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Albert, called the Great, because of his extraordinary learning, was born at Lauingen on the Danube in Swabia, and was carefully educated from boyhood. To pursue higher studies, he left his native land and went to Padua. At the urging of blessed Jordan, Master General of the Order of Preachers, and against the futile opposition of his uncle, he sought admission into the family of Dominic.

After being elected to membership among the brethren, he was conspicuous for his piety and for his strict observance of the rule. He had the greatest love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and burned with zeal for souls. He was sent to complete his studies at Cologne. Afterwards he was appointed professor at Hildesheim, Fribourg, Ratisbon and Strasbourg, successively. In the chair at Paris, he gained great fame. Among his beloved pupils was Thomas Aquinas and he was the first to recognise and acclaim the greatness of that intellect.

One of his pupils was St Thomas Aquinas

At Anagni, in the presence of the Supreme Pontiff Alexander IV, he refuted that William who had impiously attacked the mendicant Orders. He was later appointed Bishop of Ratisbon. In giving counsel and in settling disputes, he bore himself so admirably that he earned the title of Peacemaker.

He wrote many things on almost every branch of learning, especially on sacred subjects, and composed some magnificent works upon the Sacrament of the Altar. Most famous for virtue and miracles, he fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1280. As, by the authority of the Roman Pontiffs, he had been venerated for a long time in many dioceses and in the Order of Preachers. Pope Pius XI gladly acceded to the wish of the Congregation of Sacred Rites and, adding the title of Doctor, extended his feast to the universal Church. Pius XII constituted him the heavenly patron with God of all students of the natural sciences.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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It is a doctrine of St Thomas that angels not only differ numerically but that each one constitutes a different species in himself. Such a teaching gives us a wonderful insight into the nature of that multitudinous angelic host, and into the prodigality of God’s creative power in endowing with life and intelligence so many glorious spirits vastly superior to us in every attribute that we can conceive.

Not two leaves of the forest are exactly alike

In the material order we see a similar lavishness displayed in the stars of the firmament, in the living things of earth and sea; and yet not two leaves of the forest are exactly alike; not two drops of water or two particles of dust are identically similar. So it is, too, that among the myriads of human beings who have existed upon this earth no two have been indistinguishable from each other. We know as a certain fact that no two persons leave the same finger marks.

Each human person is unique

In the supernatural order things are similarly disposed by an all-wise Creator. “Just as He ordained,” says St Francis de Sales, “that plants for instance should bear fruit, each according to its kind, even so He has willed that Christians, the living plants of the Church, should bear fruits of piety, each according to his character and vocation.” Thus God distributes His gifts and graces in inexhaustible abundance, and yet with such diversity that it is impossible, so the saints tell us, for two human beings to possess those graces in exactly the same form and degree.

God never repeats Himself. We see that statement evidenced in the saints and holy men and women whom we venerate. All of them have had some points in which they differ one from another, some virtue which they practised otherwise and in a less greater degree than others: indeed, leaving others out of consideration, they have not applied themselves at all times with equal zeal or success to the cultivation of every form of holiness.

God never repeats Himself

Now if we enter into most of our Catholic art shops, we shall see there, exposed to view, pictures of the saints (saints who lived before the days of photography) and we would gather that they all had the same eyes, the same features, the same bodily deportment. And were it not that one holds a sceptre, another a lily, and another something else, you would never know which was St Louis of France, which St Aloysius, which somebody else.

Are the saints really too lofty and remote for us to imitate?

Of course there are seldom reliable portraits dating back to those times, and accordingly one can make excuses for those artists. But what is insupportable is when a writer, in describing the life and character of a saint does away with all that is distinctive in his life, and instead of dealing with facts, gives us an account only of those good deeds and virtues which recommend themselves to him and which he fancies that servant of God must have possessed or should have possessed. And what makes it worse is that, whereas the artists who perpetrate those pious images have perhaps never seen an authentic picture of the saints whom they depict, the writers of the saints’ lives referred to have had at their hand truthful sources on which they could draw, historical documents which they were free to consult. By neglecting these they have produced a work mainly of the imagination, a caricature more than a biography, something which has the effect of exciting our doubts instead of offering us examples which we might follow. We have indeed to be thankful that this style of hagiography has been, in the last thirty years or more, markedly on the decline, and we may congratulate ourselves that we have among us those who write saints’ lives as they should be written.

