowledge that it was there, so the Holy Spirit works within the soul.

The thought of the Priesthood took up the thoughts of the young Josemaria and he could not forget that gentle whisper which called him to move beyond what he had always known into the unknown of what exactly is God's Will. Josemaria listened and obeyed that small still voice and with the approval of his parents he not only studied for the Priesthood, he also under instruction from his father studied law in order to gain a Doctorate. Sadly for Josemaria, his father died in 1924 a year before he was Ordained into the Priesthood. Though saddened by his fathers death nothing though could quell the joy that Fr. Josemaria felt within his heart at his Ordination.

Josemaria was not a man given to fanciful idea's. Though he felt the call to follow and serve God he was not a man for star gazing but rather a commonsensical individual who, though obstacles were placed in his way, he was able to circumvent them, rather than be overcome by them. From a young age he understood that Saints are not soft hearted, but, they instead were fierce spiritual warriors with an intense love of God which overcame there baser instincts. Always the young Josemaria understood the battle with good and evil. That it was a daily struggle and through Christ it can be won not by man's efforts but through the Victory of Christ won for all on Calvary. Though Josemaria was a man of a practical nature, he was also a mystic of the modern era, who understood that in order to truly love God, then man must choose to do God's Will above their own, and to understand the difference.

It was in 1927 that Fr. Josemaria moved to Madrid to finish his doctorate in law with the permission of his Bishop. While there Fr. Josemaria impressed all who met him with his inherent cheerfulness in the face of adversity and his willingness to listen to others with the greatest respect, a gift greatly needed in these irreverent times. Though known for his piety and greatly respected among his contemporaries, Fr. Josemaria was never self righteous or self satisfied. What burned within the heart of this young Priest was the intense love he felt for Christ and through this intense love he radiated simple holiness to all he met, while keeping his focus always on Christ and never losing sight about what Faith is and what it is not.

Fr. Josemaria would spend many hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament as he sought to fulfill God's Will in his own life. It was while he was on a spiritual retreat that this simple Priest was touched by God in an extraordinarily simple way, Fr. Josemaria was able through the Grace of God to 'see' his true vocation.

In a world that was growing more and more complicated, where peoples morals were becoming more and more loose, and where rumours of war began to fester, the way became clear for Fr. Josemaria Escriva. So it was that in 1928 Fr. Josemaria began to set up his new Order called Opus Dei which incorporates daily activities with a new spirit, that of simplicity, to give to God all of one's activities however great or mundane. In a complicated world, Fr. Josemaria chose an uncomplicated path to the centre of God's Heart and that is to make God the centre of one's entire existance, incorporating every task every thought every deed with God at the centre.

What Fr. Josemaria understood was that without God at the centre of all of our daily activities whether it be washing dishes or working in factories or offices, life was meaningless without God at it's centre for it is God that sanctifies all we do when we offer it to the Triune Spirit with holy simplicity. It is God that dignifies the work produced by both men and women and through their work man's life has gained a richness and depth not felt before as all is offered up to a loving and compassionate God. All work whether it be in the workplace or as a homemaker becomes ennobled through the Grace of God and putting into effect the Gifts that God has given to each of us. This is the Spirit of Opus Dei the 'Way' of holy simplicity.

War though would intrude as Fr. Josemaria like many others watched in anguish as Spain was torn apart within by civil war. Fr. Josemaria eventually escaped into France and returned to Spain when the Spanish civil war had ended. During the war years he gave many retreats to all who longed for a more simple and less complicated world as war torn Europe was encased in darkness and a shadow hung over those whose lives were in danger.

When the war was over in Europe as many countries recovered from the devastation Fr. Josemaria moved to Rome and furthered his studies in theology and to obtain recognition for his new movement. This recognition would come in steps as Pope Pius XII gave a decree of praise to be followed 3 years later by the Church's full approval for the Religious Order Opus Dei.

Throughout his life Fr. Josemaria embraced simple virtues and a simple life, he did not complicate God's Love he simply loved God in everything he did. At the heart though of all of Fr. Josemaria's activities was prayer, for without prayer then one will soon find themselves working for selfish reasons rather than Godly ones. Without prayer the soul will wither and die or become self absorbed to such an extant that any little inconvenience will overcome it, this is why Fr. Josemaria spent much time in prayer and placed it's importance at the top of his list. It is only in prayer that one finds the Way rather than lose the way by filling your day with empty and meaningless activities. Busyness does not signify holiness.

