Monday, January 31, 2011

IHS: The Holy Name of Jesus: St Bernardino of Siena

El Greco 1541 -1614
Saint Bernardino of Siena
Oil on canvas
269 cm x 144 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Ansono di Pietro di Mencio known as Pietro di Sano 1406 - 1481
St Bernardino Preaching in the Campo in Siena
Tempera on panel, 162 x 102 cm
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

Bernardino di Betto (Benedetto), called II Pinturicchio (ca. 1454 - 1513)
Death of St Bernardino of Siena in L`Aquila
Cappella Bufalini
Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Rome

The School of Luca Signorelli
St Bernardino of Siena
1515 - 1520
Oil on canvas
Lindenau-Museum, Altenburg (Thüringen)

St Bernardino of Siena
From A Book Of Hours made and used in Paris
About 1470
Miniature from illuminated manuscript
Folio 190, Chambéry - BM - ms. 0001

In his day Saint Bernardino of Siena (8 September 1380 – 20 May 1444) was a controversial figure. His enemies even got him put on trial for heresy

For some reason or other his "star" declined sharply after the Second Vatican Council

But in his day he was probably the greatest preacher of the fifteenth century even receiving the title of "the Apostle of Italy". No mean orator himself, Pope Pius II had listened to Saint Bernardino and said that the saint was listened to as another Paul

He literally travelled the length and breadth of Italy preaching

He was venerated especially in Tuscany. St. Antoninus, Antoninus Pierozzi (1389—1459; Archbishop of Florence from 1446—59), paid him the highest tributes.

After his death Siena where he had often preached and held in the highest veneration sought to recover his body for its city. It had to do with other things such as erecting a beautiful Oratory in his name (still there) and commissioning Pietro di Sano`s paintings of the Life of the Saint of which the above is only one panel.

During the latter half of the 1440s and particularly around 1450, the year in which Saint Bernardino was canonised, Sano di Pietro was commissioned to paint numerous images of the patron saint of Siena

The sunken cheeks of Saint Bernardino and the physiognomic resemblance among the various representations of the saint, are explained by the fact that Sano di Pietro apparently used a wax mask, taken of the saint's head at the moment of his death, to ensure an accurate likeness

Saint Bernardino was canonised in 1450, only six years after his death, by Pope Nicholas V.

As a child he had been taught to venerate The Holy Name of Jesus in a special manner. On reading the epistles of Saint Paul, he had found the Divine Name on almost every line. The Name of Jesus was the usual theme of his addresses.

He used to hold a board in front of him while preaching, with the sacred monogram painted on it in the midst of rays and afterwards expose it for veneration. The monogram was JHS ("Jesus Hominum Salvator" "Jesus Saviour of Men")

The emblem or monogram of The Holy Name is usually in most portraits of him. As are the three bishops` mitres in recognition of the fact that he turned down three offers from various Popes of various powerful bishoprics in Italy

His teaching was vindicated by the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Name, conceded to the Friars Minor in 1530 and extended to the Universal Church in 1722.

Another great theme of his preaching and work was the preaching of peace and the establishment of peace at a time and in areas where there was constant warfare and feuding.

The Vatican website carries an extract of one of his sermons on the Holy Name of Jesus. Here it is.

"The name of Jesus is the glory of preachers

"The name of Jesus is the glory of preachers, because the shining splendour of that name causes his word to be proclaimed and heard. And how do you think such an immense, sudden and dazzling light of faith came into the world, if not because Jesus was preached?

Was it not through the brilliance and sweet savour of this name that God called us into his marvellous light?

When we have been enlightened, and in that same light behold the light of heaven, rightly may the apostle Paul say to us: Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light.

So this name must be proclaimed, that it may shine out and never be suppressed. But it must not be preached by someone with sullied mind or unclean lips, but stored up and poured out from a chosen vessel. That is why our Lord said of Saint Paul: He is a chosen instrument of mine, the vessel of my choice, to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.

In this chosen vessel there was to be a drink more pleasing than earth ever knew, offered to all mankind for a price they could pay, so that they would be drawn to taste of it. Poured into other chosen vessels, it would grow and radiate splendour. For our Lord said: He is to Carry my name.

When a fire is lit to clear a field, it burns off all the dry and useless weeds and thorns. When the sun rises and darkness is dispelled, robbers, night-prowlers and burglars hide away.

So when Paul's voice was raised to preach the Gospel to the nations, like a great clap of thunder in the sky, his preaching was a blazing fire carrying all before it. It was the sun rising in full glory. Infidelity was consumed by it, false beliefs fled away, and the truth appeared like a great candle lighting the whole world with its brilliant flame.

By word of mouth, by letters, by miracles and by the example of his own life, Saint Paul bore the name of Jesus wherever he went. He praised the name of Jesus at all times, but never more than when bearing witness to his faith.

Moreover, the Apostle did indeed carry this name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel as a light to enlighten all nations. And this was his cry wherever he journeyed: The night is passing away, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us conduct ourselves honourably as in the day. Paul himself showed forth the burning and shining light set upon a candlestick, everywhere proclaiming Jesus, and him crucified.

