Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dialogues of the Carmelites

Portrait of Mother Henriette of Jesus, ex-prioress (Marie-Françoise Gabrielle de Croissy) 1745 - 1794 , A Carmelite of Compiègne
c. 1794
Pencil, black ink on blue paper
16,8cm x 13.6cm
Collection Rothschild, Musée du Louvre, Paris

On 17 July, 1794 sixteen women were guillotined in Paris. They were Carmelites Their show trial accused them of acting against the Revolution and they were labelled as « fanatiques et séditieuses »

Today they are known as the Martyrs of Compiègne.

They were beatified by Saint Pope Pius X in May 1906, after he had published his Encyclical Vehementer Nos on Church State relations in France (after the Law of Separation)

Their heads and naked bodies were taken and buried in a common grave at the cemetery at Picpus where their remains were placed with the remains of about another 1300 victims of the Terror including Lafayette

Prior to their death they had made a daily vow of total consecration of themselves to the Divine Will even at the price of their lives so that the Massacres of the Terror would end and peace would return to the Church and to France.

They were arrested and led like lambs to their trial. Notwithstanding the inevitability of the verdict they refused any offers of clemency conditional on their giving up or renouncing their vocations.

They rejected apostasy at the cost of their human lives

At the guillotine they professed their vows anew and they sang the Veni Creator Spiritus while one by one each was executed.

One of the martyrs was Mother Henriette of Jesus, ex-prioress (Marie-Françoise Gabrielle de Croissy) b. 1745 of whom the above is a drawing now in the Louvre.

In 1894 the centenary of the execution was celebrated by the Carmelites including at Lisieux Sister Thérèse de l’Enfant-Jésus. One is reminded of her Act of Oblation to Merciful Love written the year after the centenary

Sister Mary of the Incarnation (Francois-Genevieve Phillipe) (1761 - 1836) was the one Nun who survived and left a memoir of her life as a Carmelite during the period of persecution. It is from this Memoir that we know of the various events and the nuns themselves who perished under the blade

In 1926 the German authoress Gertrud von Le Fort 1876 - 1971 converted to Roman Catholicism. She had been much influenced by the Carmelite Edith Stein and had met Pius XII when he had been Monsignor Pacelli, the Nuncio in Berlin

In 1931 she published her major novella The Last on the Scaffold (Die Letzte am Schafott). It was based on the Martyrs of Compiègne. It was this work which was the basis for the other major artistic works of the Twentieth Century on the Martyrs.

At that time immediately after the First World War, the Weimar Republic was threatened by the two major totalitarian forces of the Twentieth century: Communism and German Fascism

It was the plight of the individual in such a situation which prompted Le Fort to begin a novel with a central character called Blanche de la Force. Gertrud con Le Fort admitted that this character was based on herself.

By chance she came across the story of the Sixteen Martyrs and decided that the novel would be set in Revolutionary France and that Blanche would be one of the sisters, the youngest and the most fearful, almost petrified by fear. She wrote:

"The point of departure for my own creation was not primarily the destiny of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne, but rather the character of little Blanche. In an historical sense, she did not exist, but received the breath of her trembling being directly from my own personality, and thus can never be separated from that origin which is hers and hers alone.

Born of the profound horror of a time in Germany clouded by the shadow of destinies on the march, this character rose up before me as if it were the “incarnation of man’s anguish faced with an entire era moving inexorably towards its end.”

This child in perpetual anguish, known familiarly as the “little hare,” this young woman who, for fear of the world, goes into a convent and there tries, mystically, to meld her religious life to the Agony of Christ, already existed in sketches found in my literary compositions well before her destiny was joined to that of the sixteen Carmelites of Compiègne.

It was purely by chance that the latter became known to me. A little note, found at the bottom of a page of a book devoted to Catholic orders, told of the Carmelites who sang as they went to the scaffold. It was this that made me decide to transpose Blanche’s story from the present to the time of the French Revolution"

(Le Fort, Aufzeichnungen und Erinnerungen, 93–95, quoted in Gendre, “Dialogues des Carmélites: The Historical Background, Literary Destiny and Genesis of the Opera,” 279.)

In the novella, overcome by the fear which has dominated her whole life, Blanche leaves her companions prior to the trial. However she sees them at the guillotine and runs to join them in the their final oblation.

In her outline of the novella, Le Fort wrote:

"Blanche, whose destiny is to pay, is afraid of the world.

She bears the real nature of the world in herself. She feels that the world’s finiteness is also her own. When she finds out that this fear will always be there to hinder her, she becomes afraid of her fear. This fear of her fear constitutes her actual guilt. . . .

The object of Blanche’s anxiety is fear of death. Death, in this connection, has two aspects: death of the personal entity and death of the whole social class swallowed up by the masses (decline of culture, of social standards, of the “ancien régime”).

This death, so to speak, is the symbol of all that is transient, a penance imposed on the earth for sin (original sin, for it was not she, Blanche, who caused the revolution, but her forefathers).

God chose the weakest, not the strongest one for His means, since “supernature” is to be expelled. This becomes evident when the strong one [i.e., Marie de l’Incarnation] is denied heroism while the weak one [i.e., Blanche] achieves it. Blanche’s fear represents universal fear"

(Gertrud von Le Fort, unpublished draft outline of Die Letzte am Schafott, 2, quoted in La Chevallerie, “Gertrud von Le Fort and the Fear of Blanche de La Force,” 16–17.)

Through the Dominican priest and filmmaker Father Raymond-Léopold Bruckberger (1907 –1998), Georges Bernanos was commissioned to write a screenplay.The title was Dialogues of the Carmelites (Dialogues des carmélites).

Bernanos` work is a different work from that of Le Fort.

It was written when he was dying of cancer of the liver. It is a spiritual work of universal significance. It was written by someone who had feared but who had also seen the horrors of the First World War, the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War at close quarters. or him the great European Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-5 was caused by the de-Christianisation of Europe which led to loss of human liberty and civilisation

In turn, Bernanos` work was the basis of the spellbinding opera by Francis Poulenc (1899 - 1963) - Dialogues des carmélites. But again another twist, another interpretation

And finally the films starting with Le Dialogue des carmélites in 1960 in French and directed by Philippe Agostini and Father Raymond Leopold Bruckberger. It starred the eternal Jeanne Moreau.

