St. Maximus the Confessor, last Father and first Doctor of the Church with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts


St. Maximus the Confessor lived approx. 500 years after Hippolytus.  He is one of the last fathers of the Church  and is consider one of the first of her doctors.  A beautiful writer and homelist he said this once:

The sun of justice, rising into the clean mind, reveals Himself and the reasons of all that He created and will create.

Love defeats those three: self-deception, because she is not proud; Interior envy, because she is not jealous; Exterior envy, because she is generous and serene.

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are inside our hearts hidden.

Faith without love does not act in the soul the illumination of the divine knowledge.

When the mind receives the ideas of things, by its nature is transformed according to each and every idea. If it sees the things spiritually, it is transfigured in many ways according to each vision. But if the mind becomes in God, then it becomes totally shapeless and formless, because seeing Him who has one face it comes to have one face and then the whole mind becomes a face of light. taken from Speech on Love

St. Gregory of Nyssa…the Thinker with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

The little brother in a family of saints, St. Gregory of Nyssa, would be remembered as “the thinker”.Mike Aquilina shares with us his story,  his role as one of the Cappadocian fathers, and so much more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

Saint Peter’s Square
Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Saint Gregory of Nyssa (1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the last Catecheses, I spoke of two great fourth-century Doctors of the Church, Basil and Gregory Nazianzus, a Bishop in Cappadocia, in present-day Turkey. Today, we are adding a third, St Gregory of Nyssa, Basil’s brother, who showed himself to be a man disposed to meditation with a great capacity for reflection and a lively intelligence open to the culture of his time. He has thus proved to be an original and profound thinker in the history of Christianity.

He was born in about 335 A.D. His Christian education was supervised with special care by his brother Basil – whom he called “father and teacher” (Ep. 13, 4: SC 363, 198) – and by his sister Macrina. He completed his studies, appreciating in particular philosophy and rhetoric.

Initially, he devoted himself to teaching and was married. Later, like his brother and sister, he too dedicated himself entirely to the ascetic life.

He was subsequently elected Bishop of Nyssa and showed himself to be a zealous Pastor, thereby earning the community’s esteem.

When he was accused of embezzlement by heretical adversaries, he was obliged for a brief period to abandon his episcopal see but later returned to it triumphant (cf. Ep. 6: SC 363, 164-170) and continued to be involved in the fight to defend the true faith.

Especially after Basil’s death, by more or less gathering his spiritual legacy, Gregory cooperated in the triumph of orthodoxy. He took part in various Synods; he attempted to settle disputes between Churches; he had an active part in the reorganization of the Church and, as a “pillar of orthodoxy”, played a leading role at the Council of Constantinople in 381, which defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

Read moreSt. Gregory of Nyssa…the Thinker with Mike Aquilina – Discerning Hearts

Teachings of St. Anthony of the Desert

SAINT ANTHONY THE GREAT OF EGYPT: INSTRUCTIONS AND SAYINGS. Orthodox Christian Icons of St. Anthony. Chant in Greek “Kyrios pimonei”.

St. Anthony the Great (251- 356), Egyptian saint, one of the great Fathers of the Church. Founder of Christian monasticism, the pinnacle of holy monks. The first desert hermit. Much venerated in Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

His miracle-working relics (body) is kept in Saint-Antoine-l’Abbaye in south-eastern France (since 980, being transferred from Constantinople, there from Alexandria in Egypt). In France, at his relics, St. Anthony’s is credited with assisting in a number of miraculous healings, primarily from ergotism, which became known as “St. Anthony’s Fire”. He was credited by two local noblemen of assisting them in recovery from the disease. They then founded the Hospital Brothers of St. Anthony in honour of him. For century, thousands of deadly sick people flocked to his relics in Saint-Antoine in France for healing.

Pope St. Leo the Great…father of the church, doctor of the church, and so much more – Discerning Hearts

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross.
No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ.
– St. Leo the Great

How do you stop a barbarian invader like Attila from sacking your town?  Pray, pray, pray…just ask St. Leo the Great.

Take a listen to Mike Aquilina (the “great” son of the Fathers) talk about St. Leo the Great:

CNAPope Leo the Great is the first Pope whose sermons and letters, many of which were on faith and charity, were preserved in extensive collections. He served as pontiff from 440 until his death in 461. His writing on the Incarnation was acclaimed at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

Prior to his pontificate, Leo was a deacon and active as a peacemaker in the Roman Empire. He is most remembered for having successfully persuaded Attila the Hun not to plunder Rome. He was not as successful during another attack three years later, however. Nevertheless, he managed to save the city from being burnt. He stayed on to help the people rebuild Rome.

He was made a Doctor of the Church in 1754-CNA

This is the chapel/altar area with the tomb of St. Leo in St. Peter’s in Rome.  It was restricted to the public for some reason. But I was able to get close, because I went to confession in that area (a very interesting story I’ll share some day).

