Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé No. 33: January 2020

Letter from the Dominicans of Avrillé

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No. 33: January 2020

Between the Donkey and the Ox

The Blessed Virgin Mary was in no way subject to the travails of childbirth; she could have held the Divine Infant tenderly in her arms, or on her breast: why then did she lay Him down between two animals? Our Lady had three reasons for this: that the Scriptures may be accomplished; to comfort her Son; and to teach us a moral lesson.

1) It was prophesied that the Messiah would be placed between two animals so that they may adore Him. Just imagine, then, the joy of the Blessed Virgin in seeing her Son being adored by the ox and the donkey! And what must have been Her sorrow in seeing Him rejected by the Jews? Thus was accomplished the prophecy of Isaiah, saying:

Hear ye, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken. I have brought up children, and exalted them; but they have despised me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the donkey his master’s crib; but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood. (Isaiah Ch. 1]

2) The Virgin also laid Her Son in a manger so that the animals could warm Him with their breath […].

3) Furthermore, the Virgin wanted to give us moral instruction.

  • Firstly, the ox is a large animal equipped with two horns, representing the temporal and spiritual powers. The donkey, which carries the burden, represents those who submit to these powers. The Virgin placed Her Son in the middle of the two to show that all can be saved […].

  • Secondly, the ox is a pure animal offered in sacrifice by the priests under the Old Testament. It therefore represents the priests, whereas the donkey represents the laymen. The Virgin placed Her Son between the two, showing thereby that all men can be saved.

  • Also, the ox, which doesn’t carry the burden, symbolize the rich, who do not work with their hands. The donkey symbolizes the workers who imitate his patience.

  • Fourthly, the ox equipped with horns signifies devout people, fortified by virtues. The donkey, which does not have horns, signifies sinners who nonetheless can be saved, if they do penance.

  • Lastly, the ox, which ruminates and has a hoof split in two, represents those who are learned in Holy Scripture: they ruminate in study, and have knowledge of both Testaments. The donkey represents the ignorant. Christ is placed between the two, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of the psalmist:

Homines et jumenta salvabis Domine, quemadmodum multiplicasti misericordiam tuam! Men and beasts thou wilt save, O Lord: O how hast thou multiplied thy mercy! [Ps. 35]

All men, whether powerful or weak, learned or rich, are as beasts of burden… that is, blind and hardened sinners that You, Lord, have come to save!

Community Chronicle

September 14th: Pontifical High Mass, during which H.E. Bishop Faure confers the sub-diaconate to Br. Agostinho (from Brazil), and the diaconate to Br. Alain (from Canada).

The order of sub-deacon includes the implicit vow of perpetual chastity, and the recitation of the breviary. For religious, these obligations start already with the pronouncement of perpetual vows. At Solemn High Mass, the sub-deacon presents the chalice and paten to the deacon, pours the drop of water in the chalice, and sings the epistle. He is also charged with the purification of the altar linens.

The order of deacon is a sacrament. The deacon is the minister of the bishop and the priest at the altar. He sings the Gospel, and may be authorized to preach. In certain cases, he is the “extraordinary minister” of Baptism and Holy Communion.

September 23rd: Solemn High Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of Mrs. Kobayashi (mother of our Br. Nishi), who passed away in Japan a week earlier.

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October 19th: Solemn High Mass for the habit-taking of two clerical brothers — destined for the priesthood — and one “oblate brother.” Such is the name given to a layman freely offering himself to a life of service in the Friary. He wears the same habit as the professed lay brothers (except when he’s away from the Friary), and he is affiliated to the Third Order. The most famous of these oblate brothers is none other than St. Martin of Porres (1569-1639). By humility, he considered himself unworthy of professing religious vows until he was obliged by obedience to do so.

October 26th: Our student brothers join the seminarians for a pilgrimage to Alençon and Lisieux, in the footsteps of St. Theresa.

November 3rd: Fr. Marie-Laurent presides a procession in the streets of Angers, from the Cathedral to the Church of the Holy Trinity, in public reparation for the idolatrous worship of the “earth goddess” (Pachamama) in the Vatican gardens, in the presence of Pope Francis. A good number of faithful joined with the seminarians and the young people from “The Friends of the Sacred Heart” for the ceremony.

