A joyfully Franciscan view of Catholic life, inspired by St. Clare (Santa Chiara) of Assisi!

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Chiara Offreduccio (St. Clare) was born in 1194. It is said that when her mother had Chiara in her womb, an angel appeared to her and said, "your child will be a light that will illuminate the world!" Hence, her mother named the child Chiara, which means "light. As G.K. Chesterton put it, St. Clare was a romantic figure just like Juliet was. However, instead of running away from her family in order to be with an earthly man, Clare gave up everything and ran away from her family for the love of her Savior!

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Dominican Habit: Style and Symbolism

Ever been to a wedding, black-tie gala, or other occasion where everyone is supposed to wear only black and white? Despite the pain of having to shop for a dress in one or both of those colors, the end result is that everyone looks fabulously chic. Similarly, when I visited the public chapel of Our Lady of Grace Monastery of Dominican Nuns in North Guilford, CT last summer, the nuns there looked beautiful. So do the Nashville and Ann Arbor Dominican Sisters that I’ve seen during the course of my travels.

Aesthetics were one of the ideas that St. Dominic had in mind when he designed the habit for the Order of Preachers and the Dominican nuns. He also had in mind a beautiful and prayerful symbolism surrounding the black and white habit. For instance, one of the goals of Dominic’s Order was to reconcile seemingly contradictory philosophies and Gnostic heresies with Catholicism. Hence, the black and white of the habit represents the reconciliation of apparent opposites in a greater unity.

One of the salient features of the Dominican habit is the black cape, or “cappa,” that surrounds the basic white habit. The black color of the cappa is why the Dominicans are traditionally known as the “Blackfriars” and symbolize a spirit of repentance. Dominicans traditionally wear the cappa all during Lent, and take it off during the Easter Vigil - symbolizing the shaking off of death during the glorious Resurrection!

The following text is taken from the West Coast Dominican Friars’ website and features prayers that are said when putting on the habit. These prayers should give you a good idea of what the different parts of the Dominican habit symbolize. Keep in mind that the friars’ habits are very similar to the nuns’ habits. In lieu of a hood, the nuns wear a long veil. The veil is white for novices and black for fully professed Dominican nuns. Most of the nuns don’t wear wimples anymore, but the veil fits over the head kind of like a headband.

Below are the prayers. It might help to refer to the website so you can also look at the picture of the friars’ habit along with the text.

Tunic- Clothe me, O Lord, with the garments of salvation. By Your grace may I keep them pure and spotless, so that clothed in white, I may be worthy to walk with You in the kingdom of God. Amen.

Cincture & Rosary- (The Cinture is the leather belt worn around the waist)-Gird me, O Lord, with the cincture of justice and the cord of purity that I may unite the many affections of my heart in the love of You alone. Amen.

Scapular- (The scapular is the long white panel worn down the front of the tunic)-Show thyself a Mother; may the Word Divine, born for us an infant, hear my prayers through thine. Amen.

Capuce- (The Capuce is the little white capelet that the nuns/friars wear over their shoulders)- Lord, You have set Your sign upon my head that I should admit no lover but You. Amen.

Now before I start a Catholic urban legend, I’d like to say that this is simply hearsay and that I had heard this from a friend of a friend a couple of years ago….This person told me that when the Dominican Sisters were redesigning their veil so that they could drive more safely and still see the road, the international designer Armani offered to take on the redesigning project! Could someone who knows more about the Dominicans verify whether or not this is true? If it is, it simply goes to show how stylish the Dominicans are!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Benedictine "Little Black Habit"

Thank you all for the kind comments on my Colette/Joseph posts! And now…we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming on the history of nuns’ habits!

It could be said that St. Scholastica was to nuns’ habits as to what Coco Chanel was to women’s fashion. Perhaps the beautiful, slimming black habit of the Benedictine nuns was Coco Chanel’s inspiration for the perennial “little black dress!”

Here is a brief overview of the Benedictine habit for both the monks and the nuns that I put together with help from this site:

Description and Use:

With slight modifications of shape in some congregations, the traditional monastic habit of the Benedictines consists of a tunic, confined at the waist by a belt of leather or of cloth; a scapular, originally a work apron, the width of the shoulders, that reaches somewhere between the knees and the hem of the tunic; and a hood (men) or wimple and veil (women) to cover the head. In choir, at chapter, and at certain other ceremonial times, a full, often pleated, gown with long, wide sleeves, called a "cowl" or "cuculla," may be worn by the finally professed over the ordinary habit. The word cuculla comes from the Greek word, koukoulion, for the great habit allowed to be worn after final profession of monastic vows.

The color of the habit is not specified in the Rule of St. Benedict, but it is conjectured that the earliest Benedictines wore white or grey, as being the natural colour of undyed wool. For many centuries, however, black has been the prevailing color, hence the term "Black Monk" has come to signify a Benedictine.

Insofar as the symbolism, many think that Benedict and Scholastica chose black as a reference to mourning. However, it is also probable that they chose black simply because the color was “en vogue” for Roman nobility at the time (from whence Benedict and Scholastica came). It looks like Benedictines were fashion-forward ever since the Order’s founding!

Benedictines also are big shoe fans, like many of us women in the world! The Rule specifically allows for stockings and light footwear for indoors. In fact, Benedictines traditionally received new shoes on the Feast of Michaelmas (celebrated September 29).

Don’t forget the “accessories”! On the day of their final profession, it is a tradition for many European Benedictine nuns to wear a beautiful silver crown over their veils. Abbesses typically wear a large cross pendant at their necks, and some of the choir nuns do too. They also wear beautiful Benedictine 20-decade rosaries at their waists as a constant reminder their Our Lady is always looking out for them.

Just look at the above pictures, and you will see that a woman certainly doesn’t have to check her fashion sense at the door of the cloister. She simply trades in her “little black dress” for a “little black habit”!

If there are any fashionistas reading this blog right now and smiling at what you’ve just read, please check out some of these awesome Benedictine monasteries. You never know what Jesus might have in store for you someday!

Monday, March 19, 2007

THE FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH: No "Ordinary Joe"

I’ve never been much of a birthday person. I’m the kind of person that remembers my friend’s Saint days, but forgets their birthdays. In the past, I’ve even forgotten my own birthday! Fortunately, I won’t be forgetting my own birthday anymore since I’ve developed a huge devotion to St. Joseph this past year, thanks to the beautiful Nativity Story film. You see, in the past I always took it for granted how God chose for me to have been born on St. Joseph’s Feast Day…I guess it’s because I always considered him an “Ordinary Joe” type of Saint. However, I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly why Joseph is such a wonderful Saint- because he willingly chose to be ordinary.

In the movie and even in scripture, it is suggested that before the angel told him to stay betrothed to Mary, Joseph sought a life of honor. Indeed, that is something that I have been struggling with in my own life- I have always sought a life full of honor and praise, even if it be for merits which are good in their own right. However, God had another path for Joseph. God wanted to draw out Joseph’s humility and self-sacrifice by having him wed Mary. Furthermore, perhaps it must have been frustrating for Joseph to be the only member of the Holy Family who could have been tempted by sin, since Mary and Jesus were both incapable of sin. However, Joseph showed to his family and to God that he could to extraordinary things with his “ordinariness” by simply being self-sacrificing, humble, prayerful, kind, etc. After all, Our Lord must have learned many of his human virtues from Joseph!

Thank you, St. Joseph, for being my “extraordinary” intercessor in heaven! I love you, and Happy Feast Day!

An Ancient Prayer to Saint Joseph
O ST. JOSEPH, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that, having engaged here below thy heavenly power, I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.
O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.
St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for me.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Joseph Countdown: Devotions to Joseph

We do not praise the Saints merely for the sake of praising them; as St. Bernard says, they are so full of Heaven's gifts that our poor praises can scarcely add anything to their glory. We praise them in order to admire them; we admire them in order to love them; we love them in order to serve them; we serve them in order to imitate them; and by imitating them we gain their favor, and merit to have them as protectors in heaven. It is glorious for St. joseph to be so great, but what do we gain by his greatness if he does not share it with us, if he be not our advocate on high? Now he is willing to be of service to us if we show ourselves worthy, if we render him some poor service, and offer him really heart-felt homage. In addition to honoring with a web page, a statue of him in our homes and praying novenas, all efficacious practices, there are a number of other pious devotions we can use to pay him homage and ask for favors:

First Devotion-----The best devotion to Saint Joseph is to imitate his virtues, to model your actions on his, and to act as he acted. He and Our Lady will accept your feeble efforts and help you, and God will give you His blessing.

Second Devotion-----Say attentively each day a short prayer in honor of Saint Joseph, or an aspiration or two, with all of your heart. As with the Golden Hail Mary, it is better to say one brief prayer or aspiration with utter devotion and from the heart than a long prayer distractedly.

Third Devotion-----From time to time consecrate an entire week to the glorious St. Joseph, that he may offer all you do to Mary, to Jesus, to the Most Holy Trinity, and that he may dispose, according to his pleasure, all the fruits of your good works.

Fourth Devotion-----Choose 7 titles of honor, one for each day of the week, by which to pay homage to this great Saint, and vary your devotion. Some major titles are:
Most Chaste Spouse of Our Lady, Foster Father of the Savior, Model of Virginity and Chastity, Most Favored of Patriarchs, Governor of Jesus and Mary, Guardian of the Infant Jesus, Patron of the Dying, Patron of the Church, Patron of Laborers, Head of the Holy Family, and Distributor of the Treasures of the Messiah.

Fifth Devotion-----For the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, do not be satisfied with one day, which is not enough for the honor of so great and holy a Patron, but celebrate the entire octave, that is the Feast day and the week following. Each day attend Mass or communicate to heaven your honor for him in your own words; give alms in his name; better still, if you can do all of these, he will render it to you a hundredfold in Heaven.

Sixth Devotion-----Imitate those who every Wednesday, in honor of St. Joseph, either attend Mass or cause a Mass to be said, which they attend. If you have the financial means make a perpetual foundation for Masses, so that until the end of the world, God may be glorified by your means.

Seventh Devotion-----Try to win others to the devotion of St. Joseph; speak often of him, more from the heart than from mere lips. A celebrated preacher was wonderfully consoled at the hour of his death, when Our Lady appeared to him to tell him that she came to assist him, because of his holy practice of relating inspiring stories of her spouse in each of his sermons.

Eighth Devotion-----Always have in your oratory, or upon your heart, the picture of this great and amiable Saint. You can purchase a set of note cards as listed above, and have a color copy center enlarge one for you and then you can frame it and make a little shrine or oratory in your home. This particular image photocopies very well. This is only a suggestion, as you can purchase easily a lovely image of St. Joseph at most Catholic shops. There in your little shrine lay all your troubles at his feet; speak familiarly as if he were present; that is why we use images of the Saints, they help us recall their personality to us and draw us to them in Heaven. Take St. Joseph as your advocate in every necessity and at the hour of death.

Ninth Devotion-----When you receive Holy Communion, unite yourself spiritually to Our Lady and St. Joseph, and, with them, keep the Child Jesus company, as they did when they carried Him to the temple to present Him to His Father. You heart is then the true temple of the Lord. Say to him lovingly that today the Feast of the Presentation is celebrated in your soul; and that should Mary and St. Joseph desire to ransom the Divine Child, tell them that he has been given to you by God the Father, that they themselves are the two doves whom you demand for the ransom of Jesus, and that you will be contented with none else.

Tenth Devotion-----Never did anyone venerate St. Joseph with more devotion and honor than the Holy Virgin. She considered him as her lord spouse, as the foster father of Jesus, as the most holy man on earth, as the master who had been given to her by god Himself. In sickness and in health, she served him with the greatest tenderness. Imitate her as far as you can, and beg her to teach you true devotion to her holy spouse.

Eleventh Devotion-----Make an irrevocable contract in presence of the Celestial Court, and under the eyes of the august and adorable Trinity. Give to Mary and to Joseph your body, your soul, your heart, your entire self, and then say, with St. Catherine of Siena:
'Now I recommend to you your heart, and your poor servant. I no longer belong to myself, but to both of you. I ask but one thing of you: keep what belongs to you; never permit me to take it back from your blessed hands. This is my irrevocable resolution, for all eternity to belong entirely to Jesus, to Mary, and to Joseph, and I renounce, as far as it is possible for me to do so, all power of ever revoking this promise.'

Twelfth Devotion-----The gift of yourself is unquestionably more desirable and agreeable to Mary and Joseph than aught else; yet if God has granted you means, dedicate to them a more or less considerable share of what you possess. A great Saint, who, after having been patrician and consul, shed his blood for Jesus Christ, employed his immense riches in solacing the sick and the poor, serving them with his own hands. Now, while the memory of Roman emperors is held in affection by no one, the name of this holy man is not forgotten, and his memory is held in benediction on earth, and still more in Heaven. Do you similar acts of charity in honor of St. Joseph.

Thirteenth Devotion-----There have been, noble and wealthy persons who have erected churches or chapels in honor of the spouse of Mary, with a privileged altar for the solace of the Souls in Purgatory.

Fourteenth Devotion-----Undertake the maintenance of a young scholar, in the hope that he may one day become a good Priest, or holy Religious; or help a poor girl in honor of St. Joseph. This devotion is most pleasing to him, for its effects are real, and its results solid and lasting.
This kind of devotion deserves to be iillustrated by some example. The mayor of a village in France, to whom God had not granted children, proposed to his wife that they should bring up two orphan boys in their house. After a time he placed them first in a college, and later in the diocesan seminary, and both became Priests. A lady. whose fortune was not large, nevertheless managed constantly to maintain either a student in the seminary, or a young Religious in the novitiate of missionaries. In a country not far from France, a man of high rank, but whose fortune neither equalled his position nor the generosity of his disposition, had saved a sum of 600 francs for a journey of recreation. On the point of setting out he heard that a young girl was in danger of losing her innocence and her soul, if se could not procure a dowry of at least 600 francs. The dowry was at once paid, and the proposed excursion given up.

Fifteenth Devotion-----The Chancellor of Paris was very devout and very ingenious in his devotion. In his old age he was most assiduous in teaching the children of Lyons the Catechism, and at the end of each lesson he made those little innocents pray, 'My God, my Creator, be merciful to your poor servant John Gerson!' Their voices brought tears to the eyes of all who heard them, and drew down the mercies of God upon this virtuous man, who died a holy death Do you then, in a similar manner, unite your heart with all those hearts who love St. Joseph; unite your voice and your affections with those of all the Saints in Paradise, of all the just upon earth, of all the holy Souls in Purgatory, and say to God, to Our Lady, and to St. Joseph, that you approve of all that others do and say in their honor; that were it in your power to do as much as they together do, you would assuredly do it with all your heart, and with all your strength. Thank all the Saints for the homage they pay to this great Patriarch, entreat them to redouble their praises, insofar as the laws of Heaven and the decrees of Divine Providence permit them. As you cannot take part in their canticles, beg at least to be their echo, and tell them you ratify whatever they do and have done in honor of St. Joseph.

Sixteenth Devotion-----The last devotion which I propose to you is the avowal of your own insufficiency. It seems to me that St. Joseph, contemplating the Incarnate Word in the lowly house of Nazareth, must often have said in his heart: 'I adhere to all that my spouse says; I unite myself with all that she does; I take part in all her desires. I do not speak myself: but I hope that, as I agree with all that she thinks well to say, Jesus will approve of my silence. She and I are one in heart; she says all; I say nothing except through her mouth and her heart.' Reader, do the same; repeat to Our Lady that you approve and ratify all she says and does in honor of her spouse. and that you thank her for all a thousand times. Add that it is not the want of cordial affection which makes you silent, but rather its excess, because you can find no words to express it, and your tongue cannot keep pace with your feelings. Say that since St. Joseph by his silence has said as much as, and more than all others, you desire to imitate him.
St. John tells us that when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal of the mysterious book mentioned in the Apocalypse, there was silence in Heaven, as it were, for half an hour; all the Saints were as if entranced, and could do nothing but admire the infinite majesty of God. So may you also do. Tell St. Joseph that, while others do wonderful things, your part must be to humble yourself, and acknowledge your own nothingness; while they offer their love, you can but offer nothingness and abjection, and acknowledge yourself incapable and unworthy of speaking. Fear not to imitate St. Augustine and other Saints who complained of God to God Himself, in some such terms as these: ' Thou commandest me to love Thee, O God most worthy of love; why, then, hast Thou given me such a poor and narrow heart? Why art Thou so great and I so little? The object being infinite, should not the heart and love be infinite also r Then you may continue: 'Thou hast made St. Joseph so great; Thou inspirest me with the ardent desire to love him, and yet Thou seest how incapable I am of doing anything worthy of Thee or of him. Assist my weakness, I beseech Thee, O Lord! I desire to do what is right, but I have not the power. Give me the power to do more. At any rate, be satisfied to see one who desires more than he is able to perform, who would fain do all that can be done by all men and all Saints, so as to honor Thee in the great things Thou hast done to St. Joseph.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"The Nativity Story's" St. Joseph's Day DVD Release!

