The Scholarly Journal, De Medio Aevo, has published my paper on the Beatific Vision of Christ, in their Fall 2014 edition, read it on line at http://capire.es/eikonimago/index.php/demedioaevo/article/view/119
A Thousand-year-old Structure with a Roof that is falling-in
Rocaforte (Sangüesa, Navarre, Spain), August 28, 2014
The Council of Rocaforte has obtained the property title to the Eremitorio de San Bartolomé from the hands of the Friars Minor and now desires to promote its restoration to maintain it in existence.
“When it rains, more water falls inside than out”, explains María Eugenia Pérez Iriarte, who graphically describes the state of the hermitage of Saint Bartholomew, the first Franciscan foundation in the Iberian Peninsula. The President of the Council of Rocaforte believes that the maintenance in existence of this thousand-year-old structure requires the “urgent restoration of the roof, on which account it is important to beg help. Then, we will be able to think of what we will do with the rest, since the idea is to repair the whole complex, since it has a historic and cultural value that cannot be allowed to be lost”.
The citizens of Rocaforte agree: “It is the first Franciscan convent, which Saint Francis of Assisi founded in Spain and it is a shame that it is in this condition”, explains Javier Soto Gallués, who is 29. The neighbors have watched how the two buildings of the complex, erected as a hermitage and convent have suffered a progressive deterioration, which has accelerated in recent years. The roof is beginning to collapse, which is going to result in the loss of the artistic patrimony of the place: “On the front of the building there used to be an ancient solar dial which disappeared a decade ago”, relates Soto, “and the sacristy used to host painted medieval walls, possibly of the 12th century, very important on account of being unique in Navarre, and which have entirely deteriorated.”
The first mayor won’t allow “the collapse of a structure which dates from 1098 and holds a privileged position in history as the fourth route of the Camino de Santiago”, which entered Spain, from France, through the pass of Somport. For his part, he accepted on July 30th, past, the donation of the architectural complex of San Bartolomé from the hands of the Franciscan Province of Arantzazu (Navarre), with the plan to begin its restoration.
A strategic position for strengthening the Ruta Tolosana of the Camino of Santiago in Navarre, “If the paths and roads leading to it and the building itself can be repaired, it can be integrated in the Route which passes through the cities of Jaca, la Foz de Lumbier and runs from Racaforte to Izco. It will serve to strengthen this part of the St. James’ Road through Navarre, uniting it with the ones in Aragón, particularly with those from Jaca and Zaragoza,” is the opinion of Jesús Tanco Lerga, co-founder and ex-president of the Association of Friends of the Camino of Santiago.
Tanco, a historian from Olite, believes that Navarre has cared for the route from where it enters the Spanish region from San Juan de Pie de Puerto, where the three routes from France join up. “However, this route which comes from Toulouse, originating in Provence from Italy, which is called the fourth Tolosian Road, needs, in my opinion, to be safeguarded by the Navarre Regional Government.”
History and Legends surrounding the Thousand-year-old shrine
The hermitage of San Bartolomé, constructed by King Pedro I, to commemorate a military victory in 1098 A. D. was converted in 1213 into the first Franciscan foundation in the Iberian Peninsula, and was a destination point for Templars, Pilgrims and lovers of nature.
According to tradition, St. Francis of Assisi had to sleep in Rocaforte and having struck the ground with his walking stick, there sprang-up a leafy Mulberry tree, which though dried up, still remains, and whose bark has curative properties.
The Saint had entered the lands of the ancient Kingdom of Navarre from Italy, proceeding through the pass of Somport, along the Camino of Santiago. In this pilgrimage, which took place from May of 1213 to November of 1215, he had to spend several days in the hermitage. There, he left Friar Bernard of Quintavalle, to care for a sick man. Thus the place was converted into the first Franciscan establishment in the Peninsula and one of the first in the world, whose establishment was confirmed by the Saint a year later, on his return from Compostela and the parts west. (cf. St. Francis’ first biographer, Bl. Thomas of Celano’s First Life of St. Francis, chapter XX, nn. 55-57, in Spanish here.)*
According to tradition, St. Francis felt attracted to the place upon seeing the hermit’s chapel of San Bartolomé, a gothic construction ordered by Pedro I, King of Navarre and Aragon, after his victory against the Muslims in Calasanz on August 24, 1098. Today, the place is the only one existing of the four in the territory of the municipality of Sangüesa, erected with the intention of honoring Saint Bartholomew, who is considered the patron of the triumph of Christendom. The others stood in Ull, as a parish church; in Puyo de Castellón, as a filial church of San Estaban; and a third as a shrine along the river of Onsella y Peña.
The austere construction faces, on the southwest, the village of Rocaforte and its backside the chaparral of the mountains. It is mentioned in the “Little Flowers of Saint Francis” by its anonymous author, a member of the Saint’s order. In the third chapter, he wrote: “At the beginning of the foundation of the Order, when the friars were few and as of yet had no convents, Saint Francis made a pilgrimage to Saint James in Galicia. He took with himself some friars among whom was Friar Bernard. Along the road he met a poor sick man, and charged Friar Bernard to care for him there. Returning from Saint James, Saint Francis met Friar Bernard and the sick man whom he left with him, finding that he was perfectly restored to health, he entrusted to them the foundation of this convent.”
In addition, there exist inscriptions referring to these events on the foundation of the Convent. There, a stone embedded in the wall of the hermitage’s chapel bears this inscription (translated from the Latin): “This monastery, St. Francis founded in honor of Saint Bartholomew, in the year of the Lord 1214”, according to the study by the historial Vicente Villabriga. In the restoration of the building in 1635, Fray Diego Manso, discovered a second stone which read, “This monastery Saint Francis build in honor of Saint Bartholomew, in the year 1213”. A third reference to the passage of the Saint is found in an inscription about 50 feet away at the Fountain of Saint Francis.
The complex, whose cruciform floor plan, dome and apse are Romanesque, was inhabited until 1266 by the Franciscan friars, after which they moved to their convent in Sangüesa, and remained there until its reconstruction in 1635. In 1722, a detached structure was added to the ancient plan of the Franciscan convent, the external structure of which has been practically conserved intact, through the successive and necessary interior remodelings and repairs of the roof; likewise, in the case of the hermitage chapel.
The complex continually housed a stable Franciscan community, until its confiscation by Juan Álvarez Mendizábal (the prime minister of Queen Regent Maria Christina) at the end of the First Carlist War. In 1822 it passed to secular use as a hospice and later as a barn for cattle. The religious care of the hermitage was entrusted to the Franciscans of Olite, who used to open it every August 24th for a mass of vespers.
