Good Friday

Doctor of the Church Gregory of Narek has a wonderful prayer reflection on Good Friday.

Prayer 77
Speaking with God from the Depths of the HeartA
Since today is a blessed day,
when morning came twice dividing day into
equal parts,
when the passing creatures of the earth
were transformed into a different and heavenly immutable beings,
when the high were laid low and the
humble raised up,
making this the most awesome day of Lent, Holy Friday,
when it is fitting for me to write
this prayer voicing joy mixed with terror, therefore
I think it appropriate to speak now of
the suffering you endured for me, God of all.

You stood, with my nature, before a tribunal of
your creatures, and did not speak, giver of speech.
You did not utter a word, creator of tongues.
You did not release your voice, shaker of the world.
You did not make a sound, trumpet of majesty.
You did not answer back with accounts of
your good deeds.
You did not silence them with their wrongs.
You did not deliver your betrayer to death.
You did not struggle when bound.
You did not squirm when whipped.
You did not fight back when spat upon.
You did not resist when beaten.
You did not take affront when mocked.
You did not frown when ridiculed.

They stripped you of your cloak, as from a weakling,
and dressed you like a condemned prisoner.
If my Lord had not been forced twice to drink vinegar and gall, he would not have been able to cleanse me of the accumulated bile of our forefathers.
He tasted heartbreak and did not waver.
They dragged him violently and brought him
back disrespectfully.
They condemned him, humiliated him by flogging
before a motley crowd.
They knelt before him in ridicule
and put a crown of disdain upon his head.

They gave you no rest, Life-giver,
even forcing you to bear the instrument of your death.
You accepted with forbearance.
You received it with sweetness.
You bore it with patience.
You submitted to the wooden cross of grief,
like one condemned.
Like a lily of the field, you shouldered the
weapon of life,
so that your throne in my body might be protected
against the terrors of the night
turning the last judgment into a joyful banquet.
They led him out like a sacrificial lamb.
They hung him like Isaac’s ram whose horns were caught in the thicket.
They spread him on the table of the cross like a sacrifice.
They nailed him like a common criminal.

They persecuted you, like an outlaw, treating
you in your serenity, like a bandit,
you in your majesty, like a miserable wretch,
you who are adored by cherubim,
like a despised man,
you who are the definition of life, like one
deserving of a slaughter,
you, the author of the Gospels, like one
who blasphemed the Law,
you, the Lord and the fulfillment of the prophets,
like one who cut the Scriptures,
you, the radiance of glory and the image of
the mystery of the Father, beyond mortal
understanding, as if you are the adversary
of the will of him who bore you,
you who are blessed, like someone banished,
you who came to release the bonds of the Law,
like a heretic,
you, the consuming fire, like a
condemned prisoner,
you who inspire awe in heaven and earth,
like one deserving punishment,
you, covered in unapproachable light, like
some earthly quarry

O, sweet Lord,
forbearing doer of good, merciful and compassionate,
Lord of all, who for the sake of infirm and unruly
servants like me submitted to everything willingly
according to your plan
together with your perfectly human body,
submitted even to the sleepy tomb of the sepulchre,
who lack nothing of divine perfection, being identical with
God who is beyond human understanding,
yet bore human indignity with patience beyond words,
you rose with your body, alive and of your own power,
In exalted light, with undiminished humanity
and flawless divinity.
You are blessed for your glory
praised for your compassion,
and always exalted for your mercy,
forever and ever.



Today is the feast of the Assumption, this year it isn’t a Holy day of Obligation since it falls on a Monday I guess. Instead of reflecting on the readings I found a poem by Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church. Liguori is often considered the most widely read Catholic writers as he wrote The Way of the Cross that many parishes still use today as well as The Glories of Mary, perhaps I will delve into this work at some later time.

The Assumption of Mary

Fly, my soul, with Mary fly,
Soar beyond the golden sky,
Mount to Mary’s throne on high.

Bright the queenly crown she won,
Sweet the reign she has begun,
As she stands beside her Son.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

How endure this long delay?
Living here how can I stay
From such beauty far away?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Sad my lot is here below;
Who can hope or life bestow?
Who will help or pity show?
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

But though far away from me,
Still our sovereign Queen will be
Full of love and clemency.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

With a mother’s loving care
She will lift those hands so fair,
And will save us by her prayer.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Mother’s heart can ne’er forget
That we are her children yet,
By such dangers fierce beset.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Gently, still, she bends her eyes
On the soul that longs and sighs
For her love, the heavenly prize.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Blest the soul who, like the dove
Borne upon the wings of love,
Follows her to heaven above.
Fly, my soul, with Mary fly.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This week the readings come from Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; Psalm 138; Paul’s first reading to the Corinthians 15:1-11; and Luke’s Gospel 5:1-11.

