Saturday, December 31, 2011

St. Sylvester

Today is the seventh day of Christmas and the feast of St. Sylvester.  Enjoy this legendary tale of how St. Sylvester slew a dragon who had been killing three hundred people a day.  It's a delightful story about this saint about which little is known.

In this time it happed that there was at Rome a dragon in a pit, which every day slew with his breath more than three hundred men. Then came the bishops of the idols unto the emperor and said unto him: O thou most holy emperor, sith the time that thou hast received christian faith the dragon which is in yonder fosse or pit slayeth every day with his breath more than three hundred men. Then sent the emperor for Saint Silvester and asked counsel of him of this matter. Saint Silvester answered that by the might of God he promised to make him cease of his hurt and blessure of this people. Then S Silvester put himself to prayer, and Saint Peter appeared to him and said: Go surely to the dragon and the two priests that be with thee take in thy company, and when thou shalt come to him thou shalt say to him in this manner: Our Lord Jesu Christ which was born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried and arose, and now sitteth on the right side of the Father, this is he that shall come to deem and judge the living and the dead, I commend thee Sathanas that thou abide him in this place till he come. Then thou shalt bind his mouth with a thread, and seal it with thy seal , wherein is the imprint of the cross. Then thou and the two priests shall come to me whole and safe, and such bread as I shall make ready for you ye shall eat. Thus as Saint Peter had said, Saint Silvester did. And when he came to the pit, he descended down one hundred and fifty steps, bearing with him two lanterns, and found the dragon, and said the words that Saint Peter had said to him, and bound his mouth with the thread, and sealed it, and after returned, and as he came upward again he met with two enchanters which followed him for to see if he descended, which were almost dead of the stench of the dragon, whom he brought with him whole and sound, which anon were baptized, with a great multitude of people with them. Thus was the city of Rome delivered from double death, that was from the culture and worshipping of false idols, and from the venom of the dragon. At the last when Saint Silvester approached towards his death, he called to him the clergy and admonished them to have charity, and that they should diligently govern their churches, and keep their flock from the wolves. And after the year of the incarnation of our Lord three hundred and twenty, he departed out of this world and slept in our Lord.

It is also New Year's Eve, and it is customary to say a Te Deum on this day in thanksgiving for God's blessings in the past year.  Here are two Te Deum's in thanksgiving for 2011.

Friday, December 30, 2011

St. Sylvester's Race: A benefit for the Anglican Church of Christ the King, Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro

On Dec. 31, St. Sylvester's Day, Luiz Coelho, an artist and candidate for Holy Orders in Rio de Janeiro, will be running the St. Sylvester's Day race in Sao Paulo to raise funds for the painting of a mural on the altar wall of the Anglican Church of Christ the King in the slum of Cidade de Deus, in Rio de Janeiro Brazil.  The mural will be a contemporary depiction of St. Augustine's City of God, set in Cidade de Deus, with Christ and the saints depicted as Brazilians living in a renewed city of peace.  If you would like to contribute to this project- and to learn more about it- please visit Luiz' blog here.  Those who make a contribution will be able to have one of the saints or a symbol in the mural offered in memory of a loved one, or in thanksgiving.  I fully support this project which will bring beauty to this holy house, and inspire hope in those who see a visual prophetic witness of God's desire for this neighborhood's becoming.  Prayerfully consider making a small contribution today.

Interior of Christ the King Anglican Church, Cidade de Deus, Rio de Janeiro

Dios e ya nacido! God is now born.

A beautiful poem written by   Rafael Jesús González.  You can read more of his poetry at his blog

-A esto

Se dice que
el fulgor de un lucero
y el cantar de ángeles
anunciaron el nacer
del dios hecho hombre,
del niño nacido
entre animales domésticos.

Sea lo que sea el cuento
de la trágica y gloriosa
trayectoria de su vida,
todo se reduce a esto:
---enseñó a amar.

----© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Guatemalan Nativity by Fr. John Giuliani

To This

It is said
that the brightness of a star
& the singing of angels
announced the birth
of the god made man,
the child born
among domestic animals.

Whatever is the story
of the tragic & glorious
trajectory of his life,
it all comes to this:
---he taught to love.

----© Rafael Jesús González 2011

The Sixth Day of Christmas

In the Incarnation, God became one with us in Jesus Christ.  God, whose love desired to be in fellowship and communion with us, offered God's self to us, and became human, so that we could partake of the divine nature and be united with God (2 Peter 1).  In return, all we can offer to God is ourselves:  all we can do is offer our heart as a mansion in which God may dwell, a vessel through which God may love.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

St. Thomas Becket

O God, our strength and our salvation, who didst call thy servant Thomas Becket to be a shepherd of thy people and a defender of thy Church: Keep thy household from all evil and raise up among us faithful pastors and leaders who are wise in the ways of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ the shepherd of our souls, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Holy Innocents

They scarcely waked before they slept,

They scarcely wept before they laughed;

They drank indeed death’s bitter draught,

But all its bitterest dregs were kept

And drained by Mothers while they wept.