Wow! I am very pleasantly surprised at how The Nativity Story is coming to DVD the day after St. Joseph’s Day, since I thought that the mainstream media was completely oblivious to Catholic Feast Days! That is, St. Joseph’s Day is March 19th, and The Nativity Story will be in stores on March 20th.

Needless to say, I probably wouldn’t be writing these series of “St. Joseph Countdown” posts had it not been for this movie. The film deeply delves into the characters of St. Joseph and Our Lady as they struggle to accept God’s plan for both of them. This movie paints a very three dimensional portrait of St. Joseph, which was a wonderful supplement to the Gospel’s portrayal of him. His sacrificing demeanor is nothing less than Saintly….yet he is stubborn, initially irascible, and altogether very human. In a word, the film caused me to “fall in love” with him and truly appreciate how God chose for me to be born on St. Joseph’s Feast Day! For a more in-depth look at how the movie impacted me, read this blogpost from December.

It’s too bad that it comes out on DVD one day after the Feast Day! I had given up watching TV and movies for Lent, with the exception of Sundays and Feast Days. For those of you who are “allowed” to watch movies, go and take advantage of those 99-cent Tuesdays at the video stores and rent The Nativity Story!

St. Joseph Countdown: Joseph's Purity

I hope you've enjoyed reading the excerpts from Pere Binet's little book about St. Joseph! Special thanks to those who manage that beautiful online "shrine" to St. Joseph. This will be the last post that I will copy and paste and excerpt from the book, since you all can read the rest of it online here. However, I did want to post a particularly beautiful chapter on the "eminent graces of Joseph's soul." I especially love how Binet draws to our attention Joseph's virginity. Without mentioning any specifics, there have been dubious claims all over the media (St. Clare, Patroness of TV, pray for us!) stating that Our Lord had biological brothers and sisters. Thus, it's especially important to reiterate once again that Our Lady and also St. Joseph were perpetual virgins, as Binet points out in this reflection.

Binet also emphasizes the purity of Joseph's soul. Let us remember that we should always turn to St. Joseph when we are struggling against temptations that lead us towards bodily impurity....I'm sure things got quite frustrating for him at times, yet somehow God gave him the grace to remain pure in spirit, mind, and body throughout his entire life! To that end, here is a special prayer to say to St. Joseph when struggling against bodily temptations:

Saint Joseph, Guardian of virgins and father, to whose faithful care Christ Jesus, innocence itself, and Mary, Virgin of virgins, were entrusted, I ask and beg of thee, through these two dearest pledges, Jesus and Mary, preserve me from all defilement, and make it always possible for me unsullied in mind, pure in heart, and chaste in body to give to Jesus and Mary my holiest service. Amen.


ALL natural gifts are not to be compared in value to the value of one supernatural grace. What must then be the wealth of St. Joseph's soul! The graces without number which he received from Divine generosity are so stupendous that our feeble minds are unable to comprehend them, and it seems to me not to be one of the least glories of Our Lady to have had as spouse a man whom the hand of the Almighty had endowed with every virtue. For my part, I desire to lose myself in the incomprehensible grandeur of this great Saint, and after I have said all that can be said, to confess humbly that I have said nothing. For if it be true, as I have already established, that God apportions His gifts in proportion to the offices He imposes on man, so that he may support them with dignity, St. Joseph must have received such a prodigious abundance of Heavenly graces that we cannot contemplate them without holy fear. We shall now return to what we briefly alluded to in the first chapters, and shall derive there----from conclusions very glorious for our Saint.

I. St. Joseph, Virgin. In the first place, he was a virgin, so much that his virginal purity yielded in brilliancy and merit to that of the Queen of Virgins alone. What supreme graces he must have received to preserve this angelical virtue in an age which despised virginity, and to guard this delicate lily without the slightest taint or stain on its brilliant whiteness! According to the holy Fathers, he that preserves intact the treasure of virginity ranks higher than the Angels. To what a degree of holiness must not St. Joseph have attained, who was the first to preserve it in the state of marriage, and preserved it with such fidelity!

II. St. Joseph, guardian angel of Mary. Secondly, Joseph was chosen from all eternity to be the visible guardian angel of the virginity of Our Lady. Must not, then, his soul have been armed with every virtue, and fortified by every assistance necessary for such a noble and admirable office? Consider what manner of man Joseph is! The Angels and Saints are only the servants of the glorious Virgin, while he is her guardian angel and her spouse. This title, to which we now only allude in passing, is far beyond the comprehension of our feeble intelligence for, husband and wife being but one heart and one soul, what must be the sovereign dignity of a man who, so to speak, is one with the most holy Mother of the living God!

St. Bernardin of Siena has boldly grasped this thought. He says that as the virginal marriage of Mary and Joseph consisted in the union of their wills, the friendship of their hearts, and the love of their souls increased to such a degree that there never were two hearts more completely identified, two souls more dissolved into one, and he adds that the Holy Spirit would never have formed this union without rendering the husband perfectly similar to the wife. It was beseeming that the likeness of these two suns should be so striking, that it would be difficult to distinguish one from the other. On one hand, the holiness of Our Lady outshines the holiness of all creatures; on the other hand, the holiness of Joseph is entirely alike the holiness of Mary. Later on we shall treat this subject more at length.

III. St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus. Let us dwell a little on this title, "guardian of Jesus," so as to understand the eminence of St. Joseph's dignity. The learned and pious Rupert, of the Order of St. Benedict, says Jacob's ladder is a figure of the genealogy of Jesus Christ: the different steps being the patriarchs, the kings, the princes, his ancestors, and the upmost step being St. Joseph, who stands with open arms to receive and embrace the Infant Messias, the Divine pupil, to Whom he must serve as guardian and father. To understand the importance of this office we must remember the words of St. Paul: "As long as the heir is a child he differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father." Meanwhile his possessions and his person are disposed of without consulting him, and when the time of his majority arrives the master ratifies all, as if it had been done by himself.

Oh, reader, can you imagine such pre-eminence as that of St. Joseph? Our Lord said: "Blessed is the faithful and wise servant, for the Lord will place him over all His goods." What power: to have everything in his hands; to be accountable to no one! I wish I were equal to the task of treating this sublime subject and showing the significance of these words: "He has placed him over all His goods?" He is general administrator of all the goods of the Incarnate Word, with full power to distribute them to whom and when he pleases. Nay, as governor of His person, he can give God Himself to whom he pleases! Is not this to be exalted above men and Angels, and even, to a certain extent, above God Himself?

Consider now what follows from this with regard to the sanctity of Joseph. Since it was in his power to distribute the goods of Jesus to whom he would, can you doubt that he took for himself an abundance of all that was most precious?

When the Savior traversed the towns and villages of Judea, it sufficed to touch the hem of His garment in order to receive signal graces. My God, my Creator, with what innumerable graces must not Joseph have been enriched from the heart of the Divine Child, Whom he carried so often in his arms, lavishing on Him his kisses and caresses! When Jesus slept on the breast of the holy Patriarch, can you doubt that He communicated to him the sweetest and most ineffable graces? Perhaps He went to sleep in his arms, with the intention, while reposing on his breast, to communicate to him His favors, and to crown him with His mercies. If it be Paradise to contemplate the Eternal and Uncreated Word in the bosom of His father, is it not likewise Paradise to see the Word made flesh, now on the virginal bosom of Mary His mother, and now in the arms of His foster-father Joseph?

IV. Joseph living in the company of Jesus and Mary. Lastly, I say, that St. Joseph, true mirror of virginal purity, guardian angel of Our Lady, and protector of Jesus Christ, had the incomparable happiness of living, according to the general belief, twenty-five years in their sweet and holy company, and of having constantly before his eyes these models of perfection.

From all parts of the Christian world the pious faithful travel to St. Mary Major in Rome, to Loretto, to Montserrat, and other places of pilgrimage, where it pleases God to manifest the goodness and the power of His most holy Mother. These pious pilgrims feel the greatest confidence. They do not doubt that, praying humbly before the picture of Mary, painted by St. Luke, or before other images of Our Lady, honored in these sanctuaries, they will obtain all they ask for. But the chapel of Loretto was the house and ordinary habitation of Joseph, who needed not to make pilgrimages, or to seek for pictures and copies, having the original continually before his eyes. There he conversed sweetly with Mary, and recommended himself to her holy prayers. There she, who never rejects the least of her servants, certainly denied nothing to him. Think of what blessings the presence of such a spouse must have imparted to the heart of Joseph: while she looked at him, inflaming him with the kindling rays of her burning charity; while her blessed lips addressed him with words that might have entranced the hearts of men and of Angels, nay, of God Himself. As the devout pilgrim never fails to find Jesus in the sanctuaries of Mary; so, in the house of Nazareth, Joseph had Jesus always present with Mary, and saw, with his eyes, the Divine Child grow in age, in wisdom, and in grace, before God and men.

