The Necessity of Mortification

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The Necessity of Mortification
from the Catholic Pulpit, 1855

And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterwards hungry–MATT. iv. 2.

Every Portion of the history of our Divine Redeemer was intended to convey important lessons to His followers. The Church continually points at His example, and so distributes and adapts in her office the several incidents of His life, as to make them bear, as her instructions vary, on the particular lesson, which she is desirous of teaching. At the commencement of the present holy season, when penance is her theme, she selects for our contemplation, the penitential exercise, which He underwent, previously to the opening of His mission; when retiring, as you have just heard in the gospel, to a distance from the society of men, He subjected Himself to a severe and uninterrupted fast, during the space of forty days. At the conclusion of this protracted abstinence, exhausted nature demanded support, and this was the moment, which he selected for confounding the insidious tempter of man. Entering then into the views of the Church, we cannot do better, on the present, occasion, than fix our eyes on the instructive spectacle, with which we are presented, and endeavour to learn, in this great example, what the obligation is, what the titles are, by which we ourselves are bound to the practice of penance.
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The Mysteries of the Crown of Thorns

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The Mysteries of the Crown of Thorns

“In that day the Lord of hosts shall be a crown of glory and a garland of joy to the residue of His people.” (Is. 28:5)

In two different ways, namely, in a merely human, or in a truly Christian point of view, can we consider the sufferings and humiliations of Jesus, our Lord. If we look at them, with a merely human eye like the carnal Jews, and the proud Pagans, we shall like them, incur the danger of being scandalized at their apparent foolishness. The excess of the sufferings of our dear Redeemer, the depth of His humiliations, His apparent complete helplessness, have often been a stumbling block of scandal to proud men. Hence St. Paul could say: “We preached Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness.” (1 Cor. 1:23) If, however, with the enlightened eye of Christian faith we try to penetrate into the deep mysteries of our Savior’s Passion, we shall discover the wonders of God’s power, and the merciful designs of His Divine wisdom. “To them that are called, that is, to sincere and reflecting Christians, Christ is the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:24) In the light of Christian faith we will therefore consider the mysteries of the Crown of Thorns. In the present chapter we shall have an opportunity of admiring the designs of the wisdom and mercy of our Divine Lord. We shall soon be able to discover important meanings, and learn practical lessons from the thorns, reed, and mockeries used by His cruel and malicious enemies against our Savior. Continue reading

Feast of the Crown of Thorns

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Feast of the Crown of Thorns

The first feast in honour of the Crown of Thorns ( Festum susceptionis coronae Domini ) was instituted at Paris in 1239, when St. Louis brought thither the relic of the Crown of Thorns, which was deposited later in the Royal Chapel, erected in 1241-8 to guard this and other relics of the Passion. The feast, observed on 11 August, though at first special to the Royal Chapel, was gradually observed throughout the north of France. In the following century another festival of the Holy Crown on 4 May was instituted and was celebrated along with the feast of the Invention of the Cross in parts of Spain, Germany, and Scandinavia. It is still kept in not a few Spanish dioceses and is observed by the Dominicans on 24 April. A special feast on the Monday after Passion Sunday was granted to the Diocese of Freising in Bavaria by Clement X (1676) and Innocent XI (1689) in honour of the Crown of Christ. It was celebrated at Venice in 1766 on the second Friday of March. In 1831 it was adopted at Rome as a double major and is observed on the Friday following Ash Wednesday. As it is not kept throughout the universal Church, the Mass and Office are placed in the appendices to the Breviary and the Missal. The hymns of the Office, which is taken from the seventeenth-century Gallican Breviary of Paris, were composed by Habert. The “Analecta hymnica” of Dreves and Blume contains a large number of rhythmical offices, hymns, and sequences for this feast.

St. John of God

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St. John of God, Founder of the Order of Charity

St. John, surnamed of God, a Portuguese, was born at Monte Major. At his birth, an extraordinary heavenly light, in the form of a pillar of fire, was seen over his father’s house, and the church bells were rung by invisible hands. At the age of eight he secretly left his father’s house with a Priest whom his parents had entertained. The Priest, however, forsaking him on the road, he took service with a shepherd, and served him faithfully until he had reached his twenty-first year. His master then offered him his daughter in marriage, but John refused, and entered the army. Here, imitating his more lax comrades, he led an easy life. It happened that, while out foraging, he was thrown from his horse, and so badly injured that the blood flowed from his mouth and nostrils, and he lay insensible on the ground for two hours. On recovering, he raised himself to a kneeling posture, and, calling on the Queen of Heaven, he was soon restored to perfect health. On another occasion, being placed on guard over some captured booty, which the enemy retook, he was condemned to the gallows. The general spared his life, but ordered him to be ignominiously driven from the camp. Upon this, he returned to his former master and became a shepherd again. But soon wearied with this employment, he enlisted and fought against the Turks. Continue reading

Saint Colette

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Saint Colette

Virgin, Reformer of the Poor Clares (1380-1447)

After a holy childhood, Colette joined a society of devout women called the Beguines. Not finding their state sufficiently austere, she entered the Third Order of Saint Francis, and lived in a hut near her parish church of Corbie in Picardy. Here she had passed four years in extraordinary penance when Saint Francis, in a vision, bade her undertake the reform of her Order, then much relaxed. She doubted for a time and was struck with muteness for three days and blindness for another three. Finally, fortified by ecclesiastical authority, she established the reform throughout a large part of Europe, and, in spite of the most violent opposition, founded seventeen convents of the strict observance.

By the same wonderful prudence she helped to heal the great schism which then afflicted the Church. The Fathers in council at Constance were in doubt as to how to deal with the three claimants to the tiara — John XXIII, Benedict XIII, and Gregory XII. At this crisis Colette, together with Saint Vincent Ferrer, wrote to the Fathers to depose Benedict XIII, who alone refused his consent to a new election. This was done, and Martin V was elected, to the great good of the Church.

Colette also assisted the Council of Basle by her advice and prayers, and when God revealed to her the spirit of revolt which was rising there, she warned the bishops and legates to retire from the council.

Saint Colette never ceased to pray for the Church, while the devils, for their part, never ceased to assault her. They swarmed round her in the form of hideous insects, buzzing and stinging her tender skin. They brought into her cell the decaying corpses of public criminals, and assuming monstrous forms themselves, struck her savage blows. Or they would appear in the most seductive guise, and tempt her by many deceits to sin. Saint Colette once complained to Our Lord that the demons prevented her from praying. Cease, then, said the devil to her, your prayers to the great Master of the Church, and we will cease to torment you; for you torment us more by your prayers than we do you. Yet the virgin of Christ triumphed alike over their threats and their allurements, and said she would count the day during which she suffered nothing for her God, the unhappiest of her life. She died March 6, 1447, in a transport of intercession for sinners and the Church.

Reflection. One of the greatest tests of being a good Catholic is zeal for the Church and devotion to Christ’s Vicar.

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); Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 3