All posts tagged: saints

St. Maximillian Kolbe and the War Against Indifference

More than one concentration camp survivor has remarked that one would need the pen of Dante to describe the horrors that afflicted the “great army of unknown and unrecorded victims.”[1] Hell is that abyss that skews vision and slurs speech. It shreds human community by erasing all marks of personal identity by eviscerating of all bonds of human communion—trust, mercy, and love. During Mass celebrated at Auschwitz on June 7, 1979, John Paul II described the concentration camp as a “place, which was built for the negation of faith—faith in God and faith in man—and to trample radically not only on love but on all signs of human dignity, a place built on hatred and on contempt for man in the name of a crazed ideology. A place built on cruelty.”[2] A place “characterized by man’s fury and scorn for man, in which man was cut down to the level of a robot, a state worse than slavery.”[3] This was an era in which “the human person was degraded, humiliated, and despised. In this poisoned …

The Ignatian Spiritual Journey

For those who desire to learn more about St. Ignatius of Loyola, the first thought might be to read his Autobiography, which he dictated later in life. Yet the Autobiography of Ignatius is not a rich narrative full of stories, events, and insights. Those reading it for the first time may find the style terse, abrupt, and lacking details that would seem to bring the narrative to life. More than just a story of his life, the Autobiography reflects Ignatius’ understanding of the way God works with him, a pedagogy that Ignatius adopts in his Spiritual Exercises to assist others in their own journey with God. It is through experiencing the Spiritual Exercises that one comes to a fuller understanding of Ignatius and his spiritual journey. Following his injury and convalescence at Loyola, Ignatius experiences a profound conversion. Striving to free himself from the vainglory that dominated his first thirty years of life, Ignatius begins his new life with his confession and vigil at Montserrat. As his passion to serve the court as a knight …

The Hiddenness of St. André Bessette

For centuries, January 6 has marked the celebration of Epiphany, and many Christian communities throughout the world will still observe that feast today. However, for dioceses within the United States, the celebration of Epiphany has been transferred to the Sunday after January 6. To weigh the merits and demerits of that decision isn’t the purpose of this post; rather, it’s to consider the man whose optional memorial we in the United States are invited to celebrate this January 6: St. André Bessette, C.S.C., who entered eternal life eighty years ago today. For those of us at the University of Notre Dame, St. André Bessette holds a special place as the first saint canonized from the Congregation of Holy Cross, the order which founded Our Lady’s University. St. André is a particularly poignant model of sainthood for those who mistakenly believe that sanctity is synonymous with success (a trap into which many of us in academia often fall). Indeed, the eyes of the world, St. André’s life could hardly be called successful, but through the grace …

A bishop, St. Thomas Becket, against the backdrop of blue.

Thomas Becket and the Witness of Friendship

“I give my life To the Law of God above the Law of Man” —Murder in the Cathedral, T.S. Eliot[i] Thomas Becket, whose feast of martyrdom is observed today, is a highly celebrated figure of English Christianity, commemorated in painting, verse, and drama since his 12th century assassination. The story of Thomas Becket’s unlikely rise to Archbishop of Canterbury is chronicled in Peter Glenville’s film Becket (1964). Although it tells the story of Becket’s martyrdom, the heart of Glenville’s tale is Becket’s friendship with Henry; he frames the film with scenes of Henry II at Becket’s tomb, addressing his deceased friend. Becket sets up a medieval buddy movie, which is ruined by God. There is, of course, more to Thomas Becket’s story than simply his friendship with King Henry II. But the particular sacrifice of friendship, love, and loyalty that the film paints is a striking hue of Becket’s portrait, and a touching testament to the singular witness that friendship plays in the life of faith. The film starts with the puerile shenanigans of Becket …

Weeping with Rachel, in Sorrow and Hope

There are some stereotypes that often accompany the college stage of a woman’s life. Some (like loving babies, studying in coffee shops, etc), I embraced. Others I did my absolute best to avoid (and we’ll leave those ones to the imagination). My friends and I all proudly took up an affection for and gravitation toward all infants and young children within a mile radius as our stereotypical banner of choice. In fact, we had an unspoken arrangement that involved immediately informing each other of the presence of any nearby bundle(s) of joy. My girlfriends and I reveled in the wonder that small children have; we discussed how there is nothing on this earth more precious than tiny fingers, toes, and noses; we felt the urge to play peek-a-boo with any and all small children who crossed our paths. And if we saw a little tyke just wobbily learning to walk, it was absolutely the game-over-highlight of our day. Not having children of our own yet meant that we certainly still had a somewhat romanticized view of young children …