We do not do the saints justice by glossing over their faults and shortcomings

If there is anything that rouses the wrath of the mild St Francis de Sales it is when the class of writers first alluded to make it their object to pass over in silence, as much as possible, all mention of the failings or sins of those same saints and exaggerate almost beyond credibility their good points and qualities. “We are guilty of no injustice to them,” says St Francis, a Doctor of the Church, “if besides giving an account of their virtues, we also represent what were their weaknesses and deficiencies. We need not fear that in doing so we take away from the high esteem in which they are held.” Pius XI, in his encyclical Rerum Omnium (1923), explicitly condemns as erroneous the proposition that “those who have attained the summits of Christian perfection did not suffer the same weakness of nature as other men, or were not exposed to the same dangers.”

There has been, however, a class of hagiographers whose practice has certainly not been founded on these principles. Their procedure was to take the broad lines of the saint’s life and embroider upon them just those facts which they deemed edifying and pious, and carefully to eliminate all failings, all imperfections even, which they imagine might tend to lower ever so little the esteem in which the holiness of their saint might be held.

“Stained-glass-window” saints

We may take an example from the life of St Francis de Sales himself. At the end of a letter to Madame de Chantal – a great saint writing to another great saint – we find, “Bonjour, Mon unique, ma très chère, mon incomparable chère fille.” This was too much for the English translator, who did not scruple to render this delightful ending by the curt “Good day, my child.” And it is in this way that the writings of the saints have often been treated. It is not fair either to them, or to the Catholic reader. And thus it is that not merely isolated sentences have been bowdlerised, but the entire lives of many servants of God have been mutilated, dressed up, garbled, “edited” (as the saying is) – everything that is thought disparaging to the saint being carefully excluded. Thus, until comparatively recent years, it was an entirely different Aloysius who was offered for our admiration, an ethereal, unapproachable, “stained-glass-window” saint – not perhaps very lovable in consequence. It is difficult to understand what these goody-goody writers mean to achieve. Sometimes they are quite incomprehensible. A story is told of one who in a conversation ventured to say that he could wish that the Canticle of Canticles [Song of Songs] was not in the Bible. And when it was remarked to him that after all the text was inspired by the Holy Ghost, he replied: “Well, it was not one of His happiest…” Fortunately he stopped there, but it was easy to see what he had in mind. The incident shows, however, to what lengths unconscious prudery may sometimes lead.

Through the saints’ example, we are to be encouraged to rise up from the quagmire of our sins and failings

But to return to our theme. The considerations which have been laid before the reader have an important bearing on the subject of the imitation of the saints. We are therefore to be careful not to put them on a pinnacle where it is impossible for ordinary mortals to reach them, and where even saintly souls can only make the attempt on occasion and imperfectly. A badly-written saint’s life is one which makes the reader exclaim, “Oh, but that was a great saint, and I am not called to speak or act as he spoke or acted.”

When, on the other hand, we take up a life written on the lines laid down by Pope Pius XI, a life in which all the imperfections, faults, mistakes of the saint are exposed boldly and without concealment, a life which was perhaps stained by many sins and delinquencies, and yet was subsequently adorned with the most sublime virtues, we are encouraged to rise up too from the quagmire of our own sins and failings.

“What these have done I can do also”

On reading the lives of saints who had gone before them, both St Augustine and St Ignatius exclaimed: “What these have done I can do also.” And though the sentence as it stands is not strictly correct, it serves to show how the example of the saints can incite us to deeds of penance and to the practice of perfection.

Yes, what others have done, we can do also, but only on the condition that the grace of God accompanies and assists us all through as it assisted them. “Without me,” says our Saviour, “ye can do nothing – certainly not follow in the footsteps of the saints.

No two saints are exactly alike

Now the graces that were bestowed on these favoured servants of God were given to them for a special purpose, and were accommodated to their characters and to the circumstances of time and place in which they lived. Hence no two saints are alike, inasmuch as the actual graces afforded to each have all been different; and similarly no two ordinary men can be alike in the spiritual order, to say nothing of the natural.

Accordingly there may be a fallacy in the statement that the saints were given us in order that we should imitate them. In point of fact we may endeavour to reproduce in ourselves one or the other of these holy men in some detail of their conduct or of their life, but beyond that we cannot go.

Can we “copy” a saint?

In the lives of the Fathers of the Desert, we read that many of them made it their chief effort to study the methods and actions of those amongst their number who were most in renown for their holiness and spirit of mortification, in order that they should copy them and attain a similar degree of sanctity. Such a desire may be in itself laudable, but it is not without dangers.

In Egypt it was soon to degenerate into a sort of ambition for each to outdo his neighbour, or even those very men on whom they were striving to model themselves, a rivalry which pushed them to go one better in the penitential and ascetic life, and aim at what we should call holding the record.

