Archive for March, 2006

The Scapular

March 26, 2006

QUEEN OF PEACE

Insignia of the Blessed Virgin

If you wear Mary’s Brown Scapular, you should be introduced to St.Simon Stock. You may already know him from his picture (along with Our Lady’s) on your Scapular. Actually St.Simon is an old friend, for it was to him that Our Lady gave the Scapular Promise in 1215 saying, “Whosoever dies wearing this Scapular shall not suffer eternal fire”
One of the great mysteries of our time is that the majority of Catholics either ignore, or have entirely forgotten this Heavenly promise of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady further says: “Wear the Scapular devoutly and perseveringly. It is My garment. To be clothed, to be clothed in it means you are continually thinking of Me, and I in turn, am always thinking of you and helping you to secure eternal life.”
Blessed Clause de la Colombiere, the renowned Jesuit and spiritual director of St.Margaret Mary, gives a point which is enlightening. He said, “Because all the forms of our love for the Blessed Virgin and all its various modes of expression cannot be equally pleasing to Her, and therefore do not assist us in the same degree to reach Heaven, I say, without a moment’s hesitation, that the BROWN SCAPULAR IS THE MOST FAVOURED OF ALL!” He also adds, “No devotion has been confirmed by more numerous authentic miracles than the Brown Scapular.

Old Testament History

Devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel ( the Madonna of the Scapular) goes back far before the time of St.Simon Stock — even before the time of Our Blessed Lord; it goes back all the way to 8th century BC. It was then that the great prophet Elias ascended the holy mountain of Carmel in Palestine, and began there a long tradition of contemplative life and prayer. It is amazing to realize that centuries before Christ was born, Holy Elias and his followers had mystically dedicated themselves to God’s Mother-to-come, Mary, Queen of Mt.Carmel. Nearly three thousand years later, that tradition of prayer, contemplation, and devotion to Mary continues to live and prevail in the Catholic Church.

In the fullness of time, God became the God-Man, Jesus. We know of Our Lords life, death, resurrection and ascension from the four Gospels of the New testament, and we know that Jesus bequeathed to the world the Holy Catholic Church to teach, to govern, and to sanctify in His Name.

On the Feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, the spiritual descendants of Elias and his followers came down from Mount Carmel. Fittingly, they were the first to accept the message of Christianity and to be baptized by the Apostles. When, at last, they were presented to Our Lady, and heard the sweetest words from Her lips, they were overcome with a sense of majesty and sanctity which they never forgot. Returning to their holy mountain, they erected the first chapel ever built in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. From that time devotion to God’s Mother was handed down by the hermits on Mount Carmel as a treasured spiritual legacy.

Our Lady appears to St Simon Stock

In the year 1241, the Baron de Grey of England was returning from the Crusades in Palestine: he brought back with him a group of religious from the holy mountain of Carmel. Upon arrival, the baron generously presented the monks with a manor house in the town of Aylesford. Ten years later, in the very place, there occurred the now famous apparition of Our Lady to St.Simon Stock. As the Holy Virgin handed St.Simon the Brown Woolen Scapular she spoke these words: “This shall be the privilege for you and all Carmelites, that anyone dying in this habit shall not suffer eternal fire.” In time, the Church extended this magnificent privilege to all the laity who are willing to be invested in the Brown Scapular of the Carmelites, and who perpetually wear it.

Many Catholic are invested in the Brown Scapular at the time of their First Holy Communion; in the case of converts the vesting concurs with their Profession of Faith. When a person is enrolled in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular and vested in that tiny habit of brown wool, the priest says to him: “receive this blessed Scapular and ask the most Holy Virgin that, by Her merits, it may be worn with no stain of sin and may protect you from all harm and bring you into everlasting life.” The following true incidents will give a brief idea of how our Blessed Mother keeps her promise.
A priest relates how one day in a town near Chicago he was called to the bedside of a man who had been away form the Sacrament for many years. “The man did not want to see me: he would not talk. Then I asked him to look at the little Scapular I was holding. ‘Will you wear this if I put this on you? I ask nothing more.’ He agreed to wear it and within the hour he wanted to go to confession and make his peace with God. This did not surprise me, because for 700 years Our Lady has been working in this way through Her Scapular.”

On the very day Our Lady gave the Scapular to St.Simon, he was hurriedly called by Lord Peter of Linton: “Come quickly, Father, my brother is dying in despair!” St.Simon left at once for the bedside of the dying man. Upon arrival he placed his large Scapular over the dying man, asking Our Blessed Mother to keep Her promise. Immediately the man repented, and died in the grace and friendship of God. That night the dead man appeared to his brother and said, ‘I have been saved through the most powerful Queen and the Habit of that man as a shield.”
St.Alphonsus tell us: Modern heretics make a mockery of wearing the Scapular. they decry it as so much trifling nonsense.” Yet many of the popes have approved and recommended it. It is remarkable that only 25 years after the Scapular vision, Blessed Pope Gregory X was buried wearing the Scapular. when his tomb was opened 600 years after his death, his Scapular was found intact.
Two great founders of the Religious Orders, St. Alphonsus, of the Redemptorists and St.John Bosco of the Salecians had a very special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and both wore Her Brown Scapular. When they died each was buried in priestly vestments and Scapular. Many years later their graves were opened, the bodies and sacred vestments in which they were buried were decayed-dust! BUT THE BROWN SCAPULAR WHICH EACH WAS WEARING WAS INTACT. The Scapular of St.Alphonsus is on exhibit in his Monastery in Rome.

Protection against the Devil

You will understand why the Devil works against those who promote the Scapular when you hear the story of Ven.Francis Ypes. One day his Scapular fell off. As he replaced it, the Devil howled, “Take off the habit which snatches so many souls from us!”. Then and there Francis made the Devil admit that there are three things which the demons are most afraid of: the Holy Name of Jesus; the Holy Name of Mary and the Holy Scapular of Carmel. To that list we could add the Holy Rosary.

The Great St. Peter Claver was another of God’s heroes who used the Scapular to good advantage. Every month a shipment of 1000 slaves would arrive at Cartegena, Colombia, South America. St.Peter used to insure the salvation of his converts. First, he organised catechists to give them instructions. Then, he saw to it that they were Baptised and clothed with the Scapular. Some ecclesiastics accused the Saint of indiscreet zeal, but St.Peter was confident that Mary would watch over each of his more than 300,000 converts!

