Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Victories of the Martyrs: St. Agatha, named in the Canon of the Mass.

From Victories of the Martyrs, by St. Alphonsus Liguori.

St. Agatha, Virgin, February 5. This holy virgin and martyr is held in great veneration by the Greek as well as the Latin Church; and although her original Acts have not been preserved, many well-authenticated facts concerning her martyrdom are found in the Bollandists, Surius, and others. She was a native of Sicily, and descended of a noble and opulent family. These circumstances, added to her extraordinary beauty, inflamed Quintianus, a man of consular dignity, with such love of her, that he resolved to compel her to become his wife. 


The edicts of the emperor Decius against the Christians having been published, he ordered Agatha to be arrested as a Christian, and conducted to Catania, where he then resided. The holy virgin having heard the proclamation against the Christians, retired to a solitary place in order to avoid the snares of Quintianus, concerning which she had received some intimation. The emissaries of the governor, however, discovered her place of concealment, and after having been arrested, she prayed after the following manner: “O Jesus Christ, Lord of all things, Thou seest my heart, and knowest my desire, which is to possess only Thee, since I have consecrated myself entirely to Thee. Preserve me, dear Lord, from this tyrant, and enable me to overcome the devil, who layeth snares for my soul.”

When the saint appeared before Quintianus, in order the more easily to overcome her modesty, he gave her up to Aphrodisia, an abominable woman, who, together with her daughters, publicly professed immodesty. In her infamous house the saint suffered greater torture than the darkest and most fetid dungeon could afford. All the arts of Aphrodisia and her partners in crime were unceasingly applied, in order to induce the saint to comply with the wishes of Quintianus; but Agatha, who from her infancy had been consecrated to Jesus Christ, was enabled by his divine grace to overcome all their attempts. Quintianus, having been informed that the efforts of Aphrodisia for an entire month had been employed in vain, commanded that the saint should be again brought before him.

He upbraided her, that, being a free woman and noble, she had allowed herself to be seduced into the humble servitude of the Christians. The holy virgin courageously confessed that she was a Christian, and that she knew of no nobility more illustrious, nor liberty more real, than to be a servant of Jesus Christ. In order to give the governor to understand how infamous were the deities which he adored and desired her to worship, she asked whether he would wish that his wife should be a prostitute, like Venus, or that he himself should be considered an incestuous adulterer like Jupiter. Quintianus, irritated at her rebuke, commanded her to be buffeted and led to prison. The following day she was again summoned, and asked whether she had resolved to save her life. She replied: “God is my life and my salvation.” 

                                    St. Peter heals the wounds of St. Agatha


The governor then put her to the torture; but perceiving how little it affected her, he commanded her breasts to be lacerated, and afterwards cut off, which was executed with barbarous cruelty. Quintianus then remanded the saint to prison, commanding that her wounds should be left undressed, in order that she might expire under the torture. But at midnight St. Peter appeared to her in a vision, perfectly cured her wounds, and freed her from all pain: during the entire of that night there appeared in the interior of the prison so resplendent a light that the guards fled in terror, leaving the door of her dungeon open, so that she could have escaped, as the other prisoners advised her, but that she was unwilling, as she said, to lose by flight the crown which was being prepared for her in heaven.

Quintianus, nothing moved by her miraculous cure, but on the contrary more irritated, after four days devised new torments for the saint. He commanded that she should be rolled over broken tiles, mixed with burning coals; but she endured all with constancy; and while the tyrant was planning fresh torments, the saint, perceiving that her life was drawing to a close, made the following prayer: “O Lord, my Creator, who hast preserved me from my infancy, hast given me strength to overcome these torments, and hast taken from me the love of the world, receive now my soul. It is time that I should at last pass from this miserable life to the fruition of Thy glory.” Just as she had finished these words, she tranquilly expired, and went to be united to God, to praise him and love him forever. This happened in 251.


From the Canon of the Mass after the Consecration, the fifth remembrance.

P: To us sinners, also, Thy servants, who put our trust in the multitude of Thy mercies, vouchsafe to grant some part and fellowship with Thy holy apostles and martyrs; with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicitas, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, and with all Thy saints. Into their company do Thou, we beseech Thee, admit us, not weighing our merits, but freely pardoning our offenses: through Christ our Lord.


See my Catholic writings Here.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Two saints who raised animals from the dead!