From Heaven the speechless Infants speak:

Weep not (they say), our Mothers dear,

For swords nor sorrows come not here.

Now we are strong who were so weak,

And all is ours we could not seek.

We bloom among the blooming flowers,

We sing among the singing birds;

Wisdom we have who wanted words:

here morning knows not evening hours,

All’s rainbow here without the showers.

And softer than our Mother’s breast,

And closer than our Mother’s arm,

Is here the Love that keeps us warm

And broods above our happy next.

Dear Mothers, come: for Heaven is best.

Christina Rosseti

Triumph of the Innocents  William Holman Hunt

Unspotted lambs to follow the one Lamb,
Unspotted doves to wait on the one Dove;
To whom Love saith, 'Be with Me where I am,'
And lo their answer unto Love is love.

For tho' I know not any note they know,
Nor know one word of all their song above,
I know Love speaks to them, and even so
I know the answer unto Love is love.

Christina Rosseti

Holy Innocents, pray for us.

We remember before God this day all victims of violence, and all bereaved parents who have lost a child.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

St John the Evangelist

Today we remember St John the Evangelist, the beloved apostle, and the only apostle not to die a martyr.  It is St. John who wrote the beautiful words concerning the Incarnation that are often read during Christmastide...

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.  That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.  He came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth

One of the symbols for St John is a chalice, often with a snake crawling out of it.  According to tradition, St. John was offered a chalice of poisoned wine, but after he blessed the cup, the poison appeared in the form of a snake.  Thus, it has become customary to bless wine on St.John's day, and to drink to the love of God.

Monday, December 26, 2011

St. Stephen, proto-martyr

Today we remember St. Stephen, deacon, servant of the poor, and the first martyr.  He is an example of forgiveness, charity, and love of all, including one's enemies.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christ is Born!

A blessed feast of our Lord's Nativity to you all!

What shall we offer Thee, O Christ,
Who for our sakes hast appeared on the earth as a man?
Every creature which Thou hast made offers Thee thanks.
The angels offer Thee a song;
The heavens, their star;
The wise men, their gifts;
The shepherds, their wonder;
The earth, its cave;
The wilderness; the manger;
And we offer Thee a virgin mother.
O Pre-eternal God, have mercy on us!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Vero Cras

Truly, tomorrow!

Friday, December 23, 2011

O Virgo virginum

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after: Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, Rex et Legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et salvator earum; veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God!

O Rex gentium

O Rex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum; veni, et salva hominem quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their Desire, the Corner-stone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Oriens

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae; veniet illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Day-spring, Brightness of Light everlasting, and Sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten him that sitteth in darkness, and the shadow of death.

Monday, December 19, 2011

O Clavis David

O Clavis David et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit; veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest, and no man shutteth, and shuttest, and no man openeth: Come, and bring the prisoner out of the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

artist:  Ronilo Cruz  Our Lady of Expectation

Sunday, December 18, 2011

O Radix

O radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, which standest for the ensign of the people; at whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come and deliver us; and tarry not.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

O Adonai

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the Bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

Friday, December 16, 2011

O Wisdom

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia; veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily, and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Viva la Reina de Guadalupe!

Icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe, written by Luiz Coelho

Saturday, December 10, 2011

December 10: Karl Barth and Thomas Merton

Today the Episcopal Church remembers the neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth.  Enjoy this lecture given by Barth on Evangelical Theology in 1962.  

We also remember the Trappist mystic, Thomas Merton.  Here are Merton's thoughts on Contemplation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