  Here is the “great” painting by Raphael that is in the Vatican Museum of St. Leo imploring Attilia to back off and change his ways (and he did, go figure)

Spiritual Writings –

 – Sermons
– Letters

Poor Souls, Purgatory, Praying for the Dead…Yes, Virginia, there is a Purgatory – Discerning Hearts

OK, First…Purgatory, it’s a good thing. While no one knows exactly (though various mystics have attempted to convey what they experienced by way of their prayer) what will happen there, we do know that if we end up in Purgatory we should be extremely happy since we are most definitely headed for heaven. No one in Purgatory is sent to hell (Yeah!).

First Stop in this exploration is to listen to Deacon James Keating of Institute for Priestly Foramtion with one of the best discussions Bruce and I ever had on the Poor Souls and Purgatory.

So what about praying for the Dead and what does the Church say about the Poor Souls?
What is Purgatory?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Purgatory as follows:

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come (St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4,39:PL 77,396; cf. Mt 12:31)..

.
.A “final purification” , hmm, sounds like suffering to me, The kind of interior suffering where we have to deal with the painful results of sin inflicted on us by others, but we also with the pain we have inflicted on others…and boy does that hurt. But in this “final purification” (it means just that…final) final healing occurs…an eternal, forever and forever amen, type of healing so we can be  “happy with God forever in Heaven” (to paraphrase the Baltimore Catechism).

The gift of this life here and now on earth is that we can enter into that “purification” now, so that when that moment comes (which we call…death), we can go right to the “pearly gates” and to heaven OR we can go to Purgatory to get cleaned up for the beatific vision. St. Teresa of Avila exhorts us to (to paraphrase again) “DO IT NOW, DON’T WAIT”. OK, here are accurate quotes:

FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE

There are clear references to Purgatory in both the the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament in 2 Machabees X11 43,46 the Jewish practice of praying for the dead is clearly set out it the following words – ‘It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may he loosed from their sins.

In the New Testament Our Blessed Lord in Matthew V 26 refers to the prison from which no one is released before his debts are repaid to the last farthing. St. Paul in Cor. 1,3 15 mentions that there are souls who can only be saved ‘yet so as by fire’. It is also stated in Apocalypse XXI, 27 in reference to heaven – ‘There shall in no way enter into it anything defiled”. St. Augustine says that these words clearly indicate that there must be forgiveness of some sins in the world to come, which cannot be in heaven as nothing defiled shall enter therein. Therefore Our Blessed Lord is clearly referring to a place which is neither heaven nor hell and which we call Purgatory.

The learned Protestant, Dr. Jeremy Taylor, writes thus about this matter. ‘We find by the history of the Machabees, that the Jews did pray and make offerings for the dead which appears by other testimonies, and by their form of prayer, still extant, which they used in the captivity. Now it is very considerable that since Our Blessed Saviour did reprove all the evil doctrines of the Scribes and Pharisees, and did argue concerning the dead and the resurrection, yet he spoke no word against this public practice but left it as he found it which he who came to declare to us all the will of His Father, would not have done, if it had not been innocent, pious and full of charity. The practice of it was at first, and was universal; it being plain in TertulIian and St. Cyprian.”

FROM THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH

“We pray for all among us who are departed believing that this will be the greatest relief for them while the holy and tremendous victim lies present ” – St. Cyril Of Jerusalem

“We make yearly offerings for the dead” – Tertullian

“….. by long punishment for sin to be cleansed a long time by fire and to have purges away all sin by suffering” – St. Cyprian.

‘That you purify me in this life and render me such that 1 may not stand in need of that purging fire” – St. Augustine.

‘No day shall pass you over in silence, no prayer of mine shall ever be closed without remembering you. No night shall pass you over without some vows of my supplications. You shall have share in all my sacrifices. If I forget you (now that you are dead) let my own right hand be forgotten” – St. Ambrose.

St. Chrysostom in his eighth homily on the Phillipians says that to pray for the faithful departed in the Mass was decreed by the Apostles themselves.

St. Clement of Alexandria says that by punishment after death men must expiate every least sin before they can enter heaven.

Origen in many places and Lactantius teach at large that all souls are purged by the punishment of fire before they enter heaven unless they are so pure as not to stand in need of it.

St. Epiphanius, St. Ephrem, St. Athanasius, Eusebius, St. Paulinus all teach the same.

FROM THE GREAT SAINTS

“No tongue can express, no mind can understand, how dreadful is Purgatory…And be assured that the souls have to pay what they owe even to the last farthing. This is God’s decree to satisfy the demands of justice” –St. Catherine of Genoa.

“Purgatory fire will be more intolerable than all the torments that can be felt or conceived in this life” – Venerable Bede.