And so the Church, the bride of Christ strengthened by his testimony, rejoices with the psalmist, singing: 0 God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. The psalmist exhorts her to do this, as he says: Sing to the Lord, and bless his name, proclaim his salvation day after day. And this salvation is Jesus, her saviour."

From a sermon by Saint Bernardine of Siena, priest (Sermo 49, De glorioso Nomine Iesu Christi, cap 2: Opera omnia, 4. 505-506)

It was the Observant Franciscans like St. Bernardine of Siena, St. John of Capestrano, Saint Simon of Lipnica(1435/1440 c. - 1482) who recommenced this devotion to the Holy Name and spread the devotion not ony in Italy but to Poland and far and wide.

Pope John Paul II had a particuar devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus

In the liturgical revisions of Vatican II, the Feast of the Holy Name was removed, though a votive Mass to the Holy Name of Jesus had been retained for devotional use. With the release of the revised Roman Missal in March 2002, he restored the Feast of the Holy Name as an optional memorial in the Ordinary Form on January 3.

St. John of Capestrano founded the first convent of the Observance in Krakow on 8th September 1453. The Friars Minor of the convent were called the “Berdardini” by the people. The Franciscans have had a continued presence in Krakow and surrounding areas since then. As a young man Pope John Paul II often prayed at the Franciscan churches there.

Such devotion is also seen in the Catechism issued during his pontificate as well as the many occasions he invoked the Holy Name in his addresses and homilies

The Catechism provides:

"Prayer to Jesus

2665 The prayer of the Church, nourished by the Word of God and the celebration of the liturgy, teaches us to pray to the Lord Jesus. Even though her prayer is addressed above all to the Father, it includes in all the liturgical traditions forms of prayer addressed to Christ. Certain psalms, given their use in the Prayer of the Church, and the New Testament place on our lips and engrave in our hearts prayer to Christ in the form of invocations: Son of God, Word of God, Lord, Saviour, Lamb of God, King, Beloved Son, Son of the Virgin, Good Shepherd, our Life, our Light, our Hope, our Resurrection, Friend of mankind. . . .

2666 But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: "Jesus," "YHWH saves." The name "Jesus" contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.

2667 This simple invocation of faith developed in the tradition of prayer under many forms in East and West. The most usual formulation, transmitted by the spiritual writers of the Sinai, Syria, and Mt. Athos, is the invocation, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners." It combines the Christological hymn of Philippians 2:6-11 with the cry of the publican and the blind men begging for light. By it the heart is opened to human wretchedness and the Saviour's mercy.

2668 The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and "brings forth fruit with patience." This prayer is possible "at all times" because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus.

2669 The prayer of the Church venerates and honours the Heart of Jesus just as it invokes his most holy name. It adores the incarnate Word and his Heart which, out of love for men, he allowed to be pierced by our sins. Christian prayer loves to follow the way of the cross in the Savior's steps. The stations from the Praetorium to Golgotha and the tomb trace the way of Jesus, who by his holy Cross has redeemed the world."

The saint`s memory is still celebrated in many parts of Italy. Indeed last year, the Saint went on his travels again. He is patron of the town of Filettino in Lazio, and his body was brought to the town on 25th July, As can be seen from the video below he can still bring out the crowds

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux: The Holy Name of Jesus

Philippe Quantin (d. 1636)
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux writing
Oil on canvas
181,1 cm x 120.4cm
Musée des beaux-arts, Dijon

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, O.Cist (1090 – August 20, 1153) had a particular devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus.

In one of his Sermons he said:

"What can so enrich the soul that reflects upon it (the holy name of Jesus)? What can . . . strengthen the virtues, beget good and honorable dispositions, foster holy affections? Dry is every kind of spiritual food which this oil does not moisten.

Tasteless, whatever this salt does not season.

If thou writest, thy composition has no charms for me, unless I read there the name of Jesus. If thou dost debate or converse, I find no pleasure in thy words, unless I hear there the name of Jesus.

Jesus is honey on the lips, melody in the ear, joy in the heart.

Yet not alone is that name light and food. It is also a remedy. Is any one amongst you sad? Let the name of Jesus enter his heart; let it leap thence to his mouth; and lo! the light shining from that name shall scatter every cloud and restore peace.

Has some one perpetrated a crime, and then misled, moved despairingly towards the snare of death? Let him but invoke this life-giving name, and straightway he shall find courage once more. . .

Whoever, all a-tremble in the presence of danger, has not immediately felt his spirits revive and his fears depart as soon as he called upon this name of power? There is nothing so powerful as the name of Jesus to check anger, reduce the swelling of pride, heal the smarting wound of envy. . ."

In Cantica, Serm. XV, 6; Migne, P. L., CLXXXIII, 846-d, 847-a, b

Jesu Dulcis Memoria ( Jesus, Sweet Memory) is a hymn attributed to the authorship of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. The name can refer either to the entire poem, which, depending on the manuscript, ranges from forty-two to fifty-three stanzas, or only the first part.

Three sections of it are used as hymns in the Liturgy of the Hours of the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus: "Iesu dulcis memoria" (Vespers), "Iesu rex admirabilis" (Office of Readings), "Iesu decus angelicum" (Lauds).