Of all sins, idolatry is the gravest. This is because in and of itself, no matter what the interior intention is of the person who is acting, idolatrous worship is a negation and destruction of the Divine Being in that which distinguishes it from all other: that is, precisely the fact of being unique and absolutely without rival.” (Fr. Pègues O.P., commentary of the Summa Theologica)

November 8th: Fr. Marie-Laurent is in Ireland to replace Fr. Ballini for the weekend: Masses and preaching in Cork, Tralee and Longford.

November 24th: The yearly winter market for the benefit of St. Philomena’s School has now been transferred outside, due to the growing number of faithful overflowing into the vestibule during the Sunday Masses. Fortunately we were graced with good weather, but we’re hoping that the construction of the Parish Hall will soon provide us with a more secure solution.

December 8th: Procession in Angers for the feast of Immaculate Conception.

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News From Our Worksites

In waiting for the construction permit that will allow us to finally launch the work on our Parish Hall Project (with the much needed cafeterias for the two schools), we’ve been able to make a few improvements on the grounds of the Boys’ school: installation of a covered porch:

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and a temporary roof to protect what’s left of an ancient tower (which is set to be renovated, in order to serve as a study hall):

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Crisis In The Church

In October of 2019, a synod took place in Rome, with the theme “The Amazon: new paths for the Church […].” The preparatory document indicated already that “to announce Christ supposes listening respectfully to the natives in their intimate relation with nature and Mother Earth.” In order to render the synod’s objectives more tangible, Francis decided to inaugurate the gathering with a ceremony in the Vatican gardens.

“Representatives of the indigenous peoples” from the Amazon placed their idol of Mother Earth on a blanket, along with, among other curiosities, the statuette of a serpent…

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After various pagan rites accomplished by the natives, the Pope planted a tree while a priestess raised a “bowl of offering” toward the sky.

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Ednamar de Oliveira Viana (this priestess, who organized the ceremony) explained on the same day the meaning of this act: “To plant is to believe in a life that grows and is fertile, in order to satisfy the ‘creation hunger’ of Mother Earth. That brings us back to our origin, by a re-connection with the divine energy.”

adoration of tree

These pagan ceremonies being performed before the Pope cry vengeance from Heaven. However, let us remember that this is only the logical conclusion of Vatican II’s heresy of Ecumenism: if all religions are on an equal footing, what’s wrong with worshiping Mother Earth?

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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.)

Gifts of the Magi

Gifts of the Magi


A meditation for the Feast of Epiphany

With Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matth. II, 11.)

Ever since the birth of Christ, and perhaps before the Saviour’s birth, gold was considered precious and as something greatly to be prized.  St. Matthew (II, 11) tells us of the wise men who offered the Saviour gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  “Entering into the house, they found the Child with Mary, His Mother, and falling down they adored Him.  Opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

In a spiritual sense gold means heavenly wisdom.  The wise men were called wise because they followed the star, found the Saviour, gave Him their gold (in place of hoarding if), for they recognized Jesus as the Giver of all good gifts and realized that whatever good things they had were from God.  To recognize that important fact and to appreciate it is the highest wisdom and more precious to us than gold and silver.

— The Magi also brought frankincense to the Crib of Bethlehem and offered it to the world’s Redeemer.  Frankincense is a fragrant inflammable resin, burnt as incense, producing a sweet smelling odor.  In the spiritual order it signifies a devout prayer.  Hence King David, the royal Psalmist says, “O Lord, hear my voice, and let my prayer be directed as incense in Thy sight.” (Ps. CXL, 2.)  To have our prayers thus directed to God, they must be fervent and inflamed with the fire of charity.

— Myrrh is the aromatic gummy resin of Balsamodendron.    Myrrh that grows in Arabia and Abyssinia and is of an agreeable or spicy nature.  By Myrrh, in the spiritual sense, is understood the mortification of the flesh (so much needed in this age of luxury, ease and up-to-date comfort).  Wherefore, we read in Canticles (V, 5) “I arose up to open to My Beloved.  My hands dropped with myrrh and my fingers were full of the choicest myrrh.”  In these words the Church mystically describes Christ to those who know Him not, that is, to infidels; in order to convert them to the true faith.

