Che what?! Whew! That’s just Stephen Colbert, doing that thing he does so well. I was worried there for a second. [Read more...]
Views of a new Catholic in an old world on the joy and inexhaustible meaning found in the Faith
Che what?! Whew! That’s just Stephen Colbert, doing that thing he does so well. I was worried there for a second. [Read more...]
“It’s just an exhilarating feeling, when you’re like Lazarus and come back from the dead.” —Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals
It’s St. Crispin’s Day! Which means it’s time for my favorite speech penned by William Shakespeare. See, the Battle of Agincourt occurred on the Feast of Sts. Crispin and Crispinian, which back before I was Catholic I would only have known this day as October 25th. But I knew about the Battle of Agincourt because it is renowned as an almost miraculous victory of a small English army, a long way from home, over a vastly superior French one (on it’s home turf) on this day in the Year of Our Lord, 1415. [Read more...]
Well, I don’t actually know him, but I met him today. Who am I talking about? Father Jack Collins, CSP of course. Old hands around here know that during my lunch hour, I usually go to Mass at the parish located downtown about a 10 minute walk from my office. [Read more...]
I became a Catholic when I was confirmed at the Easter Vigil in the year of Our Lord, 2008. I was baptized, though, when I was 10 years old in a Non-denominational Christian church located in my hometown. With my family, I attended regularly (pretty much if church was open, we were there!) until I graduated from high school and joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17. [Read more...]
When Christmas loomed in our house though, my mom knew what I was interested in and what presents to get me: military history books. Ships, planes, tanks, armies, navies and air forces were her sure-fire ticket to success for Frank. In one of those books I learned about the Andrea Doria.
Now, though, I know better.
To me, though, the most interesting part of this war story is that while preparing for the battle, Admiral Dorea went down to his quarters and prayed in front of a reproduction of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may recall that image appeared on a certain Mexican peasants tilma in the year 1531. And,
Andrea Doria had kept a copy of the miraculous image of our Our Lady of Guadalupe given to him by King Philip II of Spain in his ship’s state room.
After this prayer break, the wind turned in favor of the Christian allies, giving them advantages, the much sought after weather guage, which was detrimental to the Ottoman forces. As a result, the undermanned, but heavily armed Christians, known as the Holy League, defeated the Ottoman forces in a naval battle for the very first time. Ever.
Big deal? G.K. Chesterton thought so, as he wrote a great poem about this event. Does prayer make a difference? Pope St. Pius V thought so, because prior to the battle, he asked all of Europe to pray the Rosary to ensure victory. According to the Wikipedia citation,
The Holy League credited the victory to the Virgin Mary, whose intercession with God they had implored for victory through the use of the Rosary.
Take a look at the image below.
What is the Blessed Virgin standing on? Looks like a darkened crescent moon, yes? For more on Our Lady, the significance of this image, Lepanto, Fatima, the Rosary, Islam and what it all may mean, click on this link from our good friends over at EWTN. And then check out Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s thoughts on this matter as well.
Rihanna showing too much skin? So says an Irish farmer. Around his neck of the woods he’s known as “the Christian.” Rihanna & Co. wanted to shoot a music video on his property, and he agreed until he saw how scantily clad she was. Here’s the scoop,
A Christian farmer in Northern Ireland who allowed pop star Rihanna to film a music video in his wheat field, asked her to leave when he saw she was half naked.
Farmer Alan Graham also encouraged the global star – infamous for her risqué performances – to seek after God and his Son Jesus Christ.
He has been praised for showing a strength of belief that was once commonplace, and for standing up against “the sexualistion of society and our celebrity culture”.
Mr Graham said he has no ill will towards the singer, but he asked the film crew to stop shooting the video when things got out of hand.
“I thought it was inappropriate. I requested them to stop and they did,” he explained.
“I had my conversation with Rihanna and I hope she understands where I’m coming from. We shook hands,” he said.
Mr Graham confessed that he had never heard of Rihanna when he was first contacted about using his field for a music video.
He said: “I didn’t know who was coming. If the name ‘Rihanna’ had been mentioned, well, no disrespect but it wouldn’t have meant anything.”
He also said: “Everybody needs to be acquainted with God and to consider his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and his death and Resurrection.”