This is why, on Saturday, August 23, about 100 citizens of Rocaforte attended mass in honor of St. Bartholomew. The town Council stepped forward to receive the property title, donated by the Franciscan Province of Arantzazu, on July 30th. However, it now seeks help in confronting the expenses for the restoration, seeing that, as Father José María Martincorena, the local parish priest, says, “You have to have strong reasons to come here to celebrate mass … with an eye always on the roof!”
The hermitage, set among Almond trees, about 1 km from Rocaforte and 4 km from Sangüesa, offers a bucolic setting which is perfectly adapted to the Franciscan spirit of love for nature, and full of legends and traditions entwined to its past, since the “figure of Saint Bartholomew was always important for the Templar Order, great lovers of this Saint, as he symbolized the victory of Christianity and because he was represented as a martyr, skinned with a knife, they considered him as an example for those who desired to change their lives, whether monks or soldiers”, as Jesús Tanco, the historian from Olite says.
(Translation by Br. Alexis Bugnolo — Photos from Town website: Rocaforte.es website)
* For modern Spanish historians who agree, see also, CRONOLOGÍA DE LA VIDA DE SAN FRANCISCO DE ASÍS, por Ignacio Omaechevarría, o.f.m., and RESUMEN CRONOLÓGICO DE LA VIDA DE SAN FRANCISCO DE ASÍS, por Gratien de París, o.f.m.cap.
Here is St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio’s testimony from his Major Life of St. Francis, chapter IX, n. 6 (Opera Omnia S. Bonaventurae, tome VIII, p. 531-2): But though (St. Francis) had already traveled abroad even into Spain, by Divine arrangement, a most grave infirmity came upon him, by which he was obstructed in accomplishing his desire (to travel to Morocco and die as a martyr). — see the context in previous sentences. Translation by Br. Alexis Bugnolo.
For an extensive study in Spanish, regarding St. Francis’ trip to Spain see Fr. Ignacio Omaechevarria, San Francisco de Assis en la Rioja.
Photos of the Hermitage of St. Bartholomew, Rocaforte, Spain.
When I see a convent in ruins, I weep with sadness, that such a holy place has been forgotten. These photos are from the website of Rocaforte (rocaforte.es)
Cuando veo a un convent en ruinas, lloro con pena que un lugar tan santo se olvida!
Above: the convent seen as one approaches from SW, close-up.
Above: the convent, close up: S face of cloister.
Above: the Convent door, with Rocaforte in the distance.
Above: the door of the Chapel of the convent.
Above: the view of Rocaforte in the distance, from outside the convent.
Above: the convent, seen from the SE in winter, with slight snowfall.
Above: an areal photograph of the convent in winter, with heavy snowfall.
The confidence to ask the Lord for the things which are necessary for our salvation and the salvation of others, is something that is often found lacking in the present age.
On every side the world gives us reasons to fear the worst and lose hope. Even the many problems and weaknesses in ecclesiastical institutions, or the many scandals among religious or clergy, do not encourage us to pray. Rather, they dispose us to lament of the woes of the age in which we live, in a bitter, hopeless manner.
But this spirit of hopelessness is quite contrary to that which Our Lord wants of us, and to that which faith in Him as God, demands of us.
Have no fear, little flock! says the Lord, I have overcome the world!
Our Lord adds this reassurance in reference to His expiatory Sacrifice on the Cross, by which He excorcised the Devil of this world from the world, and by which He paid the debt of sin for each and every man, woman, and child, not only believers, but also and even of those who would never believe in Him.
But Our Lord’s triumph is not only against sin, but against all reasons for despair. Because with the Lord, there is mercy and truth, as the Psalm says. With the Lord there is mercy and truth! Let us say it again! Because no matter how dark this world might become, no matter how bleak the future might seem for believers, Christ remains God and remains willing to assist those who hope in Him, with all the power of Heaven, all the force of His grace, all the fire and life giving power of His Holy Spirit, and with all the authority of His Eternal Father.*
This, to those weak in faith, or poorly formed in the spiritual life, might seem as a sort of spiritual avarice or unseemly precociousness on our part: to insist that God send His blessings and gifts.
But the truth is that Our Lord Jesus Christ, in entrusting us in a manner similar, but far inferior, to the manner in which He entrusted to His own Blessed Mother a necessary role in the salvation of sinners, has manifested that while He is far more willing to save souls that we can imagine — and though He certain does save souls regardless of whether we want them to be saved — nevertheless, He will save souls and grant graces and blessings, in a greater abundance and to a greater extent, IF WE ASK HIM TO.
This wonderful truth, He attempts to inculcate into us, by the words of hope, which are the theme of this month’s newsletter: If 2 or 3 of you ask Me for anything in My Name, I shall grant it!
Those are powerful words of hope! Let us consider that Our Lord, the Omnipotent God, has made a promise, and study how we can best profit by it.
First, as supreme Legislator of Divine Providence and as the Lord and Master of all creation, Our Lord makes this promise in a strict legal form. We can see this by the grammatical form which He employs: He begins the promise with the word “If” and ends it with the helping verb “will”. He expresses very specifically the conditions of action (“ask”), the number of petitioners (“2 or 3”), the manner in which the petition must be made (“in My Name”), and what must be asked for (“anything”). That last condition, is really not condition. By saying “anything”, Our Lord is clearly trying to encourage us in the greatest possible manner!
How much preoccupation some men or women have when they hear that this or that state run lottery has a jackpot of some tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. As soon as they hear of the possibility that a winner has not come forward and that another drawing is drawing close, they run out to the nearest corner store and buy one if not many lottery tickets, saying to themselves, “If only I could win so much money, just think what I could do with it!”
The fact that the chance of their winning that jackpot is so very small, so infinitesimal, that whatever they spend on tickets, the chance is more a fable than a reality, does not stop them in the least of putting their hope into practice to obtain it.
But in this promise of Our Lord, which is our theme this month, we have One who is promising much more, and One who is giving us greater odds of winning!
In fact, He is not giving us odds of obtaining His blessings, He is practically guaranteeing it!
And yet, how many interest themselves to obtain, by this promise, what they seek?
It is the rare day that I encounter any believer at all, who says to me, “Brother, would you please join me in praying for x or y, because Our Lord promised that whenever 2 or three ask for anything in His Name, He will grant it.”
Such confidence, might seem exuberant, or the property of an evangelical protestant, but NO, Our Lord want us Catholics, His faithful sheep, to have it, and to unabashedly profess it.
