Tag Archives: saints

Do you pin? We do too.

August 3, 2012

0 Comments

The Catholic Spirit is on Pinterest!

Here is a favorite board:

Saints

Continue reading...

January 21, the Memorial of St. Agnes

January 18, 2012

1 Comment

St. Agnes stained glass at St. Nicholas in Belle River, MN.

St. Agnes (292-304 AD) is one of the most revered and famous saints of the early Church.  Her courageous martyrdom was so inspiring to early Christians that her name was inserted into numerous litanies of saints, and she is included on the list of apostles and martyrs in the Roman Canon, today known as Eucharistic Prayer I.

Agnes was born in Rome into a wealthy family sometime around 292 AD during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305 AD).  Christianity was not legal.  Undeterred, she became a devout believer already as a young girl.  She had a deep, abiding love for God and considered herself espoused to Jesus alone, and she steadfastly upheld her purity and maintained her virginity.  She died a cruel martyr’s death at the age of twelve or thirteen.  The details of her life are clouded in history, more legend than fact.

As the story goes, Agnes was a beautiful young lady who consecrated herself exclusively to God.  She attracted a great deal of attention from many young men, all competing to court her.  She rebuffed them one by one.  Infuriated by her refusals, her prospective suitors, all pagans, in retaliation revealed her identity as a Christian to the governor.  He interrogated her, and she replied, “I have no spouse but Jesus Christ.”  He threatened her with fire, iron hooks, and the rack, but she scoffed at them all.  She was ordered to offer incense to pagan gods, but she made the Sign of the Cross instead.

Enraged by her defiant attitude, the governor commanded that Agnes be sent to a house of prostitution where lust-filled men could violate her, but his plan was foiled.  When she arrived, those who intended to accost her were overcome with her aura of holiness and decided to respect her, all except one.  When this solitary individual advanced toward her, filled with wicked desires, he was struck blind.  The sightless man’s companions, awestruck by Agnes’ courage and faith, brought their friend to Agnes who offered a prayer and healed him.

Because of the cure, Agnes was accused of witchcraft and returned to the governor who, fuming with rage, condemned her to death by beheading.  She was taken to the Stadium of Domitian; the same location as today’s popular tourist attraction, the Piazza Navona.  St. Ambrose later wrote, “She went to her place of execution more cheerfully than others go to their wedding.”  It was there that she was beheaded by the sword.

St. Agnes has two symbols:  a palm branch, the symbol of martyrdom, and a lamb, because her name is so similar to the Latin word agnus which means “lamb.”  She is the patron saint of young girls, the Girl Scouts, purity, and Christian virtue.

Continue reading...

Why the saints are in a good position to pray for us

October 25, 2011

1 Comment

The Trinity Adored by All Saints (detail), Spain, early 15th cen. Photo/clairity Licensed through Creative Commons

Every day people post prayer intentions on a board outside my church’s perpetual adoration chapel in hopes that adorers will take those needs to prayer.  And every Sunday Catholics pray for the Church, their communities and the world.

Christians pray for others–and it makes sense that they’d continue to pray in heaven.

As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints, it’s worth considering who the saints are and why we ask them to intercede for us.

The Catechism defines a saint as, “the ‘holy one’ who leads a life in union with God through the grace of Christ and receives the reward of eternal life.” That’s what we’re all aiming at.

Heroic Virtue

A holy person who has died becomes a saint with a capital ‘S’ when the Church canonizes or beatifies them after common repute and conclusive arguments prove they’ve exercised heroic virtue during their lives.

One of the biggest objections to asking for a saint’s intercession (We don’t pray to them but rather we ask them to pray with us.)  is the scripture passage stating that Christ is the one mediator between God and humanity. (I Tim. 2:5)

However, those who are with the Lord are in a good position to offer Him our petitions:

“Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness. … [T]hey do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquire on earth through the one mediator between  God and men, Christ Jesus. … So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” (CCC 956)

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, we can pray two ways. First, to God alone “because all our prayers ought to be direct to obtaining grace and glory which God alone gives.”  But secondly, “we pray to the holy angels and to men not that God may learn our petition through them, but that by their prayers and merits our prayers may be efficacious.”

