Bastille Day: Baptism by Blood

by John Zimrak; with edits

[…] 14 July is a day I usually try to commemorate. Not because I carry a single drop of French blood (more’s the pity — I’d be proud to be a cousin of Joan of Arc and François). No, it’s because I think Bastille Day is a solemn occasion every Catholic should remember — like the feast of the Martyrs of Mexico, or the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.

The Storming of Bastille

Bastille Day marks the beginning of the greatest organised persecution of the Church since the Emperor Diocletian, and the explosion onto the world of ideologies that would poison the next two centuries: Socialism and radical Nationalism. Between them, those two political movements racked up quite a body count: In his 1997 book Death by Government, scholar R. J. Rummel pointed out that

‘… during the first 88 years of this century, almost 170,000,000 men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; or buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens or foreigners.’

And the first such modern genocide in the West took place in France, beginning in 1793. It was undertaken by modern, progressive apostles of Enlightenment and aimed at Catholic peasants, and by its end up to 300,000 civilians had been killed by the armies of the Republic.

Execution of King Louis XVI

It was ordinary peasants of the Vendée and Britanny regions who rose up in that year against the middle-class radicals in Paris who controlled the country. The ideologues of the Revolution had already

  • Executed the king and queen, and left their young son to die of disease in prison;
  • Declared a revolutionary “War of Liberation” against most of the other countries in Europe;
  • Seized all property of the Church, expelling thousands of monks, priests, and nuns to fend for themselves, then sold the property to their cronies to raise money for their wars;
  • Ordered all clergy to swear allegiance to the French state instead of the pope; and
  • Launched the first universal conscription in history, drafting ordinary people (most of them devout peasants bewildered by the slogans that held sway in Paris) to fight for the Revolution.

When the Parisians came to take away their sons for the army, the Vendéens finally fought back and launched a counter-revolution in the name of ‘God and King’ [‘Dieu et Roi‘]. It quickly spread across the north-west of France, tying down the government’s professional armies — fighting untrained bands of devout guerrillas, many of them armed only with muskets suited to hunting.

As Sophie Masson — herself a descendant of Catholics who fought in the Vendée resistance — has written:

‘The atrocities multiplied, the exterminations systematic and initiated from the very top, and carried out with glee at the bottom. At least 300,000 people were massacred during that time, and those of the intruders who refused to do the job were either shot or discredited utterly. But still the people resisted. Still there were those who hid in the forests and ambushed, who fought as bravely as lions but were butchered like pigs when they were caught. No quarter was given; all the leaders were shot, beheaded, or hanged. Many were not even allowed to rest in peace; the body of the last leader was cut up and distributed to scientists; his head was pickled in a jar, the brain examined to see where the seed of rebellion lay in the mind of a savage…’

‘Not one is to be left alive.’ ‘Women are reproductive furrows who must be ploughed under.’ ‘Only wolves must be left to roam that land.’ ‘Fire, blood, death are needed to preserve liberty.’ ‘Their instruments of fanaticism and superstition must be smashed.’ These were some of the words the Convention used in speaking of the Vendée. Their tame scientists dreamed up all kinds of new ideas — the poisoning of flour and alcohol and water supplies; the setting up of a tannery in Angers which would specialise in the treatment of human skins; the investigation of methods of burning large numbers of people in large ovens, so their fat could be rendered down efficiently. One of the Republican generals, Carrier, was scornful of such research: these ‘modern’ methods would take too long. Better to use more time-honoured methods of massacre: the mass drownings of naked men, women, and children, often tied together in what he called ‘Republican marriages’, off specially constructed boats towed out to the middle of the Loire and then sunk; the mass bayoneting of men, women and children; the smashing of babies’ heads against walls; the slaughter of prisoners using cannons; the most grisly and disgusting tortures; the burning and pillaging of villages, towns and churches.

The persecution only really ended when Napoleon came to power in 1799 — and needed peace at home so that he could launch his wars of conquest. He patched together a modus vivendi with the pope, and the Vendée quieted down.

Lenin launched the October Revolution.

This story is little discussed in France. Indeed, a Catholic historian who teaches at a French university once told me over dinner, ‘We are not to mention the Vendée. Anyone who brings up what was done there has no prospect of an academic career. So we keep silent.’ It is mostly in the Vendée itself that memories linger, which may explain why that part of France to this day remains more Catholic and more conservative than any other region. The local government, to its credit, opened a museum marking these atrocities on their 200th anniversary in 1993 — with a visit by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who pointed out that the mass murders of Christians in Russia were directly inspired by those in the Vendée. The Bolsheviks, he said, modeled themselves on the French revolutionaries, and pointed to the Vendée massacres as the right way to deal with Christian resistance.

Of course, it wasn’t supposed to work out this way. The Revolution had begun with a financial crisis, and promised to pare back an absolutist monarchy, perhaps along British lines. King Louis XVI — a kindly if not terribly competent king, who’d lifted legal penalties against Protestants and Jews — had bankrupted his kingdom bankrolling the American Revolution. (In gratitude, the U.S. Congress hung a portrait of the monarch in the Capitol, and named for his family the southern county which gave birth to bourbon.) The legislators who met in 1789 for the first time in over a century intended at first to reform their government, not replace it

And some reforms were certainly needed: the ruthless centralization imposed by Louis XIV and XV had hollowed out French political life and concentrated power over the lives of citizens almost entirely in Paris, in the hands of technocrats. Predictably, they’d made a mess of things.

The Society of Jesus and the Immaculate Conception

Unlike its sister kingdom across the channel, France had no sitting parliament, no common law protecting its subjects from arbitrary arrest, and an economy largely driven not by free citizens but the state. The French ‘Gallican’ Church, while still in communion with Rome, was largely controlled by the kings — who appointed its bishops and set its policies. Indeed, the kings of France, Portugal, and Spain had arranged in 1767 for the suppression of the Jesuits — whose loyalty to Rome and rejection of the Divine Right of Kings made them suspect, and whose defence of the rights of Indians got in the way of ‘progress’.

The educational vacuum created by the destruction of this order was quickly (and ironically) filled by Enlightenment philosophes. The first generation to rise without the Jesuits would come of age in 1789. The abuses that would mark the Revolution — including mass executions of priests and nuns — were endorsed by intellectuals schooled on the slanderous pamphlets of Diderot, full of pornographic falsehoods about the ‘secret lives’ of monks and nuns

Indeed, there’s a chilling similarity between the anti-clerical literature that prepared the public for the looting of monasteries and the anti-Semitic canards that were spread by the Nazis. The euphemism that was used to describe stealing monastic property for the state — ‘secularisation’ — found its echo in the 1930s in the term the German government employed for robbing the Jews: ‘Aryanisation’. If the Jews are indeed a priestly people, it is not surprising that such diabolical parallels exist.

Just as Fascists excused their atrocities by pointing to Jewish prominence in the financial sphere and the press, leftists still defend the persecution of the Church by pointing to her political influence. We shouldn’t let them get away with it. I wait in vain for the historian who will write a comprehensive comparison of anti-Semitism and anti-clericalism.

Coeur Vendéen

In the meantime, I’ll mark Bastille Day as best I can. In 1989, I helped organize a Requiem Mass for all the Revolution’s victims […]. On several subsequent anniversaries, I’ve thrown a memorial party on the day, with foods and wines from the Vendée and counter-revolutionary songs. […] In the Christian spirit of transforming suffering into joy, I think that the hearty folk who fought for God and king would appreciate the gesture. But in the Vendée itself, a French friend has told me, some people still wear black armbands on their country’s national holiday.


