Because St. Barbara is the Patron Saint of Artillery

Yes, yesterday was Sunday but you know what else it was? It was the Feast of St. Barbara. As a former member of November Battery, 5th Battalion, 14th Marines, let me tell you something: This is a feast day celebrated throughout the entire US Armed Forces in the Artillery Community. Knowing that, doesn’t this prayer intention make more sense? [Read more…]

For All the Saints: Crispin and Crispinian UPDATED

“Bossche Saints Crispin and Crispinian” by Aert van den Bossche (fl. 1490-1505) – Own work (BurgererSF). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s St. Crispin’s Day. Before I was a Catholic, I wouldn’t have know this, or that there were two men being commemorated. So who are Crispin and Crispinian? Christian twin brothers, martyred in the year 285 or 286. Turning to the always open YIMCatholic Bookshelf, I found this legendary story on the two saints in Jesuit Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger’s Lives of the Saints. Here’s what he reports, [Read more…]

For Thoughts on Faith Like These by Thomas Merton

Divine_Mercy-779948“Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

Now, as Pope Benedict has declared the coming year as the Year of Faith, Fr. Louis explains clearly and simply what faith means. What follows are thoughts from the prologue of his “The Silent Life,” published in 1957.

I came across these words a few years ago, when I was reading all I could that Merton had written. When I read them, I couldn’t help changing the words “monk” and “monasticism” to “Catholic” and “Catholicism”, because when I did, they helped answer the statement “Why I Am Catholic” very effectively. Fr. Louis has the floor,

Let us face the fact that the monastic vocation tends to present itself to the modern world as a problem and as a scandal.

In a basically religious culture, like that of India, or of Japan, the monk is more or less taken for granted. When all society is oriented beyond the mere transient quest of business and pleasure, no one is surprised that men should devote their lives to an invisible God.

In a materialistic culture, which is fundamentally irreligious, the monk is incomprehensible because he “produces nothing.” His life appears to be completely useless. Not even Christians have been exempt from anxiety over this apparent “uselessness” of the monk, and we are familiar with the argument that the monastery is a kind of dynamo which, though it does not “produce” grace, procures this infinitely precious spiritual commodity for the world.

The first Fathers of monasticism were concerned with no such arguments, valid though they may be in their proper context. The Fathers did not feel that the search for God was something that needed to be defended. Or rather, they saw that if men did not realize in the first place that God was to be sought, no other defence of monasticism would avail them.

Is God, then, to be sought?

The deepest law in man’s being is his need for God, for life. God is Life. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). The deepest need of our darkness is to comprehend the light which shines in the midst of it. Therefore God has given us his first commandment:

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength.

The monastic life is nothing but the life of those who have taken the first commandment in deadly earnest, and have, in the words of St. Benedict, “preferred nothing to the love of Christ.”

But Who is God? Where is He? Is Christian monasticism a search for some pure intuition of the Absolute? A cult of supreme Good? A worship of perfect and changeless Beauty? The very emptiness of such abstractions strikes the heart cold. The Holy One, the Invisible, the Almighty is infinitely greater and more real than any abstraction of man’s devising. But he has said: “No one shall see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). Yet the monk persists in crying out with Moses: “Show me Thy face” (Exodus 33:13).

The monk, then, is one who is so intent upon the search for God that he is ready to die in order to see Him. That is why monastic life is a “martyrdom” as  well as a “paradise,” a life that is at once “angelic” and “crucified.”

St. Paul resolves the problem: “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Christ Jesus” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

The monastic life is the rejection of all that obstructs the spiritual rays of this mysterious light. The monk is one who leaves behind the fictions and illusions of a merely human spirituality in order to plunge himself in the faith of Christ. Faith is the light which illumines him in mystery. Faith is the power which seizes upon the inner depths of his souls and delivers him up to the action of the divine Spirit, the Spirit of liberty, the Spirit of love. Faith takes him, as the power of God took the ancient prophets, and “stands him upon his feet” (Ezekiel 2:2) before the Lord. The monastic life is the life in the Spirit of Christ, a life in which the Christian gives himself entirely to the love of God which transforms him in the light of Christ.

“The Lord is a Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3: 17-18).

