Friday, March 25, 2011

Prayer Tips from St Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila, The Way of Perfection, Ch. 24

I want to advise you, or, I might even say, to t each you how you must 
practice vocal prayer, for it is right that you should understand 
what you are saying. .... We may, of course, consider it enough to 
say our prayers as a mere habit, repeating the words and thinking 
that this will suffice. Whether it suffices or no I will not now 
discuss. Learned men must decide: they will instruct people to whom 
God gives light to consult them, and I will not discuss the position 
of those who have not made a profession like our own. But what I 
should like, daughters, is for us not to be satisfied with that 
alone: when I say the Creed, it seems to me right, and indeed 
obligatory, that I should understand and know what it is that I 
believe; and, when I repeat the "Our Father", my love should make me 
want to understand Who this Father of ours is and Who the Master is 
that taught us this prayer.

If you assert that you know Who He is already, and so there is no 
need for you to think about Him, you are not right; .... And when it 
comes to the Master Who taught us this prayer, and Who loves us so 
much and is so anxious for us to profit by it, may God forbid that we 
should fail to think of Him often when we repeat it, although our own 
weakness may prevent us from doing so every time.

..... It has already been said that it is impossible to speak to God 
and to the world at the same time; yet this is just what we are 
trying to do when we are saying our prayers and at the same time 
listening to the conversation of others or letting our thoughts 
wander on any matter that occurs to us, without making an effort to 
control them. .....These directions are meant for persons who keep 
careful guard over themselves and know that they must not speak to 
God and to the world at the same time. What we can do ourselves is to 
try to be alone -- and God grant that this may suffice, as I say, to 
make us realize in Whose presence we are and how the Lord answers our 
petitions. Do you suppose that, because we cannot hear Him, He is 
silent? He speaks clearly to the heart when we beg Him from our 
hearts to do so. It would be a good idea for us to imagine that He 
has taught this prayer to each one of us individually, and that He is 
continually expounding it to us. The Master is never so far away that 
the disciple needs to raise his voice in order to be heard: He is 
always right at his side. I want you to understand that, if you are 
to recite the Paternoster well, one thing is needful: you must not 
leave the side of the Master Who has taught it you.

You will say at once that this is meditation, and that you are not 
capable of it, and do not even wish to practice it, but are content 
with vocal prayer. For there are impatient people who dislike giving 
themselves trouble, and it is troublesome at first to practice 
recollection of the mind when one has not made it a habit. So, in 
order not to make themselves the least bit tired, they say they are 
incapable of anything but vocal prayer and do not know how to do 
anything further. You are right to say that what we have described is 
mental prayer; but I assure you that I cannot distinguish it from 
vocal prayer faithfully recited with a realization of Who it is that 
we are addressing. Further, we are under the obligation of trying to 
pray attentively: may God grant that, by using these means, we may 
learn to say the Paternoster well and not find ourselves thinking of / span>
something irrelevant. I have sometimes experienced this myself, and 
the best remedy I have found for it is to try to fix my mind on the 
Person by Whom the words were first spoken. Have patience, then, and 
try to make this necessary practice into a habit, for necessary it 
is, in my opinion, for those who would be nuns, and indeed for all 
who would pray like good Christians.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Observance of Lent

A certain researcher in Rome recently uncovered the manuscript of a late medieval copy of an earlier copy of a letter attributed to Scholastica, abbess of Plombariola. The original letter appears to have been written to another abbess, named Flavia, in about the year 535. It treats of the observance of Lent.

