For Stories Like This On St. Patrick’s Day

This is a strange St. Patrick’s Day for me. That’s because my children are on Spring break, and as such, they are out of school. I don’t ever remember being not “in school” on St. Patrick’s Day.

My mother’s father was born in Ireland (and he was a Catholic too)so there is definitely Irish blood coursing through my veins. But he died when I was very young, and I never got to hear him tell stories of his home country.

I wasn’t raised Catholic, so instead of learning about the actual bishop named Patrick, I learned about leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, and the luck of the Irish. As a result, much of St. Patrick’s story has been lost to me.

Remember my list of resources I shared on Catholic Media Promotion Day? Running by New Advent, I saw they had posted the Catholic Encyclopedia citation for St. Patrick. And that is where I found the following charming story.

St. Patrick Converts Ethne and Fedelm, Daughters of the King of Connaught

On the occasion of his first visit to Rathcrogan, the royal seat of the kings of Connaught, situated near Tulsk, in the County of Roscommon, a remarkable incident occurred, recorded in many of the authentic narratives of the saint’s life. Close by the clear fountain of Clebach, not far from the royal abode, Patrick and his venerable companions had pitched their tents and at early dawn were chanting the praises of the Most High, when the two daughters of the Irish monarch — Ethne, the fair, and Fedelm, the ruddy — came thither, as was their wont, to bathe. Astonished at the vision that presented itself to them, the royal maidens cried out:

“Who are ye, and whence do ye come? Are ye phantoms, or fairies, or friendly mortals?”

St. Patrick said to them: “It were better you would adore and worship the one true God, whom we announce to you, than that you would satisfy your curiosity by such vain questions.”

And then Ethne broke forth into the questions:

“Who is God?”
“And where is God?”
“Where is His dwelling?”
“Has He sons and daughters?”
“Is He rich in silver and gold?”
“Is He everlasting? is He beautiful?”
“Are His daughters dear and lovely to the men of this world?”
“Is He on the heavens or on earth?”
“In the sea, in rivers, in mountains, in valleys?”
“Make Him known to us. How is He to be seen?”
“How is He to be loved? How is He to be found?”
“Is it in youth or is it in old age that He may be found?”

But St. Patrick, filled with the Holy Ghost, made answer:

“God, whom we announce to you, is the Ruler of all things.”
“The God of heaven and earth, of the sea and the rivers.”
“The God of the sun, and the moon, and all the stars.”
“The God of the high mountains and of the low-lying valleys.”
“The God who is above heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven.”
“His dwelling is in heaven and earth, and the sea, and all therein.”
“He gives breath to all.”
“He gives life to all.”
“He is over all.”
“He upholds all.”
“He gives light to the sun.”
“He imparts splendour to the moon.”
“He has made wells in the dry land, and islands in the ocean.”
“He has appointed the stars to serve the greater lights.”
“His Son is co-eternal and co-equal with Himself.”
“The Son is not younger than the Father.”
“And the Father is not older than the Son.”
“And the Holy Ghost proceeds from them.”
“The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost are undivided.”
“But I desire by Faith to unite you to the Heavenly King, as you are daughters of an earthly king.”

The maidens, as if with one voice and one heart, said: “Teach us most carefully how we may believe in the Heavenly King; show us how we may behold Him face to face, and we will do whatsoever you shall say to us.”

And when he had instructed them he said to them: “Do you believe that by baptism you put off the sin inherited from the first parents.”

They answered: “We believe.”

“Do you believe in penance after sin?”

“We believe.”

“Do you believe in life after death?” Do you believe in resurrection on the Day of Judgement?”

“We believe.”

“Do you believe in the unity of the Church?”

“We believe.”

Then they were baptized, and were clothed in white garments. And they besought that they might behold the face of Christ. And the saint said to them: “You cannot see the face of Christ unless you taste death, and unless you receive the Sacrifice.” They answered: “Give us the Sacrifice, so that we may be able to behold our Spouse.” And the ancient narrative adds: “when they received the Eucharist of God, they slept in death, and they were placed upon a couch, arrayed in their white baptismal robes.”

