Thursday, August 28, 2008

St. Augustine

"O eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread.

I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you. But I did not find it until I embraced "the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all, God blessed for ever." He was calling me and saying: "I am the way of truth, I am the life."

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed you fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

-from the Confessions of Saint Augustine

Most people (and I'm pretty sure you do too!) probably already know about he outline of St. Augustine's life (his mom stormed heaven with her prayers for him, then he became converted then became a bishop sometime later...)... so I'm not going to post that part about him. :-) But if you'd like to, you can read about him here. (and that's also the quote and pic source)

For those of you who just can't read the Confessions by St. Augustine, the book, The Restless Flame by Louis de Wohl is a good one about him to start with. It's about his story before he became converted, and some several years after he did. In that book the title, "the restless flame" really does suit him :-D. "Our hearts were made for You, O Lord, and they are restless until they rest in you." In one of his writings, it could be summed up like that.

Act of Hope prayer by St. Augustine
For your mercies' sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul: "I am your salvation." So speak that I may hear, O Lord; my heart is listening; open it that it may hear you, and say to my soul: "I am your salvation." After hearing this word, may I come in haste to take hold of you. Hide not your face from me. Let me see your face even if I die, lest I die with longing to see it. The house of my soul is too small to receive you; let it be enlarged by uou. It is all in ruins; do you repair it. There are thing in it - I confess and I know - that must offend your sight. But who shall cleanse it? Or to what others besides you shall I cry out? From my secret sins cleanse me, O Lord, and from those of others spare your servant. Amen.

Saint Augustine of Hippo

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Children's Pope

"My hope is in Christ, who strengthens the weakest by His Divine help. I can do all in Him who strengthens me. His Power is infinite, and if I lean on him, it will be mine. His Wisdom is infinite, and if I look to Him for counsel, I shall not be deceived. His Goodness is infinite, and if my trust is stayed in Him, I shall not be abandoned." - Pope Saint Pius X

Even as a young boy, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto (1835-1914) was already showing promise and excessive holiness to his family and neighbors. He was a very bright (even until he was older and wore his bright white cassock!) and intelligent student who was always eager to learn and help his family, neighbors, and classmates. He would even win most school prizes. Although the senior elementary school was four miles away from his hometown, he and his brothers always did their best to not miss a single day of it. Since he did come from a poor family; and he did have only one pair of shoes, he would sometimes walk barefoot to school, trying to save his shoes. After a while his father bought them a little wagon and a donkey to pull them to school. Although the wagon was not new and the donkey was not young, the boys didn't mind the old cart when it creaked and groaned when they rode. At least they wouldn't have to walk... Sometimes they would get into arguments deciding who would get to play "coachman", but Bepi, as everyone called him, would always win and drive the donkey to school. Like most saints around before and around his time, before his First Communion he himself had begged the pastor to allow him to receive his Our Lord earlier than usual. But his answer would always be a nice "When you are older, you can," then a wink before saying next, "Some day, Bepi, when you are Pope, you can grant permission to all the children of the world to receive Holy Communion at an early age." Sixty years later, Bepi did just that.

When he was eleven years old, he had already decided to become a priest, and told his family about his decision. His parents were a bit surprised and at the same time, thrilled at the thought of giving their son to God. Bepi was the oldest of eight children, and was quite a bit help to the family and their farm. They desperately needed him, 'but if God wants him,' they decided, 'then God shall have him.'

By the time he was fifteen he finished his school and reached the top of the list of those who had the highest scores in all the subjects. He received prizes and conquered the examination (yay), yet he was the only one who had the least time to study. Right after he would come home from school he would pitch in to help with the chores... take care of the stable, help his father with his job, or herd the cattle. If he ever had any free time, that time would gladly be put to use to volunteer with anything else his father or mother needed. But the day that he finished the last examination in his school and came home, the poor country boy's mind wasn't exactly set on performing his usual chores. Rather, his mind was set on his decision and whatever step he would take in his vocation. He wished to go to the seminary... but who would pay for his education there? He didn't want his father to worry more than he already was with his leaving home. After having sought the parish priest for advice, he stormed heaven with his prayers. Everyday he begged the Queen of Heaven for her motherly help at a nearby shrine. Bepi knew in his heart that his future life, his vocation to the priesthood depended on his prayers.