Fr. Josemaria also understood the working man and woman's life whether it be through gainful employment or as a homemaker work had to be done, wages must be brought home and food must be cooked in a clean household. The revolution that Fr. Josemaria would begin was to make this very work a prayer, for he understood that working fathers and mothers did not have hours to spend in quiet and solitary prayer, therefore through the Way both parents could turn their work into a prayer for the love of God. He also taught that prayer through every circumstance was crucial, one cannot praise God for good things one day then curse God the next when adversity strikes, instead one must persevere through adversities while still praising God as mature Catholics.

Because of the simplistic message of Opus Dei this movement soon gained much ground as many enquired to Fr. Josemaria to set up Opus Dei in their own parishes as many overworked and tired people longed to understand how to make their lives more tolerable and even more so, more meaningful. Opus Dei would show them the Way to God's Heart which is the simple path of prayer, penance for one's own sin's and for the reparative sins of others through suffering. To offer up the whole day through every activity to God alone thereby incorporating God so that the Spirit breathes as one through man's surrender of his own willfulness, and instead embracing Godly selflessness.

In a world grown cold Opus Dei breathed new life upon the hearts of the faithful as each of us long to become closer to God but many fail to find the Way thereby becoming discouraged along life's journey. Through this new movement many would find their lives becoming more luminous not through lofty thoughts or activities but through the mundane ordinariness of everyday life. This is the way to God's Heart, not great deeds but through little deeds done with greatness of heart, that is the key to God's Heart. This is what Fr. Josemaria discovered on that grey morning, when he saw the footprints of the Carmelite Priest as a young lad and dreamed of what could be when the soul allows God to consume it of it's emptiness and replace it with the burning fierceness of God's fiery love.

Though controversy would hound all of Fr. Josemaria's steps he did not allow this to interrupt his inherent cheerfulness, for what God Will's man will not destroy.

Fr. Josemaria Escriva died in the year 1975.

Saint Josemaria Escriva was canonized in the year 2002 by Pope John Paul II.

Some Quotes

"Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ."

"In order to love and serve God, it is not necessary to do extraordinary things. Christ asks all men without exception to be perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect (cf. Mt 5: 48). For the great majority of men, to be holy consists of sanctifying their work, to sanctify themselves in their work, to sanctify others with work, and also to find God on the road of their life."

"I began to have an inkling of what Love is, to realise that my heart was yearning for something great, for love."

"Place Christ at the heart of all human activities by means of work that is sanctified, and sanctifies both the doer and those for whom it is done."

Monday, June 19, 2006

St Juliana Falconieri



What sets many Saints apart is their love of charity towards all and their at times severe penances towards themselves, such is this case with the young lady, Juliana Falconieri.

Juliana Falconieri was born in the year 1270 in the city of Florence into the Nobility. Juliana would also not be the only Saint to be born into the Falconieri family her uncle also became a Saint his name being Alexis Falconieri, not an unusual occurrence in the days when living the Catholic Faith meant something.

Juliana was lucky in that her parents were deeply devout and instilled into their beloved daughter a love of the Catholic Church and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Her devout parents in a spirit of thanksgiving towards God financed the building of the Church of the Annunciation in Florence in appreciation of how much God had blessed this Holy couple.

Juliana from a very young age showed little joy for trivial pursuits and had absolutely no time for dances and what she considered foolish past-times, her heart was totally dedicated to God and God alone! This did not make her a dour or morbid personality Juliana simply knew what her priorities in life were and lived them with joy and a deep knowledge of what was pleasing to God and it was in pleasing God that she gained her greatest joy and happiness.

Unfortunately Juliana's parents were both elderly when she was born and at a young age Juliana's beloved father died and so Juliana was raised by her mother, Riguardata with the help of her uncle Alexis. From a very young age Juliana's deepest desire was to serve God as a Religious, and though her mother was deeply devout she did not wish to be left alone and so was against her daughter leaving her to join an Order. As Juliana was an obedient child, she did not wish to disobey her beloved mother and so a compromise was reached where Juliana could join a Third Order the Religious Order chosen was the Servites.