In light of the fact that this is the final Sunday before we begin the season of Lent we are given some interesting readings, as we are given the calls of Isaiah and Peter let us keep these in mind as we enter into Lent. Let us all be willing and able to answer the call with a “Here I am” and follow. It seems all to often we ignore our own call as there are so many other competing voices in the world and so many are connected to their phones like nothing else matters in life except what happens in and through their phones. Looking to the lives of Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, they both though they had a calling for the religious life but that didn’t happen Louis couldn’t learn Latin and Zelie was too sick. Both of then didn’t give up as they would eventually met and married. They raise many wonderful children in the faith and the five girls who survived infancy became nuns including that Doctor of the Church, Therese of Lisieux. Our missions in life aren’t individual things but ongoing and developing all the time, so is the mission of the Church. We also have the example of St. Peter who seems like the worst choice as we continually see him making mistakes but in the end he comes out as a great role model. As we enter the season of Lent let our ears be open to the call of the Lord and the Spirit acting in our lives and be willing and able to say “Here I am” and follow.

Lesser Known…

Thorlak or Thorlac Thorhallsson (1133 – December 23, 1193)
Thorlak is the patron saint of Iceland and they waited a long time between his death and when the Church officially recognized Thorlak as a Saint, Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1984. With his feast in December, why am I mentioning Thorlak in July simply because in 1198 his relics were translated to the Cathedral of Skálholt. The translation of relics is a unique feast as it is when the relics are moved from one place to another.

Lawrence of Brindisi, OFM Cap., (July 22, 1559 – July 22, 1619)
Lawrence is a Doctor of the Church as well as a Capuchin. He is given the title Doctor apostolicus
or Apostolic Doctor. Giulio Cesare Russo was born into a Venetian merchant family and not much happened during his childhood, after studying at St. Mark’s College in Venice he would join the Capuchins in Verona where he took the name Lawrence. Where he would go back to school and it is there that he learn to be a linguist, as he spoke most European and Semitic languages fluently. In 1596 Lawrence was appointed by Pope Clement VIII to convert the Jews of Rome. By 1599 he was off establishing Capuchin monasteries across Germany and Austria this was an aspect of the Counter-Reformation and many protestants came back to the Catholic faith. In 1601, Lawrence was name chaplain for the army of Rudolph II the Holy Roman Emperor. It is said that during this year Lawrence went into battle armed only with a crucifix. Lawrence is a cool figure as he was a highly learned individual and did a whole bunch of thing and that should be the model for all priest. I believe that he is given the title Apostolic Doctor because he could speak in tongues, as his contemporary Cardinal Cajetan said Lawrence was “an incarnation of the old apostles, who, speaking to all nations, were understood by all.  He is a living Pentecost.”

Lesser Known…

To begin we have to talk about the historic event that took place on Saturday as American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes capturing the Triple Crown as well. The first time that has happened in 37 years and he won it with a gate to wire winning by 5 1/2 lengths. If you haven’t seen it watch the race it is bound in multiple places online.

World Oceans Day: June 8 we celebrate World Oceans Day another one of the UN days, but this one is better than the Language Days from last week as this is a day that effects everyone. The Oceans are a huge part of our lives even if we are landlocked as so much depends upon the oceans. World Oceans Day is a day that we celebrate the oceans and all that comes from it. This year the theme is “Healthy oceans, healthy planet” and this year they are making an effort to stop plastic pollution. There is an ocean cleaning thing that a 20-Year-Old came up with that might work cleaning up the ocean but it is a grand idea to remove trash from the ocean perhaps one day the Ocean gyres will be trash less, which seems like a novel idea.

Loving Day: June 12 is the day which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Loving v. Virginia in 1967. The Court struck down the anti-miscegenation laws remaining in the United States citing that “There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause.” This is the largest multiracial celebration in the United States and there are people pushing Barack Obama to make this a national holiday. The Loving’s were a mixed race couple a black woman and white man who had gotten married in Washington DC and were unaware that in Virginia interracial marriage was illegal.

