Our Morning Offering – 2 November – The De Profundis

Our Morning Offering – 2 November – All Souls Day – “The Month of the Holy Souls in Purgatory”

The De Profundis
Psalm 129

A prayer of a sinner, trusting in the mercies of God. The Sixth Penitential Psalm.

Out of the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord:
Lord, hear my voice.
Let Thine ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplication.
If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities:
Lord, who shall stand it.
For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness
and because of Thy law,
I have waited for Thee, O Lord.
My soul hath waited on His word:
my soul hath hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch, even until night,
let Israel hope in the Lord.
For with the Lord there is mercy
and with Him plenteous redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

(Eternal rest or “Requiem aeternam”)
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And may perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

(Indulgence of 100 Days)

*Psalm 129 in Douay Rheims

Pope Clement XII. was the first who, in order to move the piety of Christians to pray for the souls in Purgatory, granted, by a Brief of 4 August 1736, Coelestes Ecclesiae thesauros –
i. The Indulgence of 100 days to all the faithful, everytime that, at the sound of the bell, at the first hour after the evening Ave Maria, they say devoutly, on their knees the psalm De profundis, with a Requiem aAternamat the end of, it.
(The evening Ave Maria in Rome varies with the season; it is commonly taken as 6 o’clock.)
ii. A Plenary Indulgence to those who perform this pious exercise, for a year, at the hour appointed, once in the year, on any one day, after Confession and Communion. Those who do not know by heart the De Profundis, may gain these Indulgences by saying, in the way already mentioned for the De profundis, one Pater Noster and one Ave Maria, with the Requiem Aeternam.
Observe also, that the aforesaid Clement XII. declared, on 12 December 1736, that these Indulgences might be gained by saying the De Profundis etc, as above, although, according to the custom of a particular Church or place, the “signal for the dead,” as it is called, be given by the sound of the bell either before, or after one hour after the evening Ave Maria.
Pope Pius VI., by a Rescript of 18 March 1781, granted the above-named Indulgences to all the faithful, who should chance to dwell in any place where no bell for the dead is sounded and who, shall say the De Profundis or Pater Noster, as aforesaid, about the time specified above.


Reminder – The Novena to Our Lady of the Assumption – Begins tomorrow

The Novena to Our Lady of the Assumption

Begins 6 August in preparation
for the Feast on 15 August – a Holy Day.

On 1 November 1950, Pope Pius XII defined the Dogma of the Assumption. Thus he solemnly proclaimed that the belief whereby, the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the close of her earthly life, was taken up, body and soul, into the Glory of Heaven, definitively forms part of the deposit of faith, received from the Apostles. To avoid all that is uncertain, the Pope did not state either the manner or the circumstances of time and place in which the Assumption took place — only the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul, into the Glory of Heaven, is the matter of the definition.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Thou has destroyed the power of death
and given the hope of eternal life,
for body and soul.

Thou granted Thy Mother
a special place in Thy glory
and did not allow decay to touch her body.

As we rejoice in the Assumption
of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
grant us renewed confidence
in the victory of life over death.


Decree on Plenary Indulgence – Coronavirus

The Apostolic Penitentiary has issued a decree granting special indulgences to the faithful at this time of pandemic.DECREE ON PLENARY INDULGENCES CORONAVIRUS 21 MARCH 2020

Signed on 19 March, the Feast of St Joseph, by Major Penitentiary Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, the decree states that:

“The Plenary Indulgence is granted to the faithful suffering from the Coronavirus, subject to quarantine by order of the health authority in hospitals or in their own homes if, with a spirit detached from any sin, they unite themselves spiritually through the media to the celebration of Holy Mass, to the recitation of the Holy Rosary, to the pious practice of the Way of the Cross or other forms of devotion, or if at least they will recite the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and a pious invocation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering this trial in a spirit of faith in God and charity towards their brothers and sisters, with the will to fulfil the usual conditions (sacramental confession, Eucharistic communion and prayer according to the Holy Father’s intentions), as soon as possible.”

Cardinal Piacenza adds that the same gift of Plenary Indulgence will be given “under the same conditions” to:

“Health care workers, family members and all those who, following the example of the Good Samaritan, exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, care for the sick of Coronavirus according to the words of the divine Redeemer.  “No man has greater love than this: to give his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).”

He adds that the decree also “willingly grants” the Plenary Indulgence under the same conditions to:

“Those faithful who offer a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, or Eucharistic Adoration, or the reading of Sacred Scripture for at least half an hour, or the recitation of the Holy Rosary, or the pious exercise of the Way of the Cross, or the recitation of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, to implore from Almighty God the end of the epidemic, relief for those who are afflicted and the eternal salvation of those whom the Lord has called to Himself.”


One Minute Reflection – 16 February – “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, (…) the people of God”

One Minute Reflection – 16 February – The Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Readings: Sirach 15:15-20 (16-21), Psalm 119:1-2, 4-5, 17-18, 33-34, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10, Matthew 5:17-37 and the Memorial of Blessed Nicola Paglia OP (1197-1256) Priest

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.   I have come not to abolish but to fulfil” … Matthew 5:17

REFLECTION – At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right (cf. Acts 10:35).   God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another.   Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness.   He, therefore, chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself.   With it He set up a covenant   Step by step, He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself.

All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ and of that fuller revelation which was to be given, through the Word of God Himself, made flesh.   “Behold the days shall come saith the Lord and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the house of Judah (. . ).   I will give my law in their bowels and I will write it in their heart and I will be their God and they shall be my people (. . .)   For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord” (Jer 31:31f.)   Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, (1 Cor 11:25) calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit.   This was to be the new People of God (…) : “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, (…) the people of God” (1 Pt 2:9).

Israel according to the flesh, which wandered as an exile in the desert, was already called the Church of God.  (2 Esd 13:1; Nb 20:4; Dt 23:1f.)   So, likewise, the new Israel, which while living in this present age, goes in search of a future and abiding city (Heb 13:14) is called the Church of Christ. (Mt 16:18)   For He has bought it for Himself with His blood, (Acts 20:28) has filled it with His Spirit and provided it with those means which befit it as a visible and social union. … Vatican Council II – Constitution on the Church “Lumen gentium”, # 9matthew 5 17 do not think that i have come to abolish - christ instituted - lumen gentium 16 feb 2020

PRAYER – Loving and merciful Father!   In all our needs, even when we turn from You and cause You sorrow, You are there to help us!   You grace us with garments of love to protect us from the evils which surround us.   Bless us we pray, as we turn to You in pain and repentance and by the sufferings of Your divine Son Whom You sent to redeem us, grant us peace.   May the prayers of Blessed Nicola Paglia, intercede in our strife as we make our way home to You.   Through Jesus our Lord, with the Holy Spirit, one God for all eternity, nicola paglia pray for us 16 feb 2020


Quote of the Day – 6 November – Bl Christina of Stommeln

Quote of the Day – 6 November – The Memorial of Blessed Christina of Stommeln (1242–1312)

“I am a person who believes in Christ.
I want to live so that all things in
me are strengthened by Christ.”