Our Lady Protects a Missionary

One day in 1944, a Carmelite missionary in the Holy Land was called to an internment camp in order to give the Last Rites. The Arab driver made the priest get off the bus four miles from the camp because the road was dangerously muddy. After two miles, the missionary found his feet sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. Trying to get solid footing he slipped into a muddy pool. Sinking to his death in this desolate place, he thought of Our Lady and Her Scapular. He kissed his great Scapular–for he was wearing the full habit — and looked toward the holy mountain of Carmel, the birthplace of devotion to God’s Mother . He cried out, “Holy Mother of Carmel! Help me! save me!” A moment later, he found himself on solid ground. Later he said, “I know I was saved by the Blessed Virgin through Her Brown Scapular. My shoes were lost in the mud, and I was covered with it, but I walked the remaining two miles praising Mary.

Saved from the sea

Another Scapular story that bears repeating took place in 1845. In the late summer of that year, the English ship, “king of the Ocean” found itself in the middle of a wild hurricane. As wind and sea mercilessly lashed the ship, a Protestant minister, together with his wife and children and other passengers, struggled to the deck to pray for forgiveness and mercy, as the end seemed at hand. Among the crew was a young Irishman, John McAuliffe. On seeing the urgency of the situation, the youth opened his shirt took off his Scapular, and, making The sign of the Cross with it over the raging waves tossed it into the ocean. At that very moment, the wind calmed. Only one more wave washed the deck, bringing with it the Scapular which came to rest at the boy’s feet. All the while the minister; a Mr. Fisher, had been carefully observing McAuliffe’s actions and the miraculous effect of those actions. Upon questioning the young man, they were told about the Holy Virgin and Her Scapular. Mr. Fisher and his family were so impressed that they were determined to enter the Catholic Church as soon as possible, and thereby enjoy the same protection of Our Lady’s Scapular.

A home saved from fire

Nearer to our own times—in May of 1957, a Carmelite priest in Germany published the unusual story of how the Scapular saved a home from fire. An entire row of homes had caught fire in Westboden, Germany. The pious inhabitants of a 2-family home, seeing the fire, immediately fastened a Scapular to the main door of the house. Sparks flew over it and around it, but the house remained unharmed. Within 5 hours, 22 homes had been reduced to ashes. The one structure which had the Scapular attached to its door remained intact. The hundreds of people who came to see the place Our lady had saved are eye-witnesses to the power of the Scapular and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A train accident

One of the most extraordinary of all Scapular incidents took place right here in the United States. It happened around the turn of the century in the town of Ashtabula, Ohio, that a man, wearing the Scapular, was cut in two by a train. Instead of dying instantly, as would be expected he remained alive and conscious for 45 minutes — just enough time until a priest could arrive to administer the Last Sacraments. These, and other such incidents, tell us that Our Blessed Mother will take personal care of us in the hour of our death. So great and powerful a Mother is Mary that She will never fail to keep the Scapular contract, i.e. to see that we die in God’s grace.

A priest’s life is saved

Still another Scapular miracle concerns a French priest who had gone on pilgrimage. On the way to say Mass, he remembered that he had forgotten his Scapular. He knew he would be late if he went back to retrieve it, but he could not envision offering Mass at Our Lady’s altar without Her Scapular. Later, as he was offering the Holy Sacrifice, a young man approached the altar, pulled out a gun, and shot the priest in the back. To the amazement of all, the priest continued to say the prayers of the Mass as though nothing had occurred, It was at first presumed that the bullet had miraculously missed its target. However, upon examination, the bullet was found ADHERING TO THE LITTLE BROWN SCAPULAR which the priest had so obstinately refused to be without.

Conversions

We should even give the Scapular to non-Catholics for Our Lady will bring conversions to those who will wear it and say one Hail Mary each day, as the following true story will show. An old man was rushed to the St. Simon Stock Hospital in New York city, unconscious and dying. the nurse, seeing the Brown Scapular on the patient, called a priest. As the prayers were being said for the dying man, he became conscious and spoke up: “Father, I am not a Catholic.” “Then why are you wearing the Brown Scapular?” asked the priest. “I promised my friends to wear it,” the patient explained, ” and also to say one Hail Mary a day.” “You are dying” the priest told him. “Do you want to become a Catholic?” “All my life I wanted to be one.” the dying man replied. He was baptized, received the Last Rites, and died in peace. Our Lady took another soul under her Mantle through the Scapular.

A Call Of Fervour

In October of 1952, an Air Force officer in Texas wrote the following: “Six months ago, shortly after I started wearing the Scapular, I experienced a remarkable change in my life. Almost at once, I started going to mass every day. After a short time, I started receiving Holy Communion daily. I kept lent with a fervour I had never experience before. I was introduced to the practice of meditation, and found myself making feeble attempts on the way to perfection. I have been trying to live with God ever since. I credit Mary’s Scapular.

Necessity of wearing the Scapular

During the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, Seven Communists were sentenced to death because of their crimes. A Carmelite priest tried to prepare the men for death; they refused. As a last resort, he brought the men cigarettes food and wine, assuring them that he would not talk religion. In a short while they were all friendly, so he asked them for one small favour: “Will you permit me to place a Scapular on each of you?”, six agreed, one refused. Soon all Scapular wearers went to confession. The seventh continued to refuse—only to please them he put on the Scapular, but he would do nothing more. Morning came, and as the time of the execution came near, the seventh man made it clear that he was not going to ask for a priest. Although wearing the Scapular he was determined to go to his death an enemy of God. Finally, the command was given, the firing squad did its deadly work, and seven lifeless bodies lay sprawled in the dust.

Mysteriously a Scapular was found approximately 50 paces from the bodies. Six men died WITH Mary’s Scapular; the seventh died Without the Scapular. Blessed Claude gives us the solution to Mystery of the Missing Scapular: “You ask; what if I desire to die in my sins?” I answer “Then you will die in your sins but YOU WILL NOT DIE IN YOU SCAPULAR.” Blessed Clause tells the story of a man who tried to drown himself three times. He was rescued against his will. At last he realized that he was wearing his Scapular. Determined to take his life, he tore the Scapular from his neck and leaped into the water. Without Mary’s protective garment he accomplished his wish and died in his sins.

Further Miracles

A Jesuit missionary in Guatemala tells an incident of Our Lady’s Scapular protection. In November of 1955 a plane carrying 27 passengers crashed. All died except one young lady. When this girl saw that the plane was going down, she took hold of her Scapular, and called on Mary for help. She suffered burns, her clothing was reduced to ashes, but her Scapular was not touched by the flames.
In the same year of 1955, a similar miracle occurred in the Midwest. a 3rd-grader stopped in a gasoline station to put air in his bicycle tires, and at that moment an explosion occurred. The boy’s clothing was burned off, but his Brown Scapular remained unaffected: a symbol of Mary’s protection. Today, although he still bears a few scars from the explosion, this young man has special reason to remember the Blessed Mother’s protection in time of danger.

