Thursday, March 30, 2006

KSRK: KierkeGirard; Bellinger on Girard's theory of Mimetic Desire in Kierkegaard's Christian Discourses and The Sickness Unto Death

It's true that I haven't been as diligent as I should be when it comes to finishing up the Stages. It isn't true that I've completely forgotten about it. As usual, I've been turning to other authors to get some kind of handle on Kierkegaard, whose style is often quite simply opaque. One great book I finished last week is by Eugene Webb (from the University of Washington!), called Philosophers of Consciousness: Polanyi, Lonergan, Voegelin, Ricoeur, Girard, Kierkegaard. This has led to a longer dalliance with Rene Girard's theory of mimetic desire, and in particular his analysis of scapegoating in both history and myth. This led to the article linked to above, from which I've excerpted the following introduction. The entire article is well worth reading.

"Mimetic desire is the main starting point for Girard's theory of personality and culture. Human beings have a basic feeling of existential lack which leads them to look to a model who seems to possess a greater fullness of being. The desires of the model are imitated in the hope of acquiring a similar fullness of being. In Girard's words:
When modern theorists envisage man as a being who knows what he wants, or who at least possesses an "unconscious" that knows for him, they may simply have failed to perceive the domain in which human uncertainty is most extreme. Once his basic needs are satisfied (indeed, sometimes even before), man is subject to intense desires, though he may not know precisely for what. The reason is that he desires being, something he himself lacks and which some other person seems to possess. The subject thus looks to that other person to inform him of what he should desire in order to acquire that being. If the model, who is apparently already endowed with superior being, desires some object, that object must surely be capable of conferring an even greater plenitude of being. (1977, 145-46)
Is mimetic desire a phenomenon which is noticed by Kierkegaard?

Kierkegaard's book Christian Discourses, which receives very little scholarly attention, contains a psychological analysis which clearly anticipates Girard's theory of mimetic desire. In the discourse on "The Worry of Lowliness,"[3] for example, Kierkegaard describes three modes of being, which are represented by the bird, the heathen, and the Christian. The bird, along with the lily, represents for Kierkegaard the realm of nature. Kierkegaard's description of the behavior of the "heathen" is almost identical to Girard's psychology. Consider the following quotation:
For it seems indeed as if, in order to be himself, a man must first be expertly informed about what the others are, and thereby learn to know what he himself is--in order then to be that. However, if he walks into the snare of this optical illusion, he never reaches the point of being himself. (1971, 42)
Here Kierkegaard is debunking, like Girard, the idea that the desires of the "modern" person are spontaneous and unmediated by society. "Being," in the sense of a centered and coherent self-consciousness, is precisely what the individual lacks; therefore he looks around at the others so that he may pattern himself after them. Kierkegaard and Girard are both describing the double bind in which the individual places himself as he seeks to become himself by copying others. The next passage expands on this theme by opening up the theological dimension of human existence:
For from "the others," naturally, one properly only learns to know what the others are--it is in this way the world would beguile a man from being himself. "The others," in turn do not know at all what they themselves are, but only what the others are. There is only One who knows what He Himself is, that is God; and He knows also what every man in himself is, for it is precisely by being before God that every man is. The man who is not before God is not himself, for this a man can be only by being before Him who is in and for Himself. If one is oneself by being in Him who is in and for Himself, one can be in others or before others, but one cannot by being merely before others be oneself. (1971, 43)
This quotation highlights the emptiness and vanity of the "world." When human beings are looking to each other as models of being, the pathway of life is a treadmill or squirrel cage rather than an actual road. The thread is being pulled through the fabric without having been tied at the end. The only context in which human life gains coherence, stability, and purpose is found in the transcendent relationship between the individual and God the Creator. This theme is very clear in Kierkegaard, and I would suggest that it is implicit throughout Girard's writings, whenever it is not explicitly stated."

Blessed Restituta Kafka

Pope John Paul II has beatified probably more holy persons than any pope before him. One reason for this is that during his reign the secret archives of Republican Spain and the Nazi and the Communist governments have become largely available. With these sources now accessible, it is becoming easier to discover what and why Catholics suffered for their faith in the cruel years of totalitarianism.

On June 21, 1998, the Holy Father, concluding a three-day visit to Austria, declared four Austrian nationals "blessed". One of the most fascinating of this group was Sister Restituta Kafka, a nun who was a nurse and anesthetist in a Viennese hospital. The account we follow here tells little about her background, but presents a stirring account other martyrdom. It comes from the London Tablet.

According to The Tablet. Sister Restituta was no ordinary nun. Friends often called her "Sister Resoluta", for resolute she was: a very independent woman who stood firmly by her decisions. After a busy day at the hospital, following her usual routine, she would drop in for dinner at a nearby tavern and order "a goulash and a pint of my usual" - -her favorite beer. If she was set in her ways, she was also unimpressive in appearance. Though short in height, she was also plump in figure, weighing "14 stone" (196 pounds). As an experienced technician, she was probably middle-aged.

For all that, Sister Restituta was a caring woman, very competent in her specialty, and graced with an infectious sense of humor. Her true character was to be tested after the Nazis seized Austria in April 1938.

One of the first steps the invaders took was to close over 1400 establishments that were under religious control. More than 200 convents were suppressed, all Catholic societies and youth organizations were disbanded, and numerous charitable institutions were seized. Sister Kafka was allowed to continue her work, but her hospital was put under the control of personnel loyal to the new government.
Restituta, a woman religious as well as an anesthetist, had always carefully attended to the spiritual needs of her patients. Although religious acts were now forbidden in the hospital wards, she continued to pray, at least privately, with the sick, and see that they secretly received the last rites. The surgeon with whom she worked in the operating room was a fanatical Nazi, but he depended so much on her that at first he kept quiet about her forbidden religious interventions.

Not long afterward, however, when a new hospital wing was opened, Sister Kafka made bold to hang crucifixes in the rooms. She was also discovered making a copy of an anti-Fascist song. The surgeon now decided it was his patriotic duty to report her to the Gestapo. As a result, on Ash Wednesday, February 18, 1942, a group of SS storm troopers came to the hospital and arrested her.

Sister Restituta was imprisoned for a year, but imprisonment did not change her character or her firmness. Although the food allowed her was meager, she gave most of it to others. Thus she saved the life of a pregnant mother and her baby.
After a year of trying to break this unbreakable woman, Martin Bormann, Hitler's own secretary, decided that it was necessary not only to punish Sister Kafka, but to make an example of her and show others that disobedience would not be tolerated. He sentenced her execution by the guillotine, that weighted lethal knife that had brought quick death by beheading to so many during the French Revolution. A chaplain was allowed to attend Sister Kafka to the door of the chamber of execution but no farther. He reported hearing the swish and thud of the sharp steel down its tracks.

Sister Restituta had chosen the religious name in honor of a Roman martyr of the third century, who, by the way, had also died by decapitation. The Nazis were aware that Catholics would want to take Sister Kofka's body and honor it as that of a martyr, so they hurried it off for burial in an unidentified mass grave. She was the only nun to be sent to the guillotine by the Nazis in the German territories.

It is customary at beatifications for the friends of a Blessed to present the pope with an ornamental reliquary containing a bone of the candidate for beatification. Sister Restituta's reliquary contained just a piece of her habit, the only earthly thing she died possessed of.

In 1995 the street on which her old hospital stands, now a maternity hospital, had been renamed "Sister Restituta Street". Thus all babies born there now have her name on their baptismal certificates.

~ Father Robert. F McNamara

Blessed Amadeus IX

It is a bit surprising for a saint to be the grandson of an anti-pope.

Blessed Amadeus IX of Savoy was indeed such. His grandfather, Duke Amadeus VIII of Savoy, though a pious layman in his way, had been ambitious enough to accept election in 1439 by the schismatic Council of Basel as a rival of Pope Eugene IV. Taking the papal name Felix V, the Duke held out against the true pope until 1449. Only then did he repent and receive forgiveness.

Amadeus IX does not seem to have been influenced by the waywardness of his grandparent. Born in 1435, he was betrothed to Yolande of France while yet an infant--a practice often engaged in by European monarchs to guarantee peace between countries. He and Yolande actually married only in 1451. It was a happy marriage, although most of the princely couple's six children died early.

The young nobleman's first assignment was the governorship of the province of Brescia. This remote district favored a quiet life, which suited him to a "T". When his father Duke Louis I died, however, he fell heir to the whole dukedom and had to assume the more complicated role of governing the extensive Alpine and subalpine lands of his family, located in the present France, western Switzerland and northwestern Italy.

Duke Amadeus proved to be an excellent ruler. A wise administrator, he was able to discharge his ducal debts. He dealt courteously with the family of his chief national enemies, the Sforza dukes of Milan, and was able to bring to an end the war between Savoy and Milan by giving his sister in marriage to Duke Galeazzo Sforza. At home, Amadeus' brothers rebelled against him several times, but he forgave them each time and made excuses for them.

The young Duke's gentleness was rooted in his personal virtues and piety. He was regular at his prayers and at frequenting the sacraments. He lived austerely, although he might easily have excused himself from fasting on the basis of poor health. Horrified by blasphemy, he would not tolerate profanity among those who served him. Nor would he tolerate political graft of any sort, or the oppression of the poor.

