Meditation for Holy Week

Meditation for Holy Week

The Crucifixion and death of Our Lord

By Fr Charles Hyacinth McKenna O.P.

We now come to consider the last of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and one of the greatest events in the history of our sad and sinful old world.

This mystery, said Bishop Martin of Paderborn, contains, accentuates and consummates the other four Sorrowful Mysteries. It renews the Agony in the garden, reopens the wounds of the flagellation; the crown of thorns is replaced on the head of our Redeemer; the Cross now bears Him who was forced to drag it to Calvary”1

As soon as the doleful procession of that first Good Friday attained the summit of the mountain, Our Lord, faint and weary, was given to drink wine mingled with myrrh and gall.   “But when He had tasted it, He would not drink.”

Then, laying violent hands upon Jesus, His tormentors roughly tore off His garments, to which the flesh of His lacerated body had adhered, thereby reopening all His wounds and causing the blood to flow afresh.  What must have been the confusion of our modest Lord, He who is incarnate purity, to be shamelessly exposed for the second time to the derision of that vast multitude!  Ah, to what profound depths of humiliation did He not descend for our sakes!

Despoiled of His raiment, He was then rudely thrown upon the cross, and four of His inhuman executioners began the work of nailing Him to it.  First, His right hand was fastened to the wood with a rude spike — not a sharp nail, but one blunt and rough, which would mangle and tear the sensitive nerves of the palm of the hand and cause indescribable agony.  The left hand was next seized.  His sacred feet were then nailed to the cross in the same inhuman fashion — and the bloody work of the crucifixion was completed!

The soldiers then gathered around our Blessed Lord to place the cross in position.  Carrying it to the spot which they dug for it in the rock, instead of lowering it gently, they roughly dropped it into the hole, thereby jarring most painfully the whole sacred body, enlarging the wounds in the blessed hands and feet, and causing the precious blood to flow in streams.  His malicious enemies now behold their helpless Victim uplifted in His agony.

Is there no heart among them to regret or condemn this terrible immolation of the sinless Lamb of God?  Ah, no!  Far from being moved to pity for the Just One in His extremity of anguish, the hearts of the spectators seem to grow fiercer and more obdurate, if that be possible.  No word of compassion falls from their lips, but priests and soldiers, alike, vie with one another in mocking and blaspheming Him.

Draw near now, faithful souls, to the foot of the cross, and gazing upon this hideous spectacle of your dying Redeemer, learn the malice of sin, as well as the inexorable justice of God, which exacts for it so tremendous an expiation.  It was our sins rather than the nails which fastened Him to the rough wood of the cross; it was for the secret sins of the world, especially, that He was thus exposed, naked, to the profane gaze of a rude, reviling rabble.

Let us approach still nearer, and catch the faint words which fall from the livid lips of our Blessed Lord in His last agony.  Does He, like other victims of injustice, proclaim His innocence, and call down the maledictions of Heaven upon His persecutors?  Ah, no, very different are the sentiments of the meek and forgiving Son of God!  He becomes, instead, the advocate of His cruel crucifiers before His heavenly Father.  He utters that sublime sentence which should ever find an echo in our hearts and influence our conduct toward those who have done evil to us:  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Of the two robbers who were crucified with Him, one was touched by this evidence of divine patience and gentleness, by this tender prayer for mercy for His enemies; and, already believing in Christ’s innocence, by a special grace Dismas, the thief, received faith to believe also in His divinity.  Upbraiding his guilty companion for blaspheming Jesus, he turned to the Master and begged Him to be mindful of him in His kingdom.  In return for this dying act of faith he had the ineffable happiness of hearing from Our Lord’s lips these consoling words:  “This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”

In this merciful promise there are grounds of hope for the greatest sinners of the world.  The penitent thief, after a life of sin, finds mercy in his dying moments; yet even here we behold a contrast, a presentation of eternal issues calculated to strike the sinner with fear and trembling.  Of two criminals in like danger of death and damnation, only one was saved!  Reflect well upon this consideration.  Both men had the same Redeemer, dying for the world’s salvation, in their midst.  The precious Blood of Jesus was flowing close to them, ready to ransom their souls.  Both had before them the same example of divine patience; both were offered the grace of the Mediator to do penance — yet one is forever lost; the other saved for all eternity.  Have you not, then, O sinner of to-day! less reason to hope than to fear?  I exhort you, if you desire to secure yourself in so important an affair, hasten your conversion.  Do immediately what the good thief did in his extremity, lest his salvation, which was a miracle of grace, should prove the rock of your destruction, the ordinary chastisement of sinners who forget God during their lives2.

Up to this point, we have said little of the part our Blessed Mother took in Calvary’s tragedy.  Present, as she was, during the fearful fastening of her Son to the tree of shame3, she heard the sound of the hammer driving the rude nails into His sacred hands and feet.  Alas! those violent strokes were as so many cruel blows upon her immaculate heart.  She saw the soldiers raise the cross and drop it roughly into position; she heard the exultant shouts of the multitude as her Son was thus elevated above them the blasphemies that were then uttered by the High Priest and the rabble.  As soon as she saw the soldiers withdraw from the cross, she hastened with her companions to take her position at its foot.

With eyes streaming with tears, she gazes upon the agonized face of her dying Son, upon His brow drenched with blood from the thorny crown, upon His eyes dim with the excess of His pain, upon His pale lips, parched with the consuming thirst attendant on His great loss of blood.  She would give a thousand lives, did she possess them, for the privilege of putting to His lips a draught of cold water to relieve His fevered mouth and throat; but even this poor consolation is denied her.  Jesus knows full well the agonizing desires of her devoted heart; and from His cross He casts upon her a look of tender pity.  It is then that, commending her to the care of St. John, He leaves her as a precious legacy to all His followers until the end of time.  In that supreme moment she becomes, in truth, our Mother, our mediator, our intercessor with her Divine Son.

Soon after this, Our Lord gives expression to the bitterest anguish of His heart in that piteous cry: ” My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken me?”  These appealing words reveal to us the secret of His intense agony in the Garden of Gethsemani, of His torments on the cross.  His keenest suffering is caused by His apparent abandonment by His beloved Father.  Unconsoled and unsupported, He is left alone to battle with the powers of earth and hell, at the mercy of the spirits of darkness, only such aid being rendered as is necessary to prolong His life until His sacrifice shall reach its supreme consummation in death.  This is that poignant anguish which draws forth the bitter cry: “My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

Now nature, less insensible than man, commences to manifest her horror at the spectacle of a God crucified by His creatures.  The sun begins to withdraw its light from the heavens; an awe-inspiring pall of darkness settles down upon that blood-stained city.  Violent convulsions of the earth are felt; Calvary’s rocks are rent; the veil of the Temple, which hides the Holy of Holies from the gaze of the people, is torn asunder, and the dead arise from their graves and appear to many.