Read the rest here. Only 23 years old, Rihanna has had a meteoric rise to fame. There are only 45 million fans on her Facebook page. She has also been abused by her high-profile boyfriend a few years back.
Offer up a prayer for her, so that Mr. Graham’s chivalrous, and Christian, action helps her realize that she is a pawn of an industry (and culture) that seeks to profit off of turning her into an object. While you’re at it, say a prayer for Mr. Graham too,
He has since been inundated with hate mail from her some of her fans – but despite the fuss, the farmer insists he’s thinking about naming a grain in the superstar’s honour.
Graham tells Britain’s The Sun, “I’m taking it all in my stride, it’ll soon die down. To be honest, all this fuss has kept me back a bit. I’ve got straw to harvest that I haven’t been able to finish yet… Maybe I’ll name a type of grain after her.
“I’d love to have her back. She was lovely and gracious when I spoke to her. Just as long as I know what she’s wearing before the visit.“
Good on you, mate!
Heh. Before you get your dander up, turn red in the face trying to scare me with the facts of the imminent demise of all that is right and true about the American Way, I’ve got one word for Corporate America: quitcherbellyachin’.
And Wall Street firms: Don’t even think about lowering executive compensation or bonuses. That’s unconscionable. Instead, lay off the cannon fodder, make the remaining folks count paper clips, drink smaller cups of coffee, and stop using their company provided cell phones (and stuff like that) first.
And one more thing (or close to a dozen),
That is all.
It’s the feast of St. Francis of Assisi today, in case you didn’t notice. True story: My grandfather was a Catholic and his name was Francis too, and he was named after the fellow you’ll be reading about below. As it happens, that is also how I came to be named, but the Catholic connotation of that Christian name lay dormant for some great length time. My grandfather died, see, when I was a wee tot and my memories of him bear no mark of his (and now my) religion at all.
Dipping into my favorite electronic library, I came across this little review of “Mrs. Oliphant’s” Life of St. Francis in an English journal called “The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art.” Wow, they don’t write journals with titles like that anymore! Now, I have no idea who the author of the following thoughts is, but the introductory paragraphs of the essay below start with the chagrin St. Francis causes amongst our non-Catholic Christian brethren. Because there really is no one closer to St. Francis in devotion to Christ, than perhaps the Blessed Virgin herself.
Looking for a Catholic who took the gospels literally? You’ve found him. These thoughts were penned in the Year of Our Lord 1872, or about half a heartbeat ago in the cosmic scheme of things. Have a look,
The Franciscan Order met a crying want of the age which the older religious communities failed to satisfy. But there is nothing to show that Francis had any such conscious purpose in originating it. From first to last he was the child of impulse, but of impulses which were always benevolent, generous, and devout. “He thought little of himself, even of his own soul to be saved;” his one idea and master-passion was how best to work for God and to help men.
The first murmurs were already beginning to be heard of the great democratic movement which has since overspread Europe, and the feudal system, still surviving in full force, was more and more felt to be an oppressive burden on the poor. Nor was the only power that could then act as a counterpoise itself irreproachable. There was a very general outcry against the pride of a wealthy and dominant hierarchy accused of caring more for its own aggrandizement than for the souls of men. And that cry had taken shape in strange forms of heresy, old and new, which threatened social as well as ecclesiastical order, and which Church and State—so far as the two can then be distinguished—were banded together to trample out with ruthless and indiscriminate severity.
But the Church, if she was to retain her moral supremacy, required a machinery which could convince as well as crush; there was needed a popular ministry to satisfy the wants of popular devotion, and a popular theology to meet on its own ground the advances of popular heresy. And this was the double work which Francis, however unconsciously, was destined to accomplish, though he might have seemed from his antecedents about the unlikeliest man in Europe for the purpose.
In the little city of Assisi, which lies beneath the Eastern slope of the Umbrian Apennines, there lived a worthy merchant, Pietro Bernadone di Mericoni by name, to whom was born in 1182 a son named Francesco, and known among his companions by the common Italian sobriquet of Cecco. The boy grew up to be the pride of his parents, the spoiled child of fortune, the darling of society, the idol of a glittering circle of youthful friends, gayest among the gay, of singular personal beauty, fascinating manners, and brilliant but genial wit.