In fact, Amadeus was almost scrupulous about helping the needy. He simply could not refuse alms to anybody who asked.
If his purse happened to be empty, he would give away some of his clothing or whatever else was within reach. Once, it is said, when he was out of cash, he broke up a jeweled ceremonial collar and distributed as alms its precious pieces.
On another occasion an ambassador proudly told Amadeus of all the fine hunting dogs that his monarch possessed. The Duke replied by pointing to a terrace filled with tables at which the hungry were being fed. "These," he said, "are my packs and my hunting dogs. It is with the help of these poor people that I chase after virtue and hunt for the kingdom of heaven." The ambassador commented that some of that crowd were probably fakers or lazy. Amadeus replied, "I would not judge them so harshly. God might judge me likewise and withhold His blessing!"

Unfortunately, Duke Amadeus was a lifelong victim of epilepsy. Around 1470, his seizures became so incapacitating that he entrusted the rule of the duchy to his wife, Duchess Yolande. But his subjects became discontented and started a revolution, imprisoning the Duke. Only the intervention of King Louis XI of France, his brother-in-law, secured his release. By that time Amadeus knew that his own death was near. Gathering his sons and nobles to his bedside, he urged them, "Be just; love the poor and the Lord will give peace to your lands."

Duke Amadeus IX of Savoy died on March 30, 1472, aged only 37. He had heeded Jesus' assurance that a rich man could win heaven despite his wealth, and that he who served Christ's least brothers served Christ himself. The Church deemed the Duke a deserving man of wealth. Pope Innocent XI, in 1677, proclaimed this generous layman "blessed."

~ Father Robert F. McNamara

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

St. Ludolph

Nothing is known of the early years of Ludolph. He joined the Norbertine Cathedral Chapter of Ratzeburg where he was reasurer before being elected eighth bishop of Ratzeburg in 1236. He was renowned for his exemplary religious life and powerful preaching of the word of God. He also founded a community of Norbertine sisters at Rehna. But Ludolph is perhaps best remembered for his fearless defense of the rights and goods of the church against the greedy Duke Albert of Saxony. One of the duke's plans was to raze the cathedral complex, situated near his castle, and transform the place into a garden. Ludolph strenuously opposed the plan. While on an official jouney, and accompanied by only a small body guard, he was seized by Duke Albert's men, shackled, spat upon and handled roughly. At one point he was bound by his feet and hands in the open forest and left a prey to merciless swarms of mosquitoes. He was then thrown in prison and eventually freed. Ludolph bore all of his sufferings with patient resolve. Fearing to return to Ratzeburg where Duke Albert had gained the upper hand, Ludolph took refuge with Prince John of Mecklenburg at Wismar. It was during this exile that Ludolph, weighed down by the infirmities suffered in prison and by his advancing old age, fell gravely ill. He celebrated his last Mass on Holy Thursday. His final words were "O great and good God, allow me, your useless servent, to belong to you for all eternity." He died on March 29, 1250. His body was returned to Ratzeburg for burial. As the procession passed through Schlagsdorf, the bells of the city were said to ring of their own accord. At the command of the Duke, Ludolph's body was carried from the bridge to the cathedral by the nobility of Ratzeburg. Ludolph's confreres carried him into the cathedral himself where he found his final resting place. Ludolph is honored as a bishop and a martyr for the rights and freedom of the church. He is portrayed with the regalia of a bishop, bearing the shackles that bound him in prison and holding the palm of martyrdom.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

St. Alexander

Martyr and companion of Sts. Malchus and Priscus in the 3rd century. The men, devout Christians in Caesarea, Palestine, were caught up in the persecutions conducted by Emperor Valerian. The martyrs were killed by wild beasts in an arena.

Monday, March 27, 2006

St. John of Egypt

One of the most famous early desert hermits, a noted prophet of his era. He was born in Lycopolis, modern Assiut, Egypt, and became a hermit at the age of twenty. He was walled up in a hermitage near Assiut, with a single window opening onto the public. There he preached to vast crowds each weekend. He predicted two military victories for Emperor Theodosius I, and they were proven accurate in 388 and 392. The cell in which John spent his life was discovered in 1925.

St. Amator

Hermit of Portugal. Nothing is known of him, but several churches in Guarda diocese and elsewhere in Portugal are dedicated to him. He has often been confused with St. Amadour.

Shusaku Endo (1923 - 1996)

At the age of ten, Endo had returned to Japan from Manchuria with his mother.
Suffering from the pain and social rejection of a divorce, his mother found solace in the devout faith of her sister, and so she converted to Catholicism. She attended early mass daily. In order to please his mother, Endo went along with the conversion and was baptized a Christian. But had he meant it? Was he, in fact, the reverse image of the Kakure, a Christian who had gone through the externals while secretly betraying Christ?

"I became a Catholic against my will," he now says. He likens his faith to an arranged marriage, a forced union with a wife chosen by his mother. He tried to leave that wife--for Marxism, for atheism, for a time even contemplating suicide - but his attempts to escape always failed. He could not live with this arranged wife; he could not live without her. Meanwhile, she kept loving him, and to his surprise, eventually he grew to love her in return.

Using another image, Endo likens his Christian pilgrimage to a young boy squirming inside a suit of clothes. He searches endlessly for a better-fitting suit, or perhaps a kimono, but cannot find one. He is constantly, he says, "re-tailoring with my own hands the Western suit my mother had put on me, and changing it into a Japanese garment that would fit my Japanese body."

~ Philip Yancey

St. Rupert

Bishop and missionary, also listed as Robert of Hrodbert. A member of a noble Frankish family, he was appointed bishop of Worms, Germany, and then dedicated himself to spreading the faith among the Germans. With the patronage of Duke Thedo of Bavaria, he took over the deserted town of luvavum about 697, which was renamed Salzburg, Austria. Rupert founded a church, a monastery, and a school; brought in groups of missionaries; and established a nunnery at Nonnberg with his sister, Eerentrudis, serving as the first abbess. He died at Salzburg and is venerated as the first archbishop of this major diocese in the West. Rupert is revered as the Apostle of Bavaria and Austria.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

St. Margaret of Clitherow

St. Margaret Clitherow was born in Middleton, England, in 1555, of protestant parents. Possessed of good looks and full of wit and merriment, she was a charming personality. In 1571, she married John Clitherow, a well-to-do grazier and butcher (to whom she bore two children), and a few years later entered the Catholic Church. Her zeal led her to harbor fugitive priests, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by hostile authorities. Recourse was had to every means in an attempt to make her deny her Faith, but the holy woman stood firm. Finally, she was condemned to be pressed to death on March 25, 1586. She was stretched out on the ground with a sharp rock on her back and crushed under a door over laden with unbearable weights. Her bones were broken and she died within fifteen minutes. The humanity and holiness of this servant of God can be readily glimpsed in her words to a friend when she learned of her condemnation: "The sheriffs have said that I am going to die this coming Friday; and I feel the weakness of my flesh which is troubled at this news, but my spirit rejoices greatly. For the love of God, pray for me and ask all good people to do likewise."

Saturday, March 25, 2006

St. Dismas

One of the most touching episodes that took place on Calvary was the appeal for mercy uttered by one of the two thieves crucified with Jesus, and Our Savior's promise of mercy. You will recall the conversation that Luke's Gospel records. Christ's enemies were yelling taunts and accusations at the "King of the Jews." Even one of the two criminals being executed with Him joined in the chorus of blasphemy.

Surprisingly enough, the other criminal dared to speak well rather than badly of Jesus. The unexpectedness of his remarks was no doubt the reason why they have been so carefully preserved. He rebuked the sneers of the other thief. "Have you no fear of God, seeing you are under the same sentence?" "We deserve it, after all," he continued. "We are only paying the price for what we've done, but this man has done nothing wrong."

Oh, if we could only read the mind of the "good thief" at this moment! At least we can conjecture his train of thought. "He has done nothing wrong - we have; and are paying for our misdeeds."

Whether his awareness of the goodness of Jesus had been longstanding, or whether it had been revealed to him in a moment of grace, we cannot say. Nevertheless, he now saw the contrast between the wonderful life of Christ and his own wretched career. This perception brought remorse; with remorse, came grief; with grief, the supernatural conviction that Jesus could forgive him.

Might the sinner have been himself a Galilean? Might he even have chanced to listen to Christ one day as He preached in Galilee? Perhaps he had heard Him say, "I give you my word: every sin will be forgiven mankind and all the blasphemies men utter." (Mark, 3:28). Of course, the thief would have been scornful then, but never quite forgotten.

More likely, though, in his own last hour, there came back to mind words of the psalm that he had once known by heart, but long since (as he thought) dismissed. "Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice. For with the Lord is kindness . . . and He will redeem Israel from all their iniquities." (Ps. 130).

At all events, the condemned criminal entered into conversation with Jesus, first indirectly, by rebuking his fellow criminal; then, directly by asking with shy humility, "Jesus, remember me when you enter upon your reign."

And Christ answered him, recognizing the thief's true faith, "I assure you, this day you will be with me in paradise." (Lk 23, 43). It was the last great moral miracle of the Savior's public life. He had snatched this brand from the fire just as it was about to be consumed.

That promise was not a canonization. The "paradise" where Jesus said He would shortly meet the repentant thief was what others would call the "Limbo of the Fathers." It was the place (or, rather, state) in which those who had died believing in the coming Messiah were waiting for the good news of the redemption, which alone would give them entree to heaven. Jesus Himself had also referred to it as the "bosom of Abraham." And true to His promise to this last of the holy people of the Old Testament, Our Lord, upon His own death, "descended into this hell (= Limbo) that we speak of in the Apostles' Creed. As St. Peter would write, "It was in the spirit also that He (Jesus) went to preach to the spirits in prison." (Pet. 3:20).