The danger of vainglory

St Anthony, and others among the Fathers, were aware of this tendency and frequently warned their flock, hermits as they might be or cenobites, against such competitive spirit, which could only lead, they said, to vainglory or pride in those who succeeded: and worse still, to envy and jealousy in those who failed, because they had not the stamina to keep up the pace. And these often lost their vocation in consequence.

At what point do we leave safe ground?

And the same danger exists in our own time. If by imitating a saint we mean drawing edification from his example, or even seeking to resemble him in certain points of conduct, we are on safe ground, provided the imitation be in keeping with our state of life and other obligations. But if what we aim at is the copying in ourselves of the life of any particular saint, we are off the right track. Indeed many canonised saints are more to be wondered at than imitated, says a holy writer. They acted on the impulse of the grace given them. We have not been given that grace, and until we actually receive it, we should be very imprudent if we sought to do what they did with that grace. We may wonder at St Benedict Labre and his vermin, but we should be acting very wrongly in trying to be like him. All men are certainly not obliged to follow the Poverello in his practice of poverty, but all would benefit by endeavouring to resemble him in his love of poverty and detaching themselves from this world. So we may not emulate St Patrick in his (probably) legendary daily recital of the Psalter and other long devotions, but the recital of our own prayers could not but gain if we put into them some of the intensity of his prayer.

It is no doubt helpful to have some great model proposed to us as an example for our own life, but the masters of the spiritual life warn us very earnestly against making a slavish copy of the original. And the reason is that what was for a particular personality in special circumstances the right course to adopt, or the right thing to do, cannot without further investigation be right for other men in other conditions.

A principle which was not always well understood

This is a principle which in former times was not always well understood. But with the progress of ascetical science – for ascetics is a science, in which study and research can bring to light much that was unknown or dimly realised in the past – it has come to be generally acknowledged that every saint has his own personality, his particular cachet or stamp, wherein he cannot be imitated by others.The Almighty never intended that the life of any saint should be a sort of prototype, a photographic negative, from which any number of copies could be struck off, all alike, and more to follow if wanted.

“All these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will” (1Cor. 12:2)

A final consideration on the subject may be drawn from the teaching of St Paul. “To every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the giving of Christ” (Eph. 15:7). And after describing to the Corinthians the different gifts which God imparts to men, he concludes: “All these things one and the same Spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will” (1Cor. 12:2). Holiness indeed is always the same, inasmuch as it implies man’s entire conformity with the will of God.

That Divine Will, however, as it affects us, has a regard to our personality and idiosyncracy and mental constitution. Grace and nature go together: the one supposes the other. Grace does not destroy what we have received in the natural order but it raises and ennobles it in each one according to his own disposition, given to him at the outset; and in each one too according to the station and occupation in life to which he has been called.

We never can be like any saint: we may attain a distant resemblance in one or two respects. But our imitation will never result in producing a portrait. And God never intended that it should. We might take as a principle of conduct that is true in the supernatural order as well as in the natural, the well-known lines in Hamlet:

This above all: – to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

Let us take ourselves – and we are all different – as God has made us, and by imitating the saints in those things that fit in with our characters, disposition, and circumstances of life, we may hope and pray that, God aiding, we shall arrive at that degree of holiness to which He has called us.

Attaining the degree of holiness to which God has called us

Saints are found in every class and condition of life, among queens and kings, among the lowly-born, among the servants and slaves (when slavery existed) and among the many who occupied no conspicuous position in the eyes of the world but were just ordinary folk. There is no Catholic who cannot by fervent exercise of his religion reach a high degree of sanctity, and it is by striving to be as much of a saint as with God’s grace he can be that he will find his greatest consolation on earth.

– From: Lift Up Your Hearts, Christopher J. Wilmot, S.J., The Catholic Book Club, London, 1949

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Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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All of us are called to Sainthood. – How can I become a Saint?

It is very easy – let me only perform to the best of my ability each of my everyday duties. Many saints have not done more than what I have to do each day.

My days resemble each other… “Prayer, temporal occupations, the obligation of edifying and showing devotion to others, by remaining kind, charitable, and full of trust,” all filling in their turn the hours which God grants to me…If I acquit myself of these little duties with zeal and with an upright heart, God will come to my aid when, unconnected with my ordinary occupation, I encounter some weariness, suffering, or trouble.

Means of performing my actions well

I wish to perform them as if I were in the presence of God, and He saw my efforts and smiled upon them. I wish to perform them as if aided by my Guardian Angel, who for such objects has a special mission, and only waits till I pray for his assistance.

I wish to acquit myself of each of them, as if I had but one alone to perform: and I will not desist till I have done it as perfectly as possible.

I wish to perform each of them, as if upon its perfection depended my salvation; and it is true, if I die, performing it well for the sake of the good God, will it not lead me to heaven?

I wish to perform each one of them, as if upon its perfection depended the granting to the Church or to my relatives some long sought-for grace, which God will give as a reward for my application.

Motives for performing my actions well

God expects me to honour him by the actions which I have to perform.

God has attached a special grace to such an action, and awaits its accomplishment in order to grant it to me.

God will know that I love Him, if, in spite of my weariness, I apply myself to the performance of that action.

God records each of my actions which are well done, and later on they will form my crown in heaven.

God blots out many of my past faults, while, for the purpose of Him, I am trying to perform this action well.

God, by this action, receives from me, His poor, weak child, a glory which makes reparation for many blasphemies of the wicked, and many revolts of souls who will not submit to His divine will…

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889



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I wish to be a saint

O Mary! thou hast adopted me as thy child; aid me to become a saint!

But I must be patient, humble, allow myself to be looked down on, and even satisfied when I see myself put to one side.

No matter, I am resolved; I wish to become a saint.

But I must never excuse myself, never be impatient, never yield to ill-humour.

Never mind, I am resolved; I wish to become a saint.

But I must constantly do violence to my inclinations, always submit my will to that of my superiors; never dispute and never pout, but continue to the end the work which I have commenced, notwithstanding any disgust or weariness I may feel.

No matter, my determination is fixed; I desire to become a saint.

But I must be very kind to all about me, love them and bear with them, render them some service every day, and be the more pleased according as it costs me the more trouble.

Never mind, I am resolved; I wish to become a saint.

But I must continually resist the impulse of my cowardly, slothful, proud nature. I must separate myself from the pleasures of the world. I must renounce the vanity which urges me to seek the admiration of others, the sensuality which leads to a want of moderation, the antipathy which causes me to avoid speaking to those I do not like.

No matter, I am firmly resolved; I wish to become a saint.

But I shall have long hours of sadness, of weariness, of disgust… I shall feel discouraged and lonely… No matter, I am resolved; I wish to become a saint, because then thou wilt be near me, thou wilt be with me, O my God.

O Mary! O my Mother! give me thy aid; wish to become a saint.

– From: Golden Grains, Eighth Edition, H.M. Gill and Son, Dublin 1889


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“St Candida Maria of Jesus (31st May 1845 – 9th August 1912), was born in the Basque region of Spain. Her family was very poor and due to their need she moved to Salamanca while still very young to find work. It was to remain her home for the rest of her life.

While living there, she was affected by the dire poverty she saw around and felt drawn to be of service to her neighbours in greater need. In 1868, when she was 23, she met Jesuit Father Miguel Jose Herranz, who later helped her in her call to form a congregation.

Her prayers for guidance in how best to follow God’s will were answered on the 2nd April of the following year. It was Good Friday and she was in prayer before the altar of the Holy Family at the Church of El Rosarillo. She then had a vision of Christ in which she was told that: ‘I should found a new congregation with the title Daughters of Jesus, dedicated to the saving of souls through the education and instruction of children and youth.”

She started educating the children of the city, with a special emphasis on girls. With five companions, she founded the congregation in December 1871. She then took her name in religion of Mother Candida Maria of Jesus, being elected the first Superior General of the new congregation.

The congregation spread throughout Spain. It received formal approval from Pope Leo XIII in 1901. She died on 9th August 1912 and was canonised on 17th October 2010.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Universe” in the 9th June 2013 issue. For subscriptions, please visit http://www.thecatholicuniverse. Com (external link)


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The Roman Pontiffs of the first three centuries regulated the Liturgy with various interventions. Unfortunately, with the passing of time most of these have been lost. It is certain, nonetheless, that some of these were norms solely for the Church in Rome, others were updates of the most ancient Canons, and others still regarded the Church throughout the world.

The regulation of Pope St Victor I on Easter is not the only one which the Roman Pontiffs had expressed during the first three centuries. Recourse was had to them in all grave circumstances, as in the case of Eusebius, St Cyprian and St Irenaeus. Given the importance of liturgical matters, coupled with the sovereignty of their authority, such recourse must have given them frequent occasions for offering decrees and responses about the Sacred Rites. The text of these regulations has been lost with the passing of time. Nothing is left for us except a faint outline of them in the very short notes of the ‘Liber pontificalis’.

St Linus ordered that women enter Church with their head veiled.
St Cletus constructed the memorial and tomb of St Peter and fixed the place of the burial of the Bishops of Rome.
St Evaristus divided the titles and churches of Rome among the priests and established that the Bishop, in announcing the Word of God, be assisted by seven deacons.
St Alexander I ordered that the memory of the Passion of the Lord be inserted into the prayers of Sacrifice and that water for the aspersion of people’s homes be blessed with salt.
St Sixtus I established that the sacred vessels should not be touched by ministers and confirmed the use of singing the hymn ‘Sanctus, Sanctus…’ during the liturgical action.