At the age of twenty he was struck down by a severe illness, and from that hour is dated his “conversion—from a life of carelessness, not apparently of vice—the first result of which was his joining, in obedience to a dream, the army of the “Gentle Count” “Walter of Brienne, in the strife of Guelph against Ghibelline. But a second dream turned him back at Spoleto, and for a time he resumed his old life, but not in the old spirit. “Why so grave, Francis?” said his wondering companions; “are you going to be married?” The question suggested the reply: “I am; and my bride is—Poverty.”
Those strange nuptials have been immortalized by the greatest of French orators and of Italian poets, and the pencil of Giotto has familiarized to our eyes what the glowing words of Bossuet and Dante have made musical to our ears. The events which followed in rapid succession must be briefly dismissed here. In obedience to another vision Francis undertook to rebuild the little church of St. Damiano, outside the walls of Assisi, and incurred the fierce anger of his father, who had already been sorely troubled by his eccentricities, by selling some of his bales of cloth for the purpose. He was seized as a lunatic, and imprisoned for several months in his own home.
At length, after signing a renunciation of his patrimony, and stripping off his costly garments, he went forth, homeless and friendless, like the patriarch of old, forgetting his own people and his father’s house, and not knowing whither he went. But he now remembered an incident which had occurred some time previously, and had deeply impressed him. He had met a leper near Assisi, and, conquering his natural disgust, had sprung from his horse and embraced him. Those who know the peculiar care bestowed by the Church of that age on these unhappy outcasts, whom Christ, according to the Vulgate reading of Isaiah’s prophecy, had made types of Himself, will not wonder at the sequel. The seeming leper vanished, to appear again to Francis in a dream; for it was indeed none other than the Divine Sufferer of whom the prophet spoke.
To the lepers’ hospital at Assisi accordingly Francis now betook himself, and thence he came forth to supplicate alms to rebuild the church of St. Damiano, and another church outside the city formerly dedicated to St. Peter, but now restored under the name of La Portiuncola, or Our Lady of the Angels, and which is still the central home of the Franciscan Order.
The time for establishing that Order had now come. We must pass over the touching story of the conversion of his two first companions, Bernardo di Quintavalle and Pietro di Catania, who settled in a little hut on the plains of Assisi to form the first nucleus of the new community. In a few weeks the numbers had increased to twelve, and already Francis heard in spirit “the tread of multitudes”—French, Spaniards, English, Germans—thronging to join them. He traced out a cross on the ground stretching to the four points of the compass, and despatched his little band in four companies on their mission of mercy to the bodies and souls of men.
The Order was now formed, but it had no legalized existence, and the members were simple laymen. Francis, therefore, who was no “nonconformist,” but a devoted son of the Church, resolved in Izio to repair to Rome, and ask for the sanction of the Pope. Innocent III., whom he and his companions found pacing at sunset along the stately terraces of the Lateran, looked with amazement on these strange visitors, in their rough shepherd’s dress, and remanded them till the morning.
That night, we are told, he dreamt, like the Syrian King of old, of a palm-tree which rose beneath his feet, and its branches stretched over the earth, and the weary and world-worn from every nation came to repose beneath its shade. And again he dreamed that the great Lateran Church was falling to the ground, and was propped up by the poor beggar in big brown shepherd’s dress who had stood before him the previous evening. He hesitated no longer, and, in spite of the remonstrances of his cardinals, dismissed his visitors with his blessing and a solemn, though as yet unwritten, approbation of their stern rule of poverty.
That went something like this,
The return of Francis to Assisi was like a triumphal procession. Bells were rung and litanies chanted, and crowds came forth to meet him, and the church of the Portiuncola was at once formally made over to him. The conversion of St. Clare soon followed, and the Church of St. Damiano was assigned to the female community of Poor Clares, the “Second Order” of Franciscans, instituted under her rule.