Pious Christian imagination has long since attempted to fill out with fiction the details of this stirring eleventh-hour conversion. Some writers gave the thieves the names of Zoathan and Chammatha; although the name Gestas for the impenitent thief and Dismas for the repentant one became the most widely accepted. It is under the name "St. Dismas" that the Good Thief is assigned a feast on March 25, the supposed date of Christ's death.

There is no need to stoop to fiction in telling Dismas' story. St. Luke gives us more than enough to convey the message. He is repeating, in essence, the words of the prophet Isaiah: "Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as wool." (Is.1:18).

~ Father Robert F. McNamara

Flannery O'Connor (1925 – 1964)

"If it's just a symbol, to hell with it"

Friday, March 24, 2006

St. Aldemar

Abbot and miracle worker, called "the Wise." Born in Capua, Italy in 1080, he became a monk in Monte Cassino and was called to the attention of a Princess Aloara of the region. When she built a new convent in Capua, Alder became the director of the religious in the established house. He performed many miracles in this capacity. Aldemar was reassigned by his abbot to Monte Cassino, a move that angered the princess. As a result, Aldemar went to Boiana, Italy, where a companion involved in the dispute tried to kill him. Aldemar fled into the region of Bocchignano, Abruzzi, where he founded several more religious houses.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

St. Benedict of Campania

Benedictine hermit, a contemporary of St. Benedict of Nursia and Monte Cassino. Benedict lived in the Campania region of Italy. When captured by Totila the Goth, he was saved miraculously from the flames Of an execution fire. He is also called Benedict the Hermit and is mentioned in the Dialogues of St. Gregory.

St. Catherine of Genoa

Going to confession one day was the turning point of Catherine’s life.

When Catherine was born, many Italian nobles were supporting Renaissance artists and writers. The needs of the poor and the sick were often overshadowed by a hunger for luxury and self-indulgence.

Catherine’s parents were members of the nobility in Genoa. At 13 she attempted to become a nun but failed because of her age. At 16 she married Julian, a nobleman who turned out to be selfish and unfaithful. For a while she tried to numb her disappointment by a life of selfish pleasure.

One day in confession she had a new sense of her own sins and how much God loved her. She reformed her life and gave good example to Julian, who soon turned from his self-centered life of distraction.Julian’s spending, however, had ruined them financially. He and Catherine decided to live in the Pammatone, a large hospital in Genoa, and to dedicate themselves to works of charity there. After Julian’s death in 1497, Catherine took over management of the hospital.

She wrote about purgatory which, she said, begins on earth for souls open to God. Life with God in heaven is a continuation and perfection of the life with God begun on earth.

Exhausted by her life of self-sacrifice, she died September 15, 1510, and was canonized in 1737.

Regular confessions and frequent Communion can help us see the direction (or drift) of our life with God. People who have a realistic sense of their own sinfulness and of the greatness of God are often the ones who are most ready to meet the needs of their neighbors. Catherine began her hospital work with enthusiasm and was faithful to it through difficult times because she was inspired by the love of God, a love which was renewed in her by the Scriptures and the sacraments.

Shortly before Catherine’s death she told her goddaughter: "Tomasina! Jesus in your heart! Eternity in your mind! The will of God in all your actions! But above all, love, God’s love, entire love!" (Marion A. Habig, O.F.M., The Franciscan Book of Saints, p. 212).

St. Toribio

So far, I believe, only three bishops of the Western Hemisphere have been canonized as saints. The earliest of these was archbishop of Lima, Peru, from 1579 to 1606. St. Toribio Alfonso de Mogrovejo, a native of Spain, set a splendid apostolic example to all the future bishops of the Americas.
Toribio was the child of a noble Spanish family. He made a brilliant course in civil and canon law at the University of Salamanca, and then joined the University faculty. Taking note of Toribio's legal talent, King Philip II named him chief judge of the ecclesiastical court of Inquisition at Salamanca. Usually that post was occupied by a bishop. Toribio was a cleric, but had received no holy orders. Even so, he proved to be an admirable judge, winning acclaim for both his skill and his moderation.
In 1568, the Spanish Council of the Indies, which had charge under the kings of Spain of supervising Spain's transatlantic domains, decided that their colonies were badly in need of reform. Philip nominated Toribio to the pope as the new archbishop of Lima in Peru. The professor/judge tried to decline the honor because he was not in holy orders. But his plea was overruled. He was given all the clerical orders in quick succession, and consecrated a bishop in 1580. The new prelate then set out with his sister and her family on the long and dangerous ocean journey. After making the last 600 miles of the trip overland on foot, the archbishop was installed in Lima on May 11, 1581.
Once the jurist-archbishop had made the first of his arduous pastoral visits of the archdiocese, he convoked the Third Council of Lima in 1583. Through this and subsequent synods, he aimed at applying the reform decrees of the Council of Trent.
It was not easy to achieve reform. Many of the clergy justified their abusive practices as "local custom." The archbishop reminded them: "Christ said, 'I am the truth.' He did not say, 'I am the custom.'" In connection with his reforms, Toribio also established the first seminary for priests in the new world (Lima, 1591).
Archbishop Mogrovejo was not the sort of bishop who just sat at home and issued laws. He devoted as much time as possible to covering on visitation, the 18,000 miles of his archdiocese. "Time is not our own," he would say, "and we must give a strict account of it." To prepare himself as a preacher he diligently studied the many languages spoken by the Indians. He performed his visitations mostly on foot, often under great hardships and at risk of life. Even when traveling, however, he never failed to offer Mass daily and go to confession daily to his chaplain-companion. As a follow-up of these journeys, he constructed roads across the wilderness, and set up churches, schools, convents and hospitals.
Archbishop de Mogrovejo was also solicitous of the poor, both the Indians and the Spanish. Some of the proud but impoverished Spaniards would have refused to accept charity. Toribio saw to it that they were helped secretly without knowing their benefactor.
Like his contemporary, St. Charles Borromeo, the reforming bishop of Milan, St. Toribio did succeed in large part in improving the quality of faith in Peru. A valuable assistant was the great Franciscan preacher, St. Francis Solano. Saints also sprang up in his garden. Among the 500,000 he personally confirmed was St. Rose of Lima, and probably also the two Dominicans, St. Martin de Porres and St. John Massias.
When Toribio died, aged 68, he left his estate to his servants and to the poor. He had established legal precedents that would benefit not only Latin America but even the future united States. Along with St. Rose of Lima, he had exemplified Spanish America at its Catholic noblest and best.
~ Father Robert F. McNamara

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

St. Nicholas Owen

Nicholas, familiarly known as "Little John," was small in stature but big in the esteem of his fellow Jesuits.

Born at Oxford, this humble artisan saved the lives of many priests and laypersons in England during the penal times (1559-1829), when a series of statutes punished Catholics for the practice of their faith. Over a period of about 20 years he used his skills to build secret hiding places for priests throughout the country. His work, which he did completely by himself as both architect and builder, was so good that time and time again priests in hiding were undetected by raiding parties. He was a genius at finding, and creating, places of safety: subterranean passages, small spaces between walls, impenetrable recesses. At one point he was even able to mastermind the escape of two Jesuits from the Tower of London. Whenever Nicholas set out to design such hiding places, he began by receiving the Holy Eucharist, and he would turn to God in prayer throughout the long, dangerous construction process.

After many years at his unusual task, he entered the Society of Jesus and served as a lay brother, although—for very good reasons—his connection with the Jesuits was kept secret.

After a number of narrow escapes, he himself was finally caught in 1594. Despite protracted torture, he refused to disclose the names of other Catholics. After being released following the payment of a ransom, "Little John" went back to his work. He was arrested again in 1606. This time he was subjected to horrible tortures, suffering an agonizing death. The jailers tried suggesting that he had confessed and committed suicide, but his heroism and sufferings soon were widely known.

He was canonized in 1970 as one of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales.

Nicholas was a clever builder and architect who used his skills to protect endangered priests. Without his help, hundreds of English Catholics would have been deprived of the sacraments. His gift for spotting unlikely places to hide priests was impressive, but more impressive was his habit of seeking support for his work in prayer and the Eucharist. If we follow his example, we may also discover surprising ways to put our skills to God’s service.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Blessed John of Parma

The seventh general minister of the Franciscan Order, John was known for his attempts to bring back the earlier spirit of the Order after the death of St. Francis of Assisi.

He was born in Parma, Italy, in 1209. It was when he was a young philosophy professor known for his piety and learning that God called him to bid good-bye to the world he was used to and enter the new world of the Franciscan Order. After his profession John was sent to Paris to complete his theological studies. Ordained to the priesthood, he was appointed to teach theology at Bologna, then Naples and finally Rome.

In 1245, Pope Innocent IV called a general council in the city of Lyons, France. Crescentius, the Franciscan minister general at the time, was ailing and unable to attend. In his place he sent Father John, who made a deep impression on the Church leaders gathered there. Two years later, when the same pope presided at the election of a minister general of the Franciscans, he remembered Father John well and held him up as the man best qualified for the office.