After taking instructions from her uncle Juliana was given her Habit to wear as a Third Order Servite and was able to live at home for many years while putting into practice the Charism of the Servite Order. Juliana and her mother were deeply devoted to one another as both loved their faith deeply so it saddened Juliana deeply when her mother died, she had lost not only her mother but also one of her closest friends. The death of her mother allowed Juliana to leave her former home and to live in another house where the memories were not so heartrending.

As she lived the Charism of the Servite Order, Juliana's obvious holiness came to the attention of many who knew of her and had heard about her total devotion to God and the Catholic Church. Soon more women would join her in her new home where Juliana started the Third Order of Servites, she and her lady friends began to wear a Habit that was similar to the male equivalent of the Servite Order.

Juliana and her fellow sisters practiced works of charity within their community and lived a prayerful life within the home as they dedicated their lives to God and lived out the message of the Gospels. Though Juliana had a deep love of the poor and tried her best to alleviate their sufferings, she intensified her own mortifications sometimes at the expense of her own health. Juliana and her fellow Servite sisters became well renowned for their love and service to the poorest of the poor and the love that they took in treating all as if they were royalty, this made Juliana greatly loved and admired for her virtue and charity towards all. It is also one of the reasons why she remained the Director of her Servite Third Order community for nearly 35 years, an astounding feat.

Due to her severe penances Juliana's health became severely impaired and caused her many stomach ailments later in life. This deeply affected her in that due to her inability to retain food she could no longer receive the Eucharist, something that grieved her deeply. A compromise was reached when close to death Juliana requested that the Priest lay the Eucharist on her heart, this he did. The Priest was astonished when the Host disappeared as were the rest of her community.

Upon her death and as she was being prepared for burial there was found to be the image of the Eucharist upon her heart.

Juliana Falconieri died in 1341.

Saint Juliana Falconieri was canonized in the year 1737 by Pope Clement XII.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Saint Hannibal Di Francia



In an age where many countries are feeling the shortage of Priests the Church needs more men like Hannibal Di Francia.

Hannibal Di Francia, was born in the year 1851 in Messina Sicily. He was fortunate to be born into a wealthy and socially prominent family, but this did not lead Hannibal to have a haughty or arrogant view on life. Unfortunately for Hannibal his father died when he was very young his mother Anna Di Francia, a noble woman by birth sent Hannibal at only age 7 to boarding school, this would help open Hannibal's eyes to the world beyond his own home environment.

Being of a kind disposition he was shocked at the actions of his fellow boarders and their harsh attitude towards the poor in their area. One day a beggar was able to gain access to the school cafeteria where he then begged for some sustenance, many of the children were cruel and made fun of this poor man, little Hannibal though was horrified to see such poverty. He was even more horrified to witness many of his friends tease and torment this poor beggar, finally Hannibal could stand it no longer and he went forward to give the poor man some food.

Hannibal from a very early age showed a great love for the Eucharist and with his inherent humility and meekness of character he was allowed to receive Communion much earlier than other children. This love for Jesus in the Eucharist would hold sway over his entire life and also the need to promote Priestly vocations, truly he was a boy ahead of his times. When Hannibal was 15 his boarding school had to close down and so Hannibal undertook private instructions at home where he thrived on learning everything he could.

Things would change for Hannibal one day as he prayed in front of the Blessed Sacrament and felt God calling him to the Priesthood. During this time in prayer these words took root in this young man's heart and mind, "Ask the Lord of the harvest to sent out laborers to gather his harvest." These words would prompt Hannibal in his mission to promote the Priestly vocation to all he could. Through this insight Hannibal was able to tap into what would become a crucial need in the generations that would follow, he surely is a prophet for these times.

Once Hannibal had completed his studies in theology he was Ordained into the Priesthood in the year 1878. Though Hannibal did not have to struggle financially still he never forgot that poor beggar who had come to his boarding school and upon meeting a blind beggar Francesco Zancone, he was able to see for himself the sad plight of many of his fellow citizens, this sight affected Fr. Hannibal profoundly. Being fatherless himself gave Hannibal a compassionate empathy towards other children who were also orphaned at young ages.

The plight of the poor and the homeless so deeply touched Fr. Hannibal that he decided to make his home alongside the disenfranchised of society after gaining the Bishops approval for this move, he set out to do all he could to try and alleviate many of the sufferings he saw within the poor community.