The vast multitude on Calvary, who have gathered there to gloat over the death agony of their innocent Victim, hasten to leave that dreadful scene.  Hushed now are the blasphemies, the imprecations, the mockeries of the rabble!  In terror and confusion, they flee over the quaking ground through a darkness which has now grown intense and awful.  A horrible fear assails them.  May we not believe that they then began to realize the enormity of their crime, and feeling that they were indeed guilty of deicide, were moved to exclaim with Longinus: ” Indeed, this was the Son of God!” (Mark xv. 39.)

Only a few remained to witness the end of the great tragedy.  And now the afflicted Mother and her faithful attendants draw nearer to the cross whereon hangs the world’s Redeemer.  Again is heard the voice of the dying Saviour: “All is consummated.”  Having commended His soul to His heavenly Father, He yielded up His spirit.

A little later, the centurion pierced Our Lord’s dead body with a lance, and from the wound there issued forth water and blood, thus testifying that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the ever-flowing fountain of divine love and mercy, was opened to all mankind.

Still later, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus took down His sacred body and placed it for a few moments in the arms of His afflicted Mother.  Poor Mother! with what looks of silent agony you gazed on the mangled body of your adorable Son!  Removing the cruel crown of thorns from His blessed brow, Mary placed it, with the sacred nails, in her heaving bosom, close to her immaculate heart.

Not long after, the dead Christ was removed by Joseph of Arimathea and laid “in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock.” (Matt, xxvii. 60.)  A great stone was rolled to the door of the sepulcher, and Joseph went his way, leaving Mary Magdalen and the other Mary sitting beside the tomb.

Thus ends the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery.  Here, at the door of Christ’s sepulcher, let us kneel with these holy women and ask of our crucified Lord the grace to bear our crosses unto death in meek resignation to His adorable will.  Let us resolve to be ever faithful to His teachings and commandments — to follow closely in His footsteps up the bloodstained mountain of self-sacrifice, and, having died with Him upon Golgotha, merit one day to rise with Him to a happy and glorious eternity.

(From The Treasures of the Rosary, by Fr Charles Hyacinth McKenna O.P., written 1835; edited by P.J. Kenedy and Sons, New York, 1917.)


Practice of Christian Mortification – Part 2 (of 2)

Practice of Christian Mortification – Part 2 (of 2)

by Cardinal Mercier

(continued)

Mortifications to practice in our exterior actions

1 — You ought to show the greatest exactitude in observing all the points of your rule of life, obeying them without delay, remembering Saint John Berchmans, who said: “Penance for me is to lead the common life”; “To have the highest regard for the smallest things, such is my motto”; “Rather die than break a single rule.”

2 —In the exercise of your duties of state, try to be well-pleased with whatever happens to be most unpleasant or boring for you, recalling again here the words of Saint Francis: “I am never better than when I am not well.”

3 — Never give one moment over to sloth: from morning until night keep busy without respite.

4 — If your life is, at least partly, spent in study, apply to yourself this advice from Saint Thomas Aquinas to his pupils: “Do not be content to take in superficially what you read and hear, but endeavour to go into it deeply and to fathom the whole sense of it.  Never remain in doubt about what you could know with certainty.  Work with a holy eagerness to enrich your mind; arrange and classify in your memory all the knowledge you are able to acquire.  On the other hand, do not seek to penetrate mysteries which are beyond your intelligence.”

5 — Devote yourself solely to your present occupation, without looking back on what went before or anticipating in thought what will follow.  Say with Saint Francis: “While I am doing this I am not obliged to do anything else”; “let us make haste very calmly; all in good time.”

6 — Be modest in your bearing.  Nothing was so perfect as Saint Francis’s deportment; he always kept his head straight, avoiding alike the inconstancy which turns it in all directions, the negligence which lets it droop forward and the proud and haughty disposition which throws it back.  His countenance was always peaceful, free from all annoyance, always cheerful, serene and open; without however any merriment or indiscreet humour, without loud, immoderate or too frequent laughter.

He was as composed when alone as in a large gathering. He did not cross his legs, never supported his head on his elbow. When he prayed he was motionless as a statue. When nature suggested to him he should relax, he did not listen.

7 — Regard cleanliness and order as a virtue, uncleanness and untidyness as a vice; do not have dirty, stained or torn clothes. On the other hand, regard luxury and worldliness as a greater vice still. Make sure that, on seeing your way of dressing, nobody calls it “slovenly” or “elegant”, but that everybody is bound to think it “decent”.

Mortifications to practice in our relations with our neighbour

1 — Bear with your neighbour’s defects; defects of education, of mind, of character. Bear with everything about him which irritates you: his gait, his posture, tone of voice, accent, or whatever.

2 — Bear with everything in everybody and endure it to the end and in a Christian spirit. Never with that proud patience which makes one say: “What have I to do with so and so? How does what he says affect me? What need have I for the affection, the kindness or even the politeness of any creature at all and of that person in particular?” Nothing accords less with the will of God than this haughty unconcern, this scornful indifference; it is worse, indeed, than impatience.

3 — Are you tempted to be angry?  For the love of Jesus, be meek.

To avenge yourself?  Return good for evil; it is said the great secret of touching Saint Teresa’s heart was to do her a bad turn.

To look sourly at someone?  Smile at him with good nature.

To avoid meeting him?  Seek him out willingly.

To talk badly of him?  Talk well of him.

To speak harshly to him?  Speak very gently, warmly, to him.

4 — Love to give praise to your companions, especially those you are naturally most inclined to envy.

5 — Do not be witty at the expense of charity.

6 — If somebody in your presence should take the liberty of making remarks which are rather improper, or if someone should hold conversations likely to injure his neighbour’s reputation, you may sometimes rebuke the speaker gently, but more often it will be better to divert the conversation skillfully, or indicate by a gesture of sorrow or of deliberate inattention that what is said displeases you.

7 — It costs you an effort to render a small service: offer to do it.  You will have twice the merit.

8 — Avoid with horror posing as a victim in your own eyes or those of others.  Far be it from you to exaggerate your burdens; strive to find them light; they are so, in reality, much more often than it seems; they would be so always if you were more virtuous.

Conclusion

In general, know how to refuse to nature what she asks of you unnecessarily.

Know how to make her give what she refuses you for no reason.  Your progress in virtue, says the author of The Imitation of Christ, will be in proportion to the violence that you succeed in doing to yourself.

“It is necessary to die,” said the saintly Bishop of Geneva, “it is necessary to die in order that God may live in us, for it is impossible to achieve the union of the soul with God by any means other than by mortification.  These words ‘it is necessary to die’ are hard, but they will be followed by a great sweetness, because one dies to oneself for no other reason than to be united to God by that death.”   