The first few verses are as follows (translation by Fr. Edward Caswall (1814-1878))

IESU, dulcis memoria,
dans vera cordis gaudia,
sed super mel et omnia,
eius dulcis praesentia.

JESU, the very thought of Thee,
with sweetness fills my breast,
but sweeter far Thy face to see,
and in Thy presence rest.

Nil canitur suavius,
nil auditur iucundius,
nil cogitatur dulcius,
quam Iesus Dei Filius.

Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
nor can the memory find
a sweeter sound than Thy blest Name,
o Savior of mankind!.

Iesu, spes paenitentibus,
quam pius es petentibus!
quam bonus te quaerentibus!
sed quid invenientibus?

O hope of every contrite heart
o joy of all the meek,
to those who fall, how kind Thou art!
how good to those who seek!

Nec lingua valet dicere,
nec littera exprimere:
expertus potest credere,
quid sit Iesum diligere.

But what to those who find? Ah this
nor tongue nor pen can show:
the love of Jesus, what it is
none but His loved ones know.

Sis, Iesu, nostrum gaudium,
qui es futurus praemium:
sit nostra in te gloria,
per cuncta semper saecula.

Jesu, our only joy be Thou,
As Thou our prize wilt be:
Jesu, be Thou our glory now,
And through eternity.

Chi-Rho: THe Holy Name of Jesus

The city of Albenga is on the Italian Ligurian coast near Savona.

It is an ancient city dating back to Roman times.

Within its walls still stands an ancient Baptistry dating back to the 5th century. It is the oldest paleo-Christian Baptistry still standing in the province of Liguria and one of the oldest in Italy.

Along with Ravenna it is one of the few in Byzantine style still standing in Northern Italy Its state of preservation is remarkable

See the photos below

One of the most significant features is a 6th century mosaic within one of the niches of the Baptistry. See below

It represents Christ and the Trinity with the Twelve Apostles. Christ is the "Christogram" (Chi Rho) representing the name of Christ. There is also a small red cross or crucifix. The Cross is circled by three concentric circles representing the Trinity. The Trinity and Christ are circled by the 12 doves or Apostles which recalls the invitation by Christ to the Apostles to go forth and baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

The use of a wreath around the Chi Rho symbolises the victory of the Resurrection over death. It is an early visual representations of the connection between the Crucifixion of Jesus and his triumphal resurrection

Often the Chi Rho symbol would be flanked by the Greek letters "Alpha" and "Omega". The term Alpha and Omega comes from the phrase "I am the alpha and the omega [,the first and the last] " an appellation of Jesus in the Book of Revelation (verses 1:8, 21:6, and 22:13).

In this gravestone from the 5th Century discovered in a sandpit in France, one can see the full "Chi Rho" insignia:

Grave slab: rectangular, re-used brick-tile architectural fragment; inscribed with chi-rho and alpha and omega in wreath with dove left, and VRSICINVS IACET CVM PACE (Urscinus Rests in Peace)
Excavated St Acheul (sandpit)
5th century (Meroviginian)
Height: 25.4 centimetres
The British Museum, London

A monogram of the name of Jesus Christ was not only an abbreviation but also a symbol. It was also a reminder of important truths. The name of Jesus had to be revered. For Christians it was a confession of faith

But after 313 its meaning changed. It also became an Imperial symbol. It was the symbol adopted by the Roman emperor Constantine, after his conversion to Christianity in the year 313

The location of the symbol was important. In Albenga it was placed on the ceiling of the niche. One had to look up to see it then after one saw it, one naturally bowed one`s head.

On a gravestone the symbol was more than apposite: the Church is of the living and the dead. A viewer might have had to incline one`s head to view it.

The sign and depiction of Christ was after the adoption of Christianity by Constantine also seen on mosaic floors. Perhaps there was an idea that to look at it one had to incline one`s head. However it may also be a sign that the increase in such depictions led to a devaluation in the original message of the depiction and the lack of veneration towards the Holy Name. It simply became another house decoration and a symbol of Imperial loyalty

Apart from the depiction of Christ with the Chi-Rho in The Hinton St Mary Mosaic examples of such floor mosaics are almost non-existent.

In 427 the emperor specifically banned the making of images of Christ on mosaic floors, and he ordered all existing ones to be removed.

The symbol CHI RHO with The Holy Name of Jesus echoed the words of St Paul to the Philippians:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2.5-11 (emphasis added)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

St Joan La Pucelle

Dominique-Louis Papety (1815-1849),
Jeanne d'Arc devant le roi Charles VII à Chinon, répond aux prélats qui l'interrogent, février 1429
Joan of Arc before King Charles VII at Chinon replies to the clerics who question her in February 1429
Oil on canvas
94cm x 107cm
Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres 1780 - 1867
Jeanne d'Arc au sacre du roi Charles VII dans la cathédrale de Reims
Joan of Arc at the coronation of King Charles VII in Rheims Cathedral
Oil on canvas
2.4m x 1.78m
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Paul Delaroche 1797 - 1856
Jeanne d'Arc malade est interrogée dans sa prison par le cardinal de Winchester
An ill Joan of Arc is questioned in prison by the Cardinal of Winchester
Oil on canvas
2.77m x 2.17m
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rouen

