Quote/s of the Day – 13 May – Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter, C and the Memorial of Blessed Julian of Norwich (c 1342-c 1430) – “Revelations of Divine Love”
“He [ Jesus] is our clothing, that for love wraps us and winds us, embraces us and totally encloses us, hanging about us in tender love.”
“Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.”
“Despite all our feelings of woe or of well-being, God wants us to understand and to believe, that we are more truly in heaven than on earth. …for God is never out of the soul, in which He will dwell blessedly without end.”
“The fullness of Joy is to behold God in everything.”
“Truth sees God and wisdom contemplates God and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.”
“In You, Father almighty, we have our preservation and our bliss. In You, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving. You are our mother, brother and Saviour. In You, our Lord the Holy Spirit, is marvelous and plenteous grace. You are our clothing, for love You wrap us and embrace us. You are our maker, our lover, our keeper. Teach us to believe, that by Your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen”
Saint of the Day – 13 May – Blessed Julian of Norwich (c 1342-c 1416) (aged 73–74) Anchorite, Mystic, Writer, Ascetic, Spiritual director – also known as Dame Julian or Mother Julian – born late 1342 and died after 1416) was the greatest of all the English anchorites of the Middle Ages. She wrote the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love.
It was popular in the 14th century for a number of English men and women to withdraw from the world as hermits, they were known as anchorites. Their hermitage, was a small room attached to a local church. Each room had two windows. One through the church wall permitting the anchorite to receive communion. Through the second window, the anchorite received food brought to him or her by village people. Thus they at all times had the window of their heart open to Christ and open to the world.
As a young woman, Julian, who was born about 1342, became an anchorite at the Church of St Edmund and St Julian in Norwich. When she was 30 Julian suffered from a severe illness. Whilst apparently on her deathbed, Julian had a series of intense visions of Jesus Christ, which ended by the time she recovered from her illness on 13 May 1373. Julian wrote about her visions immediately after they had happened (although the text may not have been finished for some years), entitled Revelations of Divine Love. Twenty to thirty years later, perhaps in the early 1390s, Julian began to write a theological exploration of the meaning of the visions, known as The Long Text. This work seems to have gone through many revisions before it was finished, perhaps in the first or even second decade of the fifteenth century. Until her death in about 1416, Julian stayed in her simple room. Like most anchorites, she prayed, fasted, did penance, studied, sewed clothing for the poor and advised the village people.
In her book, she described her 16 visions of Jesus. As she wrote this book about God’s great compassion for us, Julian developed a special vocabulary. She called the Creator, our mother and our father. She called Jesus the Redeemer, our brother. Revelations is a celebrated work in Catholicism because of the clarity and depth of Julian’s visions of God. Julian of Norwich is now recognised as one of England’s most important mystics.
Julian of Norwich lived in a time of turmoil but her theology was optimistic and spoke of God’s love in terms of joy and compassion, as opposed to law and duty. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God loved everyone and wanted to save them all. Popular theology, magnified by catastrophic contemporary events such as the Black Death and a series of peasant revolts, asserted that God punished the wicked . Julian suggested a more merciful theology, she believed that behind the reality of hell is a greater mystery of God’s love. In modern times, she has been classified as a proto-universalist, although she did not claim more than hope, that all might be saved.
At the time of Julian’s death, people from all over Europe travelled to her room, or cell, to ask her advice. Everyone recognised that she was close to God. The Church never formally declared her a saint but through the ages, people have called her “Blessed.”
“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown – that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”
Julian of Norwich
Saint of the Day – 28 April – Blessed Itala Mela ObSB (1904–1957) – Laywoman, Mystic, Benedictine Oblate, Theological Writer.
Blessed Itala was an Italian Roman Catholic who was a lapsed Christian until a conversion of faith in the 1920s and as a Benedictine oblate assumed the name of “Maria della Trinità”. She became one of the well-known mystics of the Church during her life and indeed following her death. She also penned a range of theological writings that focused on the Trinity, such an integral element of the Christian faith.
Itala Mela was born on 28 August 1904 in La Spezia to Pasquino Mela and Luigia Bianchini, both were atheist teachers. She spent her childhood in the care of her maternal grandparents from 1905 to 1915, as her parents worked and her grandparents prepared Mela for her First Communion and Confirmation – she made on 9 May 1915 and 27 May 1915 respectively.