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Promises of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

by Reverend Irenaeus Schoenherr, O.F.M.

Most Sacred Heart of Christ the King

God has always dealt with men in a way consonant with their nature – by drawing them to His Holy Will by promises of reward. It was so with His dealings with the chosen people under the Old Dispensation. It was the way of Christ in the New, promising even a hundredfold return for compliance with His desires. And so it is in the history of the revelation and propagation of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

‘That men might more readily respond to that wonderful and overflowing desire of love,’ wrote Leo XIII in his Encyclical Annum Sacrum (1899) on the devotion, ‘Jesus, by the promise of rich rewards, called and drew all men to Him.’ Saint Margaret Mary in her writings insists again and again on the ardent desire of Christ to pour out blessings with a royal generosity on those who would honour His Divine Heart and return Him love for love.

These Promises of the Sacred Heart, in the form in which they are now popularly known and approved by the Church, far surpass in variety, universality and importance those attached to any other exercises of devotion in the Church.

They are addressed to all sorts of persons: to the fervent, the tepid, and the sinful. They embrace every condition of life: priests, religious, and seculars. They promise relief to the afflicted, strength to the tempted, consolation to the sorrowful, peace to the family, blessings in the home, success in our enterprises, mercy to the sinner, high sanctity to fervent souls, courage to the cold of heart. They promise power to the priest to soften the hardest hearts. They promise strength and courage on our deathbed, and tell us of the priceless gift of final perseverance and of a refuge in the Heart of Christ at the last moment.

What greater or more valuable favours than these could even the omnipotent and boundless love and goodness of the Sacred Heart bestow on us? These Promises help us to an understanding of the truth of Saint Margaret Mary’s glowing words: ‘Jesus showed me how this devotion is, as it were, the final effort of His love, the last invention of His boundless Charity.’

First Promise: ‘I will give to My faithful all the graces necessary in their state of life.’

The duties of our daily life are numerous and often difficult. God grants us in response to prayer and frequent reception of the Sacraments all the necessary graces for our state of life. There are also extraordinary graces which lie outside the usual action of God’s Providence, graces that He gives to His special friends. These are more efficacious graces, more plentifully given to the clients of the Sacred Heart.

Second Promise: ‘I will establish peace in their homes.’

‘Gloria in excelsis Deo! Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.’

‘Peace is the tranquillity of order, the serenity of mind, simplicity of heart, the bond of charity.’ (Saint Augustine) It was the first thing the Angels wished to men at the birth of Jesus. Our Lord Himself bade His disciples to invoke it: ‘Whatever house you enter, first say, “Peace to this house!”‘ (Luke 10:5) In the Heart of Jesus will be found the true peace, that makes the home the reflex and anticipation of our heavenly Home.

Third Promise: ‘I will comfort them in all their afflictions.’

The desire to comfort the sorrowful is the mark of a noble and kind heart. The Sacred Heart is the most noble and generous of hearts, both human and divine. How does He console us? Not necessarily by freeing us from sorrow and affliction. He knows the priceless value of the cross – that we have sins to expiate. By His grace, He makes what is painful tolerable. ‘I am filled with comfort, I overflow with joy in all our troubles.’ (2 Corinthians 7:4)

Fourth Promise: ‘I will be their secure refuge in life, and above all in death.’

Saint Longinus pierced the side of Jesus with a lance.

‘One of the soldiers opened His side with a lance, and immediately there came out blood and water.’ (John 19:34) Christ’s side was opened to show that Divine Providence wished all men to find in His Divine Heart an assured refuge against the enemies of our salvation. In His Heart we can find protection, strength in our frailty, perseverance in our inconstancy, assured refuge in the dangers and toils of life, and at the hour of death.

Fifth Promise: ‘I will bestow abundant blessings upon all their undertakings.’

‘God is love.’ He is ready to give His children abundant temporal blessings as long as they do not imperil our eternal interests. His ‘special’ Providence protects and watches over those devoted to the Sacred Heart with peculiar love and tenderness. However, we should not be discouraged if our prayers for temporal favours are not always answered, for God always puts our eternal good before our temporal good.

Sixth Promise: ‘Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.’

The Redemption is the immortal drama of God’s mercy; and our Divine Redeemer is, as it were, God’s Mercy Incarnate. ‘With the Lord is kindness and with Him plenteous Redemption.’ (Psalms 129:7) On earth the Heart of Christ was full of mercy toward all. Now in His glorified humanity in Heaven Jesus continues to show forth His boundless mercy, ‘always living to make intercession for us’. (Hebrews 7:25)

Seventh Promise: ‘Tepid souls shall become fervent.’

Lukewarmness is a languid dying state of the soul that has lost its interest in religion. The Holy Spirit expresses deep disgust for such a soul: ‘You are neither cold nor hot … I am about to vomit you out of My mouth.’ (Apocalypse 3:15) The only remedy for it is devotion to the Sacred Heart, Who came ‘to cast fire on earth’, that is., to inspire the cold and tepid heart with new fear and love of God.

Eighth Promise: ‘Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.’

High perfection is the reward that Christ bestows on the fervent clients of His Divine Heart; for this devotion has, as its special fruit, to transform us into a close resemblance to our Blessed Lord. This is done by kindling in our hearts the fire of divine love, which, as Saint Paul says, ‘is the bond of perfection’. (Colossians 3:14) Through devotion to the Sacred Heart self-love will give way to an ardent zeal for His interests.

Ninth Promise: ‘I will bless every place in which an image of My Heart shall be exposed and honoured.’

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Furnace of Charity

Religious pictures are a powerful appeal and inspiration. The Sacred Heart is an open book wherein we may read the infinite love of Jesus for us in His Passion and Death. He shows us His Heart, cut open by the lance, all aglow like a fiery furnace of love, whose flames appear bursting forth from the top. It is encircled with thorns, the anguishing smarts of unheeded love. May it ever impel us to acts of love and generosity.

Tenth Promise: ‘I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.’

The conversion of a sinner calls sometimes for extraordinary graces. God never forces the free will of a human being. But He can give actual graces with which He foresees the sinner will overcome the resisting attitude of the most obstinate sinful soul. This, then, is what occurs in the case of priests who are animated with great devotion to the Sacred Heart.

Eleventh Promise: ‘Those who promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.’

This Promise holds out to promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart a wonderful reward; they ‘shall have their names written in My Heart’. These words imply a strong and faithful friendship of Christ Himself, and present to us the ‘Book of Life’ of Saint John: ‘I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life.’ (Apocalypse 3:5)

Twelfth Promise: ‘To those who shall communicate on the First Friday, for nine consecutive months, I will grant the grace of final penitence.’

This Promise contains a great reward, which is nothing less than heaven. ‘Final perseverance is a gratuitous gift of God’s goodness, and cannot be merited as an acquired right by any individual act of ours.’ (Council of Trent) It is given as the reward for a series of acts continued to the end: ‘He who has persevered to the end will be saved.’ (Matthew 10:22)

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Balm for the Sick and Consolation for the Dying

taken from The Glories of the Precious Blood by Rev. Max F. Walz, C.PP.S.

