Saint Matthias

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Saint Matthias

Apostle
(† 63)

After our Blessed Lord’s Ascension His disciples came together, with Mary His mother and the eleven Apostles, in an upper room at Jerusalem. The little company numbered no more than one hundred and twenty souls. They were waiting for the promised coming of the Holy Ghost, and they persevered in prayer. Meanwhile there was a solemn act to be performed on the part of the Church, which could not be postponed. The place of the fallen Judas had to be filled, that the number of the Apostles might be complete. Saint Peter, therefore, as Vicar of Christ, arose to announce the divine decree. What the Holy Ghost had spoken by the mouth of David concerning Judas, he said, must be fulfilled. Of him it had been written, His bishopric let another take. A choice, therefore, was needed of one among those who had been their companions from the beginning, who could bear witness to the Resurrection of Jesus.

Two were named of equal merit, Joseph called Barsabas, and Matthias. After praying to God, who knows the hearts of all men, to show which of these He had chosen, they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Matthias, who was thereby numbered with the Apostles. It is recorded of the Saint, wonderfully elected to so high a vocation, that he was remarkable for his mortification of the flesh. It was thus that he made his election sure.

He preached in Judea where he was persecuted by both Jews and Gentiles, and died by stoning, a victim of their pursuits, in the year 63. His body was taken to Rome by Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, some 250 years later. A church there bears his name.

Reflection. Our ignorance of many points in Saint Matthias’s life serves to fix the attention all the more firmly upon these two — the occasion of his call to the apostolate, and the fact of his perseverance. We then naturally turn in thought to our own vocation and our own end: may it be like his, a holy death in reward for our fidelity.

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).

*On leap years, St. Matthias’ feast day is celebrated on February 25

Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas – Tuesday After First Sunday of Lent

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday After First Sunday of Lent

Christ underwent every kind of suffering

“Every kind of suffering.” The things men suffer may be understood in two ways. By “kind” we may mean a particular, individual suffering, and in this sense there was no reason why Christ should suffer every kind of suffering, for many kinds of suffering are contrary the one to the other, as for example, to be burnt and to be drowned. We are of course speaking of Our Lord as suffering from causes outside himself, for to suffer the suffering effected by internal causes, such as bodily sickness, would not have become him. But if by “kind” we mean the class, then Our Lord did suffer by every kind of suffering, as we can show in three ways:

1. By considering the men through whom He suffered. For He suffered something at the hands of Gentiles and of Jews, of men and even of women as the story of the servant girl who accused St. Peter goes to show. He suffered, again, at the hands of rulers, of their ministers, and of the people, as was prophesied, Why have the Gentiles raged; and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together against the Lord and against his Christ (Ps. ii. i, 2).

He suffered, too, from His friends, the men He knew best, for Peter denied Him and Judas betrayed Him.

2. If we consider the things through which suffering is possible. Christ suffered in the friends who deserted Him, and in His good name through the blasphemies uttered against Him. He suffered in the respect, in the glory, due to Him through the derision and contempt bestowed upon Him. He suffered in things, for He was stripped even of His clothing; in His soul, through sadness, through weariness and through fear; in His body through wounds and the scourging.

3. If we consider what He underwent in His various parts. His head suffered through the crown of piercing thorns, His hands and feet through the nails driven through them, His face from the blows and the defiling spittle, and His whole body through the scourging.

He suffered in every sense of His body. Touch was afflicted by the scourging and the nailing, taste by the vinegar and gall, smell by the stench of corpses as He hung on the cross in that place of the dead which is called Calvary. His hearing was torn with the voices of mockers and blasphemers, and He saw the tears of His mother and of the disciple whom He loved. If we only consider the amount of suffering required, it is true that one suffering alone, the least indeed of all, would have sufficed to redeem the human race from all its sins. But if we look at the fitness of the matter, it had to be that Christ should suffer in all the kinds of sufferings. 

Words of Wisdom from St. Peter Damian

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Words of Wisdom from St. Peter Damian

Peter Damian attests: “that by the prayers of Mary, who stood between the cross of the good thief and that of her Son, the thief was converted and saved, and thereby she repaid a former service.” For, as other authors also relate, this thief had been kind to Jesus and Mary on their journey to Egypt; and this same office the Blessed Virgin has ever continued, and still continues, to perform.

And here we say, that although Mary, now in heaven, can no longer command her Son, nevertheless her prayers are always the prayers of a Mother, and, consequently, most powerful to obtain whatever she asks. And therefore, says Saint Peter Damian, “the Blessed Virgin can do whatever she pleases both in heaven and on earth. She is able to raise even those who are in despair to confidence; and he addresses her in these words: “All power is given to thee in heaven and on earth, and nothing is impossible to thee, who canst raise those who are in despair to the hope of salvation.” And then he adds, that “when the Mother goes to seek a favour for us from Jesus Christ,” (whom the Saint calls the golden altar of mercy, at which sinners obtain pardon), “her Son esteems her prayers so greatly, and is so desirous to satisfy her, that when she prays it seems as if she rather commanded than prayed, and was rather a Queen than a handmaid. Jesus is pleased thus to honour His beloved Mother, who honoured Him so much during her life, by immediately granting all that she asks or desires.”

