Mike Aquilina shares with us the story of St. Agnes.
A young girl who would help to break open the hearts of many, so that grace could pour in. She was “a lamb for Christ”. Mike also discusses the challenges to life, including the “ancient” practice of abortion.
wiki – According to tradition, Saint Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility born c. 291 and raised in a Christian family. She suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve or thirteen during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, on 21 January 304.
The Prefect Sempronius wished Agnes to marry his son, and on Agnes’ refusal he condemned her to death. As Roman law did not permit the execution of virgins, Sempronius had a naked Agnes dragged through the streets to a brothel. Various versions of the legend give different methods of escape from this predicament. In one, as she prayed, her hair grew and covered her body. It was also said that all of the men who attempted to rape her were immediately struck blind. In another the son of the prefect is struck dead, but revived after Agnes prayed for him, causing her release. There is then a trial from which Sempronius excuses himself, and another figure presides, sentencing her to death. When led out to die she was tied to a stake, but the bundle of wood would not burn, or the flames parted away from her, whereupon the officer in charge of the troops drew his swordbeheaded her, or, in some other texts, stabbed her in the throat. It is also said that the blood of Agnes poured to the stadium floor where other Christians soaked up the blood with cloths. and
The daughter of Constantine I, Saint Constance, was also said to have been cured of leprosy after praying at Agnes’ tomb.
A prayer to St. Agnes Let us gain courage for our own battle by honoring the martyrdom of the glorious virgin Agnes. St. Agnes, vessel of honor, flower of unfading fragrance,beloved of the choirs of Angels, you are an example to the worth of virtue and chastity. O you who wear a Martyr’s palm and a virgin’s wreath, pray for us that, though unworthy of a special crown, we may have our names written in the list of Saints.
What is old is new again. That’s why the Fathers are so important, they’ve done battle with the heresies that continue to plaque our Church even today. Also in his writings you can see the “Theology of the Body”…1800 years or so before we hear from Pope John Paul II. Faith and Reason can live in harmony…then knew it then and we can be confident about that now.
Take a listen to Mike Aquilna, who does a great job giving us the life of this early, early father of the Church, Clement of Alexandria.
Here in a very small nutshell is an overview of St. Clement of Alexandria – from wikipedia –
Titus Flavius Clemens (c.150 – c. 215), known as Clement of Alexandria (to distinguish him from Clement of Rome), was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen. He united Greek philosophical traditions with Christian doctrine and valued gnosis that with communion for all people could be held by common Christians specially chosen by God.Though he constantly opposes the concept of gnosis as defined by the Gnostics, he used the term “gnostic” for Christians who had attained the deeper teaching of the Logos.He developed a Christian Platonism. He presented the goal of Christian life as deification, identified both as Platonism’s assimilation into God and the biblical imitation of God.
Like Origen, he arose from Alexandria’s Catechetical School and was well versed in pagan literature.Origen succeeded Clement as head of the school.Alexandria had a major Christian community in early Christianity, noted for its scholarship and its high-quality copies of Scripture.
Clement is counted as one of the early Church Fathers. He advocated a vegetarian diet and claimed that the apostles Peter, Matthew, and James the Just were vegetarians. – wikipedia
Great trilogy of St. Clement of Alexandria
The trilogy into which Clement’s principal remains are connected by their purpose and mode of treatment is composed of:
Through your anger and confrontations you remind us that we all have a duty to confront others from time to time. You also remind us that we have a duty to examine ourselves and confront our own weaknesses and harmful behaviours. Your life teaches that I must accept others for who they are. You taught of the danger of self-righteousness; of the importance of reflecting upon one of Jesus’ most insightful teachings: “Let the man who has no sin on his conscience throw the first stone.” In the light of your teachings, Saint Jerome, help me to see my own self clearly. Help me to confront my own biases and to act to change others only out of love. If I see that I have the duty to confront another, I ask you to be with me during those necessary but unpleasant moments of confrontation. Help me to remember that love alone can make changes for the good.