Would to God we had the right to apply to ourselves these beautiful words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians:  “In all things we suffer tribulation… Always bearing about in our body the death of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies.” (II Cor 4:8-10)

Practice of Christian Mortification

Practice of Christian Mortification

by Cardinal Mercier

N.B.: All the practices of mortification which we have collected here are derived from the examples of the saints, especially Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Teresa, Saint Francis de Sales, Saint John Berchmans; or they are recommended by acknowledged masters of the spiritual life, such as the Venerable Louis de Blois, Rodriguez, Scaramelli, Msgr Gay, Abbé Allemand, Abbé Hamon, Abbé Dubois, etc…

Mortification of the body

1 — In the matter of food, restrict yourself as far as possible to simple necessity. Consider these words which Saint Augustine addressed to God: “O my God, Thou hast taught me to take food only as a remedy. Ah! Lord, who is there among us who does not sometimes exceed the limit here? If there is such a one, I say that man is great, and must give great glory to Thy name.” (Confessions, book X, ch. 31)

2— Pray to God often, pray to God daily to help you by His grace so that you do not overstep the limits of necessity and do not permit yourself to give way to pleasure.

3— Take nothing between meals, unless out of necessity or for the sake of convenience.

4— Practise fasting and abstinence, but practise them only under obedience and with discretion.

5— It is not forbidden for you to enjoy some bodily satisfaction, but do so with a pure intention, giving thanks to God.

6— Regulate your sleep, avoiding in this all faint-heartedness, all softness, especially in the morning. Set an hour, if you can, for going to bed and getting up, and keep strictly to it.

7— In general, take your rest only in so far as it is necessary; give yourself generously to work, not sparing your labour. Take care not to exhaust your body, but guard against indulging it; as soon as you feel it even a little disposed to play the master, treat it at once as a slave.

8— If you suffer some slight indisposition, avoid being a nuisance to others through your bad mood; leave to your companions the task of complaining for you; for yourself, be patient and silent as the Divine Lamb who has truly borne all our weaknesses.

9— Guard against making the slightest illness a reason for dispensation or exemption from your daily schedule. “One must detest like the plague every exception when it comes to rules,” wrote Saint John Berchmans.

10 —Accept with docility, endure humbly, patiently and with perseverance, the tiresome mortification called illness.

Mortification of the senses, of the imagination and the passions

1 — Close your eyes always and above all to every dangerous sight, and even – have the courage to do it – to every frivolous and useless sight. See without looking; do not gaze at anybody to judge of their beauty or ugliness.

2—Keep your ears closed to flattering remarks, to praise, to persuasion, to bad advice, to slander, to uncharitable mocking, to indiscretions, to ill-disposed criticism, to suspicions voiced, to every word capable of causing the very smallest coolness between two souls.

3 — If the sense of smell has something to suffer due to your neighbour’s infirmity or illness, far be it from you ever to complain of it; draw from it a holy joy.

4 — In what concerns the quality of food, have great respect for Our Lord’s counsel: “Eat such things as are set before you.”   “Eat what is good without delighting in it, what is bad without expressing aversion to it, and show yourself equally indifferent to the one as to the other. There,”says Saint Francis de Sales, “is real mortification.”

5 — Offer your meals to God; at table impose on yourself a tiny penance: for example, refuse a sprinkling of salt, a glass of wine, a sweet, etc.; your companions will not notice it, but God will keep account of it.

6— If what you are given appeals to you very much, think of the gall and the vinegar given to Our Lord on the cross: that cannot keep you from tasting, but will serve as a counterbalance to the pleasure.

7— You must avoid all sensual contact, every caress in which you set some passion, by which you look for passion, from which you take a joy which is principally of the senses.

8— Refrain from going to warm yourself, unless this is necessary to save you from being unwell.

9— Bear with everything which naturally grieves the flesh, especially the cold of winter, the heat of summer, a hard bed and every inconvenience of that kind. Whatever the weather, put on a good face; smile at all temperatures. Say with the prophet: “Cold, heat, rain, bless ye the Lord.” It will be a happy day for us when we are able to say with a good heart these words which were familiar to Saint Francis de Sales: “I am never better than when I am not well.”

10— Mortify your imagination when it beguiles you with the lure of a brilliant position, when it saddens you with the prospect of a dreary future, when it irritates you with the memory of a word or deed which offended you.

11— If you feel within you the need to day-dream, mortify it without mercy.

12— Mortify yourself with the greatest care in the matter of impatience, of irritation, or of anger.

13— Examine your desires thoroughly; submit them to the control of reason and of faith:  Do you never desire a long life rather than a holy life, wish for pleasure and well-being without trouble or sadness, victory without battle, success without setbacks, praise without criticism, a comfortable, peaceful life without a cross of any sort – a that is to say, a life quite opposite to that of Our Divine Lord?

14—Take care not to acquire certain habits which, without being positively bad, can become injurious, such as habits of frivolous reading, of playing at games of chance, etc..

15— Seek to discover your predominant failing and, as soon as you have recognised it, pursue it all the way to its last retreat. To that purpose, submit with good will to whatever could be monotonous or boring in the practice of the examination of conscience.

16— You are not forbidden to have a heart and to show it, but be on your guard against the danger of exceeding due measure.  Resist attachments which are too natural, particular friendships and all softness of the heart.

Mortification of the mind and of the will

1— Mortify your mind by denying it all fruitless imaginings, all ineffectual or wandering thoughts which waste time, dissipate the soul, and render work and serious things distasteful.

2— Every gloomy and anxious thought should be banished from your mind. Concern about all that could happen to you later on should not worry you at all. As for the bad thoughts which bother you in spite of yourself, you should, in dismissing them, make of them a subject for patience.  Being involuntary, they will simply be for you an occasion of merit.

3—Avoid obstinacy in your ideas, stubbornness in your sentiments. You should willingly let the judgments of others prevail, unless there is a question of matters on which you have a duty to give your opinion and speak out.

4— Mortify the natural organ of your mind, which is to say the tongue. Practise silence gladly, whether your rule prescribes it for you or whether you impose it on yourself of your own accord.

5— Prefer to listen to others rather than to speak yourself; and yet speak appropriately, avoiding as extremes both speaking too much, which prevents others from telling their thoughts, and speaking too little, which suggests a hurtful lack of interest in what they say.

6— Never interrupt somebody who is speaking and do not forestall, by answering too swiftly, a question he would put to you.

7— Always have a moderate tone of voice, never abrupt or sharp.  Avoid exaggeration, as being horrible.

(To be continued)

Sister Lucy of Fatima and the Rosary

Sister Lucy of Fatima and the Rosary

“Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace in the world, and the end of the war.”

Our Lady of Fatima 13 May 1917

All souls of good will can and should pray the Rosary every day. They can recite it in a church whether the Most Holy Sacrament is exposed or residing in the tabernacle. They can pray it as a family as well as individually, while out and about or travelling. The Rosary is the most accessible prayer for everyone, both rich and poor, learned or uneducated. It should be like spiritual bread for everyone. By means of the mysteries which we recall in each decade, it nourishes and increases in our souls faith, hope and charity.

“I want … you to pray the rosary every day.”

13 June 1917

We should pray the Rosary every day for we all need to pray, and have a duty to do so. If we do not save ourselves through innocence, then we must save ourselves through penance. For this, let the small daily sacrifice of reciting the Rosary, which we offer to God, be united to this prayer of supplication:

‘Our Father Who art in Heaven… Forgive us as we forgive those who have offended us. ’     ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us poor sinners, now and at the hour of our death.’