Pain, as beautifully described by Père Laurent, not only respects the past, that is, it is not only expiatory in character, but it is one of the finest signs of God’s mindfulness for us in the present, as well as for the future. We are afflicted that we may be saved, and the hand that wounds is also the hand that heals. Through suffering, new spiritual life is borne from this partial destruction of our being. God allows jealous rivalries, cruel disappointments, unexpected humiliations, to accomplish this aim; here He shatters a fortune, there He humbles a pride; dissipates this man’s dreams for the future, strikes that man in his affections; maybe for another all earthly happiness will be swallowed up at a blow.

In all this lies the mission of pain – to bring God nearer to us and to raise us up to God. It detaches us from this wicked world and our sinful habits. Our sufferings ascend to Heaven like sweet incense, even as a log is raised to the skies by applying fire to it and letting it go up in flame and smoke.

The Scourged Jesus

Pain is a grace which sanctifies the soul; through it, a sort of mystic union is effected which unites the life of the suffering soul to the very life of the suffering God-Man, and in this contact of the soul with God, pain is transmuted into power of redemption. Those who are patient and resigned to the will of God, acquire a likeness to their Divine Master, assuming the lineaments of the Crucified, especially if their sufferings be, in a measure, undeserved. They are identified with Jesus Christ, as victims of His special love, offered in expiation for the sins of this wicked world, and as such, they become a part of the vast scheme of atonement.

‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission,’ says Saint Paul. It matters little whether it be the blood of bodily wounds or tears, which are the blood of the soul. ‘The good God,’ says the Curé of Ars, ‘asks not for the martyrdom of our bodies, but for the martyrdom of our hearts and wills.’ There is an apostolate of suffering, as well as an apostolate of prayer and labor. ‘For whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son.’ (Romans 8:29) Jesus Christ continues to make reparation through those whose mission it is to suffer with Him for this sin-sick world. This is what Saint Paul meant when, persecuted like his Master, he said of himself, ‘I fill up these things what are wanting of the sufferings of Christ.’

What a consoling truth this should be for the sick, especially for nervous persons who feel like outcasts from human society, and frequently consider themselves abandoned even by God. Their past sins, and even their smaller faults, weigh heavily upon them. They imagine that God has forsaken them on account of their mistakes in life, and their offenses against Him, and they feel that neither in this life nor in the next can they receive forgiveness or attain happiness.

Crucifixion of Jesus

Look up to the Cross, despondent souls, you who share in the bitter abandonment of your dying Saviour, and listen to the words of the Beloved Disciple, ‘He has loved us and washed us in His Blood,’ and He loves us now; as much as He did then.

O sweetest Blood, that can implore
Pardon of God, and Heaven restore,
The Heaven which sin has lost,
While Abel’s blood for vengeance pleads,
What Jesus shed still intercedes
For those who wrong Him most.

For neurotic persons, at a certain stage in their despondency, the future has naught in store but gloom and despair. ‘And I wept much,’ writes Saint John of what he saw as a pilgrim in Heaven, ‘because no man was found worthy to open the book nor to see it.’ To this book, by which is meant the history of the fall and redemption of mankind, the future of our own lives may be compared; it is a sealed book to us, and a most perplexing riddle, full of anxieties and fearful uncertainties, especially for the nerve-racked. Saint John continues: ‘And one of the ancients said to me, “Weep not; behold the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and loose the seven seals thereof.” And I saw … a Lamb standing as it were slain … and he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat on the throne. And when he had opened the book … they sung a new canticle, saying, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God, in Thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.”‘ (Apocalypse 5:4–10)

Jesus, the Crucified King

Therefore, weep not, dear despondent soul! The Lamb that was slain, but rose again on the third day, as the Lion of the tribe of Juda, will lead you safely through your labyrinth of gloom and despair, if you will but cling to Him by the virtue of hope. The Lamb that was slain becomes the Lion of the tribe of Juda. ‘Ideo victor quia victima,‘ says Saint Augustine, ‘Christ is the Victor because He became a Victim.’

Saint Paul encourages us in these words: ‘In all things we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed; we are straightened, but are not destitute; we suffer persecution, but are not forsaken; we are cast down, but we perish not. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.’ (2 Corinthians 4:8)

Thus, from this seeming destruction of your being, you will emerge renewed in heart and character, your soul purified and sanctified, and worthy to sing a new canticle of life. ‘These are they who are come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ (Apocalypse 7:14)

Lamb of God

‘For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ (Apocalypse 7:17)

In the light of our future glory, our present tribulations should seem light and transient indeed!

We are on our way to life everlasting, to the land of the living, to the world, to the life, to the light. The road thither leads us through long and dark tunnels, then again up steep paths covered with thorns and thistles; our present infirmities will serve but to shorten the way. All Heaven is awaiting us at the other end.

The Blood of Christ is truly a balm for the sick, and a consolation for the dying. The Sacrament of Extreme Unction is the channel through when the Precious Blood is conveyed to the sick, during their last moments, by means of the application of the holy oils to the wounds of body and soul.

The devotion to the Blood of Jesus has the wonderful distinction of dispelling the fear of death, and the dread of meeting our Judge. ‘Having, therefore, a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ.’ (Hebrews 10:19)

‘The Blood of our Lord, wherever it is found, must produce great confidence in God; confidence in God is its primary and principal effect. Not only does it give us confidence through the belief that we have been bought at so great a price, but it gives confidence by a kind of heredity, a psychological transformation in the spirit that receives it. We become spiritually, supernaturally sanguine. We expect everything from God, precisely because we have in our veins that Precious Blood that makes the Heart of the Son of God throb with unlimited confidence in the goodness of the Father.’ [So says] Vonier.

Allegory of the Eucharist

‘The Blood of Jesus Christ,’ says Saint Bernard, ‘speaks with trumpet tones, not of the judgements of God, but of His mercies.’ The great Saint Thomas Aquinas calls the Precious Blood the key to the heavenly Paradise. How consoling are the words of Saint John Chrysostom: ‘This Blood has the power to drive away the evil spirits and to draw to our side the Good Angel, aye, the King of Angels, and to blazon the way to Heaven.’ Ah! how well the Saints knew the wonderful power of the Blood of the God-Man! ‘O Blood of Jesus, shed for love of me,’ exclaimed Saint Francis Caracciolo at the hour of death, ‘Thou belongest to me. I ask it of Thee, O Lord! Thou canst not refuse it to me, because it is mine.’ Then he devoutly kissed the five wounds of the Crucified and repeated again and again: ‘Blood of my Jesus, Thou art mine and only with Thee and through Thee I hope to be saved.’

Thou, too, discouraged soul, art stretched upon a cross of pain, twixt earth and Heaven; being above the earth, its comforts and vain hopes can give thee no relief; and since thou art yet fastened to the earth, Heaven and its consolations are far from thee. Look up to the Cross of Christ, despondent soul – nay, happy soul, that sharest the bitter abandonment of thy dying Saviour. For thy sake, His cry of agony, ‘My God, my God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ is piercing the very heavens. Courage, sad heart, thy God has not forsaken thee. The Beloved Disciple says, ‘And I heard a loud voice in Heaven, saying, “Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth, who accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.”‘ (Apocalypse 12:10-11)

Sacrament of Confession

You, who sometime were afar off, were made nigh by the Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism. Your soul, stained by sin, was time and again washed by the Sacrament of Penance. In Holy Communion you were brought still nearer to Jesus. You entered into the closest relationship with Our Lord so that His Divine life pulsated in yours. In Confirmation your soul received the impression of an indelible seal which marked you as the property of God. In how many Masses was your soul sprinkled with the Precious Blood of your Redeemer! And now in the Sacrament of Extreme Unction and in the plenary indulgence for the hour of death the Precious Blood achieves its final triumph here on earth so that you may appear with the robe of royalty before your Judge.