From the Opera here is Anja Silja in the Death Scene of Madame de Croissy (the character in the opera not the real one) at the Teatro alla Scala di Milano in 2004

Here is Dame Joan Sutherland as Madam Lidoine giving hope and encouragement to her nuns as the time approaches for their execution:

And here is the dramatic finale (with Salve Regina rather than Veni Creator) which was in the Metropolitan Opera production which featured among others Jessye Norman and Regin Crespin:

See also:

-Sancta Maria, Mater Dei~'s photostream on Flickr: Mother Therese of Saint Augustine and 15 Companions

And very highly recommended is the excellent: Gail Lowther, A Historical, Literary, and Musical Analysis of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des carmélites (MA thesis) (2010) (.pdf file)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sous le soleil de Satan

Bernanos` first novel and which brought him public notice was Sous le soleil de Satan [Under Satan's Sun or Under the Star of Satan](1926)

Some years ago Le Monde`s readers declared it one of the most important novels of the Twentieth Century. It is not well known at all in Anglo-Saxon countries.

The protagonist is another young priest, Abbe Donissan who some critics thought was based on the Cure of Ars

The book was written before Bernanos came fully under the influence of Saint Therese of Lisieux. Therese of Lisieux was canonised on 17 May 1925. It is a very different work from The Diary of a Country Priest (published 1936)

Like The Diary of a Country Priest, Under Satan`s Sun relates how a young, recently ordained and zealous priest finds himself caught up in the interior suffering of the people of his parish while at the same time undergoing his own personal experience of the dark night of the soul. He has saintly gifts.

But Under The Sun of Satan is a very melodramatic work. Bernanos started writing it after he had served in the First World War. He finished it while still in Action Française before it was banned by Pope Pius XI.

His theology developed before he came into his own in Journal d'un curé de campagne (1936) and Dialogues des carmélites (Dialogues of the Carmelites) (1948)

The protagonist in the course of his struggle meets the Devil. The Devil offers him the gift to see into the souls of men and women. He accepts. The devout priest becomes involved with a murderess. A number of tragedies ensue.

It has remained a popular work. In 1987 Maurice Pialat directed a film based on the book. Gérard Depardieu played the lead role of Donissan

Below are two clips from the film: one is the trailer with English subtitles; the other is the scene where the priest meets the Devil

For more about Geoeges Bernanos and some of his works see:

Georges Bernanos: The Theological Source of His Art by Joseph Cunneen in Christianity and Literature, Spring, 2009

Hans Urs von Balthasar Bernanos: an ecclesial existence

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Georges Bernanos: The Diary of a Country Priest

The French author Georges Bernanos (20 February 1888 – 5 July 1948) was sharply critical of modern society and its inroads into personal liberty. He penned many novels on the subject of good and evil, many with a Catholic theme.

One of his most famous works was Journal d'un curé de campagne (1936)[Diary of a Country Priest] It was made into a film by Robert Bresson in 1951

Five lengthy extracts of the film courtesy of YouTube are below

Diary of a Country Priest
Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

In his diary, the priest records feelings of inferiority and sadness that he cannot express to his parishioners. And as he approaches death the priest's saintliness remains unclear to him, but becomes undeniable to the reader.

"How easy it is to hate oneself! True grace is to forget. Yet if pride could die in us, the supreme grace would be to love oneself in all simplicity--as one would love any one of those who themselves have suffered and loved in Christ."

Rachel Murphy in Catholic Fiction discussed the novel in detail with its particular emphasis on the doctrine of St Therese of Lisieux

She writes;

"[The priest`s] actions show how deeply his heart reaches for others, how deeply it loves. Without consideration for himself or others’ perceptions, he tries to bring comfort to the lost sheep, even when he feels nothing reciprocated. And, when there is finally a spark, a conversion, it is radiant, as in the passage about Madame la Comtesse, after her death:

‘Be at peace,’ I told her. And she had knelt to receive this peace. May she keep it for ever. It will be I that gave it her. O miracle—thus to be able to give what we ourselves do not possess, sweet miracle of our empty hands! Hope which was shrivelling in my heart flowered again in hers; the spirit of prayer which I thought lost in me for ever was given back to her by God…Lord, I am stripped bare of all things, as you alone can strip us bare, whose fearful care nothing escapes, nor your terrible love! I lifted the muslin from her face, and stroked her high, pure forehead, full of silence. And poor as I am, an insignificant little priest, looking upon this woman only yesterday so far my superior in age, birth, fortune, intellect, I still knew—yes, knew—what fatherhood means.

It is the Curé’s simplicity, his dauntless truth-telling in spite of feeling his immense powerlessness and insufficiency, that unwittingly provokes a deep response in those with whom he is in contact—the readers of his diary included.

“Your simplicity,” Monsieur le Comte says perceptively, “is a kind of flame which scorches them. You go through the world with that lowly smile of yours as though you begged the world their pardon for being alive, while all the time you carry a torch which you seem to mistake for a crozier.”

There is a beautiful passage in The Diary where Bernanos speaks through the character of M. le Cure de Torcy about the Virgin Mary:

"She is our Mother, the mother of all flesh, a new Eve. But she is also our daughter. The ancient world of sorrow, the world before the access of grace, cradled her to its very heart for many centuries, dimly awaiting a virgo genetrix. For centuries and centuries those ancient hands, so full of sin, cherished the wondrous girl-child whose name even was unknown. A little girl, the queen of the angels! And she's still a little girl, remember! . . .

The simplicity of God, that terrible simplicity which damned the pride of the angels. Our Lady knew neither triumph nor miracle. Her Son preserved her from the least tip-touch of the savage wing of human glory. No one has ever lived, suffered, died in such simplicity, in such deep ignorance of her own dignity....

For she was born without sin—in what amazing isolation! A pool so clear, so pure, that even her own image—created only for the sacred joy of the Father—was not to be reflected. The Virgin was Innocence ....

The eyes of Our Lady are the only real child-eyes that have ever been raised to our shame and sorrow . . . they are not indulgent for there is no indulgence without something of bitter experience—they are eyes of gentle pity, wondering sadness, and with something more in them, never yet known or expressed, something that makes her younger than sin, younger than the race from which she sprang, and though a Mother by grace, mother of all graces, our little youngest sister."