What St. Paul has said of the inner life of every Christian becomes in all truth the main objective of the monk, living in his solitary cloister. In seeking Christian perfection the monk seeks the fullness of the Christian life, the complete maturity of the Christian faith. For him, “to live is Christ.”

Amen. It’s time to harness our inner monks and crank up the dynamo of prayer.

For All the Saints: Francis of Assisi, Deacon

"Cigoli, san francesco" by Cigoli - Web Gallery of Art:   Image  Info about artwork. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“Cigoli, san francesco” by Cigoli – Web Gallery of Art:   Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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,

from a review of The Life of St. Francis

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.

For All the Saints: Thérèse of Lisieux, The Sincere Lover of Christ

“Therese von Lisieux” by Unknown photographer – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

 

It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by, but it’s the Little Flower’s Feast Day again. This time last year, I shared a post in which Thérèse was likened to, and bettered, both Confucius and Lao Tzu. And now, as then, I turn to thoughts on her penned by my friend John C.H. Wu. [Read more…]

Gone Readin’ Helena by Evelyn Waugh

Why haven’t I been posting much lately? You can blame Fr. Steve Grunow, who suggested the book you see above to me a few days ago. I’ve never read anything by Evelyn Waugh, and I’m not ashamed to say that for most of my life I figured Evelyn was a lady, and I wasn’t much interested in what she had to say.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve got me a college degree and all, and after I became a Catholic and snooped around a bit I learned that Evelyn was a man, a Catholic, and he wrote some great novels that were turned into classics for Masterpiece Theater. Still, I was about as excited to read anything written by him as I was interested in say…watching paint dry, or grass grow. Yawn.

But then I found that neat book about the True Cross by Louis de Combes, and Fr. Steve suggested Waugh’s book. I checked the catalog at the library, noted a copy was on the shelf, and I strolled over there and picked it up pronto. I haven’t been able to put it down since. Here’s a taste:

“Chlorus, is it true what they are saying in Ratisbon: that you are going to be Caesar?”

“Who say that?”

“The governor’s wife, the widow of the banker, all the ladies.”

“It may be true. Aurelian and I have spoken of it before. After the battle, he spoke of it again. He has to go to Syria now, to tidy up trouble there. After that he will return to Rome for his triumph. Then we shall see.”

“Do you want it?”

“It’s not what I want, ostler; it’s what Aurelian wants that counts, he and the army and the empire. It is nothing to be shy of, just another, larger command—Gaul, the Rhine, Britain, possibly Spain. The empire’s too big for one man; that’s been proved. And we need a secure succession, a second-in-command who’s been trained to the job, knows the ropes, can step in straight away when the command falls vacant; not leave each army to declare for its own general and fight it out as they’ve done lately. Aurelian is going to talk to the senators about it when we go to Rome.”

See? Clear thinking like that is what I was just talking about a few days back. And does everything go according to plan? As if!

I’m not going to tell you anything more about the book but this: Helena has just embarked on her quest to find the True Cross and you can forget about me posting anything remotely intelligible until I finish this book. Color me gone!

For All the Saints: John Chrysostom



Today is the feast of St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church. Of course, there was a little snippet on him over at Universalis and sundry other places, like here. But my curiosity gets the best of me, see,  and I want to know more. That is one of my many faults.

So I headed to my favorite electronic library and found this gem of a story in The Lives and Legends of the Great Hermits and Fathers of the Church With Other Contemporary Saints by a “Mrs. Arthur Bell.” By who? Make that by Nancy R.E. Meugens Bell. Trust me, she is very accomplished. Check out her titles on Amazon. Who better to get this story about the “Golden mouthed” Doctor than by someone who had a pen that never rested?

I gather that the shorter title of the book is The Saints in Christian Art (whew!) and what follows is from Chapter VIII,

St. John Chrysostom

The most popular, and at the same time, perhaps, also the most saintly of the four Greek Fathers, St. John Chrysostom, or the golden-mouthed—so called on account of his great eloquence—was born at Antioch about 347, and was brought up as a Christian by his widowed mother Arethusa.
He was educated as a lawyer, and had already won great renown as a pleader at the bar, when at the age of twenty-six he resolved to renounce the world.