Read more about the actual St. Patrick. Visit the cathedral’s website too. Come on, there is a virtual tour, at no additional charge.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Armagh, Ulster

Lent (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Lent, 

by Fr. Frederick William Faber

Yes! I have walked the world these two months
past With quick free step, loud voice, and youth’s light
cheer; And dull and weary were the shadows cast
From the dark Cross and Lent’s dim portals near.
Yes! I rode up with such a noisy state
And retinue of all things bright and fair,
And reached in this new pilgrim guise the gate,
As though my dreams might have free passage there.
Dreams of far travel, visionary love,
Hopes, memories, sweet songs, and sunny faces,
Cheering each other on, with me did move
Some way on Lent’s keen roads and desert places.
And many a pilgrim wending o’er the plain,
With face half-veiled and tear-drops flowing fast,
Marvelled perchance at that unsightly train,
When I and my strange servitors rode past.
But every stone that lay along the way,
Wounding the feet of those who travelled by,
Each sleety shower, chill blast, and cloudy day,
Scattered my poor soft-living company.
Thus as my spirit more and more drank in
The deep mysterious dimness of the time,
Old forms waxed pale, and lines and shapes of sin
Wore hardly off, and my baptismal prime
Grew into colour and distinctness’ there; —
But my blythe train and equipage were gone,
The songs and sunny smiles; my heart was bare,
With Lent all darkening round me, and alone.
O joy of all our joys! to be bereft
Of our false power to make the world so dear!
O joy of all our joys! to be thus left
In our wild years, with none but Jesus near!
How sweetly then shall Lent’s few Sundays shock
The sadness which itself hath now grown sweet,
Like the soft striking of an old church-clock,
Making the heart of summer midnight beat.
How sweetly now shall this most holy gloom
Gather and double on my chastened heart,
Circling with dark bright folds the Garden-Tomb,
Where Lent and I, like Christian friends, shall part.

I’m the Worst Consumer of Catholic Media On the Planet (Forgive Me!)

I love Catholic Media! Especially that which is accessible via the Internet. Searching for kindred spirits is what brought me to the world of blogging in the first place. But honestly, I don’t have enough time to enjoy as much Catholic Media as I would like. After all, if I just consumed Catholic Media, I would never create any for you to consume.

Look at what time I am posting this, for example. It is almost 2130, which is 9:30 PM for all you civilians out there.

My excuse is the same one it has always been: I’m a Catholic, a husband, a dad, an employee, and THEN I am a Catholic blogger too. Sometimes, after all of that, I even get to eat and sleep. Did I mention that I just got home from my oldest son’s baseball double-header? Actually, it’s something of a miracle that I get to post anything at all.

But since it is Catholic Media Promotion Day, I’ll first thank everyone who chose Why I Am Catholic as one of your favorites. Thank you kindly! Sure, it’s presumptuous to assume anyone did actually chose us as one of their favorites, but you never know. It just might have happened.

Listen! I even lent my voice to this promo clip! See if you can pick out my voice.

As always, let me be frank (pun, very much intended) with you even further in stating that there is no way in hell that I have the time to listen to podcasts, or even to download them. Not gonna do it, wouldn’t be prudent! But here are my favorite sites and blogs that I use or actually read pretty much on a daily basis. And yeah, I’m breaking the rules and sharing more than three. Oops!

Universalis, the LOTH

The Deacon’s Bench, Deacon Greg Kandra

Catholic and Enjoying It, Mark Shea

Chronicles of Atlantis, Athos

BadCatholic, Marc Barnes (aka, “The Kid”)

Happy Catholic, Julie Davis

The Anchoress, Elizabeth Scalia

New Advent

Patheos Catholic Portal

CatholicJukebox.com

and would you believe,

the YIMCatholic Bookshelf? I’m always using that resource.

Now, I need a beer and to go to bed…Pax!

For All the Saints: Louise de Marillac

Earlier this morning, I posted a book review in which the author states that one of his problems with the Catholic Church is that it treats women like second-class citizens. Well, surprise! The LORD works in mysterious ways. 

And although the word mystery is an irritant to some, including the author of that particular book, today’s feast of St. Louise de Marillac is “Exhibit A” in the refutation of that preposterous idea. I don’t think it is a coincidence that today is her feast day.

Now I will be the first to admit that I don’t know about every saint under the sun. But I don’t let that stop me from finding out more. And as it turns out, Louise is the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. You may have heard of them. And get this, she did it pretty much on her own, of course, with the blessings of a few saintly priests you may have heard of, not to mention the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I wonder what Ayn Rand thought of the achievements of folks like Louise and her adopted sisters?