Others have found inspiration in the writings of Bernanos. In February 2009, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, in an address at the University of Toronto said:

"Seventy years ago the great French writer Georges Bernanos published a little essay called "Sermon of an Agnostic on the Feast of St. Théresè."

Bernanos had a deep distrust for politics and an equally deep love for the Catholic Church. He could be brutally candid. He disliked both the right and the left. He also had a piercing sense of irony about the comfortable, the self-satisfied and the lukewarm who postured themselves as Catholic -- whether they were laypeople or clergy.

In his essay he imagined "what any decent agnostic of average intelligence might say, if by some impossible chance the [pastor] were to let him stand awhile in the pulpit [on] the day consecrated to St. Théresè of Lisieux."

"Dear brothers," says the agnostic from the pulpit, "many unbelievers are not as hardened as you imagine. … [But when] we seek [Christ] now, in this world, it is you we find, and only you. … It is you Christians who participate in divinity, as your liturgy proclaims; it is you ‘divine men' who ever since [Christ's] ascension have been his representatives on earth. … You are the salt of the earth. [So if] the world loses its flavor, who is it I should blame? … The New Testament is eternally young. It is you who are so old. … Because you do not live your faith, your faith has ceased to be a living thing."

Bernanos had little use for the learned, the proud or the superficially religious. He believed instead in the little flowers -- the Thérèse of Lisieuxs -- that sustain the Church and convert the world by the purity, simplicity, innocence and zeal of their faith.

That kind of faith is a gift. But it's a gift each of us can ask for, and each of us will receive, if we just have the courage to choose it and then act on it. The only people who ever really change the world are saints. Each of us can be one of them. But we need to want it, and then follow the path that comes with it.

Bernanos once wrote that the optimism of the modern world, including its "politics of hope," is like whistling past a graveyard.

It's a cheap substitute for real hope and "a sly form of selfishness, a method of isolating [ourselves] from the unhappiness of others" by thinking progressive thoughts.

Real hope "must be won. [We] can only attain hope through truth, at the cost of great effort and long patience. … Hope is a virtue, virtus, strength; an heroic determination of the soul. [And] the highest form of hope is despair overcome."

Anyone who hasn't noticed the despair in the world should probably go back to sleep. The word "hope" on a campaign poster may give us a little thrill of righteousness, but the world will still be a wreck when the drug wears off.

We can only attain hope through truth. And what that means is this: From the moment Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life," the most important political statement anyone can make is "Jesus Christ is Lord."

We serve Caesar best by serving God first. We honor our nation best by living our Catholic faith honestly and vigorously, and bringing it without apology into the public square and its debates. We're citizens of heaven first. But just as God so loved the world that he sent his only son, so the glory and irony of the Christian life is this: The more faithfully we love God, the more truly we serve the world."

For more about Bernanos and The Diary of a Country Priest you might want to listen to a podcast on EWTN`s site of a discussion between Fr. John C. McCloskey with Dr. Ralph McInerny on the novel at here (Number 9)

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Star Attraction

The Glasgow Empire Theatre was notorious and a source of fear for many British entertainers. Many artistes bombed. If you succeeded there, you were destined for higher things.

Not far from the site of the now demolished theatre is the Jesuit Church of St Aloysius Church recently featured on The Hermeneutic of Continuity ("Photos of St Aloysius Glasgow")

There were some similarities to the two venues.

One priest who lasted many years at St Aloysius and was one of the "star attractions" was Father Alexander Gits SJ (1887 - 1982)

He was born in York the son of a Belgian father and an Italian mother. He was educated at Mount St Mary`s College and entered the Society of Jesus in 1910. He was ordained priest in 1921.

Before going to Glasgow, he gave retreats and worked in parishes. He was superior of the Jesuit retreat house in Birmingham during the Second World War and then worked in St Helens and Sunderland.

He went to St Aloysius in 1949. He stayed there until his death aged 95

His obituary said:

"He was well-known to all the people of Cowcaddens, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, for his generosity. and universal kindness. He was a particular favourite with the children whom he used to entertain with his puppet-show both in the streets and in the classrooms of Garnetlhill Convent School.

He is remembered too for his years of dedicated service in the confessional of St Aloysius, where he gained a reputation among people and clergy as one of the most understanding and saintly priests in the city. Even in his nineties, he insisted on hearing confessions in the church every day, and the constant queues outside liis confessional were a tribute to a priest who truly served the people of Glasgow."

In the 1970s, he was a small thin stooped gnarled old man who walked with a stick. His Jesuit gown was never buttoned and flew round him as he made his way slowly up the steep hill from the Church to the priest`s house. He seemed to be always surrounded by children. Sweets (Candy) used to come flying out from his pocket. Anyone who was fortunate to come across Father Gits always came away impressed. There was something about him. He really was a living legend in the locality and beyond. Not many are given the reputation for saintliness while they are alive. But he was definitely one.

He said his Mass every morning in Latin in the Church at one of the side altars (He must have got an "Agatha Christie" dispensation). He was always surrounded by people especially children. There were always queues outside his confessional.

At his funeral Mass there were throngs

When you joined the (big) queue for his confessional, there was no fear or trepidation unlike in some other queues. It was quite remarkable. You were going to see Father Gits. At the end there was a short penance, a few kindly words, and if you were a child, from underneath the grille came a sweet and/or a holy picture. I don`t think the adults got a sweet. But I could be wrong.

In his eighties he still taught Religious Education. His favourite subject was the Lives of the Saints. It didn`t seem to go down with some others at the time imbued as they were with the exciting Spirit of Vatican II, A few were rather dismissive of him, supercilious even.

But he knew what he was doing and went on regardless. Most people knew he was the genuine article. He was what he taught. And what he taught was good.

When he was younger he penned many written works including pamphlets for the Catholic Truth Society.

His pamphlet on the Life and Canonisation of Saint Maria Goretti can be downloaded as a .pdf file here

The work is remarkably fresh, clear, concise and still worth reading. It is free of the "sugar" of some versions of the life of the virgin martyr. One point he emphasises about the beatification is "the special honour paid by the Holy Father to the child‟s mother. He emphasized over and over again both in his speeches and in the official documents that the heroic daughter was the glory of the mother‟s training."

