Rev John Joseph Burke, CSP

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Rev John Joseph Burke, CSP

Born in New York City on June 6, 1875, John Joseph Burke was the son of a blacksmith. He attended St. Francis Xavier College and entered the Paulist Society in the 1890’s. He made his profession on May 14, 1899, and was ordained a priest on June 9, 1899.

He and his brother Thomas, who was ordained in 1896, dominated Paulist life for nearly 40 years. After three years at St. Paul the Apostle parish on west 59th Street in New York, he was tapped as the new editor of “The Catholic World.” He changed its format from popular to scholarly and made it one of the premier Catholic journals in the U.S. He created the Catholic Press Association and served as a consultor to Paulist Superiors General George Searle and John Hughes.

When the U.S. entered World War I he coordinated the Church’s activities by helping organize the National Catholic War Council (NCWC) and the Chaplains’ Aid Society. At the NCWC he worked with the U.S. government to coordinate the assignment of military chaplains and, for his efforts, was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919.

After the war, Fr Burke helped found the National Council School of Social Services at Catholic University, a graduate school for social workers. In 1922 he stepped down as editor of “The Catholic World” and became General Secretary of the War Council’s successor, the National Catholic Welfare Council. This forerunner of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops served as the “public face” of American Catholicism and spoke out on a number of important issues of the day.

In the 1920’s he served as an “unofficial” diplomat for the Vatican, making clandestine trips to Mexico to seek better church-state relations in that country. In recognition of this service he was named a monsignor in September, 1936, the only Paulist to ever hold that distinction. One month later he suffered a severe heart attack and died.

The official Paulist necrology states that he was “arguably the most influential Paulist next to Father Hecker…” When he died he was 61 years old and had been a Paulist priest for 37 years.

For a biography of Fr. Burke, see “Never Look Back: The Career and Concerns of John J. Burke,” by John B. Sheerin. Paulist Press, 1975.

Saint Columba

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Saint Columba or Columkille


Saint Columba, the apostle of the Picts of Scotland, was born of a noble family in the county of Tyrconnel in Ireland, in 521. He studied Holy Scripture under the saintly bishop Finian, and when ordained a priest in 546 he opened a school where he formed several disciples. He founded several monasteries in Ireland. He is sometimes called Columkille, which is Old Irish for Founder of cells. Though austere, he was not morose; and, although he often longed to die, he was untiring in good works throughout his life.

His zeal in preaching against public vices offended King Dermot, and the Saint decided to leave his domains, departing for Scotland with a dozen of his disciples. He arrived there in 565, according to Saint Bede. There he founded a hundred religious houses and converted the Picts of the north, who in gratitude gave him the island of Iona, a short distance from the mainland. On that island Saint Columba founded his celebrated large monastery of Hy (or Y Colm-Kille), a school for apostolic missionaries and martyrs, and for centuries the last resting place of a multitude of Saints and of the kings of Scotland. Later its monks adopted the Rule of Saint Benedict.

The gentleness and charity of Saint Columba, which were unfailing, won the hearts of all with whom he conversed. His virtues, to which God added the gifts of prophecy and miracles, attracted for him universal veneration. The kings did nothing without consulting him; King Edhan in 570 wished to receive the royal ornaments from his hand.

Four years before his death, our Saint had a vision of Angels, who told him that the day of his death had been deferred four years, in answer to the prayers of his spiritual children. Thereupon the Saint wept bitterly, for he desired above all things to reach his true home. He was seventy-six years old, and surrounded in choir by his disciples, when finally the day of his peaceful death came. It was the 9th of June, 597, when he said to his disciple Diermit, This day is called the Sabbath, that is, the day of rest, and such will it truly be to me; for it will put an end to my labors. Then, kneeling before the altar, he received the Viaticum, and sweetly slept in the Lord. His relics were later carried to Down and laid in the same shrine with those of Saint Patrick and Saint Bridget.

Reflection. How different is the attitude of most men from that of Saint Columba; they dread death above all else, instead of wishing to be dissolved, and to be with Christ”! The more perfect we become, the more we desire to behold that for which Saint Columba sighed.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 6; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

Saints Primus and Felicianus

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Saints Primus and Felicianus

(† 286)

These two martyrs were brothers who lived in Rome, heirs of a family of great wealth, toward the latter part of the third century. It was through the assiduous love of Pope Felix I that they had the happiness, in their mature years, of being converted to the Christian faith; afterwards they encouraged each other for many years in the practice of all good works. They seemed to possess nothing but for the poor, and often, during the persecutions, they spent both nights and days with the confessors in their dungeons, or at the places of their torments and execution. Some they exhorted to persevere; others who had fallen, they raised again. They made themselves the servants of all in Christ, that all might attain to salvation through Him.

Though their zeal was very remarkable, they had escaped the dangers of many bloody persecutions; they had grown old in the heroic exercises of their virtue, when it pleased God to crown their labors with a glorious martyrdom. Primus was about 90 years old, when the pagans raised so great an outcry against the brothers that they were apprehended and put in chains. They were inhumanly scourged and tortured, and then sent to a town twelve miles from Rome to be chastised again, as avowed enemies to the gods, by a prefect who detested the Christians. There they were cruelly tortured to make them renounce their faith, both together and then separately, but the grace of God strengthened each of them. Felicianus was nailed by his hands and feet to a post and left without food or water for three days; Primus was beaten with clubs and burnt with torches. God spared them amidst these tortures, and wild beasts in an arena imitated their God’s mercy. Finally, they were beheaded on June 9, 286.

Reflection. A soul which truly loves God regards all things of this world as nothing. The loss of goods, the disgrace of the world, torments, sickness, and other afflictions are bitter to the senses, but appear light to the one who loves God. If we cannot bear our trials with patience and silence, it is because we love Him only in words. One who is slothful and lukewarm complains of everything, and calls the lightest precepts hard, says Thomas a Kempis.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).


The Queenship of Mary 

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The Queenship of Mary

From the earliest centuries of the Catholic Church, Christians have addressed suppliant prayers and hymns of praise to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the hope they have placed in the Mother of the Saviour has never been disappointed. They have looked upon Her as Queen of Angels, Queen of Patriarchs, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Virgins. Because of Her eminence, She is indeed entitled to the highest honors that can be bestowed upon any creature. Saint Gregory Nazianzen called Her Mother of the King of the entire universe, and the Virgin Mother who brought forth the King of the entire world. Continue reading