“A person may say, I am not much concerned how long I remain in Purgatory, provided I may come to eternal life. Let no one reason thus. Purgatory fire will more dreadful than whatever torment can be seen, imagined or endured in this world.” – St. Caesarius of Arles.

 

The same fire torments the damned in hell and the just in Purgatory. The least pain in Purgatory exceeds the greatest in this life.” – St. Thomas Aquinas.

“My God, what soul would be sufficiently just to enter heaven without passing through the avenging flames’ – St. Teresa of Avila.

‘If we were thoroughly convinced of the torments of Purgatory, could we then so easily forget our parents……. if God would permit them to show themselves we would we would see them cast themselves down at our feet “My children”, they would cry out, “have mercy on us! Oh, do not forsake us!’. – St. John Vianney.

FROM PRIVATE REVELATION

“When I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi a person enveloped in fire suddenly stood before me. From the pitiable state the soul was in I knew it was in Purgatory and I wept bitterly” – St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

At FATIMA in 1917 Our Blessed Lady appeared to three children – Lucy, Jacinta and Francesco. The series of appearances by Our Lady to these three children is approved by the Church. Shortly before they took place a young girl from the village had died. She was about fourteen years old. The children asked Our Blessed Mother whether or not she had been saved. The Blessed Virgin advised them that indeed she had been saved but that she would be in Purgatory until the end of the world. (As a result of this revelation many prayers were offered up for her soul and we can only pray that because of this her souls has now been released into eternal glory). From this most authoritative account we can learn three things:

(i) the reality of Purgatory

(ii) great length of time many souls have to stay there

(iii) the tremendous importance of praying for the souls of the departed

Here's some more places you can go if you are still having trouble....

The Burning Truth about Purgatory
How to Explain Purgatory to Protestants (James Akin)
The Roots of Purgatory
Purgatory

St. Hilary of Poitiers, Father and Doctor of the Church…defender of the Blessed Trinity

Born of wealthy polytheistic, pagan nobility, Hilary’s early life was uneventful as he married, had children (including Saint Abra), and studied on his own. Through his studies he came to believe in salvation through good works, then monotheism. As he studied the Bible for the first time, he literally read himself into the faith, and was converted by the end of the New Testament.

Hilary lived the faith so well he was made bishop of Poitiers from 353 to 368. Hilary opposed the emperor’s attempt to run Church matters, and was exiled; he used the time to write works explaining the faith. His teaching and writings converted many, and in an attempt to reduce his notoriety he was returned to the small town of Poitiers where his enemies hoped he would fade into obscurity. His writings continued to convert pagans.

“Obtain, O Lord, that I may keep ever faithful to what I have professed in the symbol of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, in the Son and in the Holy Spirit. That I may worship you, our Father, and with you, your Son; that I may deserve your Holy Spirit, who proceeds from you through your Only Begotten Son… Amen”

IP#39 Mike Aquilina – A Year With The Church Fathers on Inside the Pages

“A Year with the Church Fathers: Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living” by Mike Aquilina is outstanding. St. Benedict Press has produced a beatiful book worthy of the content within it’s pages.  But better still is the wisdom passed down through the ages which is contextualized and offered to us by acknowledged Patristic expert, Mike Aquilina.  The perfect gift for a friend, family member, or even yourself.  A gift from the fathers of the Church waiting to be unwrapped!

You can purchase a copy here

What does an anti-pope and a confessor have in common? They’re Fathers of the Church. Today, St. Hippolytus and St. Maximus, it’s you’re feast day! – Discerning Hearts

An anti-pope (and a great liturgist…it figures doesn’t it) 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 Ways of the Fathers   
 

And take a listen as we talk about St. Hippolytus with Mike   

 

 

St. Maximus the Confessor lived approx. 500 years after Hippolytus.  He is one of last fathers of the Church  and is consider one of the first of her doctors.  A beautiful writer and homelist he said this once:  

The sun of justice, rising into the clean mind, reveals Himself and the reasons of all that He created and will create.

Love defeats those three: self-deception, because she is not proud; Interior envy, because she is not jealous; Exterior envy, because she is generous and serene.

All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are inside our hearts hidden.

Faith without love does not act in the soul the illumination of the divine knowledge.

When the mind receives the ideas of things, by its nature is transformed according to each and every idea. If it sees the things spiritually, it is transfigured in many ways according to each vision. But if the mind becomes in God, then it becomes totally shapeless and formless, because seeing Him who has one face it comes to have one face and then the whole mind becomes a face of light.- taken from Speech on Love

He too, like St. Hippolytus, suffered a martyrs death.  St. Maximus the Confessor, a remarkable man who Mike Aquilina tells us about. 

Mike Aquilina’s excellent book “the Fathers of the Church” is a great introduction to the First Christian teachers.

It’s important I think to hear the stories of these great thinkers of the Church, who when the time came in a crazy world, had the courage to speak truth and surrender to God’s great love…if they can do it, why can’t we?