God’s angry man, His crotchety scholar
Was Saint Jerome,
The great name-caller
Who cared not a dime
For the laws of Libel
And in his spare time
Translated the Bible.
Quick to disparage
All joys but learning
Jerome thought marriage
Better than burning;
But didn’t like woman’s
Didn’t like Romans,
Didn’t like Greeks,
For their Pagan ways,
Yet doted on Cicero all of his days.
A born reformer, cross and gifted,
He scolded mankind
Sterner than Swift did;
Worked to save
The world from the heathen;
Fled to a cave
For peace to breathe in,
For miles around
He filled the air with
Fury and sound.
In a mighty prose
For Almighty ends,
He thrust at his foes,
Quarreled with his friends,
And served his Master,
Though with complaint.
He wasn’t a plaster sort of a saint.
But he swelled men’s minds
With a Christian leaven.
It takes all kinds
To make a heaven
by Phyllis McGinley, from “Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades with Seventy New Poems”, (Pulitzer Prize Winner).
An anti-pope who is considered a father of the Church and a saint. God’s great mercy knows no bounds! How does someone who was a self proclaimed pope (and considered the first anti-pope in Church history) become a saint? The story of St. Hippolytus is a fascinating one. A greek-speaking priest who who lived in the late 100’s – early 200’s; his writings on the Eucharistic liturgy are some of the most beautiful of all time. Check him out Mike Aquilina’s great blog The Way of the Fathers
Today, I would like to speak about Benedict, the Founder of Western Monasticism and also the Patron of my Pontificate. I begin with words that St Gregory the Great wrote about St Benedict: “The man of God who shone on this earth among so many miracles was just as brilliant in the eloquent exposition of his teaching” (cf. Dialogues II, 36). The great Pope wrote these words in 592 A.D. The holy monk, who had died barely 50 years earlier, lived on in people’s memories and especially in the flourishing religious Order he had founded. St Benedict of Norcia, with his life and his work, had a fundamental influence on the development of European civilization and culture. The most important source on Benedict’s life is the second book of St Gregory the Great’s Dialogues. It is not a biography in the classical sense. In accordance with the ideas of his time, by giving the example of a real man – St Benedict, in this case – Gregory wished to illustrate the ascent to the peak of contemplation which can be achieved by those who abandon themselves to God. He therefore gives us a model for human life in the climb towards the summit of perfection. St Gregory the Great also tells in this book of the Dialogues of many miracles worked by the Saint, and here too he does not merely wish to recount something curious but rather to show how God, by admonishing, helping and even punishing, intervenes in the practical situations of man’s life. Gregory’s aim was to demonstrate that God is not a distant hypothesis placed at the origin of the world but is present in the life of man, of every man.
This perspective of the “biographer” is also explained in light of the general context of his time: straddling the fifth and sixth centuries, “the world was overturned by a tremendous crisis of values and institutions caused by the collapse of the Roman Empire, the invasion of new peoples and the decay of morals”. But in this terrible situation, here, in this very city of Rome, Gregory presented St Benedict as a “luminous star” in order to point the way out of the “black night of history” (cf. John Paul II, 18 May 1979).
In fact, the Saint’s work and particularly his Rule were to prove heralds of an authentic spiritual leaven which, in the course of the centuries, far beyond the boundaries of his country and time, changed the face of Europe following the fall of the political unity created by the Roman Empire, inspiring a new spiritual and cultural unity, that of the Christian faith shared by the peoples of the Continent. This is how the reality we call “Europe” came into being.
St Benedict was born around the year 480. As St Gregory said, he came “ex provincia Nursiae” – from the province of Norcia. His well-to-do parents sent him to study in Rome. However, he did not stay long in the Eternal City. As a fully plausible explanation, Gregory mentions that the young Benedict was put off by the dissolute lifestyle of many of his fellow students and did not wish to make the same mistakes. He wanted only to please God: “soli Deo placere desiderans” (II Dialogues, Prol. 1). Thus, even before he finished his studies, Benedict left Rome and withdrew to the solitude of the mountains east of Rome. After a short stay in the village of Enfide (today, Affile), where for a time he lived with a “religious community” of monks, he became a hermit in the neighbouring locality of Subiaco. He lived there completely alone for three years in a cave which has been the heart of a Benedictine Monastery called the “Sacro Speco” (Holy Grotto) since the early Middle Ages. The period in Subiaco, a time of solitude with God, was a time of maturation for Benedict. It was here that he bore and overcame the three fundamental temptations of every human being: the temptation of self-affirmation and the desire to put oneself at the centre, the temptation of sensuality and, lastly, the temptation of anger and revenge. In fact, Benedict was convinced that only after overcoming these temptations would he be able to say a useful word to others about their own situations of neediness. Thus, having tranquilized his soul, he could be in full control of the drive of his ego and thus create peace around him. Only then did he decide to found his first monasteries in the Valley of the Anio, near Subiaco.
In the year 529, Benedict left Subiaco and settled in Monte Cassino. Some have explained this move as an escape from the intrigues of an envious local cleric. However, this attempt at an explanation hardly proved convincing since the latter’s sudden death did not induce Benedict to return (II Dialogues, 8). In fact, this decision was called for because he had entered a new phase of inner maturity and monastic experience. According to Gregory the Great, Benedict’s exodus from the remote Valley of the Anio to Monte Cassio – a plateau dominating the vast surrounding plain which can be seen from afar – has a symbolic character: a hidden monastic life has its own raison d’être but a monastery also has its public purpose in the life of the Church and of society, and it must give visibility to the faith as a force of life. Indeed, when Benedict’s earthly life ended on 21 March 547, he bequeathed with his Rule and the Benedictine family he founded a heritage that bore fruit in the passing centuries and is still bearing fruit throughout the world.
A quote from St. Anthony:
“I saw the snares that the enemy spreads out over the world and I said groaning, “What can get through from such snares?” Then I heard a voice saying to me, “Humility.”
St. Anthony of the Desert, or St. Anthony the Abott, or St. Anthony the Great…no matter what you may call him, he is above all…a SAINT!
Saints SQPN.com – Following the death of his parents when he was about 20, Anthony insured that his sister completed her education, then he sold his house, furniture, and the land he owned, gave the proceeds to the poor, joined the anchorites who lived nearby, and moved into an empty sepulchre. At age 35 he moved to the desert to live alone; he lived 20 years in an abandoned fort.
Anthony barricaded the place for solitude, but admirers and would-be students broke in. He miraculously healed people, and agreed to be the spiritual counselor of others. His recommendation was to base life on the Gospel. Word spread, and so many disciples arrived that Anthony founded two monasteries on the Nile, one at Pispir, one at Arsinoe. Many of those who lived near him supported themselves by making baskets and brushes, and from that came his patronage of those trades.
Anthony briefly left his seclusion in 311, going to Alexandria, Egypt to fight Arianism, and to comfort the victims of the persecutions of Maximinus. At some point in his life, he met with his sister again. She, too, had withdrawn from the world, and directed a community of nuns. Anthony retired to the desert, living in a cave on Mount Colzim.
Descriptions paint him as uniformly modest and courteous. His example led many to take up the monastic life, and to follow his way. Late in life Anthony became a close friend of Saint Paul the Hermit, and he buried the aged anchorite, leading to his patronage of gravediggers. His biography was written by his friend Saint Athanasius of Alexandria.
His relationship with pigs and patronage of swineherds is a little complicated. Skin diseases were sometimes treated with applications of pork fat, which reduced inflammation and itching. As Anthony’s intervention aided in the same conditions, he was shown in art accompanied by a pig. People who saw the art work, but did not have it explained, thought there was a direct connection between Anthony and pigs – and people who worked with swine took him as their patron. –Saints SQPN.com
St. John of Damascus, not only taught that icons and other sacred artworks are permissible because they point to the incarnation of Jesus, but he also understood the rich value of every word to do the same. He is considered one of the Church’s most gifted poets. Every sacred image, whether in art, hymn, poetry can be a prayer that leads us deeper into the heart of God.
“RIGHTEOUS JOHN OF DAMASCUS. He was raised in Damascus, Syria, the capital of the Moslem world. When he was ten years of age, his father found a learned monk in the secular studies as well as music and theology. He instructed John and his adopted brother, Cosmas, and John made great progress in theology. At last, the monk departed saying to their father, Sergius, that his sons had become remarkably wise. Sergius soon died, and John was chosen for his office of counselor to the caliph.
During this time, John wrote convincingly against the iconoclasts and Leo the Armenian, as well as the Moslems. He effectively used deductive arguments, history, and parables of the saints. Against the iconoclasts, he argued that since the shadows and handkerchiefs of the apostles healed the sick, why was it not appropriate to venerate their icons. His letters were circulated to strengthen and prepare the people to answer the attacks of the heretics. Seeing this, the emperor wrote a letter in John’s hand that had him condemned to the caliph for whom he worked. The caliph had his right hand cut off and hung in the market place. That night, John recovered his hand and prayed before an icon of the Theotokos, called of the three hands, promising that he would write hymns for Orthodoxy if he were healed. He slept, and she told him that he was healed and to write. The caliph freed him, and he became a humble monk. He wrote canons, troparia, idiomela, festal homilies for feast days of Jesus and the Theotokos, the saints and prophets. He established the Typikon, the order of services. He became the mouth piece of all the bishops of the east. He died peacefully at 104 years of age.” – from the St. John of Damascus Institute site – for a longer account go there
The video contains some of St. John Damascus’ teachings on the Blessed Virgin Mary
A Prayer of St. John of Damascus
I stand before the gates of thy Temple, and yet I refrain not from my evil thoughts. But do thou, O Christ my God, who didst justify the publican, and hadst mercy on the Canaanite woman, and opened the gates of Paradise to the thief; open unto me the compassion of thy love toward mankind, and receive me as I approach and touch thee, like the sinful woman and the woman with the issue of blood; for the one, by embracing thy feet received the forgiveness of her sins, and the other by but touching the hem of thy garment was healed. And I, most sinful, dare to partake of thy whole Body. Let me not be consumed but receive me as thou didst receive them, and enlighten the perceptions of my soul, consuming the accusations of my sins; through the intercessions of Her that without stain gave Thee birth, and of the heavenly Powers; for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
First, start with the podcast above featuring the son of the Fathers, Mike Aquilina talking about St. Clement, then…
Clemens Romanus was born in Rome in Italy during the time that the Christian faith was being spread and Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Emperors. He is believed to be of Jewish descent and a freeman of Rome. He worked as a tanner during the early part of his life. He was then converted to Christianity and became a disciple of St. Peter and of St. Paul. Following the death of Saint Peter he took over his position and became the fourth Pope and Bishop of Rome continuing to convert Romans from the religion of the old Roman gods to Christianity.
Saint Clement was banished from Rome during the reign of the Emperor Trajan (September 18, 53 – August 9, 117) due to his beliefs and unpopularity with the Roman rabble. He was banished to Chersonesus, which was an ancient Greek colony under Roman rule, in the south western part of Crimea (part of the Ukraine). In Chersonesus he was sentenced to work with other prisoners in a stone quarry where he continued to convert people. The number and success of his conversions attracted the attention of the Roman prefect who sentenced him to death. Clement was he was bound to an anchor and cast into the sea. He died in A.D.100.
How blessed and amazing are God’s gifts, dear friends Life with immortality, splendor with righteousness, truth with confidence, faith with assurance, self-control with holiness And all these things are within our comprehension. Clement of Rome
Basilica of Saint Clement
The Basilica di San Clemente is an early Christian basilica in Rome dedicated to Pope St. Clement. Its beautiful interior is especially notable for its three historical layers.
The main upper church is one of the most richly decorated churches in Rome. The vast majority of its architecture and art dates from its construction in the early 12th century. The entrance is on the left aisle.
The most striking sight is the 12th-century apse mosaic, in a golden-bronze color and featuring a large cross in the center. In the center of the apse is a throne, whose back is part of a martyr’s tomb.
The high altar contains the relics of St. Clement of Rome and St. Ignatius of Antioch. Faded frescoes decorate many of the walls, and date from the 6th to 11th centuries. They depict New Testament scenes and lives of several saints.
John Chrysostom born in 347, his father died soon after his birth, leaving his mother, Anthusa, a widow at the age of 20. She never married, sticking with the teachings of St. Paul to stay unmarried; she was a devout Christian and was very committed to her son; they loved and cared for each other very much. She would raise up a son who had a great love for Jesus Christ and who would become of the greatest preachers of all time (imagine him the Billy Graham of his day). He would become the Archbishop of Constantinople, and an important Early Church Father. His denunciation of abuse of authority by both ecclesiastical and political leaders would get him in big trouble, but it didn’t stop him. After his death (or, according to some sources, during his life) he was given the Greek surname chrysostomos, meaning “golden mouthed”, rendered in English as Chrysostom.
Many Christian Churches love and claim St. John Chrysostom. The Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches honor him as a saint and count him among the Three Holy Hierarchs, together with Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzus. He is recognized by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church as a saint and Doctor of the Church. Churches of the Western tradition, including the Roman Catholic Church, some Anglican provinces, and parts of the Lutheran Church, commemorate him on 13 September. Some Lutheran and many Anglican provinces commemorate him on the traditional Eastern feast day of 27 January. The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria recognizes John Chrysostom as a saint.
A reading from the homilies of St John Chrysostom (Hom 6 on Prayer)
“There is nothing more worthwhile than to pray to God and to converse with him, for prayer unites us with God as his companions. As our bodily eyes are illuminated by seeing the light, so in contemplating God our soul is illuminated by him. Of course the prayer I have in mind is no matter of routine, it is deliberate and earnest. It is not tied down to a fixed timetable; rather it is a state which endures by night and day.
Our soul should be directed in God, not merely when we suddenly think of prayer, but even when we are concerned with something else. If we are looking after the poor, if we are busy in some other way, or if we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and the remembrance of God. Through this salt of the love of God we can all become a sweet dish for the Lord. If we are generous in giving time to prayer, we will experience its benefits throughout our life.
Prayer is the light of the soul, giving us true knowledge of God. It is a link mediating between God and man. By prayer the soul is borne up to heaven and in a marvellous way embraces the Lord. This meeting is like that of an infant crying on its mother, and seeking the best of milk. The soul longs for its own needs and what it receives is better than anything to be seen in the world.
Prayer is a precious way of communicating with God, it gladdens the soul and gives repose to its affections. You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, an indescribable devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God’s grace. As Saint Paul says: we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
Anyone who receives from the Lord the gift of this type of prayer possesses a richness that is not to be taken from him, a heavenly food filling up the soul. Once he has tasted this food, he is set alight by an eternal desire for the Lord, the fiercest of fires lighting up his soul.
To set about this prayer, paint the house of your soul with modesty and lowliness and make it splendid with the light of justice. Adorn it with the beaten gold of good works and, for walls and stones, embellish it assiduously with faith and generosity. Above all, place prayer on top of this house as its roof so that the complete building may be ready for the Lord. Thus he will be received in a splendid royal house and by grace his image will already be settled in your soul.