Saint Felix of Cantalicio

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Saint Felix of Cantalicio, Confessor.

A.D. 1587.

ST. FELIX was born of poor but virtuous parents, at Cantalicio, near Citta Ducale in the Ecclesiastical State, in 1513. For his extraordinary piety he was from his infancy surnamed the saint. At the time when in his childhood he kept cattle, and when afterwards he followed tillage and husbandry work, he was careful to sanctify his labour by a perfect spirit of penance. He accompanied all his actions with devout prayer, so as even then to lead the life rather of a hermit than of a country labourer. He watched during part of the night in holy meditation, and to his painful life he added the austerity of rigorous abstinence and fasting. He contrived, without prejudice to his work, every day to hear mass, and he declined the ordinary amusements of those of his age. Oft in the fields, when he had drove his cattle into some solitary pasture, he would pray for several hours together at the foot of some tree before a cross which with his knife he had cut in the bark. At twelve years of age his father put him out to service, in quality first of shepherd and afterwards of husbandman, in the family of Mark Tully Pichi, a virtuous gentleman who lived at Citta Ducale. In his tender years, before the faculties of his mind were sufficiently opened to qualify him for deep reflection and long meditation, his prayer chiefly consisted of the Our Father, Hail Mary, Creed, Glory be to the Father, &c., especially of certain petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, which he seemed almost never to cease repeating in the fields with wonderful devotion. He was yet young, when he learned to habituate himself to the practice of holy meditation during his labour, and he soon attained to the perfection of heavenly contemplation, whereby the fire of divine affections is readily kindled in the heart by the least thought on God, as touchwood catches the flame; whereas holy meditation calls in the succour of reasoning drawn from the truths of faith, to excite ardent affections of virtue in the soul. It is a mistake to imagine that this exercise requires learning or sublime thoughts.  Continue reading

The First Council of Nicaea

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The First Council of Nicaea

First Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, held in 325 on the occasion of the heresy of Arius (Arianism). As early as 320 or 321 St. Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, convoked a council at Alexandria at which more than one hundred bishops from Egypt and Libya anathematized Arius. The latter continued to officiate in his church and to recruit followers. Being finally driven out, he went to Palestine and from there to Nicomedia. During this time St. Alexander published his “Epistola encyclica”, to which Arius replied; but henceforth it was evident that the quarrel had gone beyond the possibility of human control. Sozomen even speaks of a Council of Bithynia which addressed an encyclical to all the bishops asking them to receive the Arians into the communion of the Church. This discord, and the war which soon broke out between Constantine and Licinius, added to the disorder and partly explains the progress of the religious conflict during the years 322-3. Finally Constantine, having conquered Licinius and become sole emperor, concerned himself with the re-establishment of religious peace as well as of civil order. He addressed letters to St. Alexander and to Arius deprecating these heated controversies regarding questions of no practical importance, and advising the adversaries to agree without delay. It was evident that the emperor did not then grasp the significance of the Arian controversy. Hosius of Cordova, his counsellor in religious matters, bore the imperial letter to Alexandria, but failed in his conciliatory mission. Seeing this, the emperor, perhaps advised by Hosius, judged no remedy more apt to restore peace in the Church than the convocation of an ecumenical council. Continue reading

THE THREE EXCELLENCIES OF MASS: PART 2

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THE THREE EXCELLENCIES OF MASS: PART 2

VII. But if the intrinsic wonder and glory of the sacrifice move you not, be moved at least by the extreme necessity for its existence.

If there were no sun to shine on the world, what would it be? All darkness, horror, barrenness, and misery supreme. And if there were not holy Mass in the world? O unhappy race! We should then be vessels empty of every good, and full of evil to the brim; we should be a mark for all the thunders of the wrath of God. Some are surprised at its really seeming as if since ancient times our good God had in some sort changed His mode of government. He then caused Himself to be called the God of armies and of battles, and spoke to the people from the midst of clouds, with lightnings in His hand. He then chastised sin with all the rigor of justice. For one adultery there fell by the edge of the sword five-and-twenty thousand of the tribe of Benjamin. For the pride of David in numbering the people He sent a pestilence so malignant that quickly seventy thousand persons were no more. For one curious and somewhat irreverent look He overthrew in frightful slaughter more than fifty thousand of the Betsamites. And now He will bear with patience not only vanities and frivolities, but adulteries the most base, scandals the most iniquitous, and blasphemies the most revolting, vomited forth against His most holy name by many Christians every hour of the day. How comes this? Why so great a difference of government? Are, perhaps, our sins of ingratitude more excusable than those of old? Quite the contrary. They are very much more culpable, since there is the addition of benefits so immeasurable. The true reason of a clemency so stupendous is the holy Mass, in which is offered to the Eternal Father the great Victim-Jesus. Behold the Sun of holy Church, that scatters the clouds and renders heaven again serene! Behold the heavenly Rainbow, pacifying the storms of Divine justice! For myself, I believe that were it not for holy Mass, at this moment the world would be in the abyss, unable to bear up under the mighty load of its iniquities. Mass is the potent prop that holds the world upon its base. Therefore, when we are assisting at it, we ought to practise that which once Alphonsus of Albuquerque did, who, finding himself with his fleet in danger of perishing during a fierce and terrific tempest, adopted the following means: He took in his arms an innocent little child which was on board his ship, and lifting it up toward Heaven, he said, “If we are sinners, this creature is certainly free from sin; O Lord, for love of this innocent, remit to us the death we deserve!” Will you believe it? The spectacle of that stainless babe was so pleasing to God that He tranquillized the sea, and changed into joy for these unfortunates their terror of a death already imminent. Now, what do you believe is done by the Eternal Father when the priest, lifting in the air the thrice-saved Victim, shows to Him the innocence of His Divine Son? Ah, then His compassion cannot resist the sight of the most spotless innocence of Jesus, and He feels as if compelled to calm our storms, and to provide for all our necessities. Thus without that thrice-holy Victim, Jesus, first of all bloodily sacrificed for us upon the Cross, and daily since unbloodily upon our altars, it would be all at an end with us; each might say to the other, “We part to meet in Hell.” Yes, in Hell! But possessing this treasure of holy Mass, hope breathes again; and if we but throw it not away by our own mismanagement, we have holy Paradise within our grasp. Well may we, therefore, kiss our altars, perfume them with incense and holy sweets; and, what is more, honor them with the utmost reverence and awe, since through them there cometh so much good. And do you, O priests, join your hands in thanksgiving to the Eternal Father for having placed you in the sweet necessity of often offering to Him this Victim of paradise; and, still more, thank Him for the unbounded gain which you can gather from it, if you but be faithful, not only in offering it, but in offering it for the proper ends for which He bestowed a gift so precious. Continue reading