Who can describe what superabundance of divine blessings inundated the soul of this incomparable Saint! He, too, every day, and every moment, grew in grace and in virtue, enjoying without interruption what we may call the beatific vision, never ceasing to see God, and to be seen by Him. To see God, and to be regarded by Him cannot fail to produce a blessing, can never be without fruit. The burning rays of the sun gild all that is exposed to them; Jesus Christ, the sun of Paradise, Our Lady, the star of the Church, were as the planets which favored Joseph with their beneficent aspect, the sacred channels through which God the Father exerted His influence; how, then, could the soul of the great Patriarch fail to be illuminated with the splendors of the Saints, to overflow with the treasures of Divinity?

In ancient times, had one asked why a mine of, gold or silver was to be found in one place, pearls and diamonds in others; here, flowers of exquisite beauty, and there, fragrant balm; the answer would have been given, without more research, that a secret influence from heaven smiled upon that favored land Now, the eyes of the Eternal Father were ever resting on St. Joseph; the Holy Spirit was continually abiding in his soul; Jesus Christ regarded him with the love of a son; Our Lady's affection for him was unbounded; the Angels were devoted to him. How is it possible to imagine or describe the graces of this heart, the Heavenly blessings in the most pure soul of this peerless man?

Our Lord has said that if anyone love Him, he will be loved by the Father, and that both will come and make their abode in the breast of that man. Never was this promise verified more completely than in the innocent heart of Joseph, who, besides the general love common to all the servants of Jesus Christ, enjoyed the special love due to a guardian, a governor, a master, and a father.

Great were also the graces which Joseph derived from his constant communion with his most holy spouse. His eyes were always directed towards her and Jesus, studying their conduct, imitating, so to speak, their every action. He treasured up in his heart all the eminent perfections which he observed in theirs. Open the heart of Joseph, and you will find therein the faithful copies, the perfect imitations of the sublime virtues of his adopted son Jesus, and of his blessed spouse Mary. The hands of those who always work with balm become as odoriferous as if they themselves were made of balm.

I wish I could give as a fact what I have read in certain ancient authors, that nature has formed diamonds which, when exposed to the sun, emit rays so piercing, that they have the virtue of changing a piece of crystal into a diamond nearly as precious as themselves. Yet that which, in the order of nature, is but fiction, is found to be true in the order of grace. Joseph, pure as crystal, and constantly exposed to the rays emanating from Jesus and Mary, was as if transformed into a most excellent copy of the celestial beauties of both. O ineffable transformation! O new trinity of persons, and unity of hearts! Pardon me, great and amiable Saint, if I dare to speak of what is inexpressible; if I attempt to develop a part of your greatness. Enlighten my mind, fortify my heart, that I may proceed with a firm and unerring step on the path of thy praises.

St. Joseph Countdown: Titles of St. Joseph

IF one may judge of the greatness of the Saints by the importance of the charges confided to them, St. Joseph must indeed be marvelously great. St. Peter and St. Paul in their epistles to the first Christians, claim only two titles, those of servants and apostles of Jesus Christ, as being sufficient to prove the excellence of their vocation. St. John Chrysostom agrees with them, this double title being, according to him, more excellent than that of monarch of the whole earth. Now, St. Joseph has many very high titles, and held glorious offices for which he received from God special graces. I shall only allude shortly to some of these privileges.

1. He was the worthy spouse of Our Lady, if indeed any spouse could be worthy of her; for the Holy Trinity in designing him for such an honor, endowed him with all the qualities necessary for bearing that name with dignity and propriety. And as this glorious title is, so to speak, the original source or root from which proceeded all the glories of St. Joseph, St. Matthew considered he could say nothing higher of him than call him Spouse of Mary.

2. He was the supposed father of Jesus Christ, and Our Lady did not hesitate to give him this title; thus when she found the Child Jesus in the temple. she said to Him: "Thy father and I have sought Thee sorrowing."

3. He was the representative of God the Father, Who, in communicating to him the honor of paternity to the Incarnate Word, willed that he should call Him by the name of Son, a name which He alone gives in Heaven to the Uncreated Word. Thus God Who formerly had said He would give His glory to no one, now, by an exceptional favor communicates, in a manner, to a mortal that paternity which is the special glory of the Eternal Father. What is still more, God, according to St. John Damascene and St. Bernard, in giving to Joseph the name of father, gave him also a father's heart----that is, the authority, the solicitude, and the love of a father.

4. Joseph was also the representative of the Holy Ghost, Who confided to him the Virgin Mary, placing His spouse under Joseph's dependence and direction. Great God! what a favor! The Father and the Holy Ghost intrust to him what is most dear to them! To what sublimity of virtue must he have attained to acquit himself worthily of such a charge!

5. Our Lady, in giving him her hand, gave him also her whole heart. Never did a wife love her husband so tenderly, so ardently, nor revere him more profoundly. Mary and Joseph, says St. Bernardin of Siena, were but one heart and soul; they were two in one same mind, one same affection, and each of them was the other's second self, because Our Lady and he were, so to speak, only one person. The heart of Mary with that of Joseph, and the heart of Joseph with that of Mary, who ever could imagine a union so intimate, a grace so great!

6. Joseph was the superior of Jesus and Mary, whose submission to him was so complete as to enrapture the Angels. Those pure spirits tremble in Heaven before the infinite majesty of the great God; what must they have thought when they saw Joseph command the little Jesus as a father, and the Divine Infant disport Himself on the breast of Joseph, like a bee in the bosom of a lily! As for the Queen of the world, as she had vowed, so she rendered to her chaste spouse all possible respect and obedience, never considering him otherwise, says Gerson, than as her lord and master. What a dignity to be the master of that Virgin more noble than the Seraphim!

7. He it was who nourished Jesus and Mary. A true father to that family, he gained their bread by the labor of his hands, and the sweat of his brow. He led them into Egypt, acting in this mystery as the representative of the Most Holy Trinity. What an honor to nourish Him Who nourishes the whole world, to give bread to Him Who covers our fields with plentiful harvests!

8. He is called by the Abbot Rupert Guardian of the Child Jesus. Without an earthly father, his Divine Ward cast Himself into the arms of Joseph, His only protector, defender and support.

9. He was also the treasurer of the Savior, and of Joseph more than of any other may it be said: Blessed is the faithful and wise servant, whom God has established as grand master of His family, to whose hands He has committed all His treasures, the government of all His possessions. What confidence does not this office imply!

10. We do not hesitate to say that Joseph was the Savior of the Savior. Joseph, son of Jacob, was called the Savior of the world, and he was not only the type, in the first place, of Jesus Christ, but also of St. Joseph, who had the honor of preserving the Divine Infant from the fury of Herod. As Our Lord deserves the name of Savior of man, because He preserves man from eternal death, so it is allowable to call St. Joseph Savior of the Savior, because he preserved Him from temporal death. Glorious Saint to whom were entrusted the person of the Incarnate Word, and all the secrets of the Eternal Father! The Angel might himself have carried the Child into Egypt; but not daring to do so, he came as the messenger of Heaven and of God Himself, to Joseph who was chosen for that employment.

11. To these titles add another distinguished title, that of having been the Master of his Master. Jesus was like an apprentice in the workshop of Joseph, who taught him to work as a carpenter, so that everyone said of Jesus: "Is not this the carpenter's son, a carpenter Himself? Have we not often seen Him handling the plane and the chisel, helping His father Joseph?" What must St. Joseph have thought when he saw his Divine apprentice, taking pains at His work----He Who by a single word had created the universe!

12. Joseph was the presumptive heir of Jesus Christ, and of Our Lady, since the father then naturally inherited from his son, and the husband from his wife. What an incomparable advantage!