The death of her brother Enrico at the age of nine (27 February 1920) challenged Mela’s perception of her Christian faith and she wrote of her feelings to the loss: “After his death, nothing”. As a result, she eschewed her Christian faith and slipped into atheism. However, at the age of 18 she had a profound spiritual experience whichresulted in the reawakening of her faith, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (8 Dec. 1922). After rediscovering God, her faith deepened with the motto she took being: “Lord, I shall follow You unto the darkness, unto death”.
Bl Itala became a member of FUCI (Federation of Catholic Students) in 1923, where she met future pope Giovanni Battista Montini (St Paul VI) and Bl Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster OSB (1880-1954) at the meetings there. She also met the priests Divo Barsotti and Agostino Gemelli OFM. At such meetings, Monsignor Montini and both the politicians Aldo Moro and Giulio Andreotti, both of the Christian Democracy Party served as major influences upon her.
She passed her studies in 1922 with recognition of being a brilliant student and was enrolled at the University of Genoa on the following 11 November, where she later received a degree in letters in 1928 as well as in classical studies.
Bl Itala experienced her first vision of God on 3 August 1928 as a beam of light at the tabernacle, in a church of a seminary at Pontremoli. She wrote afterwards, “The will of Christ, which I feel in the depths of my soul, is to drag me, to immerse myself with Himself in the abysses of the Holy Trinity … It is useless to look for other ways, this is what He has chosen for my sanctification.” Feeling called to the religious life, she tried to enter a Benedictine convent but health did not allow her to remain. Instead she became a Benedictine Oblate and consecrated herself to the Holy Trinity.
She departed for Milan at this time and chose as her confessor Adriano Bernareggi., who later became the Archbishop of Bergamo.
Her true calling as a Benedictine oblate came in 1929 and solidified to the point, where she commenced her novitiate. It concluded on 4 January 1933 when she made her profession in Rome in the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura making her four vows. As a sign of her new life, Mela assumed the name of “Maria della Trinità – Maria of the Trinity”. She composed many profound spiritual writings and continued to have spiritual visions and ecstasies. She even proposed a special memorial to Mary of the Trinity to Pope Pius XII, which he approved in 1941.
In Genoa from 5–15 October 1946, Mela composed a series of spiritual exercises for the benefit of the faithful, the exercises were well received.
Bl Itala died on 29 April 1957 aged 52. Her remains were later transferred to the La Spezia Cathedral in 1983.
She was proclaimed Venerable on 12 June 2014 after Pope Francis approved her life of heroic virtue. On 14 December 2015 the pope also approved a miracle attributed to her intercession which allowed for her Beatification to take place. Bl Itala was beatified in La Spezia on 10 June 2017 and Cardinal Angelo Amato presided over the celebration on the pope’s behalf. The miracle in question concerned the revival of an Italian newborn, whose body was in state of clinical brain death.
Pope Francis said on Sunday, 11 June 2017, the day after her Beatification:
Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday in La Spezia, Itala Mela was Beatified.
She was raised in a family far removed from the faith, in her youth she professed to be an atheist but converted after an intense spiritual experience. She worked among Catholic university students, she then became a Benedictine Oblate and followed a mystic path centred on the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, which we celebrate today in a special way. May the witness of the new Blessed encourage us, during our days, to turn our thought often to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who abides in the chamber of our heart.
The Spiritual Experience of Itala Mela, a Life Incandescently Immersed in the Trinity
This present translation in English is the most recent development of an ongoing study regarding Itala Mela and the profound mysteries that our Lord revealed to her regarding the Inhabitation of the Most Blessed Trinity. This is a most telling narrative describing the work of God in each individual soul for the fulfilment of the destiny of mankind. A work achieved by co-operation to grace and acceptance of the circumstances of life with an eye to advancing the Kingdom within oneself and the world around us.
Itala is an example of an ordinary life of an ordinary person and how God takes this ordinariness and makes it extraordinary. Yes, sanctity is for everyone, if only we see to understand and act in love. The journey begins today with a light for each step of our path.
Saint of the Day – 23 April – Blessed Teresa Maria of the Cross OCD (1846–1910) Religious Nun of the Carmelite Order, Foundress of the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa, Mystic, Adorer of the Holy Eucharist, Marian devotee, spiritaul advisor, teacher. Born on 2 March 1846 at Campi Bisenzio, Florence, Italy as Teresa Adelaide Cesina Manetti and died on 3 April 1910 at Campi Bisenzio, Florence, Italy of natural causes. Patronages – Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa, People ridiculed for their piety, Campi Bisenzio, Italy her birthplace.