To my beloved sister in Christ, the Lady Flavia, abbess of the handmaids of the Lord near Benevento. Grace and peace from Scholastica, abbess in the school of the Lord's service that is at Plombariola.
The School of the Lord's Service 
Your letter brought me much joy and, bound by the sweetness of affection that unites us in holy friendship, I hasten to respond to your questions “with sincere and humble charity” (RB 72:10). Know that I have no teaching of my own; from the time of my veiling (velatio) the commands and teaching of my brother, blessed by grace and by name, “have mingled like the leaven of divine justice in my mind” (RB 25). In truth, dear sister, he who is my brother according to the flesh, has become my father in the Spirit. It was he who named me Scholastica, saying that, like him, I was destined to remain in the “school of the Lord’s service” (RB Pro:45). In this school I have found “nothing that is harsh or hard to bear” (RB Pro:46). On the contrary, through the continual practice of monastic observance and the life of faith” (RB Pro:49), my heart is opened wide, and even now I am running in the way of God’s commandments in a sweetness of love that is beyond words (cf. RB Pro: 49).
The Yearly Visit
I see my venerable brother but once a year, and even then he refuses to come to me, not wanting to leave the enclosure of his monastery. I am obliged to go to him at Monte Cassino, inspired by the example of the Queen of the South who traveled far to sit at the feet of Solomon and listen to his wisdom. My brother himself says that “we must hurry to do now what will profit us forever” (RB Pro 44). I will continue to go to him as long as I am able to make the journey, trusting that he who formed us together in our mother’s womb will one day bring us “together to life everlasting” (cf. RB 73:12).
Holy Lent
You ask me to tell you how we observe Lent here at Plombariola. My venerable brother, in his “little Rule written for beginners” (RB 73:8), says that “a monk’s life ought at all seasons to bear a Lenten character” (RB 49:1). He is also the first to admit that “such strength is found only in the few” (RB 49:2). Following his teaching, I urge my sisters to “keep the holy days of Lent with a special purity of life, and also at this holy season to make reparation for the failings of other times” (RB 49:3). I try to order Lent in my monastery with “discretion, the mother of virtues” (RB 54:19) in such a way that “the strong may desire to carry more, and the weak are not afraid” (RB 54:19). The task of ruling souls and serving women of different characters is, as you know well, arduous and difficult (cf. RB 2:31). I must adapt and fit myself to all. Dear old Nonna Fabiola needs to be encouraged. Sister Petronilla, thick-skinned as she is, responds only to sharp rebuke, whereas Sister Anastasia has to be persuaded. With some, I have to be tough, and with others lovingly affectionate. This is my brother’s way, and by following it, I have “not lost any of the flock entrusted to me, and rejoice as my good flock increases” (RB 2:32).
But I digress, dear Mother Flavia. Your question was about Lent. My venerable brother says that we are to “guard ourselves from faults” during this holy time. To do this, one must “always remember all God’s commandments, and constantly turn over in one’s heart how hell will burn those who despise him by their sins and how eternal life has been prepared for those who fear him” (RB 7:11). My brother calls this the first step of humility. As for me, my faults appear daily in the bright mirror of the Scriptures. I have no excuse for putting off the labour of my conversion. As the psalmist says: “Thou hast set our evil-doings before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance” (Ps 89:8).
Four Lenten Practices
My venerable brother recommends four Lenten practices: “prayer with tears, reading, compunction of heart, and abstinence” (RB 49:4). The first, prayer with tears, has always come easily to me. God has never refused me anything I asked of him with tears. I have no doubt that he “has set my tears in his sight” (Ps 55:9). Tears in prayer are no cause for alarm. The heart pressed by the hand of God in prayer weeps just as a sponge held tightly in your hand or mine gives forth water.
Sacred reading is my brother’s second Lenten practice. He considers it so important that he completely changes the horarium of his monastery during Lent to make more time for it. Here we do the same. Nothing is done at Monte Cassino that we do not do here at Plombariola. In Lent our hours of reading are “from the morning until the end of the Third Hour” (RB 48:14). This means we do not begin work after Prime, as is the custom at other times, but consecrate to sacred reading the best three hours of the morning. We are alert then, and the early morning light in the cloister is wonderfully clear and bright.