Ephrem the Syrian (ca. 306 – 373)
Ephrem is a Doctor of the Church and I talked about him last year.

Olivia of Palermo (Palermo, 448 – Tunis, 10 June 463)
From what we know of her life from her hagiography, Olivia was born to a noble Sicilian family and she devoted herself to the Lord. The stories say that she declined the riches and honor of her family and loved to give to the poor. Sicily was conquered by Vandals when she was young and  around the age of 13 she would go to the imprisoned Christians to tell them to stay faithful. Olivia’s steadfast nature impressed the Vandals so much that they sent he to Tunisia to get rid of her. In Tunis she became a miracle worker and began to convert pagans. The governor wasn’t that happy with this so he sent Olivia off to live as a hermitess with the hopes that wild animals would eat her, but the animals lived around her in peace and harmony. One day when some men from Tunis were off hunting they stumbled upon Olivia and they were caught in her beauty and tried to abuse her. This didn’t happen as Olivia converted them and the hunting party was baptized. When news of this came back to the governor he wasn’t happy with this and had Olivia arrested and brought back to the city to try to make her renounce the Lord. This didn’t work they scourged her and stripped her and placed her in a vat of boiling oil but no harm came to her and she didn’t renounce her faith. Finally she was beheaded and according to lore her soul flew up to heaven in the form of a dove.  The interesting life of Olivia doesn’t end there as the Al-Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis the home of the Univeristy of Ez-Zitouna is supposedly build over the site of Olivia’s grave at an earlier Christian basilica and according to superstition if the bones of Olivia are recovered Islam will end or rather the dominion of their religion will end when Olivia’s body disappears.  I think that this is a unique story as I’ve never heard of Christians and Muslims honoring the same individual.



Gregory of Narek

Pope Francis has named a new Doctor of the Church, Gregory of Narek is the first Doctor to be named by Francis and the first since Hildegard and John of Avila back in 2012.

Gregory of Narek was a monk and poet who is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Gregory was born into a family of writers and scholarly churchmen. His father was a bishop and his mother died when he was young  So Gregory and his two brothers join the monastery where it seems they spent the rest of their lives. In the monastery Gregory excelled at many things and eventually became a teacher. At 25 he became a priest and dedicated his life to God. Gregory is best known for his writing. He was first commissioned to write a commentary on the Song of Songs by a Armenian prince and although Gregory though he was too young to write it the commentary became famous.

Gregory’s most famous work is the Book of Prayers or Book of Lamentations also known as Narek. This work has long been viewed as a gem in Christian literature. Gregory himself called it an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations” as it was his hope that it would serve as a guide for prayer for people around the world. The book consists of 95 prayers and the central theme of the prayers is man’s separation from God and quest to be reunited. These prayer are really great as well. Take some time to read the prayers or look for the choral versions on YouTube they are in like Russian but they are awesome. He is an interesting Saint and I hope that people are inspired to follow the advice of Gregory and take the Book of Lamentation and use it as a guide in their own prayer lives.


Lesser known Saints

Peter Damian, OSB ( c. 1007 – 21/22 February 1072 or 1073)
Peter Damian is a Doctor of the Church, but what attracted me to Damian is that over on wikipedia  it says that he is the patron saint of Parkour/ free running. Perhaps this is because his body was moved six times after his death? Damian was born into a large family but they were poor and he was orphaned early in life, one of his older brothers adopted him but things didn’t go well as Peter’s older brother mistreated him and underfed him as he watched a swineherd. After some year another brother, who was a priest took pity on Peter and took him to be educated. Around 1035, Peter Damian decided to become a Benedictine monk. He was a reformer in the church as well and was friends with many Popes. Dante has him in the seventh sphere of heaven and many consider him to be a predecessor of Francis of Assisi

Wulfric of Haselbury (c.1080 (?)–20 February 1154)
Wulfric has a cool name to begin with and not much is really know about his childhood. He became a priest but became to addicted to hunting with hawks and hounds that after an encounter with a beggar Wulfric decided to pursue more “Godly things” and he moved to a parish. It seems this didn’t last long as Wulfric in 1125 decided to become an anchorite. He was anchorite at St. Michael and All Angels Church and had his cell on the north side of the building. Anchorites seem common in England but they are individuals who want to be withdrawn from the world. It is said that King Stephen visited several times. Wulfirc was one of the most infulentianl anchorite priests of Medieval England, after his death there was a fight over his body the monks who provided him food laid claim to his body but the people of the town had other ideas. The locals won out and Wulfric was buried somewhere around the church.

