A Brief History of the Liturgical Movement in the Catholic Church

St. Padre Pio Quote

In the modern world “reform” is a frequently used word. During the 2008 presidential election, a major issue was the reform of the United States healthcare system. Currently, violent revolutions occurring in Libya and Egypt cause people to call for political reform. The modern world frequently criticizes the Church. Many people believe that the Church should update its doctrine by permitting gay marriage and contraceptive use.

The Church is Incarnational

Though being a human institution, the Church has a Divine aspect, and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all of its doctrines are immutable and Her truths are eternal. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the “liturgy as the sacred action par excellence is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed and it is likewise the font from which all her powers flow.”[1] So the Church desires liturgical worship focused on God rid of excesses that deter from that goal.

Papal authority throughout the centuries advocated liturgical reform when abuses crept in. A prime example of this can be found in the 6th century with Pope Gregory the Great. He made several changes to the Roman Rite in response to heretical groups which caused some bishops to become scrupulous with prayer texts.[2]

Another instance of immense liturgical reform occurred in the 16th century when the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, sought to elucidate the Catholic doctrine, in particular the sacraments and reaffirming the Sacrificial nature of the Mass. While successful in clarifying the Church’s teaching, the rigidities of Trent led to decay in liturgical participation among the laity.[3]

Context for Liturgical Reform

Within the 20th century, the 2nd Vatican Council provided the renewal needed for the liturgy of the Roman rite. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium states, “The liturgy builds up those who are in the Church, making of them a holy temple of the Lord, a dwelling-place for God in the Spirit, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ.”[4]

Because of the importance of the liturgy, the Council required that reforms should be made and practical norms established. Yet, the reform decrees found in the conciliar document did not develop in isolation. Rather, liturgical reform was several years in the making. Starting as a pastoral movement, the Liturgical Movement of the twentieth century began in monastic centers and sought to return piety to the liturgy. It gained papal impetus through Pius XI’s Divini cultus in 1928 and Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei in 1948.

Latin at Mass

Since the liturgy’s development is organic, many of the renewal efforts of the Liturgical Movement pushed for a return to earlier Christian liturgical elements such as: an increased focus on the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice, better use of Scripture reading, greater emphasis on Gregorian chant and promotion of active participation among the laity. Ultimately, these concerns were addressed and declared by the Church in the 2nd Vatican Council.

A brief liturgical history from the Reformation to the 20th century will help to put the Liturgical Movement into perspective. Protestant reformers rejected not only the abuses of the Church, but the medieval liturgy as well. Dustan Tucker viewed the Reformation as “essentially an anti-liturgical revolution”.[5]

Council of Trent and the Liturgy

The Council of Trent responded by criticizing such departures from Tradition. Pope Paul V declared, in the papal bull Quo primum, a return to the rite of the Early Fathers. This included removing lengthy and unnecessary prayers, ornate elements, and superstitious piety from the Mass.[6] Soon after Trent, the Church implemented this reform. From 1568-1570 the Tridentine Missal and Breviary took shape. Requirements to pray the office of the Blessed Virgin and of the dead were lifted. General rubrics at the beginning of the missal provided uniformity in worship.[7]

Catholic Church

For the next few centuries there was stability in liturgical reform. However, abuses in the liturgy still arose. For instance, the number of feast days increased from 182 to 300 between 1584 and 1903. Many started to take priority over Sunday.[8] Several attempts at reform failed during the three centuries preceding the Liturgical Movement.

Influence of Prosper Gueranger

Liturgical study blossomed within monastic communities in France in the 19th century. The Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes, in France, housed one of the early promoters of the European liturgical movement, Prosper Gueranger.[9] He advocated a return to Gregorian chant as the authorized liturgical music for the Church. By the 1870s, his fellow monks researched chant manuscripts and desired to purify the texts to their original content.[10] Gueranger made liturgy the center of monastic life.

Prosper Gueranger

Despite his positive contributions, he never encouraged the essential liturgical principle full and active participation by the whole congregation.[11] Despite this, reform in France soon found its way to Germany and later Belgium around the turn of the century.

