Monday, May 30, 2016

Would you rather die?

I would rather die
than do a thing
which I know to be a sin.

St. Joan of Arc

St. Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc’s story is nothing but extraordinary. Born in Domremy, Champagne, in 1412, she was a peasant girl who received from on high the mission of leading France militarily against the invading English.

Joan’s father was Jacques D’Arc, a farmer of some means, and her mother a kind, caring woman. One of five children, Joan was a pious, prayerful and charitable girl.

In 1415, when Joan was three, the English king, Henry V, taking advantage of a civil war between the Dukes of Orleans and Burgundy, invaded Normandy and claimed several cities. Things were going from bad to worse for France when, in the village of Domremy, God began to put in motion a most unexpected solution.

At age thirteen, Joan began to receive visions of St. Michael and Sts. Catherine and Margaret who gently prepared her for her mission.

By 1428, when she was about sixteen, the saints insisted that Joan go to Charles VII, the ineffectual heir to the throne and offer him to lead an army with the objective of repelling the English, and crowning him king. The frightened girl resisted but finally took action on being assured that her extraordinary calling “was God’s will”.

Joan persuaded an uncle to take her to the nearby town of Vaucouleurs to the commander, Robert de Baudricourt. At first Baudricourt and his entourage laughed at the maiden, but when Joan announced that the city of Orleans had just fallen to the English, and the fact was later verified, hilarity turned to respect.

Accompanied by respectful soldiers, and dressed in a man’s clothing for her personal protection, Joan traveled to the court of Charles VII who, wishing to test the visionary maiden, hid himself among his courtiers. But Joan promptly picked him out, and set at rest for him an intimate doubt he had secretly prayed about as to his legitimacy as true son of the king of France, Charles VI.

Ultimately, after extensive debriefing and debate, Joan was outfitted with armor, sword and a white-gold standard bearing the names of Jesus and Mary, and an image of God the Father and angels offering Him a Fleur-des-Lys, the symbol of France.

In the company of the Duke of Orleans, other French nobles, and their armies she freed the besieged city of Orleans. To everyone’s amazement, Joan proved an effective general and strategist, though she never personally killed a man.

After other victories, she and her army accompanied the reluctant prince to Rheims where he was triumphantly crowned. But after his coronation the weak king began to haggle with Joan, and ultimately failed and abandoned her.

In a skirmish outside the city of Compiegne, she was taken prisoner and led to Rouen where she underwent an infamous “trial” conducted by a bishop, Pierre Cauchon, who courted English favor. She suffered a long, painful imprisonment, was finally branded a heretic and a sorceress and condemned to burned at the stake. She was nineteen years old.

To the very end she sustained that her “voices” had not deceived her. Her last gasping word was “Jesus!” Although the flames consumed her virginal body, her heart never burned.

What Joan had begun others picked up and France was ultimately freed.

Twenty-three years after her death, Joan’s mother and brothers appealed to Pope Callistus III for a re-trial. This new trial completely vindicated the “Maid of Orleans”on July 7, 1456.

Joan was canonized on May 16, 1920.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

We Grow Old by Deserting Our Ideals*

*General Douglas MacArthur was so inspired by Samuel Ullman’s poem that he popularized it and kept a framed copy in his office while Supreme Allied Commander in Japan. He quoted it so often in his speeches that it became known as “MacArthur's Credo.”  
Youth is not a time of life. It’s a state of mind. It’s a test of the will, a quality of imagination, vigor of emotions, and a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over love of ease.
Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.  
Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair . . . these are the quick equivalents of the long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.  
Whether 70 or 16, there is, in every being’s heart the love of wonder, the sweet amazement of the stars, and the star-like things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for “What Next?”. 
You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt, as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair. 
So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man and from the Infinite, so long are you young. 
When all the wires are down, and all the central places of your heart are covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and only then, are you grown old indeed, and may God have mercy on your soul. 
By Samuel Ullman

How long does He remain with us?

He remains among us
until the end of the world.
He dwells on so many altars,
though so often
offended and profaned.

St. Maximilian Kolbe

St. William of Toulouse and Companions

William Arnaud, a Dominican, and companions were sent to Toulouse in the South of France by Pope Gregory IX to combat the Albigensian heresy then entrenched throughout the region.

The Albigensian heresy preached a dualism where the body was considered evil. As a consequence, they denied that Christ could have been human, rejected the Sacraments and adopted, in their stead, pagan rituals of “purification”.

The priests, meeting with much hostility in town, set up in a house in the surrounding country, and were making many converts, which upset the local government under Count Raymond III of Toulouse.

They and others, a total of eleven, including some Franciscans, Benedictines, and a layman, were deceived into accepting an invitation to the local castle where seven of them were set upon and slaughtered in a most barbarous manner.

The other four, William Arnaud among them, escaped to a local church where they were found singing religious hymns. Violating the medieval “sanctuary” – an unforgivable act at that time – and angered by the singing, the soldiers first cut off William’s tongue, then killed all four. Their bodies were thrown in a ravine, but that night, light streamed from them leading the faithful to their relics. They were interred in the Church of San Romano at the monastery in Toulouse.

The church in Avignonet where the martyrs had been murdered, was placed under interdict and for years the doors remained locked because of the sacrilege.

Many cures were reported at their graves.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, call upon Mary!

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

St. Bernard of Claivaux

St. Germanus of Paris

Germanus, one of the glories of the Church in France, was born near Autun, about 496. From his early youth he was exceedingly pious, never missing midnight vespers at a church a mile from his home, regardless of the weather.

Carefully trained for the priesthood, Germanus was ordained by St. Agrippinus, Bishop of Autun, and was made Abbot of St. Symphorian on the outskirts of the town. A contemporary of his tells us that at that time he was already favored with the gifts of prophecy and miracles.

One night in a dream he saw an elderly man who presented him with the keys of the city of Paris, telling him to look after the Parisians and to save them from perishing.

In 554, happening to be in the capital when the bishop died, he was elevated to the see although he tried to refuse the honor with many tears.

Though a bishop, Germanus continued to lead a life of austerity and assiduous prayer, receiving the poor continuously at his residence, and having them at his own table where he not only nourished their bodies but also their souls with holy exhortations.

God granted to the holy prelate’s sermons a great power to move the hearts of peoples of every rank. Under his influence, the spiritual life of the city changed: frivolous dances and profane amusements were abolished, enmities were extinguished and sinners reconciled to the Church. Even the king, Childebert, son of Clovis and St. Clothilde, until then a worldly, ambitious prince, converted to a life of piety, building religious houses, and placing his coffers in the hands of the holy bishop for the aid of the poor. One of the churches he built became St. Germain des Prés, for generations the burial place of French royalty.

Throughout his episcopate, Germanus strove to reprove the behavior of wayward nobles, and even excommunicated King Charibert, nephew of Childebert, for his wicked, immoral life. During the fratricidal wars that followed by the nephews, he made every effort to reconcile them, but was unsuccessful.

The holy prelate died at the age of eighty, mourned by all his people.