When your letter arrived I was, in fact, choosing Lenten books from our library for my nuns. My venerable brother says that this is one of the most important tasks of an abbess. When a sister chooses her own book she is all too often swayed by personal prejudices and taste. It is easy to avoid the book that will prick the soul with compunction. And so I choose carefully for my little flock, imitating Nonna Lucia, our infirmarian, an expert dispenser of medicines for every affliction. In choosing the Lenten books, I try to offer a remedy for the sick soul, a comfort for the weary, a joy for the downhearted, a light for the path of the one who seems to have lost her way. Following my brother’s practice, I will give them out on the First Sunday of Lent. Each sister will come forward to receive her book from my hand, seeing in it a provision of daily bread for the forty days of the Great Fast. After Pascha, the nuns will return their books in good condition, having read them through from the beginning (cf. RB 48:15).
Human weakness being what it is, I am obliged nonetheless to appoint two seniors to go round the monastery during the hours set aside for reading to see whether perchance they come upon some lazy sister who is engaged in doing nothing or, God forbid, in chatter, and is not intent upon her book. Such nuns are not only profitless to themselves but lead others astray too (cf. RB 48:17-18). Every year I hope that such will not be the case, but I must tell you, dear Mother Flavia, that one Lent I had to reprimand a certain chatterbox once and a second time. Finally, I had to punish her in accordance with my brother’s Rule, so that others might be warned (cf. RB 48:19-20). Happily, she has made progress since then and I pray that this Lent she will attend to her reading in quiet and in peace.
My venerable brother says that during this sacred season we are “to increase in some way the normal standard of our service, as for example, by special prayers, or by a diminution in food or drink” (RB 49:5-6). It is edifying to see Nonna Aquilina lingering in the oratory after Compline. Even Pulcheria, our littlest oblate, asked me if she might give up the sweet bread and butter given her after None each day. Nonna Marcellina asked me if she might pray the Beati immaculati (Psalm 118) daily through Lent. She knows it by heart, of course. Ah, dear Mother Flavia, joys such as these compensate abundantly for the anxieties and sorrows that an abbess so often carries within her heart.
Quadragesimal Joy
My venerable brother says that Lenten joy is the most important thing of all. Some would make of Lent a time of gloom and lamentation. Not my brother! When I asked him on my last visit to Monte Cassino how my nuns were to keep Lent, he smiled broadly and said, “Let each one spontaneously in the joy of the Holy Spirit make some offering to God concerning the allowance granted her” (RB 49:6). My brother is known for his gravitas, but to me he reveals a heart brimming over with joy in the Holy Spirit. It is true that he has no time for silliness, or giddy laughter, or talkativeness -- he has always loved silence more than talking, even from the time we were children -- but that silence is the seal of his joy. He pours out his joy like a fine wine, with discretion; but his joy itself is boundless.
Often my venerable brother speaks of offering. He wants our Lenten practices to be a holy oblation offered to God (cf. RB 49:6). I saw him once standing close to the altar at the moment of Holy Communion with his hands raised in prayer, completely taken up in the offering of Christ to the Father of infinite majesty. This, I think, is why he prescribed the singing of the Suscipe before the altar on the day of my monastic consecration.
With the Abbot's Blessing
This epistle is already too long, dear Mother Flavia, and I am obliged to write now with smaller letters in the margins of the parchment, but there is still one important thing on which my venerable brother insists. Before my first Lent as abbess, he said that “every sister should propose to me whatever she intends to offer, and it should be performed with my blessing and approval” (cf. RB 49:8-9). This was very humbling for me, I hardly felt equal to the task, but he reminded me that I should “always bear in mind what I am called, and fufill in my actions the name of One who is called greater” (RB 2:1-2). I give you the same counsel, dear sister in Christ: “Anything done without the permission of the spiritual mother will be put down to presumption and vainglory, and deserving no reward” (RB 49:9). Do then as I do, following the example of my venerable brother. “Everything must be carried out with the approval of the abbess” (RB 49:10).
I have tried to answer your question, reverend Lady -- always my dear sister in Christ. I greet you and those who, being with you, “truly seek God” (RB 58:7) with a holy kiss. Let us now “with the joy of spiritual desire, look forward to holy Pascha” (RB 49:7). 
+ Scholastica, abbess 