Blessed Christina of Stommeln (1242–1312)i am a person who believes in christ - bl christina of stommeln 6 nov 2019.jpg


One Minute Reflection – 9 July – ‘Look for neither gain nor gratitude…’

One Minute Reflection – 9 July – Tuesday of the Fourteenth week in Ordinary Time, Year C, Gospel: Matthew 9:32–38 and the Memorial of Saints St Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom…Matthew 9:35

REFLECTION – “The presence of the Christian faithful in human groups, should be inspired by that charity, with which God has loved us and with which, He wills, that we should love one another (cf. 1 Jn 4:11).   Christian charity truly extends to all, without distinction of race, creed, or social condition – it looks for neither gain nor gratitude.   For as God loved us with an unselfish love, so also the faithful should in their charity care for the human person himself, loving him with the same affection with which God sought out man.   Just as Christ, then, went about all the towns and villages, curing every kind of disease and infirmity as a sign that the kingdom of God had come (cf. Matt. 9:35ff; Acts 10:38), so also the Church, through her children, is one with men of every condition but especially with the poor and the afflicted…   She shares in their joys and sorrows, knows of their longings and problems, suffers with them in death’s anxieties.   To those in quest of peace, she wishes to answer in fraternal dialogue, bearing them the peace and the light of the Gospel.
Let Christians labour and collaborate with others in rightly regulating the affairs of social and economic life.   With special care, let them devote themselves to the education of children and young people…   Furthermore, let them take part in the strivings of those peoples who, waging war on famine, ignorance and disease, are struggling to better their way of life and to secure peace in the world…
However, the Church has no desire at all to intrude itself into the government of the earthly city.   It claims no other authority, than that of ministering to men, with the help of God.”…Vatican Council II – Decree on the missionary activity of the Church, “Ad Gentes” # 12matthew 9 35 and jesus went about - christian charity ad gentes no 2 vat II 9 july 2019.jpg

PRAYER – True Light of the world, Lord Jesus Christ, as You enlighten all men for their salvation, give us grace, we pray, to herald Your coming, by preparing Your ways of justice and of peace.   Let us invoke Mary Most Holy, who welcomes under her mantle all the tired and worn-out people, so that through an enlightened faith, witnessed in life, we can offer relief, for so many, in need of help, of tenderness, of hope.   And may the prayers of Your Martyrs St Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions, strengthen us on our journey.   Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God forever, amen.mary most holy pray for us - 9 nov 2018.jpg

st augustine zhao rong martyrs of china pray for us 9 july 2019.jpg


Saint of the Day – 17 September – St Hildegard von Bingen OSB (1098-1179) Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 17 September – St Hildegard von Bingen OSB (1098-1179) Doctor of the Church – born on 1098 at Bermersheim, Rhineland Palatinate (modern Germany) and died on 17 September 1179 at Bingen, Rhineland Palatinate (modern Germany) of natural causes.   She was Beatified on 26 August 1326 by Pope John XXII and Canonised on 10 May 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI (equipollent canonisation) and declared a Doctor of the Church by the same Pope on 7 October 2012.   St Hildegard is also known as Saint Hildegard and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German Benedictine Abbess, Theologian, Writer, Composer, Philosopher, Poet, Mystic, Visionary, Founder, Scientist, Artist and Polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.    Hildegard was elected magistra by her fellow nuns in 1136; she founded the monasteries of Rupertsberg in 1150 and Eibingen in 1165.   One of her works as a composer, the Ordo Virtutum, is an early example of liturgical drama and arguably the oldest surviving morality play.   She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs and poems, while supervising miniature illuminations in the Rupertsberg manuscript of her first work, Scivias.   She is also noted for the invention of a constructed language known as Lingua hildegard bio infoHILDEGARD VON BINGEN

Proclaiming Saint Hildegard of Bingen,
professed nun of the Order of Saint Benedict,
a Doctor of the Universal Church

1. A “light for her people and her time”:  in these words Blessed John Paul II, my Venerable Predecessor, described Saint Hildegard of Bingen in 1979, on the occasion of the eight-hundredth anniversary of the death of this German mystic.   This great woman truly stands out crystal clear against the horizon of history for her holiness of life and the originality of her teaching.   And, as with every authentic human and theological experience, her authority reaches far beyond the confines of a single epoch or society; despite the distance of time and culture, her thought has proven to be of lasting relevance.

In Saint Hildegard of Bingen there is a wonderful harmony between teaching and daily life.   In her, the search for God’s will in the imitation of Christ was expressed in the constant practice of virtue, which she exercised with supreme generosity and which she nourished from biblical, liturgical and patristic roots in the light of the Rule of Saint Benedict.   Her persevering practice of obedience, simplicity, charity and hospitality was especially visible.   In her desire to belong completely to the Lord, this Benedictine Abbess was able to bring together rare human gifts, keen intelligence and an ability to penetrate heavenly realities.514px-Engraving;_German_abbess_and_physician_Hildegard_von_Bingen_Wellcome_L0005783

2. Hildegard was born in 1098 at Bermersheim, Alzey, to parents of noble lineage who were wealthy landowners.   At the age of eight she was received as an oblate at the Benedictine Abbey of Disibodenberg, where in 1115 she made her religious profession. Upon the death of Jutta of Sponheim, around the year 1136, Hildegard was called to succeed her as magistra.   Infirm in physical health but vigorous in spirit, she committed herself totally to the renewal of religious life.   At the basis of her spirituality was the Benedictine Rule which views spiritual balance and ascetical moderation as paths to holiness.   Following the increase in vocations to the religious life, due above all to the high esteem in which Hildegard was held, around 1150 she founded a monastery on the hill of Rupertsberg, near Bingen, where she moved with twenty sisters.   In 1165, she established another monastery on the opposite bank of the Rhine.   She was the Abbess of both.

Within the walls of the cloister, she cared for the spiritual and material well-being of her sisters, fostering in a special way community life, culture and the liturgy.   In the outside world she devoted herself actively to strengthening the Christian faith and reinforcing religious practice, opposing the heretical trends of the Cathars, promoting Church reform through her writings and preaching and contributing to the improvement of the discipline and life of clerics  . At the invitation first of Hadrian IV and later of Alexander III, Hildegard practised a fruitful apostolate, something unusual for a woman at that time, making several journeys, not without hardship and difficulty, to preach even in public squares and in various cathedral churches, such as at Cologne, Trier, Liège, Mainz, Metz, Bamberg and Würzburg.   The profound spirituality of her writings had a significant influence both on the faithful and on important figures of her time and brought about an incisive renewal of theology, liturgy, natural sciences and music. Stricken by illness in the summer of 1179, Hildegard died in the odour of sanctity, surrounded by her sisters at the monastery of Rupertsberg, Bingen, on 17 September 1179.

3. In her many writings Hildegard dedicated herself exclusively to explaining divine revelation and making God known in the clarity of His love.   Hildegard’s teaching is considered eminent both for its depth, the correctness of its interpretation and the originality of its views.   The texts she produced are refreshing in their authentic “intellectual charity” and emphasise the power of penetration and comprehensiveness of her contemplation of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, humanity and nature as God’s creation, to be appreciated and respected.

These works were born from a deep mystical experience and propose a perceptive reflection on the mystery of God.   The Lord endowed her with a series of visions from childhood, whose content she dictated to the Benedictine monk Volmar, her secretary and spiritual advisor and to Richardis von Stade, one of her women religious.   But particularly illuminating are the judgements expressed by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who encouraged her and especially by Pope Eugene III, who in 1147 authorised her to write and to speak in public.   Theological reflection enabled Hildegard to organise and understand, at least in part, the content of her visions.   In addition to books on theology and mysticism, she also authored works on medicine and natural sciences.   Her letters are also numerous — about four hundred are extant;  these were addressed to simple people, to religious communities, popes, bishops and the civil authorities of her time.   She was also a composer of sacred music.   The corpus of her writings, for their quantity, quality and variety of interests, is unmatched by any other female author of the Middle Ages.

Her main writings are the Scivias, the Liber Vitae Meritorum and the Liber Divinorum Operum.   They relate her visions and the task she received from the Lord to transcribe them. In the author’s view her Letters were no less important, they bear witness to the attention Hildegard paid to the events of her time, which she interpreted in the light of the mystery of God.   In addition there are 58 sermons, addressed directly to her sisters. They are her Expositiones Evangeliorum, containing a literary and moral commentary on Gospel passages related to the main celebrations of the liturgical year.   Her artistic and scientific works focus mainly on music, in the Symphonia Harmoniae Caelestium Revelationum;  on medicine, in the Liber Subtilitatum Diversarum Naturarum Creaturarum and in the Causae et Curae and on natural sciences in the Physica.   Finally her linguistic writings are also noteworthy, such as the Lingua Ignota and the Litterae Ignotae, in which the words appear in an unknown language of her own invention but are composed mainly of phonemes present in German.

Hildegard’s language, characterised by an original and effective style, makes ample use of poetic expressions and is rich in symbols, dazzling intuitions, incisive comparisons and evocative metaphors.HILDEGARD ICON

4. With acute wisdom-filled and prophetic sensitivity, Hildegard focused her attention on the event of revelation.   Her investigation develops from the biblical page in which, in successive phases, it remains firmly anchored.   The range of vision of the mystic of Bingen was not limited to treating individual matters but sought to offer a global synthesis of the Christian faith.   Hence in her visions and her subsequent reflections she presents a compendium of the history of salvation from the beginning of the universe until its eschatological consummation.   God’s decision to bring about the work of creation is the first stage on this immensely long journey which, in the light of sacred Scripture, unfolds from the constitution of the heavenly hierarchy until it reaches the fall of the rebellious angels and the sin of our first parents.

This initial picture is followed by the redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, the activity of the Church that extends in time the mystery of the Incarnation and the struggle against Satan.   The definitive Coming of the Kingdom of God and the Last Judgement crown this work.

Hildegard asks herself and us the fundamental question, whether it is possible to know God:  This is theology’s principal task.   Her answer is completely positive: through faith, as through a door, the human person is able to approach this knowledge.   God, however, always retains his veil of mystery and incomprehensibility  . He makes himself understandable in creation but, creation itself is not fully understood when detached from God.   Indeed, nature considered in itself provides only pieces of information which often become an occasion for error and abuse.   Faith, therefore, is also necessary in the natural cognitive process, for otherwise knowledge would remain limited, unsatisfactory and misleading.

Creation is an act of love by which the world can emerge from nothingness.   Hence, through the whole range of creatures, divine love flows as a river.   Of all creatures God loves man in a special way and confers upon him an extraordinary dignity, giving him that glory which the rebellious angels lost.   The human race may thus be counted as the tenth choir of the angelic hierarchy.   Indeed human beings are able to know God in Himself, that is, His one nature in the Trinity of Persons. Hildegard approached the mystery of the Blessed Trinity along the lines proposed by Saint Augustine.   By analogy with his own structure as a rational being, man is able to have an image at least of the inner life of God.   Nevertheless, it is solely in the economy of the Incarnation and human life of the Son of God that this mystery becomes accessible to human faith and knowledge.   The holy and ineffable Trinity in supreme Unity was hidden from those in the service of the ancient law.   But in the new law of grace it was revealed to all who had been freed from slavery.   The Trinity was revealed in a special way in the Cross of the Son.

A second “space” in which God becomes known is His word, contained in the Books of the Old and New Testament.   Precisely because God “speaks”, man is called to listen.   This concept affords Hildegard the opportunity to expound her doctrine on song, especially liturgical song.   The sound of the word of God creates life and is expressed in his creatures.   Thanks to the creative word, beings without rationality are also involved in the dynamism of creation.   But man of course is the creature who can answer the voice of the Creator with his own voice.   And this can happen in two ways:  in voce oris, that is, in the celebration of the liturgy, and in voce cordis, that is, through a virtuous and holy life.   The whole of human life may therefore be interpreted as harmonic and symphonic.Museum - Hildegard von Bingen

5. Hildegard’s anthropology begins from the biblical narrative of the creation of man (Gen 1:26), made in the image and likeness of God.   Man, according to Hildegard’s biblically inspired cosmology, contains all the elements of the world because the entire universe is recapitulated in him;  he is formed from the very matter of creation.   The human person can therefore consciously enter into a relationship with God.   This does not happen through a direct vision, but, in the words of Saint Paul, as “in a mirror” (1 Cor 13:12).   The divine image in man consists in his rationality, structured as intellect and will.   Thanks to his intellect, man can distinguish between good and evil;  thanks to his will, he is spurred to action.

Human beings are seen as a unity of body and soul. The German mystic shows a positive appreciation of corporeity and providential value is given even to the body’s weaknesses. The body is not a weight from which to be delivered.   Although human beings are weak and frail, this “teaches” them a sense of creatureliness and humility, protecting them from pride and arrogance.   Hildegard contemplated in a vision the souls of the blessed in paradise waiting to be rejoined to their bodies.   Our bodies, like the body of Christ, are oriented to the glorious resurrection, to the supreme transformation for eternal life.   The very vision of God, in which eternal life consists, cannot be definitively achieved without the body.

The human being exists in both the male and female form.   Hildegard recognised that a relationship of reciprocity and a substantial equality between man and woman is rooted in this ontological structure of the human condition.   Nevertheless the mystery of sin also dwells in humanity and was manifested in history for the first time precisely in the relationship between Adam and Eve.   Unlike other medieval authors who saw Eve’s weakness as the cause of the Fall, Hildegard places it above all in Adam’s immoderate passion for her.

Even in their condition as sinners, men and women continue to be the recipients of God’s love, because God’s love is unconditional and, after the Fall, acquires the face of mercy. Even the punishment that God inflicts on the man and woman brings out the merciful love of the Creator.   In this regard, the most precise description of the human creature is that of someone on a journey, homo viator.   On this pilgrimage towards the homeland, the human person is called to a struggle in order constantly to choose what is good and avoid evil.

The constant choice of good produces a virtuous life.   The Son of God made man is the subject of all virtues, therefore the imitation of Christ consists precisely in living a virtuous life in communion with Christ.   The power of virtue derives from the Holy Spirit, poured into the hearts of believers, who brings about upright beha  viour. This is the purpose of human existence.   In this way man experiences his Christ-like perfection.vonbingenhildeg

6. So as to achieve this goal, the Lord has given his Church the sacraments.   Salvation and the perfection of the human being are not achieved through the effort of the will alone but rather through the gifts of grace that God grants in the Church.

The Church herself is the first sacrament that God places in the world so that she may communicate salvation to mankind.   The Church, built up from “living souls”, may rightly be considered virgin, bride and mother and thus resembles closely the historical and mystical figure of the Mother of God.  The Church communicates salvation first of all by keeping and proclaiming the two great mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, which are like the two “primary sacraments” and then through administration of the other sacraments.   The summit of the sacramental nature of the Church is the Eucharist. The sacraments produce the sanctification of believers, salvation and purification from sin, redemption and charity and all the other virtues.   However, to repeat, the Church lives because God within her has manifested his intraTrinitarian love, which was revealed in Christ.   The Lord Jesus is the mediator par excellence.   From the Trinitarian womb He comes to encounter man and from Mary’s womb He encounters God.   As the Son of God, He is love incarnate;  as the Son of Mary, He is humanity’s representative before the throne of God.

The human person can have an experience of God.   Relationship with Him, in fact, is not lived solely in the sphere of rationalit but involves the person totally.   All the external and internal senses of the human being are involved in the experience of God.   “But man was created in the image and likeness of God, so that he might act through the five bodily  senses;  he is not divided by them, rather through them he is wise, knowledgeable and intelligent in doing his work (…). For this very reason, because man is wise, knowledgeable and intelligent, he knows creation;  he knows God — whom he cannot see except by faith — through creation and his great works, even if with his five senses he barely comprehends them” (Explanatio Symboli Sancti Athanasii in PL 197, 1073).   This experiential process finds once again, its fullness in participation in the sacraments.

Hildegard also saw contradictions in the lives of individual members of the faithful and reported the most deplorable situations.   She emphasised in particular that individualism in doctrine and in practice on the part of both lay people and ordained ministers is an expression of pride and constitutes the main obstacle to the Church’s evangelising mission to non-Christians.

One of the salient points of Hildegard’s magisterium was her heartfelt exhortation to a virtuous life addressed to consecrated men and women.   Her understanding of the consecrated life is a true “theological metaphysics”, because it is firmly rooted in the theological virtue of faith, which is the source and constant impulse to full commitment in obedience, poverty and chastity.   In living out the evangelical counsels, the consecrated person shares in the experience of Christ, poor, chaste and obedient and follows in his footsteps in daily life.   This is fundamental in the consecrated life.hildegard statue

7. Hildegard’s eminent doctrine echoes the teaching of the Apostles, the Fathers and writings of her own day, while it finds a constant point of reference in the Rule of Saint Benedict.   The monastic liturgy and the interiorisation of sacred Scripture are central to her thought which, focusing on the mystery of the Incarnation, is expressed in a profound unity of style and inner content that runs through all her writings.

The teaching of the holy Benedictine nun stands as a beacon for homo viator.   Her message appears extraordinarily timely in today’s world, which is especially sensitive to the values that she proposed and lived.   For example, we think of Hildegard’s charismatic and speculative capacity, which offers a lively incentive to theological research;  her reflection on the mystery of Christ, considered in its beauty;  the dialogue of the Church and theology with culture, science and contemporary art;  the ideal of the consecrated life as a possibility for human fulfilment; her appreciation of the liturgy as a celebration of life;  her understanding of the reform of the Church, not as an empty change of structure but as conversion of heart;  her sensitivity to nature, whose laws are to be safeguarded and not violated.

For these reasons the attribution of the title of Doctor of the Universal Church to Hildegard of Bingen has great significance for today’s world and an extraordinary importance for women.   In Hildegard are expressed the most noble values of womanhood – hence the presence of women in the Church and in society is also illumined by her presence, both from the perspective of scientific research and that of pastoral activity.   Her ability to speak to those who were far from the faith and from the Church make Hildegard a credible witness of the new evangelisation.

By virtue of her reputation for holiness and her eminent teaching, on 6 March 1979 Cardinal Joseph Höffner, Archbishop of Cologne and President of the German Bishops’ Conference, together with the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the same Conference, including myself as Cardinal Archbishop of Munich and Freising, submitted to Blessed John Paul II the request that Hildegard of Bingen be declared a Doctor of the Universal Church. In that petition, the Cardinal emphasized the soundness of Hildegard’s doctrine, recognized in the twelfth century by Pope Eugene III, her holiness, widely known and celebrated by the people, and the authority of her writings. As time passed, other petitions were added to that of the German Bishops’ Conference, first and foremost the petition from the nuns of Eibingen Monastery, which bears her name. Thus, to the common wish of the People of God that Hildegard be officially canonized, was added the request that she be declared a “Doctor of the Universal Church”.

With my consent, therefore, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints diligently prepared a Positio super Canonizatione et Concessione tituli Doctoris Ecclesiae Universalis for the Mystic of Bingen.   Since this concerned a famous teacher of theology who had been the subject of many authoritative studies, I granted the dispensation from the measures prescribed by article 73 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus.   The cause was therefore examined and approved by the Cardinals and Bishops, who met in Plenary Session on 20 March 2012.   The proponent (ponens) of the cause was His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. At the audience of 10 May 2012, Cardinal Amato informed us in detail about the status quaestionis and the unanimous vote of the Fathers at the above-mentioned Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.   On 27 May 2012, Pentecost Sunday, I had the joy of announcing to the crowd of pilgrims from all over the world gathered in Saint Peter’s Square the news of the conferral of the title of Doctor of the Universal Church upon Saint Hildegard of Bingen and Saint John of Avila at the beginning of the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and on the eve of the Year of Faith.

Today, with the help of God and the approval of the whole Church, this act has taken place.   In Saint Peter’s Square, in the presence of many Cardinals and Prelates of the Roman Curia and of the Catholic Church, in confirming the acts of the process and willingly granting the desires of the petitioners, I spoke the following words in the course of the Eucharistic sacrifice:  “Fulfilling the wishes of numerous brethren in the episcopate and of many of the faithful throughout the world, after due consultation with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with certain knowledge and after mature deliberation, with the fullness of my apostolic authority I declare Saint John of Avila, diocesan priest and Saint Hildegard of Bingen, professed nun of the Order of Saint Benedict, to be Doctors of the Universal Church.   In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”HILDEGARD VON BINGEN-LG

I hereby decree the present Letter to be perpetually valid and fully effective, and I establish that from this moment anything to the contrary proposed by any person, of whatever authority, knowingly or unknowingly, is invalid and without force

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, under the ring of the Fisherman, on 7 October 2012, in the eighth year of my Pontificate.


Quote/s of the Day – 17 August – Today’s Gospel: Matthew 19:3–12

Quote/s of the Day – 17 August – Friday of the Nineteenth week in Ordinary Time, Year B – Today’s Gospel: Matthew 19:3–12

“Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?   So they are no longer two but one flesh.   What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” Matthew 19:4-6

“Speaking of Marriage”

“By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself
and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation
and education of children and find in them their ultimate crown.”

Second Vatican Council
Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), 48by their very nature vat II gaudium et spes - 17 aug 2018 speaking of marriage

“The obvious effect
of frivolous divorce
will be frivolous marriage.
If people can be separated
for no reason,
they will feel it easier,
to be united for no reason.”

G K Chesterton (1874-1936)the obvious effect - g k chesterton - 17 aug 2018 speaking of marriage

“To defend his purity,
Saint Francis of Assisi rolled in the snow,
Saint Benedict threw himself into a thorn bush
and Saint Bernard plunged into an icy pond…
You – what have you done?”

St Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975)to defend his purity - st josemaria - 17 aug 2018 speaking of marriage

“Do not forget,
that true love sets no conditions,
it does not calculate
or complain
but simply loves.”

St John Paul the Great (1920-2005)do not forget that true love sets no conditions - st pope john paul - 17 aug 2018 speaking of marriage

“No one justifies lying, cheating,
betraying, promise breaking,
devastating and harming strangers.
But we expect and we tolerate doing this,
to the one person in the world,
we promised most seriously,
to be faithful to forever –
we justify divorce.”

Peter Kreeftno one justifies lying - kreeft - 17 aug 2018 speaking of marriage

“Marriage is the real vocation crisis in the United States…
We have a vocation crisis to life-long,
life-giving, loving, faithful marriage.
If we take care of that one,
we’ll have all the priests and nuns
we’ll need for the Church.”

Cardinal Timothy Dolanmarriage is the real vocation crises - card t dolan - 17 aug 2017 - speaking of marriage


Quote/s of the Day – 8 July – The Memorial of Sts Priscilla and Aquila – Patrons of Catholic Marriage and Families

Quote/s of the Day – 8 July – The Memorial of Sts Priscilla and Aquila – Patrons of Catholic Marriage and Families

Speaking of Marriage and the Family

“Authentic married love is caught up into divine love . . .
so that this love may lead the spouses to God . . .
and in God, they find the strength,
to carry on their roles and responsibilities.”

Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), 48authentic married love - gaudium et spes 48 - 8 july 2018

“Merciful love is supremely indispensable
between those who are closest to one another:
between husbands and wives,
between parents and children,
between friends
and it is indispensable
in education and in pastoral work.”merciful love - st john paul 8 july 208

“The future of humanity passes by way of the family.
It is therefore indispensable and urgent,
that every person of good will should endeavour
to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.
I feel that I must ask for a particular effort in this field,
from the sons and daughters of the Church.
Faith gives them full knowledge of God’s wonderful plan,
they, therefore, have an extra reason for caring for the reality
that is the family in this time of trial and of grace.
They must show the family special love.
This is an injunction that calls for concrete action.”

St Pope John Paul (1920-2005)the future of humanity - st pope john paul - 8 july 2018

“We speak a lot about behavioural problems,
mental health, the well-being of the child,
the anxiety of the parents and the children—
but do we even know what a wound of the soul is?
Do we feel the weight of the mountain
that crushes the soul of a child in those families,
where members mistreat and hurt one another
to the point of breaking the bonds of marital fidelity?
What effect do our choices — often poor choices—
have on the souls of children?”

Pope Francis
24 June 2015we speak a lot about behavioural problems - pope francis - 8 july 2018

“During these days, we will reflect in particular on the family,
which is the fundamental cell of society.
From the beginning the Creator blessed man and woman,
so that they might be fruitful and multiply
and so the family then,
is an image of the Triune God in the world.”

Pope Francis
23 February 2014the family is the fundamental - pope francis - 8 july 2018

To be continued……


Thought for the Day – 27 June – The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour

Thought for the Day – 27 June – The Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour ( Under the Protection of the Redemptiorists – CSsr)mother of perpetual help

An artist about to paint an icon prepares himself spiritually by prayer, confession, Holy Communion and sometimes fasting.   He prays even while painting, for he sees himself as an instrument of the Holy Spirit, the principal artist, Who will use the icon as an instrument to channel graces to those who reverence it and pray before it.   In most cases, the artist does not even sign his name to his work.

In Western art, there is little difference in the styles used in sacred art as compared to secular art;  only the subject matter is different.   Icons, however, are not meant to be realistic as far as physical representation, but rather to portray eternal truths in a way that immediately transports the viewer to a spiritual plane.   Perhaps the simplest way to describe it is as theology in line and colour.   The images are rendered in an extremely stylised, non-naturalistic way.   The folds of garments appear as simple geometric forms, while faces and bodies show portray human nature transformed by grace into the divine.

In the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, the Child Jesus is not portrayed with the physical proportions of an infant but appears almost as an adult in miniature form.   This has been interpreted to indicate that He is God, having infinite knowledge.   Yet He is human as well, for He clings to His Mother’s hand in fear, while gazing up toward the angel over His shoulder.   One of His sandals has come loose, indicating the haste with which He had run to her.

Why is the Child Jesus so frightened?   The angels in the picture are holding instruments of His Passion and death, with the angel on the left bearing the gall, the lance and the reed, while the angel on the right holds the cross and nails.   Their hands are covered with a cloth or veil, much like the humeral veil that the priest holds when blessing with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance at Benediction.

The face of Our Lady is grave and sorrowful, with her large eyes directed not at Jesus, but at us.   One feels that she is pleading with us to avoid sin, which has caused her Son to suffer so much for us.   Her gaze makes us a part of the picture and the pain it portrays.   “Will you not love my Son, Who has loved you so much?” she seems to say.

Our Lady is clothed in the colours of royalty; her tunic is of dark red and her mantle is dark blue with a green lining.   (According to another interpretation, the dark red is said to be the colour worn by virgins at the time of Christ, while blue was the colour worn by mothers in Palestine.)   The Child Jesus also wears the colours of royalty.   Both Jesus and Mary have golden halos, but Christ’s halo is decorated with a cross as a sign of His Divinity and Passion.   Jewelled crowns were placed on the heads of both Mother and Child of the original icon by order of the Vatican in 1867.   (The crowns were removed when the icon underwent restoration in the 1990’s.)

The Greek initials next to the head of Our Lady identify her as “Mother of God,” while those next to the Child are the abbreviation for “Jesus Christ.”   The letters over the angels’ heads indicate the one on the left as St Michael and the one on the right as S. Gabriel.

The 8-pointed star on Our Lady’s veil tells us that she is the Star of the Sea, the Star that leads us to Jesus.   The small ornate cross to the left of the star reinforces this concept.

Mary’s mouth is small to indicate her spirit of silence and prayer.   Her eyes are large, for they see all of our troubles and needs and are always turned toward us.

Christ’s hands, turned palms down into His Mother’s, indicate that He has placed the graces of the Redemption in her keeping.   Our Lady’s hand does not clasp those of her Son but remains open, inviting us to put our hands in hers along with those of Jesus.

As in other icons, the background of the painting is gold to symbolize Heaven, where Jesus and Mary now reign in glory.   This light of Heaven shines through their clothing, illuminating not only the picture itself but those who behold it.   This radiance speaks to us of God’s light and grace, strengthening and consoling us as we journey through life to our heavenly goal.

Finally, it is of no small significance that Our Blessed Mother herself referred to the icon by the title of “Holy Mary of Perpetual Succour.”   Surely this, along with the symbolism we see in the picture, should assure us of the loving concern and tenderness our Blessed Mother has for us and her ardent desire to be a source of perpetual help to all who call upon her.

In answer to Pope Pius IX’s injunction to “make her known,” the Redemptorists commissioned several artists to paint copies of the original icon.   More than 2,300 such copies, similarly touched to the original, have been sent to other houses of the order around the world.   Pope Pius IX also received a copy, which he enshrined in his private chapel and was often seen kneeling before it in prayer.   (Excerpt from Sister Mary Agatha, CMRI)
Part of the tradition is that Mary had made it clear that she wished her image to be situated between the great basilicas of St John Lateran (the Pope’s Cathedral) and St Mary Major, her own basilica.   For the best part of 300 years from the year 1500, it was famous for the many miracles and graces granted to those who made the pilgrimage to the church of St Matthew on the Via Merulana, which was destroyed during the Napoleonic war.

In January 1855, the Redemptorist priests purchased Villa Caserta in Rome along the Via Merulana and converted it into their headquarters.   Without realising it, the property they had purchased was once the church and monastery of Saint Matthew, the site which the Virgin reportedly chose as the icon’s shrine.

Decades later, Pope Pius IX invited the Redemptorist Fathers to set up a Marian house of veneration in Rome, in response to which the Redemptorists built the Church of St  Alphonsus Liguori at that location.   The Redemptorists were thus established on the Via Merulana, not knowing that it had once been the site of the Church of San Matteo and shrine of the once-famous icon.

Mother of Perpetual Succour, Pray for us!


O Mother of Perpetual Succour,
with grateful hearts we join you
in thanking God
for all the wonderful things
He has done for us,
especially for giving us,
Jesus, your Son, as our Redeemer.
O God, our Creator,
we thank You for the gift of life
and all the gifts of nature:
our senses and faculties,
our talents and abilities.
We thank You for creating us
in Your image and likeness
and for giving us this earth
to use and develop,
to respect and cherish.
Despite our failures,
you continue to show Your love for us today
by increasing the life of Your Spirit in us
at the Eucharistic table.
Finally, we thank You, loving Father,
for giving us Mary,
the Mother of Your Son,
to be our Mother of Perpetual Succour.
We are grateful for all the favours
we have received through her intercession.
We pray that those past favours
may inspire us to greater confidence,
in your loving mercy and to seek the aid
of our Mother of Perpetual Succour.
Amenthanksgiving prayer to god our father for our mother of perpetual succour - redemptorists - 27 june 2018mother of perpetual succour - pray for us - 27 june 2018.jpg


Thought for the Day – 14 June – The Memorial of St Methodius I of Constantinople (8th Cent – 847) “Defender of Icons”

Thought for the Day – 14 June – The Memorial of St Methodius I of Constantinople (8th Cent – 847) “Defender of Icons”

Iconoclasm is still with us today, within and without the Catholic Church. Let us consider this statement from the Second Council of Nicaea that St Methodius fought all his life to defend:

“Following the divinely inspired teaching our of holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her), we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.”

And, from our present-day Catechism of the Catholic Church, we have these words:

“The contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration, so that the mystery celebrated, is imprinted in the heart’s memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful”…CCC 1162.

St Methodius, “Defender of Icons”, Pray for usst methodius - pray for us - 14 june 2018


Quote/s of the Day – 21 May 2018 “Mary’s Month!” – The First Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church and the Memorial of St Eugene de Mazenod (1782-1861)

Quote/s of the Day – 21 May 2018 “Mary’s Month!” – The First Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church and the Memorial of St Eugene de Mazenod (1782-1861)

“…She is clearly the Mother
of his members;
that is, of ourselves,
because she cooperated
by her charity,
so that faithful Christians,
members of the Head,
might be born in the Church.
As for the body,
she is the Mother of its Head…
Mary gave birth to our Head;
the Church gave birth to you.
Indeed, the Church also,
is both virgin and mother,
mother, because of her
womb of charity,
virgin, because of the integrity
of her faith and piety.”

St Augustine (354-430) Doctor of Graceshe is clearly the mother of His members - st augustine - first memorial of mother of the church - 21 may 2018

“This celebration will help us to remember.
that growth in the Christian life,
must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross,
to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet
and to the Mother of the Redeemer
and Mother of the Redeemed,
the Virgin who makes her offering to God.”this celebration will help us to remember - card sarah for pope francis - 21 may 2018

“As a caring guide to the emerging Church,
Mary had already begun her mission
in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles,
while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit.”

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Congregation of Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments,
11 February 2018, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes.
MOTHER OF THE CHURCHIN THE GENERAL ROMAN CALENDARas a caring guide to the emerging church - cardinal sarah - 21 may 2018

“We glorify God in the masterpiece
of His power and love…
it is the Son whom we honour
in the person of His Mother.”we glorify god in the masterpiece - st eugene de mazenod - 21 may 2018

“To love the Church
is to love Jesus Christ
and vice versa.”to love the church is to love jesus christ - st eugene de mazenod - 21 may 2018

“Practice well among yourselves:
charity, charity, charity
and outside,
zeal for the salvation of souls”

St Eugene de Mazenod (1782-1861)practice well among yourselves charity - st eugene de mazenod - 21 may 2018

Posted in DOCTORS of the Church, PAPAL DECREE, PAPAL MESSAGES, SAINT of the DAY, VATICAN Resources

Saint of the Day – 10 May – St John of Avila (1499-1569) “Apostle of Andalusia” known as “Father Master Avila” – Doctor of the Church

Saint of the Day – 10 May – St John of Avila (1499-1569) “Apostle of Andalusia” known as “Father Master Avila” – Doctor of the Church – Priest, Doctor of the Church, known as the Apostle of Andalusia, Mystic, Author, Preacher, Scholastic teacher, Founder of Schools and Universities, Reformer, Spiritual Advisor, Evangelist, Preacher (one of the greatest preachers of his time) was born on 6 January 1499 at Almodovar del Campo (Ciudad Real), Toledo, New Castile, Spain and died on 10 May 1569 at Montilla, Spain of natural causes.   Patronages – of  Andalusia, Spain, Spain, Spanish secular clergy, World Youth Day 2011.   His Relics are  interred in the Jesuit church at Montilla, Spain.  (More info and images see my post last year:



Proclaiming Saint John of Avila, diocesan priest,
a Doctor of the Universal Church


1. Caritas Christi urget nos (2 Cor 5:14).   The love of God, made known in Jesus Christ, is the key to the personal experience and teaching of the Holy Master John of Avila, an “evangelical preacher” constantly grounded in the sacred Scriptures, passionately concerned for the truth and an outstanding precursor of the new evangelization.

The primacy of grace, which inspires good works, the promotion of a spirituality of trust and the universal call to holiness lived as a response to God’s love are central themes in the teaching of this diocesan priest who devoted his life to the exercise of his priestly ministry.

On 4 March 1538 Pope Paul III issued the Bull Altitudo Divinae Providentiae, addressed to John of Avila and authorizing him to found the University of Baeza in the province of Jaén. John is there described as “praedicatorem insignem Verbi Dei”.   On 14 March 1565 Pius IV sent a Bull confirming the faculties granted to the University in 1538, wherein John is called “Magistrum in theologia et verbi Dei praedicatorem insignem” (cf. Biatiensis Universitas, 1968).   His contemporaries readily called him “Master”, a title which he held from 1538. In the homily for his canonization on 31 May 1970, Pope Paul VI praised his person and his outstanding teaching on the priesthood;  he held him up as an example of preaching and spiritual direction, called him a advocate of ecclesiastical reform and stressed his continuing influence down to our own time.

John of Avila lived in the first half of the sixteenth century.   He was born on 6 January 1499 or 1500 in Almodóvar del Campo (Ciudad Real, in the Archdiocese of Toledo).   He was the only son of devout Christian parents, Alonso Ávila and Catalina Gijón, who were wealthy and of high social standing.   When John was fourteen years old, he was sent to study law at the prestigious University of Salamanca.   He left his studies at the end of the fourth term, after a profound experience of conversion.   This prompted him to return home to devote himself to meditation and prayer.

Set on becoming a priest, in 1520 he went to study theology and humanities at the University of Alcalá de Henares, which was open to the great currents of the theology of that time and to the stirring of Renaissance humanism.   In 1526, he received priestly ordination and celebrated his first solemn Mass in his parish church.   Intending to go as a missionary to the West Indies, he determined to distribute his large inheritance among the needy.   Then, with the consent of the future first Bishop of Tlaxcala in New Spain (Mexico), he went to Seville to await a ship for the new world.

While preparing for his journey, John devoted himself to preaching in the city and its environs.   There he met the venerable Servant of God Fernando de Contreras, a doctor of Alcalá and a celebrated catechist.   Fernando, impressed by the young priest’s witness of life and his rhetorical ability, got the Archbishop of Seville to dissuade him from going to America in order to remain in Andalusia.   He stayed with de Contreras in Seville, sharing with him a life of poverty and prayer.   Devoting himself to preaching and spiritual direction, he continued to study theology at the College of Saint Thomas, where he may have been granted the title of “Master”.

In 1531, because of a misunderstanding about a homily he had given, John was imprisoned.   It was in prison that he began writing the first version of his work, Audi, Filia.  In those years he received the grace of an unusually profound insight into the mystery of God’s love and the great benefits bestowed on humanity by Jesus Christ our Redeemer.   Thereafter these were to be pillars of his spiritual life and central themes of his preaching.

Following his acquittal in 1533, he continued to preach with considerable success among the people and before the authorities but he chose to move to the Diocese of Córdoba, where he received incardination.   Some time later, in 1536, the Archbishop of Granada summoned him, desirous of his counsel.   There, in addition to continuing his work of evangelisation, he completed his studies at the university.

Thanks to his insight into the times and his excellent academic training, John of Avila was an outstanding theologian and a true humanist.   He proposed the establishment of an international court of arbitration to avoid wars and he invented and patented a number of engineering devices.   Leading a life of great poverty, he devoted himself above all to encouraging the Christian life of those who readily listened to his preaching and followed him everywhere.   He was especially concerned for the education and instruction of boys and young men, especially those studying for the priesthood.   He founded several minor and major colleges, which after the Council of Trent would become seminaries along the lines laid down by that Council.   He also founded the University of Baeza, which was known for centuries for its work of training clerics and laity.

After travelling throughout Andalusia and other regions of Central and Eastern Spain in preaching and prayer, in 1554, already ill, he finally withdrew to a simple house in Montilla (Córdoba), where he exercised his apostolate through an abundant correspondence and the preparation of several of his writings.   The Archbishop of Granada wanted to take John as his theological expert to the last two sessions of the Council of Trent.   Prevented from travelling because of ill health, he drafted the Memoriales, which were to have considerable influence on that great ecclesial assembly.

On the morning of 10 May 1569, in his humble home in Montilla, surrounded by disciples and friends, clinging to a crucifix, after much suffering he surrendered his soul to the Lord.

3. John of Avila was a contemporary, friend and counsellor of great saints and one of the most celebrated and widely esteemed spiritual masters of his time.

Saint Ignatius Loyola, who held him in high regard, was eager for him to enter the nascent “Company” which was to become the Society of Jesus.   Although he himself did not enter, the Master directed some thirty of his best students to the Society.   Juan Ciudad, later Saint John of God, the founder of the Order of Hospitallers, was converted by listening to the saintly Master and thereafter relied on him as his spiritual director. The grandee Saint Francis Borgia, later the General of the Society of Jesus, was another important convert thanks to the help of Father Avila.   Saint Thomas of Villanova, Archbishop of Valencia, disseminated Father Avila’s catechetical method in his diocese and throughout the south of Spain.   Among Father Avila’s friends were Saint Peter of Alcántara, Provincial of the Franciscans and reformer of the Order, and Saint John de Ribera, Bishop of Badajoz, who asked him to provide preachers to renew his diocese and later, as Archbishop of Valencia, kept a manuscript in his library containing 82 of John’s sermons.   Teresa of Jesus, now a Doctor of the Church, underwent great trials before she was able to send him the manuscript of her Autobiography.   Saint John of the Cross, also a Doctor of the Church, was in touch with his disciples in Baeza who assisted in the Carmelite reform.   Blessed Bartholomew of the Martyrs was acquainted with his life and holiness through common friends, and many others acknowledged the moral and spiritual authority of the Master.826px-Attributed_to_el_Greco_-_Portrait_of_Juan_de_Ávila_-_Google_Art_Project

4. Although “Father Master Avila” was primarily a preacher, he did not fail to make masterful use of his pen to set forth his teaching.   His memory and his posthumous influence, down to our own times, are closely linked not only to his life and witness but also to his various writings.

His major work, Audi, Filia, a classic of spirituality, is his most systematic treatise, wide-ranging and complete; its definitive edition was completed by the author in the last years of his life.  The Catechism or Christian Doctrine, the only work printed during his lifetime (1554), is a pedagogical synthesis of the content of the faith, addressed to children and adults.   The Treatise on the Love of God, a literary gem, reflects the depths of his insight into the mystery of Christ, the Incarnate Word and Redeemer.   The Treatise on the Priesthood is a brief compendium including his conversations, sermons and letters.   Saint John’s writings also include minor works consisting of guidelines or recommendations (avisos) for the spiritual life.   The Treatises on Reform are linked to the Council of Trent and the provincial synods which implemented it, and fittingly deal with personal and ecclesial renewal.   The Sermons and Conversations, like his Letters, are writings which span the entire liturgical year and the years of his priestly ministry. His commentaries on the Bible — including those on the Letter to the Galatians, the First Letter of John and others — are systematic expositions of remarkable insight and of great pastoral value.

All these works are marked by profound content, a clearly pedagogical format and the use of images and examples which give a glimpse into the sociological and ecclesial realities of the time.   The tone is one of supreme trust in God’s love, which calls each person to the perfection of charity.   His language is the classical and sober Castilian of his birthplace, La Mancha, coloured at times by the imagination and warmth of the south, an environment in which he spent the greater part of his apostolic life.

In his effort to discern the working of the Spirit in the Church during a complex historical period fraught with confusion, cultural change, various currents of humanism and the search for new forms of spirituality, he was clear in his presentation of criteria and concepts.

5. In his teaching, Master John of Avila constantly spoke of baptism and redemption as spurs to growth in holiness.   He explained that Christian spiritual life, as a participation in the life of the Blessed Trinity, begins with faith in the God who is Love, is grounded in God’s goodness and mercy as expressed in the merits of Christ and is wholly guided by the Spirit;  that is to say, by love of God and our brothers and sisters.   He writes: “Open your little heart to that breadth of love by which the Father gave us His Son, and with Him gave us Himself and the Holy Spirit and all things besides” (Letter 160). And again:  “Your neighbour is a concern of Jesus Christ” (ibid., 62), and therefore: “The proof of perfect love of our Lord is seen in the perfect love of our neighbour” (ibid., 103).   He also showed a deep appreciation of created realities, ordering them in the perspective of love.

Since we are temples of the Trinity, it is the Triune God who grants us His own life and thus our hearts become gradually one with God and our brothers and sisters.   The way of the heart is one of simplicity, goodness, love and filial affection.   This life according to the Spirit is markedly ecclesial, for it expresses the spousal love between Christ and the Church — the central theme of Audi, Filia.   It is also Marian:   configuration to Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit, is a process of growth in virtues and gifts which takes Mary as our model and Mother.   The missionary dimension of spirituality, derived from its ecclesial and Marian dimension, is clearly seen in the writings of Master Avila, who calls for apostolic zeal grounded in contemplation and the constant pursuit of holiness.   Devotion to the saints is something he recommends, since they point us toward “a great Friend, God himself, who embraces our hearts in His love (…) and commands us to have many other friends, who are His saints” (Letter 222).

6. If Master Avila was a pioneer in pointing to the universal call to holiness, he also had an essential role in the historical development of a systematic doctrine on the priesthood.   Down the centuries his writings have been a source of inspiration for priestly spirituality and even a current of mysticism among secular priests.   His influence can clearly be seen in a number of later spiritual writers.

Central to Master Avila’s teaching is the insight that, as priests, “during the Mass we place ourselves on the altar in the person of Christ to carry out the office of the Redeemer Himself” (Letter 157) and that acting in persona Christi demands that we humbly embody God’s paternal and maternal love.   This calls for a particular lifestyle, marked by regular recourse to the word of God and the Eucharist, by the adoption of a spirit of poverty, by preaching “temperately”, in other words, based on prior study and prayer and by love for the Church as the Bride of Christ.

The creation of means for providing candidates to the priesthood with a suitable formation, the need for greater holiness among the clergy and the necessary reform of ecclesial life were deep and constant concerns of the Holy Master.   A holy clergy is essential to the renewal of the Church and this in turn calls for the careful selection and suitable training of aspirants to the priesthood.   To meet this need, Saint John urged the establishment of seminaries and the creation of a special College for the study of sacred Scripture.   These proposals would affect the entire Church.

The foundation of the University of Baeza, to which he gave all his attention and enthusiasm, turned out to be one of his most successful ventures, since it succeeded in offering seminarians an excellent initial and permanent formation, with special emphasis on the study of a pastorally oriented “positive theology”;   it also gave rise to a priestly school which flourished for centuries.

7. Given the evident and growing reputation for sanctity of Master John of Avila, the cause for his beatification and canonisation was opened in the Archdiocese of Toledo in 1623.   It was not long before witnesses were questioned in Almodóvar del Campo and Montilla, where the Servant of God was born and died and in Córdoba, Granada, Jaen, Baeza and Andujar.   Nevertheless, for various reasons the cause was left unfinished until 1731, when the Archbishop of Toledo sent to Rome the informative processes that had already been completed.   In a decree dated 3 April 1742, Pope Benedict XIV approved Master Avila’s writings and praised his doctrine and on 8 February 1759, Clement XIII declared his heroic virtues.   John of Avila was beatified by Pope Leo XIII on 6 April 1894 and canonised by Pope Paul VI on 31 May 1970.   Acknowledging his outstanding role as a model of priesthood, in 1946 Pius XII named him Patron of the diocesan clergy of Spain.

The title of “Master”, by which Saint John of Avila was known in his lifetime and down the centuries, made it possible, following his canonisation, to consider naming him a Doctor of the Church.   Thus, at the request of Cardinal Benjamín de Arriba y Castro, Archbishop of Tarragona, the twelfth Plenary Assembly of the Spanish Episcopal Conference in July 1970, decided to petition the Holy See to declare him a Doctor of the Universal Church.   Many other petitions followed, particularly on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his canonisation (1995) and the fifth centenary of his birth (1999).

The declaration that a saint is a Doctor of the Universal Church implies the recognition of a charism of wisdom bestowed by the Holy Spirit for the good of the Church and evidenced by the beneficial influence of his or her teaching among the People of God.   All this was clearly evident in the person and work of Saint John of Avila.   He was often sought out by his contemporaries as a master of theology, gifted with the discernment of spirits, and a director of souls.   His help and guidance were sought by great saints and acknowledged sinners, the wise and the unlearned, the poor and the rich;  he was also responsible for important conversions and sought constantly to improve the life of faith and the understanding of the Christian message of those who flocked to him, eager to hear his teaching.   Learned bishops and religious also sought him out as a counsellor, preacher and theologian.   He exerted considerable influence on those who came into contact with him and on the environments in which he moved.

8. Master Avila was not a university professor, although he had organised and served as the first rector of the University of Baeza.   He held no chair in theology but gave lessons in sacred Scripture to lay people, religious and clerics.

He never set forth a systematic synthesis of his theological teaching, yet his theology was prayerful and sapiential.   In his Memorial II to the Council of Trent, he gives two reasons for linking theology and prayer:  the holiness of theological knowledge, and the welfare and up-building of the Church.   As befitted a true humanist endowed with a healthy sense of realism, his was a theology close to life, one which answered the questions of the moment and did so in a practical and understandable way.

The teaching of John of Avila is outstanding for its quality and precision and its breadth and depth, which were the fruit of methodical study and contemplation together with a profound experience of supernatural realities.   His abundant correspondence was soon translated into Italian, French and English.