Scriptural Basis

Scripture contains many references to the effectiveness of intercession on earth and in heaven. Rev. 5:8 and 8:3-4 describe the prayers of the saints as like incense before God.  Job 42:8 speaks of the intercession of Job and Gen. 20:7 and 17 to that of Abraham.  Also, Phil. 1:3-4 and Rom. 15:30 emphasize the importance of intercession.

During their lives the saints like St. Cyprian encouraged us to give our petitions to Christians in heaven:

“Let us be mutually mindful of each other, let us ever pray for each other, and if one of us shall, by the speediness of the Divine vouchsafement, depart hence first, let our love continue in the presence of the Lord, let not prayer for our brethren and sisters cease in the presence of the mercy of the Father.”

Maybe when we post our petitions at church we should also ask as some powerful Christians in a better location to pray, as St. John Chrysostom  encourages:

“When thou perceivest that God is chastening thee, fly not to His enemies … but to His friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to Him, and who have great power.”

 

Continue reading...

What are indulgences and why do we need them?

September 7, 2011

0 Comments

kids climbing

Indulgences give us the chance to receive a "hand up" from Christ and the saints as we seek remission of punishment for our sins. Photo by Jo Guldi. Licensed under Creative Commons.

What if the government worked out this solution to the personal debt crisis:  All Americans would contribute everything they made, beyond their personal needs, to a common treasury. The wealthy would put in their billions, and everyone else in lower tax brackets would put in what they had.

A trustworthy administrator with authority would give those who had maxed out their credit cards the opportunity to pay off their debts from the common pot if they showed remorse and determination to learn better financial habits. The treasury would always be full because of one super contributor and because others were constantly adding to it.

This may sound like a great socialist scheme but in reality, it’s an image that helps describe how indulgences work in the Church. By drawing on the merits of Christ and the saints, an indulgence enables us to obtain remission of the temporal punishment (which has a beginning and end, unlike eternal punishment) we incur when we sin.

When we confess our sins to a priest in confession, receive absolution and do the penance we’re given, our sins are forgiven. But just like sincere contrition alone wouldn’t fix a rear-ended car, forgiveness of sin alone doesn’t satisfy God’s justice, according to Church teaching.

All sin, including venial sin, involves unhealthy attachment to creatures, from which the sinner must be purified before entering heaven (CCC 1472). That purification of temporal punishment happens either on earth or in Purgatory.

Inexhaustible storehouse of merits

Typically combining works of piety, prayer and the sacraments, indulgences are granted by the Pope, who presides over the Church’s treasury of satisfaction: her inexhaustible  storehouse of the merits of Christ, the Blessed Mother and the saints.

Indulgences are not permission to commit sin, pardon of past sin or forgiveness of guilt. They suppose that sin is already forgiven. They’re not an exemption from any law or duty but a more complete payment of debt owned to God.  And above all, they’re not an attempt to purchase pardon in order to secure salvation or release a soul from Purgatory.

“He who gains indulgences is not thereby released outright from what he owes as penalty, but is provided with the means of paying it,” wrote St. Thomas Aquinas.

Besides being in the state of grace, those who seek indulgences must do the works prescribed for the indulgence, love God, place their trust in Christ’s merits and believe strongly in the great assistance they receive from the Communion of Saints, Pope Paul VI wrote in his Apostolic Constitution on Indulgences.

There are two types of indulgences: A plenary indulgence removes all temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven. To obtain it, a Catholic must do the work attached to the indulgence, go to confession, receive Holy Communion and pray for the Holy Father’s intentions (at least one Our Father and one Hail Mary).  A partial indulgence removes part of the punishment and requires that the act attached to the indulgence be performed contritely.