Clorox vs Peroxide

from Spirit Daily: 
(see also Snopes review of information)>
Clorox vs Peroxide VERY interesting and inexpensive. This was written

by Becky Ransey of Indiana (a doctor's Wife), and I want to share it>
with you. She was over recently for coffee and smelled the bleach I was
using to clean my toilet and counter tops. This is what she told me. 'I
would like to tell you of the benefits of that Plain little ole bottle
of  3% peroxide you can get for under $1.00 at any drug store. What
does bleach cost?
My husband has been in the medical field for over 36 years, And most
doctors don't tell you about peroxide. Have you Ever smelled bleach in
a doctor's office? NO!!!
Why? because it smells, and it is not healthy! Ask the nurses who work
in the doctor's offices, and ask them if they use bleach at home. They
are wiser and know better!
Did you also know bleach was invented in the late 40's? It's chlorine,
folks! And it was used to kill our Troops. Peroxide was invented during
WWI in the 20's. It was used to save and help cleanse the needs of our
troops and hospitals.
Please think about this:
1. Take one capful (the little white cap that comes with the bottle)
and hold in your mouth for 10 minutes daily, then spit it out. (I do it
when I bathe.) No more canker sores, and your teeth will be whiter
without expensive pastes. Use it instead of mouthwash.
2. Let your toothbrushes soak in a cup of peroxide to keep them free of
3. Clean your counters and table tops with peroxide to kill germs and
leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe,
or spray it on the counters.
4. After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour peroxide on it to
kill salmonella and other bacteria.
5. I had fungus on my feet for years until I sprayed a 50/50 mixture of
peroxide and water on them (especially the toes) every night and let
6. Soak any infections or cuts in
3% peroxide for five to ten minutes several times a day. My husband has
seen gangrene that would not heal with any medicine but was healed by
soaking in peroxide.
7. Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of peroxide and Water and
keep it in every bathroom to disinfect without Harming your septic
system like bleach or most other Disinfectants will.
8. Tilt your head back and spray into nostrils with your 50/50 mixture
whenever you have a cold, plugged sinus. It will bubble and help to
kill the bacteria. Hold for a few minutes, and then blow your nose into
a tissue.
9. If you have a terrible toothache and cannot get to a dentist right
away, put a capful of 3% peroxide into your mouth and hold it for ten
minutes several times a day. The pain will lessen greatly.
10. And of course, if you like a natural look to your hair, spray the
50/50 solution on your wet hair after a shower and comb it through. You
will not have the peroxide-burnt blonde hair like the hair dye packages
but more natural highlights if your hair is a light brown, reddish, or
dirty blonde. It also lightens gradually, so it's not a drastic change.
11. Put half a bottle of peroxide in your bath to help get rid of
boils, fungus, or other skin infections.
12. You can also add a cup of peroxide instead of bleach to a load of
whites in your laundry to whiten them. If there is blood on clothing,
pour it directly on the soiled spot. Let it sit for a minute, then rub
it and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.
13. I use peroxide to clean my mirrors. There is no smearing, which is
why I love it so much for this.
14. Another place it's great is in the bathroom, if someone has been
careless & has wet on the floor around the toilet & it's begun to smell
of urine. Just put some peroxide in a spray bottle & spray. In the
blink of any eye all the smell will be gone & the bacteria eliminated!
I could go on and on. It is a little brown bottle no home should be
without! With prices of most necessities rising, I'm glad there's a way
to save tons of money in such a simple, healthy manner! ' This
information really woke me up. I hope you gain something from it, too.
Pass it on! Clorox vs peroxide VERY interesting and inexpensive.

Is Vitamin D Safe? Still Depends on Vitamins A and K!