I do not deny, that faith in this promise, is the foundation and motive we Catholics have whenever we ask others for prayers; but what I want to focus on, is that the eagerness and confidence we should have to ask, should be based more explicitly on this wonderful promise of Our Lord, and thus the number and intensity of our initiatives in this regard should reflect such confidence.
Now it is true that on account of our sins, or on account of our bad disposition, in which we in truth do not want what we should want, we often do not receive what we ask for, even if we meet the simply and facile conditions of this Divine Promise.
This failure, however, is all our fault. Because God will not give us what is not conducive to our salvation or that of our neighbor; and moreover, even if it is conducive, He will not grant it until the time is ripe; that is, until the proper conditions for profiting by that gift are met.
Now it is not always clear, what obstacles are preventing us from receiving God’s blessings and mercies, but we can list a few general categories of obstacles, and employ the standard spiritual remedies for them, to eliminate most of the obstacles.
First of all, the number 1 obstacle to receiving God’s gifts and blessings is sin; second vice, and third the lack of virtue.
First of all, sin, which by the etymology of its name means “obstacle” or “obstruction”, prevents us from receiving God’s gifts and mercies, because it puts us in the state of soul were we are not worthy, not only of not receiving them, but of having our petition heard by God.
God grants favors to His friends; and those who offend Him, are clearly not His friends, even if they imagine themselves to be. Being God’s friend is such by His judgment; that is, he is a friend of God, whom God considers His friend.
In such friendship, the criterion is a one way street. God has no need of friends, He is quite self sufficient and self satisfied in His Infinite Perfection.
God also is Infinitely Just and Perfect, in such a wise, that it is not easy to be considered His friend, if we speak of facility according to human standards.
In fact, by our own powers and graces and abilities, we can not nor can we ever make ourselves God’s friends.
We are only such, by God’s grace and by our fidelity to that grace to remain such!
Sanctifying grace, which first came to us in Baptism or in the moment we first believed, if we are an adult convert, is what makes us pleasing to God. As St. Paul teaches, we are justified by Faith, that is made holy and upright; and without faith it is impossible to believe God. But faith alone is not sufficient; for even the devils believe and tremble! We also need to have HOPE in God and LOVE for God!
Love for God is the primary prerequisite. If we do not love God, how can we be His friend? Just think, — to use a crude metaphor which is not properly applied to God — how bad God feels if we do not love Him!
Being that God is infinitely worthy of love, on account of being INFINITE GOODNESS, it is very unreasonable and quite improper and wrong, not to love GOD, and not to love God WITH GREAT INTENSITY!
But certainly, since God is infinitely powerful and infinitely faithful, it is quite unreasonable and improper and wrong, if WE DO NOT HOPE JUST AS INTENSELY in obtaining His promises, and employ our selves diligently in seeking to acquire what He promises.
Now, in this, there is no room for the scrupulous who thinks that we offend God by seeking to obtain what He has promised us. Rather, we offend God, by sin; and if we think we offend Him by hoping to obtain what He promises, we are being very stupid and illogical, and are quite wrong and mixed up in the understanding of our faith.
The second reason for not receiving what God has promised is vice. That is, if we are badly disposed, He will not give us what we ask for, for our bad disposition inclines us to ask for what displeases Him or would endanger our souls or that of others.
Thus the avaricious man prays with the hope of receiving greater wealth, but Our Lord has no intention of hearing such a prayer, since greater wealth would only worsen the condition of the man, by putting him in a greater occasion of avarice. And this is true of every vice, and of every prayer for that which our vices seek.
If Our Lord at times does answer such a prayer, it is rather to punish the petitioner, than to bless him. And in many cases, God does answer such a prayer for those whom He foresees will be damned; not because He wants them to be damned, but because He sees this as the last way of opening the heart of the sinner to see the reality that God is much more desirable than His gifts. But in general, it is a woeful thing to be heard in such a wrong-headed and evil petition.
The third reason for not obtaining what we pray for, is that we are lacking in the virtue which is necessary to receive such a gift. If we are lacking in charity, for example, and we ask for the grace to do greater works for others, Our Lord will not grant this, because we do not yet posses the charity necessary to profit from such a grace.
Now removing these 3 obstacles can be easy or difficult. Obviously, we can remove the obstacle of sin, by going to confession; and according to St. Alphonus dei Liguori, patron of moral theologians and of confessors, we can successfully uproot a vice, if we confess having it, in confession, and work with our confessor to target it and uproot it by spiritual practices.
And we can increase the virtue we have by being faithful to God’s graces, more generous in the fulfillment of our duties, and more generous in the works of charity for our neighbors and for those in need.
But, as I said, it can be difficult to remove these three obstacles of sin, vice and the lack of virtue, if we do not spend some time examining our soul, to consider what sins and vices we have, and which virtues we are lacking.
And being conceived in original sin, though by Baptism we are cleansed of it, there remains in us a strong disposition to avoid such self reflection. Indeed, there is no food as bitter as the bitterness we fallen creatures find in admitting our own faults, sins, vices and spiritual lacks. So bitter is this practice, that most of us have a very strong habit of mind of avoiding any consideration of our possession of these 3 obstacles. We are more ready to spend 1,000 days chatting about the problems of everyone else in the world, than spend 5 minutes considering that perhaps we have at least 1 problem ourselves, I reason to say, “I have committed a sin”, “am beholden to a vice”, or “lack a virtue”.
Here, the virtue of humility, of which we spoke of in regard to Our Lady, is crucial to practice. For if we make an act of humility, and take some time to consider whether we have one or ore of these 3 obstacles, we can begin to cut the greatest knot restraining us from spiritual progress, endangering our salvation and obstructing us from receiving God’s blessings.
* As God, Christ possesses each of these powers and attributes, though when speaking of the Trinity, it is the ancient Catholic custom of attributing specific ones to each Person. Thus, we we speak of God giving life or inspiring vocations, we attribute this to the Holy Ghost; when we speak of God creating and ruling the universe, we attribute this to the Eternal Father; and when we speak of God redeeming, saving, teaching, etc., we attribute this to the Eternal Son, Christ Jesus Our Lord.
The Franciscan Archive can gladly publish today, photographs of the First Tome of Bonaventure’s Opera Omnia, due out in November of this year. Get your copy through this link (then scroll down for Paypal or Order Form).
The book is an exact and complete translation of the Original Latin tome (still available in Print, here) with the same layout and pagination, for easy cross reference and citation.
This book is an excellent gift for clergy, religious, and your learned layman. A great way to preserve the faith in your parish, community, or home.