Francisco (11 June 1908 – 4 April 1919), and Jacinta Marto (11 March 1910 – 20 February 1920)
Francisco and Jacinta are not saints yet but they will be someday along with their cousin Lucia Santos (28 March 1907 – 13 February 2005). They are commonly known as the Fatima children, they were shepherds who saw Mary in Fatima starting on 13 May 1917, this apparition would continue for six months it wasn’t just Mary the apparitions began in 1916 with angels appearing to the children and teaching them prayers. Francisco and Jacinta would succumb to the Spanish Flu. Lucia became a Carmelite, wrote many books about Fatima and lived a long life.

Juliana of Nicomedia (d. 304)
Juliana is interesting since the legend surrounding her is actually pretty true. Juliana was the daughter of an influential pagan who had her betrothed to one of the Emperor’s cronies. Juliana refused the advances and wished to remain a virgin. Juliana went out and was baptized against her father wishes and when the Emperor’s pal asked again she told him she was a Christian saying “Unless you abandon the adoration of meaningless idols and you worship my Lord Christ I won’t marry you, because it is impossible for our bodies to be unified if our hearts militate”. Juliana was soon handed over to the judge/jury/executioner her former fiance since she was a Christian, she was flogged then sent to prison when she refused yet again.  Juliana was beheaded for her faith.


Lesser known saints

Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum (died 270)
This group is a family of saint, husband, wife, and their two sons. Not much is really known about them. According to sources they were martyred for sympathizing with and burying Christians. I only mention them since there are not too many families which you could call all members saints, with the exception of the Martin Family.

Agnes of Rome (c. 291 – c. 304)
Agnes is one of the eight women mentioned during the Eucharist prayer. She is the patron saint of a wide variety of things (chastity, gardeners, girls, engaged couples, rape victims, and virgins). According to tradition Agnes was martyred at 12 or 13 and she was sentenced to be pulled naked through the streets to the brothel that much the various sources agree upon. However various legends about about how exactly it happened, one says Agnes prayed and her hair grew covering herself another says that the men who attempted to rape her were struck blind. In another account Agnes is tied to a stake and they set it on fire and the flame don’t touch her. She is an interesting young woman and your should go and read more about her.

Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 – 444)
Cyril is a Church Father, a Doctor of the Church and has the titles of “Pillar of Faith” and “Seal of all the Fathers.” He’s pretty important as he wrote a lot and formed the base of mariology (Blessed Virgin Mary) that we know today. Cyril also was a central figure at the Council of Ephesus where Nestorianism became a heresy.

Vincent Pallotti (21 April 1795 – 22 January 1850)
Vincent Pallotti was born of a noble Roman family at 16 he decided to become a priest.  Soon there after he was ordained. As a priest he worked selflessly for the poor opening schools for tradesmen to learn more about their trade. Some people were calling him a second Phillip Neri. Pallotti founded the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, known as the Pallottines. They follow Pallotti’s belief that all are called to revive faith, rekindle charity and be apostles. Vincent Pallotti is an incorrupt saint. John XXIII named him a Saint in December of 1963 and is considered one of the patrons of Vatican II.

Lesser Known Saints

Kentigern (Welsh: Cyndeyrn Garthwys) known as Mungo (d. 13 January 614)
Saint Mungo has a great name and is the founder of the city of Glasgow, Scotland. According to the hagiography Mungo was the son of a princess. She was raped and her father was furious and threw her off a hill and abandoned her. So Mungo was born and raised by Saint Serf, who was ministering to the Picts. At 25, Mungo began his own ministering around the river Clyde where Glasgow now sits. The story continues that while in Glasgow Mungo performed four miracles. Restored life to a robin, re-lit a fire with a hazel branch, brought a bell from Rome, and that fish story (wife throws ring into water eaten by fish, proves she’s not cheating.  I have always thought that Mungo was a made up Saint for Harry Potter but it turns out he is real.