From Posted on December 16, 2010 by Christopher Masterjohn 

In the last several weeks, two momentous occasions have occurred in the world of vitamin D.
First, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its new report.  It tripled the recommended intakes, doubled the upper limit, and commissioned researchers to go forth and test the effects of intakes higher than the upper limit, as this would be safe under proper supervision and provide valuable information.
This sucker is 999 pages long.  When I finish reading it, you can look forward to one heck of a blog post on the matter.  Stay tuned, folks.
The second momentous occasion occurred two days ago (Tuesday, December 14, 2010) when bestselling business author and tango champion Tim Ferriss released The 4-Hour Body.  Tim’s last book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was number one on the New York Times,Business Week, and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists and has been translated thus far into 35 languages.
In his new book, he discusses my research on the interactions between vitamins A, D, and K, and gives the following warning:

Supplemental vitamin D increases your need for vitamin A, so don’t forget the aforementioned cod liver, which includes both.
Hooray!  It’s wonderful to see someone with this type of reach get this information out there.
I first raised the issue of vitamin A-and-D interactions in the spring of 2006 in my article on vitamin A and osteoporosis.  I developed these thoughts further and introduced their interactions with vitamin K in the fall of 2006 in my article, From Seafood to Sunshine: A New Understanding of Vitamin D Safety, and in the spring of 2007 in my article, On the Trail of the Elusive X Factor: A 62-Year Mystery Finally Solved, Vitamin K2 Revealed.
I formally published my hypothesis that vitamin D toxicity results not so much from hypercalcemia but moreso from causing the excessive production of vitamin K-dependent proteins, leading to defective forms of these proteins in the absence of adequate vitamin K, in my December, 2007 Medical Hypotheses paper, Vitamin D Toxicity Redefined: Vitamin K and the Molecular Mechanism.  Tufts University researchers confirmed the first prediction of this hypothesis the following year, showing that when vitamin A protects against vitamin D toxicity, it curbs the excessive production of vitamin K-dependent proteins.
When I wrote these articles, all the most compelling research I had was from animal studies.  I wish that when I wrote them I had known that proof of principle for vitamin A-and-D interactions had already been experimentally demonstrated in humans.  This revelation, however, had to wait for my 2009 Wise Traditions lecture, Cod Liver Oil: Our Number One Superfood.  (You can get the DVDhere).
In 1941, Irwin G. Spiesman published a human trial in the Archives of Otolaryngology, a journal published by the American Medical Association, Massive Doses of Vitamins A and D in the Prevention of the Common Cold.
Spiesman treated 54 individuals who suffered from frequent colds (five to seven colds per winter) with massive doses of either vitamin A alone, vitamin D alone, or vitamins A and D together.  He treated them during the winter, for as many as three years, with a dosing schedule reaching a maximum of 40,000 IU for vitamin A and 300,000 IU for vitamin D.
Spiesman found that vitamins A and D only reduced colds when fed together:

[Click on the title of this post to go to read the rest of this article.]
[Here are some comments found in the article:]

Several commenters on this blog and on my Facebook Fan Page have provided testimonials about their negative experiences with vitamin D supplementation that support the protective effects of vitamins A and K:
Cynthia Frederick, March 2010 I, and many others I’ve met on forums, have adverse reactions to Vit D3, even the lower amounts of 2,000 IU/day and even though we were tested and were deficient. And we do not have the conditions that would make Vit D contraindicated. . . . I’m waiting for the long-term effects to take place in people taking these higher amounts who are not simultaneously increasing their Vit A and K levels. In 10 years I wager we will be hearing about the negative effects that the higher doses of this ‘miracle nutrient’ have had on those taking it. . . [in a later comment] As I mentioned before, there seems to be a subset of us for whom even low doses (1,000 IU/day) of Vit D cause kidney stones, chest pain, fatigue, and aches and pains, even though our 25 OH D levels were ‘low’ (23). We get these symptoms as soon as a week after using the D. . . . I saved myself a trip to the ER with the above symptoms by remembering previous articles of yours about balancing the fat-soluble vitamins, and took about 100,000 IU of Vit A from fish oil and 5 mg of K2. Within 1/2 hour ALL the symptoms disappeared. This happened more than once so I know it is not coincidence. You are definitely on to something here.
Lynn Razaitis, June 2010 I certainly know what happens when you get these ratios off. I naively had a vitamin D shot of 200,000 units after a serious viral infection that used up my vit A. I wrecked my kidneys, thyroid and who knows what else. It took 6 months and Chris’s articles to figure out what the heck was going on with me. Within weeks of getting my vit A up with cod liver oil and a ton of liver (and I was thyroid blood testing monthly so I had test results to compare) my thyroid hormones all normalized. It was fairly stunning.
Andrea Schüler, June 2010 I stopped taking D3 because I developed tendonitis, bursitis, tendon calcification and aches and pains. I brought my level from 20 to 50 in the 25 OH test but maybe the 2000 – 4000 IU daily was not good for me or I have not enough A and K. I will test again to see where my levels are after several months without D3 pills. Maybe I should check Vit. A and K levels too.