Teresa Manetti, familiarly called Bettina, was born in the Tuscan countryside and raised among a simple family. She was the daughter of Salvatore Manetti and Rosa Bigagli, and had one brother, Adamo Raffaello. She lived her entire life in her small village.
Bettina had a cheerful, energetic disposition and a talent for organisation and all the qualities which make for a good leader. At the age of 21, she rented a home with two other women who dedicated themselves to a life of prayer, penance and charity. They cared for the sick and the poor and taught catechism to children. They were inspired by the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila and had a special devotion to her. Many other women joined the small group. The women were admitted to the Teresian Third Order and Bettina took the new name of Teresa Maria of the Cross.
Two years later, she joined the Discalced Carmelites as a nun. Over the next few years she started schools in several Italian cities, each with it’s little group of Carmelite teachers. Her Institute of teaching nuns received approval from Pope Saint Pius X on 27 February 1904 as the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa of Florence with a mission to teach and care for children, especially orphans. Like her inspiration, Saint Teresa of Avila, Teresa of the Cross met with much resistance to her work with the poor, much slander about her personal life and a long period of spiritual dryness but all who met her, commented on the air of joy and peace she brought to her work.
Under the wise guidance of Mother Teresa, the new congregation, animated by a true Carmelite spirit, went on expanding. In realisation of an old prophetic dream, with twelve houses opened in Tuscany, Teresa was able to add two on the Carmelite missions in Syria and one on the slopes Of Carmel, at Haifa. She gave individual attention to the foundations and to the religious, with the strength of a mother who wished her daughters to be poor and detached from everything, truly tending towards God alone as they served His orphans and little ones. She herself was the servant of all. Despite her own precarious health, she was forgetful of self as she sought to pour out joy and her smile upon all who approached her. The witnesses at the process of beatification are unanimous in declaring that everyone who met her was impressed by her trust in God and by her serene abandonment to Providence and felt himself the better person for it.
And as the years passed, Teresa was more and more besieged by crowds of people, especially on Sundays. Lines of persons of every class and condition awaited their turn to be heard and consoled by her. She was able to unite them to the Lord, give counsels of heavenly wisdom, heal ills which resisted the efforts of science, read hearts, see into the future, cut down distances, multiply goods and money. These are the «little flowers» that are in evidence on every page of the canonical processes, little flowers that, while they reveal charismatic facts, also show her exceptional availability for her neighbours, even at times of greatest pain. Bishop Andrew Cassullo, who had known her intimately, affirmed in her regard: “She undid herself doing good.”
She lived joyfully, body and soul the mystery of the Cross in full conformity to the will of God. Teresa Maria was outstanding for her love for the Eucharist and her maternal care for children and for the poor. Her life was motivated by a consuming love for Christ and a desire to save souls. She endeavoured to live according to God’s holy will and took delight in all the crosses which came through this purpose. In a prayer she wrote:
“To suffer, to suffer, always suffer. Do what you want with me, it’s enough that I save souls for you.”
The source of such a dedication was her life of faith and of theological charity, the great virtues of her life which nourished her Eucharistic fervour and gave her the strength to live out her religious name, of the Cross, in its deepest significance. She lived on prayer and she had the gift of a continual communion with the Lord, so that, as one witness recalls in regard to a personal affirmation of the servant of God, “for her it was the same to be enclosed in a convent or to deal with people, because everywhere she felt herself united to God.” This habitual union found its nourishment in Eucharistic piety. She had great devotion for the Eucharist even as a child. During the institute’s first years she went into ecstasy almost every day after Communion, later, too, in the Eucharistic presence she felt something that drew her out of herself.
One of her great hopes was a house entirely dedicated to the perpetual adoration of the Eucharist. She was able to realise this in Florence, where on 11 January 1902, in the church of Corpus Domini, which she had built, the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly exposed. It was in contact with Christ that her apostolic desires increased, hence she exclaimed: “I should like to make all hearts into one and plunge it into the heart of Jesus.” Moreover, the love of Jesus bound her more intimately to Our Lady, whose tenderness and care for Jesus she herself wished to have. Happy to be a Carmelite, she saw in her Carmelite vocation a commitment to belong to Our Lady more deeply and to spread devotion to her.