In the words of the Dies Irae you may well exclaim:

Faint and weary Thou has sought me,
On the Cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace in vain be brought me?
Thou Who didst the robber hear,
Biddest me with hope draw near.
Yes, bid me come to Thee above,
With Thy Saints to sing Thy love.

Now you are prepared to join the Saints, now you are entitled to sing; and the echo from your death-chamber will be: With Thy Saints to win Thy love. From Heaven the words of Saint John fall like a gentle dew upon your grave: ‘Blessed are they that wash their robes in the Blood of the Lamb!’

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Pastor Angelicus

On this blessed Solemnity of the Princes of the Apostles, let us remember the most gentle Venerable Pope Pius XII (r. 1939–1958). Besides the edifying account of his papacy, we also see in this documentary – which the good Pope had graciously agreed to its filming – the magnificent papal ceremonies and traditional Catholic customs that were commonplace prior to the Second Vatican Council.

Let us pray for the speedy canonisation of Ven. Pope Pius XII:

O Jesus, Eternal High Priest, Who didst deign to raise Thy faithful servant, Pius XII, to the supreme dignity of Thy Vicar on earth and to grant him the grace to be a fearless defender of the faith, a valiant champion of justice and peace, zealous in proclaiming the glory of Thy Most Holy Mother, a shining example of charity and all virtues: deign now to grant us, in view of his merits, the graces we ask of Thee; so that, made certain of his efficacious intercession with Thee, we may one day see him raised to the honours of our altars. Amen.

† Petrus Canisius van Lierde
Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City
8 December 1958

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Saint Peter, Apostle and First Pope

taken from The Lives and Times of the Roman Pontiffs by Alexis-François Artaud de Montor, edited by Reverend William H. Neligan

Saint Peter, the First Pope

Saint Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and first of the Christian pontiffs, was originally named Simon. His father was a fisherman of Bethsaida, near the lake of Gennesareth, in Galilee, which was also the birthplace of his brother, Saint Andrew. When Simon was about forty years old his brother presented him to our Saviour, who receiving him as one of His apostles, surnamed him Cephas, which in the Syriac signifies ‘Stone’, or ‘Rock’. ‘Upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matthew 16:18) By these words our Saviour intimated that in raising Saint Peter to the dignity of the chief of the Apostles, He made that dignity the foundation stone of His Church.

As our Lord said that that edifice shall not be overturned, but subsist throughout all ages, it follows that the authority of Saint Peter has descended upon his successors, and that his See still continues, and ever will continue to be the centre of unity. In order to be true members of the Church, the faithful must ever hold to it. Thus the Fathers of the Church, and, following them, the theologians have ever reasoned. Heretics and unbelievers have, in vain, endeavoured to obscure this truth. For some time Saint Peter did not habitually attend our Lord on his journeys, but always went to hear Him when He taught the multitude. One day, Jesus was on the shore of the lake Gennesareth, which is also called the Sea of Tiberias, and knowing that Peter and Andrew had all night cast their nets in vain, He told the fishermen to go further out from the shore. They did so, and so abundant was the take, that not only their own boat, but also that of Saint James and Saint John was filled.

Peter presented himself to express his gratitude, and professed himself unworthy to approach his Lord. The humility of Peter procured him a new call from Jesus. Peter’s usual residence was at Capharnaum; our Lord was often there, and walking along the shore again, saw Peter and Andrew, and James, and John casting their nets into the sea. He again called upon them to follow Him; and it was on that occasion that from a mere fisherman Peter became, in the exact words of our Saviour, a fisher of men. Going from Bethsaida to Caesarea, Jesus asked Peter what he thought of the Son of Man, whom some considered to be John the Baptist, and others considered to be one or the other of the prophets. Peter replied in that celebrated confession, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.

This reply obtained for him the confirmation of the surname of Peter, and the power to bind and to loose for himself, personally, and to his successors in the Primacy (Matthew 16:16, 19). Peter was one of the witnesses of the glory of our Lord upon Mount Tabor. He was present at the Last Supper, and was the first whose feet Jesus washed.

‘Feed my lambs.’

In the pages of the inspired Gospels we see Peter in his phases of man and apostle, until the apostolic spirit dominated the natural temper. His Master having reproved him for striking Malchus, Peter – timid and fickle – forgot his oath, but ere long bitterly bewailed his fault. After the death of our Saviour, Simon Peter hastened to the sepulchre. He was the first to enter. He found that Jesus was no longer there. Peter was also the first to whom, the Scripture informs us, Jesus appeared after His Resurrection. Peter, however, was still to receive an express mission, more especially consecrating him to his apostolic functions. Jesus appeared to him and to John, when they both were engaged in fishing on the Sea of Galilee. It was then and there that Jesus, after having thrice received from Peter the acknowledgement of his love, as though to make him expiate his triple denial, gave him a threefold charge of His flock in those words: ‘Feed my lambs.” Saint John, the Beloved Disciple, called Peter by the title of Apostle (John 21:15–17), as having received from Jesus Christ, in reward of his attachment the Pastorate, which Saint Ambrose (on Luke 23) so well entitles the Vicarship of Love. The gift of that function, as related by the Evangelist, was made at the very place where Jesus had given to Simon the name of Peter, which was afterwards confirmed to him by his calling to the government of the Church of Christ. Here Peter learned that, following Jesus Christ, he would suffer like Him, and would be glorified in martyrdom.

Descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles

Peter’s first act of pontifical jurisdiction, after the Ascension, was the assembling of a council at Jerusalem, at which both the Apostles and the disciples were present. The object was the filling, in the apostolic college, the place of the iniquitous Judas Iscariot. Matthias was chosen by lot. Peter presided over that assemblage, and reminded it that the crime of Judas had been foretold by David. Peter’s application of the Scriptures was again very felicitous when the disciples were visited by the wondrous phenomenon of the Day of Pentecost. On that memorable day, at about nine o’clock, a great sound, like unto the rushing of a mighty wind, filled the whole place of the assembly. All present saw, as it were, tongues of fire, and they all felt themselves filled by that Spirit which Jesus, on quitting them, promised they should be inspired with. In the fervour and gush of the zeal by which they were transported, their strange and eloquent language astonished the people of Jerusalem, and even the strangers who heard them. Some of the Jews took occasion to reproach them as being intoxicated. Then Peter arose, and so earnestly preached Christ, risen from the dead, that three thousand persons were converted, and asked to be baptised. That discourse of Peter was at once wise and noble. The Apostle announced that, in accomplishment of the prophecy of Joel, the time announced by our Lord had arrived (Joel 2:28, 30), and that the disciples were filled with that Spirit which He was to shed upon them, and upon His servants.