“I want … you to continue praying the Rosary every day.“

13 July 1917

Our Lady stresses this and asks us to persevere in prayer.

It is not enough to pray for a day. We need to pray always, every day, with faith, trustingly, since every day we commit faults, and every day we need to turn to God asking Him to forgive us and help us.

“I want … you to continue to pray the rosary every day.”

19 August 1917

Our Lady is insistent because she knows our inconstancy in doing good, our fragility and our spiritual poverty, and like a Mother, she comes to meet us, to hold us by the hand and support us in our weakness along the path which we must follow to be saved. This path is that of prayer. It’s there that we shall meet with God. That’s why she has asked us to say, at the end of each decade, ‘ O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who are most in need.’ That is, those who find themselves in danger of damnation.

“Continue to pray the rosary to obtain the end of the war.”

13 September 1917

By this insistence, Our Lady is showing us how we very much need to pray in order to obtain the grace of peace between nations, among peoples, in families, homes, consciences, and between God and souls.

It is only when the light, power and grace of God penetrate our hearts and souls that we will come to truly and mutually understand each other, forgive each other, and help each other. That is the only way to arrive at a true and just peace. But in order to obtain it, we need to pray!

“I want … you all to continue to pray the rosary every day.”

13 October 1917

Truly, the Rosary is the prayer that should bring us daily closer to God. It is not an exclusively Marian prayer; it is even more a biblical and Eucharistic prayer addressed to the most Holy Trinity. With each decade we pray the ‘Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Ghost’ , and the ‘Our Father’ which Christ taught us to pray so that we could address the Father with confidence.

And we recite the ‘Ave Maria’ which is also praise and supplication to God through Our Lady’s intercession. ‘Ave Maria, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst all women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’

In this way we greet Mary in the mystery of our redemption, the mystery that God brought about in her, and through which Mary was appointed to be the Mother of God, Mother of the Church and Mother of men. This is why Mary was the first tabernacle in which the Father enclosed his Word, the first monstrance, and the first altar, where Our Lord has remained forever exposed to our adoration and our love.

Sister Lucy

The Devotion of the Five First Saturdays of the Month

The Devotion of the Five First Saturdays of the Month


“Father, the Blessed Virgin is very sad because no one has paid attention to her message, neither the good nor the bad.  The bad, because of their sins, do not see God’s chastisement already falling on them presently; they also continue on their path of badness, ignoring the message.  But, Father, you must believe me that God is going to punish the world and chastise it in a tremendous way.”

(Sister Lucy of Fatima, to Father Fuentes, 1957)

* If we listened to Our Lady, we could:

1.  Console Her, and pray for sinners

“Have compassion on the Heart of your Most Holy Mother, covered with thorns which ungrateful men place therein at every moment, while there is no one who does an act of reparation to withdraw them for her.”

(The Child Jesus to Sister Lucy, December 10, 1925, Pontevedra)

“So numerous are the souls which the justice of God condemns for sins committed against Me, that I come to ask for reparation.  Sacrifice yourself for this intention and pray.”

(Our Lady to Sister Lucy, 1929)


2. Save our souls and other souls

“God wishes to establish devotion to my Immaculate Heart in the world.  I promise salvation to those who embrace it; and these souls will be beloved of God like flowers arranged by me to adorn His throne.”

(Our Lady, during the apparition in Fatima, June 13, 1917)

“If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace.”

(Our Lady, during the apparition in Fatima, July 13, 1917)


3. Obtain peace in the world

“If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church.  The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated.”

(Our Lady, during the apparition in Fatima, July13, 1917)

“Whether the world has war or peace depends on the practice of this devotion, along with the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  This is why I desire its propagation so ardently, especially because this is also the will of our dear Mother in Heaven.” (Sister Lucy, March 19, 1939)

* So, shall we pay attention to that message?

The Child Jesus complains to Sister Lucy:

It is true, my daughter, that many souls begin, but few persevere to the very end, and those who persevere do it to receive the graces promised.  The souls who make the five first Saturdays with fervor and to make reparation to the Heart of your Heavenly Mother, please Me more than those who make fifteen, but are lukewarm and indifferent.”

(Pontevedra, February 15, 1925)


What are the requirements?

On the first Saturday of the month, five consecutive months:

— make a confession (the confession can be made within eight days before or after the first Saturday);

— receive Holy Communion (it may be received on the first Sunday when the priests, for a just cause, allows the faithful);    [ Note from a Dominican Father:  In case of impossibility to go to Confession and Mass (Communion), then at least make a perfect Act of Contrition with the firm will to go to Confession as soon as possible (because one must be in the state of grace to fulfill the devotion of the five First Saturdays).  ]

— make a spiritual communion.”

— pray five decades of the Rosary;

— meditate for fifteen minutes on one or several of the mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation for the blasphemies and the offenses committed against Our Lady.


A devotion that applies to our whole Christian life

Let us listen to Sister Lucy of Fatima:

“Over and over again during those precious hours in which I was in her company, she emphasized that it is the fulfillment of one’s daily duty, according to one’s state in life (and the sanctification of this effort in reparation for our sins and for the conversion of sinners) which is the primary condition for the turning back of the tide of evil which threatens today’s world, and which will also bring us the great favor of the conversion of Russia and an era of peace for mankind.  But she also stressed that the Rosary is indeed important, because it is one of Our Lady’s principal aids given to us to facilitate the sanctification of our daily duty.”

(Memoirs of John Haffert concerning the Blue Army, AMI International Press, Washington, NJ, 1982, p 18)

In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph”

(Our Lady of Fatima; July 13, 1917)

(On this website www.dominicansavrille.us, read the article: Fatima, or the means chosen by God to redress the present situation.)

Friends and Benefactors Letter number # 24, January 2017 (updated with pictures)

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

No. 24: Jan 2017

Arise!

 

image

Bethlehem

 

“Arise, O man; for you God has become man. ‘Awake, sleeper, and arise from among the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee.’ [Eph. 5:14] For you, I repeat, God has become man. If He had not thus been born into time, you would have been dead for all eternity. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, if He had not taken upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. Everlasting misery would have engulfed you, if He had not taken this merciful form. You would not have been restored to life, had He not submitted to your death; you would have fallen, had He not succored you; you would have perished, had He not come.

Let us joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festal day on which the great and timeless One came from the great and timeless day to this brief span of our day…”

-St. Augustine, Sermon for Christmas [Sermon 185]

The Year of Luther

“What unites us is greater than what divides us” ?

“In 2017, Lutherans and Catholics will celebrate together the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation.  Today, Lutherans and Catholics have the joy of understanding each other better and better, and of cooperating and respecting each other more and more. They have finally recognized that what unites them is greater than what divides them.”

