Thus far I’ve been recommending books written by saints of the past. Lest one get the idea that there are no books being written by saintly men in and for our times, let me urge you to read The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, by Robert Cardinal Sarah, with Nicolas Diat, (Ignatius Press, 2017). Cardinal Sarah, originally from Guinea, currently serves as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The book was inspired by his friendship with a saintly monk who had lost his voice to an illness that eventually took his life. This spiritual friendship was conducted, then, in almost complete silence. The book’s Introduction relates this friendship with Brother Vincent, explaining the inspiration of the book, and then moves into a description of the Cardinal’s arrival with Mr. Diat, a French journalist, at the Grande Chartreuse, the ancient monastery of the Carthusians, where holy silence reigns, broken only by the monks’ chanting of the hours. In the first chapters, with minimal promptings from Mr. Diat, Cardinal Sarah expounds on the power of silence to bring us closer to God, using his own words and excerpts from scripture and other writings, as well as cataloguing all the ways different kinds of noise (external and internal) separate us from Him. In everything that Cardinal Sarah says echoes his own tendency to practice and cultivate silence, his deep prayer, his fruitful relationship with our Lord. In the later chapters some of the monks, who normally do not speak except to pray, sit around a table with Mr. Diat and Cardinal Sarah taking turns sharing the wisdom that such silence has taught them. It’s a book that will prove a most helpful antidote to whatever kind of noise oppresses you, whether it’s the 24-hour news cycle, excessive engagement with social media, or children screaming in your kitchen. Pope Francis has recently recommended that we incorporate more silence into our liturgy, and this book makes clear why such a move would be salutary for our souls as well as pleasing to God. I hope you’ll read it and encourage your loved ones to do the same. May you be blessed with the gift of silence in which God makes Himself known.
Our priest is encouraging us, as he should, to increased devotion to Our Holy Mother. A treasure of the Church to aid us in this worthy endeavor is the classic The Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus de Liguori (Bishop, d. 1787). He begins with an “Introduction: Which Ought To Be Read,” then a prayer to the Blessed Virgin, and then dives into a close reading of the prayer “Hail, Holy Queen” (and I do mean close: the phrase “Hail, queen, Mother of mercy” is treated to its own chapter, with four sections). As he goes through the prayer, riffing on each phrase, we’re treated to a course in Mariology served up by one who’s both a connoisseur and a true lover. He ends Part I with a list of prayers to Mary from various saints. Part II treats us to discourses on the seven principle feasts of Mary and her dolors. A devotion particularly pleasing to the Holy Mother is the Seven Hail Mary’s for her seven sorrows. Reading this last one will enrich those meditations. At the end of each chapter and throughout the book we’re given prayers to deepen our relationship with Mother Mary, as we learn of her many virtues and excellences, her closeness to her Divine Son, the power of her intercession, and her deep and abiding love for us.
In June we honor The Sacred Heart of Jesus, so it seems appropriate to recommend a book that will deepen a reader’s devotion to that blessed furnace of divine charity. The Way of Divine Love is a narrative, arranged and edited by her Mother Superior, and taken from her diaries kept under obedience, of the visions and experiences of a shy Spanish nun in France, at a convent of the Society of The Sacred Heart, at the beginning of the last century. Sr. Josefa Mendendez’s extraordinary encounters with the Holy Mother, Our Lord Jesus, saints and demons, and her intense sufferings (wearing His crown of thorns, carrying His cross, spending time in Hell), make a gripping and moving tale. And one gets a picture not only of the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and how our lack of reverence for Our Sacramental Lord offends both He and Our Lady, but also of how hard both Christ and His Holy Mother continue to work for the sanctification and salvation of souls. How sin matters, as do penance and sacrifice. How precious and loved by God is each and every eternal human soul. How His Heart is an abyss of both love and mercy. In addition to these blessings, the book also gifts the reader with prayers dictated to their faithful scribe, the humble nun Josefa, and teaches us how we can offer our suffering to console Christ’s Sacred Heart and assist in the sanctification of souls.
