Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Kind of Saint

I had heard of this saint before, but until I read the post on him over at Sub Tuum, I didn't know that he and I have a similar trait. A big mouth. He was also hung, drawn, and quartered for being a Catholic Priest. Surely he is a model for all priests to follow.

Here is the short sketch of St. Alban Roe that the good Br. Stephen provides on his blog:

Fr Alban Roe was baptised Bartholomew sometime in 1583, in Suffolk. He attended Cambridge University, and while there experienced something that caused his conversion to Catholicism.

While visiting in St Alban’s, he heard that a Catholic recusant had been put in prison there for his beliefs, and chose to visit the prisoner, in order to argue him out of his superstitious ways. It did not work out like that, and the Catholic prisoner instead, persuaded Bartholomew that he needed change.

In February 1608 he took up a place in the English College (a seminary) in Douai, eager to become a priest. He was expelled in 1611, however, for criticising the principal.

It so happened that a Benedictine house was given permission to establish itself at Douai in December of 1608, and it seems likely that young Bartholomew was acquainted with it. At any rate, wishing to avoid further embarrassment in Douai, he joined the novitiate at another English monastery, St Laurence’s at Dieulouard in 1613. Once ordained he went to England where he worked in secret as a priest.

In 1618 however he was imprisoned for being a priest in England - a ‘crime’ which carried the death penalty. Fortunately, he was released by King James I in a general amnesty in 1623 and banished. He returned to England however, and was re-arrested in 1625 and imprisoned in St Alban’s where his adventure had begun so many years before.

Luckily for him, his friends had him removed to the Fleet prison in London where circumstances were much better. Indeed, like many others, he was allowed out into the streets of London by day so long as he gave his word (Fr. ‘parole’) that he would return by nightfall. He used his freedom to minister to many.

While King Charles I governed without parliament, no imprisoned priests were executed. When the Long Parliament convened, however, the hangings began again in earnest (20 between 1641 and 1646 including Fr Alban). On the 21st January 1642, he and Fr Thomas Ryenolds, a priest in his 80s, offered their last mass and were led to the gallows. They gave each other absolution.

Just before his death, Alban asked the sheriff if his life would be spared if he renounced his Catholic religion and became an Anglican. The sheriff swore he would be spared if he did. Alban then said to all: “See, then, what the crime is for which I am to die, and whether my religion be not my only treason... I wish I had a thousand lives; then would I sacrifice them all for so worthy a cause.” They were allowed to hang until they were dead before being quartered.

St. Alban Roe, pray for us!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Dance of the Holy Smoke

The title itself makes me laugh hysterically, which is exactly what I did in the library earlier today as I opened up a book entitled Parish Liturgy: A Handbook for Renewal by Robert D. Duggan and saw a section in Part II entitled Incense: The Dance of the Holy Smoke. As most of the regular readers of this blog (all five of you) know, I love using incense in the Sacred Liturgy. So, when I find such an interesting section title I just have to read it. I found this section to be particularly amusing because it provides a glimpse into a particular period in the development of liturgical thought. We look back and chuckle at it, but at the time it was considered by many to be quite serious. So, here are a few of my favorite excerpts from the section on incense.

For some people the use of incense at a liturgical celebration is a sign of the Tridentine Mass mentality and a sure indicator that those who favor it are stuck
in a rigid conservatism. For others, incense is a symbol of New Age exotica that brings to mind hippies smoking pot in the sixties and all the bad things one might imagine about the liberal Left...

The liturgical "dance of the holy smoke" triggers subliminal memories of childhood reveries, watching clouds form mysterious shapes on a sunny afternoon in mid-summer. It recalls campfires and family fireplaces, slender columns of smoke rising from birthday candles, and a hundred other forgotten memories...

But there may be times when a much more effective use of the symbol is achieved by a stationary container holding burning charcoal on which are placed (by a graceful liturgical dancer?) the grains of incense. The movement of the one applying the incense is, in fact, a kind of liturgical dance, despite the reluctance of many to use such terms to describe what is occurring. The stylized gestures called for in the ritual books (bowing, swinging arms, specified steps and paths to be taken) certainly qualify as choreography. And, like any dance form, its execution needs rehearsal, critique, and repeated practice if it is to seem - in the moment of celebration - effortless and un-selfconsciously graceful...

Thank God, that for the most part, such silliness is no longer commonplace in the Liturgy. Now that we have safely moved through that period in our liturgical history we have more noble and dignified ways of using incense - ways that are rooted in our 2000 year history. For that, let us thank the Almighty.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul

As I was praying the Divine Office today I was struck by the importance of this feast. It reminds us that even the greatest sinners can become even greater saints. It reminds us that the way we treat others is the way we treat Jesus. It reminds us that God wants us for His own and is willing to stop at nothing to have us, if only we open ourselves to Him. In order to help us appreciate this day you will find below a section from a homily by St. John Chrysostom.

Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.

Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all: Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us! This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honours, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil. The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him. Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God.

The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honoured. To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.

So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet. Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats. Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.