The Book is packaged individually in a mail-worthy box. When opened, it reveals the book, individually shrink-wrapped:
When unwrapped, it looks like this, on the Front…
And on the back (though there is a small piece of styrofoam from the packaging caught in this photo on the back):
And finally, the book, when opened (note that the typography imitates the Quaracchi edition), but as the English translation is sometimes longer than the Latin text, occasionally the text on 1 page will be longer than that on the facing pace, as seen here (esp. if there is a translator’s footnote added):
If you have questions about this publication, please Tweet Br. Alexis Bugnolo at @BrAlexisBugnolo or Contact him via Face Book. Note, that this book ships after November 1, 2014.
The confidence to ask the Lord for the things which are necessary for our salvation and the salvation of others, is one of the foundations of Christian living.
This confidence is a wonderful gift, and to fan it into flames, we need to follow it with a consideration on the gentle but pressing Presence, the Lord Jesus surrounds His faithful with, who call upon His Name!
If one reads through the Old Testament, one can discover many wonderful and awe-inspiring examples of just how good God can be to those who are faithful, and just how terrible He can be to those who are unfaithful.
In regard to how wonderful and good He can be to those who are faithful, Our Lord proclaims in the New Testament and most consoling truth:
Lo! I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the age!
Which some Bibles in English render as, Behold! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world!
The thought that Our Lord is nearby and at hand, and present, is a most consoling thought and consideration. But to understand and appreciate this great grace, we need to first put it into proper context, and understand aright, what Our Lord is referring to.
First, let us consider what Our Lord IS NOT referring to. We live in an age of faithlessness, of apostasy, of infidelity, of heresy, and of out right paganism and the revival of the same.
One horrible error and perverse practice which has arisen in recent decades is called the “New Age Movement”. And one error of this movement says that anyone can spiritually connect into some greater spiritual power or presence, at will.
On account of this pagan superstition, promoted by such films as Star Wars, or by the promotion of the sale of crystals or by those who advocate going to spiritual places to be “energized” or “to get into contact” with spiritual power; there are not a few of the faithful who believe, that Christian life is not about sanctification, but about being “empowered” spiritually, and about being “spiritual”.
Worse of all, this error holds, that being “spiritual” has nothing to do with being morally upright, with the observance of the 10 commandments.
The insidiousness of these errors of the New Age Movement, requires that we consider very carefully and exactly, what our Holy Catholic Faith teaches, and distinguish the truths of Our Faith, from these detestable errors.
Yes, it is true, that being spiritual, does not require that you be moral or upright. The proof of this is that Satan, the most evil and devious spirit, is by nature a pure spirit, and thus has a pure spirituality. He is very a very spiritual angelic person, but he is very evil and immoral.
So, as far as we Catholics are concerned, it is evident that if the Devil is very spiritual, that being spiritual is not the measure by which a Catholic can measure his fidelity to the Lord, or his progress in God’s grace, nor his sanctification by virtue.
As human beings, we can only be so spiritual, and we cannot be perfectly spiritual, since for us humans, such a spirituality would be unnatural and thus sinful.
This is because, as humans, we are composed of 1 soul and 1 body. We are in truth, both our soul and our body. But both together. That is why when our soul separates from the body, in death, we can truly say, not only that our bodies “die”, but that “we” die.
If were were perfectly spiritual, we would not be living with a body; and since having a body is part of human nature, such a perfect spirituality is not proper for men.
Now, do not misunderstand me; I am not saying that we ought not be holy, or that we ought not be spiritual in the proper sense of the term.
And to understand what I mean to say, let me first explain, another term: “carnal”. What is of the flesh, is carnal; but in the terminology of St. Paul the Apostle, “carnal” has the meaning of “disordered by concupiscence”, that is by that spiritual disease which entered into man by Adam’s sin. After Adam’s sin, man’s flesh became carnal in a sense it was not before. Before, his flesh was carnal in the sense that “carnal” means nothing more than “of flesh”. But after his flesh became “carnal” in the sense that his flesh became subject to the disorder of concupiscence, which is called the fomes of sin. “Fomes” in Latin, means “tinderbox”, and St. Augustine uses this term to indicate that concupiscence in our flesh, is the tinder upon which sinful movements arise in our hearts and bodies.
So we should be spiritual, in the sense that we should mortify ourselves, body and soul, against concupiscence, that is against having a carnal mind, or living according to the sinful impulses of the flesh.
But it is better to call this “the work of our sanctification” or “the pursuit of perfection,” than “spirituality,” because while it is true that Dominicans have a particular spirituality, and Franciscans, and Carmelites and Benedictines, etc., too; it is also true to say that Satan has his own spirituality; but that is not anything we want to know or imitate!
Back to the words of Our Lord:
Thus, when Our Lord makes us the wonderful promise or proclamation, that He will be with us, unto the end of time, we must first understand that this promise is not true in all times and places. This seems a contradiction, so let me explain.
Yes, it is true, that this promise is true in all times and places; but it is also false to say that it is true in all times and places. This is because, we, in all times and places, do not deserve to benefit from this promise; and so in all times and places we cannot PRESUME that Our Lord is with us. For that reason, to avoid presumption, we ought not ASSUME that Our Lord is with us; we must rather work and strive to be worthy of His Presence!
When we do work and do strive to be worthy of His continual Presence, then these words of Our Lord become true. Not because our power makes them true, or our effort, or that we merit that they be true; no! Rather, because when we are worthy of His Presence, He makes His Presence felt, as it were. And when we do not merit it, He makes Himself absent, as it were, that is, He does not intervene in our lives with graces and mercies, lights an protections, and leaves us to ourselves — which is a most horrible fate.
For this reason we must be on the alert for 2 kinds of spiritual paralysis, which makes us insensible to the Presence of Christ: blindness and indifference. The Catholic who is blinded by mortal sin or by habitual venial sin, knows still by faith that Our Lord is present, for example, in the Most Blessed Sacrament, but it means nothing to him personally. Likewise, a Catholic who by habitual sin or neglect lives as if this truth means nothing, even while confessing it on his lips, suffers from a hardening of the heart, which is called “indifference.”
A wonderful example to illustrate this, is the simple and beautiful faith of Catholics of the Eritrean Rite. The Eritrean Catholics, unlike us Romans, when waiting for the church to open, do not stand with their backs to the door of the church; no, they stand with their faces to the door. If you ask them why, they say that it is because Our Lord is present in the Church, and they are waiting for Him to open the doors of His House to them!