Íte ingen Chinn Fhalad or Ite of Killeedy (c. 480-570/577)
Ita is considered to be the foster mother of all the saints of Ireland. Ita mean “thirst for holiness”. According to the genealogy written in the codex Ita is said to be the sister of Brigit’s mother. At 16 Ita moved to Killeedy (Church of Ita) where she formed a community of consecrated women. It is likely that this community had a school attached and Ita and the other women in the community would teach boys. Through the school perhaps is where his role as foster mother began. from Brendan the Navagator one of her foster children learn that Ita said when asked what God loved best replied  “True faith in God and a pure heart, a simple life with a religious spirit and open-handedness inspired by charity.”  Later on the flip side of the question is asked three things God most detested “were a scowling face, obstinacy in wrongdoing, and too great a confidence in the power of money. Ita’s grave remains a popular pilgrimage site to this very day

Fursey (also known as Fursa, Fursy, Forseus, and Furseus)  (c.597-650)
Fursey was a monk in Ireland and is one of the four comely saints. Fursey did what ever it took to help spread Christianity into the British Isles especially in East Anglia. Fursey had visions which made him famous in medieval literature. Fursey died in France while on a mission trip, before his first burial he was kept outside for a month and smelled of a sweet odor staying incorrupt until he was buried. He was exhumed four years later and was moved to a new chapel  near the altar. However he might have been moved again as accordingly the four comely saints are all supposedly buried in Inishmore, where there is a holy well. John M. Synge wrote a play which is set at this location.

Hilary (Hilarius) of Poitiers (c. 300 – c. 368)
Hilary was a male who was Bishop of Poitiers and is a Doctor of the Church. For years I used to think that this was a female saint as in our modern times Hilary is considered a female name. Some consider Hilary the “Athanasius of the West.” Hilary was a good Pagan boy but after some book learning he became a Christian. His wife and daughter would join him as well. Around 350 the people of Poitiers were big fans of Hilary and they named him bishop, one of his first actions as bishop was to work to throw out the Arian-ist threat. He was exiled by the emperor and would eventually return. He would go on to encourage Martin of Tours to open a monastery and Hilary himself would write a lot of things.

This week in Saints

I like this weekly Saint thing that I do but some times I’d like to talk about better known saints as well so Lesser Known Saints is being renamed This week in Saints, I will still be profiling like three Saints each week.

This week we have an interesting batch of Saints, one of the feasts falls on Christmas day, another in the Patron of Iceland and the third is another Church Doctor.

Anastasia the Pharmakolytria “Deliverer from Potions” of Sirmium (3rd century)

This is the Anastasia that is mentioned in the Roman Canon, little is really known about her life other than the fact that she died during the persecution of Diocletian. Anastasia has the unique honor in the Catholic church to share her feast day with the celebration of Christmas. There are various legend about Anastasia, the most famous has her as the student of Chrysogonus, early in Diocletian’s persecution Chrysogonus was martyred, and soon Anastasia would follow as on the way to the faithful in Sirmium she was beheaded on the island of Palmaria, Her body was kept in the house of Apollonia and this grew into a basilica. Anastasia’s exploits would be heard throughout the region and supposedly there was a titular church to Anastasia in Rome on the Palatine, and it was the third most important Church in Rome behind only John Lateran and Mary Major. It is a shame that Anastasia is a lost saint since she sound really unique.

Thorlak or Thorlac Thorhallsson (1133 – 23 December 1193)
Thorlak is the Patron Saint of Iceland. He was born to a Nobel Icelandic family, at fifteen he was ordained a deacon and became a priest three years later. Thorlak studied abroad in Paris when he finally arrived back in Iceland he set up a monastery for Canons Regular and refused to marry even though many other priest were married, be he dedicated himself to reciting the Our Father, the Creed, and a hymn, as well as fifty Psalms. Thorlak was eventually named a bishop. After he died there were dozen of miracles associated with him you can read about them in the saga of St. Thorlak. Thorlak wasn’t officially recognized as a saint until 1984 when PJII canonized him. Thorlak’s feast day is on December 23 and it is considered to be the last day of preparations for Christmas. According to tradition on St. Thorlac’s Day, the house is cleaned and preparations for the Christmas meal are begun.

Peter Canisius, S.J. ( 8 May 1521 – 21 December 1597)
Peter is a Jesuit from the Netherlands. His family was well to do, he studied at the University of Cologne and it is here where his life took a turn, Peter Canisius met Peter Faber, co-founder of the Jesuits and in 1543 Peter became the first Dutch Jesuit. Peter Canisius became one of the most influential Catholics of his day. This would prove to be a good thing as the Reformation was happening and Peter was a big part in the counter reformation in Germany. Canisius like Mary quite a bit and said that veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the best road to take to get to Jesus. Peter Canisius is also credited with adding the line “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners” to the Hail Mary