THE THREE EXCELLENCIES OF MASS: PART 1 

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THE THREE EXCELLENCIES OF MASS, PART 1

I. It requires great patience to endure the language of careless livers, breathing atheism itself, and ruinous to devotion; as for instance, “A Mass more or less counts for little.” “It is no small thing to hear Mass on festivals.” “The Mass of this or that priest is for length like one in Holy Week; when he appears at the altar, I generally get out of church forthwith.” He who talks in this way lets it be perceived that he has little or no esteem for the thrice-holy sacrifice af the Mass. That sacrifice is the sun of Christianity, the soul of faith, the centre of the Catholic religion, wherein are beheld all her rites, all her ceremonies, and all her Sacraments; in fine, it is the compendium of all the good and beautiful to be found in the Church of God. Wherefore, O ye who now read my words, ponder well how great are the matters to be spoken of in these instructions.

II. It is a certain truth that all the religions which have existed from the beginning of the world have ever had some sacrifice as an essential part of the worship which they offered to God. But because their whole law was either vain or imperfect, so were their sacrifices either vain or imperfect. Most vain were the sacrifices of the idolaters, nor is there any occasion to mention them; and those of the Hebrews, although, indeed, then professing the true religion, were poor and deficient, by St. Paul called infirma et egena elementa, “weak and poor elements” (Gal. iv. 9), because they could neither cancel sin nor confer grace. The sole sacrifice which we have in our holy religion, that is to say, Holy Mass, is a sacrifice, holy, perfect, in every point complete, with which each one of the faithful nobly honors God, protesting at one and the same time his own nothingness and the supreme dominion which God hath over him; a sacrifice called, therefore, by David, sacrificium justitiae, “the sacrifice of justice” (Ps. iv. 5); both because it contains the Just One Himself, and the Saint of Saints, or rather justice and holiness themselves, and because it sanctifies souls by the infusion of grace and the affluence of gifts which it confers. Being, then, a sacrifice so holy—–a sacrifice the most venerable and the most excellent of all—–in order that you may form a due conception of so great a treasure, we shall here explain, in a manner quite succinct, some of its Divine excellencies. To express them all were not a work to which our poor faculties could attain. Continue reading

St. Bernardine’s Preaching

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St. Bernardine’s Preaching

The worship of this adorable name was still more widely extended and popularized by the preaching of the disciples of St. Francis. One of the foremost of them, St. Bernardine of Siena, was not satisfied with preaching the holy name of Jesus in the cities and towns of Italy, he had the monogram of Our Lord, surrounded with rays, painted on little tablets and advised all his hearers to procure one of these tablets for their homes. He himself always wore one, and he would show it to the people at the end of his sermon, inviting the congregation to bend the knee before the holy picture in honor of Jesus. This devotion had a great effect in producing reverence, love, and fear for the Saviour of mankind.

When, in 1427, Bernardine was denounced to Pope Martin V for having introduced “a profane and idolatrous new devotion by exposing the people to the danger of adoring the letters of the name of Jesus, and not the Saviour Himself,” the saint, accompanied by St. John Capistran and Blessed Matthew of Girgenti, pleaded the cause of the Holy Name so well that the Pope exhorted him to pursue his fruitful apostolate, to teach the people reverence and love for the Holy Name of Jesus, and, moreover, told him that he might present without fear to the veneration of the faithful the representation of this blessed name. Then he ordered a general procession in Rome in honor of the Holy Name of Jesus, so as to leave no doubt as to the feeling of the Church for a devotion from which she gathered such precious fruits. St. John Capistran carried the banner of the name of Jesus, against which so many sacrilegious attacks had been directed. Religious of all Orders, the secular clergy and a large body of the people followed, singing canticles. Thus the holy name of Jesus was blessed, glorified, and extolled to the enthusiastic delight of every Christian heart.

The memory of this event was perpetuated later on in the Order of St. Francis, by the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Name of Jesus. This feast was, by permission of Pope Innocent VIII, established in the Franciscan Order in the year 1530, and observed on the I4th day of January. In 1721 Innocent XIII extended the celebration of the feast to the universal Church, and appointed it to be kept on the second Sunday after Epiphany. In 1863 Pius IX approved the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus, at the request of the general of the Franciscan Order.