[“From Conflict to Communion”, report from the Lutheran-Catholic Commission (2013), of which Card. Müller, Prefect for the Cong. of the Doctrine of the Faith, is a member]

 

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Statue of Luther enthroned by Pope Francis in the Vatican

 

A smiling Pope Francis receives a copy of Luther’s 95 “theses”

Last October 31st, the Pope was in Sweden to inaugurate “The Year of Luther” with the Lutherans.  He signed a joint declaration with the representative of Lutheranism in which he repeats this sophism: “What unites us is greater than what divides us”.

In reality, what divides us from the Protestants is much greater than what unites us, because what divides us is the Faith.

Protestants do not have divine Faith;  they believe in Luther, but they do not believe in God.  Regarding this point, let us quote the Catechism of the Crisis in the Church:

“He who denies even just one single dogma has lost the Faith.  This is because he does not accept Revelation from God, but establishes himself the judge of what must be believed.”

●   Isn’t it possible to deny one dogma while continuing to believe the others, and therefore – at least partially – conserve the virtue of Faith?

“… [H]e who dissents even in one point from divinely revealed truth absolutely rejects all faith, since he thereby refuses to honor God as the supreme truth and the formal motive of faith” [Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum, 1896].  Pope Leo XIII then quotes St. Augustine, speaking of heretics:  “In many things they are with me, in a few things not with me; but in those few things in which they are not with me the many things in which they are, will not profit them”.

●  What should we think of this oft-repeated slogan according to which, in our relations with “separated Christians”, we must consider what unites us rather than what divides us?

In matters of Faith, it is absolutely false and contrary to the traditional teaching of the Church to say that we must “consider what unites us rather than what divides us”.   This would give the impression that these differences only concern details of little importance, whereas, in reality, it is a question of the fullness of revealed truth.

[Fr. Matthias GAUDRON, Catechism of the Crisis in the Church]

We have in common with the Protestants our human nature, and, perhaps, a few natural virtues, but Protestants have neither the true Faith, nor supernatural Hope, nor infused Charity [except in the case of invincible ignorance, if a Protestant is Protestant in name only, through no fault of his own, being ready to accept all the dogmas of the Catholic Church, and therefore being already Catholic in his heart]. That constitutes an enormous division!  In Heaven, there are only Catholics; there are no Protestants, because to be saved one must have the true Faith: “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be condemned” [Mk. 16:16].   Between the two, as Our Lord says in the Gospel, “there is a great abyss, so that they who would pass from hence, cannot, nor from thence come hither” [Lk. 16:26].   Such is the Gospel truth: between Catholics and Protestants there is a vast chasm which cannot be crossed.  Of course, during this life, it may be crossed if the Protestant comes back to the Church, but after death, it is too late.

How Luther invented Lutheranism

As a monk, Luther had a tortured conscience, feeling separated from God.  Was it a temptation, a scruple, or was he just not making enough of an effort to stay in the grace of God?  Whatever the case may be, since he felt unable to change himself, he decided to change religion: it was much easier.  From now on, it was no longer necessary to serve God, to obey Him, for that was “impossible”; it was sufficient to have “confidence” in Christ, and all was well.  The Dictionary of Catholic Theology thus exposes the doctrine of Luther:

Over our corrupt souls, God places a “mantle”, that is, the merits of Jesus Christ.  This “justification” is entirely exterior, a marble covering over the rotten wood of a cabin.  In the work of our salvation, Jesus Christ – and Jesus Christ alone – is active, and we have no part in it; it would be an insult to want to cooperate by our works in what He has over-abundantly accomplished.  And how does one obtain this “mantle”?   […]  By Faith – or, to be exact – by confidence in Jesus Christ.  The soul will continue to produce fruits of death, but thanks to the confidence in his heart, the sinner will merit that God may “attribute” to him the merits of Jesus Christ.

On August 1st, 1521, in a letter to Melanchthon, Luther pronounced the famous formula that summarizes his new religion: “Pecca fortiter, sed fortius crede” (“Sin greatly, but believe still more greatly”).

The year of Fatima

Instead of the anniversary of Luther’s revolt, let us celebrate the anniversary of Fatima.

The Blessed Virgin is an “anti-Luther”.  Luther claimed that it is impossible to obey God; Our Lady, whose motto is “fiat”, tells us to “do whatsoever He shall say to you” (John 2:5).  At Fatima, the Blessed Virgin exhorts sinners to convert, and change their lives.

What’s more, Our Lady gives us the means to do so with the devotion of the Five First Saturdays.  Doing (and living) this devotion is the best way to celebrate this centenary, and to make reparation for the scandalous “Year of Luther”.

Community Chronicle

September 18th:  Resumption of their priestly studies for the Scholastic Brothers and the Seminarians, and resumption of activities for the Third Order.

Fathers Marie-Dominique and Marie-Laurent are in Paris for the first meeting of the year for the Fraternity of St. Thomas, which groups together our tertiaries from Normandy, Paris, and Chartres, accompanied by their many children.  Mass, Divine Office, Rosary, alternate with instructions on spirituality and doctrine, in a family atmosphere.  In the following weeks, it will be the turn of the other Fraternities in Alsace, Brittany, Avrillé, and Lyons.

Why belong to the Third Order?  It provides a rule of life to better sanctify yourself while living in the world; it allows you to benefit from the spiritual support of a religious order and the fraternal Charity of other tertiaries.

September 20thFather Angelico begins a new year of his bi-monthly adult catechism classes on Bible History.  The study of the Old Testament using commentaries of the Fathers of the Church is an excellent way to enrich our spiritual life, according to St. Paul: “…all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction” (I Cor. 10:11).

October 2nd:  Fathers Marie-Laurent and Reginald resume their apostolate among the students of the military academy at La Flèche: confessions, Mass, conference.  This year they will be studying the fundamental book “Liberalism is a Sin”, by Don Sarda y Salvani.

October 8th:  Meeting of the “Saint Raphael Circle” for medical students, nurses and physical therapists, with Fathers Marie-Dominique and Hyacinthe-Marie.  Today the topic is “abortion and its consequences”.

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Vestition of Brother Michel-Marie

October 22ndFeast of the Dedication (Consecration of our Church). “In the world, you were known as Maximilien;  in the Order, you will be called Brother Michel-Marie, under the protection of the leader of the Heavenly Militia.”  A new brother is born into our community.  “The Popes have asked us to be ‘fighters for the Faith’”, comments Father Prior.  “Fight using the ‘arms of light’: zeal in spreading the Gospel, “the shield of Faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one… the sword of the Word of God” (Eph. 6:16).

December 2nd-5thFather Angelico is in Ireland for Masses and preaching in Longford and Dublin.

December 8thFeast of the Immaculate Conception.  After a Solemn High Mass in the majestic setting of “Saint John’s Hospice” (13th cen.), the clergy and faithful go into the streets of Angers for a candle-light procession in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. image

“We have a very certain hope and complete confidence that the most Blessed Virgin will ensure by her most powerful patronage that all difficulties be removed and all errors dissipated, so that our Holy Mother the Catholic Church may flourish daily more and more throughout all the nations and countries, and may reign “from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth…” [Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus]  This is our hope as well, as we approach the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

December 18th:   Christmas Pageant performed by the students of Saint Philomena Elementary School.