This work by Father Gits has been taken to task by some women writers especially feminists. Professor Marina Warner on her major work on the Virgin Mary cited the work as an example of old fashioned Roman Catholic teaching.

If you google him on "Google Books" you can piece together a list of some of his works from the 1930s to the 1950s sadly most now out of print and probably out of fashion:

Training for Marriage: a book for Catholic parents (on Casti Conubii)
The Root Cause of the Leakage (on why People gradually leave the Church)
Opium for the People: sketches of real life
Purgatory and Extreme Unction
Escaping Purgatory
Parent, Priest and Teacher
Prenuptial Catechesis
Behind the Scenes: Experiences in the life of a Catholic priest
The Life of St Mungo or St Kentigern
A modern virgin martyr: Saint Maria Goretti
How to Instruct a Convert
Advance! [Contains an urgent plea for the Retreat Movement, and insists that every Catholic should, at some time, make a closed retreat}

A pastoral theologian far in advance of his times.

Interestingly Pope Benedict XVI’s weeklong Lenten retreat this year will be led by Discalced Carmelite Father Francois-Marie Lethel, an author and expert on “the theology of the saints.” The Carmelite’s topic is to be: “The light of Christ in the heart of the church: John Paul II and the theology of saints.” Father Gits would have been pleased.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Promessi Sposi

Guillaume Bodinier (1795-1872)
Contrat de mariage en Italie / Contract of Marriage in Italy
Oil on canvas
1.01 m x 1.38 m
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The right of a couple to marry is universally regarded as a fundamental human right. It is a right grounded in the Natural Law.

It is a right which is jealously protected by British Courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

See the summary of The O`Donoghue Case decided by the European Court

Father Ray presents a disturbing story of two Catholic refugees living in Brighton who wish to marry according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church.

The UK Government in 2005 introduced regulations to prevent such refugees marrying in a Catholic Church unless they marry in an Anglican Church or at certain specified registry offices and paying a substantial fee. The UK Government has admitted that the regulations are unlawful and invalid under the Human Rights Act.

The Church apparently cannot marry the couple according to the Catholic rites as it would be against UK civil law.

One is reminded of the famous Italian novel by Alessandro Manzoni The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) engraved into the consciousness of the Italian nation

A young betrothed couple, Lucia Mondella and Renzo Tramaglino, are prevented from marrying because Don Rodrigo, the local feudal lord, wants Lucia for himself. The feudal lord threatens the parish priest Don Abbondio from performing the marriage and the priest succumbs.

All initial efforts to solve the problem fail. Lucia and Renzo are forced to flee and become separated. Their eventual reunion is delayed by a series of vicissitudes triggered by the initial act of oppression. In the course of these they are aided or impeded by a variety of characters.

Eventually through the intervention of Cardinal Federigo Borromeo the couple can and do marry

Father Ray is of course no Don Abbondio. But one does wonder why a more robust attitude is not taken about this situation by the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Of course the couple in Father Ray`s parish shoud be advised to consult a good lawyer to claim against the UK Government for the breach of their human rights. In the O`Donoghue case, the Court held that the United Kingdom was to pay the applicant 8,500 euros (EUR) in respect of non pecuniary damage, 295 British pounds (GBP) in respect of pecuniary damage and EUR 16,000 for costs and expenses

That should pay for a delayed second honeymoon which might be some consolation (but not much)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Out of the Darkness in Toledo in 1577

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (1540/41–1614 )
View of Toledo c. after 1600
Oil on canvas
47 3/4 x 42 3/4 in. (121.3 x 108.6 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Ernest Hemingway described this as "the best picture in the Museum for me, and God knows there are some lovely ones".

Alfred M. Frankfurter. "Masterpieces of Landscape Painting in American Collections." Fine Arts 18 (December 1931), pp. 22, 25, ill., called it "the first impressionistic landscape...the first landscape not painted exactly as it seemed, or as well as the artist could render it" and  notes that "for dramatic content [the picture] has remained unsurpassed among the landscapes of four centuries".

The picture was in El Greco's studio at his death. It is not a historical work documenting what was there but an interpretative and poetic work. How he felt about the city and its people.

It is the dark side of Toledo. It depicts a turbulent place in turbulent times.

El Greco arrived in Toldeo, Spain early in 1577, He remained there for the next 37 years until his death in 1614

The City of Toledo in Spain in 1577 was a remarkable place

On June 2 of that year, while living there in the convent of her cloistered Carmelite nuns, Saint Teresa of Avila began her spiritual masterpiece, The Interior Castle.

During the first week of December 1577, the religious superiors of Saint John of the Cross charged him with disobedience for his refusal to abandon Teresa of Avila's reform of the Carmelite order and imprisoned him in a prison cell in their Toledo monastery.

He remained there for eight months until he escaped. But that confinement in a cell in Toldeo with the accompanying mistreatment and torture changed him forever. It was his long dark night in all senses of the expression.

In 1577 Toledo was a city in decline. In 1561 Philip II moved the royal court from Toldeo to Madrid. However it still remained the seat of the Primate of Spain, the Archbishop of Toledo. The See had the reputation of being the second richest and most important See after Rome.

It had been the scene of a major dispute between Church and State which had only just been partially resolved in 1576. The then Church-State difficulties make the present Church-State difficulties in Spain pale into insignificance.

In 1559 Philip II had the then Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo Bartolomé Carranza (1503 – May 2, 1576) arrested for heresy after being denounced by the Spanish Inquisition.

He was imprisoned for eight years in Spain and then on appeal to Rome confined in the Papal apartments in Castel Sant`Angelo in Rome for another ten years until shortly before his death. (Pope Saint Pius V wanted to find in favour of Carranza but had to postpone a decision because of diplomatic pressure from Spain. Then Pius V died and the problem was left for Popes Clement XIII and Gregory XIII to deal with, eventually being resolved by Gregory XIII)

On the death of Carranza, he was succeeded to the Archbishopric by Gaspar de Quiroga y Vela (13 January 1512 - 20 November 1595), the General Inquisitor of Spain. He was Philip II`s man and a year later Pope Gregory XIII created him a cardinal. At the same time that Gaspar de Quiroga y Vela was made Archbishop, Archduke Albert of Austria at the age of eighteen was made his co-adjutor and a Cardinal.

He was the nephew of Philip II. Gaspar de Quiroga y Vela was not expected to live long.

In 1577 the stage was set for the Imperial takeover of the Spanish Church.

In this cauldron of ecclesiastical politics, El Greco, St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross had to live and operate.

Bearing this background in mind, one can read about the life, works and achievement of St John of the Cross as taught by Pope Benedict XVI at last Wednesday`s catechesis in his series on Doctors of the Church

Much ink has been spilt especially in modern times about the spiritual ecstasies and mysticism of St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross. See below.

Print made by Eric Gill 1882 - 1940
The Soul and the Bridegroom 1927
From 'The Song of the Soul' by St. John-of-the-Cross, translated by Rev. John O'Connor and printed by the Chiswick Press, London for Francis Walterson, Capel-y-ffin, Abergavenny
Woodcut engraving on paper
7.8cm x 5cm
The British Museum, London

Print made by Eric Gill 1882 - 1940
No wild beast shall dismay me
From 'The Song of the Soul' by St. John-of-the-Cross, translated by Rev. John O'Connor and printed by the Chiswick Press, London for Francis Walterson, Capel-y-ffin, Abergavenny
Woodcut on paper
7.8cm x 10.7cm
The British Museum, London

But Pope Benedict XVI pursues a different tack and asks this question:

"Dear brothers and sisters, in the end the question remains:

Does this saint with his lofty mysticism, with this arduous way to the summit of perfection, have something to say to us, to the ordinary Christian who lives in the circumstances of today's life, or is he only an example, a model for a few chosen souls who can really undertake this way of purification, of mystical ascent?

To find the answer we must first of all keep present that the life of St. John of the Cross was not a "flight through mystical clouds," but was a very hard life, very practical and concrete, both as reformer of the order, where he met with much opposition, as well as provincial superior, as in the prison of his brothers of religion, where he was exposed to incredible insults and bad physical treatment.

It was a hard life but, precisely in the months spent in prison, he wrote one of his most beautiful works. And thus we are able to understand that the way with Christ, the going with Christ, "the Way," is not a weight added to the already sufficient burden, but something completely different, it is a light, a strength that helps us carry this burden."

He emphasises the suffering of St John of the Cross especially his imprisonment and torture in Toledo where he was kept incommunicado away from all his friends. This reminds us of what the other Carmelite Doctor, St Therese of Lisieux said:

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul."

"I have a longing for those heart-wounds, those pin-pricks which inflict much pain. I know of no ecstasy to which I do not prefer sacrifice. There I find happiness, and there alone. The slender reed has no fear of being broken, for it is planted beside the waters of Love. When, therefore, it bends before the gale, it gathers strength in the refreshing stream, and longs for yet another storm to pass and sway its head. My very weakness makes me strong. No harm can come to me, since in whatever happens I see only the tender hand of Jesus... Besides, no suffering is too big a price to pay for glorious palm."

—Letter of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus to Mother Agnes of Jesus-1889

On or about the same time St John of the Cross was in prison, El Greco was working on his first commission in Toledo: The Disrobing of Christ or El Expolio

El Greco (Domenikos Theotokopoulos) (1540/41–1614)
The Disrobing of Christ or El Expolio
Oil on canvas
285 cm × 173 cm (112 in × 68 in)
Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo, Spain

El Greco received the commission through the good offices of Diego de Castilla, the dean of the Cathedral of Toledo. It was for the sacristy of the Cathedral where the painting is still located. It depicts a subject which until then was very rare in Western art: the oppression of Christ by his cruel tormentors

A serene and detached Christ dressed in a flaming red robe (the colour of blood martyrdom and the flaming fire of the Holy Spirit) is looking up to heaven (to the Father) while his executioners like baying hyenas and dressed in contemporary Spanish dress surround him to prepare him for his Passion and Crucifixion

Ultimately it is a meditation on suffering, the Incarnation and the Trinity but a limited one.

But it is St John of the Cross who provides us with a more comprehensive meditation wrought by his experience, Faith, purification, prayer and Love

The Pope said of St John of the Cross:

"According to John of the Cross, everything that exists, created by God, is good. Through creatures, we can come to the discovery of the One who has left his imprint on them. Faith, however, is the only source given to man to know God exactly as he is in himself, as God One and Triune.

All that God willed to communicate to man he said in Jesus Christ, his Word made flesh. He, Jesus Christ, is the only and definitive way to the Father (cf. John 14:6). Anything created is nothing compared with God, and nothing is true outside of him. Consequently, to come to perfect love of God, every other love must be conformed in Christ to divine love.

This is where John of the Cross derives his insistence on the need for purification and interior emptying in order to be transformed in God, which is the sole end of perfection. This "purification" does not consist in the simple physical lack of things or of their use. What the pure and free soul does, instead, is to eliminate every disordered dependence on things. Everything must be placed in God as center and end of life. The long and difficult process of purification exacts personal effort, but the true protagonist is God: all that man can do is to "dispose" himself, to be open to the divine action and not place obstacles in its way.

Living the theological virtues, man is elevated and gives value to his own effort. The rhythm of growth of faith, hope and charity goes in step with the work of purification and with progressive union with God until one is transformed in him. When one arrives at this end, the soul is submerged in the very Trinitarian life, such that St. John affirms that the soul is able to love God with the same love with which he loves it, because he loves it in the Holy Spirit.

This is why the Mystical Doctor holds that there is no true union of love with God if it does not culminate in the Trinitarian union. In this supreme state the holy soul knows everything in God and no longer has to go through creatures to come to him. The soul now feels inundated by divine love and is completely joyful in it. ...

If a man has a great love within him, it's as if this love gives him wings, and he endures life's problems more easily, because he has in himself that light, which is faith: to be loved by God and to let oneself be loved by God in Christ Jesus. This act of allowing oneself to be loved is the light that helps us to carry our daily burden. And holiness is not our work, our difficult work, but rather it is precisely this "openness":

Open the windows of the soul so that the light of God can enter, do not forget God because it is precisely in opening oneself to his light that strength is found, as well as the joy of the redeemed. Let us pray to the Lord so that he will help us to find this sanctity, to allow ourselves to be loved by God, which is the vocation of us all, as well as being true redemption."

And perhaps that is why the following images of the Saint and Doctor are perhaps more apposite when we contemplate him and his works:

Bernard Bénézet 1835 - 1897
The Appearance of Christ to St John of the Cross
Black ink pen on paper
20.5cm x 15.5cm
Musée du Vieux-Toulouse, Toulouse

The then Blessed John of the Cross
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

Francisco Antonio Gijón (1653–c. 1721) and unknown painter (possibly Domingo Mejías)
Saint John of the Cross (detail)
c. 1675
Sculpture: painted and gilded wood
168 cm (66 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Blessed John Paul II: Exposition of Remains

The Vatican has announced that after the Beatification Mass for Blessed Pope John Paul II on 1st May 2011, his remains will be exposed for veneration before the Altar of the Confession and will "continue until the flow of faithful is exhausted."

But according to Vatican Radio, the late Pope`s body will be in a closed coffin

Mother Teresa: How to Love God

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Saint John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz)

Youtube hosts a Spanish programme on the Life of St John of the Cross. It is in eight sections. It is entitled: Vida de San Juan de la Cruz, poeta místico y carmelita descalzo

Here are the first two parts. The other parts can be found on the YouTube site

Even if you do not understand or speak Spanish well (like me), the beautiful photography of scenes from the Life of the Saint and where he frequented (and was imprisoned) and the dramatic readings of the poems of the Saint in the original Spanish make it worthwhile

Pity there are no English subtitles.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Will you be assimilated ?

The Church of Saint Paul in Foligno, Umbria / Chiesa di San Paolo a Foligno

One of the modern Italian Churches selected for criticism by Sandro Magister`s article mentioned in yesterday`s post is The Church of Saint Paul in Foligno, Umbria.

The cost of it came in at about 3,5 million euros.

The design was selected after a competition held by the Conference of Italian Bishops who set a maximum cost of 6 million euros for the project

The first Mass was celebrated on 24th April 2009.

It is known locally as "the Cube". As one blogger, Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP put it without much exaggeration: "The Borg has landed in Italy! "

More images can be seen on the following sites (including the interior);


It can also be seen in the following videos one favourable, the other not so:

Tim McKeough in Wired Magazine in his article Design: Even Modern Churches Are Built to Instill the Fear of God was awe struck and inspired:

"Take the church at the Sao Paolo Parish Complex ... designed by Italians Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas for the Umbrian town of Foligno and completed in 2009.

Parishioners pass through the doors and gather under an imposing concrete box that’s almost as big as the church itself. The hollow structure hovers disconcertingly over the floor, without a single column in sight. “I tried to give a spiritual sense of life inside the building,” Massimiliano says. “You have something that is simple but also complex—complexity to make a human emotion.”

The effect is transformative: The congregation feels closer to otherworldly powers, and the space is just ominous enough to keep them in line."

But how long does the transformative effect last ? Should a church be "ominous" and is it meant to keep people in line ?

Michael Webb in a scholarly article in English in The Plan provides much informative detail about the project including the following:

"Every element is carefully integrated within the whole, and there are none of the jarring notes that so often mar the conjunction of reductive architecture and old patterns of use.

The Fuksas studio designed the plain oak benches, the twelve suspended light pedants containing speakers whose angularity echoes the window openings, and the slender pedestal speakers ranged around the outer walls. Mimmo Paladino abstracted the stations of the cross in small iron sculptures along the side walls.

What reads as a translucent glass bridge from the outside is a devotional chapel, bathed in soft light, with a baroque altar and prieu-dieu to comfort traditionalists.

As with Le Corbusier’s three religious commissions, the church was made possible by an exceptional client - a high-level official in the Vatican hierarchy. The competition set a cost limit of six million euros; Fuksas brought it in for three and a half, and that gave him more freedom to realize his vision.

Each contender in the competition was assigned a liturgical advisor. “The sister told me that I was going against all the principles of her faith and we parted ways, but the bishops loved the design,” says Fuksas, laughing at the memory."

The sister should have known that in the face of Fuksas and the Bishops "Resistance is Futile"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Modern Church Architecture - Italian style

Chiesa Gesù Redentore Modena - belltower

Chiesa Gesù Redentore Modena - chapel

Chiesa Gesù Redentore Modena - main altar

Chiesa Gesù Redentore Modena

Sandro Magister reports on the continuing debate about the architecture of modern Italian churches.

Recently the debate has flared up again through the pages of L'Osservatore Romano

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the pontifical council for culture and Paolo Portoghesi have openly criticised some new sacred buildings in Italy

A number of buildings in particular have caught the eyes of the critics - in contrast to the praise heaped on them by episcopal conferences and modern Italian architects.

As pointed out by Cardinal Ravasi, Msgr Timothy Verdon and Maria Antonietta Crippa, professor of architecture at the Policlinico di Milano the new structures while o high aesthetic quality are utterly unsuited to be "a true church, a place in which the faithful may be helped to feel like living stones of a temple of which Christ is the cornerstone."

One example stands out: The church of Jesus the Redeemer in Modena, designed by Mauro Galantino.

Other examples include: the church built by Renzo Piano in San Giovanni Rotondo, over the tomb of Padre Pio, and the one built by Richard Meier in the Roman neighborhood of Tor Tre Teste.

But let`s look at The Church of Jesus the Redeemer in Modena. That is where the argument centres.

The traditionalists are on strong ground with this example. Frankly the building as a church is unattractive and uninviting. You either like modern Italian minimalism or you don`t. I`m afraid that I do not. I`ve spent enough time in modern Italian minimalist style hotels.

One cannot really imagine taking a quick trip in to say a quick prayer. It is hard to differentiate this building from say a conference centre, a civic building holding local government offices, a community meeting place. Where is the mystery ? Where is the idea of a journey made by the pilgrim to the church as he approaches Christ the Light ? Christ is the Church. The building "Church" is meant to be Christ. Where are Christ, Mary and the Saints ? Without a congregation, is it merely a very nice attractive modern building ?

Of this Portoghesi

"acknowledges its aesthetic virtues, its harmony of form, its conceptual cleanness. He also acknowledges the architect's intention to "give more dynamism to the liturgical event."

But then he asks: "Where are the sacred signs that make a church recognizable?" On the outside – he observes – there are none, except for the bells, "which, however, could also be found in a city hall." While on the inside, "the iconological role is assigned to a 'garden of olives' set up in a little enclosure behind the altar, and to the 'waters of the Jordan' reduced to a little trough of standing water hemmed in between two walls and ending at the baptistry."