Russian icon
St. John in prayer

When the young John declared that the only true way of serving God was to lead a life of solitary penitence, Arethusa, a woman of cultured intellect, and endowed with the yet rarer gift of practical commonsense, tried in vain to convince him that his resolution was at the best a selfish one. He escaped from Antioch and hid himself in the desert, where he remained for nearly six years, weakening himself so much by fasting and self-inflicted penance that he was at last obliged to return home to save his life.

Back again in Antioch, he attracted the notice of the Bishop, St. Meletius, who persuaded him to live with him for three years, ordained him Reader, and endeavored to win him from his undue love of silence and solitude. For a time it seemed as if he had succeeded, but in 374 St. John fled once more to the desert, where he joined a community of anchorites, celebrated even in that day of asceticism for the severity of their self-discipline.

It was not, indeed, until he was already past forty that the real work of the life of St. John Chrysostom began, when the holy Bishop Honorius, to whom the Christians owed so much, induced him finally to abandon his retreat and become a preacher of the Gospel in his native city. Ordained priest in 386, a white dove, it is said, hovering above his head at his consecration, St. John of the Golden Mouth very quickly proved how true had been his mother’s judgment concerning him, for he won over to the Church such numbers of converts that the building in which he preached was soon too small to hold his congregation. When the people of Antioch fell under the just displeasure of the Emperor, it was St. John who composed the speech of St. Flavianus, which so touched the heart of the Emperor that he granted a full pardon to the offenders.

Again, when the Roman supremacy was divided between the sons of Theodosius I., and Arcadius became the Emperor of the East, the voice of St.Chrysostom was often fearlessly raised against the luxury of the Court. He became indeed so great a power in the land that in 397, by the advice of Eutropius, the favourite eunuch of Arcadius, he was made Archbishop of Constantinople on the death of Nectarius.

The thought of losing their beloved teacher so moved the people of Antioch that they refused to let him go, and it was not until an armed escort was sent to fetch him that he was able to start for his new sphere of action. Arrived in the capital of the East, St. John at once set to work to practice the doctrines he had preached as a priest. He reduced the number of the servants in his palace, leading a life almost as austere as he had done in the desert, and giving away so much money in charity that he became known as St. John the Almoner.

St. John
the Almsgiver

by Titian

Not long after his accession to the archiepiscopal throne, occurred one of the most striking incidents of his remarkable career: his rescue of Eutropius from the fury of the mob. The eunuch, who had so long virtually ruled the Empire, was suddenly disgraced, the Empress Eudoxia having complained to her husband of a real or imaginary insult he had offered to herself. Pursued by the officers of justice sent to arrest him, the unhappy man fled to the cathedral for sanctuary, and took refuge beneath the altar at which the Archbishop was officiating. St. John Chrysostom, unmoved by the clamors of the people, or by the fact that a troop of soldiers with drawn swords surrounded the building, ascended the pulpit, that he might, says Gibbon, “be distinctly seen and heard by an innumerable crowd of either sex and every age, and pronounced a reasonable and pathetic discourse on the forgiveness of injuries and the instability of human greatness. The agonies of the pale and affrighted wretch,” continues the historian, “groveling under the table of the altar, exhibited a solemn and instructive spectacle, and the orator, who was afterwards accused of insulting the misfortunes of Eutropius, labored to excite the contempt that he might assuage the fury of the people.”

Eutropius escaped for the time, only to be impeached for high treason and beheaded a few months later, but the fame of the man who had been able to hold spell-bound by his eloquence, so many thirsting for vengeance, and to induce even the Emperor to respect the sanctuary of the Church, became so great that St. John, in his turn, aroused the jealousy of Eudoxia, who, having got rid of Eutropius, now determined to bring about also the exile of his rescuer. St. John, it is said, had aroused her special animosity by his sermons against extravagance in dress, which she chose to think were intended to apply specially to her.

John preaching in Constantinople
by Ambrose Dudley

Aided by the influence of Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, who was also incensed against the Archbishop on account of his admission to communion of certain so-called heretics, the Empress succeeded in obtaining a decree of banishment against him, and he was driven out of Constantinople in 403, after preaching a farewell sermon full of the noblest resignation to the will of God, in which he declared himself ready to die a thousand deaths for his people, if he could only save their souls.