She died at Campi Bisenzio on 23 April 1910 and was beatified on October 1986 by St Pope John Paul II after the approval of the required miracle.
Saint of the Day – 14 April – Saint Lydwina of Schiedam (1380-1433) aged 53 – Mystic, Ascetic, apostle of the Holy Eucharist and of penance and prayer, also known as Liduina, Lidwid, Lidwina, Lijdwine, Ludivine, Lydwid, Lydwine – born on 18 April 1380 (Palm Sunday) at Schiedam, Netherlands and died on 14 April (Easter Sunday) 1433 at Schiedam, Netherlands of natural causes. Patronages – against sickness, against bodily ills, ice skating, prolonged suffering. roller skating, skaters, Schiedam, Netherlands.
The story of Lydwina, the patron saint of ice skating, is a sad and fascinating one indeed. She was a Dutch girl born on a Palm Sunday and raised alongside eight brothers to a father and mother, Peter and Petronella who were a “poor noble” and ‘poor commoner”.
By all accounts, she was “a lovely and charming girl”. At age fifteen, in a severe winter Lydwina was skating with girlfriends when she fell and broke a rib and was put in bed in her family home. After her injury, gangrene set in and Lydwina became partially paralysed.
She never fully recovered and became progressively more disabled and ill throughout her life. It is believed that she became paralysed with the exception of her left hand and that parts of her body… “fell off”. Blood is reported to have spontaneously poured from her mouth, ears and nose. Some historians have hypothesised that accounts of her affliction may have actually been describing one of the first known cases of Multiple Sclerosis, which of course would not have been known at that time.
Much of Lydwina’s time was spent in prayer, meditation and in offering her pain to God. Devoutly spiritual, she developed a devotion to The Eucharist, was visited by saints and had visions in which she was shown a “Heaven and Purgatory”. Miracles reportedly occurred at her beside.
After Lydwina’s fall while skating, she fasted constantly and became reputed as a healer and holy woman, although many viewed her as being ‘under the influence of an evil spirit’ due to her deteriorating health.
Her hometown of Schiedam created a document that attests to her fasting. She ate only a little piece of apple, then part of a date, watered down wine and then river water that was contaminated with salt from the tides. This document created by Schiedam town officials (which still exists) also claims that she shed skin, bones and part of her intestines, which her parents kept in a vase until Lydwina had her mother bury them after they drew much attention.
She lost her sight seven years before her death but continued to fast and report visions, in one of which her Guardian Angel assisted her, until her death at age fifty three.
Posthumously, Lydwina’s grave became a place of pilgrimage. Thomas à Kempis’s (1380-1471) publication, Vita Lidewigis, A Life of St Lydwina, caused an increase in veneration. In 1615 her relics were taken to Brussels but in 1871 they were returned to Schiedam. In 1434, a chapel was built over it. Her relics were taken to Brussels, Belgium in 1615 but returned to Schiedam in 1871.
In 1890, Pope Leo XIII Canonised her. She is known as the patron saint of ice skaters and the chronically ill and her “feast day” is observed on 18 March, 14 April (universal memorial) or 14 June depending on the region and area’s tradition.
The Church of Our Lady of the Visatation, which was opened in 1859 in Schiedam closed in 1969 and her statue and relics were removed and moved to the chapel dedicated to her Basilica of Lydwina in West-Frankeland. In Schiedam, her name is attached to numerous institutions and the Intorno Ensemble foundation presents a bi-annual musical theatrical production about Lydwina, the town saint, in one of Schiedam’s churches.
Of her suffering at the end of her life, Lidwina allegedly said, “If I live to be healthy by Ave Maria again I would not want to.” Her final vision was of Christ administering last rites to her.
This powerful and heartwarming history makes it so fitting that Lydwina was named the patron saint of ice skating.
Surely, one of the parables of the story of St Lydwina, is that if you fall down, you never give up and you too may become a Saint. Your search for holiness, may, after all, only begin after the fall!
Thought for the Day – 14 December – The Memorial of St John of the Cross (1542-1591) Doctor of the Church
Traces of the Divine Beauty in Creation From The Spiritual Canticle by Saint John of the Cross
“Created things in themselves, as Saint Augustine declares, give testimony to God’s grandeur and excellence. For God created all things with remarkable ease and brevity and in them He left some trace of who He is, not only in giving all things being from nothing but even by endowing them, with innumerable graces and qualities, making them beautiful in a wonderful order and unfailing dependence on one another. All of this He did through His own wisdom, the Word, His only begotten Son by whom He created them.