The Arrival of Joan of Arc at Chinon
15th Century
Tapestry d'Azeghio (manufactured in Germany)
Musée historique et archéologique de l'Orléanais, Orléans

Joan of Arc
Illuminated manuscript on parchment
Musée de l'Histoire de France, Paris

Georges-Henri Rouault (1871-1958)
Jeanne d'arc (Harmonie verte)
Ink, gouache, oil on paper
48cm x 33.5cm
Musée national d'Art moderne - Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Paul Leroy 1860 - 1942
Appearance of Jeanne d`Arc holding the standard and protecting a group of dragoons (24th Regiment): in the rear, the Archangel Saint Michael 1914
Oil on canvas
3.3m x 2.5m
Musée de l'Armée, Paris

Franck Craig 1874 - 1918
"La Pucelle ! "Jeanne d'Arc à la tête de son armée 1914
Oil on canvas
1.5m x 3.415m
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Jacques Auguste Regnier 1787 - 1860
Joan of Arc vowing to restore France
Oil on canvas
Chateau at Fontainebleau

Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848–1884)
Joan of Arc
Oil on canvas
254 cm x 279.4cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Henri Semiradsky 1843-1902
Joan of Arc
Oil on canvas
136 by 90cm
Private collection

Shakespeare`s characterisation of St Joan of Arc (or Joan la Pucelle) in Henry VI, Part 1 was not very complementary. It is not often performed and is not well regarded.

Shakespeare portrays Joan La Pucelle so that her only source of power come from witchcraft, and in the end she is forced to lie and beg for her own life

It was first performed in 1592 in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I a few years after the Armada had been defeated. The French are portrayed as corruptly Catholic and the English as attractively Protestant.

It depicts the beginning of the end of the English Empire in France. The last part of that Empire - the town of Calais - was only recaptured by the French in 1558 in the time of the Catholic Queen Mary well within the memory of many in the audience.

In 1756 Voltaire published his satirical epic poem La Pucelle d'Orléans which savaged Joan and by extension the Catholic Church. In his portrayal she was no virgin.

Centuries later there were further characterisations of the Saint in English. The first was by Mark Twain in 1897 in Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.

However the major modern characterisation of St Joan in English was George Bernard Shaw`s play Saint Joan, first performed in 1923, after the First World War. He portrayed her as a real flesh and blood character with a stubborn streak which led to her downfall. His St Joan refused to accept the authority of the Cathoic Church, and he portrayed her as the first Protestant.

In his Preface he wrote:

"Though a professed and most pious Catholic, and the projector of a Crusade against the Hussites, she was in fact one of the first Protestant martyrs. She was also one of the first apostles of Nationalism, and the first French practitioner of Napoleonic realism in warfare as distinguished from the sporting ransom-gambling chivalry of her time. She was the pioneer of rational dressing for women, and, like Queen Christina of Sweden two centuries later, to say nothing of Catalina de Erauso and innumerable obscure heroines who have disguised themselves as men to serve as soldiers and sailors, she refused to accept the specific woman's lot, and dressed and fought and lived as men did."

Unlike Shakespeare`s version, in Shaw`s play, there are no villains in the piece

The Preface is well worth reading in full. In many ways it is quite a remarkable defence of Catholicism for its time and Shaw`s rather idiosyncratic views

Shaw`s play came as a result of the resurgence of interest in St Joan. She was designated Venerable in 1904; declared Blessed in 1908 by Saint Pope Pius X; and finally canonised in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV

The resurgence in interest came from France especially after the defeat of Napoleon and as a result of the campaign by Bishop Dupanloup in the 19th Century. In times of national struggle such as after the Franco Prussian War and the First World War, the Catholic St Joan trounced the Republican Marianne as the French populace`s pin up and source of inspiration.

In her native land Jeanne d'Arc (ca. 1412 – 30 May 1431) has been a political symbol as well as her powerful and noble martial might and struggle.

There have been countless depictions, interpretations and re-interpretations of her in art, theatre, film, television, music and even video games. She is a fascinating individual who has stirred the imagination of countless millions.

In art, the banner is the most frequently used attribute for Joan of Arc. It is said to have depicted God holding the world, pictured as an orb, flanked by the kneeling figures of Saints Michael and Gabriel, each presenting a lily.

Joan of Arc carried the banner in every battle she fought, and would later state “I loved my banner forty times more then my sword”.

In May 1428, she heard the voices of Saints Catherine, Michael and Margaret instructing her to drive the English out of France and bring the Dauphin, later Charles VII, to Rheims for his coronation. How the "voices" are depicted in visual form has tested the ingenuity of many artists

On 26th January 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stepped into the arena and spoke about her. It was part of his Wednesday catecheses on important "powerful" women Catholics in the Middle Ages.

Unlike the other women blesseds and saints discussed by Pope Benedict XVI there are no writings of St Joan to discuss.

However there are statements of what she said at her trial. These have been cited and quoted with approval in the Catechism.