St Telesphorus established that there be celebrated the Sacrifice on the night of Our Lord’s Birth, something which, on other days, should not occur before Ora Tertia. He also established that at the beginning of the same celebration there be sung ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’.
St Anicetus prohibited clerics to let their hair grow long.
St Pius I, for the prayers of the virgin St Praxedes, consecrated the Baths of Novato (vicus Patricius) as a place of worship; he made large offerings to this new sanctuary; he frequently offered the Lord’s Sacrifice there and had a baptismal font constructed there where, with his own hand, he baptised many catechumen in the Name of the Holy Trinity.
St Soter prohibited the deaconesses from touching the sacred palls and placing incense in the thurible.
St Zephyrinus established that the ordination of priests, deacons and the simple clerics be done in the presence of both the clergy and the Faithful.

St Callistus I fixed the Saturday fast four times a year in the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months. He consecrated the Basilica of St Mary in Trastevere. He enlarged and decorated, along the via Appia, the famous cemetery which bears his name.
St Urban had sacred vessels made of silver and offered twenty-five patens of the same material.
St Fabian commissioned many constructions in the cemeteries.
St Cornelius removed the bodies of Ss. Peter and Paul from their resting place in the catacombs and relocated them: one in the valley of the Vatican, the other along the via Ostiensis.
St Stephen I prohibited priests and deacons from wearing, for common use, the vestments used at the altar.
St Felix I recommended that the Sacrifice be celebrated above the remains of the Martyrs and built a Basilica along the via Aurelia.
St Eutychian established that only the first fruits of wheat and the grape be blessed at the altar. He buried the Martyrs with his own hands and ordered the Faithful to cover the bodies of these courageous athletes of Christ with ornate vestments when they placed them in the ground.

We terminate, then, this enumeration of the laws of the early Roman Pontiffs on liturgical matters, as incomplete as it may be, and we content ourselves with underscoring that some of these regulations must be considered as norms only for the Church of Rome, others as updates of the most ancient Canons, and still others directed to all of the Churches, such as the decree of St Victor I on Easter.
– This article by the Servant of God Prosper Gueranger (part of a series) was published in “De vita Contemplativa”, Monthly magazine for Monasteries, Year VI, Number 12, December 2012


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Lord, have mercy on us. – Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. – Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. – Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us. – Christ, graciously hear us.

Holy Mary, Mother of God – pray for us. (Repeat after each line.)
Saint Michael,
Saint Gabriel,
Saint Raphael,
Holy angels of God,
Saint John the Baptist,
Saint Joseph,
Saint Peter,
Saint Paul,
Saint Andrew,
Saint James,
Saint John,
Saint Thomas,
Saint James,
Saint Philip,
Saint Bartholomew,
Saint Matthew,
Saint Simon,
Saint Jude,
Saint Matthias,
Saint Luke,
Saint Mark,
Saint Stephen,
Saint Mary Magdalene,
Saint Ignatius,
Saint Lawrence,
Saint Vincent,
Saint Fabian and Saint Sebastian,
Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian,
Saint Sylvester,
Saint Gregory,
Saint Ambrose,
Saint Augustine,
Saint Jerome,
Saint Athanasius,
Saint Basil,
Saint Martin,
Saint Nicholas,
Saint Anthony,
Saint Benedict,
Saint Francis,
Saint Dominic,
Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicity,
Saint Agatha,
Saint Lucy,
Saint Agnes,
Saint Cecilia,
Saint Anastasia,
Saint Catherine,
Saint Teresa of Avila,
Saint Therese of the Child Jesus,
Saint Francis Xavier,
Saint John Vianney,
Saint Patrick,
Saint Columba,
Saint Brigid,
Saint Thomas Becket,
Saint John Fisher,
Saint Thomas More,
Saint John Ogilvie,
All holy men and women, – pray for us.

Lord, be merciful – Lord, save your people.
From all evil – Lord, save your people.
From every sin – Lord, save your people.
From everlasting death – Lord, save your people.
By your coming as man – Lord, save your people.
By your death and rising to new life – Lord, save your people.
By your gift of the Holy Spirit – Lord, save your people.

Be merciful to us sinners – Lord, hear our prayer.
Jesus, Son of the living God – Lord, hear our prayer.
Christ, hear us. – Christ, hear us.
Lord Jesus, hear our prayer. – Lord Jesus, hear our prayer.


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