I’ll share with you the charming, and fascinating, story on this great woman of the Church from a write up which was published in the August 1920 edition of Catholic Missions magazine. Take a look,

Louise de Marillac, widow Le Gras, was the foundress of the religious society known as the Sisters of Charity. She was beatified last June. There are many branches of the original Sisterhood and the habits vary, but all sprang from the parent tree planted in 1633 by St. Vincent (de Paul) and Louise de Marillac. Another of this holy woman’s early spiritual directors was St. Francis de Sales, so that she had an intimate knowledge of the ways of saints.

On June 6, 1919, in the consistorial chamber of the Vatican, three decrees of beatification and canonization were read. The second of these concerned the beatification of the Venerable Louise de Marillac, in the world called the widow Le Gras, who founded the Society of the Sisters of Charity, also known and loved as the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul.

The Sisters of Charity are especially honored in mission countries because a large part of their activities are in behalf of unfortunate pagans whom, in great numbers, they have led by kind ministration into the Church.

It was at a troublous period of French history, when civil wars and countless feuds were dividing the country that this child of destiny first saw the light. She was the daughter of Louis de Marillac, who himself was the brother of two men destined to most tragic fates in the years to come.

One, the Chancellor Michel de Marillac, was celebrated, as the author of the great compilation of laws called the “Michau Code.” The other, Marshal de Marillac, was famous in France
for taking part against Cardinal Richelieu, in favor of Marie de Medicis.

The father of Louise was also noted for high intellectual qualities as well as for nobility of character. The girl was not destined, however, to enjoy the love of her parents for many years. Her mother died when she was a small child and her father when she was about fifteen.
At twenty-two Louise was a maiden showing plainly that she possessed rare gifts of heart and mind. Her education was advanced for the Period for besides the usual studies pursued by young ladies, she had a knowledge of Latin and philosophy, and could paint with skill.

In 1613, in the church of St. Gervais, Louise became the wife of Antoine Le Gras, one of Marie de Medicis’ secretaries. A son born of this marriage later became Counsellor of the King. The married life of Louise lasted only twelve years. At the age of thirty-four she became a widow and took a vow never to marry again.

At this period she had the advantage of some very remarkable spiritual directors. First among these was Mgr. le Camus, Bishop of Belley; later she placed herself under St. Francis de Sales. Then she came into communication with the holy St. Vincent de Paul, with the result that she decided to devote the remainder of her life entirely to works of charity and piety.

The decree concerning the cause of beatification thus speaks of this event:

From the day when the venerable servant of God, Louise de Marillac, widow Le Gras. encountered this man of preeminent piety, known as Vincent de Paul, and chose him for the director and judge of her conscience, ther.e was established between the two souls a union that time could not dissolve. During the thirtyeight last years of her life the Venerable Louise remained faithfully attached to Vincent de Paul and allowed herself to be guided and governed by him whom the designs of divine Wisdom had sent to be her master and guide.

It is impossible to cite here the numberless good works performed by Louise de Marillac, suffice it to speak only of the foundation of the Society of the Sisters of Charity. St. Vincent had instituted in a number of parishes associations of pious women whose duty it was to visit and care for the sick. Louise de Marillac was given the supervision of these bands, and much charity was dispensed, but as they were composed of ladies living in the world they were not as fruitful as St. Vincent and his auxiliary desired.

It was therefore decided to recruit a number of young girls who would consecrate themselves exclusively to the service of the poor out of love for their Divine Master. The first to offer herself was a little shepherdess; others soon followed, and in November, 1633, the foundress had a little community of four beside herself to whom she gave a rule of life. Two years later she herself took a solemn vow to consecrate herself to the service of the poor. Thus was brought into existence that wonderful organization known throughout the world as the Sisters of Charity.

At the beginning of the present century the various communities counted 2,658 nuns, who cared for 37,714 children in schools and orphanages and who had charge in hospitals of more than a million sick and infirm. It is the ministration of the Sisters in the missions that concerns us most directly, and while these nuns always performed a valuable work in the stations to which they were appointed, since the war, on account of the increase in poverty and human misery, their hospitals, schools and orphanages are more crowded than ever.