For example:

Para 223 The Implications of Faith in One God

"223 It means coming to know God's greatness and majesty: "Behold, God is great, and we know him not."Therefore, we must "serve God first".(St. Joan of Arc)"

Para 435 The Name of Jesus:

"435 The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words "through our Lord Jesus Christ". The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words "blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus." The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner." Many Christians, such as St. Joan of Arc, have died with the one word "Jesus" on their lips."

Para 795 Christ and the Church:

"795 Christ and his Church thus together make up the "whole Christ" (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity: ...

A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter.""

Para 2005 re Grace:

"2005 Since it belongs to the supernatural order, grace escapes our experience and cannot be known except by faith. We cannot therefore rely on our feelings or our works to conclude that we are justified and saved. However, according to the Lord's words "Thus you will know them by their fruits" - reflection on God's blessings in our life and in the lives of the saints offers us a guarantee that grace is at work in us and spurs us on to an ever greater faith and an attitude of trustful poverty.

A pleasing illustration of this attitude is found in the reply of St. Joan of Arc to a question posed as a trap by her ecclesiastical judges:

"Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there."

In his talk Pope Benedict uses these bases in the Cathechism and develops these ideas further in his characterisation of Saint Joan.

First of all he sets the historical context in which St Joan lived:

"Today I would like to speak to you about Joan of Arc, a young saint from the end of the Middle Ages, who died at age 19, in 1431. This French saint, quoted many times in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, is particularly close to St. Catherine of Siena, patroness of Italy and Europe, of whom I spoke in a recent catechesis.

In fact they are two young women of the people, lay and consecrated in virginity, two committed mystics, not in a cloister, but in the midst of the most dramatic realities of the Church and of the world of their time.

They are, perhaps, the most characteristic examples from among those "strong women" who, at the end of the Middle Ages, fearlessly took the great light of the Gospel to the complex vicissitudes of history. ....

In her times, the Church lived the profound crisis of the great Western schism, which lasted almost 40 years. When Catherine of Siena died, in 1380, there was a pope and an anti-pope. When Joan was born, in 1412, there was a pope and two anti-popes. In addition to this laceration within the Church, there were continuous fratricidal wars between the Christian peoples of Europe, the most tragic of which was the interminable 100 Years War between France and England."

But then he goes on to describe her qualities which set her apart from her time, and made her a memorable figure in the History of the Church, what made her timeless. His characterisation is of a saint not a military or nationalistic figure:

"We could place her next to the holy women who stayed on Calvary, close to Jesus crucified, and Mary, his mother, while the apostles fled and Peter himself denied him three times"

Exceptional praise from a Pope who is not given to overstatement.

How did this figure arise from obscurity ?

Her parents, her early religious education, her early religious devotion and the grounding of her faith in Christ and his mother Mary:

"Joan was born in Domremy, a small village located on the border between France and Lorraine. Her parents were well-off farmers, known by everyone as very good Christians.

From them she received a good religious education, with notable influence from the spirituality of the Name of Jesus, taught by St. Bernardine of Siena and spread in Europe by the Franciscans.

To the Name of Jesus is always joined the Name of Mary and thus, in the framework of popular religiosity, Joan's spirituality was profoundly Christocentric and Marian. From her childhood, she showed great charity and compassion toward the poorest, the sick and all who suffered in the tragic context of the war."

Her devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus is emphasised by the Pope:

"On March 22, 1429, Joan dictated an important letter to the king of England and his men who were besieging the city of Orleans (Ibid., p. 221-222). Hers was a proposal of true peace in justice between the two Christian peoples, in light of the names of Jesus and Mary, but this proposal was rejected, and Joan had to commit herself in the fight for the liberation of the city, which took place on May 8. ...

[S]he died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus (PNul, I, p. 457; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 435). ...

Dear brothers and sisters, the Name of Jesus, invoked by our saint up to the last moments of her earthly life, was like the breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart, the centre of her whole life.

The "mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc," which so fascinated the poet Charles Peguy, is this total love of Jesus, and of her neighbour in Jesus and for Jesus.

This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and of earth, of the Church and of the world. Jesus was always in the first place during her whole life, according to her beautiful affirmation: "Serve God first" (PCon, I, p. 288; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 223)."

Of the "voices" and her political mission, the Pope is quite clear that the vision of St Michael was true and real and that its reality can be judged by its good effects. It had a profound religious effect on Joan. Contrary to Voltaire, Joan was firmly a virgin and dedicated to purity There was no side to her. She was what she said. She did what she said. There was no "gameplan", ulterior motives to her acts or political manipulation or deceptions. Contra Shakespeare she was not in league with the Devil and her courage came from her faith. Contra Voltaire, she was chaste yet remained able to command the soldiery. There was no "spin" with St Joan.

"From her own words, we know that Joan's religious life matured experientially beginning at the age of 13 (PCon, I, p. 47-48). Through the "voice" of the Archangel St. Michael, Joan felt called by the Lord to intensify her Christian life and also to commit herself personally to the liberation of her people.

Her immediate response, her "yes," was the vow of virginity, with a new commitment to sacramental life and to prayer: daily attendance at Mass, frequent confession and Communion and long periods of silent prayer before the Crucified or before the image of the Virgin.

