The other day I shared with you the story of St. Simeon Stylites the Elder, the original “pillar-hermit.” Simeon was a lay person, but he evidently was unencumbered by family responsibilities. Today, I want to introduce you to a saint for the rest of us. Her name is Angela and she lived in Foligno, Italy from 1248 until her death in the year 1309.
As I reported back when I shared Algar Thorold’s essay, I stumbled upon the story of this lay Catholic mystic and stigmatic and I’m glad I did. Algar busts the myth that there are two Catholic Church’s (one for the priests and religious, and one for lay people) and Angela’s life shows this as well.
That this is a myth is obvious to anyone who turns their attention to the Communion of Saints. Although there are many priests and religious in the saintly ranks, there is also a heaping helping of regular folks like you and me too. Blessed Angela is an example of a regular person who accepts the call to become a saint.
A friend of mine noted that Angela’s life reminds her of the television series Desperate Housewives except that in Angela’s case the story is that she used to be desperate until she came to rest in Our Lord’s arms. Let’s take a look at the Catholic Encyclopedia citation on her,
Umbrian penitent and mystical writer. She was born at Foligno in Umbria, in 1248, of a rich family; died 4 January, 1309. Married at an early age, she loved the world and its pleasures and, worse still, forgetful of her dignity and duties as wife and mother, fell into sin and led a disorderly life. But God, having in His mercy inspired her with a deep sorrow for her sins, led her little by little to the height of perfection and to the understanding of the deepest mysteries.
So she was well to do, and footloose and fancy free. Maybe a party girl like the one’s you knew in school. Or someone from the popular crowd who you secretly admired while you openly despised her. But she had a profound change of heart around the time she turned 40 years old. And as she details in her Eighteen Steps, it was not an instantaneous change, but one that was progressive. Thankfully, her confessor decided to document her incredible story.
Angela has herself recorded the history of her conversion in her admirable “Book of Visions and Instructions”, which contains seventy chapters, and which was written from Angela’s dictation by her Franciscan confessor, Father Arnold of Foligno. Some time after her conversion Angela had placed herself under the direction of Father Arnold and taken the habit of the Third Order of St. Francis.
Note to self: it’s time for me to find a spiritual director too.
In the course of time the fame of her sanctity gathered around her a number of Tertiaries, men and women, who strove under her direction to advance in holiness. Later she established at Foligno a community of sisters, who to the Rule of the Third Order added the three vows of religion, without, however, binding themselves to enclosure, so that they might devote their time to works of charity.
Angela at last passed away, surrounded by her spiritual children. Her remains repose in the church of St. Francis at Foligno. Numerous miracles were worked at her tomb, and Innocent XII approved the immemorial veneration paid to her. Her feast is kept in the Order on the 30th of March.
Bl. Angela’s high authority as a spiritual teacher may be gathered from the fact that Bollandus, among other testimonials, quotes Maximilian Sandaeus, of the Society of Jesus, who calls her the “Mistress of Theologians”, whose whole doctrine has been drawn out of the Book of Life, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.
Angela has been noticed by Pope Benedict XVI as well. Back in October, while speaking during his weekly audience, he said that the lesson of her life is that “God has a thousand ways, for each of us, to make himself present in the soul, to show that he exists and knows and loves me.” Regarding her conversion and constancy, Our Pope credits Angela’s commitment to a life of prayer and quoted her words as follows,
“However much more you pray, ever more greatly will you be illuminated; however much more you are illuminated, so much more profoundly and intensely will you see the Supreme Good, the supremely good Being; how much more profoundly and intensely you see it, much more will you love it … Successively you will arrive to the fullness of light, because you will understand not being able to comprehend.”
Third Order Franciscans are still active today, though they no longer “take the habit” as recounted above. When Algar Thorold writes of Angela, it is in glowing praise because of her complete conversion, her humility, her commitment to prayer and for the miracles and visions that she was gifted with. She bore the stigmata, and you may read of her visions The Book of Divine Consolations and of her conversion in Thorold’s Essays on Catholic Mysticism.
Blessed Angelo of Foligno, pray for us.
Earlier today I mentioned that I was dipping into the Communion of Saints for inspiration. And why not? I love these people and I’m glad they are praying for me. Later this afternoon I noted that Elizabeth Scalia, “the Anchoress” was wondering about her patron saint for the new year. Readers may have noticed that we have two full time patrons here at YIMCatholic: St. Joseph and St. Joan of Arc.
But we can always use someone else to pray for us too. And I really like this neat Patron Saint Generator that Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary came up with. Elizabeth gave it a try and guess which saint choose to represent her this year? St. Catherine of Siena. So I decided to give it a whirl too.