 

News from our worksites

The furnishing of the Chapter room in the eastern wing of the Friary is under way. Soon, the oak beams will be installed in the ceiling, and the wooden gothic altar (which has been patiently waiting for several years) will be mounted.

The projects for the Friary workshops and cafeteria for the Boys’ school are presently being studied by the architect, in view of obtaining the necessary construction permits. This work will enable us to put the guest house back to its proper use, as it is currently occupied in large part by the school (for its kitchen, bathrooms, dining room…).

At the “Priory” (the manor house which is used for the Boys’ school), the excavation of the old “towers” is continuing, and we are in negotiations with the Historical Monuments Department to get the permission to transform them into study halls.

 

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The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus-Christ

The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus-Christ

by Rev. Fr Charles-Hyacinth Mc Kenna O.P.

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During the holy season of Advent, the aim of the Church in her sermons and instructions is to prepare us for a worthy celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity.  She regards this feast as one of the most joyous in her calendar.  To manifest her gratitude for our Redemption, she decorates her altars with richest ornaments.  She clothes her ministers in the garments of joy, and urges them again and again to celebrate the adorable sacrifice of the Mass in thanksgiving for the coming of our Redeemer.

And knowing with St. James that “Every best gift and every perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of Lights” (James 1, 17), she calls upon her children to raise their hearts to Heaven, and praise and bless our great Creator who, in the words of Our Lord to Nicodemus, “So loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (2 John 3, 16).  Hence, the great Apostle of the Gentiles said: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for His exceeding charity, wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, by whose grace you are saved (Ephesians 2, 4).

Man, prostrated by sin, involved in the rebellion of our first parents, was unable to help himself.  God pitied our fallen state, and though we were His enemies by our transgression, in His infinite mercy He sent His adorable Son to take upon Himself the punishment of our guilt and become the ransom of our fallen race.  And here we should guard ourselves from an error of which many outside the Church are guilty.  They would have us believe that our heavenly Father, in a manner, forced His Son to undertake the painful work of our redemption.  This is absolutely false.  From eternity the adorable Son of God consented to make atonement for man’s transgression.  “He was offered,” said the Scripture, “because He willed it” (Isaias 53, 7), and David, in prophetic vision, thus speaks in the person of Christ: “Sacrifice and oblation Thou didst not desire; but Thou hast pierced ears for me.  Burnt-offering and sin-offering Thou didst not require; then said I, Behold I come.  In the head of the book it is written of me that I should do Thy will; O my God, I have desired it, and Thy law in the midst of my heart” (Ps 39, 7).  And again the prophet said of Him: “He hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way, His going out is from the end of Heaven” (Ps 18, 6).

We would naturally suppose that, on appearing among men, the world’s Redeemer should be surrounded by all the grandeur and wealth and human comforts which His tender condition would require.  But such was not the will of His heavenly Father, nor was it the will of Our Lord, who did not desire to be born in the dwelling of sinners, but chose to be alone with His immaculate Mother and the chaste Saint Joseph, and to be accompanied by the innocent beasts of the field.  Coming to redeem our sinful race, and to enlighten a world “seated in darkness and in the shadow of death,” as Saint John described it, He began His work of reformation by preaching His first sermon from the pulpit of the manger.  It was pride and sensuality that caused the fall of our race; and pride and avarice and sensuality were the great evils of His day, as they are also of the days in which we live. […]

Let us now, imitating the shepherds, visit in spirit the stable of Bethlehem and there behold our new-born Saviour in the lowly condition to which His love for us has reduced Him.

We thank Thee, O Lord, for thus humbling Thyself, and coming amongst us, and we beseech Thee to grant that one day we may behold Thy face in its unveiled glory in heaven.

Nor should we fail to be mindful of the part that Mary took in the world’s Redemption. […] We recognize thy dignity, sweet Mother — that thou hast been chosen from eternity for the sublime office of Mother of God — that thou didst willingly consent to cooperate in the work of our Redemption.  For this we thank thee: for this we praise thee, and call thee blessed among women, and beg of thee to obtain for us that we may never offend thy adorable Son by sin.

(From the book The treasures of the Rosary, by the very Rev. Charles-Hyacinth McKenna O.P., Preacher General of the Order of Preachers, New York, P. J. Kenedy and Sons, Printers of the Holy Apostolic See, 1917, p. 105-109.)

Mortification in our spiritual life

Mortification in our spiritual life

By Fr. Martín HARRISON, O.P.

How we dread the word “mortification”!  It suggests terrifying penances, hair-shirts, plank-beds and other extraordinary hardships practiced by some saint; mark the word “extraordinary.”  Such penances are not for “ordinary” people like ourselves, but for those called by God to be out of the ordinary through the help of special graces.

Yet penance in some form or another we must do, since we are bound to mortify the flesh and its desires.  What does mortification really mean?  In a spiritual sense it may be defined as the act of subduing the passions and appetites of our lower nature by fasting or severities inflicted on the body, the act of subordinating all natural impulses to the influence of the Holy Spirit, in a natural sense it may denote being humiliated by circumstances, depressed by disappointments or vexations; but these are not penances in the strict sense, though they may be turned into true mortification by our method of acceptance.

Mortification essentially consists in self-denial: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” (Mt 16, 24).  Self-denial means saying “NO” to self, which for most people is a difficult thing to do.  By sin our willpower was weakened; we became prone to evil finding it easier to give in to the desires of the flesh than to resist them.  Because of sin the soul lost its domination over the flesh, so that “the flesh, lusteth against the spirit” (Ga 5:17).

The chief work of mortification is to strengthen the will power and heal the wounds caused by sinBy denying self what is lawful, the will is strengthened to resist what is unlawful, and some measure of atonement is made.  Therefore penance is imposed as a strict duty.  Thus the Lenten and other fasts imposed by the Church consist in refraining from a certain amount of food, otherwise lawful, so denying to us the pleasure of satisfying hunger completely.  Too often these grave obligations of fasting are dismissed as impracticable because of hardship or inconvenience, before any attempt has been made to find out if they are really so.

It is difficult to understand how anyone can settle in conscience so grave an obligation in so casual a manner.  Certainly some are excused by the nature of the work they must do, or for other good reasons; but this does not free them entirely from all obligation of doing penance of another sort.  We are bound to deny self, and that is the essence of penance.  We need so much to be strengthened against temptations that only by denying lawful things to ourselves can we hope to be strong enough to deny the unlawful also.

It is difficult to understand how anyone can settle in conscience so grave an obligation in so casual a manner

Some pride themselves on their strength of will, but too often it is shown only in denying something to others rather than to themselves.  In reality such people are simply stubborn and actually weak-willed, since they are not able to say “NO” to self.

Let us test ourselves by the following questions:

1. — Do I always stick to my own opinions and insist on having my own way?

2. — Can I admit being in the wrong, or that I have made a mistake?

3. — Can I give in gracefully to the will of the majority?1

The answers to such questions as these, will soon prove whether we can say “NO” to self or if we are self-willed.