Likewise, if you have a living faith and ardent love for Our Lord, it is second nature for you, when passing a Catholic Church were the Sacrament is reposed, to want, as it were, to go and embrace that church, give it a hug, as it were, since it is where Our Lord is dwelling. We do not hug the doors or corners of our Churches, but perhaps that is because we are just not fervent enough!
Second, to understand the words of Our Lord, upon which we are meditating this month, we need to understand what the word “present” means.
“Present” in English comes from “praesens” in Latin; in Latin the word means “being before” that is “in front of”, or in other words, “before the face of”. What is present, therefore, is right in front of you, you need only open your eyes to see it.
Obviously, when we speak of the Presence of God, we are using a metaphor, because God, as God, is not present physically, that is corporally, anywhere; simply because God is a pure Spirit, and has no body which is bound by spatial dimensions or locations.
We we say God is present, we mean that He is attentive by His Power, Knowledge and Love. Though God is in no place, He is present to every place, because He created every place, and sustains every place in being. All places, as it were, are in the palm of His Hand, and so wherever we are, we are not far from Him, ontologically speaking, even if we are far from him, spiritually speaking, because we are in sin or blinded by sin or made indifferent in our hearts by sin.
With these distinctions made and these errors avoided, we are now prepared to consider what Our Lord DOES mean by this holy words: Lo! I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the age!
Our Lord is not present to us, without any purpose. It is for our salvation! not for our sense of sentimental peace or well being. God does nothing without purpose, and if He is actively attentive by His Power, Knowledge and Love, that is by His Grace and Mercy, it is to save us, and to help us towards salvation, or to aide us to help others towards their own.
God makes His presence known to us, in a variety of ways. Often it is by a grace which enlivens our soul, so that we make and act of love, faith, or hope, which move us toward observing His Commandments or evangelical Counsels, or the precepts of the Church, or to fulfilling some particular duty. Nearly every time, Our Lord works this actual grace through the mediation of our guardian Angel; sometimes through the mediation of a special Angel, associated with such a work, virtue, place, or person; often through the intercession of some Saint, and always through the Mediation of Jesus and Mary, who always have at heart and on their mind, our salvation.
God is present, also, in two ways: actively and passively. Actively by the manifestation of His Power or grace. “Passively” when we are in the state of grace, in the sense, that we need not do anything to have Him present, since sanctifying grace makes Him present to us, and we to Him. “Passively”, Christ is also present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, in the sense that He need not do anything, nor we, that He be present there, since He has already made Himself present there Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; the Divinity by means of the Humanity. But God is so infinitely Active, that even when He is passively present, He is active, that is working grace and mercy in us or for us.
But the secret of sanctification lies in a wonderful truth, which is taught throughout the Old Testament and which is valid and applicable to our days, now that Our Lord has Ascended to His Father on High. This truth is not emphasized in the New Testament, because in the New Testament the Apostles and Evangelists were emphasizing the Sacred Humanity of Our Lord, and the New Covenant wrought in His Blood.
The secret of which I speak refers to a the power and efficacy of a “spiritual covenant” with the Lord. Each and every man woman or child, who has supernatural faith, can make a covenant with the Lord, and thereby make himself present to God and God to him, not by grace, but by a certain sort of spiritual contract, whereby one commits oneself to doing good works, and thereby to meriting those actual graces which lead to God’s greater blessings.
Now the motivation to make such a covenant comes from God, because in the work of our sanctification, man does nothing first. So what I say here, presumes those cases where the Holy Spirit is giving the grace. And we know by God’s working in the Old Testament and New Testament, that He wants men to make these kinds of spiritual covenants.
In the Old Testament these covenants were the bread and butter, as it were, of the Jewish religion; but in the New Testament Age in which we live, they are secondary and very inferior to the Covenant wrought in Christ’s Blood; nay, they are only effective in that Blood, that is, when employed to arrive at doing Christ’s will on earth.
Each one of us can make a covenant with the Lord, which regards any good work, great or small. The vows of religious are a type of covenant; marriage vows are another; a private vow to go on pilgrimage, to give up drinking or smoking, or some particularly grave vice, such as gossiping, each of these are spiritual covenants, when we promise God to fulfill them or do them.
According to an exaggerated fear, common to the age of Jansenism, when to save souls from the extremity of scrupulosity in which they thought everything was a sin, confessors were apt to counsel nothing under the obligation of a promise — an exaggeration which went so far as to lead some new religious communities not to take vows! — many a manual or book on the spiritual life counseled against making promises to the Lord. This is quite unimaginable, and quite unbelievable, that anyone would counsel something so diametrically opposed to all that God has revealed! simply out of fear that some scrupulous person, out there somewhere, might fall into trouble by such a promise!
Oh, what scruples to avoid scruples!
Nay, rather, God wants us to enter into such a covenant with Him; and to show us that He is very pleased by it, we have only read of the wonderful blessings God bestowed upon the Jews of the Kingdom of Judah in the Books of Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Judges, to see the efficacy of this spiritual practice.
When we promise the Lord to do a good work, habitually, or give up a habitual morally bad habit, we show God respect, trust, love, honor, and give Him glory, as the God of all Justice and Holiness! And this is, indeed, a thing very pleasing to God, the Holy Ghost, who is infinitely zealous for our progress in all holiness and virtue, for by such a progress we are conformed to Him.
In making any such covenant, we merit immediately the remission of some of the temporal punishment for sins, esp. for the sins we have promised to avoid.
Indeed, the spiritual life of sanctification, cannot go forward without such promises or covenants. Spiritual stability for us feeble, unstable men is founded upon a chain of such promises, well made and well thought out, and faithfully kept, even if at the beginning, it is difficult or we fail.
These covenants are the stages of the life of perfection, the training in the art of spiritual warfare that the Lord wants to train us in.
For those who want a suggested formula for a general covenant of life with the Lord Jesus, here is a suggested formula:
A Covenant Prayer with the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Sacred Heart of Jesus! Thou art the Great and Wonderful Lord, the Mighty God! Who has descended from Heaven, to sweat and suffer and die, rejected, so that I might live and have life eternal! Who ascended into Heaven to prepare a place for me in Thy Eternal Kingdom! Who dost stand before the Throne of Mercy of Thy Eternal Father, ever interceding for us! Hear, I beg Thee, the prayer of a most unworthy creature!
Mindful of all that Thou has done for me, and of how much I, a wretched sinner, need Thee: I resolve this day to make this covenant with Thee: I take Thee to be My God, and I surrender myself to be Thy servant and subject!