The Scapular that saved two lives

My Battalion was a member of the Irene Brigade. We were just about to advance. After we passed Eindhofen, our trucks and tanks went through Uden. In the evening we encamped on an old farm near Nijmegen. Behind the house there was an old wooden pump to wash away the sweat and dust of hours of fighting. You can well imagine that we made good use of this opportunity. I was one of the group and so I tossed my jacket on the ground and hung my Scapular on the pump while I washed.
An hour later we received orders to proceed about a mile and a half further and to occupy a trench there. we were looking forward to being able to get a peaceful night’s sleep in that trench.

I was about to lie down and was unbuttoning my collar when to my horror I realized that I no longer had my Scapular. It had been a gift from my mother. I had had it with me all during the war and now that we were approaching the lion’s den was I to be deprived of it?
To go fetch it was unthinkable, so I tried not to think about it any more and to go to sleep. I pitched mad tossed from side to side, but I couldn’t get to sleep.
All round me, my buddies were sleeping like logs even though from time to time shells fell dangerously close. Finally I was overcome by the desire to get my Scapular back and I crept out among my sleeping companions. It wasn’t so easy to get past the sentry but I managed to do it and ran back the way we had come. It was pitch dark, but nevertheless I had good luck and in a short time I was back on the farm and at the pump. My hands glided searchingly all over the pump but the Scapular was gone. I was just about to strike a match when there was the sound of a dreadful explosion. What was I to do? Was that the sign of an enemy attack? As fast as I could I ran back to our trench. Maybe I could do something for my buddies there.
Near the trench I saw the engineers busily removing piles of dirt and barbed wire. At the very spot where my companions had been sleeping there yawned a gigantic shell-hole. Before the enemy had vacated this trench the enemy had placed a time-bomb in it and it had exploded during my absence. Nobody survived the explosion. If I had not set out to fetch my Scapular, I would have been buried under that rubble too.
On the following morning I went to the field kitchen and met a buddy there. He looked at me with astonishment. “I thought you were in that trench!”. “And I thought you were buried there!”
My friend continued, “I was lying in the trench, but before I went to sleep I went looking for you. But I couldn’t find you. The corporal saw me hunting around and asked me what I wanted. When I told him what I was doing there he said, “Be sensible! Instead go to that inn nearby and get me a bottle of water.” And while I was on the errand the explosion occurred.
“Well, I escaped it but a hair’s breadth too, “I replied. ‘But why on earth were you looking for me so late at night?”
“To give you this, “he replied, and handed me my Scapular which had taken from the old pump.”

A Shield in Time of Battle

Mr. Sisto Mosco of North providence, Rhode Island, is a veteran of world war II, who survived, unscathed, the invasion of Normandy, and later, the 7th fleet war with the Japanese fleet, the taking of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and other bloody battles in the south Pacific. Sisto affirms that his miraculous escape in another perfect example of the powerful protection of Our Blessed Mother of Mount Carmel, through Her Brown Scapular.

“I was on the battleship the U.S.S. Nevada as chaplain’s yeoman during W W II in the Pacific. ( I always wore my Scapular because I was brought up close to the Church, and I kept it on me all through the war.) The ship was loaded with dynamite. A suicide plane hit the deck real close to where I was positioned. The blast blew open the bolted steel doors of the compartment. I alone was left uninjured after the explosion. The rest were all dead or seriously mangled. I was the only one untouched and I attribute it to the wearing of my Scapular”

Mr. Mosco later received a commendation from the Admiral of the fleet for bravery, but in his heart he firmly believes that the credit goes to Our Lady, the Virgin most powerful, who works such wonders through Her Habit of Salvation.

Vatican approval

In wearing the Scapular at all times we make silent petition for the Blessed Mother’s continual assistance. We share in all the prayers and good works of the Carmelite Scapular Confraternity throughout the world. Pope Pius XII often spoke of the Scapular. On the 700th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady to St.Simon Stock, Pope Pius XII referred to the Scapular as “the sign of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”.

The scapular also represents the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ which Mary helps us to bear. And finally, the pope continued, the Scapular marks us as one of Mary’s chosen children, and becomes for us (as the Germans call it) a “Garment of Grace”. Blessed Clause tells us, “Of all the pious practices which have inspired the faithful to honour the Mother of God, there is none so sure as that of the Scapular. No other devotion has been confirmed by so many and such extraordinary miracles.”

As we mentioned above, during the Scapular Anniversary celebration in Rome in 1951, Pope Pius XII told a very large audience to wear the Brown Scapular as a sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Our lady asked for this consecration in the last apparition at Fatima, when She appeared as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, holding the Brown Scapular out to the whole world. It was Her last moving appeal to souls to wear Her Scapular as a sign of consecration to Her Immaculate Heart.

A brief summary

The Scapular is a habit — Our Lady’s habit. The Scapular must be worn over the shoulders in such a manner that one part hangs in front of the body and the other at the back. Worn in any other way, it carries no indulgence or promise. It is not necessary to wear the Scapular next to the skin.

Many Catholics may not know it is the wish of the Holy Father the Pope, that the Scapular Medal should not be worn without sufficient reason. Mary cannot be pleased with anyone who substitutes the medal out of vanity, or out of fear of making open profession of faith. Such persons run the risk of not receiving the Promise. The medal has never been noted for any of the miraculous preservations attributed to the Brown Cloth Scapular.

May a NON-CATHOLIC wear the Scapular?

Yes, and in doing so a non-catholic will receive many graces and blessings with this special sign of devotion to the Blessed Mother of God. Although Baptized Catholics are the only ones who can be officially enrolled in the Confraternity and enjoy the special Scapular privileges, Non-Catholics are warmly encouraged to avail themselves of this special way of honouring Jesus’ Mother. By wearing the Scapular we are dedicated to Our Blessed Mother in a special way and have a strong claim upon Her protection and intercession.

True Devotion to Mary

March 26, 2006

TAN Books

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St. Louis De Montfort

CHAPTER 6

Wonderful Effects of this Devotion

My dear friend, be sure that if you remain faithful to the interior and exterior practices of this devotion which I will point out, the following effects will be produced in your soul:

(click photo to view)

1. Knowledge of our unworthiness

By the light which the Holy Spirit will give you through Mary, his faithful spouse, you will perceive the evil inclinations of your fallen nature and how incapable you are of any good apart from that which God produces in you as Author of nature and of grace. As a consequence of this knowledge you will despise yourself and think of yourself only as an object of repugnance. You will consider yourself as a snail that soils everything with its slime, as a toad that poisons everything with its venom, as a malevolent serpent seeking only to deceive. Finally, the humble Virgin Mary will share her humility with you so that, although you regard yourself with distaste and desire to be disregarded by others, you will not look down slightingly upon anyone.

2. A share in Mary’s faith

Mary will share her faith with you. Her faith on earth was stronger than that of all the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and saints. Now that she is reigning in heaven she no longer has this faith, since she sees everything clearly in God by the light of glory. However, with the consent of almighty God she did not lose it when entering heaven. She has preserved it for her faithful servants in the Church militant. Therefore the more you gain the friendship of this noble Queen and faithful Virgin the more you will be inspired by faith in your daily life. It will cause you to depend less upon sensible and extraordinary feelings. For it is a lively faith animated by love enabling you to do everything from no other motive than that of pure love. It is a firm faith, unshakable as a rock, prompting you to remain firm and steadfast in the midst of storms and tempests. It is an active and probing faith which like some mysterious pass-key admits you into the mysteries of Jesus Christ and of man’s final destiny and into the very heart of God himself. It is a courageous faith which inspires you to undertake and carry out without hesitation great things for God and the salvation of souls. Lastly, this faith will be your flaming torch, your very life with God, your secret fund of divine Wisdom, and an all-powerful weapon for you to enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. It inflames those who are lukewarm and need the gold of fervent love. It restores life to those who are dead through sin. It moves and transforms hearts of marble and cedars of Lebanon by gentle and convincing argument. Finally, this faith will strengthen you to resist the devil and the other enemies of salvation.

3. The gift of pure love

The Mother of fair love will rid your heart of all scruples and inordinate servile fear. She will open and enlarge it to obey the commandments of her Son with alacrity and with the holy freedom of the children of God. She will fill your heart with pure love of which she is the treasury. You will then cease to act as you did before, out of fear of the God who is love, but rather out of pure love. You will look upon him as a loving Father and endeavour to please him at all times. You will speak trustfully to him as a child does to its father. If you should have the misfortune to offend him you will abase yourself before him and humbly beg his pardon. You will offer your hand to him with simplicity and lovingly rise from your sin. Then, peaceful and relaxed and buoyed up with hope you will continue on your way to him.

4. Great confidence in God and in Mary

Our Blessed Lady will fill you with unbounded confidence in God and in herself:

1) Because you will no longer approach Jesus by yourself but always through Mary, your loving Mother.

2) Since you have given her all your merits, graces and satisfactions to dispose of as she pleases, she imparts to you her own virtues and clothes you in her own merits. So you will be able to say confidently to God: “Behold Mary, your handmaid, be it done unto me according to your word.”

3) Since you have now given yourself completely to Mary, body and soul, she, who is generous to the generous, and more generous than even the kindest benefactor, will in return give herself to you in a marvellous but real manner. Indeed you may without hesitation say to her, “I am yours, O Blessed Virgin, obtain salvation for me,” or with the beloved disciple, St. John, “I have taken you, Blessed Mother, for my all.” Or again you may say with St. Bonaventure, “Dear Mother of saving grace, I will do everything with confidence and without fear because you are my strength and my boast in the Lord,” or in another place, “I am all yours and all that I have is yours, O glorious Virgin, blessed above all created things. Let me place you as a seal upon my heart, for your love is as strong as death.” Or adopting the sentiments of the prophet, “Lord, my heart has no reason to be exalted nor should my looks be proud; I have not sought things of great moment nor wonders beyond my reach; nevertheless, I am still not humble. But I have roused my soul and taken courage. I am as a child, weaned from earthly pleasures and resting on its mother’s breast. It is upon this breast that all good things come to me.”

4) What will still further increase your confidence in her is that, after having given her in trust all that you possess to use or keep as she pleases, you will place less trust in yourself and much more in her whom you have made your treasury. How comforting and how consoling when a person can say, “The treasury of God, where he has placed all that he holds most precious, is also my treasury.” “She is,” says a saintly man, “the treasury of the Lord.”

5. Communication of the spirit of Mary

The soul of Mary will be communicated to you to glorify the Lord. Her spirit will take the place of yours to rejoice in God, her Saviour, but only if you are faithful to the practices of this devotion. As St. Ambrose says, “May the soul of Mary be in each one of us to glorify the Lord! May the spirit of Mary be in each one of us to rejoice in God!” “When will that happy day come,” asks a saintly man of our own day whose life was completely wrapped up in Mary, “when God’s Mother is enthroned in men’s hearts as Queen, subjecting them to the dominion of her great and princely Son? When will souls breathe Mary as the body breathes air?” When that time comes wonderful things will happen on earth. The Holy Spirit, finding his dear Spouse present again in souls, will come down into them with great power. He will fill them with his gifts, especially wisdom, by which they will produce wonders of grace. My dear friend, when will that happy time come, that age of Mary, when many souls, chosen by Mary and given her by the most High God, will hide themselves completely in the depths of her soul, becoming living copies of her, loving and glorifying Jesus? That day will dawn only when the devotion I teach is understood and put into practice. Ut adveniat regnum tuum, adveniat regnum Mariae: “Lord, that your kingdom may come, may the reign of Mary come!”

6. Transformation into the likeness of Jesus

If Mary, the Tree of Life, is well cultivated in our soul by fidelity to this devotion, she will in due time bring forth her fruit which is none other than Jesus. I have seen many devout souls searching for Jesus in one way or another, and so often when they have worked hard throughout the night, all they can say is, “Despite our having worked all night, we have caught nothing.” To them we can say, “You have worked hard and gained little; Jesus can only be recognised faintly in you.” But if we follow the immaculate path of Mary, living the devotion that I teach, we will always work in daylight, we will work in a holy place, and we will work but little. There is no darkness in Mary, not even the slightest shadow since there was never any sin in her. She is a holy place, a holy of holies, in which saints are formed and moulded.

Please note that I say that saints are moulded in Mary. There is a vast difference between carving a statue by blows of hammer and chisel and making a statue by using a mould. Sculptors and statue-makers work hard and need plenty of time to make statues by the first method. But the second method does not involve much work and takes very little time. St. Augustine speaking to our Blessed Lady says, “You are worthy to be called the mould of God.” Mary is a mould capable of forming people into the image of the God-man. Anyone who is cast into this divine mould is quickly shaped and moulded into Jesus and Jesus into him. At little cost and in a short time he will become Christ-like since he is cast into the very same mould that fashioned a God-man.

I think I can very well compare some spiritual directors and devout persons to sculptors who wish to produce Jesus in themselves and in others by methods other than this. Many of them rely on their own skill, ingenuity and art and chip away endlessly with mallet and chisel at hard stone or badly-prepared wood, in an effort to produce a likeness of our Lord. At times, they do not manage to produce a recognisable likeness either because they lack knowledge and experience of the person of Jesus or because a clumsy stroke has spoiled the whole work. But those who accept this little-known secret of grace which I offer them can rightly be compared to smelters and moulders who have discovered the beautiful mould of Mary where Jesus was so divinely and so naturally formed. They do not rely on their own skill but on the perfection of the mould. They cast and lose themselves in Mary where they become true models of her Son.