And so, in 1247, John of Parma was elected to be minister general. The surviving disciples of St. Francis rejoiced in his election, expecting a return to the spirit of poverty and humility of the early days of the Order. And they were not disappointed. As general of the Order John traveled on foot, accompanied by one or two companions, to practically all of the Franciscan convents in existence. Sometimes he would arrive and not be recognized, remaining there for a number of days to test the true spirit of the brothers.

The pope called on John to serve as legate to Constantinople, where he was most successful in winning back the schismatic Greeks. Upon his return he asked that someone else take his place to govern the Order. St. Bonaventure, at John's urging, was chosen to succeed him. John took up a life of prayer in the hermitage at Greccio.

Many years later, John learned that the Greeks, who had been reconciled with the Church for a time, had relapsed into schism. Though 80 years old by then, John received permission from Pope Nicholas IV to return to the East in an effort to restore unity once again. On his way, John fell sick and died.

He was beatified in 1781.

In the 13th century, people in their 30s were middle-aged; hardly anyone lived to the ripe old age of 80. John did, but he didn’t ease into retirement. Instead he was on his way to try to heal a schism in the Church when he died. Our society today boasts a lot of folks in their later decades. Like John, many of them lead active lives. But some aren’t so fortunate. Weakness or ill health keeps them confined and lonely—waiting to hear from us.

Monday, March 20, 2006

St. Salvator of Horta

A reputation for holiness does have some drawbacks. Public recognition can be a nuisance at times—as the confreres of Salvator found out.

Salvator was born during Spain’s Golden Age. Art, politics and wealth were flourishing. So was religion. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus in 1540.

Salvator’s parents were poor. At the age of 21 he entered the Franciscans as a brother and was soon known for his asceticism, humility and simplicity.

As cook, porter and later the official beggar for the friars in Tortosa, he became well known for his charity. He healed the sick with the Sign of the Cross. When crowds of sick people began coming to the friary to see Salvator, the friars transferred him to Horta. Again the sick flocked to ask his intercession; one person estimated that two thousand people a week came to see Salvator. He told them to examine their consciences, to go to confession and to receive Holy Communion worthily. He refused to pray for those who would not receive those sacraments.

The public attention given to Salvator was relentless. The crowds would sometimes tear off pieces of his habit as relics. Two years before his death, Salvator was moved again, this time to Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. He died at Cagliari saying, "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." He was canonized in 1938.

Medical science is now seeing more clearly the relation of some diseases to one’s emotional and spiritual life. In Healing Life’s Hurts, Matthew and Dennis Linn report that sometimes people experience relief from illness only when they have decided to forgive others. Salvator prayed that people might be healed, and many were. Surely not all diseases can be treated this way; medical help should not be abandoned. But notice that Salvator urged his petitioners to reestablish their priorities in life before they asked for healing.

"Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness" (Matthew 10:1).

Sunday, March 19, 2006

St. Joseph

In one sense, St. Joseph has shared the lot of all human fathers. Mothers are wont to receive the most praise for their offspring, and husbands remain background figures. Of course there were other reasons why Joseph became the object of special veneration in the Church only several centuries after Mary had been accorded that honor. The chief one is that he was not the true father, but only the foster father of Jesus, though Mary was the true mother of the Son of God.

Eventually, however, St. Joseph would deserve to be recognized (although this truly humble man would doubtless have preferred to remain ever in the shadows.) What an important role he played in the formative years of Christ! He was not the actual parent of Our Lord, but he was his legal father in a true if virginal marriage; and it was by virtue of Joseph's descent from King David, as the genealogies of the New Testament indicate, that Jesus was entitled to be called "Son of David," a prophetic and messianic title. Furthermore, Joseph not only protected his foster son, but gave him human training both in the profession of carpentry and in the arts of family life. To do that, the saint must have been a rather young man, for Jewish practice recommended that men marry in their late teens.

All this we conclude from the New Testament, although it tells us even less about Joseph than it does about Mary. We can ignore the apocryphal tales of St. Joseph that began to be written about the Holy Family from about 150 onward. These are, in general, devout fiction. The foster father was evidently dead by the time of Our Lord's crucifixion, else Jesus would not have commended his mother to the care of St. John the Apostle, and through John to all of us.

St. Matthew tells us that even when Joseph married Our Lady he was a "just man," i.e., conscientious, principled. But we must assume that Joseph became holier still through his family contacts with Jesus and Mary. Who would not have? A Trappist monk who is an old friend of mine once wrote me an interesting reflection on St. Joseph's growth in virtue.

Of Joseph's initial decision, when he found that Mary was pregnant before their marriage, Father Anthony called his impulse to divorce her quietly, a "stupid" one. If the reason for the separation ever did come out--suspicion of adultery --the Jewish law would have demanded that Mary be stoned to death.

Luckily, Joseph did not have to follow this purely natural chain of reasoning. God settled the issue supernaturally by informing him that Mary had conceived, not through any human intervention but through the agency of the Holy Spirit. How the saint, ever obedient and compliant, must have rejoiced at that news! It was no doubt a learning experience on his part, that he must always rely on God's guidance rather than purely human reasoning.

Father Anthony passed on to an interesting conclusion regarding disruptive tendencies in other human families.

"I've often thought how encouraging it would be for people tempted to divorce to realize that St. Joseph went through the same torture. Even for the divorced, it would be encouraging to realize that a direct intervention of God alone saved the marriage of Mary and Joseph." There's a thought for today's married couples in times when so many divisive problems arise!

Devotion to St. Joseph as a great forgotten man began to receive strong backing in the 15th and 16th centuries, with Ss. Bernardine of Siena and Teresa of Avila as leading promoters. Pope Sixtus IV first introduced a feast in his honor in Rome around 1479. Eventually, Pope Pius IX in 1870 proclaimed Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church--a bow to his fatherly skills. In 1962, Pope John XXIII, in response to a vast popular demand, added the name of St. Joseph to the "Communicantes" of the Roman Canon, (the first Eucharistic prayer of the Mass). Thus the humble "man nearest Christ," patron of fathers, patron of laboring men, and patron of the universal Church, had finally been given due recognition.

~ Father Robert F. McNamara

Saturday, March 18, 2006

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

Problems in the Church today are minor compared with the reverberations of the Arian heresy that denied the divinity of Christ. Cyril was to be caught up in the controversy, accused (later) of Arianism by St. Jerome, and ultimately vindicated both by the men of his own time and by being declared a Doctor of the Church in 1822. Raised in Jerusalem, well-educated, especially in the Scriptures, he was ordained a priest by the bishop of Jerusalem and given the task of catechizing during Lent those preparing for Baptism and during the Easter season the newly baptized. His Catecheses remain valuable as examples of the ritual and theology of the Church in the mid-fourth century.

There are conflicting reports about the circumstances of his becoming bishop of Jerusalem. It is certain that he was validly consecrated by bishops of the province. Since one of them was an Arian, Acacius, it may have been expected that his “cooperation” would follow. Conflict soon rose between Cyril and Acacius, bishop of the rival nearby see of Caesarea. Cyril was summoned to a council, accused of insubordination and of selling Church property to relieve the poor. Probably, however, a theological difference was also involved. He was condemned, driven from Jerusalem, and later vindicated, not without some association and help of Semi-Arians. Half his episcopate was spent in exile (his first experience was repeated twice). He finally returned to find Jerusalem torn with heresy, schism and strife, and wracked with crime. Even St. Gregory of Nyssa, sent to help, left in despair.

They both went to the (second ecumenical) Council of Constantinople, where the amended form of the Nicene Creed was promulgated. Cyril accepted the word consubstantial (that is, of Christ and the Father). Some said it was an act of repentance, but the bishops of the Council praised him as a champion of orthodoxy against the Arians. Though not friendly with the greatest defender of orthodoxy against the Arians, Cyril may be counted among those whom Athanasius called “brothers, who mean what we mean, and differ only about the word [consubstantial].”

Those who imagine that the lives of saints are simple and placid, untouched by the vulgar breath of controversy, are rudely shocked by history. Yet it should be no surprise that saints, indeed all Christians, will experience the same difficulties as their Master. The definition of truth is an endless, complex pursuit, and good men and women have suffered the pain of both controversy and error. Intellectual, emotional and political roadblocks may slow up people like Cyril for a time. But their lives taken as a whole are monuments to honesty and courage.

“It is not only among us, who are marked with the name of Christ, that the dignity of faith is great; all the business of the world, even of those outside the Church, is accomplished by faith. By faith, marriage laws join in union persons who were strangers to one another. By faith, agriculture is sustained; for a man does not endure the toil involved unless he believes he will reap a harvest. By faith, seafaring men, entrusting themselves to a tiny wooden craft, exchange the solid element of the land for the unstable motion of the waves. Not only among us does this hold true but also, as I have said, among those outside the fold. For though they do not accept the Scriptures but advance certain doctrines of their own, yet even these they receive on faith” (Catechesis V).

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick

The Confession of St. Patrick

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement [vicus] of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God; and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people, according to our deserts, for quite drawn away from God, we did not keep his precepts, nor were we obedient to our priests who used to remind us of our salvation. And the Lord brought down on us the fury of his being and scattered us among many nations, even to the ends of the earth, where I, in my smallness, am now to be found among foreigners.

And there the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God, who had regard for my insignificance and pitied my youth and ignorance. And he watched over me before I knew him, and before I learned sense or even distinguished between good and evil, and he protected me, and consoled me as a father would his son.

Therefore, indeed, I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favours and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.