I will do what Thou has commanded! I will head what Thou has counseled! I will obey Thy Voice speaking to me through the Pope and the priests who are my sacred pastors. I will mind the precepts of the Church, and confess my sins, especially resolving to uproot the vice of _________. I am confident that with Thee all good things are possible, and that Thy grace is sufficient for me! For to have Thee, is to have all, in time and eternity!
Help me, Save me, O most Merciful Heart of Jesus! Make me be all Thine, and be always at my side, to help, protect, enlighten and guide me, this day, and to bring me safely to Thy Eternal Kingdom, in Heaven. Amen.
O Blessed Virgin, intercede for me, and obtain for me the grace to keep this covenant with your Divine Son! To be faithful to it, all my days. Amen.
A Meditation for the Vigil of the Incoronation
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Often one encounters a problem, the solution to which is not easy to see, precisely because the understanding necessary to solve it can only be had by comprehending many causes and their interrelationships.
Take, for example, the problem of driving from home to a place you have never been. Before the invention of geo-mapping applications on cell-phones or portable GPS systems, as were very popular in cars just a few years ago, you had either to take counsel from someone who had been to your destination, or ask those along the road. If you knew how to read a map, you could also use that.
Such a problem, that is, of traveling to an unfamiliar destination, was so complex of a problem, that for ages there have every been those who would prefer never to go beyond the world they knew, even if that self imposed restriction kept them from visiting the town next to their home town.
A similar problem exists when one confronts the problem of the de-Christianization of civilization, and considers just what has happened to Western Civilization since the time of the rise of Nominalism in the 13th century, the Protestant Revolt of the 16th century and the French Revolution.
This cultural transformation has effected every aspect of human endeavor and self-expression, which as a collective are termed “culture” by material Anthropologists.
When I went to University back in the 80’s, as I was considering becoming a missionary, I was counseled to obtain a B. A. in Anthropology to enable me to understand the different cultures of the third world. While I never went to the third world, I learned much about the developments in the science of Anthropology which have lead to a greater understanding of the material aspects of human culture, in different world civilizations throughout the centuries.
While I found the materialism of my professors to be laughably ignorant, there were some observations which they made which, extracted from their de facto atheism, were valid objective considerations.
Being nearly 50 years of age, I have come to that point in my life where I am taking stock in the great panorama of experience and study I have had during my life, and considering more carefully just what this world, in which I live is about. Being a man whose faith is central to his heart and mind, I have sought in such considerations some clues about just what is fundamentally wrong with modern culture, and why it is that Christianity in the West, since the end of the Second World War, has so visibly and manifestly disintegrated, inasmuch as so many who call themselves “Christian” and so many institutions officially recognized by society as “Christian” have departed from fidelity to Christ Jesus and have abandoned their loyalty to Jesus Christ.
There are several aspects of what constitute a culture which make the culture itself incapable of being comprehended.
First of all, a culture is the entire ensemble or complex of human expression or achievements which are used by the human persons who live in that culture. A Culture, such as Western Civilization, is thus something too large to see all at once, and too extensive to experience fully by any single person who lives in that culture.
To that extent, a single culture is a kind of sea in which one has always swam, or land in which one has never left. For this reason, just as it is that one who always lives in the same town, but who never leaves to visit another, conceives his world more by the limitations he unconsciously has about what is important in the world, so one who lives within a culture and never considers the causes which brought it in to being or the paths along which it is wandering, lacks an objective basis upon which to base sound objective judgements about the value of such changes.
This lack of objective orientation leads necessarily to a certain sort of despair. Because the man who despairs of something that can be achieved, does so first of all because he no longer holds that it can be achieved. And just as the prejudice which holds that my town is so self sufficient for me, that I need never travel to another, leads a man to preclude the consideration of just where he is in the world, since he cares not to compare his town to another, and thus excludes himself from the experiences which would enable him to have the information necessary to make some such sort of judgment, so the man who lives immersed in a culture all of his life, necessarily accepts the changing values of that culture, when that culture changes.
Even those Westerners who attempt to gain some sort of objective conception of Western Civilization by means of traveling to other parts of the globe, so as to experience other cultures, never obtain a truly objective view of Western Culture, merely for the fact that all other cultures dispose a man, at the material level, to the same sort of “I am the center of the world” mentality. And thus every human culture en-captures and entraps the human individual in a psychological environment which enables and facilitates the acceptance of the values that culture propagates in food, dress, language, arts, sciences, social organization, etc.
The only truly objective view of a human culture, therefore, can come from some sort of knowledge or experience which descends from a level of being which is above and outside of every human culture. If man were but to have such knowledge and experience, then he would be able to form objectively sound and universally valid estimations of the value of any particular culture or of all human cultures.
For man, this is impossible; but for God all things are possible. And this great knowledge or wisdom which enables the human person to transcend the material aspects of the culture in which he lives was in fact given to man by God. It is called the Catholic Faith.
This is because the Catholic Faith is nothing other than the knowledge the Eternal Son of God has in Heaven, which He has made known to us, His disciples with absolute sincerity and veracity, just as He said, “All that I have from the Father I have made known to you!”
Any culture, then, which would take the Catholic Faith as its highest and most fundamental principle for development, would, thus, be objectively the best of cultures and the most human and humane of cultures. It would also be the culture capable of understanding what is good and evil in all cultures and how all cultures can progress to a greater and more morally upright way of life.
The Catholic Faith does this in 2 fundamental ways: by imparting to believers the knowledge of Divine and human truths, which man could either never know by his own powers of reason, or which man could only know with difficulty. In this first way, man has exact and authentic knowledge coming from His Creator about the origin and nature of this world, of himself, and the purpose both have in time and eternity. With such knowledge believers are capable of forging a new civilization which is founded on eternally valid truths, and thus to establish a stable way of life which can endure the vicissitudes of the ages, despite whatever the passing of time might bring.
The second way the Catholic Faith enables a truly better human civilization is that it gives us certain knowledge of moral truths whereby man can govern his relationships with other men and with nature itself, so that his society be a truly honest and just one.
A Catholic Civilization, therefore, is something valid for the ages, and the greatest boon for mankind, because it ensures in the fundamental values and manner of ordering society a stability, the only stability, that can weather the centuries of time and enable every person in that society, both believer and unbeliever alike, access and the benefits of the greatest common good: to believers the facility to live their faith, to unbelievers the facility to come to the faith; to both, a manner of life which is harmonious with the natural, moral and divine laws, upon which God Our Creator and Savior has established the universe.
