What is a Synod?

November 3, 2019

There has been great consternation in the Church lately concerning the Amazonian Synod.  Opinions from all perspectives, concern of what it might mean for the Church, and no shortage of unnecessary worry.  At this juncture, it is helpful to remember what a synod actually is.

A synod is simply an assembly of Bishops and others meeting to discuss matters of church doctrine and practice.  The name ‘synod’ is applied to any such official assembly, from a diocesan synod all the way to an ecumenical council.  The ultimate impact of any synod is limited to the geographical area it represents. In the case of the Amazonian synod, its impact applies only to those dioceses that are under the jurisdiction of the Bishops attending the assembly.  This means that, as controversial as some of the topics or goings-on maybe, the procedures and discussions of the Amazonian synod have no impact whatsoever on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which is subject to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

In the military I learned a life lesson that serves well in this situation: “Do not worry about things you cannot control.”  Not worrying about the synod and its details does not mean that I don’t care; it means that because there are serious issues at hand, it is critical that we pray for those who are directly involved and for those who will be impacted by their decisions.  Our prayer should be that God will inspire and guide all those involved, so that the Divine Will may be accomplished to the greatest extent possible.

For the greater glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 34)

October 20, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Cecilia we find St. Anastasia.

This holy widow and martyr is of Roman origin.  She had much to suffer from the cruelty of her pagan husband Publius.  After his death, she gave herself over to practices of charity and mercy. In the persecution of Diocletian she obtained, on the day of our Lord’s Nativity, 304, the palm of martyrdom by fire.  On the spot where her house stood, a church (St. Anastasia) was erected in her honor; there under the high altar rests her body. Her feast is kept on December 25.

St. John, the visionary Apostle, “saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and in the sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their bands,” and heard that “these are they who have come out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9, 14).  Of this countless multitude of bright martyrs, only a few are mentioned in the Mass by name. They are those who in the principal city of Christendom (Rome) were at all times held in great veneration.

How perfected does not Christ’s power appear here in the most tender virgin martyrs!  Their heavenly robes of glory not only shine with the splendor of an eternal brilliancy, but they are also crimsoned in their glory with the blood of a glorious sacrificial death.

With the saints named and with “all the saints,” whose number and names the all-seeing God alone knows, we, poor sinners, desire to be eternally united in heaven.  This petition is expressed at the beginning of the Canon, and is now at the conclusion repeated again in other words, inasmuch as we implore admittance to the community of the heavenly citizens, and for such a fellowship with them we do not rely upon our own merit to obtain, but support our request for it on the merciful indulgence of God.  We do not ask for the glory of the saints by reason of our own merits, but we confide in the merciful and gracious bounty of the Lord.

If we wish for the glory of the Saints, we must share their labors, sufferings and struggles. Through many tribulations only can we enter with all the saints into the joy of the Lord.  We should, therefore, remember this when we beg for “some share and fellowship” with the Apostles and Martyrs; for if with them we suffer and die for Christ, with them also shall we be glorified.

St. Anastasia, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 33)

October 13, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Agnes we find St. Cecilia.

St. Cecilia, from her earliest childhood, had wholly dedicated herself to the service of God by the vow of chastity.  “She carried the Gospel always in her heart and never ceased by day or by night, praying and conversing on holy subjects.”  By the command of her parents, she was urged to marry a wealthy and distinguished young man named Valerian, but he was a heathen.  She consented only after receiving the assurance, through her guardian angel, that God would preserve her virginity, even after her marriage.  By prayer and penance Cecilia prepared for this worldly nuptial day, and when at the banquet the nuptial hymn was sung amidst the sound of musical instruments, Cecilia secretly sang in her heart to the Lord alone the hymn: “Keep Thou my heart and my body immaculate, that I may not be confounded!”  And her heavenly Bridegroom sent an angel to her, who watched over the purity of her heart and body.

“Like unto the wise and busy bee, Cecilia served the Lord,” and gained many souls to Him.  The first among them were her husband, Valerian, and his brother, Tiburtius, who soon after obtained the crown of martyrdom.  On this account, the pagan prefect of the city, Almachius, delivered her up to be suffocated in her own palace. She was confined in a chamber and “the oven was heated seven times more than usual,” but, like the youths of Babylon, she praised the Lord in the midst of the flames.  The angel converted the scorching steam into a refreshing dew for her; “the fire had no power over her body, and not a hair of her head was singed, nor were her garments injured, nor had the smell of the fire reached her.” Upon this the tyrant sent the executioner to her, who struck her thrice without severing her head.  For three days she continued to live.

The faithful hastened to the palace. She gave to all consolation and counsel.  She ordered that her house should perpetually serve as a church, and then breathed forth her angelic soul.  She was laid in a coffin of cypress wood, and was interred in the Catacombs of St. Callistus.

In the year 821, her holy body was, in a celestial vision, discovered by Paschal I, who placed it under the high altar in the Cecihian Church in Trastevere.  Almost eight hundred years later (namely in 1599) the holy martyr still in precisely the same posture in which she lay there on the floor of her house.  Thus she still reposes, sweet and modest, enveloped in her rich attire, and in a penitential garment, on which the glorious traces of her blood are visible.  She probably died in the year 177; her feast is celebrated on November 22. St. Cecilia is honored as the patroness of Church music, as she herself was versed in music, and is said frequently to have heard celestial melodies.