You may think this a beautiful and convincing comparison. But how many understand it? I would like you, my dear friend, to understand it. But remember that only molten and liquefied substances may be poured into a mould. That means that you must crush and melt down the old Adam in you if you wish to acquire the likeness of the new Adam in Mary.

7. The greater glory of Christ

If you live this devotion sincerely, you will give more glory to Jesus in a month than in many years of a more demanding devotion. Here are my reasons for saying this:

(1) Since you do everything through the Blessed Virgin as required by this devotion, you naturally lay aside your own intentions no matter how good they appear to you. You abandon yourself to our Lady’s intentions even though you do not know what they are. Thus you share in the high quality of her intentions, which are so pure that she gave more glory to God by the smallest of her actions, say, twirling her distaff, or making a stitch, than did St. Laurence suffering his cruel martyrdom on the grid-iron, and even more than all the saints together in all their most heroic deeds! Mary amassed such a multitude of merits and graces during her sojourn on earth that it would be easier to count the stars in heaven, the drops of water in the ocean or the sands of the sea-shore than count her merits and graces. She thus gave more glory to God than all the angels and saints have given or will ever give him. Mary, wonder of God, when souls abandon themselves to you, you cannot but work wonders in them!

(2) In this devotion we set no store on our own thoughts and actions but are content to rely on Mary’s dispositions when approaching and even speaking to Jesus. We then act with far greater humility than others who imperceptibly rely on their own dispositions and are self- satisfied about them; and consequently we give greater glory to God, for perfect glory is given to him only by the lowly and humble of heart.

(3) Our Blessed Lady, in her immense love for us, is eager to receive into her virginal hands the gift of our actions, imparting to them a marvelous beauty and splendour, and presenting them herself to Jesus most willingly. More glory is given to our Lord in this way than when we make our offering with our own guilty hands.

(4) Lastly, you never think of Mary without Mary thinking of God for you. You never praise or honour Mary without Mary joining you in praising and honouring God. Mary is entirely relative to God. Indeed I would say that she was relative only to God, because she exists uniquely in reference to him.

She is an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God. If you say “Mary” she says “God”. When St. Elizabeth praised Mary calling her blessed because she had believed, Mary, the faithful echo of God, responded with her canticle, “My soul glorifies the Lord.” What Mary did on that day, she does every day. When we praise her, when we love and honour her, when we present anything to her, then God is praised, honoured and loved and receives our gift through Mary and in Mary.

Asking the Prayers of the Saints

March 26, 2006

THE PARISH CHURCH OF SAINT MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS WITH SAINT JAMES

Who are the Saints?

The word SAINT means ‘holy one’, and so the saints are God’s holy people. In this broadest sense, all members of the Church are saints. St. Paul uses the word in this way in his letters, but it wasn’t long before the word came to have a more specific meaning.

Very early in the life of the Church it came to be recognised that certain individuals lived more obviously ‘holy’ lives, or were specially favoured by God. Chief among them were those who had died for the Faith – the martyrs, and supremely the Mother of God herself.

As time passed the Church began to realise that holiness only sometimes went hand-in-hand with martyrdom. More often than not holiness was apparent in other, less dramatic ways. Often, though, it was only recognised after the Saint’s death.

“I believe in the Communion of Saints”

Members of the Catholic Church say or sing these words at least every Sunday during the Eucharist; they are part of the Nicene Creed. They remind us that the Church is much bigger than our own congregation, or even the entire ‘Church Militant’ here on Earth. They remind us that the larger part of the Church exists on the other side of the grave, the Church Expectant and the Church Triumphant. The whole of the Church, living and departed, is united in the one eternal Eucharist. We are united to Christ by Baptism and by eating His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and so we are intimately united to each other.

Church Expectant

The Church Expectant consists of those Christians who have died relatively recently but who, because of their need for preparation, are unable yet to enjoy the full presence of God. We pray for those souls in the belief that our prayers, together with those of the Saints in heaven, will hasten and ease their passage. As 2 Maccabees ch.2 v.44 & 45 put it, to “pray for the dead …(will)…free the dead from their sin”

Church Triumphant

The Church Triumphant is the Church in ‘heaven’. The souls of all those Christians who are enjoying, to the full, the Heavenly Banquet. The Book of Revelation, although it should not be taken as literally descriptive, paints a picture of the glory of heaven and the fulfilment of the Saints. It also reminds us that the Saints in heaven continue to offer prayer to God.

Praying for ourselves and others

Praying for the needs of other people, and for ourselves, is one of the four basic ways of praying. It is called SUPPLICATION.
We pray for ourselves, in the belief that whatever we ask in the name of Christ, God will give us. We must always remember, though, that.God already knows our needs, and will provide them without waiting to be asked.
Praying for others, in particular, is one of the ways in which we demonstrate our care for them. We also ask other people to pray for us. Prayer for each other is the basic expression of Christian love.
God wants us to pray in this way, not because He will only give us what we need if we ask for it, but because prayer is good for us! It helps us to be aware of God’s love for us; it helps us to be aware of the needs of others, and teaches us to love them; and above all it keeps us aware of our total dependence upon Him.

Asking the prayers of the Saints

The practice of asking the Saints to pray for us was, for many years, frowned upon as something alien to the spirit of the Church of England, and somehow wrong. Thankfully, in recent years its value has been rediscovered, and the practice is becoming more widely understood and used.

Why we ask the Saints to pray for us

The most important reason is that God wants us to! When we ask the Saints to pray for us we are doing no more than God’s will.
In their lives, many of the Saints were able, by their prayers, to bring about spectacular works of healing and other ‘miracles’. Most of them, though, demonstrated that they were friends of God in more mundane ways. Their ability to do marvellous works was not their own, but came from God. It was God’s way of blessing us through them, and His way of showing us that He was honouring them; not an honour they deserved, but nonetheless God’s will. The same is just as true after a Saint has died.
One of the proofs required by the Church that God wishes us to honour a person as a Saint, is that God has first honoured him/her. As a sign, God grants ‘favours’ in response to prayers ‘addressed’ through the Saint. We call these ‘favours’ miracles. If God gives honour, then who are we to withold our respect and honour?
The second reason is that, just as we believe that the prayers of a ‘holy’ living Christian will help us, so will the prayers of one who is even more alive! If the prayers of we, who are far from being ‘holy’ and far from the throne of Grace, can work miracles, how much more will the prayers of the Saints!