I read with MUCH interest your blog post on the need for Vitamin A and K, and especially that you are having success with eliminating many of the side effects of vitamin d that I too have found to be present in a certain percentage of people.
I’ve been studying Vitamin D intensively for approximately 3 years, use it in clinical practice with real people on a daily basis and have answered well over a 1000 questions from people about their vitamin d experiences on my website.
Interestingly, I’ve been able to prevent and/or reverse the exact same symptoms that you are finding by always dosing with magnesium at the same time as giving the vitamin d.
If someone has these reactions, I’ll have them stop the vitamin d and do an intensive magnesium replenishment program for about a week before they start taking it again and, voila, no more issues with chest pain, anxiety, insomnia, jitteryness, kidney stones, etc.
I have found that these symptoms are rampant in the general population and are symptoms of magnesium deficiency in and of themselves. There is also quite a bit of evidence that Vitamin D depletes magnesium, and so I find these symptoms are an ‘induced’ magnesium deficiency in those who are already ‘borderline’ magnesium deficient.
When queried after the fact, I find that almost all of these people with these severe reactions had many of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency before they began taking vitamin d, but that these symptoms went unrecognized and undiagnosed- in part because magnesium blood testing is worthless.
I’d be interested in finding out about the relationship between Vitamin A, K and magnesium. I always try to tell people that vitamins are not drugs and don’t work alone in a vacuum. They work together as cofactors in relationships that science may not understand yet. This seems like a perfect example of those relationships.
Kerri Knox, RN
I have always taken magnesium daily for many years, mag glycinate specifically. 200-400mg/day. And I know others who have problems with Vit D take it regularly also. All I know is the symptoms always resolve after taking good doses of A, E, and K.
I take 3000IU/day of D3. The other week I ate chicken liver every day for lunch and felt great, lots of sleep and energy. It made me think of this:
My numbers:
22 ng/ml after extended daily consumption of recommended daily dose of green pastures fermented CLO
46 ng/ml after adding 5000 IU D3 to the CLO listed above
38 ng/ml after dropping the 5000 IU D3 during the summer but continuing the CLO
Rob, accutane induces vitamin A deficiency. See the DVD of my 2008 Wise Traditions lecture, “The Fat-Soluble Vitamins and Mental Health” ( or my article version of that lecture, “The Pursuit of Happiness.”
Mike, 30 mg/day beta-carotene supplements were shown to kill people in huge randomized controlled trials and the trials were therefore terminated early. Many people say this is because it was isolated beta-carotene or because the population was exposed to smoke or asbestos, but Wang’s group at Tufts showed, using a ferret model, which is very similar to humans with respect to responses to beta-carotene and cigarette smoke, that 30 mg/d beta-carotene alone is more harmful than 1 pack/d cigarette smoke. However, 6 mg beta-carotene seemed helpful, and it’s possible that coadministration of vitamins C and E would have made the 30 mg/d safe. Some of the toxicity in the Spiesman paper above was actually due to beta-carotene. In any case, you cannot get 30 mg/d from food, so I would not worry about consuming beta-carotene from food.
The Primalist, I don’t know the answer and I think there are many unresolved questions about the vitamin D’s in marine oils. Obviously it’s false that D2 comes from plants and D3 from animals, as fish are animals (though this may be accumulated from plankton or other non-animal sources). I think it’s important to realize that we don’t know the biochemistry as much as the hysteria-driven vitamin D movement maintains that we do, and therefore we should look at clinical effects of foods, and not try to extrapolate from specific chemical forms in foods or rely too heavily on 25(OH)D levels in and of themselves.