But the worst, in Portoghesi's view, appears during the celebration of the Mass:

"The community of the faithful is divided into two sections facing each other, and in the middle a big empty space with the altar and the ambo at opposite ends. The two sections facing each other and the wandering of the celebrants between the two ends threaten not only the traditional unity of the praying community, but also what was the great achievement of Vatican Council II, the image of the assembly as the people of God on its journey.

Why look at each other? Why not look together toward the fundamental places of the liturgy and the image of Christ? Why are the places of the liturgy, the altar and the ambo, on opposite ends instead of being together? Trapped in the pews, divided into sectors like the cohorts of an army, the faithful are forced, while remaining immobile, to turn their heads to the right, then to the left.

The figure of the Crucifix is placed on the side of the altar, in correspondence with the section on the left, with the inevitable result that many of the faithful cannot see it without craning their necks."

For images and Commentary on the Church of Jesus the Redeemer in Modena (La chiesa di Gesù Redentore a Modena) see:

Flickr set of chiesa Gesù Redentore_modena by micheleLAURENZANA

Flickr set of Chiesa Gesù Redentore Modena by Marcello Corradini

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saints Cyril and Methodius: Co-Patrons of Europe

On the summit of the Radhošť in the Czech Republic there are a chapel (built 1898) and a sculpture of Saints Cyril and Methodius

The sculpture was by Albin Polasek (February 14, 1879 - May 19, 1965), the Czech-American sculptor and educator

In 1910 he became an American citizen.

The statue of Saints Cyril and Methodius was completed in 1929-31

On 30 September 1880 Pope Leo XIII issued an Encyclical Grande Munus on the Saints

In 1927 Pope Pius XI in his Apostolic Letter Quod Sanctum Cyrillum, described the two Brothers: "Sons of the East, with a Byzantine homeland, of Greek origin, for the Roman missions to reap Slav apostolic fruit" (AAS 19 [1927] 93-96).

Blessed Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Egregiae Virtutis, declared them Co-Patrons of Europe, together with St Benedict (31 December 1980; L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 19 January 1981, p. 3).

On 17th June 2009 Benedict XVI spoke at General Audience on the two saints

Of the two co-Patrons of Europe, Pope Benedict XVI said:

"While Cyril, the "Philosopher", was more inclined to contemplation, Methodius on the other hand had a leaning for the active life. Thanks to this he was able to lay the foundations of the successive affirmation of what we might call the "Cyrillian-Methodian idea": it accompanied the Slav peoples in the different periods of their history, encouraging their cultural, national and religious development."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Theology of the Catwalk

Today`s theological discussion is on

Or if you prefer the more modern version:

No I have not been listening to my friend Terry Nelson at Abbey Roads who is obviously likely to be in the vanguard of an exciting new area of theology.

You will recall that this week 143 University theologians in Germany, Austria and Switzerland called on the Catholic Church this week to abandon the vow of celibacy for priests, open up the clergy for women and accept gays couples

Amongst the signatories are some professors in the Faculty of Catholic Theology at The University of Graz in Austria.

The Faculty of Catholic Theology at Graz is fairly large and has a prestigious history and was founded in 1585/86 by Archduke Charles II of Habsburg as a Jesuit university, and is the oldest in Austria, after Vienna

One of its major research projects as seen from its website is Commun(icat)ing Bodies:The Body as Medium in Religious Symbol System

Some of those who signed the petition to the German episcopate are members or associates of the Group. The Research Objectives are rather opaque to a non-theologian and I have to leave it to the professional theologians to judge its importance from a theological point of view

One of the members of the Group according to the website has an interest in The second skin: Clothing as a medium in religious communication systems

Of this we learn :

"Recent research on the body has emphasised the fact that the body has to be understood in relation to its social and material environment. Clothing becomes an important element in the staging of the body: by using clothes (high heels, stays, muscle shirts etc.), bodies are formed and constructed and consequently shape an individual’s self-identity and group-identity." (Emphasis added)

Recently the Group organised a conference entitled Body & Clothing, 6-10 Oct 2010, in Switzerland. The blurb on the website says this about the Conference:

"An important aspect of this bodily form of communication is the staging of the body through textiles, hairstyle, jewelry, body language, gestures, and habitus. Such "external" body (re)presentations are omnipresent; they are at the heart of religious communication systems and can tell us a lot about this complex communication processes."

Unfortunately there are no publications, papers or other downloads for the research project

I wonder if Pope Benedict will devote a series of Wednesday catecheses to this fascinating subject.

The Second Apostle of Germany

There has been concern in many circles about what has been happening and what is being taught in some Faculties of Theology for some time. For various reasons.

On 14 October 2008 in a homily to the Synod of Bishops assembled in Rome to discuss Scripture, the Pope said this about the interpretation of Scripture and singled out "mainstream" German opinion:

"According to this hermeneutics, when there seems to be a divine element, the source of that impression must be explained, thus reducing everything to the human element. As a result, it is the grounds for interpretations that deny the historicity of divine elements.

Today the exegetical "mainstream" in Germany, for example, denies that the Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist and says that Jesus' corpse remained in the tomb. The Resurrection in this view would not have been a historical event but a theological view.

This happens because the hermeneutics of faith is missing: profane philosophical hermeneutics is affirmed instead, which deny the possibility of the entrance and presence of the Divine in history. The result of the absence of the second methodological level is what has created a profound fissure between scientific exegesis and Lectio divina.

From precisely this point there sometimes also arises a sort of perplexity in regard to the preparation of homilies. When exegesis is not theological, Scripture cannot be the soul of theology, and vice versa; when theology is not essentially Scriptural interpretation within the Church, then this theology no longer has a foundation."

At the same Synod, Cardinal Claudio Hummes illustrated the problem by an anecdote:

"Once, years ago, a colleague of mine, a doctor of theology and a professor, was shaken by what he had read about the Resurrection of Christ in some theological and exegetic books.

They questioned this fundamental dogma of our faith in many aspects and emptied it, for the most part, of its true content, in a worrying way. He told me about his loss. It was the day before Easter. He asked me: “Tomorrow is Easter. What will I say to the people about Resurrection?”

