Friday, December 15, 2017

Impossible to reach the height of grace without this

Without the burden of afflictions
it is impossible to reach the height of grace.
The gift of grace increases as the struggle increases.
St. Rose of Lima

St. Mary di Rosa

Mother Maria Crocifissa was born Paolina Francesca di Rosa, the sixth of nine children of Clement di Rosa and the Countess Camilla Albani. The di Rosas were a wealthy family of Brescia, Italy.

Losing her mother to a terminal illness at age eleven, her education was entrusted to the Visitation Sisters. At seventeen Paolina left school to assist in the running of her father’s estate and household. To these duties she soon added the care and spiritual welfare of the girls working at her father’s mills and other factories in the city. She also founded a woman’s guild and arranged retreats and special missions. When the cholera epidemic devastated Brescia in 1836, she and a widow, Gabriela Bornati, served the victims in the hospital with such dedication that Paolina was next asked to undertake the supervision of a workhouse for penniless girls, which she did for two years.

She continued to engage in social work, always giving signs of ability and a perspicacious intelligence with a surprising grasp of theology. In 1840, with Gabriela Bornati, she started a congregation with the purpose of serving the ill and suffering in hospitals. Taking the name of Handmaids of Charity, they started with four members and soon grew to number twenty-two.

The name she took upon her profession of religious vows was a synthesis of her whole life: Maria Crocifissa. Her spiritual life was firmly grounded on the imitation of Christ’s suffering on the Cross. This was the foundation of her life, her teaching and her contemplation. Her love for Christ Crucified was reflected in her unstinting and total dedication to the suffering members of his Mystical Body.

As the community expanded, Clemente di Rosa provided a commodious house in Brescia, and their rule of life was provisionally approved by the bishop in 1843. Anticipating Florence Nightingale by several years, the Handmaids of Charity ministered to the wounded in the war which ravaged the region in 1848. After a meeting with Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1850, the constitutions of the Handmaids of Charity of Brescia were approved.

A second cholera epidemic hit northern Italy and pushed the growing order to its limit. After a flurry of foundations in Spalato, Dalmatia and Verona, Mother Maria collapsed, and was brought home to Brescia to die. She passed away peacefully on December 15, 1855 at the age of forty-two.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Secret, peaceful, and loving

Contemplation is nothing else than a secret, peaceful, and loving
infusion of God, which
if admitted,
will set the soul on fire with the Spirit of love.


St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross

John’s father, Gonzalo de Yepes, was of a prominent family in Toledo, Spain. At his marriage to a poor girl, Catherine Alvarez, he was disinherited, and tried his hand at the silk-weaving trade. When Gonzalo died young, Catherine was left destitute with three young sons, John being the youngest.

Sent to a poor school in Medina, John found work at the city’s hospital, and there labored for seven years.

Already given to the practice of prayer, and to bodily austerities, he studied with the Jesuits. It was revealed to him that he was to serve God in an Order, the ancient perfection of which he would help to renew.

At twenty-one he took the Carmelite habit as John of St. Matthias. Though meaning to be a lay brother, he excelled in theology and was ordained in 1567. Early on, he obtained permission to follow the original Carmelite rule, without the mitigations allowed by various popes.

When St. Teresa of Avila, the great reformer of Carmel, met John in Medina-del-Campo, she knew he was the man for the reform of the male branch of the order.  Though John was small in stature, Teresa sensed his courage and commitment. With all the proper backing and credentials, she and John proceeded to found reformed branches of the Carmelite Order in Duruelo, Pastrana, Mancera and Alcalá. As a reformed Carmelite, John took the name of John of the Cross, indeed a prophetic title.

Around this time in his life, after tasting the joys of contemplation, John entered a period of aridity, scruples, and interior desolation. While assaulted with terrible temptations, he was also persecuted with calumnies. His book, Dark Night of the Soul is the child of these trials. But in the calm that followed the storm, St. John became a great mystic, writer, and is deemed one of the best poets that ever lived.

He later, along with St. Teresa, suffered much by confusions generated within their order, as a result of the reforms. He was imprisoned by his own brothers, as he was pressured to abandon the reform. He also suffered a severe beating at the hands of the Vicar General, which marks he bore until his death. After nine months of incarceration, he managed to escape, and fled to a reformed friary.

In 1579 he became head of the college at Baeza, and in 1581 was chosen prior at Granada. It is around this time that he began the writings on mystical theology that made him a Doctor of the Church.

But troubles within the order followed him. At one point he was stripped of all status and was sent to a remote friary. Another time there was a threat of expulsion of the holy reformer from the order. Ultimately, he died in a friary whose superior was hostile to him though, ultimately, repentant.

But John of the Cross had reached that level of sanctity where crosses were welcomed and gladly embraced in union with his crucified Lord. After suffering acutely for three months, he rendered his sterling soul to God on December 14, 1591.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ask Our Lady to put an end to so much suffering

The more somber circumstances become
and the more excruciating sundry pains grow,
the more we should ask Our Lady to put an end to so much suffering — not merely
for our own relief, but for the greater benefit of our souls.
Sacred theology says that Our Lady's prayers
anticipated the moment of the world's redemption by the Messiah.
At this anguished moment in history, let us turn our eyes to Our Lady with confidence,
asking her to hasten the great moment we all await,
when a new Pentecost will kindle beacons of light and hope in this darkness and
restore the kingdom of Our Lord Jesus Christ on earth.
Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

St. Lucy

Lucy is one of the martyrs mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, and she is regarded as the glory of the island of Sicily.  A native of Syracuse, she was the daughter of wealthy Christian parents. Her father died when she was a child, and her mother, Eutychia, raised her with the utmost care, teaching her the path of Christian virtue. Lucy so took to the path of virtue that, wishing to belong to God alone, she vowed her virginity to Him.

Her mother, unaware of this vow and afflicted with an unrelenting illness, betrothed Lucy to a wealthy young pagan.

As Eutychia’s illness persisted, they visited the shrine of St. Agatha at Catania, close to Syracuse. There, St. Agatha, who had been martyred about fifty years earlier, appeared to Lucy granting her mother’s cure and predicting that she, Lucy, would be the glory of Syracuse as she, Agatha, was of Catania.

After this experience, Lucy revealed her plans to her mother and convinced her to distribute their fortune to the poor.

Furious at this turn of events, Lucy’s fiancé, now certain she was a Christian, denounced her to Paschasius, the Governor of Syracuse. Lucy was ordered to offer incense to the idols, but at her refusal, her enemies tried to take her to a brothel for defilement. This proved impossible as she became so heavy she could not be moved.

They then tried to burn her, but the flames parted leaving the maiden untouched. She finally met her death by the sword.

She is portrayed holding a pair of eyes on a platter. Some accounts say that her eyes were tortured, others that she gouged them out to discourage her suitor. In any case, she is particularly invoked for ailments of the eyes, or eyesight problems.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Anything else that you need?

“Am I not here who am your mother?
Are you not under my shadow and protection?
Am I not your fountain of life?
Are you not in the folds of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?
Is there anything else that you need?”

Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego