Our Morning Offering – 14 January – Monday of the Second week in Ordinary Time, Year A
Before Jesus Crucified (Sweet Jesus, please, abide with me!) By Blessed Titus Brandsma OCD (1881-1942) Martyr
Dear Lord, when looking up at Thee,
I see Thy loving eyes on me,
Love overflows my humble heart,
Knowing what a faithful friend Thou are.
A cup of sorrow I foresee,
Which I accept for love of Thee,
Thy painful way I wish to go,
The only way to God I know.
My soul is full of peace and light,
Although in pain, this light shines bright.
For here, Thou keepest to Thy breast.
My longing heart to find there rest.
Leave me here freely all alone,
In cell where never sunlight shone.
Should no-one ever speak to me,
This golden silence makes me free!
For though alone, I have no fear,
Never were Thou, O Lord, so near.
Sweet Jesus, please, abide with me!
My deepest peace I find in Thee.
One Minute Reflection – 1 January – The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave Day of the Nativity of the Lord, Readings: Numbers 6:22-27, Psalm 67:2-3, 5-6, 8, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 2:16-21
But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. … Luke 2:19
REFLECTION – “You will pray to the Virgin Mother that she obtain for you a perfect renewal of life and that, by this grace, she herself, the venerable rose, become your mother and godmother in such a way, that you may be her true daughter in conduct. And pray that this very gem of decency, may envelop your soul, in the mantle of her cleanliness, preserving you without any spot, under her most dulcet tutelage, for her Son, the Lord King. And pray that your name may be numbered among Israel, the choicest lot, so that you have share with those who walk in innocence of heart, always seeing the Lord before them in all of their ways. (cf. Ps 15:8)
Greetings, Mary, queen of clemency, olive tree of mercy, through whom life’s remedy has come to us. Queen of clemency, Virgin Mother of the divine offspring, through whom the Child of supernal light came to us, the scented offspring of Israel. Ah! Just as you became the true mother of us all, through your Son, who Himself, your one and only Son, did not scorn to become our Brother, now then, for the sake of His love take me, an unworthy woman, into your motherly care. Aid my faith, keep and instruct it and become so much the godmother of my renewal and faith now, that you may be my only mother and closest to my heart for eternity, always caring for me with loving-kindness in this life and taking me, into your full motherliness, at the hour of death. Amen.” … St Gertrude the Great of Helfta (1256-1301)
PRAYER – God, our Father, since You gave mankind a Saviour through the blessed Mary, virgin and mother, grant that we may feel the power of her intercession, when she pleads for us with Jesus Christ, Your Son, the author of life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever, amen.
Quote/s of the Day – 28 December – The Feast of the Holy Innocents – The Fourth Day of the Christmas Octave
“These then, whom Herod’s cruelty tore as sucklings from their mothers’ bosom, are justly hailed as “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief.”
St Augustine (354-430)
Father & Doctor of the Church
“The star of Bethlehem shines forth in the dark night of sin. Upon the radiance that goes forth from the manger, there falls the shadow of the cross. In the dark of Good Friday, the light is extinguished but it rises more brightly, as the sun of grace. on the morning of the resurrection. The road of the incarnate Son of God, is through the cross and suffering. to the splendour of the resurrection. To arrive with the Son of Man, through suffering and death, at this splendour of the resurrection, is the road for each one of us, for all mankind.”
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
[Edith Stein] (1891-1942)
Quote/s of the Day – 26 December – Feast of St Stephen the ProtoMartyr and The Second Day in the Christmas Octave
“Love, indeed, is the source of all good things, it is an impregnable defence and the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can neither go astray, nor be afraid, love guides him, protects him and brings him to his journey’s end.”
St Fulgentius of Ruspe (460-533)
“He [St Stephen], followed the Lord in what may be, by nature, the most difficult and even, apparently, impossible for the human heart. He fulfilled the command to love one’s enemies, as did the Saviour Himself. The Child in the manger, who has come to fulfill His Father’s will, even to death on the Cross, sees before Him in spirit, all who will follow Him on this way. His heart goes out to the youth whom He will one day await with a palm as the first to reach the Father’s throne. His little hand points him out to us, as an example, as if to say, “See the gold that I expect of you.”
St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
[Edith Stein] (1891-1942)
“For believers, the day of death and even more so, the day of martyrdom, is not the end of everything but rather, the “passage” to immortal life, it is the day of the final birth, the “dies natalis.” Thus is understood, the link that exists between the “dies natalis” of Christ and the “dies natalis” of St Stephen. If Jesus had not been born on earth, men would not have been able to be born for heaven. Precisely because Christ was born, we are able to be “reborn.”
Advent Reflection – Saturday of Advent 21 December, Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14, Psalm 24:1-6, Luke 1:26-38
The Lord is at hand, come let us adore Him.
“Mary set out… in haste” … Luke 1:26
REFLECTION – “Our Lady’s strength was her gaiety and joy. This is what made her God, her son’s attentive servant, because as soon as He came to her she “set out in haste.” Joy alone could have given her the strength to set out in all haste across the hill country of Judah to become the servant of her cousin. It is just the same for us. Like her, we must be true servants of the Lord and after holy communion each day we must hurry over the mountains of the difficulties we encounter, offering our service to the poor with all our heart. Give to Jesus in the poor, as a servant of the Lord.
Joy is prayer, joy is strength, joy is love. It is love’s net with which to catch souls. “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). Those who give with joy give twice over. If you meet up with difficulties and accept them with joy, with a big smile, in this, as in many other things, people will realise that your works are good and the Father will be glorified in them. The best way, of showing God and others your gratitude, is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart comes from a heart that is burning with love.” … St Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) – Founder of the Missionary Sisters of Charity – Jesus, the Word to Be Spoken
MEDITATION –“A soul united to Jesus, is a living smile that radiates Him and, gives Him.” … St Elizabeth of the Trinity (1880-1906)
ADVENT ACTION – “God is interested in even the smallest events in the lives of His creatures – in your affairs and mine — and He calls each of us by name. This certainty that the faith gives, enables us to look at everything in a new light. And everything, while remaining exactly the same, becomes different, because it is an expression of God’s love. Our life is turned into a continuous prayer, we find ourselves with good humour and a peace that never ends and everything we do is an act of thanksgiving, running through all our day. ‘My soul magnifies the Lord,’ Mary sang, ‘and my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour.’” …St Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975) – “To Jesus through Mary,” Christ is Passing By, 144
O Radiant Dawn,
splendour of eternal light, sun of justice!
Come and shine on those
who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
Saint of the Day – 16 December – Blessed Mary of the Angels Fontanella OCD (1661-1717) “The Fragrant Rose of Turin,” Discalced Carmelite, Mystic, Stigmatist, Marian devotee and client of St Joseph, Prioress, Spiritual director – born as Marianna Fontanella on 7 January 1661 at Balderino, Italy and died on 16 December 1717 of natural causes at Turin, Iraly. Also known as Maria degli Angeli, Maria Fontanella of the Angels. Bl Mary studied with the Cistercians as a child and entered the Discalced Carmelites despite the protests of her mother and siblings – she soon became a noted abbess and prioress and in 1703 inaugurated a new convent she herself oversaw the establishment of and later, instigated the building of a beautiful Basilica in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
Marianna Fontanella came into the world on January 7, 1661. She was the youngest of 11 children born to Count Giovanni of Turin and his wife, Lady Maria Tana. The mother had among her close relatives, the mother of St Aloysius de Gonzaga SJ (1568-1591), a youthful aristocrat who renounced a life of privilege to become a holy Jesuit. The fact that there was an official Saint counted among her kin was undoubtedly a source of pride for the family but it wasn’t enough to impress Marianna to want to become one too. It was related that this Blessed initially lived her early years in a manner typical of her high social status – she was well-educated, pampered and exposed to all sorts of social niceties and assemblies … and she enjoyed it all, especially the fancy outfits and the dances.
However, on one particular day, while still a young child, she sat in front of a mirror admiring herself when her own reflection vanished to be replaced by a vision – Christ appeared in the mirror, sadly staring back at her, battered and crowned with thorns. The experience so shocked Marianna that it had the immediate effect of a lasting conversion. From that moment on she shunned her elaborate wardrobe and jewellery and began exercising a devout mode of living despite her tender age. In 1667 she schemed with a little brother to imitate the saints and to run off to live “in the desert” though, at the time they were meant to begin this journey, the two were so fast asleep that their plan was spoiled.
