A first-century witness for Roman Catholic unity

Click the play button in the audio bar below to hear a sermon that was preached at the Church of St. Thomas Apostle in Washington, D.C., by Reverend Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri on the feast of Pope St. Clement I, November 23, 2015.

We thank Brother Rector Jeff Bedia of the Little Oratory for the audio file.

An unlikely candidate for the priesthood

From Paul Thigpen’s recently published Saints Who Battled Satan (TAN Books, 2015):

It was in fact a young soldier in Napoleon’s army who was to become the most famous spiritual warrior of post-Revolutionary France. John Vianney had been born during the Revolution and raised in a devout Catholic family of farmers that had traveled to distant farms in order to celebrate Masses in secret. He grew up admiring priests as spiritual war heroes because they risked their lives to minister to the people.

Not surprisingly, then, at the age of twenty, John enrolled in a school to be trained for Holy Orders. But he struggled with his studies, especially Latin. In 1809, he was drafted for the army, even though ecclesiastical students in most areas of the country were exempt from the draft. Unable to put his heart into Napoleon’s ill-advised wars, he deserted and hid from the authorities until the emperor issued an amnesty for deserters.

John resumed his studies, yet he continued to struggle. His teachers had serious doubts about his intellectual competence to become a priest. But at last he was ordained and eventually appointed as the parish priest in a little village named Ars, a town of about 230 residents. He spent the rest of his life there.

In time John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, became one of France’s most beloved and sought-out pastors. After a life marked by unstinting effort and heroic humility and penitence, he died in 1859 at the age of 73. He was canonized in 1925 and is the patron saint of pastors and confessors. May his example inspire Catholics to pray and work for a resurgence of the Faith in all nations, especially those in which the Church and Her faithful are most threatened.

SF Archbishop Cordileone to speak Thursday evening at Springfield St. Raymond

The Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, will give a talk this Thursday evening, November 19, at St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield, Virginia, entitled “Marriage: The Foundation of a Civilization Built on Truth and Love.” Archbishop Cordileone’s presentation, which will begin at 7:30 pm, is free and open to the public.

Born in 1956 in San Diego, Archbishop Cordileone has served since 2012 as ordinary of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, home to more than 400,000 Bay Area Catholics in three counties. A canon lawyer, he worked as assistant at the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Church’s highest canonical court, from 1995 to 2002. He then served successively as auxiliary bishop of San Diego and bishop of Oakland before being called to the archepiscopate of San Francisco. He currently also serves the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as chairman of the Subcommittee for the Defense of Marriage.

St. Raymond of Peñafort Church is located in Springfield at 8750 Pohick Road, about six miles west of Interstate 95 near the intersection of Pohick Road and Fairfax County Parkway, and offers ample free parking.

If the Holy Rosary could reform a monastery, can it reform the Church?

From the writings of St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716):

A nobleman who had several daughters entered one of them in a lax monastery where the nuns were very proud and thought of nothing else but worldly pleasures. The nuns’ confessor, on the other hand, was a zealous priest and had a great love for the Holy Rosary. Wishing to guide this nun into a better way of life he ordered her to say the Rosary every day in honor of the Blessed Virgin while meditating on the life, passion and glory of Jesus Christ.

She joyously undertook to say the Rosary and little by little she grew to have a repugnance for the wayward habits of her sisters in religion. She developed a love for silence and prayer and this in spite of the fact that the others despised and ridiculed her and called her a fanatic. It was at this time that a holy priest, who was making the visitation of the convent, had a strange vision while he was making his meditation: he saw a nun in her room, rapt in prayer, kneeling in front of a Lady of breathless beauty who was surrounded by Angels. The latter had flaming spears with which they repelled a crowd of devils who wanted to come in. These evil spirits then fled to the other nuns’ rooms under the guise of vile animals.

By this vision the priest became aware of the lamentable state the monastery was in and he was so upset that he thought he might almost die of grief. He immediately sent for the young religious and exhorted her to persevere.

As he pondered on the value of the Rosary, he decided to try to reform the sisters by means of it. He bought a supply of beautiful rosaries and gave one to each nun, imploring them to say the Rosary every day, even going so far as to promise them that, if they would only say it faithfully, he would not try to force them to alter their lives. Wonderful and strange as it may seem the nuns agreed to this pact and were glad to be given the rosaries and promised to say them.

Little by little they began to give up their empty and worldly pursuits, letting silence and recollection come into their lives. In less than a year they all asked that the monastery be reformed.

So the Holy Rosary worked more changes in their hearts than the priest could have worked by exhorting and commanding them.

The Secret of the Rosary

Pray the Rosary every day for victory and peace

Click the play button in the audio bar below to hear a sermon that was preached at the Church of St. Thomas Apostle in Washington, D.C., by Reverend Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7, 2014.

We thank Brother Rector Jeff Bedia of the Little Oratory for the audio file.

Our Lady’s sorrows: a participation in salvation

Click the play button in the audio bar below to hear a sermon preached at the Church of St. Thomas Apostle in Washington, D.C., by Reverend Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15, 2015.

We thank Brother Rector Jeff Bedia of the Little Oratory for the audio file.

St. John the Baptist: our patron and exemplar for the coming trials

Here is a sermon preached at the Church of St. Thomas Apostle in Washington, D.C., by Reverend Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri on the feast of the Decollation of St. John the Baptist, August 29, 2015.

Decollation-caravaggio

We thank Brother Rector Jeff Bedia of the Little Oratory for the link and the illustration by Caravaggio.

St. Augustine on playing for keeps

In the following excerpt from The Liturgical Year, Dom Gueranger narrates the startling reaction of today’s saint, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, to the threats of opponents whose reach extended even to directing the output of bakeries (sound familiar?):

Before Augustine’s arrival in Hippo, the Donatists were so great a majority of the population that, as he himself informs us, they could even forbid anyone to bake bread for Catholics. When the saint died, things were very different; but the pastor, who had made it his first duty to save, even in spite of themselves, the souls confided to him, had been obliged to spend his days and nights in this great work, and had more than once run the risk of martyrdom.

Pastoral zeal seems to have been exercised with a cruder vigor at that faraway time as compared with today’s more enlightened and refined practices, wouldn’t you say?

The leaders of the schismatics, fearing the force of his reasoning even more than his eloquence, refused all intercourse with him; they declared that to put Augustine to death would be a praiseworthy action, which would merit for the perpetrator the remission of his sins.

“Pray for us,” he said at the beginning of his episcopate, “pray for us who live in so precarious a state, as it were between the teeth of furious wolves. These wandering sheep, obstinate sheep, are offended because we run after them, as if their wandering made them cease to be ours. — Why dost thou call us? they say; why dost thou pursue us? — But the very reason of our cries and our anguish is that they are running to their ruin. — If I am lost, if I die, what is it to thee? what dost thou want with me?

“Encounter”? “Dialogue”? Perhaps a bit more than that:

“What I want is to call thee back from thy wandering; what I desire is to snatch thee from death. — But what if I will to wander? What if I will to be lost? — Thou willest to wander? thou willest to be lost? How much more earnestly do I wish it not! Yea, I dare to say it, I am importunate; for I hear the Apostle saying, ‘Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season.’ In season, when they are willing; out of season, when they are unwilling. Yes then, I am importunate: thou willest to perish, I will it not. And He wills it not, who threatened the shepherds saying: ‘That which was driven away you have not brought again, neither have you sought that which was lost.’

Augustine, having cited Chapter xxxiv of the Old Testament book of the prophet Ezechiel — words not without applicability in our modern, relevant, up-to-date Church — continues:

“Am I to fear thee more than Him? I fear thee not; the tribunal of Donatus cannot take the place of Christ’s judgment seat, before which we must all appear. Whether thou will it or not, I shall call back the wandering sheep, I shall seek the lost sheep. The thorns may tear me; but however narrow the opening may be, it shall not check my pursuit; I will beat every bush, as long as the Lord gives me strength; so only I can get to thee wherever thou strivest to perish.'”

Driven into their last trenches by such unconquerable charity, the Donatists replied by massacring clerics and faithful, since they could not touch Augustine himself. The bishop implored the imperial judges not to inflict mutilation or death upon the murderers lest the triumph of the martyrs should be sullied by such a vengeance. Such mildness was certainly worthy of the Church; but it was destined to be one day brought forward against her in contrast to certain other facts of her history, by a school of liberalism that can grant rights and even pre-eminence to error.

And which has once again burrowed its way into the Church at peril to souls. Let us ask St. Augustine to intercede that God may send his successor to us swiftly.

Why piety is essential to apostolate

At the dawn of the age of Modernism in whose darkness and confusion we are now plunged, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, a Trappist, saw clearly the eternal pitfalls awaiting would-be servants of God who subordinated their interior lives to the spirit of activism. His The Soul of the Apostolate, first published a century ago, proclaims to Christians of all times the need to be formed in the interior life — at the heart of which must be the Holy Mass — before setting out to reform the world around us.

Dom Chautard notes, with uncanny prescience, that not everyone is convinced or edified by activist clerics, religious, and laity.

A well-known enemy of the Church dared to say that he was unable to believe in the fidelity of certain persons to their vows and obligations, since they were forced by their works to mix freely in the life of the world. “They are walking a tightrope,” he said, “they are bound to fall.” We must answer this insult to God and His Church by replying, without hesitation, these falls can be most certainly avoided when one knows how to use the precious balancing pole of the interior life. It is only the abandonment of this infallible instrument that brings dizziness and the fatal false step into space.

That admirable Jesuit, Fr. Lallemont, takes us right back to the first cause of these disasters when he says: “There are many apostolic workers who never do anything purely for God. In all things, they seek themselves, and they are always secretly mingling their own interests with the glory of God in the best of their work. And so they spend their life in this intermingling of nature and grace. Finally death comes along, and then alone do they open their eyes, behold their deception, and tremble at the approach of the formidable judgment of God.”

A manifesto of Christian resistance

We are obliged to Franciscan Brother Alexis Bugnolo for permission to republish the following.

I, as a disciple of Christ Jesus, hold and believe that the U.S. Supreme Court has no authority to impose Sodom upon America in name of the U.S. Constitution; and that such a judgement would be null and void. For the institution of marriage, which originates with the Creator of Man, falls under His Authority alone, and it can no more be changed by a government of men, than the nature of man could be changed by a government of men.

Therefore, no State or Federal officer, representative, or official could justly — either according to the Divine, moral, or natural law — enforce such a Court decision. Nor would anyone be obliged to obey them if they were to command that such laws or decisions be observed.

For these reasons, all men and women of good will have the right and liberty to refuse compliance to such a court decision and to insist upon the liberty of nature itself against the tyranny implied in the same: the tyranny of a new and perverse gnosticism which asserts that human liberty can be in defense of the perversion of nature, or that human dignity can be founded upon ignominy.

I further hold that against such a court order, all men and women have the natural right to self-defense against its imposition, observance, recognition or toleration.

For I hold that a government, even elected by the people, which seeks to observe and/or impose or even to acquiesce to such a court order, looses its legitimacy in the sight of Nature and Nature’s God, since in doing so, it would not so much be a government of men, as the absence of government: a chaotic mass of tyrannical authority at war with Nature itself.

Finally, I hold and protest against such a government, that all men, who seek to restore the Natural order, have, in the face of the persecution of themselves and their fellows — when all peaceful forms of resistance, petition and reform are obstructed — the right to take up arms to protect and ensure their own liberty, so that they might live in harmony with Nature and the Author and Creator of Nature. For this right, is not only the right of the Christian, but is inherent in Nature itself, since it is nothing more than the right to self-defense: of Nature, on behalf of the Author of Nature.

For, indeed, it is the birth-right of every Christian to defend himself, his family, his possessions and his society, from that indignity and offense of the Divine Majesty which is inherent in every and any denial of that order of the human family, which is constituted by natural marriage: in which there are mutually pledged one man and one woman in a sacred bond of fidelity for the procreation and upbringing of a new generation of children. For the violation of this institution by the perversion of Sodom, without a doubt, cries out to God for vengeance: a vengeance which not only those, who promote such sins, justly merit from Him, but also those who tolerate such; a vengeance which they all must endure from Nature herself, when she avenges the enemies of her God, Creator and Author, by the calamity and turmoil of special and tremendous dispensations.

Let all men, therefore, know and heed, this manifesto of Christian conscience and hearken to the truths and rights which it declares, for the honor and glory of God and the defense of the United States of America. And let them not so much trouble themselves and tremble before the men who profess it, but fear and cower beneath the Majesty and Authority of God the Creator, the Judge of the living and the dead, Which it acknowledges.