I immediately answered him: “You will have to proclaim that Jesus Christ is risen and lives! Period.” And his response: “This is true! That is it!” And he left, happy once again.

This episode makes one think about the urgent need to give our presbyters and deacons good theology and a true exegetical method. As to the exegetical method, Pope Benedict XVI indicates the direction to follow in the Preface of his book “Jesus of Nazareth""

"The topic is Instrumentum Laboris #17 concerning the difficulty many Catholics have with the Old Testament.

I propose that the Synod explore the loss of confidence among Catholics that Scripture truly communicates God's revelation; reflect on how this may have been brought about by the influence of modern biblical scholarship on preaching; and renew the Church's understanding of the spiritual sense of Scripture as a remedy."

In Theologians and Saints, the Swiss theologian the late Hans Urs von Balthasar (who was close to the Holy Father and nominated to be a cardinal before his death by Blessed Pope John Paul II) wrote:

"In the whole history of Catholic theology there is hardly anything that is less noticed, yet more deserving of notice, than the fact that, since the great period of Scholasticism, there have been few theologians who were saints"

He went on to say:

"If we consider the history of theology up to the time of the great Scholastics, we are struck by the fact that the great saints, those who not only achieved an exemplary purity of life, but who also had received from God a definite mission in the Church, were, mostly, great theologians. They were "pillars of the Church", by vocation channels of her life: their own lives reproduced the fullness of the Church's teaching, and their teaching the fullness of the Church's life.

This is the reason for their enduring influence: the faithful saw in their lives an immediate expression of their teaching and a testimony to its value, and so were made fully confident in the rightness of teaching and acting.

It also gave the teachers themselves the full assurance that they were not deviating from the canon of revealed truth; for the complete concept of truth, which the gospel offers us, consists precisely in this living exposition of theory in practice and of knowledge carried into action"

This week saw the publication of a petition by German speaking professors from various Catholic Faculties of Theology. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that this week`s Wednesday catechesis by the Pope was on the life and works of the great German Jesuit saint, theologian and Doctor of the Church, Saint Petrus Canisius (8 May 1521 – 21 December 1597), the Second Apostle of Germany.

St Petrus Canisius has been the subject of a Papal works before: Leo XIII wrote Militantis Ecclesiae (1st August 1897) and on 19 September 1997, Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote to the German Bishops about the Saint

St Peter Canisus, founder of the Innsbruck Jesuit College as depicted in The Church of the Most Holy Trinity (University Church), Innsbruck

Portrait of St Petrus Canisius
17th century
Miniature: Oil on copper
13.6 x 10.4cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The Pope said:

"He [St Petrus Canisius] is really the catechist of the centuries; he formed people's faith for centuries.

This is a characteristic of St. Peter Canisius: to be able to harmoniously combine fidelity to dogmatic principles with respect due to every person.

St. Canisius differentiated a knowing, culpable apostasy from a non-culpable loss of faith, in the circumstances. And he declared, before Rome, that the greater part of Germans who went over to Protestantism were without fault.

At a historical moment of strong confessional oppositions, he avoided -- this is something extraordinary -- the harshness and rhetoric of anger of the time in discussions among Christians, something rare as I said -- and he looked only to the presentation of the spiritual roots and to the revitalization of the faith in the Church.

His vast and penetrating knowledge of sacred Scripture and of the fathers of the Church served this cause: the same knowledge that supported his personal relationship with God and the austere spirituality that he derived from modern devotion and Rhenish mysticism.

Characteristic of St. Canisius' spirituality was a profound personal friendship with Jesus.

For example, on Sept. 4, 1549, he wrote in his diary, speaking with the Lord:

"In the end, as if you opened to me the heart of the Most Sacred Body, which it seemed to me I saw before me, you commanded me to drink from that source, inviting me, so to speak, to attain the waters of my salvation from your founts, O my Saviour."

And then he saw that the Saviour gave him a garment with three parts that were called peace, love and perseverance. And with this garment made up of peace, love and perseverance, Canisius carried out his work of renewal of Catholicism.

His friendship with Jesus -- which is the centre of his personality -- nourished by love of the Bible, by love of the Sacrament, by love of the Fathers, this friendship was clearly united to the awareness of being a continuer of the mission of the Apostles in the Church. And this reminds us that every genuine evangelizer is always a united instrument with Jesus and the Church and, because of this, fruitful.

St. Peter Canisius was formed in his friendship with Jesus in the spiritual environment of the Carthusian monastery of Cologne, in which he was in close contact with two Carthusian mystics: Johann Lansperger, latinised into Lanspergius, and Nicholas van Hesche, latinised into Eschius. Subsequently he deepened the experience of that friendship, familiaritas stupenda nimis, with the contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus' life, which form a large part of St. Ignatius' spiritual exercises. His intense devotion to the Lord's Heart, which culminated in consecration to the apostolic ministry in the Vatican Basilica, has its foundation here.

Rooted in the Christocentric spirituality of St. Peter Canisius is a profound conviction:

There is no soul solicitous of its own perfection that does not practice mental prayer every day, an ordinary means that permits the disciple of Jesus to live in intimacy with the divine Master.

Because of this, in the writings destined to the spiritual education of the people, our saint insists on the importance of the liturgy with his comments on the Gospels, on feasts, on the rite of the holy Mass and on the sacraments but, at the same time, he is careful to show to the faithful the need and the beauty of personal daily prayer, which should support and permeate participation in the public worship of the Church.

This is an exhortation and a method which preserves their value intact, especially after they were proposed again authoritatively by the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution "Sacrosanctum Concilium": Christian life does not grow if it is not nourished by participation in the liturgy, particularly in Sunday's holy Mass, and by personal daily prayer, by personal contact with God.

Amid the thousands of activities and the many distractions that surround us, it is necessary to find moments of recollection before the Lord every day to listen to him and to speak with him.

At the same time, the example that St. Peter Canisius has left us, not only in his works, but above all with his life is always timely and of permanent value.

He teaches clearly that the apostolic ministry is effective and produces fruits of salvation in hearts only if the preacher is a personal witness of Jesus and is able to be an instrument at his disposal, united closely to him by faith in his Gospel and in his Church, by a morally coherent life and incessant prayer as love.

And this is true for every Christian who wishes to live his adherence to Christ with commitment and fidelity. "