At first the poor in his region were suspicious of this Priest who though his intentions were good many felt that he would lack the stamina to be successful and so some paid scant regard to this Priest and what they assumed was his naivety when dealing with the truly impoverished. This did not put Fr. Hannibal off one bit and he set out not to prove these people wrong but to simply be a shepherd to his flock and bring them the Good News.

As he walked the streets he could not fail to see the miserable conditions that many children were left to wallow in and one child in particular touched his heart. The poor boy was mentally retarded and was being misused and abused by some around him, Fr. Hannibal could not stand to see such suffering and so brought the young boy home with him. After feeding him a wholesome meal and giving the poor boy a bath, Fr. Hannibal made him a comfortable bed and after prayers he gently said goodnight to the poor boy. When gazing at his face, suddenly the boy's features turned into the face of Jesus, Fr. Hannibal was deeply moved, and even more determined to help these children in a more meaningful and practical way.

This would set the course for the foreseeable future as Fr. Hannibal began to instruct the children of his area, firstly by starting day schools and then with orphanages for both girls and boys. This total devotion to the poor also brought with it controversy as many of his former social standing didn't understand his love for the poor and so questioned why this Priest was so dedicated to what they considered the 'dregs of society', this questioning didn't stop Fr. Hannibal who also had the support of the Bishop and some fellow Priests. It was during this time that Fr. Hannibal wrote this poem:

So bread upon the table might not lack,

I brave the cold, the dripping sweat on back…

Oh, here it is today the food my children need;

Tomorrow's dole our Father sure will speed.

I've often knocked on doors, a scant welcome bidden

My sentence stiff has scarce been hidden:

"Beware of him, the pest, he's lost his mind.

Now let him suffer fate unkind!"

Discern my martyrdom, my flaming core;

No father loved his children more…

For you I God and man implore!

As the good works of Fr. Hannibal progressed he did not forget his first love that of promoting the Priesthood and this through prayer, for Fr. Hannibal understood the power of prayer most especially for Religious vocations. With this in mind Fr. Hannibal began a new Religious Order called 'The Daughters of Divine Zeal' at a later date he also founded the 'Rogationists' both of which were approved in the year 1926. With this mission for Priests in mind Fr. Hannibal started several projects one of them being a periodical called 'God and Neighbour' so that all could enjoin him in praying for vocations and promoting the Priesthood.

While doing all this work Fr. Hannibal was also one of the Priests that Luisa Piccarreta had chosen for her spiritual director, this would bring more controversy as many misunderstood the meaning of Luisa's particular calling. The Catholic Church is still investigating the message given to this noble soul, Luisa Piccarreta.

As Fr. Hannibal undertook all this work with holy zeal many of his contemporaries were already calling him the 'saintly Priest', Fr. Hannibal simply got on with the work God had called him to do with humility and a deep sense of charity towards all even those who were antagonistic towards his various fields of work.

Throughout his entire life Hannibal Di Francia always kept his eyes on his goal that of doing God's Will rather than his own. He also never lost sight of his particular mission that of spreading the love of the Priesthood to all who would listen. This world so needs more Priests of Fr. Hannibal's calibre.

Father Hannibal Di Francia died in 1927.

Saint Hannibal Di Francia was canonized in the year 2004 by Pope John Paul II.

Some Quotes:

"What are these few orphans we attend to, these few people we bring the good news to, compared to the millions who are lost and abandoned as sheep without a shepherd? I looked for an answer and I found a complete one in the words of Jesus: 'Ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers to gather his harvest'. I concluded then that I had found the secret key to all good works and to the salvation of all souls".

"From my early youth I have committed myself to that Holy Word of the Gospel: ‘Rogate ergo...' From my small Institutes an unceasing daily prayer is raised by the orphans, the poor, the priests and the consecrated virgins, to the most Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to Saint Joseph and the Apostles, that they may abundantly provide the Church with holy and chosen priests and with evangelical workers for the spiritual harvest of souls."

"The entire Church must formally pray for [vocations] because the purpose of the prayer to gain vocations must concern all the faithful, every Christian who has at heart the good of souls and, in a particular way, the Bishops who are the shepherds of the spiritual flock and to whom souls are entrusted. They are the living Apostles of Jesus Christ today."