The compassion and commitment of the young French peasant girl in face of the suffering of her people became more intense because of her mystical relationship with God.

One of the most original aspects of the holiness of this young girl was precisely the connection between mystical experience and political mission.

After the years of hidden life and interior maturation, the brief but intense two-year period of her public life followed: a year of action and a year of passion.

At the beginning of the year 1429, Joan began her work of liberation. The numerous testimonies show us this young woman who was only 17 years old as a very strong and determined person, capable of convincing unsure and discouraged men. Overcoming all obstacles, she met with the dauphin of France, the future King Charles VII, who in Poitiers subjected her to an examination by some theologians of the university. Their judgment was positive: They did not see anything evil in her, [finding] only a good Christian.

On March 22, 1429, Joan dictated an important letter to the king of England and his men who were besieging the city of Orleans (Ibid., p. 221-222). Hers was a proposal of true peace in justice between the two Christian peoples, in light of the names of Jesus and Mary, but this proposal was rejected, and Joan had to commit herself in the fight for the liberation of the city, which took place on May 8.

The other culminating moment of her political action was the coronation of King Charles VII in Rheims, on July 17, 1429. For a whole year, Joan lived with the soldiers, carrying out among them a real mission of evangelization. Numerous are the testimonies about her goodness, her courage and her extraordinary purity. She was called by everyone and she herself described herself as "the maiden," namely, the virgin."

But unlike Shaw, Pope Benedict`s tale of St Joan has villains. His villains are the theologians who were advising at the first trial of St Joan. HIs criticism is sharp and it is severe. He has voiced this criticism before on a number of occasions. He re-affirms that God`s mysteries are revealed to those who perhaps have little education but "the hearts of little children" and who are not afflicted by any trace of pride.

He reminds us of the simplicity of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, made a Doctor of the Church by the Blessed Pope John Paul II and who had a great devotion to St Joan and wanted to live and die like her.

He perhaps could also have reminded us of St Bernadette and the visionaries at La Salette.

At the same time perhaps the Pope is also criticising those clerics who wish to seek political power or office and restating the incompatibility of holding clerical office in the Church at the same time as holding public office in the State.

"Joan's passion began on May 23, 1430, when she fell prisoner in the hands of her enemies. On Dec. 23 she was taken to the city of Rouen. Carried out there was the long and dramatic Trial of Conviction, which began in February of 1431 and ended on May 30 with the stake.

It was a grand and solemn trial, presided over by two ecclesiastical judges, Bishop Pierre Cauchon and the inquisitor Jean le Maistre, but in reality led entirely by a large group of theologians of the famous University of Paris, who took part in the trial as consultants.

They were French ecclesiastics who had political leanings opposed to Joan's, and who thus had a priori a negative judgment on her person and her mission.

This trial is a moving page of the history of sanctity and also an illuminating page on the mystery of the Church that, according to the words of the Second Vatican Council, is "at the same time holy and always in need of being purified" ("Lumen Gentium," 8).

It was the dramatic meeting between this saint and her judges, who were ecclesiastics. Joan was accused and judged by them, to the point of being condemned as a heretic and sent to the terrible death of the stake.

As opposed to the holy theologians who had illuminated the University of Paris, such as St. Bonaventure, St. Thomas Aquinas and Blessed Duns Scotus, of whom I have spoken in other catecheses, these judges were theologians lacking in charity and humility to see in this young woman the action of God.

Jesus' words come to mind according to which the mysteries of God are revealed to those that have the heart of little ones, while they remain hidden from the learned and wise who are not humble (cf. Luke 10:21). Thus Joan's judges were radically incapable of understanding her, of seeing the beauty of her soul: They did not know they were condemning a saint.

Joan's appeal to the pope's intervention on May 24 was rejected by the court. On the morning of May 30 she received holy Communion for the last time in prison, and immediately after she was taken to her ordeal in the square of the old market.

She asked one of the priests to put in front of the stake the cross of the procession.

Thus she died looking at Jesus crucified and pronouncing many times and in a loud voice the Name of Jesus (PNul, I, p. 457; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 435).

Almost 25 years later, the Trial of Nullity, opened under the authority of Pope Calixtus III, concluded with a solemn sentence that declared the condemnation null and void (July 7, 1456; PNul, II, p. 604-610). This long trial, which includes the statements of witnesses and judgments of many theologians, all favorable to Joan, highlights her innocence and her perfect fidelity to the Church.

Joan of Arc was canonised in 1920 by Benedict XV"

In his conclusion he fully expounds what is heroic and great about St Joan.

Unike Shaw, for Benedict, this was not a young lady who would have gone on to great things at the London School of Economics, got a PPE and then become a leading member of the Fabian Society and gone into Parliament.

She did not go into public life for self interest or some political ideology. Contra Shaw she was a faithful daughter of the Church. Other members of the Church did not have the same fidelity. She went into public life because it was her religious mission. No wonder perhaps that Shakespeare, Voltaire and Shaw either vilified or underestimated her true character. In British politics and in modern European politics a figure like St Joan woud be regarded as dangerous demagogue or ideologue who would have to be isolated from exercising any type or form of political power. A modern St Joan would terrify the political establishment.