Friday, January 22, 2010


This past week we celebrated the Memorial of St. Sebastian, and early martyr of the Church. In the Office of Readings for the day St. Ambrose speaks of this great saint. He says

Take the example of the martyr Sebastian, whose birthday in glory we celebrate today. He was a native of Milan. At a time when persecution either had ceased or had not yet begun or was of a milder kind, he realized that there was only slight, if any, opportunity for suffering. He set out for Rome, where bitter persecutions were raging because of the fervor of the Christians. There he endured suffering; there he gained his crown. He went to the city as a stranger and there established a home of undying glory. If there had been only one persecutor, he would not have gained the martyr's crown.

The persecutors who are visible are not the only ones. There are also invisible persecutors, much greater in number. This is more serious. Like a king bent on persecution, sending orders to persecute to his many agents, and establishing different persecutors in each city or province, the devil directs his many servants in their work of persecution, whether in public or in the souls of individuals. Of this kind of persecution Scripture says: All who wish to live a holy life in Christ Jesus suffer persecution. "All" suffer persecution; there is no exception. Who can claim exemption if the Lord Himself endured the testing of persecution? How many there are today who are secret martyrs for Christ, giving testimony to Jesus as Lord!

I find the second paragraph to be very enlightening. We are all persecuted by the evil one, so, like St. Sebastian, let us put our trust in the Lord and rely upon Him so that we might endure with faith and courage the persecution that comes our way.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Eucharistic Adoration

The most recent issue of the Adoremus Bulletin arrived the other day, and so I have been reading through it over the past few days. One of the articles, entitled Eucharistic Adoration and Political Responsibility: Looking at the World through Eyes That Adore the Blessed Sacrament, by Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, OP, the Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, is particularly good. Early on in the article there is a paragraph which I think is quite beautiful and worth sharing. He says:

During Eucharistic adoration, it is not only we who behold Christ, but it is also He who beholds us. When we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we are not just gazing at a beautiful but inert object. The conteplative mode of prayer that we learn during adoration presupposes that Christ returns our gaze.

What an amazing reality! Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, gazes at us when we come before Him in adoration! Who in their right mind would not want to be in the gaze of God?

Adoration is one of the things that I miss here. I am sad to say it, but even the campus of a Catholic Seminary, there is rarely Adoration. The seminary I attended (Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis) had Adoration every day, but here, no such thing. If I want to go to go to Expostition or Benediction I have to go to Marytown, or some other parish that offers it. But it is worth the effort. To find myself in the gaze of the Son of God is very worth it. So if you live near a parish that had Adoration, go. Allow yourself the opportunity to sit in the presence of Jesus and recieve the love He desires to pour out into your heart.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

St. Athanasius on the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus

For one of my classes we are reading St. Athanasius' treatise On The Incarnation. In this text he is seeking to demonstrate that Jesus was indeed fully man, as well as being fully divine. At one point he is trying to defending the resurrection of Jesus. I found it to be a good meditation on how Jesus, who lives today - in the here and now - is active in the world and in our lives. Here is what he said:

Dead men cannot take effective action; their power of influence on others lasts only till the grave. Deeds and actions that energise others belong only to the living. Well then, look at the facts in this case. The Savior is working mightily among men, every day. He is invisibly persuading numbers of people all over the world, both within and beyond the Greek-speaking world, to accept His faith and be obedient to His teaching. Can anyone, in face of this, still doubt that He has risen and lives, or rather that He is Himself the Life? Does a dead man prick the consciences of men, so that they throw all the traditions of their fathers to the winds and bow down before the teaching of Christ? If He is no longer active in the world, as He must needs be if He is dead, how is it that He makes the living to cease from their activities, the adulterer from his adultery, the murderer from murdering, the unjust from avarice, while the profane and godless man becomes religious? If He did not rise, but is still dead, how is it that He routs and persecutes and overthrows the false gods, who unbelievers think to be alive, and the evil spirits whom they worship? For where Christ is named, idolatry is destroyed and the fraud of evil spirits is exposed; indeed, no such spirit can endure that Name, Who lives, not of one dead; and, more than that, it is the work of God. It would be absurd to say that the evil spirits who He drives out and the idols which He destroys are alive, but that He Who drives out and destroys, and Whom they themselves acknowledge to be Son of God, is dead.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Jumping in With Both Feet...Into a Snowbank That is...

After a wonderful, snow filled (see photo above of the front of my parent's house), Christmas break classes begin again. While home I had a rare experience: celebrating Christmas Mass at my home Parish. This is something most priests do not have the privilege to do since they are in the parishes to which they are assigned, so I was very grateful to have the opportunity. Those who came (which were myriad) to Mass on Christmas Eve got the full liturgical experience. All the liturgical things I love were present: gold Vestments, an alb with lace, a biretta atop my head, incense, chanted Gospel, and a chanted Eucharistic prayer. It was a liturgical feast to be sure.

But now, after the long drive back to Chicago, I once again have my nose in the books. Over the next days and weeks I hope to be sharings some of the things I am learning, and as always, if you have a liturgical question e-mail them to me (padredana at gmail dot com), and I will try to answer them.