Comportment at Holy Mass and Afterwards

A Letter from St. Padre Pio to Annita Rodote
Pietrelcina, July 25, 1915
From Volume III of Padre Pio's Letters, "Correspondence with his Spiritual Daughters (1915-1923)"
1st edition (English version), Fr. Alessio Parente, O.F.M. Cap., Editor; Edizioni Padre Pio da Pietrelcina,
Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, 1994, Translated by Geraldine Nolan, pp. 88-92.
Fr. Francesco D. Colacelli, representing the above Friary and publisher, has generously given written permission
". . . to Frank M. Rega to use on his website the citation indicated above."  

    Beloved daughter of Jesus,
    May Jesus and our Mother always smile on your soul, obtaining for it, from Her most holy Son, all the heavenly charisms!
     I am writing to you for two reasons:  to answer some more questions from your last letter, and to wish you a very happy names-day in the most sweet Jesus, full of all the most special heavenly graces.  Oh!  If Jesus granted my prayers for you or, better still, if only my prayers were worthy of being granted by Jesus!  However, I increase them a hundredfold for your consolation and salvation, begging Jesus to grant them, not for me but through the heart of his paternal goodness and infinite mercy. 
     In order to avoid irreverence and imperfections in the house of God, in church - which the divine Master calls the house of prayer - I exhort you in the Lord to practice the following.
     Enter the church in silence and with great respect, considering yourself unworthy to appear before the Lord's Majesty.  Amongst other pious considerations, remember that our soul is the temple of God and, as such, we must keep it pure and spotless before God and his angels. Let us blush for having given access to the devil and his snares many times (with his enticements to the world, his pomp, his calling to the flesh) by not being able to keep our hearts pure and our bodies chaste; for having allowed our enemies to insinuate themselves into our hearts, thus desecrating the temple of God which we became through holy Baptism.
     Then take holy water and make the sign of the cross carefully and slowly.
     As soon as you are before God in the Blessed Sacrament, devoutly genuflect.  Once you have found your place, kneel down and render the tribute of your presence and devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Confide all your needs to him along with those of others.  Speak to him with filial abandonment, give free rein to your heart and give him complete freedom to work in you as he thinks best.
     When assisting at Holy Mass and the sacred functions, be very composed when standing up, kneeling down, and sitting, and carry out every religious act with the greatest devotion.  Be modest in your glances; don't turn your head here and there to see who enters and leaves.  Don't laugh, out of reverence for this holy place and also out of respect for those who are near you.  Try not to speak to anybody, except when charity or strict necessity requests this.
     If you pray with others, say the words of the prayer distinctly, observe the pauses well and never hurry.
     In short, behave in such a way that all present are edified by it and, through you, are urged to glorify and love the heavenly Father.
     On leaving the church, you should be recollected and calm.   Firstly take your leave of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament; ask his forgiveness for the shortcomings committed in his divine presence and do not leave him without asking for and having received his paternal blessing.
     Once you are outside the church, be as every follower of the Nazarene should be.  Above all, be extremely modest in everything, as this is the virtue which, more than any other, reveals the affections of the heart.  Nothing represents an object more faithfully or clearly than a mirror.  In the same way, nothing more widely represents the good or bad qualities of a soul than the greater or lesser regulation of the exterior, as when one appears more or less modest.  You must be modest in speech, modest in laughter, modest in your bearing, modest in walking.   All this must be practiced, not out of vanity in order to display one's self, nor out of hypocrisy in order to appear to be good to the eyes of others, but rather, for the internal virtue of modesty, which regulates the external workings of the body.
     Therefore, be humble of heart, circumspect in words, prudent in your resolutions.  Always be sparing in your speech, assiduous in good reading, attentive in your work, modest in your conversation.  Don't be disgusting to anybody but be benevolent towards all and respectful towards your elders.   May any sinister glance be far from you, may no daring word escape your lips, may you never carry out any immodest or somewhat free action; never a rather free action or a petulant tone of voice.
     In short let your whole exterior be a vivid image of the composure of your soul.
     Always keep the modesty of the divine Master before your eyes, as an example; this Master who, according to the words of the Apostle to the Corinthians, placing the modesty of Jesus Christ on an equal footing with meekness, which was his one particular virtue and almost his characteristic:  "Now I Paul myself beseech you, by the mildness and modesty of Christ" [Douay-Rheims, 2 Cor. 10:1], and according to such a perfect model reform all your external operations, which should be faithful reflections revealing the affections of your interior.
     Never forget this divine model, Annita.  Try to see a certain lovable majesty in his presence, a certain pleasant authority in his manner of speaking, a certain pleasant dignity in walking, in contemplating, speaking, conversing; a certain sweet serenity of face.  Imagine that extremely composed and sweet expression with which he drew the crowds, making them leave cities and castles, leading them to the mountains, the forests, to the solitude and deserted beaches of the sea, totally forgetting food, drink and their domestic duties.
     Thus let us try to imitate, as far as we possibly can, such modest and dignified actions.  And let us do our utmost to be, as far as possible, similar to him on this earth, in order that we might be more perfect and more similar to him for the whole of eternity in the heavenly Jerusalem.
    I end here as I am unable to continue, recommending that you never forget me before Jesus, especially during these days of extreme affliction for me.  I expect the same charity from the excellent Francesca to whom you will have the kindness to give, in my name, assurances of my extreme interest in seeing her grow always more in divine love.  I hope she will do me the charity of making a novena of Communions for my intentions.
     Don't worry if you are unable to answer my letter for the moment.    I know everything so don't worry.
     I take my leave of you in the holy kiss of the Lord.  I am always your servant.
                                                                                                   Fra Pio, Capuchin