13. In all orders of things great privileges are attached to being the eldest, the first. The first Apostle, the first Martyr, the first Seraph, the first son of the Patriarchs, all have special rights which belong to no others; therefore I conclude that St. Joseph has singular prerogatives above all other men, for he was the first to contemplate the admirable humanity of Our Lord Jesus, the first to adore Him, the first to touch Him, the first to serve Him, to nourish Him, and to dwell with Him, the first to hear Him speak and to be enlightened by His Divine instructions. He is the first confessor for the faith, since he first suffered for the love of Jesus Christ, forsaking his home and his country to fly with Him; the first Apostle making the Messias known to men, by announcing Him in Egypt; the first man, perhaps, who made profession and vow of virginity, and kept it in the state of marriage; in a word, the first Christian and the first model for the children of the Church. All these distinctions give Joseph. great pre-eminence over all other Saints, and are almost infinite, so that we may apply to him what Jacob said of his eldest son Reuben: "Excelling [his brethren] in gifts, greater in command."

14. Theologians teach that the office of St. Joseph was more exalted than any other in the Church. We do not speak of Our Lady, who is always above all comparison. They acknowledge, it is true, that in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and in the order of sanctifying grace, the office of the Apostles is the most sublime; but they recognize in the Mother of God, and in St. Joseph, an order, a hierarchy apart, that of the hypostatic union, destined to the immediate service of the person of the Word made flesh, and this second hierarchy is superior in dignity to the first. The Apostles, as we said above, are only the servants of Jesus Christ; Mary and Joseph are His mother and His father.

But shall I be able to relate all that God has done for St. Joseph? No; I plainly confess that there is neither mind, nor pen, nor tongue capable of imagining, writing, or expressing the grandeur and incomparable prerogatives of this spouse of the Virgin, this father of Jesus Christ, this governor of both! And yet, speak I must! Pardon, O great Saint, my unpardonable boldness! Yet, if your holy spouse, Our Lady, will deign to inspire me with a part of what she knows, if she will give fluency to my pen and warmth to my heart, I shall be able to say enough to content your pious clients, and edify your faithful servants.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

St. Joseph Countdown: Pere Binet's Little Book

It's amazing the things that you find when you were looking for something else....even if you don't wind up finding what you were originally looking for. As a case in point, I had been looking through my brother's closet for a picture of the Sacred Heart, and never actually found it. However, I did unexpectedly come across a beautiful little book by Pere Binet, S.J. on devotion to St. Joseph. Fortunately, the book is recreated on the internet here for your devotional enjoyment. In counting down until the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19th (which also happens to be my birthday!) I will derive the next few posts from Pere Binet's book, Divine Favors Granted to St. Joseph.


THE Holy Ghost has willed to make the genealogy of the glorious St. Joseph known to us so exactly, that we need only read the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke to be acquainted with all his ancestors. By birth he is a prince of the royal house of David; his ancestors are the patriarchs, the kings of Juda, the great captains of the people of God, the most illustrious among the sons of men. Yet this descendant of David was reduced to obscurity, and lived a poor and humble life.

The Evangelists would appear to give Joseph two fathers; but the contradiction is only apparent. St. Luke says he was the son of Heli, who, however, died childless; while St. Matthew calls him the son of Jacob, because, according to several commentators, Jacob, brother of Heli, espoused his sister-in-law Esta as the law of Moses commanded, by whom he had Joseph, who was thus the son of Jacob by nature, and the son of Heli according to the law.

The poverty of the family and the custom of the country obliged Joseph to learn a trade. We do not know positively if he worked in wood or in iron, since the holy Fathers are divided on this point. The more general opinion is, however, that he was a carpenter. St. Justin, in his dialogue with Triphon, adds that the Child Jesus acted as His adopted father's little apprentice, assisting him to make yokes and ploughs.

It is a pious belief of some authors that St. Joseph was sanctified in his mother's womb Suarez does not go so far. Still we must allow that the partisans of this opinion support it by solid reasons, which have a great appearance of truth.

There can be no doubt that this great Saint was a virgin. Cardinal St. Peter Damian affirms it so positively that he seems to make it an article of faith. Some learned authors even hold that by a special inspiration of God he made the vow of virginity. Such is the belief of the great chancellor Gerson, of St. Bernardin of Siena, of Suarez, and of several others. In any case we cannot doubt that he had lived a pure angelical life when he united himself by chaste bonds to the Virgin Mary, his one and only spouse.

A secret inspiration from Heaven caused both Mary and Joseph to contract this alliance, while adoring in their hearts the impenetrable counsel of the great God. Mary was in her fifteenth year; the age of Joseph is not known so exactly, tradition being silent on the subject. The opinion that he was about eighty years old is without reasonable grounds, and is not held by theologians, the most esteemed of whom think that he was neither an old man nor a youth, but in the prime of life, between thirty and forty. There are many reasons in support of this opinion, which is now generally held.

Shortly after this virginal marriage had been celebrated with due solemnity, it pleased God to send the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, that he might announce to her the Mystery of the Incarnation, and explain to her that in becoming mother of her Creator, she should not cease to be a virgin: As the mystery was not at once revealed to St. Joseph, he was in sore perplexity, until the Angel of God appearing in a dream, reassured him, by explaining that the fruit of Mary was the work of the Holy Ghost.

The life of the two spouses in this angelic marriage resembled two stars, mutually enlightening each other by their gold and silver rays, without ever coming in contact.
Later, I shall speak of the happiness of this holy life, and with what plenitude of celestial favors God enriched this Divine household. For the moment, I shall content myself with showing how the dream of the first Joseph was verified in the second.

The former Joseph saw himself, in a dream, adored by the sun, the moon, and eleven stars. Only later on in Egypt did he understand this vision, when his father, his mother, and his brethren, prostrate at his feet, adored him as the savior of the land. The son of the patriarch Jacob was, however, only a type, destined to enhance the splendor of that other Joseph, whom God delighted to make so great, whom Jesus Christ the true Sun of Justice honors as His father, whom Our Lady, called in the Canticles beautiful as the moon, reveres as her lord and spouse, whom the Angels and Saints, who are the stars of heaven, venerate as foster. father and guide of that Infant God, Whose servants they esteem themselves happy to be.

The date of St. Joseph's death is uncertain; we know only that it took place before the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. What an entrancing sight to behold him expire, one hand in that of Jesus, the other in that of Our Lady; breathing forth his blessed spirit on the bosom of the Savior God! To die thus is not to lose life but to overcome death. Some authors believe, and with reason, that, Joseph was among those Saints who, on Ascension Day mounted up to Heaven, body and soul, with Jesus Christ. Who indeed deserved more to accompany Jesus in His triumph, than he who accompanied Him so lovingly in His exile in Egypt, and during the laborious pilgrimage of His holy life? We may therefore piously believe that as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph lived united upon earth, bearing the same sufferings, so they now t are reunited, body and soul, partaking the same glory. Such is the belief of the devout St. Bemardin of Siena, and even of Suarez, whose usual reserve gives great weight to his opinion in this case. It is true that faith teaches us nothing on this point; but devotion speaks loudly, and has on its side weighty reasons, and great authorities.

As an end note, St. Bernadin of Siena happens to be one of the great Franciscan Saints!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


HAPPY FEAST DAY OF ST. COLETTE! On the Feast Day of this wonderful Saint, I would just like to thank all of the Poor Clare Colettines in the world…thank you so much for lovingly praying and doing penance for us in the world!

I’m starting to read “Walled in Light,” Mother Mary Francis’ definitive biography of St. Colette. Through reading the first few chapters of that book, reading the children’s book on Colette, as well as doing research for the past week’s blogspots, I feel as if I’ve gotten to know St. Colette much better and have become very close to her. Colette is a prime example of a woman who through her sufferings was in union with Christ. Indeed, she was a woman who suffered in different ways than most women did for her times. Her search for her true life’s vocation resembles frequent "job hopping," "soul searching," etc. that many modern women might have to go through in order to find their true life’s calling. St. Colette came out of a loving, sheltered household and was thrown into a world of cruel resistance that she encountered from bishops, abbots, abbesses, and laypeople, which is something that many women today might also experience; we come out of loving families and are thrown into a generally mean world. However, somehow Colette found the strength to bear it. Like so many Saints, she was a woman with very human weaknesses who did extraordinary things and whose stories are still very applicable towards our own lives. I’d like to share with you all a letter in which Colette gives us advice as to how to brace life’s challenges:

Dear Lady and especially loved in Our Lord Jesus Christ, as much and as humbly as I can and may, I recommend myself always to your good grace and in your devout prayers and supplications before Our Lord Jesus Christ.

I beg you to strive ceaselessly to go from strength to strength in his most perfect love, remaining continually, strong and virtuous in his most holy and worthy service; for the kingdom is promised to those who set out on this way, but it is to those who persevere loyally that the crown will be given. And as long as we are alive there will be many perils, especially from our enemies, the world and the flesh, who day and night wage war on us in numberless ways.
Against these we must arm and defend ourselves, for it is needful for us to conquer them if we do not want to be overcome ourselves, and, as Saint Paul says, we cannot have the victory without a battle, nor a crown without a victory.