And thus Saint Peter Damian, reflecting on the great power of Mary, and begging her to take compassion on us, addresses her, saying: “O, let thy nature move thee, let thy power move thee; for the more thou art powerful, the greater should thy mercy be.” O Mary, our own beloved advocate, since thou hast so compassionate a heart, that thou canst not even see the wretehed without being moved to pity; and since, at the same time, thou hast so great power with God that thou canst save all whom thou dost protect; disdain not to undertake the cause of us poor miserable creatures who place all our hope in thee. If our prayers cannot move thee, at least let thine own benign heart do so; or, at least, let thy power do so, since God has enriched thee with such great power, in order that the richer thou art in power to help us, the more merciful thou mayest be in the will to assist us. 

Saint Peter Damian

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Saint Peter Damian

Cardinal Bishop
(988-1072)

Saint Peter Damian, born in 988, lost both his parents at an early age. His eldest brother, to whose hands he was left, treated him so cruelly that another brother, a priest, moved by his piteous state, sent him to the University of Parma, where he acquired great distinction. His studies were sanctified by vigils, fasts, and prayers, until at last, thinking that all this was only serving God halfway, he resolved to leave the world. He joined the monks of Fonte Avellano, then in the greatest repute, and by his wisdom and sanctity rose to be Superior.

Saint Peter was called upon for the most delicate and difficult missions, among others the reform of ecclesiastical communities, which his zeal accomplished. Seven Popes in succession made him their constant adviser, and he was finally created Cardinal Bishop of Ostia. He withstood Henry IV of Germany, and labored in defense of Pope Alexander II against an antipope, whom he forced to yield and seek pardon. He was charged, as papal legate, with the repression of simony and correction of scandals; again, was commissioned to settle discords amongst various bishops; and finally, in 1072, to adjust the affairs of the Church at Ravenna. He had never paid attention to his health, which was at best fragile, and after enduring violent onslaughts of fever during the night, would rise to hear confessions, preach, or sing solemn Masses, always ready to sacrifice his well-being and life for the salvation of the souls entrusted to him.

After succeeding in this final mission as he ordinarily did, on his journey back to Ostia he was laid low by fever; he died at Faenza in a monastery of his Order, on the eighth day of his sickness, while the monks chanted Matins around him.

Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 2; 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). 

Meditations for Each Day of Lent by St. Thomas Aquinas – Monday After First Sunday of Lent

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Meditations for Each Day of Lent
by St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday After First Sunday of Lent

Christ had to be tempted in the desert

He was in the desert forty days and forty nights: and was tempted by Satan. Mark i. 13.

1. It was by Christ’s own will that He was exposed to the temptation by the devil, as it was also by His own will that He was exposed to be slain by the limbs of the devil. Had He not so willed, the devil would never have dared to approach Him.

The devil is always more disposed to attack those who are alone, because, as is said in Sacred Scripture, If a man shall prevail against one, two shall with stand him easily (Eccles. iv. 12). That is why Christ went out into the desert, as one going out to a battle-ground, that there He might be tempted by the devil. Whereupon St. Ambrose says that Christ went into the desert for the express purpose of provoking the devil. For unless the devil had fought, Christ would never have overcome him for me.

St. Ambrose gives other reasons too. He says that Christ chose the desert as the place to be tempted for a hidden reason, namely that he might free from His exile Adam who, from Paradise, was driven into the desert; and again that He did it for a reason in which there is no mystery, namely to show us that the devil envies those who are tending towards a better life.

2. We say with St. Chrysostom that Christ exposed Himself to the temptation because the devil most of all tempts those whom he sees alone. So in the very beginning of things he tempted the woman, when he found her away from her husband. It does not however follow from this that a man ought to throw himself into any occasion of temptation that presents itself.

Occasions of temptation are of two kinds. One kind arises from man’s own action, when, for example, man himself goes near to sin, not avoiding the occasion of sin. That such occasions are to be avoided we know, and Holy Scripture reminds us of it. Stay not in any part of the country round about Sodom (Gen. xix. 17). The second kind of occasion arises from the devil’s constant envy of those who are tending to better things, as St. Ambrose says, and this occasion of temptation is not one we must avoid. So, according to St. John Chrysostom, not only Christ was led into the desert by the Holy Ghost, but all the children of God who possess the Holy Ghost are led in like manner. For God’s children are never content to sit down with idle hands, but the Holy Ghost ever urges them to undertake for God some great work. And this, as far as the devil is concerned, is to go into the desert, for in the desert there is none of that wickedness which is the devil’s delight. Every good work is as it were a desert to the eye of the world and of our flesh, for good works are contrary to the desire of the world and of our flesh.

To give the devil such an opportunity of temptation as this is not dangerous, for it is much more the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, who is the promoter of every perfect work, that prompts us than the working of the devil who hates them all.