Facts about indulgences

  • A Catholic can obtain one plenary indulgence per day, but more than one when at the point of death.
  • It’s possible to gain more than one partial indulgence per day.
  • The faithful can obtain plenary indulgences quite easily at least twice a year, once for their church’s titular saint day and for Portiuncula (August 2), the first plenary  indulgence granted in the Church.
  • A plenary indulgence, applicable only for the dead, can be acquired on November 2.
  • See the Catholic Answers website for more information on how to obtain indulgences.

Knowing the great wealth Christ and the saints have deposited in our Church’s treasury of satisfaction–and how much we need it–we have good incentive to take the grace of indulgences seriously.

 

Continue reading...

St. Gregory the Great (540-604), Pope and Doctor

August 30, 2011

0 Comments

St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great in stained glass window at St. Clement in Minneapolis.

September 3 is the anniversary of Pope St. Gregory the Great’s ordination as Bishop of Rome in 590 AD. His feast is not celebrated on the anniversary of death because March 12 falls in Lent.

Gregory was born in Rome in 540 into a prominent family. His father was a senator, and he followed him as a public servant, first in a number of lesser offices, then as Prefect. Gregory desired to enter religious life, resigned his post, and left government work altogether.

Gregory converted his family home to a monastery and began to liquidate much of his personal wealth, using some to fund seven different monasteries in Rome and Sicily, and a large amount was distributed to the poor. For the next few years he was a monk in seclusion, and he spent his time in prayer and meditation, living simply, rigorously observing the Rule of St. Benedict.

Gregory was ordained a deacon by Pope Pelagius II in 578 and then sent by the pope as his personal legate to Constantinople (579-585). He returned to Rome in 586 and became abbot of St. Andrew’s Monastery. After a brief missionary venture to England and a stint as papal secretary, Pope Pelagius died in 590, and Gregory was elected unanimously as his replacement. He vehemently protested, finally relented, and he was consecrated on September 3, 590.

Pope Gregory was a tremendous leader and organizer. There was a plague in Rome; he spearheaded the relief effort. There were many poor and starving; he coordinated a food distribution network. The Lombards attempted to invade; he negotiated a treaty, appointed the highest military officers, and insured that the soldiers would be paid properly.

He worked diligently to reorganize the Church. He helped to establish the Papal States, developed a code of conduct for bishops, enforced clerical celibacy, replaced irresponsible clergy, facilitated better cooperation between the churches of Spain and France, and sent St. Augustine of Canterbury and a number of other monks as missionaries to England.

Gregory had a deep love for the liturgy, particularly liturgical music. He promoted “plainsong,” a form of chant which became known as Gregorian Chant. He placed the Lord’s Prayer within the Mass, developed other texts for the Eucharistic Prayer, and wrote a number of Prefaces, especially for Easter, Christmas, and the Ascension.

He wrote extensively on moral and theological subjects. His best known works are Moralia, a mystical and allegorical exposition of the Book of Job; Dialogues, the miracles and deeds of the saints of Italy; Pastoral Care (Rule), his treatise on how the bishop should serve as a shepherd; Forty Homilies on the Gospels; and Homilies on Ezekiel, a discourse for clerics and monks.

He died on March 12, 604. He is one of the four great doctors of the church, along with Sts. Ambrose, Augustine, and Jerome. He called himself the “servus servorum Dei,” the servant of the servants of God. He is best known as the patron saint of music. He is also the patron saint of singers, popes, scholars, teachers, schoolchildren, and the victims of plague.

Continue reading...

10 questions to increase your Catholic IQ

August 26, 2011

0 Comments


question marks

Image by Valerie Everett. Licensed under Creative Commons.

A newly-ordained priest said during a homily recently that when he left seminary he realized he didn’t know everything.

He was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but his comments made me think about how much there is to know about the Catholic Faith.  No matter how many questions we answer, I think we’ll always have more because ultimately, God is a mystery.

Here are 10 intriguing questions about the Faith–not in any order–that readers and other inquiring Catholics have sent in for this blog. I’m curious about which ones you’re most interested in or if there are others (and I’m sure there are) that didn’t make the list.