In the second council, seven deacons were appointed to assist the Apostles in the distribution of alms, and in the ministry of preaching. It is remarkable how faithful the succeeding pontiffs have been to the first two precepts of Peter. From the date of the Ascension, Peter remained five years in Judea. At the gate of the Temple, on Mount Sion, he restored to health a poor cripple who asked him for charity. The Sadducees endeavoured publicly to arrest Peter and John, who preached the resurrection of our Lord. The Apostles, on the other hand, preached with redoubled courage; and Peter, previously so timid and halting in his ideas, no longer hesitated boldly to confess the name of Jesus before the assembled doctors of the Law. From that period dates the triumph of the Apostolic Church, persecuted from its birth, and reviving from its persecution. The punishment of Ananias and Sapphira, guilty of falsehood against both the sacredness of their oath and the spirit of Christianity, and a thousand other testimonies to the power which distinguished the life of Peter, served only to irritate his enemies. Notwithstanding the protection of Gamaliel, who was held in honour by all the people, that wise, prudent, and humane man, who wished to ascertain whether the apostles and their followers were not a party very different from any merely human faction, Peter and the Apostles were beaten with rods, and even threatened with death. They bore their punishment with joy, and rejoiced in that they had been deemed worthy to suffer for the name of their Master.

St Peter was liberated from prison by an angel.

Then began a great persecution in Judea. Peter went to Samaria, which Saint Philip had already converted, to administer the rite of Confirmation to the faithful. It was there that he held his first dispute with the Samaritan, Simon the Magician. Thence he proceeded to Caesarea to baptise Cornelius the Centurion, who commanded the garrison in that city. Cornelius was the first Gentile who received baptism. He subsequently became Bishop of Caesarea. From Palestine, Peter passed into Syria, to the metropolitan city of Antioch, the most famous city of the East, and considered as the third city of the Roman empire – after Rome and Alexandria. He took up his abode in Antioch in A.D. 38, and governed that See for several years. The more worthily to fulfil his pastoral duty, he frequently traversed the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and Bithynia. Eventually, while visiting the afflicted Church of Jerusalem, Peter was arrested by order of Herod Agrippa; but the Apostle was miraculously delivered by an angel, who led him from the prison. That incident has been represented by the great Raphael, in one of his purest frescoes in the Vatican.

Peter, having placed Saint Evodius in the episcopal chair of Antioch, determined to proceed in person to Rome. Going through Naples, he planted the faith, by giving to that city Saint Aspren for its first Bishop.

Arrived at Rome, the holy pontiff lived in the Trastevere, near the site of the Church of Saint Cecilia. In a short time, Pudens, a Roman senator, having heard the preaching of Peter, declared himself converted, and the Apostle was conducted to a fine palace which Pudens possessed upon the Mount Viminal.

The capital of the world, says Feller, appeared to Peter to be the best centre for the propagation of the divine religion of which he had become the chief minister; for Peter was not only the bishop of Rome, or of Antioch, but also the bishop of the Universal Church. Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 15:20), while congratulating them on their faith, which he says is spoken of by all, tells them that he has long intended to visit them, but that he has been prevented from so doing by the law which he has laid down for himself, not to preach the gospel in places that had already received it, lest he should build upon the foundation of another. Saint Peter came to convert Rome, that great city ‘which,’ as says Saint Leo, ‘by its celebrity and its power had spread its superstitions throughout the earth, was now to become, in fulfilment of the designs of God, the humble disciple of the truth, and subsequently to extend its spiritual dominion beyond the bounds of its ancient empire.’ (‘Qua eras magistra erroris, facta es discipula veritatis. Latius praesideres religione divina, quam dominatione terrena.‘)

Well may we ask: Has there been any sovereign in the world who has received a greater or more glorious title than that which was thus bestowed upon a man by God himself?

According to the Diario, it was in the year 42 that the 25 years commenced that are commonly attributed to the pontificate of Saint Peter. He wrote at that time from Rome his first epistle, of which we shall speak hereafter. After seven years (being exiled by order of the Emperor Claudius), Saint Peter returned to Jerusalem, where he held the first Council. He there first spoke upon the controversies which had arisen at Antioch between the heresiarch Cerinthus and the new converts. It was decided in that Council that those converts were not to be disturbed; that it was sufficient that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, and from fornication. That decision was sent to Antioch with this formula, since adopted by the General Councils: ‘Visum est Spiritui Sancto et nobis.‘ (‘It appears to the Holy Ghost and to us.’)

The exile of Saint Peter lasted five years. After the death of the Emperor Claudius, the Apostle, in the year 56, and the fourteenth of his pontificate, returned to Rome, and there found Simon the Magician, who arrogated to himself the power of God, saying, ‘I command the angels,’ and who declared that the gift of working miracles might be purchased with money. It is known how the prayers of Peter obtained the victory over Simon, and how the latter broke his limbs near the temple of Romulus, now the church of Saints Cosmas and Damian.

‘I am going to Rome to be crucified again.’

The Catholics of Rome perceiving at length that Nero meditated a persecution, entreated the Apostle to conceal himself from the pursuit of that monster of cruelty. Saint Peter left the city by the gate which is now called Saint Mary ad passus, on the Appian way. There he was met by Jesus. Saint Peter asked whither he was going. Jesus replied, ‘I am going to Rome, to be crucified again.’ Then Saint Peter understood that Jesus would be crucified in the person of his servant. Saint Peter then retraced his steps to Rome, determined to endure whatever torment the barbarous Nero might invent for him. Near the gate which leads to Saint Sebastian, there is a little round temple, dedicated to the memory of that apparition, and called Domine Quo Vadis? – Lord, Whither Goest Thou? It has also the name of Saint Mary de plantis, because where Jesus replied to Saint Peter, he left the trace of His sacred feet, upon a stone still preserved in the Church of Saint Sebastian. Scarcely had Saint Peter re-entered the city when he was arrested and taken to the Mamertine prison. There he remained chained during nine months. The chain was found in A.D. 126, by Saint Balbina, and then given to Theodora, a noble Roman lady, sister of Saint Ermes, who was then governor of the city, but who gloriously suffered martyrdom. Shortly afterwards, Theodora gave that chain to [Pope] Sixtus I, martyr; it was placed in the Church of Saint Peter ad vincula, after it was restored by Eudoxia, wife of the Emperor Valentinian III, under the reign of Pope Sixtus III, about the year 439.

Crucifixion of Saint Peter

Saint Peter was violently tormented in the Mamertine prison, where he was confined with Saint Paul. From the prison Saint Peter was taken to the Janiculum, and was then put to death. He obtained it as a special favor from the executioner that he was to be crucified with his head downward, deeming himself unworthy to be placed on the cross in the same position as His divine Master had been.

According to the opinion of Baronius, of brother Sangallo, and of Novaes, Peter suffered martyrdom in the year of our Lord 69. The Diario, already quoted, gives the date of 65; but if, as has been expressly said, the 25 years of Saint Peter’s pontificate only commenced in the year 42, it must at least be admitted that his death took place in the year 67. We will not insist upon this point of history, for a whole host of dissertations have been written about the one and the other date. The most distinguished names, and the most respectable traditions have been quoted on either side. We have deemed it incumbent upon us to cite the date which is given by Novaes, supported by Baronius, and also that which renders the Diario consistent with itself.

The body of Saint Peter was at first interred in the catacombs, and then transferred to the Vatican. His head, as well as that of Saint Paul, is over the high altar of the Basilica of Saint John of Lateran, where they were placed by Pope Urban V in A.D. 1370.

