Thought for the Day – 6 October – The Memorial of St Bruno (c 1030-1101)
St. Bruno was one of the most exceptional scholars, teachers, prayer warriors of his time:
“…a prudent man whose word was rich in meaning.” I think the key was the gift of great humility.
The Order founded by Bruno — the Carthusians — is one of the strictest in the Church. Carthusians follow the Rule of St Benedict but accord it a most austere interpretation, there is perpetual silence and complete abstinence from flesh meat (only bread, legumes and water are taken for nourishment). Bruno sought to revive the ancient eremitical (hermit) way of life. His Order enjoys the distinction of never becoming unfaithful to the spirit of its founder, never needing a reform.
Bruno and his friends built an oratory with small individual cells at a distance from each other. They met for Matins and Vespers each day and spent the rest of the time in solitude, eating together only on great feasts. Their chief work was copying manuscripts.
Hearing of Bruno’s holiness, the pope called for his assistance in Rome. When the pope had to flee Rome, Bruno pulled up stakes again and after refusing a bishopric, spent his last years in the wilderness of Calabria.
Silence in the Statutes:
What benefits What divine exultation The solitude and silence of the desert Hold in store for those who love it!
(Saint Bruno to Raoul)
Bruno was never formally canonised, because the Carthusians were averse to all occasions of publicity. However, Pope Clement X extended his feast to the whole Church in 1674.
“Rejoice, my dearest brothers, because you are blessed and because of the bountiful hand of God’s grace upon you. Rejoice, because you have escaped the various dangers and shipwrecks of the stormy world. Rejoice because you have reached the quiet and safe anchorage of a secret harbour. Many wish to come into this port and many make great efforts to do so, yet do not achieve it. Indeed many, after reaching it, have been thrust out, since it was not granted them from above. By your work you show what you love and what you know. When you observe true obedience with prudence and enthusiasm, it is clear that you wisely pick the most delightful and nourishing fruit of divine Scripture.”
from a letter by Saint Bruno to the Carthusians
May we mirror Bruno’s quest for holiness and unity with God.
Quote/s of the Day – 17 September – The Memorial of St Robert Bellarmine SJ (1542-1621) and St Hildegard von Bingen OSB (1098-1179) both Doctors of the Church
“O Trinity, You are music, You are life.”
“The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.”
“All of creation is a symphony of the Holy Spirit which is joy and jubilation.”
St Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) Doctor of the Church
“The school of Christ, is the school of love. In the last day, when the general examination takes place… Love will be the whole syllabus.”
“LOVE is a marvellous and heavenly thing. It never tires and it never thinks it has done enough!”
“Charity is that, with which no man is lost and without which, no man is saved.”
“When we appeal to the throne of grace, we do so through Mary, honouring God by honouring His Mother, imitating Him by exalting her, touching the most responsive chord in the Sacred Heart of Christ, with the sweet name of Mary.”
St Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) Doctor of the Church
Quote/s of the Day – 13 September – the Memorial of St John Chrysostom (347-407) Father & Doctor of the Church
“Never separate yourself from the Church. No institution has the power of the Church. The Church is your hope. The Church is your salvation. The Church is your refuge.”
“When you are before the altar where Christ reposes, you ought no longer to think that you are amongst men; but believe that there are troops of angels and archangels standing by you and trembling with respect before the sovereign Master of Heaven and earth. Therefore, when you are in church, be there in silence, fear and veneration.”
“If we approach with faith, we too will see Jesus… for the Eucharistic table takes the place of the crib. Here, the Body of the Lord is present, wrapped not in swaddling clothes, but in the rays of the Holy Spirit.”
“It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life.”
“Let the mouth also fast from disgraceful speeches and railings. For what does it profit if we abstain from fish and fowl and yet bite and devour our brothers and sisters? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother and bites the body of his neighbour!”
St John Baptist Mary Vianney was born near Lyon, France, on 8th May 1786. Overcoming many difficulties prior to his ordination on 13th Aug 1815, he was thereafter entrusted with the remote parish of Ars, a village of 230 souls. His Bishop had warned him that he would find religious practice there in a sorry state: “There is little love of God in that parish; you will have to be the one to put it there”. As a result, he was deeply aware that he needed to embody Christ’s presence and bear witness to God’s saving mercy: “Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish. I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life!” With that prayer he entered upon his mission.
His first biographer tells us that “upon his arrival, he chose the church as his home. He entered the church daily before dawn and did not leave it until after the evening Angelus. There he was to be sought whenever needed”.
The Curé d’Ars taught his parishioners primarily by the witness of his life. It was from his example that they learned to pray, to visit Jesus frequently in the Tabernacle. “One need not say much to pray well”, he explained to them, “we know that Jesus is there in the Tabernacle. Let us open our hearts to Him, let us rejoice in His sacred presence. That is the best prayer”. And He would urge them: “Come to communion, my brothers and sisters, come to Jesus. Come to live from Him in order to live with Him… Of course you are not worthy of Him but you need Him!”
He regularly visited the sick and families and organised missions and feast day celebrations. He also enlisted lay persons to collaborate in the collection and management of funds for his charitable works, providing also for the education of children. He personally cared for the orphans and teachers of the “Providence”, an institute he founded.
The Curé of Ars was known for his humility, while as a priest he was conscious of being an immense gift to his people. “A good shepherd, a pastor after God’s heart, is the greatest treasure which the good Lord can grant to a parish and one of the most precious gifts of divine mercy”.
Explaining to his parishioners the importance of the Sacraments, he would say: “Without the Sacrament of Holy Orders, we would not have the Lord. Who put him there in that tabernacle? The priest. Who welcomed your soul at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest. And if this soul should die as a result of mortal sin, who will raise it up, who will restore its calm and peace? Again, the priest… Only in heaven will he fully realise what he is.”
Those who attended the Masses he celebrated have said that “it was not possible to find a finer example of worship… He gazed upon the Host with immense love”. He was convinced that the fervour of a priest’s life depended entirely upon the Mass, “All good works, taken together, do not equal the sacrifice of the Mass since they are human works, while the Holy Mass is the work of God… The reason why a priest is lax is that he does not pay attention to the Mass! My God, how we ought to pity a priest who celebrates as if he were engaged in something routine!”
“The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”
His profound sense of responsibility as a priest was palpable. “Were we to fully realise what a priest is on earth, we would die: not of fright but of love… Without the priest, the passion and death of our Lord would be of no avail. It is the priest who continues the work of redemption on earth… What use would be a house filled with gold, were there no one to open its door? The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of his goods… Leave a parish for 20 years without a priest and they will end by worshipping the beasts there… The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you”.
By spending long hours in church before the Tabernacle, he inspired the faithful to imitate him by coming to visit Jesus, knowing that their parish priest would be there, ready to listen and offer forgiveness. Later, the growing numbers of penitents from all over France would keep him in the confessional for up to 16 hours a day. It was said that Ars had become “a great hospital of souls”.
He once explained to a fellow priest his self-imposed mortifications and expiations for those souls whose confessions he heard, “I will tell you my recipe: I give sinners a small penance and the rest I do in their place.” He was moved knowing that souls have been won at the price of Jesus’ own blood and a priest cannot devote himself to their salvation if he refuses to share personally in the precious cost of Christ’s redemption.
A century after his death, the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy was built in Ars-sur-Formans, where the relic of the heart of the Saint is venerated in the Chapel of the Heart. His incorrupt body lies at the main altar of the Shrine in a glass reliquary. The Curé’s humble cottage is presently a museum.
Current estimates indicate that over 400,000 pilgrims visit the shrine every year.
Thought for the Day – 11 July – The Memorial of St Benedict of Nursia OSB (c 480-547)
Excerpt from the Homily of Pope Benedict
General Audience, 9 April 2008
“Today, I would like to speak about Benedict, the Founder of Western Monasticism and also the Patron of my Pontificate.
I begin with words that St Gregory the Great wrote about St Benedict: “The man of God who shone on this earth among so many miracles was just as brilliant in the eloquent exposition of his teaching” (cf. Dialogues II, 36). The great Pope wrote these words in 592 AD. The holy monk, who had died barely 50 years earlier, lived on in people’s memories and especially in the flourishing religious Order he had founded. St Benedict of Nursia/Norcia, with his life and his work, had a fundamental influence on the development of European civilisation and culture. The most important source on Benedict’s life is the second book of St Gregory the Great’s Dialogues. It is not a biography in the classical sense. In accordance with the ideas of his time, by giving the example of a real man – St Benedict, in this case – Gregory wished to illustrate the ascent to the peak of contemplation which can be achieved by those who abandon themselves to God. He therefore gives us a model for human life in the climb towards the summit of perfection. St Gregory the Great also tells in this book of the Dialogues of many miracles worked by the Saint and here too he does not merely wish to recount something curious but rather to show how God, by admonishing, helping and even punishing, intervenes in the practical situations of man’s life. Gregory’s aim was to demonstrate that God is not a distant hypothesis placed at the origin of the world but is present in the life of man, of every man.
Throughout the second book of his Dialogues, Gregory shows us how St Benedict’s life was steeped in an atmosphere of prayer, the foundation of his existence. Without prayer there is no experience of God. Yet Benedict’s spirituality was not an interiority removed from reality. In the anxiety and confusion of his day, he lived under God’s gaze and in this very way never lost sight of the duties of daily life and of man with his practical needs. Seeing God, he understood the reality of man and his mission. In his Rule he describes monastic life as “a school for the service of the Lord” (Prol. 45) and advises his monks, “let nothing be preferred to the Work of God” [that is, the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours] (43, 3).
However, Benedict states that in the first place prayer is an act of listening (Prol. 9-11), which must then be expressed in action. “The Lord is waiting every day for us to respond to his holy admonitions by our deeds” (Prol. 35). Thus, the monk’s life becomes a fruitful symbiosis between action and contemplation, “so that God may be glorified in all things”(57, 9). In contrast with a facile and egocentric self-fulfilment, today often exalted, the first and indispensable commitment of a disciple of St Benedict is the sincere search for God (58, 7) on the path mapped out by the humble and obedient Christ (5, 13), whose love he must put before all else (4, 21; 72, 11) and in this way, in the service of the other, he becomes a man of service and peace . In the exercise of obedience practised by faith inspired by love (5, 2), the monk achieves humility (5, 1), to which the Rule dedicates an entire chapter (7). In this way, man conforms ever more to Christ and attains true self-fulfilment as a creature in the image and likeness of God.
Benedict describes the Rule he wrote as “minimal, just an initial outline”(cf. 73, 8); in fact, however, he offers useful guidelines not only for monks but for all who seek guidance on their journey toward God. For its moderation, humanity and sober discernment between the essential and the secondary in spiritual life, his Rule has retained its illuminating power even to today.
By proclaiming St Benedict Patron of Europe on 24 October 1964, Paul VI intended to recognise the marvellous work the Saint achieved with his Rule for the formation of the civilisation and culture of Europe.
Having recently emerged from a century that was deeply wounded by two World Wars and the collapse of the great ideologies, now revealed as tragic utopias, Europe today is in search of its own identity. Of course, in order to create new and lasting unity, political, economic and juridical instruments are important, but it is also necessary to awaken an ethical and spiritual renewal which draws on the Christian roots of the Continent, otherwise a new Europe cannot be built. Without this vital sap, man is exposed to the danger of succumbing to the ancient temptation of seeking to redeem himself by himself – a utopia which in different ways, in 20th-century Europe, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, has caused “a regression without precedent in the tormented history of humanity” (Address to the Pontifical Council for Culture, 12 January 1990).
Today, in seeking true progress, let us also listen to the Rule of St Benedict as a guiding light on our journey. The great monk is still a true master at whose school we can learn to become proficient in true humanism.