  1. What is a miracle?
  2. Why do we baptize babies?
  3. What is an indulgence?
  4. What does the Church teach about cremation?
  5. Why do we need to confess our sins to a priest?
  6. What is penance and is it just for Lent?
  7. What does the Church teach about polygamy?
  8. What is natural law?
  9. What is intinction?
  10. Why do we pray to saints?

I’d also like to know if anyone ever asks you questions about the faith–either other Catholics or non-Catholics. Are there topics for which you’d like to have an answer ready, in case they come up again? Do you ever wish you could engage Mormons or evangelical groups in conversation about faith when they come to the door, but don’t quite know how to express your beliefs?

These are good reasons to keep asking questions about the Catholic Faith. Look for answers to the 10 intriguing questions in future posts. And email in what you’ve been wondering about!

 

 

Continue reading...

Look skyward tonight for the ‘Tears of St. Lawrence’

August 12, 2011

0 Comments

Each August, skywatchers are treated to the Perseid meteor shower — one of the best annual displays of “shooting stars.”

This year the Perseids peak on the night of Aug. 12-13, although the nearly full moon will interfere with your ability to see many meteors — debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle through which the Earth passes. If you’re lucky, this year you might see as many as a few dozen per minute.

The shower gets its name from the location in the sky from which the meteors appear to radiate — in this case, a point near the border between the constellations Perseus and Cassiopeia, although the meteors might flash anywhere across the sky.

The Perseids are also known in some circles as the “Tears of St. Lawrence”  — named after the third-century martyr whose feast day, Aug. 10, typically falls when the meteor shower is most visible.

The easiest way to watch the Perseids is to lie back in a comfortable lounge-style chair with a blanket and snacks. Plan on staying outside for an hour or two for the best viewing experience.

For those in the Twin Cities area and western Wisconsin who would like to learn more about the Perseids and the night sky, the University of Minnesota astronomy department is hosting a free Perseid Meteor Shower Party from 9 to 11 p.m. Aug. 12 at William O’Brien State Park near Marine On St. Croix. The evening will include a short indoor presentation and then telescope viewing of celestial objects in addition to meteor shower watching. For more information, call 651-433-0500.

So pray the skies stay clear and make it a family night under the stars, planets and the Tears of St. Lawrence.

Continue reading...

Publishers must think church saints are back in

July 28, 2011

1 Comment

Saints are cool again. At least book publishers must figure they are.

Here’s a quick look at recent releases that target niche markets — teens and moms — people who might be searching for role models among the heavenly blessed — and one that could be for just about everyone.

Liguori Publications is aiming both at teenage readers and on-the-go mothers who might be looking for a spiritual boost — or at the least empathy.

In “Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints,” Colleen Swaim (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?sku=820298) tells the real-life biographies of eight young people who lived relatively recently, all in an effort to help today’s young people understand that holiness is real and attainable.

Catholics will recognize names like Maria Goretti and Dominic Savio — well-known teens saints, but names new to me like St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, an Indian nun, and St. Kizito, a  Ugandan martyred for his faith.

What makes the this 130-page paperback work is that Swaim knows her audience has short attention spans so she keeps the stories brief and interesting, but she also challenges teens to put themselves in the situations the saints found themselves, asking them to reflect upon questions like:

“Think back to the last time you were in physical pain. How did you react to it?”

And, “Do you remember making your first Holy Communion? How did you feel? How do you approach the Eucharist differently today?”

Even the brief text is broken up with definitions and info boxes scattered throughout along with prayers, quotes, and “Saintly Challenges” like, “With the zeal of a new convert, fearlessly tell one person about your faith.”

 

For Moms-on-the-go

In a similar vein but purse-size and just 79 pages is “Saints on Call: Everyday Devotions for Moms” (http://www.liguori.org/productdetails.cfm?PC=11903. Author Christine Gibson takes common, real-life situations — for example, “When you feel ‘sacrificed-out’ for your family…” — and offers a simple explanation how a saint dealt with a similar issue. Each brief story is followed by a quote from scripture to ponder and a prayer.