We can do nothing by ourselves without the aid and grace of God. We can neither do good nor resist our enemies. We need to turn to our good and true Master, Our Lord Jesus Christ and to beg him to equip us with his weapons so that we can the more surely overcome. These weapons, among others with which he was armed in this poor world, while bringing about and fulfilling the mystery of our redemption in the face of these three adversaries were: against the world, true and holy poverty from his birth until his death stripped naked on the cross: against the flesh, pure, holy and perfect chastity of heart and body, born and conceived of a pure, virgin mother: against the Adversary, perfect humility and true obedience right up to his death and all in perfect charity.

And whoever is thus armed can go forward into battle with sure heart. In short, these are the weapons with which he has wished to equip those men and women whom by means of his grace he has wished to call into his service, and who have wanted to follow him in the life of the Gospel and the way of the Apostles.

And I beseech him in his infinite goodness always to watch over and guard you completely, and so to enlighten you with his grace, that you may serve him always and endlessly, and love Him in the way of life which is most pleasing to him, and fight for him loyally under the banner of his Church. Thus you will be able to love him everlastingly and reign in his glorious, heavenly palace, for ever and ever.

Your unworthy handmaid who prays for you,

Sister Colette.
Letter to Marie de Boen of Ghent c. 1442

Monday, March 05, 2007

COLETTE COUNTDOWN: A Song for St. Colette

'Twas the hour of the flaming out of the sun from the fogs of the North

.... When Colette, as a grain full-ripe, sees the shell burst forth

.... Of the narrow cell she had built twelve feet from the altar of God,

.... Its sill no more to be trod.

.... But now the voice of heaven has sounded: "Forth, and abroad!"

.... No need of enclosure now in the shell of stone;

.... She is free in the salt of heaven, she is walled in light alone.

.... God, knowing good before ill, to this girl has given ..

.. No brief temporal task, but to heal ..

.. The hurts of a Land, of a Church, that are rent and riven.

.... Hell and its works she shall know in the course of a week - and feel.

.... She takes and bends in her hand like a waxen taper the bar of steel;

.... But she is not sent to challenge the devil to duels of steel.

.... The tender harvest of good, the flower of innocent peace.

... She must woo from their root in the earth, so bring surcease.

... Of the choking weeds of sin that blossom in blood.

.... So does Nature herself on the slope of a quiet hill

.... Copy a glorious lily's exuberant bud,

.... While men beneath are destroying and slaying and plotting ill.

.... So then, like a diligent needle, in and out of the torn and ravelled realm of France .

... Glides she, and mends from beneath; and whatever the lance.

... Has left agape, with charity sweet she bindeth in one,

.... Innocent, guided by God, she knows not what she has done:

.... She sees but Him and His ways: she hears but Him and obeys,

.... Mother of hungry little ones, her nestlings that cry from the chinks of the wall -

.... He provideth their food, who marketh the sparrow's fall.

.... Meantime Satan toils with glee, and knows not the ruin to come. -

.... Yet what is there new to be seen on those roads 'twixt Paris and Rome?

.... Behold that woman, frowzily gowned, upheld by Sister Perrine..

.. On a lumbering cart, in her looks the light of things unseen!

.... No doubt the wise political eye to the council at Constance will fly, or study that "man of the moon" - the singular Shepherd from Spain;

.... But we - we will turn from these to a rough Burgundian lane

.... And four or five peasants and women that plod

.... By the oats in the fields, the windmill, the willow tree,

.... And one among them, dusty and poor - Colette. 'Tis she

.... Calmly breasting the hill on her ass, riding direct to God.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Colette Countdown: The Testament of St. Colette

When I first “met” the Poor Clare Colettines up in Barhamsville, I was amazed by the radical way in which they gave themselves over to Christ in a complete way through enclosure, poverty, chastity, and obedience. Of course, it was Holy Mother Clare who had instituted that way of life for them 800 years ago, but as we learned in my last post, many Poor Clare communities had backslidden a bit by the time of St. Colette. Hence, it is due largely to St. Colette’s Testament that we have Poor Clares living the way they are today! Her Testament is below.

"Jesus! Maria! Anna!

Glory, honour, awe and reverence to the three Divine Persons in one unity.


... My dearly beloved sisters and daughters, in the charity of our merciful, sweet and loving Redeemer, Jesus, and of his loyal spouse, our mother Holy Church, with all humility of heart and devotion, I commend myself to you, in life and in death. I commend both my intentions and the burden which I have to carry before our Lord, that I may render a good account of it to him on the day of judgment.
.... My dearly beloved sisters, chosen out of the valley of the shadow of death by the uncreated wisdom of our sovereign Father, to enter into the gospel way of life of his dearly beloved Son Jesus. To be his spouses, true daughters of the sovereign King, temples of the blessed Holy Spirit, heiresses and queens of the most high realm of heaven; and for a little labour to obtain repose, honour, glory, and unending salvation without limit or measure.

... Therefore, my dearly beloved daughters, be aware of your call from God to holiness, your great dignity and high perfection. Ignorance of these things is damaging, consciousness of them will enable you to bear much fruit.Living The Gospel... Know, then, that you have entered on the true way through the door of divine inspiration and God's loving call. For as our dear Saviour says, no one can come to me, unless my Father draw them by his inspiration. .

... This gateway into the rich field of the gospel way of life is total renunciation of the world, the flesh and one's own will. For thus says the blessed Son of the pure Virgin: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" by continually repenting of their sins and failings, so as to keep the grace God gives whole and alive and avoid future falls. This is shown in Saint John the Baptist, who was sanctified in his mother's womb. All his life long he carried the cross of continual penance, not because he had committed any actual offence but so as to persevere in grace and give good example. If this is what the just man does, what ought the sinner do? Whether here below or in the life to come, every sin will have its consequences.

.... The Lord says follow me. Follow' by final perseverance, keeping completely until death all that you have promised in accordance with the Holy Gospel, so as to be found in your last hour only desiring the fullness of my holy will; rooted in the perfect love of God.


... Note well then, my beloved daughters, that you have been called by grace to perfect obedience, so as to obey at all times and in all things, save in sin. Jesus Christ did this even unto death.

.... For it is not sufficient to obey when it suits you, or in certain limited things only. We should obey, even unto death, in everything not opposed to God, or contrary to your own souls, or to the Holy Rule. Following the example of our merciful Redeemer, who became obedient for our sakes even unto death, we in our turn ought to obey, for his sake, even unto death.

... Let us not to set our own judgments and feelings above those of our superiors, for the even the true Wisdom, Jesus Christ, was submissive to Joseph and obeyed his dear Virgin Mother.

... The truly obedient person is concerned only with the work of true obedience, obeying purely for God sake and as with much reverence as if he had received his orders from the lips of Jesus. The more humble the command in human eyes, the more precious is devout obedience in the eyes of God. The truly obedient person fears more to be lacking in obedience than to run the risk of bodily death; after the example of our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, of whom Saint Bernard wrote, saying: remember, that Jesus Christ much rather preferred to loose his life through his bitter Passion, than to fail in obedience to God his Father.

... All evil comes through disobedience. As another saint said: one prayer of a really obedient person is worth a hundred thousand of a disobedient one. If we are obedient to God, and to our Superiors for God's sake, God himself will obey us in granting all our good desires.

.... Rid yourselves then of all self-will for it is the one fuel for eternal destruction.

.... Above all the other virtues I recommend to you holy obedience, in which the excellence of charity is shown forth, when in all things we obey the creature for love of the Creator. In this virtue with Jesus on the cross, may we be able to die and obtain life everlasting! Amen!


... After the renunciation of ourselves through complete obedience, our Saviour wishes us to carry our cross daily - that is, our vow of holy poverty. Poverty is the heavy cross of not wishing for anything under heaven, except him who bore the cross on his shoulders, and deigned to die for our love on this cross: pierced with nails, crowned with thorns, spat upon and heaped with blows; his side pierced by a lance.

... O holy poverty! Finery of our redemption! Precious jewel and certain sign of salvation!

... It is to poverty that the King gives possession of the kingdom of heaven ,lastingly and without end.

.... And you, daughters of Adam and Eve, 0 why do you not love this precious jewel, this noble pearl, whose worth and dignity is that of the kingdom of heaven, and so is far more precious than innumerable worlds?