Particularly evident was his profound knowledge of the Bible, which he wished to be known by all.   For this reason he did not hesitate to expound the Scriptures, both in his daily preaching and his lessons on specific books.   He was in the habit of comparing translations and analysing their literary and spiritual meaning, and was familiar with the most important patristic commentaries.   He was also convinced that study and prayer were necessary for a proper understanding of revelation and that insight into the meaning of the sacred texts could be gained with the aid of tradition and of the magisterium.   From the Old Testament he cited most frequently the Psalms, Isaiah and the Song of Songs.   From the New, he cited the Apostle John and, most of all, Saint Paul. Pope Paul VI, in the Bull for his canonisation, described him as “a faithful imitator of Saint Paul”.

9. The teaching of Master John of Avila clearly contains a sound and enduring message, capable of strengthening and deepening the deposit of faith while lighting up new pathways of doctrine and life.   The relevance of his teaching can be seen by comparing it to the papal magisterium; in this way we see that his eminens doctrina constitutes a genuine charism, a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church past and present.

The primacy of Christ and of grace which, in relation to the love of God, was a constant theme of Master Avila’s teaching, has been taken up by contemporary theology and spirituality, and has clear implications for pastoral activity, as I stressed in my Encyclical Deus Caritas Est.   Trust, based on the acknowledgement and experience of God’s love, goodness and mercy, has also been proposed in the recent papal magisterium, as for example in the Encyclical Dives in Misericordia and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, which is a real proclamation of the Gospel of hope, as I also wished my Encyclical Spe Salvi to be.   In the Apostolic Letter Ubicumque et Semper, establishing the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation, I noted that “to proclaim fruitfully the word of the Gospel it is first necessary to have a profound experience of God”;   these words evoke the serene and humble figure of this “evangelical preacher” whose outstanding doctrine continues to be most timely.

10. In 2002, the Spanish Episcopal Conference was informed of the positive outcome of the review of the teaching found in the works of Saint John of Avila conducted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 2003 a number of Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops, Presidents of Bishops’ Conferences, Superiors General of Institutes of Consecrated Life, leaders of ecclesial associations and movements, universities and other institutions, along with certain distinguished individuals, joined the Spanish Episcopal Conference in expressing to Pope John Paul II, through a Postulatory Letter, the appropriateness of bestowing on Saint John of Avila the title of Doctor of the Church.

Once the dossier was forwarded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and a relator for the cause was named, it was necessary to draft the relative Positio.   The President and Secretary of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, together with the President of the committee for the doctorate and the postulator of the cause, then signed the definitive Petition (Supplex Libellus) on 10 December 2009.   The particular meeting of the theological consultors of the Congregation met on 18 December 2010 to discuss naming the Holy Master a Doctor of the Church.   The vote was positive.   On 3 May 2011, the plenary session of Cardinal and Bishop members of the Congregation presided over by the Prefect, Cardinal Angelo Amato, and with Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella as relator, decided, with another unanimous vote, to ask me, if I so desired, to declare Saint John of Avila as a Doctor of the Universal Church.   On 20 August 2011, during the World Youth Day celebrations in Madrid, I announced to the People of God: “I will shortly declare Saint John of Avila a Doctor of the Universal Church”.   On 27 May 2012, Pentecost Sunday, I had the joy of telling the throngs of pilgrims from throughout the world gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that “the Spirit, who has spoken through the prophets, continues to inspire with His gifts of wisdom and knowledge men and women committed to the pursuit of truth, who offer new insights into the mystery of God, of man and of the world.   Hence I am pleased to announce that on 7 October next, at the start of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, I will proclaim Saint John of Avila and Saint Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the Universal Church… The sanctity of their lives and the profundity of their doctrine make them perennially relevant:  the grace of the Holy Spirit guided them to that experience of insight into divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with the world which constitutes the constant horizon of the Church’s life and activity. Especially in the light of the new evangelisation to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be dedicated and the beginning of the Year of Faith, these two Saints and Doctors will be most important and relevant”.

Today, with the help of God and the approval of the whole Church, this act has taken place.   In Saint Peter’s Square, in the presence of many Cardinals and Prelates of the Roman Curia and of the Catholic Church, in confirming the acts of the process and willingly granting the desires of the petitioners, I spoke the following words in the course of the Eucharistic sacrifice: “Fulfilling the wishes of numerous brethren in the episcopate, and of many of the faithful throughout the world, after due consultation with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, with certain knowledge and after mature deliberation, with the fullness of my apostolic authority I declare Saint John of Avila, diocesan priest, and Saint Hildegard of Bingen, professed nun of the Order of Saint Benedict, to be Doctors of the Universal Church.   In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.

I hereby decree the present Letter to be perpetually valid and fully effective and I establish that from this moment anything to the contrary proposed by any person, of whatever authority, knowingly or unknowingly, is invalid and without force.

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, under the ring of the Fisherman, on 7 October 2012, in the eighth year of my Pontificate.



Pope Francis institutes new celebration of Mary, Mother of the Church

Pope Francis institutes new celebration of Mary, Mother of the Church

Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

on the celebration
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mother of the Church
in the General Roman Calendar

The joyous veneration given to the Mother of God by the contemporary Church, in light of reflection on the mystery of Christ and on his nature, cannot ignore the figure of a woman (cf. Gal 4:4), the Virgin Mary, who is both the Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church.

In some ways this was already present in the mind of the Church from the premonitory words of Saint Augustine and Saint Leo the Great.   In fact the former says that Mary is the mother of the members of Christ, because with charity she co-operated in the rebirth of the faithful into the Church, while the latter says that the birth of the Head is also the birth of the body, thus indicating that Mary is at once Mother of Christ, the Son of God, and mother of the members of his Mystical Body, which is the Church.   These considerations derive from the divine motherhood of Mary and from her intimate union in the work of the Redeemer, which culminated at the hour of the cross.

Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal.   She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit.   Christ, in turn, in the beloved disciple, chose all disciples as ministers of his love towards his Mother, entrusting her to them so that they might welcome her with filial affection.

As a caring guide to the emerging Church, Mary had already begun her mission in the Upper Room, praying with the Apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:14).   In this sense, in the course of the centuries, Christian piety has honoured Mary with various titles, in many ways equivalent, such as Mother of Disciples, of the Faithful, of Believers, of all those who are reborn in Christ and also as “Mother of the Church” as is used in the texts of spiritual authors as well as in the Magisterium of Popes Benedict XIV and Leo XIII.

Thus the foundation is clearly established by which Blessed Paul VI, on 21 November 1964, at the conclusion of the Third Session of the Second Vatican Council, declared the Blessed Virgin Mary as “Mother of the Church, that is to say of all Christian people, the faithful as well as the pastors, who call her the most loving Mother” and established that “the Mother of God should be further honoured and invoked by the entire Christian people by this tenderest of titles”.

Therefore the Apostolic See on the occasion of the Holy Year of Reconciliation (1975), proposed a votive Mass in honour of Beata Maria Ecclesiæ Matre, which was subsequently inserted into the Roman Missal.   The Holy See also granted the faculty to add the invocation of this title in the Litany of Loreto (1980) and published other formularies in the Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1986).   Some countries, dioceses and religious families who petitioned the Holy See were allowed to add this celebration to their particular calendars.

Having attentively considered how greatly the promotion of this devotion might encourage the growth of the maternal sense of the Church in the pastors, religious and faithful, as well as a growth of genuine Marian piety, Pope Francis has decreed that the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, should be inscribed in the Roman Calendar on the Monday after Pentecost and be now celebrated every year.

This celebration will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.

The Memorial therefore is to appear in all Calendars and liturgical books for the celebration of Mass and of the Liturgy of the Hours.   The relative liturgical texts are attached to this decree and their translations, prepared and approved by the Episcopal Conferences, will be published after confirmation by this Dicastery.

Where the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, is already celebrated on a day with a higher liturgical rank, approved according to the norm of particular law, in the future it may continue to be celebrated in the same way.

Anything to the contrary notwithstanding.

From the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 11 February 2018, the memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes.

Robert Card. Sarah

+ Arthur Roche
Archbishop Secretarydecree - mater ecclesiae - new memorial monday after pentecost - 4 march 2018