St. Katharine Drexel

St. Katharine Drexel was born in 1858 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her father was a wealthy banker, and her uncle the founder of Drexel University. When she was a young woman, her family took a trip to the Southwestern United States, where she observed the poverty and destitution of Native Americans there. She was deeply moved by their plight, and wanted to do something to make improve their living conditions. In 1887, she built a school for Native Americans in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In the years that followed, she established several other schools for Native Americans.
Later that year, Katharine was given an audience with the Pope, in which she requested that he send missionaries to help serve in her schools. She was surprised when the Pope suggested that she return and work as a missionary there, herself. After receiving counsel from her spiritual director, she became a novice with the Sisters of Mercy in Pittsburgh, with the understanding that in two years she would begin her own Order. After her novitiate, she founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. She would dedicate her life and her sizable inheritance, to serving Native Americans and African Americans, to educating them, and to improving their lives. Thirteen sisters joined her in the Mother House of the order at St. Elizabeth's Convent in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania. Their mission would be to found and staff schools for Native Americans and African Americans throughout the country. By 1942, she had established 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools in 13 states, in addition to Xavier College in New Orleans- founded primarily to train teachers to teach in her schools.
She had inherited $20 million from her father, but she lived under a vow of poverty, and gave all of her inheritance away to the needy and to the work of creating schools and churches. In 1935 she had a heart attack, which forced her to retire to a life of prayer at St. Elizabeth's convent. She remained there until her death at age 96 in 1955. At the time of her death, 501 Sisters in her Order were teaching in 63 schools in 21 states. She was canonized in 2000, two people had been healed from deafness by her intercessions: a man, healed in 1987, and a 17 month old baby healed in 1999. She is the patron saint of racial justice.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

St. Agnes of Bohemia

Bohemian Master of Prague, 1482, St. Agnes Caring for the Sick

Agnes was born in 1205 to King Ottakar I and Queen Constance of Bohemia. At the age of three, she was betrothed to Prince Boleslaus, who died before they were married. At his death, she decided that she wanted to pursue a religious life, but her parents objected, and she was betrothed to several other men, including the Holy Roman Emperor, Fredrick II. Desiring to live her life as she felt called to live it, she asked Pope Gregory IX to intervene on her behalf, and to ask Frederick to release her from the promise to marry. Frederick was insulted by the request, but freed her from her obligation. "if she had rejected me for another man" said Frederick, "I would have made my vengeance felt, but I cannot take offence if she prefers the King of Heaven to myself".

Her father had died in 1220, and left her quite a bit of wealth. In imitation of her cousin, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Agnes used her wealth to build a hospital in Prague,in honor of St. Francis. She also built a convent for the Poor Ladies and asked the Pope to send a group to Prague. She was hoping a group would come from San Damiano, but instead, five sisters were sent from Trent. Agnes entered the convent on Pentecost Sunday, 1234. In August, the Pope directed that Agnes be made the Abbess of the convent. She declined, but he ordered her to accept.

She and St. Clare never met, but they corresponded with each other for at least twenty years. Only four of Clare's letters to Agnes survive, but the letters show that these two women shared common desires and common struggles. Both desired to live lives of poverty, prayer, and service, and both desired to have the wishes they had for their own lives blessed by the Church. Yet, they continually struggled with the Church, and with a Pope who sometimes did not share their vision. Finally, the Pope did relent and allow her the "Privilege of Poverty", that she desired, but he never allowed her to form her community after the manner of Clare and the convent in San Damiano. He insisted her community follow his own Rule, which was based on the Rule of St. Benedict. However, she did never gave up. And in 1250, Pope Innocent IV allowed the Poor Clares in Prague to follow the Rule of St. Francis.

There were heavy snows in the winter of 1281, which brought famine. Agnes did without food so that others would have food to eat. She soon became weak and to the point of death. Her Legend tells the story of her death:
"On the third Sunday of Lent, sensing the approach of her happy departure from earth, she confided to a few of those most dear to her that the hour of death had come. With profound devotion she assured the safety of her journey by receiving the holy Eucharist and Anointing, in the presence of the friars and sisters... The following day, she was radiant with joy, a smile always on her face. As Mass was about to be celebrated at the ninth hour, she entrusted her soul into the hands of the heavenly Father. On the 2nd March 1281 she fell asleep serenely in the Lord, and was accompanied by an escort of angels to enter jubilantly into eternal joy."

Many miracles were wrought by intercessions to Agnes, both during her lifetime, and after her death, yet she was not beatified until 1874, and her canonization was not until 1989. Her holiness was renowned, as St. Clare herself acknowledged in her first letter to Agnes:

As I hear of the fame of Your holy conduct and irreproachable life, which is known not only to me but to the entire world as well, I greatly rejoice and exult in the Lord. I am not alone in rejoicing at such great news, but [I am joined by] all who serve and seek to serve Jesus Christ. For, though You, more than others, could have enjoyed the magnificence and honor and dignity of the world, and could have been married to the illustrious Caesar with splendor befitting You and His Excellency, You have rejected all these things and have chosen with Your whole heart and soul a life of holy poverty and destitution. Thus You took a spouse of a more noble lineage, Who will keep Your virginity ever unspotted and unsullied, the Lord Jesus Christ:

When You have loved [Him], You shall be chaste;
when You have touched [Him], You shall become pure;
when You have accepted [Him], You shall be a virgin.
Whose power is stronger,
Whose generosity is more abundant,
Whose appearance more beautiful,
Whose love more tender,
Whose courtesy more gracious.
In Whose embrace You are already caught up;
Who has adorned Your breast with precious stones
And has placed priceless pearls in Your ears
and has surrounded You with sparkling gems
as though blossoms of springtime
and placed on Your head a golden crown
as a sign [to all] of Your holiness.