Such a civilization by giving man true knowledge of the world and of himself, frees him from an infinite variety of errors which might deceive him about what constitutes authentic progress in society, science, art, religion, economics, etc.. It saves him from despair, when in the sufferings of life he is confronted with the seeming mysteries of suffering and death. It ennobles him to strive to ever be a being which is faithful to the spiritual values which mere animals can never appreciate.
In this way, Christ Jesus, not only merited the salvation of each and every human person who would ever live, He also, through the Apostles and Sacred Tradition, bequeathed to the human race a deposit of knowledge which would serve and can serve as the foundation of a human civilization which would be fit to be a dwelling for those called to eternal life.
This is the nature, the form, and the end of a Catholic Civilization.
However, when I consider the problems which have overwhelmed the West since the end of the Second World War, when applying this vision of Catholic Civilization, I see more clearly that many in the West are profoundly disoriented by a superficial consideration of their place in history, and limited by their all to facile reaction to certain challenges of their age.
The first consequence of this superficiality, is the loss of a proper sense of what constitutes human dignity, for we cannot lose the proper sense of where we are in history, unless we have first lost a proper sense of who we are. There is a widespread error that human dignity is by nature “sacred”. While it is true that the human life of a Baptized Catholic is sacred, in the sense that by means of Baptism that human life is consecrated to God as an adopted son of the Eternal Father, yet human life itself, before being Baptized is not sacred at all. In fact, in our conception we are conceived slaves of the Devil and are his property inasmuch as we are conceived in original sin and under the dominion of vice, sin and death.
If we say that all human life is sacred, we implicitly deny that the moral qualities of good and evil are the fundamental distinction between human persons, and thus are led to sacralize mere matter, without any consideration of its relation to God.
But matter is sanctified or consecrated only because it is made conform to God’s Will or dedicated to His service. And this requires the intervention of grace; nature of itself cannot achieve it. Therefore, if we were to take the oft-requoted phrase, “Human life is sacred”, in the strict literal sense, we would be lead into the error and heresy of Pelagius, the 4th century monk who believed the salvation and grace offered by Christ were helpful, but not necessary for human salvation.
We, Catholics, however, have always believed, and this truth resounds in the pages of the New Testament, that this world, by the sin of Adam, is a fallen world, and though by nature is good in the sense that God made it, morally speaking it has been turned to evil, inasmuch as it has been turned away from God.
Thus, for all those who believe in Christ, it is not only necessary to believe that He is Our Lord and Savior, but that we, sinners, were in need of salvation even before He came; and this, because of the original downfall of our race. If man’s problem was strictly personal, it would have been sufficient for Him to send us each an Angelic revelation; it would not have required the Incarnation and Crucifixion!
Man’s proper sense of where he is in history, then, is ontologically entwined with his origin, his One and Only Savior, and how he lives in accord with these. And just as this is true of the individual human being, so, consequently, it must be true of human society as a whole, since, in this case, the adage is true: the whole is the sum of its parts.
Hence, a true and just estimation of human cultures must contain and start upon the consideration of whether they are founded upon the truths of the Catholic Faith, obey the natural, moral and divine laws established by God, and live in an honest and morally upright manner in fidelity to these, for in this, the culture would be subordinated to the 3 great laws of the cosmos: The Divine Law, the Moral Law, and the Rule of the Faith.
A culture or society which stood in rebellion with any part of any one of these laws, then, would be doomed, for the mere fact that it was not in harmony with the Manufacturer’s instructions for humanity. Misused, man breaks; misconstructed, human society breaks apart.
From this point of view, we can see that there can be no toleration in principle of the validity of a culture or civilization which disagrees with any point of the Catholic Faith. While it is just as true that in practice we must tolerate in every human civilization something awry, that is, not in harmony with the Catholic Faith (for perfection in every aspect is only found in the Civilization of Heaven), this does not mean that we can become complacent with these deviations, or worse, devote our efforts to propagating what is incompatible with the Faith.
In this light, we have a theology of culture by which we can easily see that there is only a very limited reason for praising any human culture, and that the form of culture in which we live becomes less and less Christian the more and more it departs from basic Christian values and teachings.
For this reason, any effort or endeavor to promote the Faith must include a cultural aspect of implementing in human daily life, the truths of the Faith which are under attack or opposed by Godless forces in contemporary society.
Second, in any effort to promote the Faith we must be careful not to fall into the error of thinking that by employing errors or immoral practices we can succeed.
Third, we must take care not to react so quickly to problems, that our reactions themselves incorporate some of the errors of the Godless forces at work in our world today.
In a word, we must have a heart totally dedicated, out of love for Christ, to fidelity to Him; and thus, an intellect moved by love and faith, ever seeking the understanding we need to remain faithful. If we do this, we open the door to the possibility of becoming and remaining co-workers with Christ in the Church Militant, and merit His remembrance, at the hour of our death, in His Eternal Kingdom. Once opened, it remains only for us to step through.
The virtue of humility is the most difficult to recognize, because its manifestation is found more in what is absent than what is present.
This riddle of humility is what makes it difficult to practice. And for this reason, we should beseech the Mother of God, for grace and light to be humble. For this is a work we can accomplish, if God first grants us the grace to be such.
And, as in all virtues for common Christian life, we find a most wonderful example in the Blessed Virgin, our Heavenly Mother!
It is often said how exalted Our Blessed Mother was and is; or how many great things She accomplished, and how we should imitate Her in this, by being generous and noble-hearted. Indeed, this week, on the Feast of Her Incoronation in Heaven, we might be tempted to admire Her for having achieved so much, as if She exemplified the virtues of the career woman of today.
However, such a consideration is gravely lacking in one consideration. That Our Lady never took the initiative when grace had not first suggested the work. In fact, if you consider Our Lady’s life, you can find absolutely nothing, which She did without God’s grace leading. And this fundamental spirituality of the Blessed Virgin is evident in Her own self-recognition as the “handmaid of the Lord.”
A handmaid is a servant who waits upon the beck an call of her Lord; doing only what He asks, and remaining in waiting for His next command.
This is the greatest humility of a servant of God; to serve God, rather than using the service of God to promote oneself and one’s own interests.
Oh how many priests and religious and laymen and woman have undertaken great apostolates, for the sake of vanity. Some even deceiving themselves that, so long as good works were being done, God was pleased.
This is simply not true. It is true, that good works in helping others to please, know, love and serve God better, do please God in themselves, that is considered as actions. But it is not true that a good work done for vainglory or out of presumption, is in the person doing it, something pleasing to God. It may even be hateful.