St. Mary the Virgin

Of all the Saints, the queen is St. Mary, the Mother of God. The Gospel according to St Luke is quite clear, Our Lady, as we delight to call her, is of all women the most blessed. She, above all people, is most favoured by God who chose her to be the mother of His only-begotten Son Jesus.
Just as Our Lady is the Saint most highly honoured by God, so it is right and fitting that she should be the most highly honoured by Christ’s Church. We are told, if not commanded, in St. Luke ch.l v.48, that “all generations shall call me blessed” (RSV).
Of all the means of honouring Our Lady, and indeed all the Saints, open to Christians, by far the most fitting is to ask her to pray for us, Asking her to pray for us is not to take anything away from Christ’s glory, but to magnify it by doing His will and honouring His Mother. The first recorded example of people asking her prayers is in the Gospel according to St. John ch.2, v.l and following: the story of the marriage at Cana in Galilee.
St Lukes Gospel cb,2 v.35 shows us that it is indeed God’s will that Our Lady will pray for us, and that her prayers will not go unheeded. The prophet Simeon says to Our Lady that “a sword shall pierce through thine own soul; that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (RV).
Our Lady’s prayer for us is that of a mother for her children. When Our Lord was dying on the cross, almost His last act was to commit “the disciple whom He loved” to her maternal care. The beloved disciple’s recorded response was to make a place in his home for her. The beloved disciple, who is not named, stands for all Christians, and so it was we who are committed to her care. It should also be the response of all faithful followers of Christ to make a place for His mother in their hearts.
Probably the best known prayer to Our Lady, which is easy to memorise is the ‘Hail Mary’:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Places associated with visions of Our Lady include Walsingham (England), Lourdes (France), Fatima (Portugal) and Medjugorie (Czech. Rep.). They are known today as places of pilgrimage.

Conclusion

Praying for others is a demonstration of our love for each other, and of our faith in God. It is just as important, though, to ask other Christians, including the Saints, to pray for us.

LIGHT A CANDLE

March 26, 2006

gratefulness.org

**This is a really nice website even for those who are not traditionally religious. It’s very restful, peaceful and contemplative and gives you lots of good thoughts.

“Now: 3,536 candles from 81 countries are shining.

In many different traditions lighting candles is a sacred action. It expresses more than words can express. It has to do with gratefulness. From time immemorial, people have lit candles in sacred places. Why should cyberspace not be sacred?

You may want to begin or end your day by the sacred ritual of lighting a candle on this website. Or you may want to light a birthday candle for a friend. One single guideline is all you need: Slow down and do it with full attention. From here on, you will be guided step by step.”

>>Begin

THIS WEEK’S THOUGHT CONDITIONER

March 26, 2006

Daily Guideposts – Dr Norman Vincent Peale

Thought Conditioner No. 11


For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
11 Timothy 1:7

Your fears can be healed by this text. It tells us, first, that fear is overcome by power. What power? There is only one force more powerful than fear, and that is faith. When fear comes to your mind, counter it with an affirmation of faith.

Second, love overcomes fear. By love is meant trust, confidence, complete dependence upon God. Practice this attitude and fear will diminish.

The third element is to attain a sound mind in which there are no complexes, quirks, and obsessions. Live with the thought of God, and you will develop a sound mind where no shadowy fear can lurk.

Whenever you are afraid, verbalise against the thing that you fear, using the words of this text.

Sunday Mass Readings

March 26, 2006

EWTN

Sunday, March 26, 2006
Fourth Sunday of Lent

First Reading: 2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23
Psalm: Psalm 137:1-6
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:4-10
Gospel: John 3:14-21

But I have hoped in the Lord: I will be glad and rejoice in Thy mercy. For Thou hast regarded my humility, Thou hast saved my soul out of distresses.

~Psalm xxx. 7,8~

Our Lady of Sorrows

March 19, 2006

sspx.ca

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Prayer

My afflicted Mother, I will not leave thee alone to weep; no, I will accompany thee with my tears. This grace I now ask of thee: obtain that I may always bear in mind and always have a tender devotion towards the Passion of Jesus and thy sorrows, that the remainder of my days may thus be spent in weeping over thy sufferings, and those of my Redeemer. These sorrows, I trust, will give me the confidence and strength that I shall require at the hour of death, that I may not despair at the sight of the many sins by which I have offended my Lord. They must obtain me pardon, perseverance, and heaven, where I hope to rejoice with thee, and to sing the infinite mercies of my God for all eternity. Thus do I hope; thus may it be. Amen.

Uniformity With God’s Will

March 19, 2006

ccel.org

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Saint Alphonsus de Ligouri

1. Excellence of this Virtue.

Perfection is founded entirely on the love of God: “Charity is the bond of perfection[2];” and perfect love of God means the complete union of our will with God’s: “The principal effect of love is so to unite the wills of those who love each other as to make them will the same things[3].” It follows then, that the more one unites his will with the divine will, the greater will be his love of God. Mortification, meditation, receiving Holy Communion, acts of fraternal charity are all certainly pleasing to God — but only when they are in accordance with his will. When they do not accord with God’s will, he not only finds no pleasure in them, but he even rejects them utterly and punishes them.

To illustrate: — A man has two servants. One works unremittingly all day long — but according to his own devices; the other, conceivably, works less, but he does do what he is told. This latter of course is going to find favor in the eyes of his master; the other will not. Now, in applying this example, we may ask: Why should we perform actions for God’s glory if they are not going to be acceptable to him? God does not want sacrifices, the prophet Samuel told King Saul, but he does want obedience to his will: “Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices; and to hearken, rather than to offer the fat of rams. Because it is like the sin of witchcraft to rebel; and like the crime of idolatry to refuse to obey[4].” The man who follows his own will independently of God’s, is guilty of a kind of idolatry. Instead of adoring God’s will, he, in a certain sense, adores his own.

The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything. Our Redeemer came on earth to glorify his heavenly Father and to teach us by his example how to do the same. St. Paul represents him saying to his eternal Father: “Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not: But a body thou hast fitted to me . . . Then said I: Behold I come to do thy will, O God[5].” Thou hast refused the victims offered thee by man; thou dost will that I sacrifice my body to thee. Behold me ready to do thy will.

Our Lord frequently declared that he had come on earth not to do his own will, but solely that of his Father: “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me[6].” He spoke in the same strain in the garden when he went forth to meet his enemies who had come to seize him and to lead him to death: “But that the world may know that I love the Father: and as the Father hath given me commandment, so do I; arise and let us go hence[7].” Furthermore, he said he would recognize as his brother, him who would do his will: “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother[8].”

To do God’s will — this was the goal upon which the saints constantly fixed their gaze. They were fully persuaded that in this consists the entire perfection of the soul. Blessed Henry Suso used to say: “It is not God’s will that we should abound in spiritual delights, but that in all things we should submit to his holy will[9].’’ “Those who give themselves to prayer,” says St. Teresa, “should concentrate solely on this: the conformity of their wills with the divine will. They should be convinced that this constitutes their highest perfection. The more fully they practice this, the greater the gifts they will receive from God, and the greater the progress they will make in the interior life[10].” A certain Dominican nun was vouchsafed a vision of heaven one day. She recognized there some persons she had known during their mortal life on earth. It was told her these souls were raised to the sublime heights of the seraphs on account of the uniformity of their wills with that of God’s during their lifetime here on earth. Blessed Henry Suso, mentioned above, said of himself: “I would rather be the vilest worm on earth by God’s will, than be a seraph by my own[11].’’