Mortification is necessary for all.  The wounds of nature demand an effort to strengthen the will against its propensity to evil; the more we indulge our natural desires, the stronger and more insistent they become in demanding satisfaction, the more difficult to resist their appeal.

However, it is not necessary to undertake special hardships or penances beyond those imposed under obligation by the Church.  Life itself provides a variety of opportunities for mortification that we cannot escape.  The pity of it, is that we endure without much or any spiritual profit much that might be mortification, because of the wrong attitude we adopt toward these various vexations.  We can make a virtue of necessity by accepting in a spirit of patience and humility the daily trials forced upon us.

[Some examples:]   Take any ordinary day in life:

— Probably we must get up earlier than we would wish, we should like to stay in bed much longer.  It is not easy to rise promptly; it demands self-denial.  How do we react?  Do we come down peevish and disagreeable, upsetting others by our grumbling and irritation?  If this is out reaction, then we have lost the chance of mortifying ourselves, instead of turning the necessity to spiritual profit by accepting it with patience.

— We have to go to work, oftentimes hard and disagreeable, to work with others who get on our nerves, to take orders given in an abrupt manner, and endure many other similar vexations that can be very irritating.  What is our attitude to such things?  They can all become occasions of mortification if accepted in a proper spirit.  Obedience to others, which is the submission of our own will to that of another, can be a very real and difficult penance.  Too often we can become impatient and disgruntled, resent the orders given to us: and miss the chance of being spiritually mortified under adversity.

Life is full of such opportunities: we make silly mistakes, are humiliated by others, meet with disappointments, hear slurs east or disparaging remarks made about us; accidents make us ludicrous and cause laughter and ridicule at our expense.  These things are certainly humiliating to our pride and self-conceit? but do we turn them to spiritual worth by a humble and contrite spirit in accepting them as mortifications?  If they simply cause us to become disagreeable and complain, there is no penance; they are lost to us entirely when they might have been real crosses born for the love of God, real penances accepted in a spirit of self-denial, some atonement for the sins we have committed.

We are told [by Holy Mother the Church] to perform the three good works: Prayer, Fasting, and Alms-deeds.  These can all form some kind of mortification for us:

By fasting we mean here self-denial in any form, the giving up of one’s desires and inclinations.  We are forced to this at times by circumstances, yet profit little because we accept grudgingly, with resentment and complaints about the hardness of our lot.

Prayer might find a larger place in our lives and provide penance at the same time.  For instance, we might give up an evening’s pleasure so that we may go to Benediction.  How many give up the Sunday evening to selfish comfort rather than go out to the evening service?  It may be cold and wet; it is so much pleasanter to sit reading by the fireside, or playing cards with friends.  The weather is so often an excuse to avoid going to church, but it would not prevent us from going out to the cinema or to a dance.  It is difficult to give up pleasure and comfort to go to church, hard to mortify our desires and say “NO” to self!  To give up our comforts can be a real mortification.

Alms-giving does not necessarily mean giving money away.  The best alms is to give happiness to others – any kind of action done for the love of God and our neighbor, any small service especially if it means self-denial, is acceptable to God as a mortification.  Our Lord went about doing good, never sparing Himself.  We, on the contrary, find doing good to others to be too much trouble and to cause too much inconvenience to ourselves.  We could make a point of doing at least one kind act a day to help another, as a mortification.  We could do much more to ease the burdens of others, to bring happiness or solace, and if this entails denying self and putting ourselves to some inconvenience so much the better, it will mortify us all the more.

There is no need to undertake extraordinary penances – life provides its own opportunities of mortifying self.  We do not know that Our Lady or St. Joseph ever did any special kind of penance, but they did accept the many trials and sufferings of life, grief, hardship, poverty, hard work, and such like, in a spirit of resignation to the will of God.  The early disciples do not seem to have done extraordinary penances, but we may note that St, Paul writes; “I chastise the flesh to bring it into subjection… lest perhaps I become a castaway (1 Co 9, 27).”   If St. Paul felt the need of “chastising the flesh,” how much more we, who do so little to atone for all the number of times we give way to our evil inclinations.   We must chastise the flesh by denying to it the satisfaction it demands, even in what is lawful, that we may strengthen ourselves to refuse all that is unlawful and to thrust down the inclinations and desires of unlawful passion, by denying the pleasure of lawful desires at times.  We must learn how to say “NO” to self.

To resume therefore, we cannot escape mortifications, even though we do not seek them.  Life will provide many opportunities of self-denial; let us see to it that these unavoidable vexations are all turned to profit for the soul by accepting them in a spirit of penance and humiliation for our many sins and as a means of strengthening our will-power against our proneness to evil.  If we would realize that hardship, sickness, poverty, disappointments, vexations, inconveniences, even the monotony of life, can all be spiritually useful and made profitable by a spirit of humble acceptance and mortification and for the love of God, we should be carrying out our obligation of doing penance lest we perish.

It is all a matter of will-power pitted against the fatal attractions of sin in which we prove so weak and easily overcome.

Only by denying self what is lawful, or accepting what we cannot escape as a means of self-denial, can we become strong in our resistance to what is unlawful, strong to resist the many temptations that beset us from the flesh, the world and the devil.

We must atone for sin by true repentance and by penance enjoined to the sufferings of Our Lord, that they may become an atonement for our many sins.

“Unless ye do penance, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lc 13, 5).

Taken from Credo, Fr. Martin Harrison O.P.

Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1954, pgs 141-145

November Lists of the Dead

November Lists of the Dead

Several of you have asked if we accept “November Lists of the Dead”.

This pious custom consists in giving a list of names of deceased loved ones to a priest, who will then keep the list on the altar each time he celebrates Mass throughout the month of November.

If you send us such a list, we will be happy to perform this duty to the Poor Souls.  To send us a list, simply visit our “Contact Us” page, and use the little form at the bottom of that page to send us a message.

Prayer for the souls in Purgatory is a devotion that has always been in honor in the Dominican Order.

Thank you!

Daphne Pochin Mould – convert from Anglicanism

Daphne POCHIN MOULD

(1920-2014)

converted from anglicanism

A Wicked Sheep

« I did not want to become a Catholic. My intention was to attack rather than to submit to the Church. I was not a lost sheep but a wicked and an obstinate sheep… »

Born in Salisbury (England) in 1920, Daphne Pochin Mould was a brilliant student of geology in Edinburg (Scotland).

From her Anglican upbringing she only retained the typical prejudices against the Catholic Church (superstition, intolerance, rigorism, triumphalism, etc.). A militant agnostic, she was convinced that religion was no more than a means of enslaving mankind.clip_image002

« I used to think that I had to attack the ignorance, the superstition and the cowardice of those who think that by believing in another world they can do away with the struggle against evil and error here on earth. »

In order to study how St. Columba of Iona converted Scotland at the end of the 6th century, she had to go to the Benedictine monastery in Fort Augustus. There, for the first time, she ran into a Catholic priest.

« I was never more scared in my life than on that day ».

While talking with the monk, Fr. Augustin, she discovered that the Faith was not what she had imagined it to be.