St.Cecilia, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 32)

October 6, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Lucy we find St. Agnes.

St. Agnes is admired for her charm of childhood, virginal innocence, and heroism?  Agnes, the child of wealthy and distinguished parents, was an elect child of grace; truly responding to her name (as St. Jerome writes), her childhood passed in spotless purity and lamblike innocence (the Latin ‘agnus’ means ‘lamb’).  A hundred years after her death, St. Ambrose said: “Even at the present day, many Roman maidens cherish the example of St. Agnes, as though she were still dwelling and living among us, animating themselves thereby to a perpetual preservation of purity.”

She gained the double crown of virginity and martyrdom at the tender age of thirteen.  As is related in the history of her life, she was, “though a child in years, yet mature in mind; a girl in stature, but a matron in spirit; beautiful in appearance and figure, but still more charming in soul by piety and modesty.”  When asked in marriage, she described in animated, glorious words her espousal with the heavenly Bridegroom: “Depart from me, thou inciter to sin, for already hath another Lover possession of my heart, who far surpasseth thee in nobility, and who hath given me incomparably more beautiful presents than those which thou hast offered me.  His nobility is the highest, His power the greatest, His appearance the most beautiful, His love the sweetest. The angels serve Him; sun and moon admire His beauty; by the perfume of virtue that exhales from His person the dead are awakened; by His touch the sick are cured. He hath prepared for me His bridal-chamber, where music and song resound; for Him I preserve fidelity, to Him I give myself entirely and without reserve!”

She was taken to an abode of vice, but was protected by her guardian angel, who covered and shielded her with a garment of dazzling light. S he was then thrown into a burning pile; but she made the Sign of the Cross over the flames and remained unharmed.  Finally, she fell under the sword of the executioner (304), and thus the tender victim hastened to the nuptials of the Divine Lamb. She was buried a short distance from the city on the Nomentan Road in the villa of her parents. Her tomb became glorious, for on the spot arises one of the loveliest and most renowned churches of Rome (S. Agnese fuori le mura).  Her feast day is January 21.

 

St. Agnes, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 31)

September 29, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Agatha we find St. Lucy.

St. Lucy suffered martyrdom about 304, in the great persecution of Diocletian against the Christians.  She came from Syracuse, was of noble lineage, and at an early age vowed perpetual chastity to the Lord.  Her mother was taken ill, and in this emergency she made a pilgrimage to the tomb of St. Agatha to implore her restoration to health.  Here St. Lucy was thrown into an ecstasy, and St. Agatha appeared to her in great glory, surrounded by angels, speaking thus to her: “My sister Lucy, virgin consecrated to God, why dost thou request of me what thou thyself canst do for thy mother?  Behold, thy faith hath given efficacy to the words of thy mouth, and she is now cured.” From that time Lucy sold her ornaments and her goods in order to give the proceeds to the poor and the sick.

Accused of being a Christian, she appeared before the tribunal of the heathen judge, Paschasius, whereupon being commanded to offer sacrifice to the idols, she answered: “It is a pure and undefiled worship of God to console and support widows and orphans in their tribulation. This have I now done for three years, and, after offering my possessions, I shall gladly offer also myself in sacrifice.” Because she had said: “They that live chastely and devoutly are a temple of God, and the Holy Ghost dwells in them,” they wished to drag her to a brothel, but the Lord rendered her as immovable as a pillar, so that no power could move her.

Then a funeral pyre, filled with pitch, rosin, and oil was built around her and ignited: but the flames also left her untouched.  Finally, a sword was thrust through her. Still, she continued to live until she had received the Holy Viaticum from a Priest, and had consoled the Christians who were standing around, by the announcement that peace was near at hand.

On the spot in which she suffered, a church was erected. Her feast is kept on December 13. “In thy patience thou didst possess thy soul, O Lucy, spouse of Christ! Thou didst despise what is of the world, and now thou art resplendent among the choirs of angels; with thy own blood thou didst conquer the enemy!” (Antiphon from the Divine Office)

 

St. Lucy, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 30)

September 22, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Felicity and St. Perpetua we find St. Agatha.

While the birthplace of St. Agatha is contested between Sicily and Catana, it is certain that under the Emperor Decius, in the year 251, she bore off the crown of martyrdom at Catana. This holy virgin was renowned far and wide for her nobility and wealth, as well as for her beauty and virtue.  Already in her childhood she had chosen Jesus for her spouse, and clung to Him with undivided love. Accused of being a Christian, she was dragged before the heathen judge, Quintianus. This villain endeavored, by all manner of wickedness, to overcome her chaste mind and her courage. But the virgin remained unmoved and unshaken; as the dust beneath her feet, she accounted all that the world could offer.