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

SAINT JOHN BAPTIST DE LA SALLE



John started out in life much luckier than many of his compatriots and fellow French Saints. He was born in the year 1651 to wealthy parents, Louis and Nicolle de la Salle. His father had hopes that his intelligent son would pursue a career in law but John was of a decisive nature and had already decided to become a Priest.

After studying at various academy's where he impressed many of his teachers, John eventually gained a place at the Sorbonne where he studied theology and also excelled in that field. Though not all compliments were given because of his high intellect for John also had a pleasing personality which sought no fame for himself but instead sought to help others. John's obvious piety was witnessed by many of his teachers and fellow students, who all had high praise for this young man who wished to serve God all his life.

Grief though would touch the life of John when both his parents died within a year of each other, which brought much heartache to John who had dearly loved both his parents. This was a difficult time for John as he grappled with his own grief and tried to the best of his ability to provide for his younger siblings. It also meant putting his studies on hold as he took the reigns of the household till his brothers and sisters were able to take care of themselves.

Though he was immersed in the domestic activities of his home John did not forget his first love which was to serve God. So after speaking with his spiritual advisor Nicolas Roland, John was ordained as a subdeacon at Cambrai. During this time between looking after his family and his parish commitments John also did not forget the poor and sought out ways to help them in a practical manner.

John eventually fulfilled his longed for wish to become a Priest, he was ordained in the year 1678 and gained his Doctorate in theology in 1680. Though Father John wished to serve God as any other devoted Priest through the care of his parish, God had other plans for this true son of the Church. It so happened that he came across an enterprise where a few good men were trying to teach literacy to young boys who had been born in rough circumstances. One of the leaders of these young boys was Adrien Nyel who though he did his best his gift was in interacting with his students and not in the organizational needs that this little group desperately needed in order to succeed.

Father John first watched this group of boys and a few good men from a distance, rendering help when needed. Gradually though it dawned on Father John that the boys needed a strong figure head, one who could make this ideal of educating poor young boys into a movement. Father John even though he was very busy decided with his usual decisive nature to bring the boys back to his own house so they could be properly supervised, not everyone was thrilled with this idea, as questions were raised about the young boys moral characters. This love that grew within Father John for these poor boys would soon become a matter of principle as he grappled with the consequences of truly helping these young men gain a good future for themselves whilst regaining their lost dignity.

This great man of the Church though was never one to back away from a challenge and so Father John took the extraordinary step of leaving behind his comfortable lifestyle, so that he could become one with the poor rather than continue to remain aloof from them. Father John realised that in order to truly gain the respect of these boys he had to live with them in order to teach them a better way of life. This brought much contention within his own family and circle of friends, and also much heartache as many of his family disowned him through this act of true and authentic charity of spirit displayed by Father John.

Due to his love of these poor boys Father John endured the estrangement from his family, friends and some of his fellow Priests, he even faced prison when the authorities raised objections to his teaching techniques. It was just as well that Father John De La Salle was resolute of nature and not one to give up easily no matter how many hurdles were thrown at him, he would rise above them all. This was not done from a spirit of pride in himself but of a self giving to those who needed him most, the poor.

Father John would face many obstacles on the path he had chosen and he also faced betrayal from those he had trusted in founding this institute to educate the poor boys in France which was named, 'Brothers of the Christian Schools'. He struggled against many adversaries many of whom from within the Catholic Church, but always Father John kept his eyes on Jesus and did not waver in his attempts to form a school to help the young youth of France find better lives for themselves.

When it came to teaching the boys Father John would prove to be an innovator and with a small group of like minded men, he changed the face of Christian education as it had been into a more modern and more practical way of educating his young boys to equip them better when they left his schools and began lives of their own.

Though Father John faced much adversity he never allowed this to embitter him even when friends betrayed his trust, still Father John focused on Jesus and to Father John God truly did suffice.

Many thought that Father John gave up all the glories and honors that could have been his for the taking....but the one thing that Father John longed for and the only words that Father John wanted to hear were....'well done good and faithful servant'.

Father John Baptist de La Salle died in the year 1719.

Saint John Baptist de La Salle was canonized in the year 1900 by Pope Leo XIII.

Peace of Christ to ALL

Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.
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