The death of Saint Peter irrevocably fixed at Rome the chief See of the Christian Church. Henceforth Rome has become the Jerusalem of Christianity, the residence of its principal pastor, the centre of the Catholic union, the oracle and the rule of the various Churches, from which the fathers and the theologians of all ages have asked decisions upon all difficult matters, where the artifices of so many sectaries have been confounded, who have endeavoured to alter the doctrine of Jesus Christ; there their mission has been received by all those apostolic men who, after the first publication of the Gospel, have carried that divine light to the distant nations. It is not to be wondered at that the fury of the heretics, and the sarcasms of bad Catholics have always, but especially in this last century of turmoil and error, been directed against that great mother of the Christians; nor are we to be surprised that they have united their efforts to misrepresent as the mere result of human policy the authority that the Roman pontiff exercises over the Universal Church, by virtue of powers received from God Himself.

Bl. Pope Pius IX

Some Protestants have carried the partisan spirit so far as to maintain that Saint Peter never was at Rome, and consequently did not found that See; but learned men, even though most opposed to the papal authority, have fully refuted those Protestants. Pearson, an English bishop, in a dissertation which is included among his works, sustains it by a striking array of testimony. In fact all historical monuments give evidence in its favour. Hegesippus, who, like Papias, lived near the apostolic time, published a history of the martyrdom of Saint Peter at Rome. Saint Irenaeus and Saint Ignatius, disciples of Saint Peter, inform us that that Apostle had fixed his See at Rome. Tertullian calls the heretics themselves to witness to the foundation of the Roman Church by Saint Peter. Saint Cyprian frequently speaks of that Church as the chair of Saint Peter. Arnobius, Saint Epiphanius, Origen, Saint Athanasius, Eusebius, Lactantius, Saint Ambrose, Saint Optatus, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine, Saint Chrysostom, Paul Orosus, Maximus, Theodoret, Paulinus, Saint Leo, and many others, have left us catalogues of the bishops of Rome, from Saint Peter to the pontiff who occupied the Holy See in their time. All writers of history continue on the series down to Pius IX, who now [1867] sits in the chair of Saint Peter.

What other religion than the Roman Catholic can present so marked and so clearly proven a succession? Need we wonder that its enemies have endeavoured to destroy the foundation? What sect has ever ventured to figure a chain of legitimate pastors so closely and well connected? Confingant tale quid heretici? Such is the challenge which Tertullian gave to all heretics. That bold challenge has become stronger and safer still since the days of Tertullian. He spoke thus when the Church was not yet two centuries old. What would he have said, could he have witnessed the superhuman succession of eighteen centuries and a half as it has existed and has been attested by the most indisputable titles and monuments?

‘Against those who differ from us,’ says Bossuet, ‘there is always this damaging fact – they are separated from the great body of the Church; but for us, what consolation it is that from our Sovereign Pontiff we can ascend uninterruptedly to Saint Peter, who was established by Jesus Christ himself; and from Saint Peter, going back to the pontiffs of the Old Law, we ascend to Aaron and to Moses, and from them to the patriarchs, and to the very beginning of the world! What a succession! What a tradition! What a marvellous chain!’

Besides the two epistles of Saint Peter which are received as canonical books, several works have been attributed to him – as, his Acts, his Gospel, and his Apocalypse; but they are not genuine.

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Relevance of the Sacred Heart Today

taken from Jesus Living in Mary: Handbook of the Spirituality of Saint Louis de Monfort

Sacred Heart of Jesus the King

Although some of our contemporaries show a certain lack of enthusiasm for devotion to the Sacred Heart (and some of its iconography is admittedly in poor taste), this devotion is bound up with the very foundation of our faith, which acknowledges that Christ is one person – the Eternal and most adorable Wisdom – in two natures: human and divine. We are therefore justified in worshipping his Heart as an appropriate object of the adoration given to him and as the most profound expression of what humanity of all ages has recognized as the symbol of their noblest sentiments. Adoration of the Heart of Christ is strong testimony that this man Jesus is personally our God. The Heart of Jesus is the Heart of our Incarnate God.

Devotion to the Heart of Jesus gives a new, ‘intelligent’ (‘intus legere’, ‘to read deep within’), and penetrating insight into the Word of God, Who has kept on saying to humanity from the beginning of its history, ‘I will take you for my wife … in steadfast love and in mercy.’ (Osee 2:21–22) Jesus carried this love to extremes during his earthly life by lavishing blessings on those suffering physically and mentally: ‘They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well: he even makes the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak.”’ (Mark 7:37)

Saint Louis de Montfort and Bl. Marie Louise Trichet

How have humans repaid him? Their fickle hearts have repeatedly broken ‘the everlasting covenant’ (Isaias 24:5) that God made with them and have repaid Him only with ingratitude. [Saint Louis de] Montfort said in his time,

‘It was that blood-stained mouth
That spoke seventeen hundred years ago;
In a dying and living voice –
Words that I can hardly understand.’

These words are no less relevant at the threshold of the third millennium:

‘As the world nears its end I open,
My Heart burning with love for sinners.
But to My advances they respond
Only with cold indifference.’

In 1990, on the occasion of the three-hundredth anniversary of the death of Saint Margaret Mary, Pope John Paul II wrote to Bishop Raymond Séguy of Autun that Saint Margaret Mary ‘was conveying to us an ever-relevant message’, and he urged that it be made ‘more widely known’. At a time when humankind worldwide fills the air with groans of misery and loneliness and rushes headlong after false and elusive happiness, the Sacred Heart repeats with more aptness than ever: ‘Come to me, all you that are … carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28)

Jesus, the Good Shepherd

All the writings of Montfort are pervaded with these sentiments of the Heart of Jesus. Like his writings, his social and missionary activity was steeped in the compassionate understanding of human beings that characterises the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. In this connection, reading his writings again with a different approach may be necessary for some who have only a superficial knowledge of him. The new evangelisation is a much talked about topic nowadays, but the implication is that the world has lost the sense of the Good News that Christ brought two thousand years ago, and, in its bewilderment, looks to a host of self-styled saviours, as shown by the vast number of new religions. We live in a time of great confusion; the sheep are scattered, and the number of ‘lost sheep’ keeps growing.

‘Oh, I have lost a precious soul;
My sheep has gone astray.
My Sacred Heart is deeply grieved
Because my sheep has surrendered to my worst enemies.’

It takes missionaries of Montfort’s stamp to care for the lost sheep.

‘Shall I stand by and see, indeed,
My brother die in sin
With heart unmoved?
Great Lord, not I!’

In the spiritual economy, in the eyes of the Heart of Jesus, there is neither inflation nor recession. In Year 2000, as in Year 1 of the Christian era, the value of a human soul is the same.

‘God alone knows its invaluable price …
The price of the blood of Jesus Christ.’

Montfort’s writings make it clear that once devotion to the Sacred Heart has been renewed in the light of Scripture and with the help of reliable human sciences, it can be a radical remedy for the evils of our day, especially in the struggle against the tendency to regard each human being as a mere interchangeable number. ‘In this context, the Heart of Jesus reminds men and women that their immortal destiny transcends their economic power and their social role within societies of mortals; they are the object of a personal love as individuals on the part of the One Who, for the sake of all human beings, agreed to take a human body of flesh and bone and assume the human sufferings of all human hearts of all times (cf. Matthew 8:17, Isaias 53:4) through His Incarnation, which was not only ontological and physical but also psychological and universal in Its effects …

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Devotion to the Sacred Heart

taken from Chapter IV of The Prophets and Our Times by Reverend R. Gerald Culleton

There is evidence that it was the will of Our Divine Lord that devotion to the Sacred Heart be reserved for the last ages of the world, so that, in the last great struggle between Himself and Satan, the souls that He loves so dearly may be drawn to Him with renewed warmth, and thus strengthened against the final desperate attacks of the enemy.