For the sacrificed-out mom, Gibson holds up St. Gianna Molla who chose to deliver her baby knowing it would cost her her own life. Gibson’s prayer hits home:

“St. Gianna, you made the ultimate sacrifice for your little one. I ask you to please pray for me that I may rejoice in the sacrifices I can make for my dear children.”

Among the more than four dozen other situations — each tied to a saint — are issues such as “When you feel like life is not going as you planned it…” (St. Rose Philippine Duchesne); “When you can’t stand another house guest…” (St. Lydia Pupuraria); “When you are worried about your wayward child…” (St. Monica).

Every single one is a winner.

 

For scholars, art lovers and, well, everyone

Finally, there’s this book that will appeal to a number of niche groups — and perhaps a general audience, too —  with stories about saints from Agatha to Zachariah.

“The Lives of the Saints through 100 Masterpieces” (http://www.dupress.duq.edu/pubDetails.asp?theISBN=9780820704364) is a Duquesne University Press paperback is going to be loved by those who cherish Christian art, but those interested in saints’ stories, myths, legends and history will find it compelling reading and viewing.

Written by Jacques Duquesne and Francois Lebrette and translated from the French by M. Cristina Borges, this 221-pager is a collection of saints’ biographies — and tales, to be honest — each accompanied by classic paintings that hang is places both well-known — The Louvre, The Prado — and obscure (to me at least), and almost all in Europe.

Even if you think you know the stories of saints you’ll find new information here. I especially appreciated the transparency of the authors who frankly acknowledge when something about one of the saintly heroes may have been passed down as mere legend.

Readers will appreciated learning why a saint is pictured in a certain way — St. Denis carrying his own head! – or typically painted with a certain object — a sword, a palm leaf, a stag, which would be St. Hubert, patron saint of hunters.

There are saints, too, that you may never have heard of — St. Fiacre, for example — that show the European bent of the authors. But those tales are interesting, too, and the paintings that help tell the story are indeed masterpieces. Warning: The retail cost is a bit steep at $29.95, but it isn’t cheap to print all those color paintings, and the print job is superb, even in the smaller format.– bz

Continue reading...

50 reasons a questioning-yet-hopeful Catholic stays Catholic

April 13, 2011

1 Comment

Mary, the Mass, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Sister Thea Bowman, Catholic Charities — those are just six of the 50 answers that Michael Leach proposes as his response to the question “Why Stay Catholic?”

The question is the title of the Loyola University paperback out within the past month. Leach, who for more than 30 years has been involved in Catholic book publishing for organizations such as Crossroads and Orbis, offers very personal reasons his faith remains a key part of who he is and how he lives.

The list of a half-a-hundred are divided into three areas — ideas, places and people — and a few of the inclusions might lend you to see them as a give-away that the author resides on the decided progressive side of our church’s ideological divide. That may very well be true, but other inclusions in the 50 are even more evidence of what this reviewer sees as more prevalent than the assumed liberal-conservative camp arrangement.

That reality is that even presumed liberals cherish Catholic traditions, value Catholic institutions, and love the church in spite of its weaknesses.

Leach has a marvelous chapter — reasons #24 — titled “The Papacy, or It’s a Tough Job, but Somebody’s Got to Do It.” With a dash of papal history, a smidgen on infallibility and a poignant piece on what he’d do if he were pope, Leach explains the good that our earthly spiritual leaders can do and have done, and does so gracefully.

Minnesotans will want to read why he includes St. Paul native and late bishop of New Ulm Ray Lucker in his “people” section. And locally owned St. Patrick’s Guild gets a mention as one of the good Catholic bookstores that are Leach’s reason #48.

Along with loving his church, Leach challenges it in this 224-page work. Readers will find that he was a priest for just a few short years, and I find that’s often a turn-off for some. Stay with him, though.

I too began to sour on Leach when he acknowledged that, like at least 60 percent of those who call themselves Catholic, he isn’t a regular Massgoer. Again, stay with him. There’s comfort to be found in doing so.

Finally, make sure you get to reason #50, Leach’s vision for Vatican III.

Would that everyone who calls themselves Catholic had the same vision. — bz

Continue reading...