... Alas, and more than a hundred thousand times, alas! You could possess poverty more easily and as an incomparably better bargain than this wretched world, which is full of wrong choices, traps and snares, lies and clinging mire; in the midst of which, you can, all to easily, lose the kingdom of heaven and saddle yourself with pain and eternal torments.

... O my most beloved sisters, love, love, love most perfectly this noble and precious and most excellent virtue, the poverty of the gospel; loved by God and hated by the world.

... After the example of Jesus Christ, who had nowhere here below to lay his head, and the example of our glorious father, Saint Francis, and our mother, Lady Saint Clare, be utterly content with the form of your poor habit allowed by your Rule, and hold everything else as suspect, such as books, chaplets, thread, needles, pins and whatever trivia; kerchiefs, veils and other things which may be for your own use and on which you may set your affection. .

... Have only those things which are truly necessary, and possess all things in common.

... In this present life, be content with what is necessary, so as to attain more easily to the true goods of the celestial kingdom, to which you already have a claim by reason of that holy poverty which you have willingly promised and vowed for the love of God.

... The kingdom of God will be ours without fail if we keep faith with Lady Holy Poverty.

... By this cross of holy poverty I mean: to live a life of continual abstinence, not eating meat, fasting daily, going barefoot and enduring the cold, sleeping on hard beds, wearing poor clothing, being content with scanty and coarse food, and bearing the burden of labour, both manual and spiritual.

.... Whoever at the hour of death is found possessing anything, in fact, or in deliberate desire, will be dispossessed of the kingdom of heaven.

... Live and die truly poor, my dearly beloved daughters, just as our sweet Saviour died on the cross for us; for if it seems that few love him in this way, it is all the more reason that we should so love him.

... After Lady Holy Obedience in the order, I recommend to you above all else, Poverty, which is the straight ladder by means of which, without anxious wobbling, one mounts easily to that self-same kingdom, thanks to the complete renunciation of all passing goods for the love of God, who is so good, and who promises us his kingdom and does not lie.


... Since our Lord has said follow me, I understand that we really are to follow Jesus Christ - the spotless lamb, the virginal Son of a virgin Mother - through true purity of heart and body until death. Through this true vow of angelical chastity, one becomes a loyal bride of Jesus Christ, in virtue of that faithfulness promised and given at the time when we made our vows in the hands of superiors, who represented God on earth; a pledge made in the presence of witnesses:- the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Francis, Saint Clare, and all the saints, and before those other witnesses who were present when we made our vows at our holy profession; a profession through which we obtained the remission of all our sins and the full assurance of eternal life.

... O noble and most precious virtue of chastity! Loved by God as his loyal bride, honoured by the angels as spouse of their Lord and King, most highly praised by the saints, and so splendidly proclaimed in sacred scripture!

... It is the noble crown you will wear in the kingdom of heaven at the true wedding feast of your true spouse, Jesus

.... O most excellent garden! Full of all the plants that are truly good! You never let thorns, nettles, or poisonous weeds grow in you; you do not allow any profane thing to enter. 0 how good is your strong surrounding wall!

... How loyal is the one who keeps faithful watch at your gates and allows none but the true messengers of your true spouse and king to enter!

... Naturally you will find your place in the imagery of Sacred Scripture as the finest flowering trees bearing this noble fruit, which is served to the King of true love in his kingdom!

... O worthy and excellent virtue! Your dignity, your meaning and your worth, and the excellence of your victory - it is impossible to understand them properly and to express them! God alone is your reward, whom you will see in bliss divine! This virtue, coming next in order and merit in the sight of God, who loves holy chastity, I commend to you, so that through her you will have honour and merit on the great day of judgment. But those who are false to the vows that they have promised before God, and who have not made fitting reparation, will suffer the consequences! .

... Our merciful Redeemer, through his highest obedience, poverty and chastity is the sole source of the virtues for us. Through him let us live in blessed penance, for it can win for us full reconciliation with our beloved Father.


.. The Lord willingly allowed himself to be shut away in a sepulchre of stone.

... As it pleased him to be enclosed for forty hours, my dear Sisters, you, too, must follow him; for after obedience, poverty and pure chastity, you have your holy enclosure to support you. In it you may well live forty years, more or less; and in which you will die. You are therefore already in your sepulchre of stone; that is to say, the enclosure which you have vowed.

... O how precious is the sepulchre of Jesus; that tomb visited by so many out of devotion!

... O how precious is that sepulchre - your enclosure - into which devout souls enter to obtain their salvation. From the depths of that tomb, these souls take flight, with the help of the three vows already mentioned, soaring to the great celestial palace without difficulty, or hardly any, and without danger, having carried out all the works required in accordance with the call they have received from God, How much comfort, delight and aid, should these fellow captives feel when a new bride enters into the noble realm of the Bridegroom she has loved and desired.

... Such is the abundance and superabundance at the table of this blissful marriage feast, that when a tiny part of the great and immeasurable joy and bounty of the noble King and Spouse falls from it, it cannot but delight the poor captives, whom sin still keeps from entering into this noble wedding feast.

... O happy enclosure, which can remove you from many vices and occasions of evil and keeps you secluded securely and worthily in the midst of noble virtues.

... O noble castle, powerful and strong, of the King of heaven! It fears not the assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil.

.. O impregnable tower, you enclose within yourself all truth's provisions against the assault of the devil.

... You have within yourself universal obedience, the daughter of Holy Humility, which condemns all self-will, the cause and root of all evil; you are fully supplied with Lady Holy Poverty, which has no care about worldly things and who makes it her entire aim and desire to tend entirely towards his glorious kingdom, without anxiety about the untrustworthy things of this passing world. Against the strong and harmful assaults of the flesh, our particular enemy here below, we have its adversary Holy Chastity, continual prayer, fasting cold and bare feet, close guard of the senses, holy silence, chapter, correction, meditation, tears, sighs, regular discipline, the Divine Office, sacred Scripture, holy Mass, the sweet partaking of the precious Body of Jesus Christ, purity of heart, right instruction, the remembrance of death, the cross, the passion, the sight of the cemetery, the faithful guardianship of your good angel, the fidelity loyally promised to your dear Spouse, the hope of eternal reward - and the thought of the terrible punishment of those who will have merited otherwise.

... Be gone then, away with you, foolish and rebellious flesh, full of distracting promptings and evil inclinations; you who seek to lure us from the way of perfection, bringing shameful death and perdition.

... Be led by Lady Holy Grace as her servant, and by wise reason, for your profit and, ultimately, your glory. ... Sin passes away swiftly and its punishment is unending; penitence is short, but its ending will be your eternal glory.

... O happy enclosure! 0 soul completely enclosed, according to the will of its superior, which nothing causes to go straying abroad here and there, but which rests at all times completely submissive to the will of its superiors. There is its only rest!

.... O precious and sure enclosure! To be enclosed by continual remembrance in the precious wounds of Jesus Christ! ... O happy captives, soaring above the heavens to hear with the ears of the spirit the nine choirs of angels, whose sweet praise and chanting magnifies the Holy and Blessed Trinity, one God in three persons.

Praise and Glory

... With all the angels praise God, glorify him - in him and through him, and through all his creatures in heaven and on earth: exalt him above all for his inestimable favour in creating the human person in the image of the Creator, and for the sovereign gift of the sacred Incarnation of our God, who is so good that, after having created all things for our sake, he himself became truly man and our loving Brother, so as to restore all things by his glorious death and his passion.

... O infinite good!

... O bounty without measure!

... O ingratitude which forgets so great a gift!

... Praise him! Exalt him with all your voice for the great gift received in Holy Baptism, that of knowing complete innocence and becoming temples of the blessed Holy Spirit.

... Give thanks worthily to the Lord for having borne, so generously, with your sins and failings. His pity has recalled us to himself through contrition, confession, atonement and the resolution to lead a good life. He has drawn us through our call to the religious life, to enter into the state of perfection found in the Form of Life, with a good company which will not desert us, so as to glorify him at all times for the holy promise of eternal life, the promise he has already made to us.

.... Praise him, love him, serve him worthily so you can be sure of everlasting life - as sure as those who are already in full possession of it and who see God in the clear vision of his sweetness and infinite goodness, in the highest bliss arid perfect surety of their eternal inheritance.

... In order to be able to attain to this by his grace and his aid, we must loyally keep the vows that which we have promised him, and if we commit some fault through human frailty, we must make haste every time pick ourselves up, to make ourselves clean and to make up our losses through holy penance. And our dear Father, during this life receives us without delay into his mercy and his sweet reconciliation, considering that first, holy and good intention, which he gave us in our holy vocation and in his loving binding of us to himself, and for the sake of all his innumerable favours, graces present and to come.