Rescue work among the abandoned babies of China is an important branch of their propaganda. It has been stated that at the beginning of the century the Sisters of this association numbered 2,658. But since then it has increased its members by leaps and bounds. In 1919 there were in the missions alone 1,435 Sisters, of whom 939 were Europeans and 496 native women. In the districts confided to the Lazarists, in which these Sisters are most numerous. 3,411,427 persons were treated in hospitals, 6,567 orphans were sheltered, 1,081 aged men and women
given a home, and 400 lepers’ received physical and spiritual care.

These figures relate only to the missions. What a splendid showing must be made every year in the great cities of the world, where the daughters of St. Vincent de Paul are engaged in every variety of charitable ministration!

It was in February, 1660, that Louise de Marillac was seized with the illness that was to prove fatal. The malady was a violent fever increasing so rapidly that within a few days, her condition was considered serious and she was given the Last Sacraments. After this she revived wonderfully and lived a month in comparative ease. But in March the fever again attacked her and on the fifteenth of the month she was prepared for death, and immediately rendered her soul to her Maker.

Her venerable director, St. Vincent de Paul was not with the foundress of his Order during her last moments on earth, as he himself, then in his eighty-fifth year, was lying on a bed of pain. In fact, he lived only six months longer than Louise de Marillac.

In June, 1895, exactly two hundred and thirty-five years after the death of this holy religious, Pope Leo XIII signed the introduction of The Cause of Beatification and canonization of the venerable servant of God, Louise de Marillac, widow Le Gras. The solemn ceremony of beatification took place in Rome, Sunday, May g, 1920.

Such events are always most bsautiful and most impressive. On this occasion St. Peter’s was splendidly decorated. Over the altar hung a portrait of the Venerable Louise heavily veiled. Several – cardinals, two hundred bishops, the dignitaries of the pontifical court, the Superior General of the Lazarists, and the Mother General of the Sisters of Charity, assisted at the services.

After the mass the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites read the brief of beatification, and then the veil was withdrawn and the portrait of Blessed Louise appeared in all its glory.
Immediately the bells of St. Peter’s burst into a clarion of joyful sound announcing to Rome that another great one of the Faith had received the honors of the Church.

St. Louise de Marillac, pray for us.

The saint is entombed at the
Chapel of the Miraculous Medal in
Paris, France

A View from the Back Pew (A Book Review)

As long-time readers of this blog know, we like books around here. It all started when Webster Bull kicked off the YIMC Book Club with 9 weeks of posts for the 9 chapters in G.K. Chesterton’s classic, Orthodoxy.

Then I followed up with 9 weeks of posts on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, as well as a later series of weekly posts on Hilaire Belloc’s The Great Heresies. Those books were all worthy of selections by a blog that makes attempting to answer the statement Why I Am Catholic as it’s raison d’être.

Then a funny thing happened. I wrote a post on how I realized reading The Rule of St. Benedict was helping me be a better father. Next thing I know, Fr. Dwight Longenecker makes me an offer I couldn’t refuse by sending me a free copy of his book, Listen My Son: St. Benedict for Fathers in return for reviewing it in this space. Since the Rule itself is so good, I figured Fr. Dwight could only make it better. So I happily agreed.

Some time passed and Eric Sammons, who blogs at The Divine Life asked me to do the same thing for him, and on the same terms. One free book (Who Is Jesus Christ?) in return for a review. I was happy for the opportunity to read his book, having read of his progress on his blog. Did you see his interview with Fr. Groeschel? It’s “must-see TV.” By the way, Eric? Get a haircut!

Right about now, the opportunist (or the skeptic) in you is thinking “free book = great review with Frank Weathers over at YIMCatholic. Let’s send him something!”

Well that might not be a bad idea, as long as your work is faithful to the Magisterium. For the non-Catholics who may stumble upon this review today, that is a neat word that means “the teaching authority of the Church.” If you would like a more in-depth discussion of this authority, head on over to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Anyway, the folks over at TLC Book Tours made me the same offer that Fr. Dwight and Eric Sammons made me. They sent me a free copy of A View from the Back Pew: God, Religion, & Our Personal Quest for Truth in return for a review.

For all of the books I mentioned above, this was more than a fair trade. That’s because I gained far more from reading all of those books than I paid for in the labor on writing the posts following their chapters, or on writing the reviews. Unfortunately, I can’t say that in the case this time around.

The author, Tim O’Donnell, according to the back cover of the copy I was sent,

takes us on a powerful search for balance—between faith and personal experience, between the roots of Christianity and later layers of doctrine, and between systems of belief and a direct connection to the spiritual presence we call God.