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Katharine of Aragon


Faith.  That word holds different meanings for different people.  In a religious context it means believing without seeing.  That is what has built and strengthened the foundation of Christianity from that moment when doubt seized St. Thomas.  The belief that there are three persons in one God; and in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary and died for the sins of humankind.  For Catholic Christians there are perhaps even more challenges for it’s members in understanding faith and practicing it:  the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, the forgiveness of sins through the Rite of Reconciliation and the many examples of true faith from all the saints through the ages – although a dim reflection of the one who had perfect faith:  Mary.

Over 500 years ago a Spanish Princess become Queen – beloved by the people of her adopted English homeland, and dying in the arms of the friend who had accompanied her to their new world when they were girls.  Yet she died abandoned by her husband of nearly 25 years, cast out from the royal life she was born to, separated from her daughter, so poor she had to be provided with food by the people in the village who loved her and , at last, dying in conditions less than hospitable or decent.  Such was the end for Katharine of Aragon, Queen of England – wife of King Henry VIII and the central figure of the English Reformation.
She was abandoned by her husband, by her nephew, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and by the Roman Catholic Church.  And yet, she never waivered in her faith.  Katharine of Aragon lived the model Christian life; one of piety and devotion to her faith.  Why then, has she never been considered a holy person worthy of recognition by the Roman Catholic Church.  If not recognition by including her on the List of English Martyrs or sainthood, then some special recognition acknowledging her faith and sacrifice as a devoted daughter of the Church and true Servant of God?
I have written a paper that poses this question and gives proof why I think a movement on her behalf is justified.  As with any “cause” there must be a grassroots movement of like-minded people to promote the cause.  As we all know, the Church, although the gift of Christ to his followers, is, at the same time, a bureaucratic institution with rules and regulations in its various branches.  Therefore, protocol and form must be followed to promote a cause for any individual.
If any of the above strikes a cord, please read the paper.  If you agree with its offerings and wish to place your name on a list that will become the basis for the grassroots movement to promote Katharine of Aragon’s cause, please do so. Before you begin, and if you wish, here is a prayer to Katharine of Aragon that encapsulates the essence of her life as a holy person of faith.

Good Queen Katharine, ever steadfast in your faith to your marriage and to Christ’s Church; bravely enduring unkindness and betrayal, yet never betraying your faith by succumbing to the false promises made by those who abandoned you.  Teach us the way of your faith. Grant us the grace to follow the example of your faith, courage, piety, kindness and compassion. Pray for Us.