The mystery of what happens to animals when they die, and whether we will see our pets in heaven, are questions that constantly arise and will continue to do so. Catholic teaching is that only human souls are immortal and thus survive bodily death. St. Thomas, in his Summa Theologica teaches that animals do have souls but that they are merely mortal: “Wherefore we conclude that as the souls of brute animals have no per se operations they are not subsistent.”

The newspaper “The Irish Catholic” featured a recent article that sums the Catholic viewpoint:

Catholics believe that all living things have souls, and this includes not only humans, but also plants and animals. When a living thing dies, the soul separates from its body or organic makeup. In the case of animals, the soul goes out of existence. However, the souls of human beings are radically different from the souls of other living things. Whereas the souls of animals are contingent upon their material makeup, human souls remain in existence after death because it is immaterial. “

Catholic Answers states bluntly:

Animal and vegetable souls are dependent entirely on matter for their operation and being. They cease to exist at death. (There’s no “doggie heaven.”)”

But on the other hand, Pope Francis has famously indicated his belief in animal immortality:

Pope Francis sent ripples around the world Wednesday when he suggested that pets and other animals have a place in heaven, which is in stark contradiction to conservative Catholic teaching that animals don't have souls. Seeking to console a young boy who recently lost his dog, Pope Francis assured him during his weekly address that he would be united with his pet in heaven.

"One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God's creatures," the Pope said, according to Italian news sources. Theologians, however, argued that Pope Francis' words should not be taken as a doctrinal statement, as he had spoken casually.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large of America, the Catholic magazine,told the New York Times he believed that Pope Francis was at least saying, "God loves and Christ redeems all of creation," despite conservative Catholic teachings to the contrary. "He said paradise is open to all creatures," Father Martin told the Times. "That sounds pretty clear to me."

The issue of whether or not animals have souls has been a controversial issue in the Catholic Church for a long time, and Pope Francis' comment appears to have opened up that debate once again”

Now, if the souls of animals dissipate upon their death, how does one account for the stories in the lives of Catholic saints which assert that they raised to life dead animals? As portrayed in two Renaissance paintings, St. Nicholas Tolentino (1246 - 1305) is said to have refused to eat cooked partridges when he was bedridden, and brought them back to life so that they could fly away.

Even more spectacularly, St. Francis of Paola (1416 - 1507) was said to have resurrected both a pet fish and his pet lamb. He is also known to have abstained from all meat, fish and animal products, such as eggs and milk. He called the animals by their names even after their lives had ended. He apparently believed they continued to exist after their deaths.

The Blog “A Catholic Life” goes into some detail:

St. Francis had a love for animals and took a vow to never eat any animals, even fish.  According to his biographers, it is said: "Francis had a favorite trout that he called ‘Antonella.’ One day, one of the priests, who provided religious services, saw the trout swimming about in his pool. To him it was just a delicious dish, so he caught it and took it home, tossing it into the frying pan. Francis missed ‘Antonella’ and realized what had happened. He asked one of his followers to go to the priest to get it back. The priest, annoyed by this great concern for a mere fish, threw the cooked trout on the ground, shattering it into several pieces. The hermit sent by Francis gathered up the broken pieces in his hands and brought them back to Francis. Francis placed the pieces back in the pool and, looking up to Heaven and praying, said: ‘Antonella, in the name of Charity, return to life.’ The trout immediately became whole and swam joyously around his pool as if nothing had happened. The friars and the workers who witnessed this miracle were deeply impressed by the miracle."

St. Francis also raised his pet lamb from the dead after it had been killed and eaten by workmen. "Being in need of food, the workmen caught and slaughtered Francis’ pet lamb, Martinello, roasting it in their lime kiln. They were eating when the Saint approached them, looking for the lamb. They told him they had eaten it, having no other food. He asked what they had done with the fleece and the bones. They told him they had thrown them into the furnace. Francis walked over to the furnace, looked into the fire and called ‘Martinello, come out!’ The lamb jumped out, completely untouched, bleating happily on seeing his master."

School of Pietro Perugino, circa 1530. St. Nicholas of Tolentino Restoring Two Partridges to Life. Tempera on wood panel. 

Benvenuto Garafalo, circa 1550; St. Nicholas of Tolentino Reviving the Birds.

Giovanni Gasparro, contemporary, 2015; The Miracles of St. Francis of Paola. In Gasparro’s painting we see the same fish many times over flopping around in a dish. Francis has an extra set of hands, which is a common motif in Gasparro’s work.⁠ 


View my Catholic books Here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Spiritual Communion

Since the option of receiving the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion at Mass is severely limited in these trying times, it will be very profitable for the devout Catholic to make spiritual Communions as often as possible. St. Alphonsus de Liguori offers a valuable teaching in this regard, as follows:

A spiritual Communion, according to St. Thomas, consists in an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament, and in lovingly embracing him as if we had actually received him. This devotion is far more profitable than some suppose, and at the same time nothing can be easier to practice. Hence the saints have been in the habit of making frequent spiritual Communions.