For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten and without beginning, in whom all things began, whose are all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ, who manifestly always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time in the spirit with the Father, indescribably begotten before all things, and all things visible and invisible were made by him. He was made man, conquered death and was received into Heaven, to the Father who gave him all power over every name in Heaven and on Earth and in Hell, so that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, in whom we believe. And we look to his imminent coming again, the judge of the living and the dead, who will render to each according to his deeds. And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, the gift and pledge of immortality, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons of God and co-heirs of Christ who is revealed, and we worship one God in the Trinity of holy name.

He himself said through the prophet: ‘Call upon me in the day of’ trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’ And again: ‘It is right to reveal and publish abroad the works of God.’

I am imperfect in many things, nevertheless I want my brethren and kinsfolk to know my nature so that they may be able to perceive my soul’s desire.

I am not ignorant of what is said of my Lord in the Psalm: ‘You destroy those who speak a lie.’ And again: ‘A lying mouth deals death to the soul.’ And likewise the Lord says in the Gospel: ‘On the day of judgment men shall render account for every idle word they utter.’

So it is that I should mightily fear, with terror and trembling, this judgment on the day when no one shall be able to steal away or hide, but each and all shall render account for even our smallest sins before the judgment seat of Christ the Lord.

And therefore for some time I have thought of writing, but I have hesitated until now, for truly, I feared to expose myself to the criticism of men, because I have not studied like others, who have assimilated both Law and the Holy Scriptures equally and have never changed their idiom since their infancy, but instead were always learning it increasingly, to perfection, while my idiom and language have been translated into a foreign tongue. So it is easy to prove from a sample of my writing, my ability in rhetoric and the extent of my preparation and knowledge, for as it is said, ‘wisdom shall be recognized in speech, and in understanding, and in knowledge and in the learning of truth.’

But why make excuses close to the truth, especially when now I am presuming to try to grasp in my old age what I did not gain in my youth because my sins prevented me from making what I had read my own? But who will believe me, even though I should say it again? A young man, almost a beardless boy, I was taken captive before I knew what I should desire and what I should shun. So, consequently, today I feel ashamed and I am mightily afraid to expose my ignorance, because, [not] eloquent, with a small vocabulary, I am unable to explain as the spirit is eager to do and as the soul and the mind indicate.

But had it been given to me as to others, in gratitude I should not have kept silent, and if it should appear that I put myself before others, with my ignorance and my slower speech, in truth, it is written: ‘The tongue of the stammerers shall speak rapidly and distinctly.’ How much harder must we try to attain it, we of whom it is said: ‘You are an epistle of Christ in greeting to the ends of the earth ... written on your hearts, not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God.’ And again, the Spirit witnessed that the rustic life was created by the Most High.

I am, then, first of all, countryfied, an exile, evidently unlearned, one who is not able to see into the future, but I know for certain, that before I was humbled I was like a stone lying in deep mire, and he that is mighty came and in his mercy raised me up and, indeed, lifted me high up and placed me on top of the wall. And from there I ought to shout out in gratitude to the Lord for his great favours in this world and for ever, that the mind of man cannot measure.

Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God, and you men of God, eloquent speakers, listen and contemplate. Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in this world, he inspired before others that I could be—if I would—such a one who, with fear and reverence, and faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime, if I should be worthy, to serve them truly and with humility.

According, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.

And I was not worthy, nor was I such that the Lord should grant his humble servant this, that after hardships and such great trials, after captivity, after many years, he should give me so much favour in these people, a thing which in the time of my youth I neither hoped for nor imagined.

But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] from one up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number; besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.

Letter To Coroticus

I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland, declare myself to be a bishop. Most assuredly I believe that what I am I have received from God. And so I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He is witness that this is so. Not that I wished my mouth to utter anything so hard and harsh; but I am forced by the zeal for God; and the truth of Christ has wrung it from me, out of love for my neighbors and sons for whom I gave up my country and parents and my life to the point of death. If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though some may despise me.

With my own hand I have written and composed these words, to be given, delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus; I do not say, to my fellow citizens, or to fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons, because of their evil works. Like our enemies, they live in death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the number for God and confirmed in Christ!

The day after the newly baptized, anointed with chrism, in white garments (had been slain) - the fragrance was still on their foreheads when they were butchered and slaughtered with the sword by the above-mentioned people - I sent a letter with a holy presbyter whom I had taught from his childhood, clerics accompanying him, asking them to let us have some of the booty, and of the baptized they had made captives. They only jeered at them.

Hence I do not know what to lament more: those who have been slain, or those whom they have taken captive, or those whom the devil has mightily ensnared. Together with him they will be slaves in Hell in an eternal punishment; for who commits sin is a slave and will be called a son of the devil.

Wherefore let every God-fearing man know that they are enemies of me and of Christ my God, for whom I am an ambassador. Parricide! fratricide! ravening wolves that "eat the people of the Lord as they eat bread!" As is said, "the wicked, O Lord, have destroyed Thy law," which but recently He had excellently and kindly planted in Ireland, and which had established itself by the grace of God.

I make no false claim. I share in the work of those whom He called and predestinated to preach the Gospel amidst grave persecutions unto the end of the earth, even if the enemy shows his jealousy through the tyranny of Coroticus, a man who has no respect for God nor for His priests whom He chose, giving them the highest, divine, and sublime power, that whom "they should bind upon earth should be bound also in Heaven."

Wherefore, then, I plead with you earnestly, ye holy and humble of heart, it is not permissible to court the favor of such people, nor to take food or drink with them, nor even to accept their alms, until they make reparation to God in hard-ships, through penance, with shedding of tears, and set free the baptized servants of God and handmaids of Christ, for whom He died and was crucified.

"The Most High disapproves the gifts of the wicked ... He that offers sacrifice of the goods of the poor, is as one that sacrifices the son in the presence of his lather. The riches, it is written, which he has gathered unjustly, shall be vomited up from his belly; the angel of death drags him away, by the fury of dragons he shall be tormented, the viper’s tongue shall kill him, unquenchable fire devours him." And so - "woe to those who fill themselves with what is not their own;" or, "What does it profit a man that he gains the whole world, and suffers the loss of his own soul?

It would be too tedious to discuss and set forth everything in detail, to gather from the whole Law testimonies against such greed. Avarice is a deadly sin. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’ s goods." "Thou shalt not kill." A murderer cannot be with Christ. "Whosoever hates his brother is accounted a murderer." Or, "he that loves not his brother abides in death." How much more guilty is he that has stained his hands with blood of the sons of God whom He has of late purchased in the utmost part of the earth through the call of our littleness!

Did I come to Ireland without God, or according to the flesh? Who compelled me? I am bound by the Spirit not to see any of my kinsfolk. Is it of my own doing that I have holy mercy on the people who once took me captive and made away with the servants and maids of my father’s house? I was freeborn according to the flesh. I am the son of a decurion. But I sold my noble rank I am neither ashamed nor sorry for the good of others. Thus I am a servant in Christ to a foreign nation for the unspeakable glory of life everlasting which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And if my own people do not know me, a prophet has no honor in his own country. Perhaps we are not of the same fold and have not one and the same God as father, as is written: "He that is not with me, is against me, and he that gathers not with me, scatters." It is not right that one destroys, another builds up. I seek not the things that are mine.

It is not my grace, but God who has given this solicitude into my heart, to be one of His hunters or fishers whom God once foretold would come in the last days.

I am hated. What shall I do, Lord? I am most despised. Look, Thy sheep around me are tom to pieces and driven away, and that by those robbers, by the orders of the hostile-minded Coroticus. Far from the love of God is a man who hands over Christians to the Picts and Scots. Ravening wolves have devoured the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care; and the sons and daughters of kings were monks and virgins of Christ - I cannot count their number. Wherefore, be not pleased with the wrong done to the just; even to hell it shall not please.

Who of the saints would not shudder to be merry with such persons or to enjoy a meal with them? They have filled their houses with the spoils of dead Christians, they live on plunder. They do not know, the wretches, that what they offer their friends and sons as food is deadly poison, just as Eve did not understand that it was death she gave to her husband. So are all that do evil: they work death as their eternal punishment.

This is the custom of the Roman Christians of Gaul: they send holy and able men to the Franks and other heathen with so many thousand solidi to ransom baptized captives. You prefer to kill and sell them to a foreign nation that has no knowledge of God. You betray the members of Christ as it were into a brothel. What hope have you in God, or anyone who thinks as you do, or converses with you in words of flattery? God will judge. For Scripture says: "Not only them that do evil are worthy to be condemned, but they also that consent to them."

I do not know why I should say or speak further about the departed ones of the sons of God, whom the sword has touched all too harshly. For Scripture says: "Weep with them that weep;" and again: "If one member be grieved, let all members grieve with it." Hence the Church mourns and laments her sons and daughters whom the sword has not yet slain, but who were removed and carried off to faraway lands, where sin abounds openly, grossly, impudently. There people who were freeborn have, been sold, Christians made slaves, and that, too, in the service of the abominable, wicked, and apostate Picts!

Therefore I shall raise my voice in sadness and grief- O you fair and beloved brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, countless of number, what can I do you for? I am not worthy to come to the help of God or men. The wickedness of the wicked hath prevailed over us. We have been made, as it were, strangers. Perhaps they do not believe that we have received one and the same baptism, or have one and the same God as Father. For them it is a disgrace that we are Irish. Have ye not, as is written, one God? Have ye, every one of you, forsaken his neighbor?