This is the chief explanation for all the scandals in the Church; undertaken many times by priests or religious or laity, who began doing good works, and seemed to be holy; but were doing their own will. Even a holy priest, religious, or layman, can often err in this regard, and fall from God’s grace.
Oh! Let us beseech the Blessed Virgin to be spared from such a horrible temptation and fate! So difficult to recognize!
The great evil of pride and vainglory, when they undertake good works, is that the sinner finds himself unable to detach himself, and becomes a slave to pride and vainglory, in doing good works! How many priests, to whom God gave the grace to covert souls, lose their own souls, because they do this, not for God’s glory, but their own! How many religious, to whom God gave the grace of an austere and zealous vocation, lose their own souls, because they do this, not for God’s glory, but their own! How many laymen and women, to whom God gave the grace to be devout Catholics, lose their own souls, because all they did, or most of what they did, they did not for God’s glory, but their own!
Yes, we can misuse God’s gifts, graces, virtues, carisms, even our own vocation, to damn ourselves in a way we cannot even recognize, without a special grace!
How shall we be delivered by such a subtle and treacherous temptation?
Let us contemplate the Blessed Virgin more, and let us consider Her virtue of Humility.
Our Lady waited for the Lord. She did not undertake good works which impinged upon the fundamental duty of the Christian life: the observance of God’s commandments and the pursuit of virtue. She had a delicate sense of Her own state, and recognized that if God did not take the first step by giving Her the grace to do a good work, or suggest it; it was humble to not presume that one should do it.
Such a spirit protects the soul from attachments not only to good works, and seeming virtues, but to a self-consideration, which is founded upon great pride, namely that “I am able to do a meritorious work, simply because I will it!”
No, we are not able to do anything of the kind. God’s graces and virtues and inspirations are gifts, we do not deserve them, let alone merit them by the mere fact that we have received other gifts. Inspirations, especially, which are actual graces, we do not deserve, even if we have been faithful. And if we have not been faithful, it is an even more horrible sin of presumption to believe that we do deserve them.
None of this leads to the error of Quietism, which held that one should eschew all acts of virtue and charity, and merely seek to be passive before God. No, rather, we see in the example of Our Lady at the Annunciation, that when God sent His messenger, Our Lady responds, first with a question, second with humble submission, third with zealous charity in response to the knowledge divinely communicated, that her cousin was in need.
Indeed, it is not presumption if God by His grace and angels should enlighten us to know the needs of others; nor is it presumption to help others, when their grave necessity is manifest readily to us.
But it is presumptuous to make of good works a sort of career, so that one seeks to be the “best” in such a good work, or “famous” in doing it, or to earn gainful employment thereby, as if good works are a sort of material for economic activity, or career building.
We are nothing, but God’s servants. And as St. Francis reminds us, “One is in the sight of God that which he is, and nothing more!”
We can detect this most subtle temptation to do good works for which we are not called, by the disturbance it causes in our soul; which disturbance promotes pride, vainglory, impatience with others, unjust anger, accusations, negative comparisons of others, criticisms, detraction, back biting, murmuring and calumnies.
If we have some humility, we ought to fear such sins and vices; and protect ourselves by asking our neighbors and friends, if they think our good works are stained with such and the like, since others can see our faults better than we can.
For this reason we read of nothing in the life of the Blessed Virgin, which She did on her own initiative; but that everything was done by obedience to God, or to her human superiors; and when having fulfilled these, She took refuge immediately in solitude and prayer, to await God’s word regarding Her next service to be rendered.
Let us strive to imitate Our Blessed Mother in this simple humility, which is easy to practice. And let us, each one, beseech Her to forgive all of us for our pride, vainglory and presumption in doing good works, God has not asked us to do.
At the same time let us take note that when we take the initiative and do not wait for God’s grace, we will very quickly be led to violate some virtue such as obedience, duty, or propriety; and that our works will have no lasting spiritual effect.
For example, if we take the initiative to do some good work, without considering whether our present duties and state of life allow us to undertake it, without neglecting them, we will often find that the attraction of doing some good work leads us to neglect our fundamental duties.
How often, for example, does one encounter a layman or lay woman, married, who is so engaged in good works outside of his or her home, that his or her children lack proper discipline, affection, and care?
Or how often does one encounter a religious, who has become so famous in one apostolate, that the apostolate becomes a cult of personality, rather than a work for the Lord!
On the other hand, if God does inspire or suggest a good work, it will always past the “test”, as one recognized by these characteristics:
1) Its suggestion is peaceful, and does not stir up our pride, vanity or presumption.
2) Its accomplishment does not require us to omit the duties of our state in life.
3) Its fulfillment will not put us in occasions of sins of impurity, or of some other dominant vice in to which sins we have habitually fallen.
4) The good work when done will bring effects, of conversion to the wicked or ignorant, and sweetness and consolation of spirit to the faithful.
5) Virtues will increase with the work done and by its merit God will lead us to other works profitable to Our Soul.
Contrariwise, when peace, virtue, humility, and Christian concord and harmony are lost among God’s faithful, in doing a good work, we probably have done it on our own initiative, and not by God’s grace.
May Our Lady deliver us from such an evil, and teach us Her humility!
The last Sunday of every August, the Catholics of Noto, Sicily, celebrate a devotional feast in honor of San Corrado of Noto, a hermit and member of the Third Order of St. Francis, who lived in the 13th century.
During my stay at the Santuario della Madonna della Scala (2010-2011) I had the grace to attend several processions in the Saints honor.
San Corrado is little known even in the Order, but he is a powerful saint, who still works miracles for his faithful; appears to them, gives them counsel, and inspires them to seek first the Kingdom of God.
The photo, above, I took, during the procession to the grotto of San Corrado, in the summer of 2010. The silver beaten Ark, contains the relics of the Saint: his bones, beard, and some of his clothing.
I will be eternally grateful to God, that in December of 2010, the Bishop of Noto, by decree, granted me the status of a hermit in the diocese, the first such recognition of hermit since about the time of Napoleon, though others have lived in the diocese without official recognition. I obtained this favor, I believe, through the intercession of St. Corrado, from whom I specifically asked it, when I first wrote the Bishop of Noto.
Here are some more photos: First, the Bearers of St. Corrado bearing the saint’s Ark, in the piazza in front of his ancient Hermitage.
Second, the Facade of the Church of San Corrado, at the Hermitage, just outside Noto:
Next, the bearers carrying the Ark along the narrow path leading up to the Church:
Next, the Ark is borne in procession at Night time, in the City of Noto, on his feast day, and on the Last Sunday of August (here seen in 2010):
Per quelli che leggono Italiano, una breve biografia del Santo.