And so my labor began. The first 103 pages (out of a total of 280) drew me through Mr. O’Donnell’s experiences growing up in Catholic schools, where it seems he had more interest in being a cut-up and class appointed pain in the rear (we have that in common, at least) than in actually learning about the faith. There were also some sophomoric school hi-jinks shared, an episode of running away from home, and Tim’s year abroad to Rome while in college, all jammed into these first 100 pages.

Now, I’m not a product of Catholic schools, so his experience reads like another stereotype of mean nuns who wouldn’t answer all of his questions about the faith to his satisfaction. No big deal though, because when you become an adult, and start questioning your faith, you’ll be able to mine the vast resources available to you and answer these questions more to your satisfaction. Except that is not how it turns out for Mr. O’Donnell.

No. Instead, while in Rome, he has an experience that leads him to believe that organized religion is a waste of time. It doesn’t happen all at once, but that is where it eventually leads. After all, God is so much bigger than the Church. And though I agree with that statement, the fact that Jesus started the Church and entrusted St. Peter and his successors with spreading the Gospel and building His Church up is relegated to not much more than being “perhaps the most powerful and wealthy private institution the world has ever known.” Huh? Not much more than a country club for the elite? Sheesh!

On page 103 (Chapter 7) we learn of “the Deal.” This is where Mr. O’Donnell describes the sure knowledge that he will be taken care of by God, made wealthy by Him, in exchange for him bringing the knowledge he has discovered about the true nature of God to the good folks like us. It goes something like this: “I will make you rich, while you’re young, so you can retire early and spread this good news.” Neat, huh? Sometimes while laboring through this book, I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t reading something written by the self-help guru Anthony Robbins.

To be charitable, Mr. O’Donnell has hit upon the importance of people needing to ask questions about their faith. But unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to me that he went very much farther than his own opinion to find many of the answers. By page 113 of the book, I knew where this was heading. Throughout the book, the author makes a few references to the Catechism, and to a few passages from the Gospels. But not many. And not near enough to buttress his arguments.

Besides, by page 129 he is already “questioning” how the Trinity can be true. The Holy Spirit? Redundant. Later he questions why certain books were left out of the New Testament, like the Gnostic gospels that he quotes liberally later. The Kingdom of Heaven? Mr. O’Donnell has his own idea about that. The Our Father? Mr. O’Donnell show us the way we should really pray that prayer. And then the usual bromides about how the Church won’t let women be priests, and how badly the Church treats women, how celibacy is a pretty bad idea, the difficulty in believing Mary was a virgin, or stayed a virgin, etc. It’s pretty much the run-of-the mill list of “silly Catholic stuff” you’ve already read elsewhere. As for the Church being the “bulwark of Truth?” Fegettaboutit!

It took me but a short while to realize that I was reading the work of someone who, sadly, had dropped deeply into the pit of self-made ideas that are best described by one strong word: heresy. At this point, I was just glad I had read Belloc’s The Great Heresies before being asked to review this book. Because although Mr. O’Donnell states that he “did not become a modern-day Gnostic, or anything like that,” I can only say that it appears to me that he is exactly that. Read about the Albigensian Attack and you will understand what I encountered in Mr. O’Donnell’s book.

And so ends my first book review in which I state flatly that this book should be avoided. And that isn’t because Mr. O’Donnell questioned doctrines and found them wanting. It’s because he questioned the doctrines and then failed to find the answers explaining them. As I was reading this book I kept thinking,  where are the Church Fathers? Where are the writings of the Doctors of the Church? Wither the Saints? When he states that women are second-class citizens in the Catholic Church I wonder, where is St. Catherine of Siena,  or St. Teresa of Avila, and The Little Flower?

One of Mr. O’Donnell’s main arguments against the Church here is that she just doesn’t change, or evolve. Which is ridiculous on it’s face because of course she does! That is why Catholicism can’t be “taken up in a tea cup,” as the saint who wrote at length about her development stated so wisely.

The sad fact about this book is that by looking only inward, Mr. O’Donnell has missed so very much. The good news is, he still has a chance to find the rest of the forest if he applies himself to the task. My hope for him is that he climbs down from his own tree to do just that.

Because There Is Good News

You have heard it said, “it is always darkest before the dawn,” and you have nodded your head in agreement. At least those of you who have ever camped out know this to be true, right?