“Violent storms encompass me on all sides,” he exclaimed, “yet I am without fear, because I stand upon a rock. Though the sea roar, and the waves rise high, they cannot sink the vessel of Jesus. I always say,” he added, “O Lord, may Thy will be done: not what this or that creature wills, but what it shall please Thee to appoint, that shall I do and suffer with joy. This is my strong tower; this is my unshaken rock; this is my staff that can never fail.”

The soldiers sent to see that the Emperor was obeyed were only able to fulfil their duty through the aid of the victim himself, who managed to elude the vigilance of his friends and to deliver himself into the hands of his enemies. He had not, however, been gone from the city many days before a terrible earthquake took place, which so alarmed the guilty conscience of the Empress that she entreated Arcadius to recall St. John, crying in her terror,’ If he do not return our Empire is undone.’ The Emperor consented, and the Archbishop was brought back again in triumph, all the inhabitants of the town going out to meet him. He was, however, again banished in the following year, and he was never afterwards allowed to return.

St. John and Eudoxia
by Jean Paul Laurens

When, on the death of Eudoxia, the broken-hearted widower Arcadius wrote to the celebrated hermit, St. Nilus, asking his prayers for the Empire, the holy man replied: “How do you hope to see Constantinople delivered from the destroying angel of God after . . . having banished the most blessed John, the pillar of the Church, the lamp of truth, the greatest light of the earth!”

Meanwhile many powerful statesmen had endeavored to obtain the recall of St. John, but their importunity, unfortunately, only led to fresh proceedings against him. He had taken refuge at Nicaea, and was there fervently preaching the Gospel, when orders were received that he should be removed to the little town of Cucusus, in a remote district of the Taurus Mountains. There he was received with the greatest enthusiasm by the inhabitants, and was allowed to remain unmolested for a short time, converting many Persians to Christianity, and writing numerous beautiful letters and essays, full of touching resignation, proving how true was his own assertion: “no one can harm the man who does himself no wrong.”

The three years spent at Cucusus and the neighboring town of Arabissus, were, says Gibbon, “the last and most glorious of the life of the great teacher. His character was consecrated by absence and persecution . . . every tongue repeated the praises of his genius and virtue, and the respectful attention of the Christian world was fixed on a desert spot among the mountains of Taurus.”

The Emperor Honorius, recognizing how great a mistake had been made in banishing such a man, endeavored to get his cause brought before what the historian calls ‘the supreme tribunal of a free and general council.’ But it was all in vain; the enemies of the Saint were too powerful, and the weak-minded Arcadius could not be induced to interfere in his behalf. The agitation in favor of St. John resulted merely in a fresh edict of banishment against him. He was to be removed at once from the new home he had learnt to love, to the yet more remote town of Pytius on the Euxine. It is even believed by some that secret orders were given, to the officers sent to take him there, to bring about his death on the road, if possible, and so end all further trouble on his behalf.

Worn out with all he had gone through, and with a constitution weakened by his early austerities, the much-persecuted Saint, though as yet only sixty years old, was in no fit state to travel, and he died on the road after terrible sufferings. It is related that on the eve of his death he was allowed to rest for a few hours in a little wayside shrine above the remains of the martyr St. Basiliscus, who appeared to him in a dream, and said to him: “Be of good courage, Brother John; tomorrow we shall be together.” This greatly cheered the Archbishop, and when he awoke he begged his guards to let him remain in the shrine for a few hours longer, in the hope of thus winning permission to die in peace.

They refused, and compelled him to proceed, but he had not gone far before it became evident that he was dying, and touched, perhaps, at last by his patient suffering, the men carried him back to the shrine and laid him down on it. With a touching desire to do honor to the moment of his meeting with the Lord he had served so well, St. John persuaded his companions to allow him to put on his white robes. His last prayer is said to have been the beautiful one still in use in the English Church, ending with the petition, “granting us in this world knowledge of Thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting,” and when the Amen had been said he died with the words “Glory be to God in all things” trembling on his lips.

He was buried beside St. Basiliscus, but his body was translated to Constantinople in 434, where it was re-interred with great pomp in the Church of the Apostles, in the presence of the Emperor Theodosius II., who, it is related, had gone out to meet the funeral procession at Chalcedon, and there, “falling prostrate on the coffin, had implored in the name of his guilty parents, Arcadius and Eudoxia, the forgiveness of the injured Saint.”