Therefore I grieve for you, I grieve, my dearly beloved.
But again, I rejoice within myself. I have not labored for nothing, and my journeying abroad has not been in vain. And if this horrible, unspeakable crime did happen - thanks be to God, you have left the world and have gone to Paradise as baptized faithful. I see you: you have begun to journey where night shall be no more, nor mourning, nor death; but you shall leap like calves loosened from their bonds, and you shall tread down the wicked, and they shall be ashes under your feet.

You then, will reign with the apostles, and prophets, and martyrs. You will take possession of an eternal kingdom, as He Himself testifies, saying: "They shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." "Without are dogs, and sorcerers,... and murderers; and liars and perjurers have their portion in the pool of everlasting fire." Not without reason does the Apostle say: "Where the just man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly transgressor of the law find himself?"

Where, then, will Coroticus with his criminals, rebels against Christ, where will they see themselves, they who distribute baptized women as prizes - for a miserable temporal kingdom, which will pass away in a moment? As a cloud or smoke that is dispersed by the wind, so shall the deceitful wicked perish at the presence of the Lord; but the just shall feast with great constancy with Christ, they shall judge nations, and rule over wicked kings for ever and ever. Amen.

I testify before God and His angels that it will be so as He indicated to my ignorance. It is not my words that I have set forth in Latin, but those of God and the apostles and prophets, who have never lied. "He that believes shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned," God hath spoken.

I ask earnestly that whoever is a willing servant of God be a carrier of this letter, so that on no account it be suppressed or hidden by anyone, but rather be read before all the people, and in the presence of Coroticus himself. May God inspire them sometime to recover their senses for God, repenting, however late, their heinous deeds - murderers of the brethren of the Lord! - and to set free the baptized women whom they took captive, in order that they may deserve to live to God, and be made whole, here and in eternity! Be peace to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Translated by Ludwig Bieler

Thursday, March 16, 2006

St. Abraham Kidunaia

The call to be a hermit is not common, yet in every Christian century some have received that call.

The golden age of hermits was from around 250 A.D. to 700 A.D. Hermits were more numerous in the Near East than in Europe. One of the most interesting of them was St. Abraham Kidunaia. He was a sixth-century Syrian, born in Mesopotamia near the city of Edessa, a vanished metropolis in what is now southeast Turkey.

Abraham's parents were rich and prominent. When he came of age, they picked a bride for him, according to the Syrian custom. This embarrassed the young man. He had already privately decided to practice a life of religious celibacy. Afraid to disobey his parents, he tried to figure out some escape.

Now, marriages in that time and place were gala occasions, with a week of partying before the marriage day. Abraham decided to take part in the week-long festivities as if he had no problem. On the seventh day, however, he took flight to the nearby desert, occupying a cave as a cell. Of course, the parents sent a search party after him. Eventually they found him at prayer. They used every argument to persuade him to return, but he stood his ground, so the pursuers finally gave up and left. Then Abraham sealed up the door of his cave, leaving only a small window, through which friends in the desert could pass him food.

St. Abraham remained a hermit there for the rest of his life. When his parents died, he fell heir to their fortune, but he distributed it to the poor. He had only four possessions he could call his own: a goatskin tunic, a cloak, a bowl to serve both as dish and cup, and a mat of rushes for a bed. We are told that Abraham was an intense man never seen to smile, who looked on each day as his last, and lived it that way. His feats of self-denial were remarkable, yet they did not undermine his naturally frail constitution. He was to reach a hearty seventy.

Although at heart a solitary, Abraham did obey a request of the local bishop. The bishop called one day and lamented the fact that he had had no success in his efforts to Christianize the nearby town of Beth-Kiduna, which was inhabited by pagans rooted in idolatry and given up to abominable practices. He asked the hermit to make a try at converting them. Abraham consented, however reluctantly, and even accepted priestly ordination from the bishop.

Once ordained, Father Abraham went over to Beth-Kiduna. He talked to the people, but they sharply rejected his invitation to baptism. He therefore asked the bishop to build a church in the village. When the church was finished, Abraham, after prolonged prayer, entered the town and toppled over all the images and altars of the gods.

The citizens were furious, of course, and whipped him out of the village.. But he returned the same night and in the morning they found him praying in the church. Going out into the square, he began to preach, urging all to give up their superstitions. Instead, they seized him, took him out side the walls, stoned him, and left him for dead.

The hermit was not dead, however. He returned to the square and resumed his preaching. For three years he made this his daily chore. The pagans did not try again to kill him, but they continued to insult him, throw an occasional rock at him, and strike him now and then with a club.

After three years of apparent failure, Abraham suddenly noticed a change for the better. His patience and meekness had finally persuaded the people that he was a holy man, and therefore deserved to be listened to. Eventually he was able to baptize 1000. Then he spent a full year instructing the citizens more fully in the faith, and baptizing still more. When the year was up, leaving them in the care of other priests, he returned to his cell, his assignment finished.

When Abraham entered his final illness, the whole neighborhood came to ask his final blessing. After his death, the faithful sought bits of his clothing as precious relics.

Good actions speak louder than words. St. Abraham Kidunaia, the unwilling groom, confirms that proverb.

~ Father Robert F McNamara

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

St. Benjamin

Martyr. The Christians in Persia had enjoyed twelve years of peace during the reign of Isdegerd, son of Sapor III, when in 420 it was disturbed by the indiscreet zeal of Abdas, a Christian Bishop who burned the Temple of Fire, the great sanctuary of the Persians. King Isdegerd threatened to destroy all the churches of the Christians unless the Bishop would rebuild it.

As Abdas refused to comply, the threat was executed; the churches were demolished, Abdas himself was put to death, and a general persecution began which lasted forty years. Isdegerd died in 421, but his son and successor, Varanes, carried on the persecution with great fury. The Christians were submitted to the most cruel tortures.

Among those who suffered was St. Benjamin, a Deacon, who had been imprisoned a year for his Faith. At the end of this period, an ambassador of the Emperor of Constantinople obtained his release on condition that he would never speak to any of the courtiers about religion.

St. Benjamin, however, declared it was his duty to preach Christ and that he could not be silent. Although he had been liberated on the agreement made with the ambassador and the Persian authorities, he would not acquiesce in it, and neglected no opportunity of preaching. He was again apprehended and brought before the king. The tyrant ordered that reeds should be thrust in between his nails and his flesh and into all the tenderest parts of his body and then withdrawn. After this torture had been repeated several times, a knotted stake was inserted into his bowels to rend and tear him. The martyr expired in the most terrible agony about the year 424.

St. Louise de Marillac

Louise de Marillac was born probably at Ferrieres-en-Brie near Meux, France, on August 12, 1591. She was educated by the Dominican nuns at Poissy. She desired to become a nun but on the advice of her confessor, she married Antony LeGras, an official in the Queen's service, in 1613. After Antony's death in 1625, she met St. Vincent de Paul, who became her spiritual adviser. She devoted the rest of her life to working with him. She helped direct his Ladies of Charity in their work of caring for the sick, the poor, and the neglected. In 1633 she set up a training center, of which she was Directress in her own home, for candidates seeking to help in her work. This was the beginning of the Sisters (or Daughters, as Vincent preferred) of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (though it was not formally approved until 1655). She took her vows in 1634 and attracted great numbers of candidates. She wrote a rule for the community, and in 1642, Vincent allowed four of the members to take vows. Formal approval placed the community under Vincent and his Congregation of the Missions, with Louise as Superior. She traveled all over France establishing her Sisters in hospitals, orphanages, and other institutions. By the time of her death in Paris on March 15, the Congregation had more than forty houses in France. Since then they have spread all over the world. She was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934, and was declared Patroness of Social Workers by Pope John XXIII in 1960. Her feast day is March 15th.

St. Aristobulus

Martyred disciple of Christ, one of the seventy-two sent out into the world by the early Church. He is possibly mentioned by St. Paul and is identified with Zebedee, the father of Sts. James and John. Aristobulus preached in Britain, although no documentation supports this or his martyrdom in the British Isles.

St. Clement Mary Hofbauer

St. Clement Mary (1751-1820) is often called the second founder of the Redemptorists, and rightly. The diocese of Rochester, which owes much to the German Redemptorists, is deeply indebted to the memory.

Clement was a native of Moravia, Czechoslovakia. In fact, he was in blood a Moravian Slav, but his father, a butcher named Dvorak, for practical reasons had changed his surname to its German equivalent. Dvorak and Hofbauer both mean "farmer." The ninth of 12 children, our saint was baptized John, but later changed his forename to Clement Mary.

From early childhood, Clement longed to be a priest. However, because his family could not afford to send him to the seminary, he was apprenticed at 15 to a baker. Engaged eventually as a baker by the abbot of the Norbertine monastery at Bruck, he was permitted to attend classes in the monastery's Latin school.

When the abbot died, young Clement decided to become a hermit. But when the officious Austrian Emperor Joseph II later forbade the hermit life, Clement returned to his bakery trade, now in Vienna. From Vienna he and a like-minded friend, Pater Kunzmann, made two pilgrimages to Rome. With permission of the local bishop, they settled in the diocese of Tivoli as hermits. Before long, however, Clement concluded that his calling was rather to be a missionary.

One rainy day after he had returned to Vienna, he offered to fetch a carriage for two ladies who had been at Mass with him in St. Stephen's Cathedral. It was a lucky courtesy. The two women were well-to-do, and when they learned of his dream to go to the seminary, they offered to supply him and his friend, Thaddaeus Huebl, with all needed funds.