These have been dark days for our Church. Scandals, parishes and schools closing, doom and gloom, etc. But it is not always so, and no single one of us can see the “big picture.”

Jacques Maritain, writing in 1966 said,

Everything depends on the unforseeable ways of God and his secret graces, together with human liberty, comprised as it is in his eternal plan. What is certain is that the Church will emerge from this crises wonderfully purified; error will not have got the better of her.

So let me share a little good news from the local newspaper in my town. It is about the director of the RCIA program in my parish. Her name is Tanya Belanger and here is her story,

“I grew up knowing a few things: I knew that the Catholic Church was the world’s biggest cult, I knew that the Pope was the anti-Christ, and that Catholic people were non-Christian,” says Tanya Belanger.

Belanger now heads the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults faith formation program at All Saints Catholic Church in West Knoxville.

The program is designed to teach adults interested in Catholicism about the church through weekly Monday night meetings hosted in part by laypeople who want to share their faith. The current program has about 55 people attending classes, Belanger says, explaining one of the common motivators for attendance is having a family member who’s Catholic.

RCIA programs have been a part of the Catholic Church since its formation but, as Belanger explains, it “fell out of favor” for many years until the Second Vatican Counsel brought it back to the Church around 1980.

And it’s through the program that Belanger not only became a part of the Catholic Church, but ultimately ended up in charge of it.

You’ll want to read the rest here.

Because A Reader Asks A Question I Cannot Answer

Dear Readers: The post “God Takes Care of Little Ones with Guardian Angels” from last spring is the most widely read of all the posts on our site. Yesterday, a reader asked a question I (Allison)  have not been able to answer, despite struggling overnight with it. I’m republishing my post, along with her question in the hopes that someone with more wisdom than I can answer.

Victoria asks: I am of the “Angel of God…” generation. I still pray to my guardian angel but the idea of a guardian angel is probably the one thing in Church teaching that I have a problem with. I can accept that there are angels because they are in the bible but if they are guardians, where are/were they when little children are being sexually abused? I would really like an answer to this one.

The original post is here.

For Your Lenten Friday Night at the Movies

I had this idea last year to feature movies on Friday nights during Lent. I wrote posts as if I were the co-pilot of a plane flying passengers for YIMCatholic airlines. Remember those?

Well this year I’m not the co-pilot any more. But I still want to share movies with you during Lent. I’ve got a neat collection of films for us this season starting with one of my all-time favorites (as long time readers know well). Kenneth Branagh’s version of William Shakespeare’s Henry V.

A long time ago, when England was still Catholic, there was a great king. The Hundred Years War lasted, ahem, a long time. The Battle of Agincourt was a miracle (for the British). And simply the “Best. Speech. Ever.” is right here too!

What’s for dinner tonight? Pescado el Horno, of course. And after dinner,  if you haven’t given up popcorn for Lent, you can enjoy that along with the movie. Here is a taste,

YouTube Preview Image

By order of the king, get thee to the video store, a library, or Netflix!

Because “Atlas Shrugged” is not “the Sermon on the Mount”

On this second day of Lent, I have a couple of videos to share with you. The first is from an interview Ayn Rand did with Mike Wallace back in the days when networks were few.

Ayn Rand, the author, novelist, and philosopher, answers the kinds of tough questions that journalists used to be able to ask, back when the networks were an oligopoly. [Read more...]

Because Yes, You Can Go Without Food For A Day (Or Two)

The Season of Lent has begun and Catholics are required to fast today (Ash Wednesday) as well as on Good Friday. We are, however, allowed to break the Lenten fasts on Sundays throughout the season. And you don’t have to fast if you are ill, nursing, below 10 years old, etc.

So although 40 days of sacrifice seems like a lot, fasting from food for only two days is a walk in the park compared to what the saints listed below did. Because I found the following examples of saints who survived for long periods of time on the Eucharist…alone.

These accounts are from an old book published in 1894 called, A Dictionary of Miracles: Imitative, Realistic, and Dogmatic. Though not an exhaustive list (St. Catherine of Siena is missing, for example), it may help you put to bed the notion that you personally cannot fast for the required two days that we are obligated to adhere to for Lent, not to mention simply refraining from eating meat on Fridays.

My Flesh is Meat indeed, and My Blood is Drink indeed.

John vi. 48-55: Jesus said, I am the bread of life. A man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.

John vi. 35: Jesus said to the people, “I am the bread of life. He that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.”