And now Francis, who but two or three years before had been hooted as a madman through the streets of his native city, was preaching in the cathedral, though only a deacon, to enraptured crowds, who hung upon his every word. We must pass rapidly over the first General Chapter of the Order, the second journey of Francis to Rome to obtain a fuller confirmation of the rule from Honorius HL, and his meeting there with St. Dominic, when the founders of the rival Orders vowed before the altar an eternal friendship, to note his first acquaintance with Cardinal Ugolino, afterwards Pope Gregory IX., who remained ever afterwards the warm friend and patron of Francis and his community.
St. Francis, pray for us.
Life got you down? Things perhaps haven’t turned out as you planned? Do you think everyone else has got it so easy? Your neighbors, for example, or those fortunate people who come into a considerable sum of money?
And how about those saintly types? They are simply walking on air, those guys, living lives of complete and blessed beatitude, right? Hold up!
While in Heaven the saints enjoy the beatific vision, but while they were here on earth? They were slogging it out with the rest of us. And that even includes those who were fortunate enough to be blessed with an earthly inheritance.
Take St. Vincent de Paul for instance (today is his feast day). Following his being ordained a priest, in the year of Our Lord 1605, he received news that someone had left him an inheritance. Saints be praised! Come and see where this development led him.
Once Upon a Time, over four hundred years ago…
The young priest’s life flowed on peacefully for the next five years, and then a startling adventure befell him. An old friend of his died at Marseilles, and Vincent received news that he had been left in the will a sum of fifteen hundred livres, which in those days was a considerable deal of money. Vincent’s heart was full of gratitude. What could he not do now to help his poor people. And he began to plan all the things the legacy would buy till it struck him with a laugh that ten times the amount could hardly get him all he wanted. Besides, it was not yet in his possession, and with that reflection he set about his preparations for his journey to Marseilles.
He probably went the greater part of the way on foot, and it must have taken him about as long as it would take us to go to India. But he was a man who had his eyes about him, and the country which he passed through was alive with the history he had read. Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and the scandal, now two hundred years old, of the two popes, would be brought to his mind by the very names of the towns where he rested and the rivers which he crossed, but at length they were all left behind, and Marseilles was reached.
His business was soon done, and with the money in his pocket he was ready to begin his long walk back to Toulouse, when he received an invitation from a friend of the lawyer’s to go in his vessel by sea to Narbonne, which would cut off a large corner(of his journey). He gladly accepted and went on board at once. But the ship was hardly out of sight of Marseilles when three African vessels, such as then haunted the Mediterranean, bore down upon them and opened fire.
The French were powerless to resist, and one and all refused to surrender, which so increased the fury of the Mohammedans that they killed three of the crew and wounded the rest. Vincent himself had an arm pierced by an arrow, and though it was not poisoned, it was many years before the pain it caused ceased to trouble him. The ‘Infidels’ boarded the ship, and, chaining their prisoners together, coasted about for another week, attacking wherever they thought they had a chance of success, and it was not until they had collected as much booty as the vessel could carry that they returned to Africa.
Vincent and his fellow-captives had all this while been cherishing the hope that, once landed on the coast of Tunis, the French authorities would hear of their misfortunes and come to their aid. But the Mohammedan captain had foreseen the possibility of this and took measures to prevent it by declaring that the prisoners had been taken on a Spanish ship. Heavy were their hearts when they learned what had befallen them, and Vincent needed all his faith and patience to keep the rest from despair.
The following day they were dressed as slaves and marched through the principal streets of Tunis five or six times in case anyone should wish to purchase them. Suffering from wounds though they were, they all felt that it was worth any pain to get out of the hold of the ship and to see life moving around them once more. But after awhile it became clear that the strength of many was failing, and the captain not wishing to damage his goods, ordered them back to the ship where they were given food and wine, so that any possible buyers who might appear next day should not expect them to die on their hands.
Early next morning several small boats could be seen putting out from the shore, and one by one the intending purchasers scrambled up the side of the vessel. They passed down the row of captives drawn up to receive them; pinched their sides to find if they had any flesh on their bones, felt their muscles, looked at their teeth, and finally made them run up and down to see if they were strong enough to work. If the blood of the poor wretches stirred under this treatment they dared not show it, and Vincent had so trained his thoughts that he hardly knew the humiliation to which he was subjected.