“Little Children, Love One Another”

For reasons I can’t sufficiently explain, I find that the saints honored by the Church during the Christmas season somehow call my attention a little more than those celebrated at other times of the year. Perhaps it’s because these saints seem to be made more radiant in the glow of the Christmas celebration. Today the Church honors one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. John has long been a source of fascination for me: my younger brother shares his name, and because of that, when I was a small child, my ears always perked up at Mass whenever I heard the name “John” mentioned. (They still do.) As an adult, I am even more fascinated by St. John the Evangelist—his Gospel and epistles contain some of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. Were I ever to share John’s fate and be banished to an island like Patmos, I would take his writings with me, for I feel certain that I could spend the rest of my life studying …

Auden on the Feast of St. Stephen

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree, Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes— Some have got broken—and carrying them up to the attic. The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt, And the children got ready for school. There are enough Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week— Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot, Stayed up so late, attempted—quite unsuccessfully— To love all of our relatives, and in general Grossly overestimated our powers. —W.H. Auden, “For the Time Being” December 26 can be a miserable morning. The fresh-looking print in one’s new books already has the dull glaze of familiarity. If you’re me, your new pants may already have a tear in them. Yesterday weren’t all things supposed to be made new? Didn’t I just try for four weeks to egg on my longing for Christ, dragging it slouching and grumbling out from under my rocky heart? If I did, I have nothing to show for it. I’m …

The Witness of the Martyrs

Laden with highly-charged connotations, “martyr” is one of the most rhetorically and politically loaded words in the English language. Often, for us, “martyr” conjures up images of stubborn ideologues who refuse to be badgered into backing down, or sufferers of avoidable ills in the name of self-righteousness. Often, Catholics imagine specifically early Christian martyrs as put-upon Catacomb Christians sticking to their guns in the face of a government that was determined to beat their convictions out of them. This anachronistic imaging of the early Christian martyrs is influenced by the state-driven religious persecutions of the Reformation. I would like to suggest an alternate imaging of the early martyrs. But first, a quick etymological detour: the word “martyr” did not appear in Latin until it was first used in the first century AD. The Latin word evolved specifically to describe the phenomenon of groups of early Christians, who were, for whatever strange and shocking reason, giving themselves up to death at the hands of the Romans. The word “martyr” is a response to a specific event, …

Receiving Christ and Becoming Like Him

Benedict XVI concludes the first part of his apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini (2010) by recommending the saints as expert witnesses to Scripture’s abiding truth: “The interpretation of Scripture would remain incomplete were it not to include listening to those who truly lived the Word of God: namely, the saints” (§48). The saints unfold the contents of Scripture by dedicating their lives to performing its message. Their ability to bring the Word of God to life begins when they open the pages of Scripture in order to encounter Christ and to nurture their baptismal relationship with him. Once they learn of Christ’s undying love for them, expressed supremely in his suffering and death, they resolve never to be parted from him. For they are assured by the Holy Spirit that he wishes to remain with them always (Mt 28:20). They rejoice in the knowledge that there will never be a greater love than the Lord’s, this love that reconciles the world to God and that is given to them completely in the Eucharist. This joy of …

Augustine: Saint of Suspicion

Saint of Suspicion! Wow! It’s kind of a suspicious title! Does it actually mean anything? I have my suspicions, and perhaps you do too, but we will have to put them on hold for now, laying aside the hermeneutic of suspicion, which is never to be applied to the one making claim to it, after all, and replace it with the hermeneutic of trust, until the appropriate time. This presentation is actually about the meaning of life. Yes, I am actually going to reveal the meaning of life, in a simple, declaratory sentence, without any admission fee, tuition, or other compensation. Perhaps you are suspicious of that claim! Both the claim that I can reveal the meaning of life in one simple sentence, and also the claim that I am doing it for no compensation at all. Perhaps you are thinking, true, he isn’t charging admission or looking to be paid, but perhaps he is hoping we will praise him, clap for him, cheer and acclaim him for such an accomplishment. After all, just as it’s …