The two young men went to Rome, joined the Redemptorists, completed their studies, and were ordained in 1785. St. Alphonsus, founder of the Redemptorists, was happy at the thought that his order would now be represented north of the Alps. On returning to Austria, Father Hofbauer quickly welcomed into the Redemptorists, as a lay brother, his old friend Kunzmann: the first vocation to the order in German territory.

Father Clement and his companions were now sent to Warsaw. From 1789 to 1808, they brought about a great revival in Warsaw and Poland by their constant parish missions. They were responsible for the conversion there of many Protestants and a number of Jews. St. Clement opened an orphanage and begged the funds to support it. (Once when he entered a tavern and asked a card-player for a donation, the man spat in his face. Clement calmly replied, "That was a gift to me personally; now please let me have something for my poor children.") He also founded a school for boys, and a number of religious confraternities . Out of Warsaw he sent missionaries to establish their congregation in Courland, Germany, and Switzerland.

Unfortunately, Napoleon decreed the suppression of religious orders. St. Clement was jailed on two occasions. Exiled, he decided to return to Vienna. There, despite continuing political obstacles, he carried on effectively his preaching, his educational work, and his charities. He won a large following. Through his contacts with political figures, he was able to prevent the international Congress of Vienna from setting up a national German Catholic church independent of the popes.

All Vienna crowded the streets to witness Hofbauer's funeral in 1820. He was canonized in 1909.

After St. Clement's death, the Redemptorists spread into many lands. The German Redemptorists arrived in America in 1832. Four years later, their pioneer missionary, Father Joseph Prost, Established St. Joseph's parish in Rochester. The Rochester Redemptorists not only staffed the first German-language parish in Rochester and promoted the establishment of several daughter parishes, but also took care of Germans in other parts of western New York.

Their contribution to the religious and cultural life of these uprooted immigrants is beyond all praise. Saint Clement Maria would have been proud of the work of his missionaries in western New York.

~ Father Robert F. McNamara

KSRK: Quidam’s Diary (May 27th and 30th)

In these passages Quidam takes a much closer look at his ‘inclosing reserve’, without, I don’t think, ever mentioning it by name. One sign of this is an abundance of biblical references, and quotations from Christian scriptures in particular. This includes more meditation on ethics, and marriage and the nature of women (“woman”) as well.

May 27. Is the following a sign of self-contradiction? Or is it the paradoxical relationship of every individual to God?
Forget her? – It is impossible. My edifice has collapsed. I was depressed, but in this depression I was an enthusiast, and that bleak idea of my youth that I was good for nothing was perhaps only a form of enthusiasm because I required an ideality, under which I sank. This secret I wanted to hide within myself and within this secret an ardor that certainly made me unhappy but also indescribably happy.
In the next paragraph he identifies ‘Governance’ as something like the ‘inclosing reserve’ he mentioned earlier:
I can conceal it from others, but I have lost the very substance of my existence, the secure place of resort behind my deceptive appearance, lost what I shall never regain, precisely what I myself must prevent myself from regaining, for my pride still remains but has had to referre pedem and now has the task, among other things of never forgiving myself.
And then makes the connection to the religious:
Only religiously can I now become intelligible to myself before God; in relation to people, misunderstanding is the foreign language I speak. I wanted to have the power to be able to express myself in the universal any time I wished; now I cannot do it.
This is of course an isolating mode of being (“I am continually being forced back into this solitary understanding…”), and it makes perfect sense that he should quote Peter from John 6:68: “to whom should I go but to you.”

Why does he lead his life this way?
my idea was to structure my life ethically in my innermost being and to conceal this inwardness in the form of deception. Now I am forced even further back into myself; my life is religiously structured and is so far back in inwardness that I have difficulty in making my way to actuality.
It seems to me that this is in many ways another ‘key’ to understanding Kierkegaard. He insists that he is a prisoner of misunderstanding, and that his own understanding of this cannot be an illusion. But why not? And why exactly does he “choose not to go to God,” especially since it is before God that he claims he can become intelligible to himself. He seems to be contradicting himself within the space of a paragraph.

Other questions remain. What exactly does he mean by ‘religiously structured’? Does he go to mass every day? Does he pray the hours? If so, is this not a way of going to God? Are his ‘religiously structured’ life and his ‘Governance’ (or ‘inclosing reserve’, which seems to be his methodical containment of his depression) the same thing, and if not, how are they different?

Whatever the answers, if there are answers to these questions, his discourse leads to some mighty arresting statements. Such as:
To whom, indeed, would it occur to want to be self-important in relation to God, but my relationship is of such a nature that it is as if God had chosen me, not I god.
There is also an extremely perceptive analysis of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Or so it seems to me. Briefly, the hunchback king was able to seduce the Lady Anne by scoffing at nature, because he “wanted to demonstrate, despite language and all the laws of life, that he could be loved.” This leads to observations about evil: “the anticipation of suprahuman powers; and it tempts with mirages, as if an insane revenge were the true way to save one’s pride and avenge one’s honor.”

The counter example is, interestingly enough, Falstaff, eschewing honor for life, as if it were just one more aspect of the vanity of men.
Go to the battlefield and look at the fallen, go to the disabled-soldiers’ hospital and look at the wounded – you will never find a dead or wounded man as maltreated as one with whom honor has finished.
And then he puts this in a religious context:
But the person who, rather than sneaking through life with honor, preferred to lose his honor and give it to God, he too, falls on the field of honor. If there is a new heaven and a new earth to expect, then there is also a new honor.
If I understand this correctly, here it is claimed that there is a higher honor due to God that must remain inexplicable (and maybe inapplicable) to men. For such a man, “the severest judgment of language and of rage upon his conduct would be a restitution of honor.”

May 30. Perhaps, at last, just maybe, Quidam says what the real problem is:
For a marriage, a wedding is required. What is a wedding? It is the making of a vow that is mutually binding. But a mutual commitment certainly requires mutual understanding. But she does not understand me at all. What does my vow become, then? It becomes nonsense. Is it a marriage? No, it is a profanation! If we were to be wedded ten times, I would not be married to her, but she would be to me. But if she is altogether unconcerned about this? Is one merely to ask about carrying through one’s passionate wish and ask nothing about the idea; is one merely to believe in one’s passionateness and have no faith or confidence that the person one loves can mean well, as they say, even though he does not have the same meaning?
To merely love passionately, as she does, without understanding, without even seeking understanding, seems to Quidam a mark of pride. And yet he finds a way to praise her for it, since in its ‘subtlety of nature’ it is perhaps the essence of the feminine.

About his beloved in particular, there is this arresting passage:
No I do not believe I would like this in anyone else, but when she does it, she does it in such a way, or I look upon it in such a way, that she loses nothing at all in my eyes. She uses every means against me, and it never occurs to her to suggest by a single word that she could believe me and therefore would give in, that she would resign herself and thereby give me my freedom, that she will scorn me and on that condition give me up.
What does he want? “… it is not my victory I am seeking; it is the victory of the idea, and I am willing to be annihilated.”

Ah, yes: the victory of the idea…

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

St. Mathilda

St. Mathilda was the daughter of Theodoric, a Saxon Count. At an early age she was placed in the monastery of Erfurt under the care of Maud, her grandmother, who was Abbess of the monastery which she had entered after the death of her husband. Here St. Mathilda learned needlework and acquired the love of labor, prayer and spiritual reading. She remained in the convent until her parents gave her in marriage, in 913, to Henry "the Fowler," so called from his fondness for hawking. He became Duke in 916 on the death of his father, and in 919 he was chosen to succeed Conrad as King of Germany. The pious Queen adorned the throne by her many virtues. She visited and comforted the sick and the afflicted, instructed the ignorant, succored prisoners, and endeavored to convert sinners, and her husband concurred with her in her pious undertakings. After twenty-three years of married life King Henry died, in 936. No sooner had he expired than she had a Mass offered up for the repose of his soul, and from that moment she renounced all worldly pomp. Of her three sons, Otho afterward became Emperor, Henry was Duke of Bavaria, and St. Bruno edified the Church as Archbishop of Cologne. Otho became King of Germany in 937, and in 962 he was crowned Emperor at Rome. In the contest between her two sons, Otho and Henry, for the crown which was elective, the Queen favored the former, a fault she expiated by great suffering, for both these sons subjected her to a long and cruel persecution. She died in 968. Her feast day is March 14th.

Monday, March 13, 2006

St. Leander of Seville

The next time you recite the Nicene Creed at Mass, think of today’s saint. For it was Leander of Seville who, as bishop, introduced the practice in the sixth century. He saw it as a way to help reinforce the faith of his people and as an antidote against the heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ. By the end of his life, Leander had helped Christianity flourish in Spain at a time of political and religious upheaval.

Leander’s own family was heavily influenced by Arianism, but he himself grew up to be a fervent Christian. He entered a monastery as a young man and spent three years in prayer and study. At the end of that tranquil period he was made a bishop. For the rest of his life he worked strenuously to fight against heresy. The death of the anti-Christian king in 586 helped Leander’s cause. He and the new king worked hand in hand to restore orthodoxy and a renewed sense of morality. Leander succeeded in persuading many Arian bishops to change their loyalties.

Leander died around 600. In Spain he is honored as a Doctor of the Church.

Saints Roderick and Solomon

Jesus warned his disciples that they should expect no better treatment than Himself. They would be haled before governors and kings on His account, and brothers would even hand brothers over for execution.