Jennifer’s application makes it so easy. Just click the button and off it goes. Putting out a call in heaven I reckon, “Patron Saint needed for the man on aisle three,” or something like that. Whoever shows up has chosen you, see? Don’t go second guessing the saint that arrives at your doorstep, because even if you don’t know why this saint should be your patron, invite them in and get to know them! Look over in the sidebar and you’ll see that St. Frances of Rome is my patron this year. Looking at the citation that arrived with her, I’ll just say that I am looking forward to getting to know her better.
I am so excited about this that I too am posting on it. When I got home from work, I gathered the family after dinner so we could all pick a saint for this year too. My youngest son went first and St. Aloysius of Gonzaga arrived on our doorstep. Wow, I said, that was your great-grandfathers middle name kiddo! My daughter was up next and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton rang our doorbell. Break out the fine china! My oldest son gave it a whirl and St. Jane de Chantal entered our little circle, and she can teach us a thing or two about forgiveness. Lastly, my wife was introduced to her patron for 2011, St. Margaret of Hungary—a princess no less!
Next, I let them all know that I want to know all about their patrons too and I want them to know them as well as they know their best friends. And when we say our prayers at night, we’ll ask our saints to pray for us. And Elizabeth had another great idea, which I shared with my family: we’ll also ask our patron saints to teach us what they know. Schools out, so saint school is in! I walked them over to the YIMCatholic bookshelf and showed them how to learn more. Then I went searching for more on their particular saints to see if there were any biographies written about them. 4 out of 5 ain’t bad, so 4 new classic books were added to the self too.
So join the club dear reader, and give Jennifer’s application a try. Don’t over-think this, just click it and open your door. Don’t forget how the apostles (after prayer) chose Matthias—they drew straws! Add the name of your patron that arrives on your doorstep in the comm box below, and I’ll see if I can find a book about them and I’ll add it to the YIMCatholic Bookshelf for you too.
Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…that’s what I’m singing now. Because the saints are Christian role models for us all.
Saints Be Praised!
Have you ever heard of Emily Hickey? Me either, at least not until just now. Born in 1845, she is a child of the Emerald Isle, an Irish lass born in 1845 into a family fathered by a Protestant Minister of the Church of Ireland.
But somehow she decided to swim the Tiber and she was received into the Catholic Church in 1901. Prior to doing so, her literary talents were well known in her day, her poems being published in literary journals and such.
I found her in the literary journal published by the Jesuits known as The Irish Monthly. After her conversion, she became a Catholic apologist, utilizing her literary gifts in the service of the King. Eventually, she took the habit and became a Camelite nun.
I promise to learn more about her and share with you what I find. In the meantime, have a look at this poem she wrote regarding the Holy Innocents, whose feast we celebrate today. Because often the best way to try to understand a paradox of this magnitude, is through the meditations of a muse.
To Irene at Childermas
Thanks we give to-day, Irene,
For the little darling babies,
Who gave up their lives for Jesus;
Ere their hearts had learned to love Him,
He, a little One, as they were,
He, the mighty King of Heaven,
Who had made the babes and loved them.
Out of mouths of babes and sucklings
God has ordered might most glorious.
He ordained these little babies
All to be His blessed martyrs.
He who lay on Mary’s bosom,
He who built the earth and heaven,
Made and loved the little babies.
Some were very sorely frightened
When they saw the cruel faces,
Felt the cruel hands that tore them
From the bosoms of their mothers,
From their sporting in the gardens,
From their pretty toys and playthings,
From the fairness and the sunshine.
Some laughed mirthful at the sword-edge
Flashing keen upon their eyeballs,
With the sun’s good light reflected,
Brightest, prettiest of playthings—
Stretched their little hands in rapture,
Kicked and crowed to reach the brightness,
Passed away without a struggle.
There was bitter wail and crying
Of the mothers there in Rama;
Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel, whom the touch of comfort
Could not reach, because they were not.
All the little dear boy-babies
Lying white and still, Irene!
Mary’s Baby was in safety,
Blessed Mary’s Child in Egypt,
Safe with Mary Maid and Joseph.
He could coo upon her bosom,
She could clasp Him in her rapture:
Holy One that God had sent her:
Other little babies murdered!
Why did He allow the babies,
Whom He loved so very dearly,
To be killed by cruel Herod?
He who could have saved the babies,
He who could have spared the mothers
All those bitter throes of anguish?
Why, ah, why, my little Rene?
Sweetest Jesus, kindest Jesus,
Came to earth to shew the babies
And the mothers, how He loved them.
Just because He loved all babies,
He allowed the sword to slay them!
Just because He loved all mothers,
He allowed these mothers’ sorrow!
For the Blessed Mary’s Baby
Must grow up to holy manhood;
Toil as men are daily toiling,
Suffer cold and pain and hunger,
Shame and spitting and betraying,
Die upon a Cross to save us:
Rise again to raise us also.
He has made His babies happy,
Darling little saints, who served Him
“Not by speaking, but by dying.”