St. Clare and St. Agnes, painted by Sister Roberta Cusack, OSF

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March: Women's History Month

As March is women's history month, I am going to briefly write about women saints during the month of March. I'll try not to write about Our Lady each time, although that will be a great temptation. I hope to tell the stories of lesser known women who loved Christ and made a difference in the world.
Of course today is the feast day of Dewi Sant, the patron saint of Wales. In the East, today is also the commemoration of St. Eudokia of Heliopolis, who was martyred in 107. She was a beautiful Samaritan woman who was born in Syria, and accumulated great wealth for herself as a prostitute in Heliopolis. One day, she heard the Christian monk, Germanos, chanting his prayers while visiting her neighbor. She heard him read from Matthew's Gospel, 25:31-46:

‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirst and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
Eudokia was filled with remorse for her sinful lifestyle, and asked the monk if it was possible for her to be spared from God's judgement. He instructed her to fast and pray for a week, alone in her house. She did so, and on the seventh day, she had a vision in which the Archangel Michael appeared to her, and assured her that Christ loved all people, and that salvation through Christ was for all people.

She was baptized, and at the age of 30, abandoned her former life, and started a monastic community for women in the Egyptian desert. She gave her wealth away to care for t
he poor, and preached the Gospel message of God's love for all. Through her charitable giving and preaching, many were converted to Christ. This drew the anger of pagan officials, who had her beheaded in 107.

Kontakion (Fourth Tone)

When thou wast brought up from the mire of transgression,
like a most precious stone whose brightness is darkened,
repentance made thee shine again with godliness;
and when thou hadst reached the height of ascetical striving.
Christ made thee illustrious with the glory of contest,
and hath bestowed on thee His grace to heal,
O wise Eudocia, thou rival of angel-kind.

Troparion (Fifth Tone)

O Eudoxia, when godly fear entered your heart,
You abandoned the glory of the world,
And hastened to God the Word.
You took his yoke on your flesh
And shed your blood in a contest surpassing nature.
O glorious martyr,
Entreat Christ our God to grant us his great mercy.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A poem by Zac

Zac was giving an assignment in his English class to write a poem about a person. This is the beautiful poem he wrote about his brother, Isaac. It brings me so much comfort when I read it, and I am so relieved to know that Zac can express his feelings so openly.


You had dimples, you were Asian and bald

You always stalked me when you crawled

You were fatter than a Sumo wrestler and your cheeks were so chubby

I hope you thought that I was your best buddy.

You were happier than Mexican Jumping Beans

and laughed a lot and screamed.

Even though you slept all the time

we still got a chance to play outside.

You were curious to see what I was doing

more curious than Curious George

You thought that I was fun to be around

and you were never bored.

You were happy to see me

and always at peace

more peaceful than Ghandi

meditating under a tree

But then on one sad day, everyone cried.

You left to go to heaven on the day that you died.

Friday, February 25, 2011

St. Ethelbert and St, Tarasius

St. Ethelbert, King of Kent, 6th century
Icon written by Monk Aidan of Shropshire, Hermitage of Sts. Anthony and Cuthbert

Today we remember St. Ethelbert, King of Kent. In 597, Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine (of Canterbury, not to be confused with St. Augustine of Hippo) with a delegation of Benedictine monks to convert the pagans in Kent. They were received by the King's Christian wife, St. Bertha, and some years later, St. Ethelbert was baptized. He gave land to the monks to build a monastery, and allowed them to freely preach and establish churches.

We also remember St. Tarasius, the Patriarch of Constantinople from 784-806. He was a defender of icons and a preserver of Church unity. He presided over the Seventh Ecumenical Council, where the veneration of icons was confirmed. The iconoclasts who accepted the decision of the Council were received again into the Church. The Council proclaimed:

We define that the holy icons, whether in color, mosaic, or some other material, should be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on the sacred vessels and liturgical vestments, on the walls, furnishings, and in houses and along the roads, namely the icons of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ, that of our Lady the Theotokos, those of the venerable angels and those of all saintly people. Whenever these representations are contemplated, they will cause those who look at them to commemorate and love their prototype. We define also that they should be kissed and that they are an object of veneration and honor (timitiki proskynisis), but not of real worship (latreia), which is reserved for Him Who is the subject of our faith and is proper for the divine nature, ... which is in effect transmitted to the prototype; he who venerates the icon, venerated in it the reality for which it stands.