Amongst the attributes given to St. John Chrysostom, who is more often introduced in devotional pictures in the Roman Catholic Church than any of the other Greek Fathers, are a pen, the usual symbol of a writer; a beehive, in allusion, it is supposed, to his honeyed words; and a dove, in remembrance of the incident said to have taken place at his ordination. When he holds a scroll, it generally bears the words, “God our God, who has given us for food the Bread of Life,” a quotation from one of his own homilies.

St. John Chrysostom is sometimes represented being carried along in a fainting condition by his escort of soldiers, or bound to an ass, with his head drooping from exhaustion. He is introduced with St. Athanasius, St. Leo, and St. Thomas Aquinas, amongst the Latin Fathers in the Chapel of Nicholas V, in the Vatican; in S. Giovanni Elemosinaro at Venice is a fine composition by Titian, representing the Patriarch of Alexandria as the Almsgiver seated on a raised podium, with a beggar at his feet (see above), and in S. Giovanni Crisostomo in the same city is a grand Altar-piece by Sebastiano del Piombo, considered one of his greatest works, in which St. John Chrysostom is enthroned, attended by numerous saints, including Augustine and John the Baptist (see top of the post). In a chapel on the left of the choir the golden-mouthed Father appears again, grouped with Saints Andrew, Onofrio, and Agnes.

The character of St. John has also been finely interpreted by Rubens in a painting now in private possession, in which the Patriarch holds a chalice in one hand and rests the left on the Gospels, whilst above his head hovers the dove, typical of the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Check out his homilies and more on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

For Stuff My Abba Macarius Says About Discerning True Christians


A while back, I introduced everyone to my patron, St. Macarius the Great. He has some great homilies that help to prepare Christians for the trials and tribulations that we will encounter along this narrow path. What’s that? You don’t need to hear anything from a desert father about the inner struggle in the life of the Christian? Don’t delude yourself.

Think back over the past 9-10 years regarding scandals among the priesthood. Or better yet, look back just recently and there have been any number of implosions across the spectrum of those who profess to be good and holy Christians. I don’t have to name names, now, do I? Scandal is no stranger to the Church.
The fact of the matter is, the path of Christianity is treacherous and full of temptations, and risks of failure. As John C.H. Wu counseled yesterday, when you fall down, you have to get back up. No one is safe and as the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” There is no dearth of scandal among members of the faithful.

But often times, we go looking for earthly heroes and alleged paragons of virtue whom we think we can follow with confidence anyway, when we should just stick with Christ. If we need additional models of Christian behavior, we should just stick with the saints, whom are our brethren in the Church Triumphant, and whose behaviors point us back to Christ anyway.

Below, my patron has a few important words on sifting the posuers from the pure at heart.

Homily XXXVIII: 
Great exactness and intelligence is required to discern true Christians, and who these are.

Many who appear to be righteous are taken for Christians. It is a task for skilled men and experts to try whether such men have really the stamp and image of the King, lest perchance they should be counterfeits of the works of skilled men, and skilled men wonder at them and criticize them. But people who are not skilled cannot test deceitful workers, for they too wear the shape of monks and Christians. For the false apostles also suffered for Christ, and they also preached the kingdom of heaven. That is why the apostle says In perils more abundant, in afflictions above measure, in prisons more abundant, wishing to show that he had suffered more than they.

Gold is easily found; but pearls and precious stones which do for a king’s diadem are seldom found, for many times none that will do are found. So Christians also are built up into the crown of Christ, that those souls may be made partakers with the saints. Glory to Him who so loved that soul, suffered for it, and raised it up from the dead. But as a veil was put over the face of Moses, that the people might not gaze upon his face, so now a veil lies upon your heart, that you may not behold the glory of God. When this is taken away, then He shines forth and manifests Himself to Christians, to those who love Him and seek Him in truth, as He says, I will manifest Myself to him, and will make My abode with him.

Let us endeavor then to come to Christ, who cannot lie, that we may obtain the promise, and the new covenant, which the Lord has made new through His cross and death, having burst the gates of hell and sin and brought out the faithful souls, and given them the Comforter within, and brought them into His kingdom. Let us reign then with Him, even we, in Jerusalem, His city, in the heavenly church, in the choir of the holy angels. The brethren who have been long time exercised and tried, these can succour the less experienced, and feel for them.