He has crowned them with His fairness,
Made them happy, and for ever
Comforted the weeping mothers
With the fulness of His comfort.
Sweet! when Jesus whispers to you,
When He shows you how He loves you,
You will love Him too, Irene;
You will serve Him as He willeth;
You will know the great world holdeth
Nothing like the love of Jesus,
Nothing like the Heart of Jesus.
There is a killing that I won’t need to bring to my parish priests’ attention the next time I enter the confessional. I killed Santa Claus a little over a year ago in my own household, and I have absolutely no regrets about doing so either.
Because it had to be done, see? Like when Old Yeller saved the day and protected the family from a rabid wolf. [Read more...]
But maybe that’s just me…
Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, کریسمس مبارک, Selamat Hari Natal, חג מולד שמח, Boas Festas e Feliz Ano Novo, मेरी क्रिसमस, Maligayang Pasko, عيد ميلاد مجيد, Froehliche Weihnachten, 聖誕節快樂, Joyeux Noël, С Рождеством, Buone Feste Natalizie, 메리 크리스마스, Feliz Natal, メリークリスマス, Sawadee Pee Mai,
For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. (John 3:17)
Take me to that other place
I know I’m not a hopeless case
See the world in green and blue
Hyde Park, London stretched out in front of you
Dublin, Rome, Paris France
Philadelphia this is not romance
Moscow, Toronto, Tokyo
Africa we’re coming home
And see the bird with a leaf in her mouth
After the flood all the colors came out
It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Let’s make it a two-fer!
In the Name of Love.
Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Three simple, but profound words. Three words that appeal to all mankind. Catholic words are these, albeit with a small “c.” The impact that the Catholic Church, with a capital “C,” has had on the arts, though, is enormous.
The Church has unswervingly held that mankind, and the works of his hands, and mind, are to be praised and turned to the benefit of all. Because to do so redounds to the Glory of God. Since the earliest of times, the Church has encouraged sacred art for this purpose. This isn’t just my personal opinion either.
Just look in the Catechism,
VI. TRUTH, BEAUTY, AND SACRED ART
2500 The practice of goodness is accompanied by spontaneous spiritual joy and moral beauty. Likewise, truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself. Truth in words, the rational expression of the knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. Even before revealing himself to man in words of truth, God reveals himself to him through the universal language of creation, the work of his Word, of his wisdom: the order and harmony of the cosmos-which both the child and the scientist discover-”from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator,” “for the author of beauty created them.”
What follows is my Christmas gift to the readers of this blog. I didn’t make it, mold it, or shape it. I simply found it and wish to share it with you. In a way, it’s like when I picked dandelions and brought them to my mother when I was a child playing in a field. A worthless weed of a flower, and yet she always accepted it like I was handing her bars of gold.
In a sense, this is like a manifestation of the gifts that we bring to God, the creator of all that is seen and unseen. Worthless, and yet…priceless. After all, He became one of us in order to give us the opportunity to become like Him.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
This poem by Alexander Pope, a Catholic muse non pareil, embodies the three words I began this post with. Because the promised Babe that he writes of here, brought, and still brings, these three words to life, and into our lives. Thanks be to the LORD.
The Messiah – A Sacred Eclogue
Ye nymphs of Solyma! begin the song:
To heavenly themes sublimer strains belong.
The mossy fountains, and the sylvan shades,
The dreams of Pyndus, and th’ Aonian maids,
Delight no more—O Thou, my voice inspire
Who touch’d Isaiah’s hallow’d lips with fire!
Rapt into future times the bard begun:
A virgin shall conceive, a virgin bear a Son!
From Jesse’s root behold a Branch arise,
Whose sacred flower with fragrance fills the skies:
Th’ ethereal spirit o’er its leaves shall move,
And on its top descend the mystic dove,
Ye heavens! from high the dewy nectar pour,
And in soft silence shed the kindly show’r!
The sick and weak the healing plant shall aid,
From storms a shelter, and from heat a shade.
All crimes shall cease, and ancient fraud shall fail
Returning Justice lifts aloft her scale;
Peace o’er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heav’n descend.
Swift fly the years, and rise th’ expected morn!
O spring to light, auspicious Babe be born!
See, Nature hastes her earliest fruits to bring,
With all the incense of the breathing spring;
See lofty Lebanon his head advance,
See nodding forests in the mountains dance:
See spicy clouds from lowly Sharon rise,
And Carmel’s flowery top perfume the skies!
Hark! a glad voice the lonely desert cheers;
“Prepare the way! a God, a God appears!”
“A God, a God!” the vocal hills reply;
The rocks proclaim th’ approaching Deity.
Lo, Earth receives Him from the bending skies!
Sink down, ye mountains, and, ye valleys, rise!
With heads declined, ye cedars, homage pay!
Be smooth, ye rocks! ye rapid floods, give way!