Saint Paul says: The Son of God is the splendour of His glory and the image of His substance. It should be known that only with this figure, His Son, did God look at all things, that is, He communicated to them their natural being and many natural graces and gifts and made them complete and perfect, as is said in Genesis: God looked at all things that He made, and they were very good. To look and behold that they were very good, was to make them very good in the Word, his Son.
Not only by looking at them did He communicate natural being and graces, as we said but also with this image of His Son alone, He clothed them in beauty by imparting to them supernatural being. This He did when He became man and elevated human nature in the beauty of God and consequently all creatures, since in human nature He was united with them all.
Accordingly, the Son of God proclaimed: If I be lifted up from the earth, I will elevate all things to me. And in this elevation of all things through the incarnation of His Son and through the glory of His resurrection according to the flesh, the Father did not merely beautify creatures partially but rather, we can say, clothed them wholly in beauty and dignity.”
“Lord I am not worthy but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
Saint of the Day – 2 December – Blessed John van Ruysbroeck – Priest, Hermit, Mystic, Spiritual Director and Spirtual Writer – born in c 1293 near Brussels, Belgium and died on 2 December 1381 at Groenendael, Belgium, of natural causes. Known as John “the Admirable” , “the Ecstatic Doctor, “the Divine Doctor.”
John van Ruysbroeck was a Flemish mystical writer who greatly influenced mystical teaching in the late Middle Ages and whose name is associated with the religious renewal in the Lowlands that also produced, The Imitation of Christ. He was born near Brussels in 1293 and was raised by a devout mother who trained him in a life of holiness.
At the age of eleven, he went to Brussels to live with an uncle, John Hinckaert, a priest and canon of St Gudule’s. John studied for the priesthood and was ordained in 1317. Under his uncle’s roof he continued to live a life of retirement and study and began the writings that were to be the basis of his spiritual teaching: The Spiritual Espousals, The Kingdom of Lovers, and The Tabernacle.
Together with his uncle and another canon, Francis van Coudenberg, Blessed John Ruysbroeck withdrew to a hermitage near Soignes for a life of greater solitude and a number of disciples joined them. They decided to inaugurate a formal religious institute and adopted the rule of the canons of St Victor. John was made the prior of the new institute.
This period, from his religious profession (1349) to his death (1381), was the most active and fruitful of Ruysbroeck’s career. During this time, his fame as a man of God, as a sublime contemplative and a skilled director of souls, spread beyond the bounds of Flanders and Brabant to Holland, Germany and France. He had relations with the nearby Carthusian house at Herne and also with several communities of Poor Clare Franciscans.
Excellent writings continued to come forth from his pen: The Book of the Sparkling Stone, The Little Book of Enlightenment, and The Book of the Twelve Beguines. Literally, Ruysbroeck wrote as the spirit moved him. He loved to wander and meditate in the solitude of the forest adjoining the cloister; he was accustomed to carry a tablet with him and on this to jot down his thoughts as he felt inspired so to do. Late in life he was able to declare that he had never committed anything to writing save by the motion of the Holy Spirit.
John Ruysbroeck’s writings are considered classics of spirituality, anticipating the writings of St John of the Cross in their clarity and doctrine. He strongly opposed the quietist tendencies of many of his contemporaries. His solid theological background and his ability to make clear the sure path of spiritual progress gave him a wide reading and his books are lucid commentaries on the Augustinian doctrine of the life of grace.
For several years before his death, John lived in a small cell, just outside the cloister of his monastery. In his eighty-eighth year, he asked to be taken to the community infirmary, where he prepared himself for death. He died on 2 December1381.
After John’s death in 1381, his relics were carefully preserved and his memory honoured as that of a saint. Many of his spiritual children called him the “the Admirable”,Ecstatic Doctor or Divine Doctor.
When Groenendaal Priory was suppressed by Joseph II in 1783, his relics were transferred to St Gudule’s, Brussels, where, however, they were lost during the French Revolution. John was Beatified on 1 December 1908, by St Pope Pius X.
No authentic portrait of John is known to exist but the traditional picture represents him in the canonical habit, seated in the forest with his writing tablet on his knee, as he was in fact found one day by the brethren—rapt in ecstasy and enveloped in flames, which encircle without consuming the tree under which he is resting.