John iv. 13, 14. Jesus said unto the woman of Samaria, “Whosoever drinketh of the water of this well shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.

And now for some miraculous examples:

St. Catherine Fieschi of Genoa supported by the Eucharist (a.d. 1447-1510). All through Advent and all through Lent, Catherine Fieschi took no food at all except that administered to her in the mass. In fact, for twenty-three years, from St. Martin’s Day (Nov. 11) to Christmas Day, and from Quinquagesima Sunday to Easter Day, she took no food except “this heavenly manna,” administered to her daily, and her only drink was a glass of water mixed with vinegar and salt.

If ever she attempted to swallow any other food or drink, her stomach rejected it. Sometimes she made great efforts to retain what she had thus swallowed, especially before her confessor, but in these cases her efforts were followed by alarming illness, almost to the verge of death.—Acta Sanctorum, Sept. 14.

St. Gerasimus, a recluse of Palestine, ate nothing but the bread given him in the Eucharist all Lent (a.d. 475). St. Gerasimus was noted for his extraordinary abstinence. He fasted always all Lent, taking no nourishment of any kind, except the eulogie or sacred bread administered to him in the Eucharist.—Lives of the Fathers of the Eastern Deserts.

Remember my friendly flying saint?

St. Joseph of Cupertino

St. Joseph of Cupertino lived for five years on the Eucharist only (a.d. 1603-1663).

St. Joseph of Cupertino lived five years without eating, and fifteen years “without drinking. In these long abstinences, he was sustained by the eulogie, which was administered to him daily. It was often noticed that before the sacrament he looked pale and haggard, weary and spiritless; but when he left the altar he was brisk, animated, and full of vigour.

The body of Christ was food indeed, and the blood of Christ was drink indeed. On one occasion the superior insisted on his taking a little food; he took it in obedience to the superior, but the moment he swallowed it, his stomach rejected it again.—Dominic Bernini, Life of St. Joseph of Cupertino.

St. Nicholas de Flue for twenty years ate and drank nothing but the Eucharist (a.d. 1417-1487).

This must be given in the ipsissima verba of John de Muller himself, Protestant historian of the Swiss Confederation: “Nicolas de Flue, during the twenty years he lived [in Ranft], took no other food or drink other than the Holy Eucharist he received every month. This was done by the grace of Almighty God who created from nothing the heavens and the earth, and can keep them as he pleases. This miracle was examined during his life, and is proven “to posterity, by his contemporaries, and held undisputed”(1487).—John de Muller, Histoire de la Suisse, vol. v. p. 248.

Oswald Isner, cure at Kerns, writes in 1447: “When Father Nicholas began his life of total abstinence, and had reached the eleventh day, he sent for me and asked me privately if he should take food or continue to abstain. He wished to live wholly without food, that he might more sever himself from the world. I felt his members, and found only skin and bone; all the flesh was dried up entirely, the checks were hollow, and the lips wonderfully thin.

St. Nicholas de Flue

I told him to persevere as long as he could without endangering life. For if God had sustained him for eleven days, He could sustain him eleven years. Nicholas followed my advice; and from that moment to the day of his death, a period of twenty and a half years, he took no sort of food, and drank nothing. As he was more familiar with me than with any other person, I often spoke to him on the subject. He told me he received the sacrament once a month, and felt that the body and blood of Christ communicated vital force which served him for meat and drink. Otherwise he could not sustain life without nourishment.

The magistrates, wishing to verify the fact, sent guards for an entire month to surround the retreat of the saint both night and day, to see that no one brought him food. The prince-bishop of Constance sent his suffragan, the bishop of Ascalom, with strict orders to unmask the imposture, if he could detect any. The suffragan took up his abode in a chapel adjoining the cell of Nicholas, And entering the cell, asked him, “What is the first duty of a Christian?”

“Obedience,” said Nicholas. “If obedience is the first duty of a Christian. I command you to eat these pieces of bread, and to drink this wine,” said the bishop. Nicholas besought the bishop not to insist on this order, but the bishop would not give way. Nicholas was obliged to obey; but the moment he swallowed a mouthful of bread, his agony was so great, that the bishop pressed him no longer, and said he only wished to prove whether Nicholas was possessed with a devil; but his obedience had shown him to be a child of grace.