Demons tempted Saint Anthony the Hermit unceasingly.

In the times preceding the end of the world, Satan and his cohorts were to be loosed upon the earth in a mighty effort to draw as many souls as possible away from God, before the power of Hell would be remarkably restricted, if not completely broken. Satan’s mission is one of hate. God wins souls through love. Our Blessed Saviour knew that the hatred which would be rampant in those evil days could be best conquered by a devotion which would inspire love and charity in the hearts of men. It was to serve, as it were, as a magnet and a bulwark of strength by giving men a clearer knowledge of God’s deep and abiding love and mercy. It would provide a harbour of peace and security in those days of confusion and anguish, when men’s souls would be tried almost beyond endurance.

In all times of great distress or danger, God has provided men with the means of conquering evil, as evidenced by the history of the world, both before the time of Christ, but especially since the Redemption. To mention just one of the instances of divine intervention when a special devotion was given to the world at a crucial period, let us consider the Rosary. In the thirteenth century, when the Albigenses were preaching their vicious doctrines against marriage, and the spread of this heresy seriously endangered the morals of the people, Saint Dominic began preaching against them. He had but little success until Our Blessed Lady appeared to him and told him to encourage devotion to the Rosary. This was done and the heresy quickly disappeared.

Saint Gertrude, in the fourteenth century, who often conversed with the Beloved Disciple Saint John, on one occasion asked him why he, who loved our Blessed Lord so fervently, had never written anything about the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He explained to her his mission was to expound the Doctrine of the Incarnation and that as for the Love of the Incarnate Word as exemplified by His Divine Heart, it was reserved for the last ages to make it known, ‘so that the world, carried away by follies, may regain a little of the warmth of early Christian charity by learning of the love of the Sacred Heart’.

‘Behold this Heart Which has loved men so much, and yet men do not want to love Me in return.’

It was on the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, three centuries later in 1647, that Our Lord appeared to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and made certain promises to those who had a special devotion to His Sacred Heart, which promises were destined to become the means of salvation to so many countless Christians. Regarding this vision, the Saint explained, ‘I understand that this devotion to the Sacred Heart was a last effort of His love towards Christians of these latter times, by proposing to them an object and a means so calculated to persuade them to love Him.’

In 1815, Mother Maria Rafols wrote concerning her own visions at the urgent insistence of Our Blessed Lord, in the hope that many, after reading what He told her, would turn from their evil ways, and have recourse to His Merciful Heart.

Much of what she has written is prophetic, and concerns itself – in part –  with the destiny of Spain. Referring to her own Mother House at Saragoza, Spain, Mother Rafols wrote that the Sacred Heart would perform such wonders there as to win many sinners away from their corrupted lives. It is worthy of note that although the Communists laid siege to the city of Saragoza, it was never captured – as foretold by Mother Rafols.

Our Lord promised her that no matter what means men might invent to destroy the faith in Spain, they would be unsuccessful and that He would reign there until the end of time, because of the love of the just and chaste souls who would always live in Spain. This prophecy, only recently unearthed, must have been of great comfort to the good Christians during the trying days of the Civil War.

So forgotten would be the Word of God in the days to come, that men would even scandalise and pervert innocent children, and endeavour to obliterate His Blessed Name from their memory. This was true in Spain, and is true in many other countries today.

There would be such moral corruption, not only in Spain, but in the entire world, that God would be forced to destroy entire cities – should they fail to reform – after His call. This is already being fulfilled and no doubt vastly greater destruction will befall the world before God is appeased.

The Divine Love of the Sacred Heart in the Eucharist

It was written that these things would be taking place when the documents would be found. They were found in 1931. Our Lord further told Mother Rafols that there is one thing that hurts His Sacred Heart still more, and that is to be forgotten, offended and despised by souls consecrated to Him. They sometimes forget how dearly He loves His chosen ones, how eagerly He waits in the tabernacle for them to come to Him for inspiration and assistance in the great mission of saving souls. He wants them to be humble and chaste, and to practice true charity towards one another, and thus, avoid giving scandal. He desires that His priests be living models of Himself and that they propagate devotion to His Sacred Heart.

He wishes that all men have greater love for one another so that there can be peace on earth, and greater love for Him. The Sacred Heart was very sad because of the sacrileges men would commit on account of their coldness toward Him. He said that many would not only not heed the commands of Holy Mother Church, but would actually persecute her and seek to destroy her. Priests and religious would be treated with great disrespect.

He desires that men perform acts of satisfaction to forestall the wrath of Divine Justice, and that the Feast of the Sacred Heart be made a Holy Day of Obligation and that all the faithful receive Holy Communion on that day. (It is a Holy Day of Obligation in Spain.)

To those who devoutly wear the image of His Sacred Heart (that is, a Sacred Heart Badge), He promised great graces and special protection at the hour of their death. He said that in times to come, many souls would propagate the devotion to His Sacred Heart.

Pope Leo XIII

Since these three holy women connect this devotion with the latter days it seems significant that its spread is quite modern. It was not extended to the entire world until 1856 by Blessed Pope Pius IX; the whole human race was commended to the Sacred Heart by Leo XIII only in 1899; and a special act of consecration was prescribed by Pope Pius XI in 1929 to be recited throughout the entire world on the Feast of Christ the King.

In conclusion we may note that the prayers ordered by Pope Leo XIII to be said after Low Mass to ‘restrain’ Satan are followed by the threefold repetition of the ejaculation invoking the aid of the Sacred Heart for this purpose: ‘Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!’

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Testimony of the Light

taken from the sermons of Saint Augustine of Hippo; readings at Matins on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Outside the most holy Birthday of the Lord, we find celebrated in the Gospel the birth of only one other, namely, that of the blessed Baptist, John. As regardeth all others among God’s holy and chosen ones we know that that day is observed whereon, with their work finished, and the world conquered and finally trampled down, they were born from this into a better life, even one of everlasting blessedness. In others is honoured the crowning of the struggle on their last day of dying life, but in John is honoured the first day; in him the very beginning is found hallowed. And the reason of this is, without doubt, because he was sent from God to bear witness to the coming of the Light, lest when It came It might take the darkness by surprise, and the darkness might not comprehend It. Now, John was a figure of the Old Testament, and showed in his own person a typical embodiment of the Law; and therefore John heralded beforehand the coming of the Saviour, even as the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to the grace of Christ (Galatians 3:24).

But as touching this, that he prophesied while yet in the hidden depths of his mother’s womb, and while himself lightless bore testimony to the Truth, we are to understand it as a figure how that while himself wrapped round with the veil and carnal ordinances of the letter, he by the spirit preached unto the world a Redeemer, and testified that Jesus is our Lord even while for himself, working under the Law, the birth of the new dispensation was still in the womb of the future, and not come today. The Jews were estranged from the womb, that is from the Law, that womb heavy with the Christ That was to be; they went astray from the belly, speaking lies (Psalms 57:4), and therefore John came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe (John 1:7).