... Praise, praise always, praise everlastingly, and love the Father, the Son and the blessed Holy Spirit; the most humble Virgin who bore Jesus Christ, the holy and sacred soul of our Redeemer, and his precious body which hung upon the cross for us all; love the saints, men and women, and all the angels, and all the good and just people who serve God day and night.

... Set your minds on living well and dying holily. The end is approaching; the world not improving: malice increases; goodness, loyalty and truth decrease; iniquity abounds, charity grows cold again; devotion and religion are found in very few hearts. Many are called, but few are chosen.

... Alas ! The pity of it all ! For God, according to his holy will, wants to save all humankind without exception! Yet so few of them let themselves be chosen ! All are called, but few consent to come; and if there are those who start out and go on for some time, nevertheless there are very few who persevere to the end in keeping the law of God.

... There are many who make solemn vows in religion but alas, and more than a hundred thousand times alas, there are all too few today who acquit themselves of them loyally in the sight of God who misses nothing. In order to be saved people are obliged to keep in completely, justly and loyally, all that they have promised and vowed; the punishment for dishonesty is eternal! Surely it would be better not to promise anything and so fail in nothing, than to promise much and then fall abysmally short.

... The greater the promise, the greater the injury, and the more awful the fate of the transgressor. But for the good, the greater the promise, the greater is the merit and the greater the salvation, which will be given us as a pure gift by the Father of all mercy, the Son by his holy Passion, and by the blessed Holy Spirit, the fountain of peace, of sweetness, of love and of all consolation.

... Amen, amen, without recall."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

COLETTE COUNTDOWN: The Life of St. Colette

I know that I was originally going to do a series of the history of nuns' habits and I shall....but I'd like to interrupt the regularly scheduled programming for...*drumroll*....THE COLETTE COUNTDOWN!

Alright, so unbeknownst to me the official Franciscan Feast of St. Colette was nearly a month ago. However, I'm still in luck since the rest of the Church observe's St. Colette's Feast Day on March 6th, which is Tuesday. It's the great thing about being Franciscan...you get to celebrate holidays twice. :-)

What's not to love about St. Colette....she was smart, strong, persevering, and she stood up to authority when she needed to. Honestly, St. Colette could be a great role model for many "modern" women. She is the paragon of a woman who is simultaneously strong and completely faithful to Christ and His Church. To couch it in St. Colette's terms, she is simply "magnifique!"

For the next several posts, I will be drawing most of my content from the wonderful website of the Poor Clares in Wales. These Poor Clares of Ty Man Du have done a terrific series of reflections on the life and spirituality of St. Colette. To kick off our Colette Countdown, here is an overview of her life:

St. Colette - Faith in the Future

by the Poor Clares of Ty Man Duw, Wales

Colette lived in, what some have called, the most hideous selection of time and space in history: the Hundred Year War in France. The English came, robbing, pillaging and taking hostages, needing to be bought off. The French came to drive out the English; they, too, lived off the land. The Strippers of the Wheat: the marauding private war bands came, fighting their own vendettas, torturing, burning, raping; indiscriminately hiring themselves to either side and exacting tribute. The crops failed, the plague came. So many died there were none left to bury the dead. The Church was in fragments; it was the age of the "Babylonian Captivity." There was one Pope in Avignon and one in Italy. Yet the well-nigh atheistic illuminators of the fat, millionaire Duc de Berry's Books of Hours mainly depict rose gardens, hunting dogs and banquets, all under the signs of the Zodiac in a fallacious chivalric bubble.

St Clare and St Francis seem almost like legends; myths of a sunrise age, compared with Colette. Colette was diamond grit in the wheels of history.

She was born in 1381, at Corbie, a village near the River Somme; [one of the battlegrounds of the First World War.] Unlike Clare and Francis, who came from wealthy, aristocratic and merchant families, Colette was the child of a peasant artisan, a stone mason who worked on Corbie's Benedictine Abbey. Colette had arrived very late in her parents' lives. According to her contemporary biographers, Andre de Vaux and Perrine de Balme, her mother was 60 when she was born after prayer to the heavenly patron of children, St Nicholas.

Life for the Future....

Colette was left an orphan in her early teens and a ward of the Benedictine Abbot, Raoul de Roye. Refusing to be married off, she tried her hand at various religious ensembles, including the Poor Clares. Finally, she settled to be an anchoress, rather in the style of Julian of Norwich. A cell was built for her on the side of Corbie Parish Church and in 1402, she was perpetually enclosed, complete with the solemn ceremony of bricking up the entrance of her hermitage. But God had other ideas.

In a series of visions Colette saw, as it were, the whole corrupt social fabric of her age, collapsing into destruction like leaves swept into a furnace. There was nothing exaggerated in her visions. She could almost have seen the reality by looking out of the window. Then she saw St Francis come before the Lord, and kneeling down, he begged, Lord, give me this woman for the reform of my Order". For the Franciscan Order, too, had been part of Colette's vision of a destroyed world. To Colette's horror the Lord graciously bowed his head in assent.

And Colette refused. The Lord showed her a vision of a great golden tree from which sprung other trees: she was the first tree and the nurslings were the houses she was to found. Unimpressed, she pulled up the trees and threw them out of the window. As she would not look at him, God took away her ability to see at all. As she refused to listen, she found herself deprived of the power of hearing. Such was the struggle that the thought of having to reform the Franciscan Order wrought in her. In the end, exhausted by her own refusal to serve, she gave her heart and will over to God - and agreed.

Now, all she needed was freedom to move - [she was still an Anchoress], support, and permission from at least one of the Popes, and some followers. God sent them.

Pierre de la Saline was a Franciscan friar deeply troubled by the state of the Church and the world. He visited another anchoress, Marie Amante, far away in Avignon. Enlightened by a vision, Marie sent Father Pierre to Colette. He arrived there in the company of one of the most powerful women of his age, Blanche of Geneva, sister of the previous Avignon Pope. Before her, few walls stood. She swept Colette up and took her to see Pope Benedict XIII - Pedro de Luna. He blessed Colette, gave her the black veil of a professed Poor Clare, and sent her out to reform the Franciscan Order. She was twenty five years old.

New Dawn....

The first house she reformed was Besançon. In her travels she had picked up a number of followers. Together they now began to recreate the Gospel way of life of the original Poor Clares. Miraculously, she had somehow obtained a copy of the Rule of St Clare. The original Rule had been buried with St Clare in 1253 and was only unearthed at the end of the 19th Century.

The Poor Clare sisters had been forced by a manipulative manoeuvre of St Bonaventure, ten years after Clare's death, to adopt the rule of Pope Urban IV, if they wished for the continued support of the Friars. But Colette restored Clare's own rule. Though relatively few of her letters survived the sacking of the French and Belgium Colettine houses during the French Revolution, it is known that she corresponded with Paula Monaldi and Caediia Coppolla who were working for the reform of the Clares in Italy, and with St Bernardine and St John of Capistrano who were founding the reformed Friars, as well as with Cardinal Giuliano Gesarini, the Cardinal Legate of the Council of Basle which was convened to reduce the multiplicity of Popes. The Cardinal [the letters are still extant] was touchingly anxious that she would think of him as her son and humbly sent an alms to buy her and her sisters woollen underwear

No one who encountered Colette were left unchanged. She numbered both Armagnacs and Burgundians among her benefactors. She crossed battlefields and negotiated peace.

Re-forming the scarred face....

The women who followed Colette came from every level of society. Even as she had seen in her visions the brokenness that extended across every strata of life, so she was to see its mending in those who came to join her; peasant women who had been her childhood companions in Corbie, and princesses from the Bourbon House of Naples. When she selected abbesses for the houses of her reform that sprang up from Besançon, social class did not influence her.

She reformed the Friars, and until later rearrangements of the Order of Friars Minor in there were branches of that order that held the title Colettari. She did not achieve her ends by haranguing anyone. When invited to speak to the [very unreformed] friars of Dole, she knelt humbly on the floor and prayed - and she remained in prayer, never saying a word.

Blanche of Geneva, the great lady who had helped to start Colette's reform, had asked to be buried in whatever community Colette happened to be at the time. So they buried her at Poligny. Colette had also intended to be buried there [and had prophesied it], but the weariness of a long life devoted to her sisters, travelling from house to house, wore her out finally at Ghent, in Belgium. She died there on 6th March 1447. However, God uses even political chaos to fulfil the words of his saints. During the French Revolution the monastery at Ghent was in danger, and Colette's relics were sent for safety to Poligny, in Savoy, where they are cherished and venerated to this day.

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