A master was soon found for him in a fisherman, who wanted a man to help him with his boat. The fisherman, as far as we know, treated his slave quite kindly; but when he discovered that directly the wind rose the young man became hopelessly ill, he repented of his bargain, and sold him as soon as he could to an old chemist, one of the many who had wasted his life in seeking the Philosopher’s Stone.
The chemist took a great fancy to the French priest and offered to leave him all his money and teach him the secrets of his science if he would abandon Christianity and become a follower of Mohammed, terms which, needless to say, Vincent refused with horror. Most people would speedily have seen the hopelessness of this undertaking, but the old chemist was very obstinate, and died at the end of a year without being able to flatter himself that he had made a convert of his Christian slave.
The chemist’s possessions passed to his nephew, and with them, of course, Father Vincent. The priest bore his captivity cheerfully, and did not vex his soul as to his future lot. The life of a slave had been sent him to bear, and he must bear it contentedly whatever happened; and so he did, and his patience and ready obedience gained him the favour of his masters.
Very soon he had a new one to serve, for not long after the chemist’s death he was sold to a man who had been born a Christian and a native of Savoy, but had adopted the religion of Mohammed for worldly advantages. There were many of these renegades in the Turkish service during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and nearly all of them were men of talent and rose high.
Vincent de Paul’s master had, after the Turkish manner, married three wives, and one of them, a Turk by birth and religion, hated the life of the town where she was shut up most of the day in the women’s apartments, and went, whenever she could, to her husband’s farm in the country, where Vincent was working. It was a barren place on a mountain side, where the sun beat even more fiercely than in Tunis; but at least she was able to wander in the early mornings and cool evenings about the garden, which had been made with much care and toil.
Here she met the slave, always busy—watering plants, trimming shrubs, sowing seeds, and generally singing to himself in an unknown tongue. He looked so different from the sad or sullen men she was used to see that she began to wonder who he was and where he came from, and one day she stopped to ask him how he happened to be there. By this time Vincent had learned enough Arabic to be able to talk, and in answer to her questions, told her of his boyhood in Gascony, and how he had come to be a priest.
“A priest! What is that?” she said.
And he explained, and little by little he taught her the doctrines and the customs of the Christian faith.
“Is that what you sing about?” she asked again. “I should like to hear some of your songs,” and Vincent chanted to her,
“By the waters of Babylon,” feeling, indeed, that he was “singing the Lord’s songs in a strange land.”
And day by day the Turkish woman went away, and thought over all she had heard, till one evening her husband rode over to see her, and she made up her mind to speak to him about something that puzzled her greatly.
“I have been talking to your white slave that works in the garden about his religion—the religion which was once yours. It seems full of good things and so is he. You need never watch him as you do the other men, and the overseer has not had to beat him once. Why, then, did you give up that religion for another? In that, my lord, you did not do well.”
The renegade was silent, but in his heart he wondered if, indeed, he had “done well” to sell his soul for that which had given him no peace. He, too, would talk to that Christian slave, and hear if he still might retrace his steps, though he knew that if he was discovered death awaited the Mohammedan who changed his faith.
But his eyes having been opened he could rest no more,and arranged that he and Vincent should disguise themselves and make for the coast, and sail in a small boat to France. As the boat was so tiny that the slightest gale of wind would capsize it, it seems strange that they did not steer to Sicily, and thence journey to Rome; but instead they directed their course towards France, and on June 28, 1607, they stepped on shore on one of those long, narrow spits of land which run out into the sea from the little walled town of Aigues-Mortes.
Vincent drew a long breath, as after two years captivity he trod on French soil again. But he knew how eager his companion was to feel himself once more a Christian, so they only waited one day to rest, and started early the next morning through the flowery fields to the old city of Avignon. Here he made confession of his faults to the Pope’s legate himself, and was admitted back into the Christian religion. The following year he went with Father Vincent to Rome, and entered a monastery of nursing brothers, who went about to the different hospitals attending the sick and poor.
It is very likely that it was Father Vincent’s influence that led him to take up this special work, to which we must now leave him, for on the priest’s return to Paris, he found a lodging in the Faubourg SaintGermain, close to the Hopital de la Charity—the constant object of his care for some months.
And did I mention that St. Vincent is an Incorruptible?
This was originally posted on November 12, 2010. Happy Feast of St. Vincent de Paul!