By the visible things namely, gold, frankincense and myrrh when considered in a spiritual manner, we rise to a knowledge of the invisible things of God; and only then do we realize how much we need heavenly wisdom, devout prayer and mortification of the flesh. These three are the spiritual gold of the human soul.

(The Humanity of Christ.)

(From: Saint Thomas Meditations for every day, by Fr E.C. McEnery O.P., Columbus [Ohio], Long’s College book company, 1951)

MEDITATION FOR CHRISTMAS TIME (with Saint Thomas Aquinas)

MEDITATION FOR CHRISTMAS TIME

with Saint Thomas Aquinas


The Circumstances of Christ’s Birth

1. Christ willed to be born at Bethlehem because of two reasons:

First, because “ He was made … of the seed of David according to the flesh, to whom also a special promise was made concerning Christ. ”  (Rom. I, 3.)  Hence, He willed to be born at Bethlehem, where David was born, in order that by the very birthplace, the promise made to David might be fulfilled.  The Evangelist points this out by saying, “ Because He was of the house and of the family of David. ”

Secondly, because as Gregory says, “ Bethlehem is interpreted ‘the house of bread’.”  It is Christ Himself, Who said, “ I am the living Bread which came down from heaven ” (Jn 41, 51).

As David was born in Bethlehem, so also did He select Jerusalem to set up His throne and to build there the Temple of God, so that, Jerusalem was at the time a royal and priestly city.  Now, Christ’s priesthood and kingdom were consummated principally in His Passion.  Therefore, it was becoming, that He should choose Bethlehem for His birthplace and Jerusalem for the scene of His Passion.

Likewise, also, He silenced the vain boasting of men who take pride in being born in great cities, where also they desire especially to receive honor.  Christ, on the contrary, willed to be born in a mean city, and to suffer reproach in a great city.

2. Christ was born at a suitable time.

— “When the fullness of time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” (Gal. IV, 4.)  There is this difference between Christ and other men; that, whereas they are born subject to the restrictions of time, Christ as Lord and Maker of all time, chose a time in which to be born, just as He chose a mother and a birthplace.  And hence, since “What is of God is well ordered,” and becomingly arranged, it follows that Christ was born at a most fitting time.

— Christ came to bring us back from a state of bondage to a state of liberty, and therefore, as He took our mortal nature in order to restore us life, so as Bede says, “He deigned to take flesh at such a time that, shortly after His birth, He would be enrolled in Caesar’s census and thus submit Himself to bondage for the sake of our liberty.”

— Moreover, at that time, when the whole word lived under one ruler, peace abounded on the earth.  Therefore, it was a fitting time for the birth of Christ, for “He is our peace, Who hath made both one,” as it is written. (Eph. II, 14.)

Again it was fitting that Christ should be born while the world was governed by one ruler, because “He came to gather His own, Children of God, together into one” (John XI, 52), so “that there might be one fold and one Shepherd.” (John X, 16.)

Christ wished to be born during the reign of a foreigner, that the prophecy of Jacob might be fulfilled (Gen. XLIX, 10), “This sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, not a ruler from his thigh, till He come that is to be sent.”  Because as Chrysostom says, “as long as the Jewish people were governed by Jewish kings, however wicked, prophets were sent for their healing.  But now, that the Law of God is under the power of a wicked king, Christ is born; because a grave and hopeless disease demanded a more skillful physician.”

Christ wished to be born when the light of day begins to increase in length, so as to show that He came in order that man might come nearer to the Divine Light, according to Luke I, 79: “To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

— In like manner, He chose to be born in the rough winter season, that He might begin from then to suffer in body for us. (3 a. q. 35 a. V and VIII.)

(From: Saint Thomas Meditations for every day, by Fr E.C. McEnery O.P., Columbus [Ohio], Long’s College book company, 1951)