During our sojourn in this world, we should learn from the saints now in heaven, how to love God. The pure and perfect love of God they enjoy there, consists in uniting themselves perfectly to his will. It would be the greatest delight of the seraphs to pile up sand on the seashore or to pull weeds in a garden for all eternity, if they found out such was God’s will. Our Lord himself teaches us to ask to do the will of God on earth as the saints do it in heaven: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven[12].”

Because David fulfilled all his wishes, God called him a man after his own heart: “I have found David . . . a man according to my own heart, who shall do all my wills[13].” David was always ready to embrace the divine will, as he frequently protested: “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready[14].” He asked God for one thing alone — to teach him to do his will: “Teach me to do thy will[15].”

A single act of uniformity with the divine will suffices to make a saint. Behold while Saul was persecuting the Church, God enlightened him and converted him. What does Saul do? What does he say? Nothing else but to offer himself to do God’s will: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do[16]?” In return the Lord calls him a vessel of election and an apostle of the gentiles: “This man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the gentiles[17].” Absolutely true — because he who gives his will to God, gives him everything. He who gives his goods in alms, his blood in scourgings, his food in fasting, gives God what he has. But he who gives God his will, gives himself, gives everything he is. Such a one can say: “Though I am poor, Lord, I give thee all I possess; but when I say I give thee my will, I have nothing left to give thee.” This is just what God does require of us: “My son, give me thy heart[18].” St. Augustine’s comment is: “There is nothing more pleasing we can offer God than to say to him: ‘Possess thyself of us’[19].’’ We cannot offer God anything more pleasing than to say: Take us, Lord, we give thee our entire will. Only let us know thy will and we will carry it out.

If we would completely rejoice the heart of God, let us strive in all things to conform ourselves to his divine will. Let us not only strive to conform ourselves, but also to unite ourselves to whatever dispositions God makes of us. Conformity signifies that we join our wills to the will of God. Uniformity means more — it means that we make one will of God’s will and ours, so that we will only what God wills; that God’s will alone, is our will. This is the summit of perfection and to it we should always aspire; this should be the goal of all our works, desires, meditations and prayers. To this end we should always invoke the aid of our holy patrons, our guardian angels, and above all, of our mother Mary, the most perfect of all the saints because she most perfectly embraced the divine will.

>>Read on

ST. PATRICK AND THE ‘VOICE OF THE IRISH’

March 19, 2006

Catholic Ireland

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usEdmond Grace S.J. examines the life and writings of St. Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland, whose feast we celebrated on 17 March. He urges us to see that Patrick’s life is still relevant today.

Just as Patrick was asleep when that call of the people of Ireland first came into his life, so today the power of his story lies dormant.

Now it is we and not Patrick who are asleep and we need to hear these words of Isaiah on the lips of Jesus:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they shut their eyes, for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart and be converted and healed by me. ( Mt. 13:15 )

Part 1: The relevance of St. Patrick today

The story of St Patrick coming to Ireland is like a photographic negative of the bible story of the prodigal son.

The story of Patrick can be compared to the great stories of the Bible. It is like a photographic negative of the story of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal Son left his father’s house willingly, whereas Patrick was taken by force. The Prodigal squandered his inheritance and ended up in hardship, whereas Patrick during those years of slavery found his true inheritance. The high point of the Prodigal’s return was his father’s beautiful gesture of forgiveness. On the other hand, in the story of Patrick there is a gesture of equal beauty and power when he himself returned to the very people who had destroyed his youth.

The story of the Prodigal Son first took place in the loving imagination of Jesus, whereas what Patrick did happened at a particular time and in a particular place. However, his story can only be relished to the full in the heart of the risen Lord whose love inspired it.

Like Abraham, Patrick was called by God to leave his father’s house and make his home in a distant land where he, in turn, would become the father of a people. After the Jews, the Irish are the most widely scattered people on earth, and wherever they go the story of Patrick is heard.

Like Moses, Patrick led his people to freedom. For both men, the years of early adulthood were spent in exile, and each heard the call to return to a place of slavery to carry out God’s work.

Patrick’s own people

The people of Moses were the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. But who were the people of Patrick?

They were the Latin-speaking Christians of Britain and Europe, citizens of the Roman Empire. He speaks to them in the two pieces of his own writing which have come down to us, namely the Confession and the Letter to Coroticus. Like Saint Paul, the first and greatest missionary, Patrick was proud to be a citizen of Rome. For him, the Empire was a Christian community which was called to honour the liberty of the people of God, whoever they were and wherever they might be. Through his writings, he sought to lead his fellow citizens of Rome, his own flesh and blood, away from the slavery of imperial arrogance.

The people of Patrick included his fellow clerics, who considered him too ignorant to be a bishop, who suspected him of embezzling funds and who thought that the Gospel could not and should not be preached to barbarians. It is clear from his writings, which are addressed in particular to this group, that he felt himself put down and belittled by them. The simple way in which he speaks about this and about his own personal struggles is a Spirit-filled call to clerics of every age to free themselves from the occupational hazard of smugness.

The people of Patrick also included the wild savages living at the ends of the earth, who tore him away from his family, sold him into slavery and later persecuted him, robbed him, and on no less than twelve occasions tried to kill him. These people hated this man and his strange, new teaching. Yet Patrick gave his life for them, not by shedding his blood but by enduring their abuse and their treachery. By doing so, he freed them and their children from the yoke of slavery to tribalism and false worship.

Finally, the people of Patrick were and are those who have heard his story and have been affected by it. In reading his words, we can taste the life of one of the great followers of Jesus. Patrick will always be an inspiration.

Patrick and the people of Ireland

Patrick’s story has a special significance for those of us who live in Ireland because there are places here associated with his name – Croagh Patrick, Lough Derg, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and many others. These places call us to stop and think.

The story of Patrick is being re-lived in Ireland today in the many young people whose expectations of a good standard of living have been cruelly shattered. The modern equivalent of slavery is the dole queue, whereby people are stripped of their independence and their standing in the community. Hand in hand with the dole queue is the pain of exile, which is the same today as it was in Patrick’s time.

The story of Patrick is being lived out in the political and religious divisions which are rooted in the age-old conflict between Ireland and Britain. The greatest source of anguish in Patrick’s life was the failure of the peoples of these two islands to live in peace as neighbours and fellow Christians.