During those days of deep prayer for Bepi, the parish priest wrote a letter to a cardinal who gave out several scholarships for free schooling and board at the seminary where Bepi wished to go to. After he sent the letter, Bepi and his family prayed harder than ever... novena after novena and rosary after rosary... it seemed as if no reply would ever come. Every morning when Bepi would come to the morning Mass to serve he would ask if there was any reply yet.

At last, after about a month of storming heaven, Bepi, the future Pope and saint, received a reply from that cardinal. He and his whole village rejoiced to find that Bepi had indeed been given a scholarship to the seminary in Padua.


Part 2 will be posted next year. :-)

Prayer to Saint Pius X
Glorious Pope of the Eucharist, Saint Pius X, you sought "to restore all things in Christ." Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a lively fervor and a sincere will to strive for sanctity of life, and that I may avail myself of the riches of the Holy Eucharist in sacrifice and sacrament. By your love for Mary, mother and queen of all, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her. Blessed model of the priesthood, obtain for us holy, dedicated priests, and increase vocations to the religious life. Dispel confusion and hatred and anxiety, and incline our hearts to peace and concord. so that all nations will place themselves under the sweet reign of Christ.


Saint Pius X, pray for me.

prayer and pic source, and the info from the book Saint Pius X, The Farm Boy who Became Pope, by Walter Diethelm, O.S.B.

Friday, August 1, 2008

St. Alphonsus...

...the patron saint of vocations! (here's the post I promised! I wrote this one last Sunday! :-) I didn't post anything about him last year, only because I was on vacation and when I came back I posted about Sts. Faith, Hope, and Charity because their story was shorter and they were kind of unknown... So anyway... here's his vocation story, up until when he was ordained a priest.

The oldest of seven children, --and here's his whole name-- Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michael Gaspard de' Liguori(1696-1787), was very bright (not bright so that he had to wear sunglasses, but because he had bad eyesight and wore glasses), high-spirited, and responsible even as a child. He had great progress in all kinds of learning, from fencing to riding, and even an evening game of cards. He was also quite fond and did well at music, as his father made him practice the harpsichord three hours a day. By the time he was 13 years old, he had already reached the perfection of a master of the harpsichord. He wasn't sent to school, rather, his father kept watch on him when he had tutors give him excellent education. (So in a way you could say he was homeschooled too! :-D jk) Alphonsus never liked theaters (he even refused to take part in a play!) so when there would be an opera to attend, he would remove his glasses to enjoy the music more!

At the age of sixteen he took his degree as Doctor of Laws. Alphonsus even said himself that he was small at that times, so much that he was almost buried in his doctor's uniform, and all the onlookers laughed. For about eight years he worked as an advocate, and is said to have never lost a case (except until later). But before attending court he always attended Mass first.

By the time he was around 26 years old, he began to enjoy what the world had to offer for him. Constantly, he would go into society. He put aside prayer and other things as he began to take pleasure in his popularity and the attention he would receive everywhere. "Banquets, entertainments, theatres," he later wrote, "these are the pleasures of the world, but pleasures which are filled with the bitterness of gall and sharp thorns. Believe me who have experienced it, and now weep over it." And later, he began to have the feeling that the more he learned more of the world, he liked it more less. And finally in the year 1723 it seemed as if God had taken him on the road where St. Paul had been... on the way to Damascus.

As one of the leading counsel in court, Alphonsus had made a brilliant speech that was sure to bring victory to his side. As he sat down with much confidence that he had already won, the opposing counsel rebuked him ever so harshly saying that he had overlooked a document holding evidence that they were right and he was wrong. As the future saint took hold of the document, he reread the document that he knew that he had read so many times he began to be somewhat flabbergasted, as if he finally realized some part in it. With trembling hands he finished, and he replied in a sad, broken voice that they have indeed won the case. All those around him, and even the judge, had attempted to console him, but they all unsuccessfully had done so. It was as if by just that one case he had lost, Alphonsus's once high-spirit had been broken down. He knew in despair and humiliation that his career had ended by that one mistake he had made. As he left the court he said in a quiet voice, "World, I know you now. Courts, you shall never see me more." Feeling crushed to the ground in complete misery, he refused food for three days.