‘He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.’ (John 1:8)

But as for this, that when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples (Matthew 11:2). This is the Law sending to the Gospel; for John here was a figure of the Law, imprisoned in ignorance, lying in the dark, and in a hidden place, and he was fettered through Jewish misunderstanding within the bonds of the letter. But of him was it said, as is written in the Blessed Evangelist: ‘He was a burning and a shining light,’ that is to say, when the whole world was wrapt in the night of ignorance, this Saint was kindled by the fire of the Holy Ghost, to show before men the light of salvation, and at the hour of the thickest darkness of sin appeared like a bright morning star to herald the rising of that Sun so right gloriously radiant, the Son of righteousness, Christ our Lord. And this is why John said of himself: ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the Lord.’ (John 1:15)

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Eucharistic Devotion of Saint Thomas Aquinas

taken from the January–February 1996 issue of the Soul Magazine, a publication by the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima; written by Warren H. Carroll, renowned ecclesiastical historian and author

Mother of the Eucharist – the Inexhaustible Chalice

Since the Blessed Virgin Mary bore Our Lord Jesus Christ in her immaculate womb, and as His one human parent alone gave Him His physical body, she has an intimate and unique association with the Eucharist, Christ’s Real Presence among us in the Host consecrated at Mass. Our Lady is therefore present in a special way in Eucharistic devotion, and has a particularly close relationship with those who practice it ardently.

St Thomas Aquinas is usually thought of as one of the greatest – perhaps the greatest – of Catholic philosophers and theologians; and that he most certainly was. But he was also one of the supreme advocates of Eucharistic devotion and exponents of the nature of the mysterious process by which the host becomes the Body and Blood of Christ. Indeed, it was Saint Thomas Aquinas who not only explained transubstantiation but provided for the first time the word for it.

His work was not intended only for the very learned. Saint Thomas Aquinas, an active Dominican, was a great teacher. Of his teaching he said, at his inaugural lecture at the University of Paris in 1256:

‘Teachers are comparable to mountains for three reasons: their elevation from the earth, their splendour in illumination, and their protective shelter against harm. … Therefore teachers should be elevated in their lives so as to illumine the faithful by their preaching, enlighten students by their teaching, and defend the faith by their disputations against error.’

When a new Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) was added to the Church calendar in 1264, Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote the liturgy for it. Saint Thomas’ Corpus Christi liturgy included the magnificent Sequence ‘Laude Sion‘, the Vespers hymn ‘Pange Lingua‘ (concluding with the ‘Tantum Ergo‘, sung during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament), the Matins hymn ‘Sacis Solemnis‘ (concluding with ‘Panis Angelicus‘) and the Lauds hymn ‘Verbum Supernum Prodiens‘ (concluding with another Benediction song, ‘O Salutaris Hostia‘). Familiar for centuries to every Catholic, these glorious Latin hymns continue to be widely sung to this day.

Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord

The fourth stanza of the ‘Pange Lingua‘ contains in a few words the essence of the Eucharistic doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas, totally embraced by the Church:

Word made flesh, by Word He maketh
Very bread his flesh to be;
Man in wine Christ’s Blood partaketh,
And if his senses fail to see,
Faith alone the true heart waketh,
To behold the mystery.

The Common Doctor of the Church (as Saint Thomas Aquinas has long been known) did not write only for scholars. In the office of Corpus Christi he wrote for the simple Catholic worshipper all down the ages.

By 1272, Saint Thomas had completed the second part of his supreme work, the Summa Theologiae, and begun on the third, concerning the Incarnation and the Sacraments. His last disputation at the University of Paris was on the Incarnation. Later, in 1272, he established a new study centre in his home territory near Naples, and there in Lent 1273 he delivered a series of 59 homilies on charity, the commandments, the Apostles Creed, the ‘Our Father’, and (significantly) the ‘Hail Mary’. One of these homilies was given every day. Thousands of people came out from Naples to hear them.

One night, in the chapel of the Dominican priory in Naples where Saint Thomas was then living, the sacristan concealed himself to watch the Saint at prayer. He saw him lifted into the air, and heard Christ speaking to him from the crucifix on the chapel wall:

‘Thomas, you have written well of me. What reward will you have?’

‘Lord, nothing but Yourself.’

St Thomas Aquinas in his glory

His request was soon answered. On 6 December 1273, Saint Thomas Aquinas was saying Mass for the Feast of Saint Nicholas in the chapel where the crucifix had spoken to him. Some profound experience – spiritual, mental, and physical suddenly overwhelmed him. He showed few external signs of the change at first; but he declared to his long-time secretary that he could write no more. ‘All that I have written,’ he said, ‘seems like straw to me.’

During the next few weeks he spent almost all his time in prayer; on 7 March 1274, he died. He was only 49, but his work was done. Christ’s Church and its Mother Mary had their champion upon the loftiest peaks of human intellect! No greater mind has been seen among the children of men than the mind of Thomas Aquinas, and he laid all his genius at the feet of Christ.

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The Greatest Wonder

taken from the sermons by Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Blessed Sacrament

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor

Among the immeasurable benefits, which the goodness of God hath bestowed on the Christian people, is a dignity beyond all price. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is unto us? The only-begotten Son of God was pleased to make us partakers of His divine nature ; that is, He took our nature upon Him, being himself made man that He might, as it were, make men into gods. And this body, which He took from us, He gave wholly unto our salvation. For, on the Altar of the Cross, He offered up his body to God the Father, as a sacrifice for our reconciliation, and thereon He shed His own blood for our redemption ; that is, His blood is the price whereby He redeemeth us from wretchedness and bondage, and the washing whereby He cleanseth us from all sin. And for a noble and abiding Memorial of this His so great work of goodness, He hath left unto His faithful ones the same His very Body for Meat, and the same His very Blood for Drink, with which we are fed under the forms of Bread and Wine.

O how precious a thing then, how marvellous, how health-giving, yielding royal dainties, is the Supper of the Lord. Than this Supper can anything be more precious? Therein there is put before us for meat, not as of old time, the flesh of bulls and of goats, but Christ Himself, our very God. Than this Sacrament can anything be more marvellous? Therein it is that Bread and Wine become unto us the very Body and Blood of Christ; that is to say, perfect God and perfect Man, Christ Himself, is there under the veils of a little bread and wine. His faithful ones eat Him, but He is not mangled; nay, when the veil which shroudeth Him in the Sacrament is broken, in each broken fragment thereof remaineth the whole Christ Himself, perfect God and perfect Man. All that the senses can reach in this Sacrament, all these abide of bread and wine, but the Thing is not bread and wine. And thus room is left for faith. For Christ, who hath a Form that can be seen, is herein taken and received not only unseen, but seeming to be bread and wine, and the senses, which judge by the wonted look, are warranted against error.

Than this Sacrament can anything be more health-giving? Thereby are sins purged away, strength is renewed, and the soul fed upon the fatness of spiritual gifts. This Supper is offered up in the Church, both for the quick and the dead; it was ordained to the health of all, all get the good of it. Than this Sacrament can anything yield more of royal dainties? The glorious sweetness thereof is of a truth such that no man can fully tell it. Therein ghostly comfort is sucked from its very well-head. Therein a Memorial is made of that exceeding great love which Christ shewed in time of his sufferings.

Procession of the Blessed Sacrament

It was in order that the boundless goodness of that His great love might be driven home into the hearts of His faithful ones, that when He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples, and the Last Supper was ended, then, knowing that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end, and instituted this Sacrament. For this Sacrament is the everlasting forth-shewing of His death until He come again; this Sacrament is the embodied fulfilment of all the ancient types and figures; this Sacrament is the greatest wonder which ever He wrought, and the one mighty joy of them that now have sorrow, till He shall come again ; and thereby their heart shall rejoice, and their joy no man take from them.

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