Though Gueranger had an important part in the liturgical reform in Europe, many historians acknowledge the movement’s true founder as the Belgian Benedictine, Dom Lambert. Beauduin.[12] A speech given by him at the Catholic Conference at Malines in 1909 marked the beginning of the Liturgical Movement.[13]

Pius X and Spread of Liturgical Reform

Influenced by Pius X’s motu proprio, Beuduin called for complete and active participation of all Christians within the liturgy.[14] He wanted to reach beyond the people of Belgium to all Catholics. To accomplish this, Beuduin wrote a missal for the laity. Later he organized his abbey to provide liturgical education and even published a journal, Les Questions liturgiques.[15]

The Liturgical Movement soon spread beyond Germany, France, and Belgium. As the century continued, the liturgical reform came to the Netherlands in 1911 and Italy in 1914 and eventually throughout the rest of Europe.[16]

The liturgical movement traveled across the Atlantic in 1926, under the efforts of Virgil Michel. As a student of Beuduin, he sought to promote liturgical piety in the United States. To endorse the movement, Michel founded the journal Orate Fratres and Liturgical Press at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. He once said, “Should not every devoted Catholic try to the utmost of his power to participate actively in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to follow the priest in mind and heart, to pray with him and act with him?”[17]

Origin of 20th Century Liturgical Reform

Pope Pius X

While the liturgical movement originated and grew forth from the monastic centers in Europe, the Holy See was not detached from this development. At the beginning of the century, in 1903, Pius X held the liturgy in high esteem. In his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini, the pope referred to the liturgy as “the Church’s most important and indispensible source.”[18] Papal support continued with Pius XI’s apostolic constitution Divini cultus in 1928. Released on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pius X’s motu proprio, this document advocated an increased need for reform in liturgical music. The pope declared,

For the Liturgy is indeed a sacred thing, since by it we are raised to God and united to Him, thereby professing our faith and our deep obligation to Him for the benefits we have received and the help of which we stand in constant need. There is thus a close connection between dogma and the sacred Liturgy, and between Christian worship and the sanctification of the faithful.[19]

Pius XI also states that task of the popes are to maintain the Liturgy like a custodian. In his 1924 bull Inter multiplices, he warned the Church of the dangers of modernism and upheld the notion of the liturgical growth as an organic development. Read in light of Divini cultus, the papal bull is not an ultramontane claim of papal power over the liturgy. Rather it is a warning to prevent liturgical reform from falling victim to antiquarianism.[20]

Pius XII’s Mediator Dei

Pope Pius XII

Papal impetus to the Liturgical Movement continued under Pius XII’s encyclical Mediator Dei. Written in November 1947, this document solidified the relationship between the movement and the Holy See.[21] The encyclical gave the Liturgical Movement official papal approval, yet at the same time warned against liturgical abuses. Mediator Dei became the first encyclical dedicated solely to the liturgy.[22]

In defining the Sacred Liturgy and affirming liturgical piety as the center of the Christian life, Pius XII’s encyclical is viewed as the Magna Carta that set up the general reform in Sacrosanctum concilium.[23] The conciliar document’s theme of the presence of Christ in the liturgy is declared in Mediator Dei. “In obedience, therefore, to her Founder’s behest, the Church prolongs the priestly mission of Jesus Christ mainly by means of the Sacred Liturgy, states Pius XII.[24] This displays a striking similarity to a passage in Sacrosanctum concilium regarding the presence of Christ in the liturgy. According to the conciliar text, “The liturgy, then, is rightly seen as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ”.[25]

Sacrifice of the Mass

Sacrifice of the Mass

Another major point given by Pius XII is the fact that the Liturgy should be seen as a sacrificial act.[26] The salvific effects of Christ’s sacrifice are explained by the pope, “…it can be said that on Calvary Christ built a font of purification and salvation which He filled with the Blood He shed; but if men do not bathe in it and there wash away the stains of their iniquities, they can never be purified and saved.”[27] By placing such stress on the sacrificial nature of the Mass, Pius hoped to prevent the faithful from error in viewing the liturgy exclusively as a memorial banquet.[28] Sacrosanctum concilium reaffirmed the centrality of Christ’s sacrifice as well.[29]

Practical Liturgical Reforms

Along with a deeper understanding in theology of the Mass, the Liturgical Movement also promoted pragmatic reform such as active participation for the laity. “The cooperation of the faithful is required so that sinners may be individually purified in the Blood of the Lamb,” stated Pius XII.[30] Such cooperation could be facilitated by involving the laity. As previously mentioned, promotion of active participation started in the monasteries during the late 19th century. Publication of missals for the laity ensued at the turn of the century. This allowed them to follow along through prayer responses and singing along in the “dialogue Mass”.[31]

Catholic Mass

A large majority within the Liturgical Movement agreed that the preferred understanding of the liturgy could not be reached until more vernacular was infused into the Mass.[32] Many of the early pioneers of the movement such as Michel advocated for vernacular usage in the Mass. German bishops asked the Holy See, in 1949, to allow the epistle and gospel reading to be in the common language.[33] By the 1950s more papal allowances permitted vernacular usage in the liturgy.[34] Musicae sacrae disciplina, Pius XII’s encyclical on liturgical music granted hymns during Mass to be sung in the language of laity.[35]

Issues with the Vernacular

Not all involved in the Liturgical Movement agreed on the amount of vernacular to be introduced into the liturgy. Many groups, like the English Liturgy Society in particular, welcomed the use of the vernacular and believed it should replace Latin in many rites including: baptism, anointing of the sick, and funerals.[36]

An issue from usage of common language, raised by H.A. Reinhold, is faulty translations. He stated, “What I am personally afraid of …is a ‘commission’ of professors who know all about their fields but do not speak the language of the people…And that would be worse than what we have now, because it would falsify the spirit of our Roman Liturgy.”[37]

Loss of meaning occurs when translating a biblical text into various languages. “The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth,” proclaimed Pius XII on the importance of keeping Latin in the liturgy.[38]

Sacred Music

Sacred music

Another aim of liturgical reform in the 20th century dealt with sacred music. The Liturgical Movement sought a restoration to an unadulterated Gregorian chant.[39] In the previous century, a method for renewal in sacred music began in Abbey of Solesmes. Here monks researched liturgical music and undertook the reinstatement of Gregorian chant in the Mass.[40] While support for this style of music lacked uniformity, the majority in the movement endorsed Gregorian chant. In his motu proprio, Pius X called it the “supreme model for sacred music.”[41]

Participation in the Mass

Further promotion of this style occurred with Divini cultus by which Pius XI encouraged an end to “silent spectators” and urged an active participation among the laity. “In order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let them be made once more to sing the Gregorian chant, so far as it belongs to them to take part in it,” the pope stated.[42] His predecessor’s encyclical Musicae sacrae disciplina reaffirmed Pius X’s motu proprio. At the same time, Pius XII’s document displayed openness to development in sacred music. Yet, music must not become profane for the sake of mere exhibition in the liturgy. Rather, sacred music is an integral part of liturgy and must be given a high honor.[43]

Lay Involvement with the Liturgy

Fulton sheen quote

Besides the external elements of the liturgy, the Liturgical Movement encouraged inward participation of the laity during Mass. According to Romano Guardini, the chief goal of the liturgy is not concerned with individuals showing reverence towards God. He states,

The liturgy is the Church’s public and lawful act of worship. It is performed and conducted by the officials whom the Church herself has designated for the post— her priests. In the liturgy God is to be honored by the body of the faithful, and the latter is in its turn to derive sanctification from this act of worship. Here the Catholic conception of worship in common sharply differs from the predominately individualistic Protestant style of worship.[44]

In Mediator Dei, the pope encouraged Christian participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Mass.[45] Such involvement takes place in laity’s offering of the bread and wine and of alms to the priest. Upon their behalf the priest offers the sacrifice.[46] Through the liturgy and their sacrificial offerings the Christian becomes more attentive to the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ.[47]

Second Vatican Council

The activities of the Liturgical Movement culminated in the 20th century with the Second Vatican Council. Here the nature of the Church became better clarified. The Constitution, Sacrosanctum concilium, expanded upon the advocated reforms by the previous council. The conciliar document’s stress on the presence of Christ in the liturgy also harked back to Pius XII’s Mediator Dei.

Regarding Holy Scripture, in the 1950s, the movement sought for greater emphasis placed on the Word in the liturgy. Pius XII granted limited sanctions by having the epistle and gospel read in the vernacular, but only after said in Latin first.[48] This allowed for greater attentiveness in Mass.  Sacrosanctum concilium continued such reform in permitting use of the common language in places like the readings and some prayers. But the document still maintained to keep the Latin language as the norm in the liturgy.[49]

Mystical Body of Christ in the Liturgy

Mystical Body of Christ

Another theme found in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy was the Nature of the Church as the Mystical Body. About twenty years prior to the council, the encyclical Mystici corporis christi examined the Pauline concept of the Church being the body of Christ. This provided great insight on the nature of the Church.

Like the monks from Solemes and the popes, especially Pius X, the Council held sacred music with high esteem. Sacrosanctum concilium decreed, “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride and place in liturgical services.”[50] Furthermore, the document declares that the liturgy’s development must be organic. “Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority,” asserts Sacrosanctum concilium.[51]

Conclusion

It is God who “wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.”[52] Through liturgical worship humans are sanctified and receive Christ in the Eucharist. Yet, because of the human aspect of the Church, abuses have entered into the liturgy. Because of this, reform is constantly needed. In the twentieth century, this renewal came in the form of the Liturgical Movement.

Established first in monastic hubs in Europe, the movement eventually gained papal momentum from the encyclicals Divini cultus and Mediator Dei. They promoted a return to early Christian liturgical practices and encouraged more usage of Scripture, Gregorian chant, and active participation of the laity during the Mass.

Bibliography

Cabie, Robert, and Aime Georges Martimort. “The Celebration of the Eucharist in the West from the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at prayer:  an introduction to the liturgy. New ed. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1988. 173-185.

Chupungco, Anscar J. Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Introduction to the Liturgy. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997.

Flannery, Austin. Vatican Council II:  the Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents. New revised ed. Dublin; Northport, NY: Dominican Publications; Costello, 1996.

Guardini, Romano. The Spirit of the Liturgy. New York, N.Y: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1998.

Jounel, P. “From the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at Prayer Volume 1: Principles of the Liturgy. New ed. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1987. 63-84.

“Liturgica.com | Liturgics | Western Latin Liturgics | Gregorian Reforms.” Liturgica Home. http://www.liturgica.com/html/litWLReform.jsp (accessed March 31, 2011).

Koenker, Ernest B. “Objectives and Achievements of the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic Church since World War II.” Church History 20, no. 2 (1951): 14-27.

Pius XI. “Divini Cultus: On Divine Worship.” Adoremus. http://www.adoremus.org/DiviniCultus.html (March 26, 2011).

Pius XII. Mediator Dei: On the Sacred Liturgy. Encyclical Letter. Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1947.

Reid, Alcuin. The Organic Development of the Liturgy:  the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council. 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Smith, Fidelis . “”Musicae Sacrae Discplina”: Pius XII’s Encyclical on Sacred Music .” The Musical Quarterly 43, no. 4 (1957): 461-479.

The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist:  the Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium on the Roman Catholic Liturgy organised by the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques. Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997.

Footnotes

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1071-1075.

[2] “Liturgica.com | Liturgics | Western Latin Liturgics | Gregorian Reforms.” Liturgica Home. http://www.liturgica.com/html/litWLReform.jsp (accessed March 31, 2011).

 

[3] Ernest B. Koenker, “Objectives and Achievements of the Liturgical Movement in the Roman Catholic Church since World War II,” Church History 20, 2 (1951), 15.

[4] Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), 2.

[5] Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy: the Principles of liturgical Reform and their Relation to the Twentieth-century Liturgical Movement prior to the second Vatican Council 2nd Ed.( San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2005), 39.

[6] Ibid., 43.

[7] Pierre Jounel, From the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II, “In The Church at Prayer” Volume 1: Principles of the Liturgy” (New ed. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1987.), 68.

[8] Ibid., 70.

[9]Anscar J. Chupungco,  Handbook for Liturgical Studies: Introduction to the Liturgy (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997),166.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 166

[12] Ibid., 167.

[13] Reid, Organic Development, 79.

[14] Chupungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 167.

[15] Jounel, From the Council of Trent, 74.

[16] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 171.

[17] Reid, Organic Development, 97.

[18] Chumpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 168.

[19] Pope Pius XI. “Divini Cultus, On Divine Worship,” http://www.adoremus.org/DiviniCultus.html (March, 28, 2011).

[20] Reid, Organic Development, 129.

[21] Ibid., 139.

[22] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 174.

[23] Reid, Organic Development, 138-139.

[24] Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, On Sacred Liturgy (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1947), 3.

[25] SC 7.

[26] MD 3.

[27] Ibid., 77.

[28] The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist: the Proceedings of the Second International Colloquium on the Roman Catholic Liturgy organised by the Centre International d’Etudes Liturgiques. (Southampton: Saint Austin Press, 1997), 123.

[29] SC 6.

[30] MD 78.

[31] RobertCabié and Aimé Georges Martimort, “The Celebration of the Eucharist in the West from the Council of Trent to Vatican Council II.” In The Church at prayer: an introduction to the liturgy, New ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1988), 183

[32] Koenker, Objectives and Achievements, 20.

[33] Ibid., 21.

[34] Reid, Organic Development, 268.

[35] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 175.

[36] Koenker, Objectives and Achievements, 21.

[37] Reid, Organic Development, 270.

[38] MD 60.

[39] Koenker, Objectives and Achievements, 22.

[40] Jounel, From the Council of Trent,  73.

[41] Chunpungco, Handbook for Liturgical Studies, 168.

[42] Divini cultus.

[43] Fidelis Smith, “Musicae Sacrae Disciplina,” The Musical Quarterly 43, 4 (1957), 468.

[44] Romano Guardini, Spirit of the Liturgy (New York, NY: Crossroads Publishing Company, 1998), 19.

[45] MD 80.

[46] Ibid., 90.

[47] Guardini, Spirit of the Liturgy, 37.

[48] Jounel, From the Council of Trent, 76.

[49] SC 36.

[50] Ibid., 116.

[51] Ibid., 22.

[52] 1 Timothy 2:4 (New American Bible).

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How Saint Marianne Cope Perfectly Lived out the Corporeal Works of Mercy

Saint Marianne Cope

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2447, The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities.”

All of the saints performed great works of caring for the poor. “The corporal works of mercy consist especially of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God,” the Catechism states.

I knew little about Saint Marianne Cope. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes her best. In his 2005 Beatification Address for her, he declared, “The generosity of Mother Marianne was, humanly speaking, exemplary…All that she achieved was inspired by her personal love of the Lord, which she in turn expressed through her love of those abandoned and rejected by society in a most wretched way.”

During Cope’s canonization on October 21st, 2012, Benedict XVI said, “She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.”

Learning about Marianne Cope has renewed my passion for serving others and for performing corporeal works of mercy with Jesus at the heart of my intentions.

Heart of a Healer

Born in 1838 in Germany, Cope’s family immigrated to the United States early in her childhood. Living in industrial city of Utica, New York the saint’s family held factory jobs for a living.

Even Marianne worked to help support her family. When she was in 8th grade her father, Peter, became seriously ill. As the oldest child, Marianne left school to work in a textile mill to help provide for her family. This early experience proved a foreshadowing pattern of serving others for this saint.

Corporeal works of mercy

In 1862, Peter Cope passed away. Since her younger siblings were then able to take care of themselves, it was at this point Marianne pursued her vocation to the religious life.

From Average Administrator to Extraordinary

Cope became a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Syracuse, New York. Here Marianne served as teacher and principal. In 1870, Marianne was selected to be a governing council of her religious order.

From 1870 to 1877,  Marianne Cope acted as hospital administrator. Critics often condemned the saint for bringing in  alcoholics and other “outcast patients.”  Her kind and loving approach to such patients earned Marianne love and admiration by the citizens of New York.

Saint Marianne Cope’s Love Amid Leprosy

Mother Cope’s contribution to the medical field would have landed her in the hospital hall of fame. But, God had other plans for her. More extraordinary plans!

In 1883, Cope received a petition from King  Kalākaua of Hawaii to minister to people suffering from leprosy. Yes, you read right. Leprosy. The same disease that plagued the world in biblical times.

Saint Marianne Cope

Over 50 religious congregations rejected Kalākaua’s plead for aid. Highly contagious, leprosy incited fear and judgment into people’s hearts. Not Saint Marianne Cope. Confidently and joyfully she wrote back to the king, “I am not afraid of any disease, hence it would be my greatest delight even to minister to the abandoned lepers.”

It took a special person to build and sustain healthcare facilities for the lepers. Combining her hospital administration experience with her loving demeanor, Cope cared for both the physical and spiritual side of the lepers’ experience.

In 1887 the saint moved to the Kalaupapa peninsula of Molokai. Initially she planned to remain in Hawaii for a few years. God had different plans. A year later Mother Marianne met and cared for the legendary future saint, Fr. Damian. Although she only knew him for a couple years before his death in 1889, it was a providential meeting.

Imagine the incredible grace it was for both Fr. Damian and Mother Marianne. The saints cared for others and let God care for them. Remember Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:40, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least  brothers of mine, you did for me.

Be Merciful Too

Let us too live out the Gospel mission like St. Marianne Cope. You may not be a called to help minister to people with contagious diseases, but we are called to love and take care of the sick, poor, the weary, and the disenfranchised. Reach out to a friend who is feeling isolated this winter. Offer to bring warm soup to a sick neighbor.

Saint Marianne Cope


“My heart bled for the children and I was anxious and hungry to help put a little more sunshine into their dreary lives.”

“We bring no gift to Your Majesty except our service in behalf of your suffering people, whose infirmity we bear in our hearts.”  

“We were not only willing but anxious to go and care for the poor outcasts.”  

Related Links

Saint Marianne Cope- Franciscan Media

Saint Marianne Cope Shrine and Museum

St. Marianne Cope: A saint for outcasts and lepers

 

 

 

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How Saint Michael Points to Catholic Investments

By: Tom Carroll

Earlier this week, September 29th, was the feast day of Saint Michael. In the familiar picture below, St. Michael is depicted with wings and brandishing a sword. This reflects his status as an angel and the leader of God’s heavenly host. The archangel is engaged in warfare with the devil, who is shown here defeated and under St. Michael’s foot. Oddly enough, this picture got me to thinking about investing (but, then again, lots of things get me thinking about investing 🙂 )

Saint Michael the Archangel

What does the picture, in its most basic form, show? Clearly, this is a battle between good and evil.

Invest in Goodness

How does this relate to investing? Well, if our investments bolster companies that are committing evil acts, on whose side of this pictured battle would you suppose that puts us?

This is precisely why Catholic Investment Strategies offers a clearly faithful way to invest. Built upon the Investment Guidelines of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, companies involved in proscribed activities are avoided. Those that are less than “squeaky clean” are engaged in a dialogue intended to get them to tidy up their acts. And the results of those dialogues have been very impressive, ranging
from hotel companies acting to rid their facilities of child sex rings, to the corporate defunding of Planned Parenthood, to avoiding the use of slave labor in Brazil.

As you think about whether faithful Catholic investing is right for you, remember the words of Jesus in Luke 11:23: “He who is not with me is against me.” Surely, if you act to eliminate evil in the world, you’ll find yourself on the right side.


“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” —Luke 12:33-34


About our guest blogger

Tom Carroll spent twenty-six years with Mason Street Advisors, the investment management subsidiary of Northwestern Mutual Life. At Mason Street, Tom headed the company’s foreign equity investment team as Managing Director. Previously, Tom served as an equity portfolio manager and/or analyst at Texas Commerce Bank, MGIC Investment Corporation, and Trust Company of Georgia. Tom is President Catholic Investment Strategies. Learn more about his company by visiting https://www.catholicinvestments.com/

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5 Reasons Why October is the Holiest Time of the Year

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“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower,” stated Albert Camus the 20th century French Novelist. Fall is my favorite time of the year. Colorful leaves carpet the lawns in my neighborhood. I enjoy seeing the visible transformation occur on trees and watching animals prepare for winter. My wife’s birthday is during October—the middle of fall. I am indebted to God for the gift of my marriage. Without my wife, my fervor for Divine Mercy and St. Maria Faustina—her confirmation saint— may not exist!

Reflecting on autumn, my wife, and the Polish saint allowed for me to have a profound revelation: the first week of October contains an all-star line-up for saint feast days!

Five of my personal favorite saints, and historical favorites among Catholics as well, have a feast day in the first part of October. On top of this amazing realization, October is also dedicated to the Holy Rosary and respect for all life. I will be dedicating other posts on these topics so I will focus on the five feast days of five stellar saintly role models:

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Guardian Angels

My children and I ask for the intercession of our guardian angels every night before bedtime. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 336, “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.202 ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’203 Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.” God sends his messengers from Heaven to keep us safe and remind us of His Presence.

St. Therese of Liseux quote

Therese of Lisieux

According to St. Therese, “Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” Known as the Little Flower, the saint’s words provide a fresh perspective on my daily living and struggles. As a person who focuses on problems as something to be overcome, I sometimes place an emphasis on the amount of effort I have to put forth on a task. I also struggle with desiring recognition toward my works. Instead, if I focus on love as St. Therese teaches us, my life will be more joyful!

Francis of Assisi

Francis serves as an example of holiness, but for me, it is  a personal reminder for my college days. I attended Franciscan University graduate schooling. The legacy the Italian saint left on me is truly immeasurable.

His transformation from a wealthy individual to a beggar of Christ is tangible example of the Gospel lived out. Struggling with envy and greed myself, I am able to look to Francis of Assisi as a role model. Lord make me an instrument of peace like your servant Francis!

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Maria Faustina

No other 20th century saint, besides John Paul II and Maximilian, has impacted me as much as St. Maria Faustina. Known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, the Polish nun is to the 20th century what St. Paul was to the 1st century Church—the evangelizer of truth to the Gentiles! Sister Faustina helped console my wife after her best friend from high school died by suicide.

The Polish sister led my wife to convert to the Catholic faith as well! She became instrumental in deepening my relationship with God over the past decade. St. Faustina is probably the biggest influence on viewing God first as a merciful Father as opposed to a vengeful Judge. Through St. Maria Faustina I heard God’s truth in her words, “Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering, we learn who our true friend is.”

Teresa of Avila

The final heroic example of holiness the first week of October is St. Teresa of Avila. Her life differs from Maria and Therese as the Spanish saint lived a much longer life. Teresa also experienced more of a 180°-type of conversion.

As a young adult, Teresa enjoyed the allure of the world. It wasn’t until her entry into the convent that the Spanish nun learned the importance of meditative prayer. Teresa’s The Interior Castle is a profound spiritual work that explores the vastness of our spiritual journey. This spiritual treatise has helped aid me on my journey.

While autumn is akin to a second springtime, my communion with the saints during October is like a second spiritual springtime for me. My guardian angel, Therese of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi, Maria Faustina, and Teresa of Avila reflect God’s merciful and transforming love.

Through communion with these exemplary role models I am given hope that my personal vices of greed, envy, and pride are able to be overcome! The Church teaches “We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!” (CCC 957). I pray the communion of saints will continue to guide you in your path toward holiness and ultimately lead us closer to God.

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Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

3 Ways St. Maria Faustina Provided Buoyancy in the Overwhelming Ocean of Life

5 Astonishing Facts about Your Guardian Angel

St. Francis of Assisi: Lover of the Eucharist

Why I Absolutely Love Saint Therese Of Lisieux


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3 Things “The Hobbit of the New Testament” Taught Me

 

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Memory is a profound thing. Certain images, events, and facts stick with us over time and become housed in our long-term memory. Remembrance is the act of recalling past events through memory. The Catholic Church’s sacramental life centers on memorializing events from the Gospels. For example, during the Last Supper, Jesus stated, “Do this in memory of me.”

When I taught New Testament at a Catholic high school, I unconsciously created a memory regarding the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. I united my love of literature with love of scripture by referring to Zacchaeus as “the hobbit of the New Testament”. Students chuckled at this provisional quip. The former tax collector was described as a short man who needed to climb a tree to view Jesus’ arrival in his town. J.R.R. Tolkien once described his creations as,

I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which allows them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.

Linking the minor character in Luke’s Gospel to hobbits helped forge a permanent memory of Luke 19:1-10 within me. In the years following this mnemonic device, I frequently recall the life of Zacchaeus and Jesus’ mercy whenever I see anything related to The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Below are three things I learned from “The hobbit of the New Testament”

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Persistence pays off

Zacchaeus could not initially see Jesus as he entered Jericho. Instead of letting his short stature prevent him from seeing the Messiah, St. Luke tells us, “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way” (Luke 19:4).

Imagine a grown man scurrying up a tree or pole to see a local celebrity, politician, or other important figure. In today’s age of social media I bet someone would certainly go to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube over such strange behavior. Climbing up a tree indicates not the strangeness of Zacchaeus, but rather his persistence and recognition that Jesus was someone important! The short man in Luke is definitely a role model for me in showing that my faith life is a constant work in progress.

Jesus Chooses the Imperfect

Along with Zacchaeus’ persistence, the tale of the hobbit of the New Testament demonstrates that Jesus loves the imperfect and calls the sinner to follow him. Zacchaeus struggled to physically see Jesus among the crowd. he also had an occupation despised by his fellow countrymen. He was a tax collector!

According to Luke, the crowd hated Jesus’ invitation to Zacchaeus by stating, “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner (Luke 19:7)”

Personally, I need to be reminded that Jesus dined with sinners— the spiritually infirmed. I struggle with the sin of pride. I battle with being judgmental. Luke 19:1-10 gives me perspective that God’s love is ultimately above my total comprehension. God’s love is transformative as well. The “hobbit of the New Testament” was changed after his encounter with Jesus. “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over,Zacchaeus stated (Luke 19:8).

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Do not let Limitations Prevent You from Growing

Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus taught me spiritual growth is possible despite my limitations and past failures. Christ welcomed sinners and culturally ostracized groups with grace and forgiveness.

Oftentimes, I use my limitations—my low patience with my kids, my OCD, and struggles with pride—as an excuse to put off growing in my spiritual life. Zacchaeus’ transformation in the presence of Jesus gives me hope that I am able to change too.

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J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” Certainly that is true for his Lord of the Rings trilogy where the bearer of Sauron’s ring is the simple hobbit Frodo. Zacchaeus, like, the hobbits of Middle Earth, provided change in the course of the future—for sure my future!

Scaling a sycamore tree, Zacchaeus did not let the possible danger of falling or others’ perceptions of him stop him from gazing at our Lord. I ask for fortitude from the Holy Spirit to allow me to boldly seek Jesus just as the hobbit of the New Testament intrepidly sought after God.


I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

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Apostolic Analogies—Similarities with my Namesake Saint

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s note: Article originally published on September 23, 2018.


According to Rick Riordan, author of the acclaimed young adult series Percy Jackson, “Names had power!”  Among the first questions people ask parents upon the birthday of a child is “which name did you choose? Names also possess a meaning.

Now you may or may not be aware of the meaning or purpose of the name your parents choose for you. If you are not aware, it would be an interesting conversation to discover why they choose a particular name? If there was no particular reason, it would still be interesting to look up the history of your namesake or the literal meaning of it!

The general reason for my name selection is due to my parents being Catholic had myself and my siblings to be named after a holy person who espoused the truths of the Gospels. While I am not entirely sure why my parents, specifically picked Matthew out of the myriad of Catholic saint names available.

Celebrating the feast day of the St. Matthew is something that I regrettable not truly did until last year. Along with eating a special dinner with my wife, reading today’s Gospel, and playing a fun board game, I am going to also celebrate by recognizing a few similarities I share with my personal patron!