In prison she was miraculously healed of her burning wounds by St. Peter.   Afterward the wretched tyrant gave orders that the saint, miraculously healed, be rolled on sharp potsherds and glowing coals.  Again brought back to prison, the saint prayed: “Lord, Thou who hast created me and preserved me since my childhood, who hast delivered my heart from the love of the world and protected my body from perdition, who hast made me triumph over tortures and bonds, over iron and fire, I pray Thee, receive my spirit from this earth into the bosom of Thy mercy!”  Thereupon she slept in the peace of the Lord, and her pure soul flew heavenward.

The tomb of St. Agatha, made glorious by God with many miracles, became the refuge of the Christians, and even of the heathens.  There also was kept the wonderful veil that was not burned, but only somewhat singed, when the saint was thrown into the blazing fire.   One year after her death, the neighboring volcano of Etna burst forth in torrents of fire, which moved toward the city of Catana, and threatened its destruction.  Then the inhabitants ran in terror to her tomb, took the veil, and held it in the direction of the stream of lava. At that very instant, it took another course toward the ocean and the city was saved.  This event took place on the anniversary of the holy death of the virgin martyr, February 5, which is still observed as her feast day in the Church. Consequently, St. Agatha is the much implored patroness against dangers of fire: as such she is particularly honored in the Black Forest of Germany, where her feast is made resplendent with the brightness of innumerable lights.

St. Agatha, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 29)

September 15, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Marcellinus and St. Peter we find St. Felicity and St. Perpetua .

These two youthful heroines, Felicitas and Perpetua, suffered at Carthage in North Africa.  They were of noble birth and well-educated. They were confined in a prison filled with darkness, heat, smoke and filth. “The day of their victory dawned,” say their Acts, “and from the prison they went forth to the amphitheater as to Heaven, cheerful, with radiant countenances, trembling, but with joy, not with fear.” The confessors who accompanied them stepped before the judgment-seat and cried to the one seated thereon: “Now thou judgest, but soon thou wilt be judged by God.” The young women were cruelly scourged, and then cast before a wild cow; finally they were beheaded. This happened in the year 202, in the persecution of the Christians under the Emperor Severus.  Their feast occurs on March 7th.

St. Felicity and St. Perpetua, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 28)

September 8, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Alexander, we find St. Marcellinus and St. Peter.

St. Marcellinus was a Priest of, and St. Peter was an Exorcist, of the Roman Church.  Of course, this St. Peter is not the same person as the Apostle named earlier in the Roman Canon.

St. Peter, while in prison, had delivered the daughter of the jailer, Artemius, from an evil spirit, whereupon the whole family of Artemius was converted and baptized by the Priest Marcellinus. Thereupon Sts. Peter and Marcellinus were led outside of the city for execution, as far as the so-called Black Forest, where they themselves with joy cleared the place in the thickets, and then bowed their head under the sword.  On account of their martyrdom the place was afterwards called the White Forest.  In the ninth century, their bodies were brought to Seligenstadt by Eginhard, the private secretary of King Charlemagne, where they repose in a magnificent silver shrine. Their feast is kept on June 2.

St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 27)

September 1, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Ignatius, we find St. Alexander.

St. Alexander I was the fifth Pope after St. Peter.  He also brought about many wonderful conversions in Rome.  On May 3, 115 (?), he was beheaded outside of Rome on the Nomentan Way, together with the priests Eventius and Theodulus.  His holy relics now repose in the Church of St. Sabina at Rome.  The feast of St. Alexander occurs on May 3.

St. Alexander, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,

Fr. Matt

Saints in the Roman Canon (Part 26)

August 25, 2019

In the Roman Canon, after St. Barnabas, we find St. Ignatius of Antioch.

St. Ignatius of Antioch, according to legend, he was blessed when a child, by Our Lord.  He was a student of the Apostles, and also the second successor of St. Peter in the See of Antioch. Under the emperor Trajan, he was sentenced to death, dragged in chains to Rome, and there in the Colosseum, on December 20, 107, exposed to the wild beasts.  This greatly celebrated bishop burned with an ardent desire for martyrdom, as is evident, from the letters, he wrote to different communities while on the way to Rome.

 

He wrote, “You cannot prove your tender love for me better than by allowing me to consecrate myself in sacrifice — now, since the altar is erected; be content, in a holy choir of love, to chant thanks to the Father, in Christ Jesus. Well is it for me if I perish to the world, so that I may arise for God! Whatever of tortures the devil can invent, let all come upon me, if I but gain Jesus Christ. All the delights of earth I account as nothing, as nothing all the kingdoms of the world; better is it for me to die for Jesus Christ than to reign over all the bounds of the earth. Let me imitate the sufferings of my God. My Love is, indeed, crucified. There is no fire burning in me that tends to the things of earth, but a fountain of living water arises in my heart crying unto me: Come to the Father! I desire only the Bread of God, the heavenly Bread of Life, which is the Flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; this only drink do I desire, His Blood, which is imperishable love and life eternal!”

Since the middle of the seventh century, his holy relics have been preserved in the Basilica of St. Clement at Rome, where they were deposited on February 1; hence his feast falls on this day.

St. Ignatius, pray for us!

For the Greater Glory of God,
Fr. Matt