Consider the contemporary reaction to Margaret Thatcher in the early years of her leadership and in the early years of her premiership. Perhaps such figures are only appreciated and only tolerated in times of national emergency and for the emergency only

"Dear brothers and sisters, the Name of Jesus, invoked by our saint up to the last moments of her earthly life, was like the breathing of her soul, like the beating of her heart, the center of her whole life.

The "mystery of the charity of Joan of Arc," which so fascinated the poet Charles Peguy, is this total love of Jesus, and of her neighbor in Jesus and for Jesus. This saint understood that love embraces the whole reality of God and of man, of heaven and of earth, of the Church and of the world. Jesus was always in the first place during her whole life, according to her beautiful affirmation: "Serve God first" (PCon, I, p. 288; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 223).

To love him means to always obey his will.

She said with total confidence and abandonment: "I entrust myself to my Creator God, I love him with my whole heart" (Ibid., p. 337).

With the vow of virginity, Joan consecrated in an exclusive way her whole person to the one Love of Jesus: It is "her promise made to our Lord to protect well her virginity of body and soul" (Ibid., p. 149-150).

Virginity of soul is the state of grace, the supreme value, for her more precious than life: It was a gift of God that she received and protected with humility and trust.

One of the best known texts of the first trial has to do with this:

"Asked if she knew that she was in God's grace, she replied: 'If I am not, may it please God to put me in it; if I am, may it please God to keep me there'" (Ibid., p. 62; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2005).

Our saint lived prayer as a form of continuous dialogue with the Lord, who also enlightened her answers to the judges, giving her peace and security.

She prayed with faith:

"Sweetest God, in honor of your holy Passion, I ask you, if you love me, to reveal to me how I must answer these men of the Church" (Ibid., p. 252).

Joan saw Jesus as the "King of Heaven and Earth." Thus, on her standard, Joan had the image painted of "Our Lord who sustains the world" (Ibid., p. 172), icon of her political mission.

The liberation of her people was a work of human justice, which Joan carried out in charity, out of love for Jesus. Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for the laity who work in political life, above all in the most difficult situations.

Faith is the light that guides every choice, as another great saint would testify a century later, the Englishman Thomas More. In Jesus, Joan also contemplated the reality of the Church, the "triumphant Church" of Heaven, and the "militant Church" of earth.

According to her words, Our Lord and the Church are one "whole" (Ibid., p. 166). This affirmation quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 795), has a truly heroic character in the context of the Trial of Conviction, in face of the judges, men of the Church, who persecuted her and condemned her.

In the love of Jesus, Joan found the strength to love the Church to the end, including at the moment of her conviction.

I am pleased to recall how St. Joan of Arc had a profound influence on a young saint of the modern age: Thérèse of the Child Jesus. In a completely different life, spent in the cloister, the Carmelite of Lisieux felt very close to Joan, living in the heart of the Church and taking part in the sufferings of Jesus for the salvation of the world.

The Church has joined them as patronesses of France, after the Virgin Mary. St. Thérèse expressed her desire to die like Joan, pronouncing the Name of Jesus (Manuscript B, 3r); she was animated by the same love for Jesus and her neighbour, lived in consecrated virginity.

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous testimony, St. Joan of Arc invites us to a lofty level of Christian life: to make prayer the guiding thread of our days; to have full confidence in fulfilling the will of God, whatever it is; to live in charity without favoritisms, without limits and having, as she had, in the love of Jesus, a profound love for the Church"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

St Thomas Aquinas and Faith

Ary Scheffer 1795 - 1858
Saint Thomas d'Aquin prêchant la confiance en Dieu pendant la tempête
Saint Thomas Aquinas preaching trust in God during a tempest
Oil on canvas
3.93m x 2.94m
Musée du Petit-Palais, Paris

Ary Scheffer is known for many paintings including the celebrated Vision of St Augustine and his mother St Monica at Ostia

In this work we see a different side of St Thomas Aquinas from that usually depicted. The books, pen and paper have been put away. There is no stasis or ecstasy or apotheosis. The scene is dynamic.

St Thomas is fulfilling his vocation as one of the Order of Preachers: preaching and encouraging the people to faith

One is reminded of the occasion narrated in the Gospels [Mark 4:35-41, Luke 8:22-25 and Matthew 8:23-27] when Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Gallilee in a boat when a furious storm came up, with the waves breaking over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion, but the disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

The Gospel of Mark then states that:

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

The two questions: "Why are you so afraid?" and "Do you still have no faith?" seem relevant to this painting

Pope Benedict XVI in his discussion of St Thomas referred to his great intellectual abilities and works but he also went on to say:

"In addition to study and teaching, Thomas also dedicated himself to preaching to the people. And the people too came willingly to hear him. I would say that it is truly a great grace when theologians are able to speak to the faithful with simplicity and fervour.

The ministry of preaching, moreover, helps theology scholars themselves to have a healthy pastoral realism and enriches their research with lively incentives ...

In December 1273, he summoned his friend and secretary Reginald to inform him of his decision to discontinue all work because he had realised, during the celebration of Mass subsequent to a supernatural revelation, that everything he had written until then "was worthless".