In this manner you can make as many spiritual Communions as you please: “My Jesus, I believe that Thou art truly and really present in the holy sacrament. I love Thee with my whole heart, and because I love Thee, I am sorry for having offended Thee. I embrace Thee, O my love, and I give myself entirely to Thee; do not permit me to be ever separated from Thee.”

The holy Council of Trent extols the advantages of spiritual Communion, and exhorts the faithful to practice it. And God himself has several times given devout souls to understand how pleasing it is to him that they receive him spiritually. Jesus Christ appeared one day to sister Paula Maresca, foundress of the convent of St. Catherine of Siena, in Naples, as we read in her life, and showed her two precious vessels, one of gold and another of silver, and said to her, that in the former he preserved her sacramental Communions, and in the latter her spiritual Communions. On another occasion he said to the Venerable Jane of the Cross, that as often as she communicated spiritually, she received a grace similar to that which she derived from her sacramental Communions.

Father John Nider, of the Order of St. Dominic, relates, that in a certain city a poor man of great virtue desired to communicate often; but because the practice of frequent Communion did not exist in the place, he, in order to avoid singularity, contented himself with spiritual Communions. Hence, he would first go to confession, and make his meditation; he would then hear Mass, and prepare for Communion, and would open his mouth as if he were receiving Jesus Christ. The author relates, that in opening his mouth the poor man used to feel the particle laid on his tongue, and his soul filled with sweetness. One morning he put his finger into his mouth to find out whether the consecrated particle were really placed on his tongue; the sacred host adhered to his finger; he placed it again in his mouth, and received it. Thus the Lord rewarded the desire of this good servant.

Blessed Angela of the Cross, a Dominican nun, went so far as to say: “If my confessor had not taught me this method of communicating, I could scarcely live.” Hence she used to make a hundred spiritual Communions every day, and a hundred more every night. But how, you will ask, could she make so many? St. Augustine answers: “Give me a lover, and he understands what I say.” Give me a soul that loves nothing but Jesus Christ, and it will not wonder at it. Father Peter Faber, the first companion of St. Ignatius, used to say that it was of the highest utility to make spiritual Communions, in order to receive the sacramental Communion well. All those who desire to advance in the love of Jesus Christ are exhorted to make a spiritual Communion at least once in every visit that they pay to the Most Blessed Sacrament, and at every Mass that they hear; and it would even be better on these occasions to repeat the Communions three times, that is to say, at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end.

It is most easy to make several spiritual Communions in the day; it is not necessary to be fasting, to have a priest, or to spend, a long time. Hence we may make a spiritual Communion as often as we please in the day. The Venerable Jane of the Cross used therefore to say: “O my Lord, how excellent a mode of communicating! without being seen or remarked: without giving trouble to my spiritual Father, or depending on any one but Thee, who in solitude dost nourish my soul, and speak to my heart.” We can make it at any time we please: an act of love does all. Be careful, then, to make frequent spiritual Communions in your meditations, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and be particularly careful, as often as you hear Mass, to make a spiritual Communion, during the Communion of the priest. Make an act of faith, believing firmly that Jesus Christ is present in the holy sacrament; an act of love, uniting to it an act of sorrow for your sins; and then an act of desire, inviting Jesus Christ to come into your soul, in order to make it entirely his own; and in the end thank him as if you had received him. The Church grants an Indulgence of 300 days for every act of spiritual Communion, and a plenary Indulgence once a month, under the usual conditions.

An act of spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I believe that Thou art truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. I love Thee above all things, and I desire to possess Thee within my soul. Since I am unable now to receive Thee sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace Thee as being already there, and unite myself wholly to Thee; never permit me to be separated from Thee.

A shorter act

I believe that Thou, O Jesus, art in the Most Holy Sacrament! I love Thee and desire Thee! Come into my heart. I embrace Thee; oh, never leave me!


”Sources, by St. Alphonsus: The Holy Eucharist, pp. 121-124; The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, pp. 586-588.

View my Catholic writings Here.

UNIVERSAL Restoration 2020s: Luisa Piccarreta in 9 Minutes (The Imminent...