That prophecy was literally fulfilled in the case of St. Roderick, a Spanish martyr who died at the hands of the Moslem Moors in A.D. 857. His was a bitter case of the reverse of Christian love. We owe the account to eyewitness St. Elogius, who later on died for the faith himself.

It must be admitted that when the Mohammedans invaded Spain in A.D. 711, even they were sometimes shocked by the lack of religious principles among a large number of the Hispanic Christians. As the Moors swarmed in, the Catholics, far from presenting a strong front, became divided. Many, whether out of fear or lack of faith, voluntarily gave up their Christianity. Families thus split asunder and the members on either side railed at each other.

St. Roderick was to prove a sad victim of this sort of betrayal. He was a good priest of Cabra who had two irresponsible brothers. One of them was a bad Christian who had all but abandoned his faith. The other had gone still further and joined Islam. One night the two started to fight each other unmercifully. Roderick tried to break them up, but instead of yielding, they turned on him and beat him senseless. Then the Moslem brother had the priest put on a litter and carried half-conscious through the streets. The Moslem accompanied the bier, proclaiming that Father Roderick, too, had apostatized, and that he wanted it known publicly before he died. Eventually the victim did recover and went off to a safe place.

But Father Roderick had not yet seen the last of his renegade brother. The Moslem met the priest soon afterwards in the streets of Cordova. He had Roderick taken at once before the Mohammedan kadi (judge), where he accused him of the crime of having returned to Christianity after public profession of his Moslemism.

Although Father Roderick protested that he had never denied his Christian faith, the kadi clapped him into the city's worst dungeon.

In that fetid jail, the priest at least had the comfort of finding one Solomon, another Christian prisoner who had been accused of the same "unforgiveable" crime. Both of them were given a long term of imprisonment, in the hope that they would convert. But each man encouraged the other, and they remained firm in their Christian convictions. Even when separated, they would not change their belief.

Eventually, the kadi ordered the Catholic priest and the layman beheaded. St. Eulogius saw their headless bodies lying on the riverside. He noticed that the guards were careful to throw into the stream any stones stained with the men's blood, for fear the faithful might pick them up as relics.

The soldiers sought in vain to ward off veneration of SS. Roderick and Solomon. Spanish Christians would always honor them thereafter as martyrs. And they would also gradually learn from this heroism that the Faith is something really worth dying for.

~ Father Robert F. McNamara

Sunday, March 12, 2006

St. Maximilian

The trial and death of St. Maximilian (Died A.D. 295) because of his refusal to bear arms is recorded in the actual records of his trial.

Soldiers in the Roman Army in the days of the persecutions were generally not draftees but volunteers. The sons of veterans, however, were obliged to serve in the imperial army. In March 295, Maximilian, aged 21, was summoned to be inducted, and his father, Fabius Victor, was called on to be present. Fabius, an official connected with the military, was himself a veteran, it appears. The background of the summons is not indicated in the court record, but one can judge that father and son had already been arguing before the day of his induction arrived whether the young man could refuse to serve as a soldier.

Proconsul Dion's first question to Maxmilian was, "What is your name?" Maximilian's answer showed his determined frame of mind: "Why do you wish to know my name? I cannot serve, because I am a Christian." He resisted measurement of his height, but the staff measured him anyhow. "Five feet ten," they reported.

When they tried, however, to hang the military seal-a sort of 'dog tag'-about his neck, he resisted more effectively. "I shall not serve. You may cut off my head; I will not serve this world, but only my God."

"Speak to your son," Dion begged Fabius Victor.

The father declined: "He is aware and can take his own counsel on what is best for him."

Maximilian explained, "I am a Christian. I cannot wear a piece of lead around my neck after I have received the saving sign of Jesus my Lord."

Dion then tried to cajole him. In the very bodyguard of the emperors, he pointed out, there were soldiers who were Christians. They had no such compunction about serving.

Maximilian replied, "They know what is best for them. But I am a Christian and cannot do wrong."

"What wrong do they commit?" the proconsul asked.

"Why, you know what they do," said the young man.

Since the inductee continued to refuse, Dion, accusing Maximilian of civic disloyalty, and desirous of setting an example to others who might imitate him, condemned him to beheading.

"Thank Godl" cried Maximilian. He urged bystanders also to be eager to win a similar crown. He asked his father to give to the executioner the new clothes he had just bought for his son. After the execution, a devout Christian woman named Pompeiana asked the body from the magistrate, and buried it in Carthage next to the body of St. Cyprian. And the reaction of Fabius Victor to all this? Thrilled with his son's constancy, he returned home "in great joy, giving thanks to God."

What are we to conclude from the Church's veneration of this young objector as a saint? The Catholic faith does allow for conscientious objection to military service in some instances. Certainly a soldier can, and must, refuse to do something obviously sinful commanded by his military superiors, no matter what the cost to him. However, the Church has never adopted a policy of absolute pacifism. It is part of the citizen's duty to aid in the defense of his homeland; and if actual combat is repulsive to an individual, there are other forms of civic service he can perform.

Maximilian himself seemed to be aware of this, when he admitted that his contemporary Catholics in military service might reach conscientious conclusions different from his. In the era in which St. Maximilian lived, there was considerable disagreement among Christians as to how much the service of the Prince of Peace implied. Maximilian was convinced that "he who took up the sword would perish by the sword". If his conscience erred on the rigorous side, nevertheless he offered his life out of Christian conviction and thereby won a martyr's crown.

-Father Robert F. McNamara

Saturday, March 11, 2006

St. Vigilius

Bishop and martyr. The successor to St. Palladius as bishop of Auxerre, France, in 661, he was murdered in the forest near Compiegne at the order of Warator, Frankish mayor of the palace, because of a disagreement. He was thus venerated as a martyr.

Friday, March 10, 2006

St. John Ogilvie

When the Reformation was introduced into Scotland, the line was drawn not so much between Catholics and Anglicans as between Catholics and Presbyterian Calvinists.

St. John Ogilvie (1587-1615) is a case in point. His father, Baron Ogilvie, raised him as a Calvinist, and sent him when 13 to France to be educated. In France, however, it was customary for Catholic and Calvinist scholars to debate religion. Attending these conferences, John came to appreciate the Catholic view, and to admire those Catholics who were willing to die for it. He therefore became a Catholic in 1596, aged 17, and continued his education at the Scots College in Louvain; then with the Scots Benedictines at Regensburg, Germany; then with the Jesuits at Olmuetz in Moravia. In 1599 he joined the Jesuits, and was ordained a priest in Paris in 1610. Then he determined to devote his life to rescuing Catholicism in his homeland.
In 1613 his Jesuit superiors sent Father John to Scotland. Because of the harsh laws against the entry of Catholic priests into Great Britain, he traveled in civilian clothes under the name of John Watson, posing now as a horse-dealer, now as a returning soldier. His first efforts were discouraging. The Catholic nobles had mostly joined the Reform under pressure, and were embarrassed to have him around. Eventually he returned to Paris to ask advice. His superior, Father Gordon, scolded him for leaving Scotland and ordered him to go back there at once, which he did.

Now he began to have better fortune. A prominent Catholic in Edinburgh let him live with him, and he began to gather Catholics together and insist that they cease being wishy-washy and profess their faith with vigor. He even undertook the risky ministry to Catholics in prison. In 1614 he went to Glasgow. Here he was harbored by Mrs. Marion Walker, a brave widow who would later die in prison for having assisted him. He was now having more and more success in reconciling Catholics to the Church. The Catholics were stronger in spirit.

However, on October 14,1614, a spy attending his Mass at Glasgow denounced him to the local Anglican archbishop, Spottiswoode. The archbishop scolded him for saying a Catholic Mass in a "reformed" city, and even hit him. Ogilvie replied, "You act as a hangman, sir, and not as a bishop, striking me." But the servants and citizens pounced on the Jesuit, and he might have been killed had not a nobleman present called them off. Put on trial, he was brutally tortured to make him betray the names of his Catholic friends.

Meanwhile, his captors spread the word abroad that he actually had given them a list of Scottish Catholics. The knowledge of this lie caused even greater grief to the tormented prisoners. Failing their purpose, the authorities brought him to trial again on a different charge: that of denying the king's jurisdiction in spiritual matters. King James I himself drew up a list of five questions to answer, all bearing on relations between church and state. They were so trickily worded that whatever answer he gave could be used against Father John. Nevertheless, he was able to write letters about his mistreatment and sneak them out of prison.

When he was brought before his judges for the last time, they told the priest that he was being tried not for celebrating Mass but for the answers he had given to the king's questions. Father Ogilvie declared that he would die in defense of the king's civil authority, but he could not obey him in spiritual matters. He was nonetheless condemned for high treason and hanged at Glasgow Cross on March 10, 1615. Even on the scaffold he was offered freedom and a fat living if he would abjure his Catholicism. This made it all the clearer that he died for his faith, not his politics. Even the crowd around the gallows murmured against the injustice of the execution. He was buried secretly in a criminal's plot, so no relics remain.
When the cause for the canonization of the English martyrs was introduced, the name of John Ogilvie was omitted, for the Scots Catholics wished to have their own process. Pope Pius XI declared him "blessed" in 1929 and Pope Paul VI canonized him in 1976.

The only official Scottish martyr of the Reformation, St. John Ogilvie is the glory of the Catholic Church in Scotland.

~ Father Robert F.McNamara