This is a mysterious episode that helps us to understand not only Thomas' personal humility, but also the fact that, however lofty and pure it may be, all we manage to think and say about the faith is infinitely exceeded by God's greatness and beauty which will be fully revealed to us in Heaven"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Timothy and Titus

Ludwig Glötzle 1847 - 1929
St Paul ordains Timothy as Bishop of Ephesus 1891
Dom Sankt Rupert und Virgil, Salzburg

26 January commemorates the two disciples of Paul, Titus and Timothy, on the day after the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

According to tradition, Paul ordained Titus bishop of Gortyn in Crete

Sunday, January 23, 2011

St Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622)

Luis González Velázquez 1715-1763
Aparición de San Francisco de Sales a San Claudio Croeix (o a San Juan Bautista Gord)
Appearance of St Francis de Sales to St Claud Croeix (or to St John the Baptist Gord)
Pen and wash on paper
182 mm x 265 mm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Luis was not the Velázquez. He was one of the family of artists called Velázquez. He was the son of Pablo González Velázquez (1664-1727), an Andalusian sculptor who worked in the Baroque style and in 1702 settled in Madrid. His brother was Alejandro González Velázquez with whom he collaborated

St Francis de Sales was Bishop of Geneva (1602) and spiritual director and, with St Jane Frances de Chantal, the founder of Salesian spirituality. He took as his exemplar, St Charles Borromeo

He was beatified in 1661 by Pope Alexander VII, who then canonised him three years later.

He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1877

In 1923, Pope Pius XI proclaimed him a patron of writers and journalists, because of the books he wrote, the most famous of which was Introduction à la vie dévote ("Introduction to the Devout Life").

He also left the mystical Traité de l' Amour de Dieu ("Treatise on the Love of God") and many highly valued letters of spiritual direction

But it is not only in the Catholic Church that he is venerated. He is recognised as an exemplary in the Church of England, where his memoria is also observed on January 24, and in the Church in Wales

He has always been highly regarded by the Popes who occupied the Papacy

The Apostolic Letter of Blessed Pius IX declaring him a Doctor of the Church is worth reading. See Dives In Misericordia Deus (pdf)(Proclaiming St. Francis de Sales a "Doctor of the Church) November 16, 1877 [Apostolic letter]

Benedict XV wanted to write an Encyclical on him but died before he could do it.

There was however an Encyclial by Pius XI extolling the saint and doctor: See Pius XI, Rerum Omnium Perturbationem (26/01/1923)

In his short Pontificate Pope John Paul I was apt to quote and cite him in his public allocutions.

Here is some of the wisdom of St Francis of Sales:

"There is no vocation that does not have its troubles, its vexations, its disgust. Apart from those who are fully resigned to God's will. each of us would like to change his own condition with that of others. Those who are bishops wish they were not; those who are married wish they were not, and those who are not married wish that they were. Where does this general restlessness of spirits come from, if not from a certain allergy that we have towards constraint and from a spirit that is not good, which make us suppose that others are better off than we are?" (St Francis of Sales, Oeuvres, edit. Annecy, t. XII, 348-9).

"God will work with you, in you and for you, and your work will be followed by consolation" (The Introduction to the Devout Life, III, 10).

"Charity is a love of friendship, a friendship of preference, a preferential love, but an incomparable preference, sovereign and supernatural, that is as a sun in the soul to enlighten it with its rays, in all the spiritual faculties to perfect them, in all one's powers to moderate them, but in the will, as on its seat, to dwell there and to make it cherish and love its God above all things" (cf. Treatise of the Love of God, Book II, chap. 22, p. 125, translated by H.B. Mackey, Newman Book Shop, Westminster, Md., 1945).

"Perfect abandonment into the hands of the heavenly Father and a perfect indifference as to what the divine will decides are the quintessence of the spiritual life.... All the setbacks in our perfection come only from the lack of abandonment, and it is certainly true that it is right to begin, to continue and to finish the spiritual life right there, in imitation of our Saviour who did this with an extraordinary perfection in the beginning, during and at the end of his life" (Sermon pour le Vendredi Saint, 1622: Oeuvres complètes, X, p. 389).

"Many are satisfied with carrying the Lord on their tongue, recounting His marvels and praising Him with great ardour; others carry Him in their hearts with tender and loving affection, which becomes part and parcel of their lives, thinking of Him and speaking to Him. But these two ways of carrying the Lord do not amount to much if the third element of carrying Him in their arms by good works is missing." (Sermons 2; O. IX, p. 22)

"Do not get all worked up about the future disasters of this world, which may never occur anyway; when and if they do occur, God will give you the strength to bear them. Jesus commanded Saint Peter to walk on the water, but Peter, frightened by a gust of wind and the storm, almost drowned. Then he pleaded with the Lord, Who said to him, "What little faith you have ... why did you falter?" And putting forth His hand He saved him. [cf. Mt. 14:31] If God asks you to walk on the turbulent waters of adversity, do not doubt, do not fear, because God is with you. Have courage and you will be safe." (Letters 1420; O. XVII, p. 211)

See also: