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ST VINCENT FERRER – HE PERSEVERED BY PRAYING THROUGH HIS TEMPTATIONS

5th APRIL: ST VINCENT FERRER

“St Vincent Ferrer was born in January 1350, the fourth child of the nobleman Guillem Ferrer. Legend has it that his father was told in a dream by a Dominican friar that his son would be famous throughout the world and that his mother experienced no pain when she gave birth to him.

From an early age Vincent was renowned for his service to the poor and for his scholastic appetite. At the age of 18 he entered the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominican Order or the Blackfriars. At first he experienced temptations urging him to leave the order. But he prayed through these trials and was ordained in 1379 in Barcelona.

During his three years of training he had studied Sacred Scripture and committed it to memory. He became a Master in Sacred Theology and was later sent to the University of Lleida where he secured a doctorate.

During the Western Schism which split the Church between 1378 and 1418, with Clement VII living in Avignon and Urban VI in Rome, Vincent believed that the election of Urban was invalid and worked hard to persuade Spaniards to follow Clement. Following Clement’s death, Cardinal Pedro de Luna was elected to the Avignon papacy, taking the name of Benedict XIII.

Vincent worked as apostolic penitentiary and Master of the Sacred Palace for Benedict XIII but tried to persuade him to end the schism. Eventually he encouraged King Ferdinand of Castile to withdraw his support from Benedict XIII.

Vincent travelled extensively to England, Scotland, Ireland, Aragon, Castile, France, Switzerland and Italy, preaching the Gospel and converting people. When he preached to St Colette of Corbie and her nuns, she told him that he would die in France.

Vincent was too ill to go back to Spain and died in Vannes, Brittany, at the age of 69. Vincent was canonised by Pope Calixtus III on June 3 1455. He is the patron saint of builders because he is celebrated for ‘building up’ the Church. He is also the patron of orphanages and is still invoked by fishermen during storms.”
– This article was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 28 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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“WE ARE SET IN THE MIDST OF SO MANY GREAT DANGERS”

Let us pray. O God, you know that we are set in the midst of so many and so great dangers that of ourselves we could not survive: grant us such strength of mind and body that with your help we may overcome all that we suffer for our sins.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 
 

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WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENS AT THE HOUR OF DEATH?

At the moment of death, the moment of separation of soul and body, the soul’s destination for eternity is irrevocably fixed.

“Everyone will be judged at death, as well as at the last day: ‘Since men only die once, and after that comes judgement’ (Heb 9:27).” (Penny Catechism, 76)

THE MOMENT OF DEATH (from the writings of St Catherine of Siena)

“The demons can do nothing against souls but what God permits them to do to test their virtue and so that they may gain salvation and sanctification. Every soul receives the necessary graces from God to overcome temptations and, if it falls into sin, that happens because it wanted to. Upon death each soul will have for its judge its own conscience and by itself, if it is not converted, it will be condemned for all eternity.

THE DEATH OF THE JUST AND OF SINNERS

‘You see, then, that they are my ministers to torture the damned in Hell, and in this life, to exercise and prove virtue in the soul. Not that it is the intention of the devil to prove virtue to you (for he has not love), but rather to deprive you of it, and this he cannot do, if you do not wish it.

FREE WILL

Now you see, then, how great is the foolishness of men in making themselves feeble, when I have made them strong, and in putting themselves into the hands of the Devil. Wherefore, know, that at the moment of death, they, having passed their life under the lordship of the devil (not that they were forced to do so, for as I told you they cannot be forced, but they voluntarily put themselves into his hands) – arriving at the extremity of their death under this perverse lordship, they await no other judgement than that of their own conscience, and desperately, despairingly, come to eternal damnations.

Wherefore Hell, through their hate, surges up to them in the extremity of death, and before they get there, they take hold of it, by means of their lord the devil.

As the righteous, who have lived in charity and died in love, if they have lived perfectly in virtue, illuminated with the light of faith, with perfect hope in the Blood of the Lamb, when the extremity of death comes, see the good which I have prepared for them, and embrace it with the arms of love, holding fast with pressure of love to Me, the Supreme and Eternal Good. And so they taste eternal life before they have left the mortal body, that is, before the soul is separated from the body.

Others who have passed their lives, and have arrived at the last extremity of death with an ordinary charity (not that great perfection), embrace My mercy with the same light of faith and hope that had those perfect ones, but, in them, it is imperfect, for, because they were imperfect, they constrained My mercy, counting My mercy greater than their sins.

The wicked sinners do the contrary, for, seeing, with desperation, their destination, they embrace it with hatred, as I told you. So that neither the one nor the other waits for judgement, but, in departing this life, they receive every one their place, as I have told you, and they taste it and possess it before they depart from the body, at the extremity of death: the damned with hatred and with despair, and the perfect ones with love and the light of faith and with the hope of the Blood. And the imperfect arrive at the state of Purgatory, with mercy and the same faith.’ (Dialogue, c. XLII).

THE PEACE OF HOLY SOULS AT THE MOMENT OF DEATH

‘Oh how happy is the soul of the just when they come to the moment of death… To such as these the vision of the devils can do no harm, because of the vision which they have of Me, which they see by faith and hold by love; the darkness and the terrible aspect of the demons do not give them trouble or any fear, because in them is not the poison of sin. There is no servile fear in them, but holy fear.

SUPERNATURAL LIGHT

Wherefore they do not fear the demon’s deception, because with supernatural light and with the light of Holy Scripture they know them, so that they do not cause them darkness or disquietude. So thus they gloriously pass, bathed in the Blood, with hunger for the salvation of souls, all on fire with love for their neighbour, having passed through the door of the word and entered into Me; and by My goodness each one is arranged in his place, and to each one is measured of the affection of love according as he has measured to Me.’ (Dialogue, c. CXXXI).

THE DEMON AND THE DYING SINNER

‘How terrible and dark is their death! Because in the moment of death, as I told you, the devil accuses them with great terror and darkness, showing his face, which you know is so horrible that the creature would rather choose any pain that can be suffered in this world than see it; and so greatly does he freshen the sting of conscience that it gnaws him horribly. The disordinate delights and sensuality of which he made lords over his reason, accuse him miserably, because then he knows the truth of that which at first he knew not, and his error brings him to great confusion. In his life he lived unfaithfully to Me, self-love having veiled the pupil of the most holy faith, wherefore the devil torments him with infidelity in order to bring him to despair… In this battle he now finds himself denuded and without any virtue, and on whichever side he turns he hears nothing but reproaches with great confusion.’ (Dialogue CXXXII).”
– This article was published in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly Magazine for Monasteries), Year VII – Number 11

 
 

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WHAT WERE THOSE FAMOUS TEMPTATIONS THAT AFFLICTED DESERT HERMITS?

ST ANTHONY THE GREAT

“Born in Lower Egypt in 251, Anthony the Great was one of the most influential people in the early Church, creating the concept of monasticism, which would have a profound influence on the development of Christian civilisation.

Although he was not exactly the first monk – there was ascetics before him – Anthony was the first to go into the wilderness, around 270-1, two years after his parents had died and left him to care for his unmarried sister. Instead, he gave away the family estate, left his sister with a group of what might be called proto-nuns and followed the ascetics (who had been around since the second century) and became a hermit in the desert.

There it is believed that the Devil fought him by afflicting him with boredom and laziness (presumably a real enough threat in the desert) and taunted him with phantoms of women and by assuming the form of various animals. Eventually villagers had to break down the door of the fort he had holed up in. Rather than finding him wasted away and insane, he was healthy and sprightly.

Having won fame through the tales of his desert escapades, Anthony became a reluctant hero to the Greco-Roman intelligentsia of Alexandria, one of three centres of Christianity at the time.

Anthony was desperate to get away from them and escaped to the Eastern Desert, where they followed him. He arrived at a spot with a water supply, on what is now the site of St Anthony’s Monastery, but within a few days hundreds of his adoring fans had turned up.

Realising he would never get rid of them, he established a community of hermits ‘over which he kept watch from a cave a safe distance further up the mountain’, in the words of William Dalrymple’s ‘From the Holy Mountain’, and ‘so was born Christian monasticism’. The ideal spread and by the early fifth century there were 700 monasteries.

Monastic life was brought to western Europe by Athanasius of Alexandria whose biography, ‘The Life of Anthony’, was written in Greek around 360 and then translated into Latin. The temptation of St Anthony in the desert later became a popular subject in western art and literature.

The saint is associated with appeals against skin diseases, especially shingles, sometimes referred to as St Anthony’s fire.”

– This article entitled “Saint of the Week” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue January 10 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 
 

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WHY DID THE DEVIL TEMPT JESUS IN THE DESERT?

THE BEGINNING OF JESUS’ PUBLIC MINISTRY

“The baptism of Jesus by John – or at least the mysterious happenings associated with it – seems to herald the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. As John himself indicated, Jesus did not need a baptism unto the remission of sins or unto repentance. It was, then, not so much the simple human event of the washing of Jesus in the Jordan by John that was significant; it was rather the divinely caused events which accompanied that washing. The descent of the Holy Spirit of God in the form of a dove, the voice of the Father saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’ – these are the significant happenings on that occasion. These happenings are a message from God announcing that Jesus is most pleasing and acceptable to God. They are the divine seal of approval placed beforehand on the work of Jesus for the accomplishment of God’s plan to save mankind.

THE FURTHER UNFOLDING OF GOD’S SALVATION PLAN

It is not clear from the texts of the Gospel whether or not any others than John and Jesus saw the dove and heard the voice from heaven. But John, as we shall see later, saw the dove and realised the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. He was prepared then to give testimony to Jesus. Jesus himself heard the voice of His Father and felt the power of the Spirit hovering over Him. Under the guidance of the Spirit He withdrew into the desert. There He fasted for forty days and forty nights. At the end of this period God allowed the devil to tempt Him.

GOD ALLOWED THE DEVIL TO TEMPT JESUS

The nature of the temptations by which the devil tried Jesus seems to indicate that he did not know the true identity of Jesus. He probably realised that Jesus was a threat to his own dominion over the lives and destinies of men. At this moment he would try to determine more exactly the nature and strength of this threat.

THE DEVIL DID NOT SEEM TO KNOW THE TRUE IDENTITY OF JESUS

• ‘COMMAND THAT THESE STONES BECOME LOAVES OF BREAD’ (Mt 4:3)

He begins with a temptation that is both subtle and a tribute to the reality of the human nature of Jesus. Jesus had fasted for forty days and forty nights. He was hungry. The devil appeals to this hunger, thus acknowledging the real humanity of Jesus. ‘If thou art the Son of God,’ he says, ‘command that these stones become loaves of bread’ (Matthew 4:3). But this temptation is not simply an appeal to the physical hunger of Jesus. The devil knows that Jesus is someone highly pleasing to God. He knows that Jesus also realises this. If Jesus is only a man highly favoured by God, then it may be possible to appeal to His vanity, to His pride in His close relationship of God. And so he does not say to Jesus, ‘You are hungry. Serve me and I will give you bread to eat.’ Instead he says, ‘If you are highly favoured by God, if you are so close to God as to be called the ‘Son of God,’ then call upon the divine power to assist you, ask God to work a miracle for you. Command that these stones become loaves of bread.’

THE CUNNING WAY OF HOW THE DEVIL’S DEMAND IS PHRASED

Now the hunger of Christ was a legitimate human need. The desire to satisfy it was a natural and a good desire. But there are ordinary ways to satisfy this need. The devil is tempting Jesus to satisfy the urgings of vanity by a miraculous display of power.

Jesus answers: ‘Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4). In effect Jesus is saying: There is a higher law ruling the world than the law of human desire. Man must not so desire even the food which sustains life that he will seek it outside of or apart from the will and the Law of God. Man must regulate his desires and their satisfaction by the Law of God.

• ‘THROW THYSELF DOWN’ (Mt 4:5-6)

Then the devil led Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and said to Him, ‘If thou art the Son of God, throw thyself down; for it is written, ‘He will give his angels charge concerning thee; and upon their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone’ ‘(Matthew 4:5-6). Here again the devil tries to appeal to vanity.

If Jesus is the Messias, the One sent by God to redeem Israel, then surely God will care for Him. God will not allow Him to be injured. Moreover, by working such a spectacular miracle before the crowd assembled in the Temple Jesus can begin His work in a blaze of glory; He can attract many men to Himself at once. But apparently it was not God’s will that Jesus should act in this way. Jesus therefore rejects the suggestion of the devil and replies, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God’ (Matthew 6:7).

• ‘ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD’ (Mt 4:9)

Finally the devil takes Jesus to the top of a high mountain and shows Him the kingdoms of the world and says to Him, ‘All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me’ (Matthew 4:9). In his first two attempts the devil has failed to induce Jesus to make a show of His power.

Now He tries to seduce Jesus with the promise of power over all the kingdoms of the world. It is true, of course, that the devil by his temptations has caused man to forget God and to that extent has made himself the master of the world. But it is not true that the world is wholly his. In fact, at this moment he probably fears that Jesus has been sent by God to wrest the world from such dominion as he possesses over it. If Jesus be merely a man, perhaps he can be tempted by offering him the rule of the world.

‘HE DEPARTED FROM HIM FOR A WHILE’ (Lk 4:13)

But Jesus has not come to establish an earthly kingdom. He answers, ‘Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘The Lord thy God shalt thou worship and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10). At these words the devil left Him. Jesus had won the victory. But, as St Luke suggests, the devil will return at some later time to resume the struggle. ‘He departed from him for a while’ (Luke 4:13).

THE NEW HEAD OF THE HUMAN RACE

Since this temptation of Jesus by the devil took place in secret, with no witnesses, it is obvious that it became known only later when Jesus Himself must have told it to His followers. Why did God allow it to take place? The ways of God, we know, are not fully understood by men. This much at least we can conjecture: as Adam, the first head of the human race, had in the beginning of his work in the world fallen victim to the temptation of the devil, so it was fitting that Jesus, Whom St Paul will later speak of as the new head of the human race, should encounter the devil face to face and overcome him.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959

 

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ST GEORGE, HELP ME TO BEAR MY TRIALS BRAVELY

ST GEORGE, MARTYR; MEMORIAL: APRIL 23

Faithful servant of God and invincible martyr, St George, inflamed with a burning love of Christ, you fought against the dragon of pride, falsehood, and deceit. Neither pain nor torture, nor the sword nor death could part you from the love of Christ.

I implore you for the sake of this love to help me by your intercession to overcome the temptations that surround me, and to bear bravely the trials that oppress me, so that I may patiently carry my cross, and let neither distress nor difficulty separate me from the love of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

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CHRISTIAN PATIENCE IS THE REMEDY TO ALL EVIL

Jesus teaches us how to suffer. Look with what unalterable calm He suffers His first crib, circumcision, poverty, exile and the work of a humble trade. Look at the sublime placidity with which He took the persecution, calumny, infamy, and all the torments of His passion. All evil was launched against Him and yet He said nothing. He never raised a hand to defend Himself. He ardently desired suffering and accepted it courageously, and He suffered with trust in His Heart.

Christian, Jesus was innocent and suffered so much for love of you, so how can you, who have sinned so many times, have no desire to suffer for Him? Do you think Jesus suffered to save you from suffering? No, He did not. It was in order to give you the example and the strength to suffer well. Do you claim His glory in heaven when you have not shared His cross on earth? It is an unworthy thought.

Be one with His most patient Heart and love suffering. Have patience in trials that come from God, in misfortunes, losses and illnesses. Have patience in trials that come from God via the hands of men, in injustices, calumnies or betrayals. Have patience in trials that comes from God via the devil, in temptations or disturbances. Have patience in trials that you yourself cause by mistakes, negligence or weakness. Humble yourself before God in all things, and with the Heart of Jesus, surrender to His will. The earth is a vale of tears and life is a hard pilgrimage, but Christian patience is the remedy to all evil.
– Mons. Nicola Tafuri

 

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