For some who had made themselves sure, and had been mightily worked upon by grace of God, have found their members so sanctified that they reckoned that concupiscence does not occur in Christianity, but that they had acquired a sober and chaste mind, and that from henceforth the inward man was raised aloft to divine and heavenly things, so that they really imagined such an one to have come already to the perfect measures. And when the man imagined that he was already near the calm haven, billows rose up against him, so that he found himself again in the middle of the ocean, and was carried where sea was sky and death was ready. Thus sin entered after all, and wrought all manner of evil concupiscence.

And again a certain class of persons having some grace vouchsafed to them, and having received a drop, so to speak, out of the whole deep sea, find it hour by hour, and day by day, such a work of wonder, that the man who is under its influence is amazed and astounded at the strange, surprising operation of God, to think that he should be given such wisdom. After this, grace enlightens him, guides him, gives him peace, makes him good in every way, being itself divine and heavenly, so that in comparison with that man kings and potentates, wise men and nobles are esteemed as least and worthless.

After a time and season things change, so that of a truth such a man esteems himself a greater sinner than all others; and again at another season sees himself like a great colossal king, or a king’s powerful friend; again at another season sees himself weak and a beggar. Then the mind falls into perplexity, why things should be thus and then thus. Because Satan in his hatred of the good suggests evil things to those who attain virtue, and strives to overthrow them. That is his occupation.

But do not submit to him, while you work at the righteousness that is accomplished in the inner man, where stands the judgment seat of Christ, together with His undefined sanctuary, that the testimony of your conscience may glory in the cross of Christ, who has purged your conscience from dead works, that you may serve God with your spirit, that you may know what you worship, according to Him who said, We worship that which we know. Obey God who guides you. Let your soul have communion with Christ, as bride with bridegroom. For this mystery is great, it says; but I speak concerning Christ and the blameless soul.

To Him be the glory for ever. Amen.

Thank you. And Abba Macarius? Please pray for us.

More wisdom from Abba Macarius can be found on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

Because of the Protestant Reformers Beliefs On Mary

Another Marian post as we are ten days from the Feast of the Assumption. This one was first published back in December of last year.


Back when I first joined YIMCatholic, I was going to write posts about my conversion. I hammered out seven posts in pretty rapid succession and then, I stopped writing them until recently.

Many of my posts now are simply my observations of the world which are colored through the lens of a convert to Catholicism. It would be difficult for them not to be. Other posts I’ve written are of the “look what I just found!” variety, and the “I want to share this with you” type. Call them the discovery posts if you will. [Read more…]

For Thoughts Amid the Storm (A Few Words for Wednesday)

Vision of St. Don Bosco 

Generally posts shared with the addendum in the title above have been reserved for lines of verse. Not so today. Instead, I’ll share a few epigrams from the disparate bookends of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to the United States Marine Corps, with a few wise words of friends and saints in between.

Remember my recent post on being a pilgrim people? First up, from the deserts of Egypt near Skete, a thought about pilgrimage.

One of us asked Abba Sisoes, “What is pilgrimage, Abba?” He answered, “Keep silent; and wherever you go, say, ‘I am at peace with all men.’ That is pilgrimage.”

Sigh. I’m a gonna need some help then. More epigrams, por favor! Like this one from an Amma,

Amma Theodora said, “Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Speaking of storms, my buddy Blaise Pascal reminds us,

There is a pleasure in being in a ship beaten about by a storm, when we are sure that it will not founder. The persecutions which harass the Church are of this nature.

St. Paul on endurance,

For I am even now ready to be sacrificed: and the time of my dissolution is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7

And from the Marine Corps version of the Communion of Saints, General Victor H. “Brute” Krulak. He stood 5′ 4″ tall, and maybe weighed 145 lbs when wet. Not a Catholic, but an Episcopalian, he fathered three boys. One of them would become the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the other two became Epsicopal priests and served as chaplains (one retired from the Navy, the other served in the Army). Here is his promised bookend thought,

Being ready is not what matters. What matters is winning after you get there.

Ain’t that the truth.


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