There’s nobody I enjoy spending Ash Wednesday with more than Mike Aquilina. Mike offers us rich insights on the practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving from the perspective of the early church. He also helps us to see how we can concretely live out all three and further enrich our spiritual lives and help those around us to see Christ more fully in us and the Church. We like Mike! He’s awesome!
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.
Thank you Mike Aquilina for complying an incredible book which explores “The World of Ben Hur”! One of the most popular Christian novels of all-time, “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ” was penned by Lew Wallace and has served as the basis for plays, television productions, and several film adaptations for over 100 years. The 1959 production starring Charlton Heston still holds up as one of the finest cinematic masterpieces of all time! Mike not only covers the background of the book, the compelling conversion of its author, and it’s place in our cultural experience, but he also offers us the historical facts of the era and the Christian experience. As always, Mike’s writing is compelling, thoughtful and inspiring. A fantastic addition to the Mike Aquilina library of books!
You can find the book here
From the book description:
As you strip away centuries of accumulated tradition and look at Jesus of Nazareth with fresh eyes, you’ll also share with Ben-Hur the exciting, confusing, and life-changing experience of meeting Jesus for the first time. Armed with new wisdom and keen insights into the fascinating history of the Roman Empire, you’ll never watch Ben-Hur the same way again.
“Mike Aquilina has done a masterful job placing us in the life and times of Judah Ben-Hur and Jesus Christ. This is a must-read for any fan of Ben-Hur.”
“Good Pope, Bad Pope: Their Lives, Our Lesson” is another terrific book by the prolific Mike Aquilina. This is a much needed resource for all Catholics. Those of us who love and appreciate the gift of the Papacy in the life of the Church, if we are honest with ourselves, cringe a bit inside when the facts of history uncover those Popes who were…well…bad. Leave it to Mike Aquilina to guide us through those notorious lives and times, while helping us to see the lesson we can learn from those particular experiences. Mike also lifts up those outstanding men who were more than just “good” Popes (which the overwhelming majority were), but reminds of popes like Bl. John Paul II, who could be called “great”. Be not afraid of history, especially when its in the hands of Mike Aquilina.
You can find the book here
From the description:
Every pope is by definition a remarkable man. But the popes whose stories you’ll read here were chosen because they reveal how the papacy developed. They show us how Christ kept his promise to his bride, the Church, not only in her health but also in her sickness. The great popes advanced our understanding of Christian doctrine. But even more remarkable, the worst popes could do nothing to damage the teaching of the Church.
That’s why, even in its darkest moments, the story of the papacy is a story of triumph. And that’s why it’s worth knowing these twelve popes.
Mike Aquilina offers the compelling story of the St. Perpetua and her great friend and sister in the faith, St. Felicity.
Saints Perpetua and Felicity were martyrs who died for the faith around the year 203.
St. Perpetua was a young, well-educated, noblewoman and mother living in the city of Carthage in North Africa. Her mother was a Christian and her father was a pagan. In terms of her faith, Perpetua followed the example of her mother. Despite the pleas of her father to deny her faith, Perpetua did the very opposite, and fearlessly proclaimed it. At the age of 22, she was imprisoned for her faith. While in prison she continued to care for her infant child and put up with the tortures designed to make her renounce her faith. Perpetua remained steadfast until the end. St. Perpetua was sacrificed at the games as a public spectacle for not renouncing her faith.
St. Felicity was a pregnant slave girl who was imprisoned with St. Perpetua. Little is known about the life of St. Felicity because, unlike Perpetua, she did not keep a diary of her life. After imprisonment and torture, Felicity was also condemned to die at the games. Only a few days before her execution, Felicity gave birth to a daughter who was secretly taken away to be cared for by some of the Faithful.
The feast of these Saints is March 7.
He just gets better and better. Of course, I’m talking about Mike Aquilina and his joy and enthusiasm for the Catholic Church abounds in “Yours is the Church: How Catholicism Shapes Our World“. Mike is so good at getting to the nuggets contained in history and reminding us all of the significant contributions made by the Church which have changed our world for the better. Whether it is the moral leadership it has offered which has been the rudder steadying our course, or the beauty of the arts which fashion it’s sails, the barque of the Church sails the seas of time on a course to the New Jerusalem. Putting it all into a wonderful historic perspective, Mike Aquilina offers us a “must have” book that should be in every Catholic home and given to anyone joining this beautiful Church of ours. Thanks Mike!
Your can find the book here
“Christianity has radically changed the world for the better. In a book that’s both thoughtful and entertaining . Mike Aquilina shows how the Gospel really has been the good news in the most practical ways possible. Even the atheist ought to thank…whoever he thanks….for the rise of Christianity.” — David Mills, executive editor of First Things
From Mike’s great website The Way of the Matyrs: ROMAN PROTOMARTYRSMonday June 30th 2008, 10:23 am
Filed under: Patristics
Today’s the feast of the first Roman Martyrs. Theirs is a story you just have to hear. But first we have to backtrack a little bit.
In July of A.D. 64, during the tenth year of Nero’s reign, a great fire consumed much of the city of Rome. The fire raged out of control for seven days — and then it started again, mysteriously, a day later. Many in Rome knew that Nero had been eager to do some urban redevelopment. He had a plan that included an opulent golden palace for himself. The problem was that so many buildings were standing in his way — many of them teeming wooden tenements housing Rome’s poor and working class.
The fire seemed too convenient for Nero’s purposes — and his delight in watching the blaze didn’t relieve anybody’s suspicions. If he didn’t exactly fiddle while Rome burned, he at least recited his poems. Nero needed a scapegoat, and an upstart religious cult, Jewish in origin and with foreign associations, served his purposes well. Nero, who was a perverse expert at human torment, had some of its members tortured till they were so mad they would confess to any crime. Once they had confessed, he had others arrested.
He must have known, however, that the charges would not hold up. So he condemned them not for arson, or treason, or conspiracy, but for “hatred of humanity.”
To amuse the people, he arranged for their execution to be a spectacle, entertainment on a grand scale. The Roman historian Tacitus (who had contempt for the religion, but greater contempt for Nero) describes in gruesome detail the tortures that took place amid a party in Nero’s gardens.
Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames. These served to illuminate the night when daylight failed. Nero had thrown open the gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or drove about in a chariot. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being punished.
That is all we know about the first Roman martyrs. We know none of their names. Tacitus doesn’t tell us why they were willing to die this way rather than renounce their faith. Yet this should be an important question for us to consider. Why did the martyrs do this? What prepared them to face death so bravely? To what exactly did they bear witness with their death?
The answers to these questions (and many more) can be found in the rest of the article, at the archive of Touchstone Magazine. The article originated in a talk I gave in Rome in 2005 on the feast of the Roman Martyrs. It’s called “The Roman Martyrs and Their Mass.”
I also treat the subject in my book The Resilient Church: The Glory, the Shame, & the Hope for Tomorrow.
Leave it to the wonderfully thoughtful Mike Aquilina to bring us the lives of just some of those glorious maternal nurturers we call “the Mothers of the Church”. From the well known Sts. Perpetua and Felicity and St. Monica to lesser known “mothers” like Proba the Poet and St. Olympias, Mike, along with his co-author Christopher Bailey, share their inspiring stories. Mike Aquilina’s sincere love for these women and the witness they have provided us in our present age helps us to appreciate, once again, what God can do with ordinary people who are open to His extraordinary grace.
You can find Mike’s book here
The Mothers of the Church include:
Holy Women of the New Testament
–St. Perpetua and St. Felicity
–St. Agnes of Rome
–Proba the Widow
–Egeria the Tourist
When you listen to Mike Aquilina express the mystery and beauty of the Eucharist, you know it is truly coming from someone who has been deeply touched in his depths of his own heart by this tremendous sacrament of love. I love talking with Mike, he strengthens and encourages my own faith so much…he is such a gift to the body of Christ! In “The Fire of God’s Love” he passes on insights on the Eucharist to inspire us all. Saints and popes are represented in this collection, but also reflections from folks representing in our own time, like J.R.R. Tolkien, Maria Montessori, Conrad Hilton, and George Wiegel.
“The Mass: The Glory, The Mystery, The Tradition” is absolutely fantastic! This is the book so many of us have been waiting for and leave it to Mike Aquilina, along with co-author, his eminence, Cardinal Donald Wuerl to bring it to us. Every Catholic household should have a copy of this richly satisfying primer to the great prayer of the Church…The Holy Mass! Beautiful pictures, historical background, the essential how, what, where, why of every aspect of the mass, this work is neither too “light” nor too “heavy”, but just right to deeply educate us all on the celebration, while encouraging us all to dive deeper into it’s mysteries. And with changes coming to the Mass in late 2011, now is the time to pick this up! No excuses…this is a must!
Also check out more by Mike Aquilina on his Discerning Hearts page