Due to her familial relationship with him, she adopted Saint Luigi Gonzaga as a model for personal holiness and made an effort to imitate the late saint’s example. In 1673 as a 12-year-old, Marianna accompanied one of her sisters to the Cistercian Monastery in Saluzzo where the latter was entering into religious life. Somehow, Marianna was able to persuade her parents to allow her to board with the nuns and she remained with them for over a year until her mother recalled her home due to the unexpected death of her father. Back at the family villa, she resisted her family’s efforts to marry her off and she practised a regimen of prayer and self-mortification. Apparently, while with the Cistercians, an earlier resolve she made to become a nun had strengthened but she was undecided as to which order to join.
After providentially meeting and speaking with a venerable Carmelite priest during one of the rare public exhibitions of the Holy Shroud of Turin, Marianna applied with the local Discalced Carmelite Monastery of Santa Cristina. Lady Maria reluctantly consented when it became clear that her daughter could not be dissuaded, so Marianna made her entrance into Carmel on 19 November 1675, she was 14-years-old and took the name Maria of the Angels.
The first year in the monastery was not easy for the aspiring nun. The sweetness of spirit and the divine favours she had started to enjoy before entering, evaporated, leaving Sr Maria with a terrible dryness in her soul. She clung desperately to her faith and, guided by a meticulous novice mistress, she managed to reach profession on 26 December 1676… but the sense of separation from God – the “dark night of the soul” – continued to torment her for the next 15 years. The devil aggravated the situation, via severe temptations and diabolic assaults.
Fortunately, the beleagured nun weathered her personal storm through the consistent practice of virtue, especially humility and obedience towards her superiors. All that she suffered, served to purify her spirit, as Jesus was leading her on a singular path of extraordinary mystical union with Himself, as was proven later on.
By 1691 Sr Maria was finally free of the darkness and began experiencing supernatural lights with greater intensity. Sublime visions of Christ and heavenly inhabitants resumed, along with other mystical gifts such as Prophecy, the Stigmata and the Fragrance of Sanctity. It was reported that the beautiful scent that constantly surrounded her was so obvious, that the other nuns could track her whereabouts by following the aroma she left in her wake. The Blessed, on her part, took to carrying small bundles of flowers and spices to try to disguise the heavenly scent but to no avail – it increased on feast days and during times when she was ill and unable to take precautions, to disguise the fragrance. Even things she handled, were imbued with the delightful scent!
Noting her many virtues and fine example of Carmelite spirituality, the community elected Sr Maria to the post of novice mistress in 1691 then prioress in 1694. Word soon spread outside of the monastery about the extraordinary prioress and people began seeking her counsel and prayers, including the reigning king of the region, Vittorio Amadeo II of the royal house of Savoy and other members of the nobility. Vocations to the Carmel of St Cristina increased, which necessitated the founding of another monastery in nearby Moncalieri in 1703, with the encouragement from Blessed Sebastian Valfrè CO (1629-1710). Sr Maria had hoped to transfer there, to be away from the centre of the limelight but the king explicitly forbade her to ever leave Turin, due to his dependence on her advice and his devotion to her.
Public esteem for the prioress reached a pinnacle in 1696 when the city was besieged by an invading army. She publicly announced that the city would be saved if people turned to St Joseph, for help, which they did. Turin was liberated and, in gratitude, St Joseph was proclaimed the Patron Saint of the city by the king. Similarly, in 1706 when the French besieged the city, the citizens and royals turned to the intercession of their resident mystic – the nun invoked the Holy Virgin’s protection and the city’s army was again victorious. At Sr Mary’s urging, a church – the great Basilica of the Superga (Superga is a Hill in Turin) – was built to commemorate the victory and to honour Our Lady.
Sr Maria of the Angels died peacefully in her monastery on 16 December 1717, after living a productive life of prayer, self-sacrifice and service to her beloved people. She was 56-years-old at the time of her death and all of Turin mourned the passing of she, who had saved them from wars and even a plague in 1714.
At the instigation of King Vittorio, the holy nun’s Cause for Canonisation was started just a few years after the death of Sr Maria. Pope Pius IX declared her a Blessed on 25 April 1865 but a second miracle has yet to be officially recognised for the prioress to reach sainthood. Let us pray for her speedy Canonisation.