Just as Patrick was asleep when that call of the people of Ireland first came into his life, so today the power of his story lies dormant. Now it is we and not Patrick who are asleep and we need to hear these words of Isaiah on the lips of Jesus:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive. For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing, and they shut their eyes, for fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart and be converted and healed by me. (Mt. 13:15)

Part 2: Patrick’s first Irish ‘sojourn’

Patrick, child of a Christian family, was captured and brought as a slave to pagan Ireland.

At the end of the fourth century, Roman Britain experienced what we would describe today as cutbacks. The imperial city itself was threatened by barbarian hordes, and its protection required that the legions be recalled from some of the more remote corners of the Empire. The minor nobility of Britain, to which Patrick’s family belonged, put a brave face on this development and tried to carry on as if nothing had happened. Times were unsettled, with growing problems of lawlessness and little or no defence against raids and kidnappings by Irish savages, but no one doubted that in due course the peace of the empire, Pax Romana, would prevail.

Calpurnius was a prominent official in a town called Bannavan Taburniae and Patrick was his son. Although nobody knows for sure where this place was, it probably stood on the west coast of Britain – anywhere from the Firth of Clyde to the Severn Estuary. As was quite normal for members of the nobility, Calpurnius was also a deacon and his father, Potitus, was a priest. One reason for getting ordained in those days was to avoid the heavy burden of tax, but it would be wrong to assume that these men were motivated solely by self-interest. In later years, Patrick would speak highly about the clergy he knew as a youngster and he regretted having paid no heed to their warnings.

It is likely that Calpurnius and his father were decent, conscientious people who saw their civil and religious duties as part of one allegiance. They were, after all, citizens of a Christian empire. In those anxious years after the departure of the legions, Calpurnius and his fellow magistrates must have struggled to keep up an appearance of normality. Any thought that the legions might not return must have been dismissed as defeatist. They must have spoken about the achievements and values of Roman civilization to their children and this impressed the young Patrick because years later his writings were informed by an eager but thoughtful loyalty to the Empire.

The young Patrick

There is little about Patrick’s early years in his writings but he does speak of one incident which happened within the space of an hour when he was fourteen. He gives no details except to say that in later years it would weigh upon his conscience. At the time, however, it seems to have had little effect one way or another because it did not repeat itself, nor did it alter his casual disregard for what he heard in church. The impression we get of Patrick during those early years is of a lively but easy-going youth with perhaps a single, carefully-guarded secret.

In spite of the growing political uncertainty, Patrick’s home life would have been comfortable and self-assured. The family had slaves who would have done the menial, household tasks and Calpurnius would have been a man of standing in the community. On the coast, not too far from Bannavan Taburniae, the family had a summer residence and it was there, when Patrick was sixteen, that disaster struck. ‘I was taken into captivity in Ireland with so many thousands’ (Conf. 1).

No doubt Calpurnius had often stood on the shore near his house looking out to sea but all the comfort and familiarity of that scene would have been destroyed on the day Patrick was taken prisoner. In the years which followed, even the good memories would have become a source of grief and the place itself must have felt strange and somehow distant:

By the waters of Babylon
We sat down and wept
remembering Zion,
leaving our harps,
hanging on the poplars there. (Psalm 137:1-2)

Captivity and exile

Patrick, a Roman citizen, son of Calpurnius, grandson of Potitus, stood barefoot among sheep in a pagan place. Hardly a month had passed since he had been lying on his own bed in Bannavan Taburniae on the brink of falling asleep. The peace of the night was suddenly shattered. There were shouts and screams. Patrick was about to go and see what was happening when wild men came and took hold of him.

They dragged him out into the night air. As he tried to resist, they beat him and threw him half naked into a boat. Others were thrown into the boat with him, and the voyage which followed was endless and miserable. It was cold and everyone was afraid. In spite of his fear, or perhaps because of it, Patrick was thinking of how he could escape. He had no plans, no ideas, but he was determined to flee for home because he had no other way of imagining the future, no other point of reference, except that hope.

The boat finally reached dry land and in the days and weeks which followed he was constantly on the look-out for an opportunity to run away. But his captors were watching him and he knew that, if he ran, he could not get far because this was their land and he was a stranger. He would be recognised and no one would have any mercy. They had killed before and would not hesitate over killing him. Even if he did escape, he would have to find some way of crossing the sea. Slowly it dawned on him that he was alone on a mountainside in a foreign country with no one to speak to, no one to trust.

Terror and rage

Tears came. Tears of rage. Why did it have to be him? Why was he the unlucky one? Tears of loneliness. Would he ever see his family again? Would he ever see Bannavan Taburniae? Perhaps there was still hope. Soon they would have to send legions to Ireland to liberate all the Roman citizens who had been enslaved. They would never just leave him there.

Tears of dejection. What would become of him? How would these barbarians treat him? He couldn’t spend the rest of his life looking after sheep. Even the most miserable slave in the Empire had a better life than that. It would drive him mad.

He had to spend six years without the companionship and human warmth which are so helpful in the awkward and painful emergence into adulthood. Yet there must have been moments when he was grateful for an unexpected kindness because, in spite of the hardship of his life, a deep love was forming in his heart for those very people who enslaved him.

In the strength of God

Many years later, Patrick wrote about this time, how God made him aware of his lack of faith and his sinfulness and how he came to know God as a loving Father who watched over and cared for him. He prayed at every opportunity – day or night, in the woods or on the mountainside, in snow, frost or rain. He thought nothing of it ‘because the Spirit was fervent within me’ (Conf. 16).

One night, in his sleep, a voice told him that a ship was waiting to bring him to freedom and, as a result, he set out on a journey of two hundred miles. He didn’t know where he was going but ‘in the strength of God who guided my way to the good’ (Conf. 17) arrived at the ship on the day it was to set sail. At first the captain refused to take him but Patrick prayed and the captain changed his mind.

We can imagine Patrick’s happiness during that voyage, being carried to freedom and knowing that, but for the care of a loving God, none of this would have been possible. There, under the sky far out to sea, it must have been a foretaste of heaven:

When the Lord brought Zion’s captives home
it seemed like a dream,
then our mouths filled
with laughter, our lips with song. (Psalm 126: 1-2)

>>Read Parts 3-7

THIS WEEK’S THOUGHT CONDITIONER

March 19, 2006

Daily Guideposts – Dr Norman Vincent Peale

Thought Conditioner No. 10


The kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:21

When you are filled with self-doubt, and in the grip of your inferiority complex, don’t give up, saying, “I can’t do it, I haven’t it in me.” You do have a very big “it” within you. You have the Kingdom of God within you.

God has placed in your personality all the ability you need. You have only to believe in yourself, and strength within you will be released.

In saying the text, try it this way, “God’s abundance, peace, and power are within me. I lack for nothing.”