You Owe Me

Within the past year, I took on a new position in the company as a student loan debt collector. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and modern technology certainly has softened collection practices in recent year. But debt collectors still don’t have a positive connotation in today’s society. Back in the time of 1st century Palestine, the stigma against debt collectors was prevalent. In fact, tax collectors were especially hated by the Jews as they were viewed as sell-outs who worked for the “evil” Roman Empire.

 

 

 

 

My new association with debt collections brings the challenges of dealing with angry, concerned, confused, and desolate customers. However, my new job comes with a hidden joy of being more closely linked with St. Matthew.

Lover of Theology

Along with sharing similar occupations with St. Matthew, I possess a thirst for discovering knowledge about God just like the Gospel writer. Theology refers to faith seeking understanding. Among the saints Matthew possessed a privileged opportunity of being selected as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. What is more, Matthew together with St. John are the only individuals able to claim being both an Evangelist and Apostle!

Matthew’s Gospel is laden with parables and the incredible Sermon on the Mount. He shows Jesus as the Good Teacher always willing to shed light on the truth of God’s love. I am always emboldened by the following words of Christ proclaims to conclude Matthew’s gospel, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20, emphasis added mine).

Called by God

While the saint whose moniker I bear did not always believe in Jesus, he experienced a profound conversation. Matthew’s calling is significant. All three Synoptic Gospels include this episode as important in the public life and ministry of Jesus.

Being a cradle Catholic myself, I lack that momentous public conversion that St. Matthew experienced. However, this does not mean that I never underwent a conversion. Actually, my Catholic faith and reliance has slowly deepened over the course of my college years, and nascent parenting years.

A couple years ago I took an assessment on the various charisms that would most likely be my natural God-given gift. My two highest [according to the questions I answered] included the charism of writing and evangelization. I’m sure St. Matthew helped foster those talents.

The craziness of wrangling three ( now four) overtired kids and bustle of the workday delayed my celebration of Matthew the Evangelist’s Feast Day. Tonight, I plan on celebrating my patron saint! Jesus choose an unworthy man to be among his apostles. If God can choose sinners and tax collectors, certainly we are called by Him to follow in the footsteps of the saints who came before us.


Collect [From the Liturgy of the Feast of St. Matthew]

O God, who with untold mercy were pleased to choose as an Apostle Saint Matthew, the tax collector, grant that, sustained by his example and intercession, we may merit to hold firm in following you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Related Links

St. Matthew the Evangelist

Saint Matthew- Franciscan Media

11 Awe-Inspiring Art Pieces That Celebrate Saint Matthew

An Unexpected Journey- How September 21st, 2017 Became the New Start to my Spiritual Life

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A Letter to the Downtrodden and Suffering


Editor’s note: Article originally published on September 7, 2017.


Dear Fellow Souls and Pilgrims on this Earthly Journey,

Hopelessness seems to cover the world. Hurricane Harvey decimated large parts of Houston. South Asia continues to experience chronic flooding. People suffer across the globe in large and small ways. Today, I wish to share my recent episodes of depression, I am not writing to complain about my situation, rather I hope to unite my suffering [albeit quite small in comparison to others] to others in great need. I want to be in communion with my fellow man.

According to Helen Keller,

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

I cannot grow as a decent human being without learning from the school of suffering.

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Depression Strikes Often

Depression hit me again the past few weeks. Similar to an ocean, anxiety and sadness move in waves with brief periods of respite before the next deluge of depression comes crashing onto my shore. I feel a sense of hopelessness.

What is going on with my life to trigger these feelings? To be frank, I am not sure. Life appears to be going well: I have an amazing wife, family, good shelter, and a job. I had a recent change in anxiety medicine and changes are occurring rather frequently at work. Still, these concerns should be minor compared to people suffering loss due to the recent natural disasters. Depression shrinks my perspective. I see through narrower glasses.

Perhaps, you are similar to me. If you suffer from depression, whether it is severe or mild I want to unite myself to your suffering. I wish to take up my cross if only it may help widen my scope. Prying open a narrow gaze is painful. However, authentic and natural development involves growing pains.

Share Your Suffering with Others

If you are downtrodden, as I am currently, share your experience. Talk with people you trust. Talk to God—it works. Prayer is effective because it is communication with Him who created the universe. Oftentimes, I need to fall unto my knees and become downtrodden before I am able to gaze upward in prayer. Saint Mother Teresa once said, “Joy is prayer; joy is strength: joy is love; joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”

Although, I know my depression may likely come back again, I am aware of a strength to get me through the valley of tears—prayer. Prayer ultimately leads me toward an even-keeled path in my pilgrim journey on earth.

With great love and hope to alleviate your downtrodden soul,

Matthew, The Simple Catholic

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