She used to see the Faith as an abdication of reason, as a flight from reality, as cowardice. Now she realized that Catholics have rational arguments!

The proof of the existence of God made by Fr. Augustin did not convince her immediately:  she found it too abstract, too philosophical, too different from the scientific method that she was used to.  But she had to admit that there are various ways of learning and methods of inquiry.  While the scientific method has its place, it does not solve the fundamental problems: the reason for our existence; the final end of man and the world; or the experience of beauty:

« In the Scottish mountains that were so rich in contrasts of form and colour, I saw the realization of beauty.  I was inspired with an increasing awareness that beyond the enchantment of the mountains there had to exist the last and ultimate beauty; that all the elements of truth that I reached by means of science pointed to a thing that was the Truth itself; that this ultimate Truth had to be crowned with beauty and transcendent splendour of which the sun illuminating the hills had already given me a foretaste. »

For the time being, Daphne decided to accept the existence of God as a « working hypothesis ».  She altered her view on the Church.  She no longer saw it as a force that obscures and oppressively exploits blind religiosity.  She finally understood that reality itself was in question:

« All of a sudden, I realized that the Church was all about God and that it was not simple emotionalism. The Church stood for truth and beauty, for penance and austerity, and even more, for the huge adventure of holiness. »

A Long Inquiry

It is good, grand, noble and generous, but is it true?  Is it not merely a huge illusion?

Daphne was still far from having the Faith.  To the question  «Would you like to become a Catholic? » she responded with a firm « Only if Catholicism is real! »  And she still had many objections.  But in fact her agnosticism no longer satisfied her.

The big question was Jesus Christ.  But before studying the life of Jesus Christ, Daphne felt turned off by miracles.  They revolted her and she bolted.  But after thinking about it, she had to admit that this passionate reaction was not reasonable.  She recognized that:

« It is more scientific to examine the possibility of a miracle than to refuse a priori to accept it.»

The methodical reading of the four Books of the Gospel was a veritable shock.  She had known only fragments of the Books.  She discovered in the entirety of the Books a doctrine that was so rich and so profound, and, at the same time, so simple and so balanced, that it was difficult to accept that an ordinary man – even a prophet or a saint – could have possibly authored it.

Must she thus admit that Jesus is God?  Daphne was not ready for that.  She was fascinated by His personality, but could not yet bring herself to that conclusion.

« I knew very well that to accept the truthfulness of the Gospel meant to accept Christ and Rome.  I had to give it a long thought. »

In the spring of 1950, Daphne embarked on a serious study of the history of the Church.  She was struck by the terrible crises that regularly oppressed the Church (persecutions, heresies, decadence or weakness of the clergy, etc). At least ten times the Church could have perished under the assaults of its enemies or from the vices of its own members (at times priests, bishops and popes!).  But each time, saints rose up, redressing the humanly desperate situation so that the Church rose up more alive than before.  And there were times when the leaders of the Church could have used their office to justify their errors doctrinally.  But it never happened.  The Infallibility of the Pope is certainly not a trivial claim!

A Conditional Prayer

Finally, Daphne had to recognize both the preeminence of Christ and of the Catholic Church.  But the big question still remained:  Is Jesus Christ truly God?   Daphne could not get past this hurdle:

« The more I thought about the historicity of the Gospels, the more I recognized the evidence that I had to accept Christ; this understanding revolted me violently.  Nonetheless, the natural beauty that I observed – the creation of God that I admired – all came from the same hand that had written the historical Gospels. »

« You need to pray »,  Fr. Augustin told her.  Daphne was deeply irritated by that.  What good would that action do?  Wasn’t she running the risk of falling into auto-suggestion and falsifying the scientific method?  She wanted to refuse to pray, but she felt herself (to be) mysteriously urged to attempt the experiment.  She prayed conditionally in order to appease her conscience.  After invoking God, she immediately added « if He exists » as a precaution in order not to rush the process.  Then she prayed for enlightenment.

She decided to attend Mass – as part of her study, without really participating – and she carefully compared the Roman Missal, which is the traditional Catholic rite of the Mass, to the Anglican ‘Prayer Book’.  She was impressed by the superiority of the former.  The traditional Catholic rite is somber and beautiful as well as dignified and precise.  She especially appreciated the Latin phrases that « always say the right word in the right place »:

« I thought back about the beauty of the mountains and the shores of the Hybrides; I had learned to identify supreme Truth with supreme Beauty; now the simple reading of the Missal left deep impressions.  If the Roman Church is capable of producing such liturgy, it is highly probable that it possesses the truth about God. »

Little by little, Daphne dropped all her objections.  But she still asked: do I truly have the Faith?

« I had always believed that Faith was a pious feeling, an emotional and a euphoric disposition, similar to a disposition created in us by music or by wine.  While I did not have any such feelings, I was pushed by a strong interior movement to take the decisive step to fully accept the Catholic Faith. »

Finally, Daphne Poncin Mould surrendered to Grace:

« He who has always lived in the Catholic Faith cannot imagine what this step means to an agnostic.  It is one thing to be intellectually convinced of the Truth held by Rome, it is altogether another to make the decision to become a Catholic. »

« To accept Roman authority, to confess that you will believe everything that the Church tells you to believe seemed a desperate step, a spiritual suicide.  I feared all authority.  I still had a profound attachment to Protestant individualism.  With this mindset, how could I possibly submit to an authoritative Church like Rome?

A Barrier Had Fallen

Daphne was condemned by her family (who no longer wanted to see her) and by her friends (who abandoned her).

She was received into the Catholic Church on November 11, 1950.  Her soul found peace and joy:

« My first impression was that the barrier between God and myself had fallen.  The second impression was that by becoming a Catholic, I had taken a step towards what was a beginning rather than an end.  I used to consider the Catholic Faith solely as a collection of beliefs, as a moral code; I had forgotten that the Faith was firstly and above all a contact with God, with the Being who is Infinite Love.  Such an adventure has no end.  I understood that the Catholic who attempts to understand God more deeply is never in danger of feeling restricted or limited.  We are made to contemplate God. »

She understood the need for Our Lady in order to be able to truly penetrate the mysteries of the Gospel, and so she applied herself to the Rosary:

« When I was received into the Church, I thought of God mainly in terms of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.  I did not have a true devotion to the Person of Christ.

Now as I read the Gospel, I found myself attracted to His Person and I prayed to Our Lady to help me to better know her Son. »clip_image002[5]

At the same time, Daphne discovered the real Church:

« The most amazing thing about the Church is the gentleness.  This gentleness comes from strength.  The Church is maternal but at the same time has the absolute certitude of possessing the Truth.  How far off were my ideas about the intolerance and violence of Papists! »

Bibliography :

Daphne Pochin Mould, The Rock of Truth

(an autobiography of her conversion), London, Sheet and Ward, 1953.

Francois Russo S.J. Le Roc de la certitude, Daphne Pochin Mould

(a French resume of the above work), Brussels, Foyer Notre-Dame, 1962.