The Savior comes, by ancient bards foretold:
Hear him, ye deaf; and, all ye blind, behold!
He from thick films shall purge the visual ray,
And on the sightless eye-ball pour the day:
‘Tis he th’ obstructed paths of sound shall clear,
And bid new music charm th’ unfolding ear:
The dumb shall sing, the lame his crutch forego,
And leap exulting like the bounding roe.
No sigh, no murmur, the wide world shall hear,
From every face he wipes off every tear.
In adamantine chains shall Death be bound,
And Hell’s grim tyrant feel th’ eternal wound.
As the good shepherd tends his fleecy care,
Seeks freshest pasture and the purest air,
Explores the lost, the wandering sheep directs,
By day o’ersees them, and by night protects;
The tender lambs he raises in his arms,
Feeds from his hands, and in his bosom warms;
Thus shall mankind His guardian care engage,
The promised father of the future age.
No more shall nation against nation rise,
Nor ardent warriors meet with hateful eyes,
Nor fields with gleaming steel be cover’d o’er,
The brazen trumpets kindle rage no more;
But useless lances into scythes shall bend,
And the broad falchion in a ploughshare end.
Then palaces shall rise; the joyful son
Shall finish what his short-lived sire begun;
Their vines a shadow to their race shall yield,
And the same hand that sow’d shall reap the field.
The swain in barren deserts with surprise
Sees lilies spring, and sudden verdure rise;
And starts amidst the thirsty wilds to hear
New falls of water murmuring in his ear.
On rifted rocks, the dragon’s late abodes,
The green reed trembles, and the bulrush nods.
Waste sandy valleys, once perplex’d with thorn,
The spiry fir and shapely box adorn;
To leafless shrubs the flowering palm succeeds,
And odorous myrtle to the noisome weeds.
The lambs with wolves shall graze the verdant mead,
And boys in flowery bands the tiger lead;
The steer and lion at one crib shall meet,
And harmless serpents lick the pilgrim’s feet.
The smiling infant in his hand shall take
The crested basilisk and speckled snake,
Pleased, the green lustre of the scales survey,
And with their forky tongue shall innocently play.
Rise, crown’d with light, imperial Salem, rise,
Exalt thy towery head, and lift thy eyes!
See a long race thy spacious courts adorn;
See future sons and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies!
See barbarous nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend!
See thy bright altars throng’d with prostrate kings,
And heap’d with products of Sabsean springs!
For thee Idumea’s spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir’s mountains glow.
See heaven its sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon thee in a flood of day.
No more the rising sun shall gild the morn,
Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn;
But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze
O’erflow thy courts: the Light himself shall shine
Reveal’d, and God’s eternal day be thine!
The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fix’d His word, His saving pow’r remains;—
Thy realm for ever lasts, thy own Messiah reigns.
I pray that you and yours have a Blessed Christmas. Amen.
Here is a late-breaking poem for the day. I stumbled upon it while combing through my favorite on-line library. There is all kinds of undiscovered treasure lurking in the books there. Just waiting for you to break out your torch and look around.
Ever feel like being a Catholic Christian is a battle? Sure you do, because we were never promised a rose garden, right? This poem may either scare you straight or help you see the light. Written by Louise Imogen Guiney, my inner (and outer) warrior read this and my compass headed to true north once again.
Louise was Catholic too, born in Boston and educated in a convent school in Rhode Island. I don’t know a lot about her, but the good folks over at Poetry Foundation have a decent biography on her. The editor there writes that,
Guiney is also praised for the posthumously published Recusant Poets (1939), an anthology of poetry by Catholic authors from the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries that she coedited with Geoffrey Bliss.
I’ll be looking to see if I can find that book shortly.
A man said unto his Angel:
“My spirits are fallen low,
And I cannot carry this battle:
O brother! where might I go?
“The terrible Kings are on me
With spears that are deadly bright;
Against me so from the cradle
Do fate and my fathers fight.”
Then said to the man his Angel:
“Thou wavering, witless soul,
Back to the ranks! What matter
To win or to lose the whole,
“As judged by the little judges
Who hearken not well, nor see?
Not thus, by the outer issue,
The Wise shall interpret thee.
“Thy will is the sovereign measure
And only events of things:
The puniest heart, defying,
Were stronger than all these Kings.
“Though out of the past they gather,
Mind’s Doubt, and Bodily Pain,
And pallid Thirst of the Spirit
That is kin to the other twain,
“And Grief, in a cloud of banners,
And ringletted Vain Desires,
And Vice, with the spoils upon him
Of thee and thy beaten sires, —
“While Kings of eternal evil
Yet darken the hills about,
Thy part is with broken sabre
To rise on the last redoubt;
“To fear not sensible failure,
Nor covet the game at all,
But fighting, fighting, fighting,
Die, driven against the wall.”