But just as St. Paul too, had recovered of his blindness, Alphonsus began to see the light shortly after as well. He began to understand why God had allowed that previous event; to break down his pride and tear him away from the worldly life he was living. Feeling as if a new hope had risen within him, he started praying ever so sincerely to find what God had wanted of him. Alphonsus never returned to his profession, but instead of standing in court, he stood in the hospital doing simple acts of charity to those who had incurable illnesses.

At two points in time during his visits, (in that same year) he felt as if the house was shaking and saw that he was surrounded by a mysterious light. "Leave the world and give thyself to Me," An interior voice said to him. After it had all ended, he left the hospital right away went to the church of the Redemption, his once broken down spirit now rising high again. When he had reached the church he laid his sword before the statue of Our Lady, and solemnly vowed to enter the religious life and even to offer himself as a novice to the Fathers of the Oratory. As he went home back to his house, it suddenly came to him that the rest wouldn't easy. (especially telling his father) But he also knew in his heart that if God had taken him this far in his vocation, wouldn't He help him in the later years to come? Surely God wouldn't drop him off like from a car just like that!

Alphonsus's father was indeed upset at his decision, but for two reasons: he had already arranged a marriage for this future saint, and even more depressed that his son had given up his excellent career as an advocate. For two months Alphonsus was scolded by his father for having given up his once 'excellent' life. But just as St. Paul endured persecution for his faith, Alphonsus waited patiently for his father's approval. But needless to say, his father gave in anyway... but under but only if he would let go of his promise to join the Oratory, and just become a priest and live at home. After also receiving his director's approval, Alphonsus agreed. And because of his free time, he was able to work on what he would soon be able to do: found a new religious order.

Still in that same year, 1723, the ecstatic future saint put on the clerical dress and almost a year later, he joined the association of missionary secular priests (called the Neapolitan Propaganda) and received the tonsure shortly after. It was as if he had once again regained his high-spirit disposition; his joyful heart was now soaring. In the next couple of years he received minor orders and the subdiaconate. Then around the middle of the year 1726, he was ordained deacon. Alphonsus rejoiced as he finally found his vocation; what he was really called to. And just before Christmas of that same year, the 21st of December, he was ordained a priest.

No wonder he's the patron saint of vocations! :-D Below is a part of one of the books (I think) that he wrote, followed by a prayer that he wrote. (not in the book I don't think)

"God says to each of us: 'Give me your heart, that is, your will.' We, in turn, cannot offer anything more precious than to say: "Lord, take possession of us; we give our whole will to you; make us understand what it is that you desire of us, and we will perform it."

If we would give full satisfaction to the heart of God, we must bring our own will in everything into conformity with his; and not only into conformity, but into uniformity also, as regards all that God ordains. Confirmity signifies the joining of our own will to the will of God; but uniformity signifies, further, our mkaing of the divine and our own will one will only, so that we desire nothing but what God desires, and his will becomes ours. This is the sum and substance of that perfection to which we ought to be ever aspiring; this is what must be the aim of all we do, and of all our desires, meditations and prayers. For this we must invoke the assistance of all our patron saints and our guardian angels, and, above all, of our divine mother Mary, who was the most perfect saint, because she embraced most perfectly the divine will."

- Saint Alphonsus Liguori, from The Redeeming Love of Christ

Prayer of St. Alphonsus
O holy and heavenly Infant, Thou who art the destined Mother of my Redeemer and the great Mediatress of miserable sinners, pity me. Behold at thy feet another ungrateful sinner who has recourse to thee and asks thy compassion. It is true, that for my ingratitude to God and to thee, I deserve that God and thou should abandon me; but I have heard, and believe it to be so (knowing the greatness of thy mercy), that thou dost not refuse to help any one who recommends himself to thee with confidence. O most exalted creature in the world! Since this is the case, and since there is no one but God above thee, so that compared with thee the greatest Saints of heaven are little; O Saint of Saints, O Mary! Abyss of charity, and full of grace, succour a miserable creature who by his own fault has lost the divine favour. I know that thou art so dear to God that He denies thee nothing. I know also that thy pleasure is to use thy greatness for the relief of miserable sinners. Ah, then, show how great is the favour that thou enjoyest with God, by obtaining me a divine light and flame so powerful that I may be changed from a sinner into a Saint; and detaching myself from every earthly affection, divine love may be enkindled in me. Do this, O Lady, for thou canst do it. Do it for the love of God, who has made thee so great, so powerful, and so compassionate. This is my hope. Amen.

info from here and here