The Archduke Sigismond of Austria sent the royal physician Burcard von Hornek. to examine into the case, and he remained in the cell several days and nights. The Emperor Fredrick III, sent delegations to search into it, but one and all confessed it was a real fact, wholly without delusion.’

Nicholas took part in the service of the parish church every Sunday, and in the great annual procession at Lucerne and he tried to be as little different from other men as possible.

St. Sabis and his Armenian disciples live on the Eucharist (a.d. 480-531).

St. Sabas and several Armenians retired to a desert, where they lived in what is called a laura—that is, a number of separate huts—but every Saturday and Sunday they met in a common oratory. All Lent they lived in the desert in absolute solitude till Palm Sunday, without seeing a soul, or taking any food except the Eucharist, which they received twice a week.—Father Giry, St. Sabast etc.

“Meat indeed”

St. Silvinus, bishop of Regionnaire, lived for forty years on the Eucharist (a.d. 718).

St. Silvinus was noted for his austerities, and for forty years ate no bread except that which he received in the Eucharist. Sometimes he took a few herbs or a little fruit. He never slept in a bed, but always on the bare ground, wholly without covering, even in winter. He treated his body as a slave, surrounded it with bands of iron, macerated it with scourges, and carried enormous stones, which he deposited as a trophy before the doors of the basilica of St. Peter.
—Bollandus, Acta Sanctorum, Feb. 17, p. 23.

Grace of Valencia used to live all Lent on the Eucharist only (a.d. 1494-16U6).

For seven years Grace of Valencia drank nothing, not even one drop of water; this was before she entered the order of St. Francis of Paula; and for the last twenty-one years of her life, she abstained wholly from drink of any kind. She often went four or five days on “angels’ food;” that is, the eulogie, or sacred bread of the Eucharist.—K. P. d’Attichy, Jitstoire Generate de I’Ordre des Freres Mincurs,

Miscellaneous examples of saints going for long periods on the strength afforded by the Eucharist.

Father Sebastian of Perouse says, in his Life of Colomba of Riett, “The holy Eucharist was well-nigh her only food; but this sacred bread sustained her forces and her courage.”

Elizabeth of Waldsech, In Suabia (a.d. 138G-1420). Her biographer says that Elizabeth of Waldsech often lived a whole day on the bread she received in the Holy Sacrament.

John The Good Of Mantua (a.d. 1222). John the Good of Mantua fasted from Easter to Pentecost; the days prescribed by the Church before Easter and before Christmas; besides every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the year. On the first of these fasts, between Easter and Pentecost, he took no food except that supplied in the Holy Communion. On Ash Wednesday he took three ounces of bread, which lasted him for three days. On the Christmas fastdays, his daily allowance of food was three beans. His weekly fasts were restricted to bread and water. He never touched meat from year’s end to year’s end.—Histoire des Homines Illustres de tOrdre des Ermites de St. Augustin.

St. Rita of Cascia

Marianne De Jesus(a.d. 1645). Marianne at first restricted her diet to bread, fruit, and vegetables; she then gave up the bread, and at last confined herself to the eulogie or sacred bread as her only food. “This,” says her biographer, “is by no means unusual in the lives of saints. Her drink was a glass of water at noon, but later in life she dropped this luxury, and suffered dreadful thirst. On one occasion a cup of water was brought her; she raised it to her feverish lips, and then suddenly put the cup down without touching a drop. She entreated to be allowed to serve the table at the daily meals, that she might mortify her flesh by seeing and handling food without touching a morsel.” — Las Betits Bollandistes, vol. vi. p. 232.

Rita of Cascia (a.d. 1456) took scarcely any nourishment, and the sisters of the convent always believed it was the Holy Eucharist which supplied material aliment to her.—Augustin Cavalucci, Life of the Beatified Rita de Cascia.

St. Manutius of Bayeux (a.d. 480). For forty-seven days before his death the only aliment taken by Manutiua of Bayeux was the Holy Eucharist. He died May 28, A.D. 480.—Propre de Bayeux.

St. Mary Frances of the Five Wounds (a.d. 1715-1791). This was the name taken by Anna Maria Rosa Nicoletta of Naples when she joined the Society of St. Francis d’Assisi. She was a great invalid, and lived for some considerable time on the eulogie or sacred bread alone. —R. P. Bernard Laviosa, Life of Mary Frances.


It’s not too late to skip your supper.


Update: Taylor Marshall has all the official rules on fasting and abstinence.

St. Mary Frances of
the Five Wounds


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