No one can accuse me of exaggerating when I say that the over-culture, centered in Hollywood and Washington, is a moral cesspool in dire need of Jesus, and with absolutely no justification for trying to lecture the rest of the country about what we should be doing with our bodies, our treasure, or our minds. Every day there are new revelations about very bad behaviors of people in the entertainment industry and the Washington elites, which have conspired to manipulate the culture into a level of degradation that makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like lightweights in the depravity arena. I cannot say that I haven’t experienced these revelations with a certain amount of satisfaction. Not Schadenfreude, an emotion that does not come naturally to me, but with relief. When you have smelled the stink of death long enough, it’s a relief when the rotting corpse is finally unearthed. The revelations are just beginning, and they’re going to get worse, it’s clear. The next down the pike involves a pervert at Nickelodean, and I’m not talking about the man being accused of sexual harassment of adults.
The level of sexual perversion that has been propagated in our culture in just the last decade, while I have been unplugged (almost nothing in the way of TV or movies), really rather boggles my mind. Y’all, they have made an idol of the sex act. Sex is worshiped in this culture to such a degree that among the enlightened “sex-positive” set, it’s pretty much a sin not to pursue the satisfaction of your sexual desires, no matter how illicit they might be. To suggest that it would be better to sublimate desire for the sake of pleasing God or conforming to natural law gets you labeled as a hater. The times are just that upside down. So we are expected to tolerate the victimization of children at the altar of revolutionary progress, rather than make anyone feel bad for their urges. The Sexual Revolution has been an unmitigated disaster, and millions of broken people are the proof. And then there are those many millions of aborted babies.
That chastity is a Christian virtue much in need of cultivation even for material reasons is evidenced by the surging prevalence of untreatable gonorrhea. And yet even in the Church there is evidence that this attitude, the elevation of sexual desire to an essential kernel of one’s identity rather than a natural urge to procreate or temptation to be resisted, has crept in and poisoned the thinking of people like James Martin, SJ. Then again, any priest who is so eager for worldly approval that he’ll go on Saturday Night Live and make Satanic hand gestures while introducing Metallica has little chance of teaching truth. Or even recognizing it. (Pray for him, and for all the souls he’s leading astray.)
So as Christ’s Heart is Sacred, and Mother Mary’s Immaculate, the hallmark of St. Joseph’s is that it is Most Chaste. God graced him with perfection in this virtue to make him a fit guardian of Our Lady and Our Lord as a child. Devotion to the Most Chaste Heart of Joseph has been encouraged, but has yet to catch on. Though the fact that the blog post of mine that most often brings people here from a search engine is this one gives hope. There you will find prayers you can use in your devotions.
Most Chaste Heart of Joseph, pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.
In the days following the Descent of the Holy Spirit, celebrated as Pentecost, Our Mother spent many hours in prayer, prostate on the ground in the shape of a cross, weeping, begging her Divine Son and the Almighty Father for the salvation of the members of the Church He’d planted with His Sacred Blood, those in her presence at its beginnings and forward into its history.
Do not despair: she continues to intercede for us. This crisis of faith in the Church is a supernatural event and will require supernatural intervention. Don’t disparage your fellow Catholics for their lack of faith, but recognize them as wounded, and offer the help available to you, which is prayer.
Faith is a gift of that same Holy Spirit, the Divine Spouse of Our Lady. If you have been graced with it, praise God and thank Him for such an invaluable gift. But pray for those without it, that they be graced with it. Don’t mock them. Pray for those poor bored souls in the pews who fail to recognize the drama of the immense mystery of the Eucharist taking place. Pray for the writers and editors at America Magazine and other such outlets that everyday pump out demonstrable heresies that betray their lack of faith. Pray for Cardinal Paglia and the rest of that pack, who openly display their perversion, which they would not do if they still believed in God, and the judgement. They want to disbelieve in Hell because they hurtle themselves into it with their unrepentance.
Pray for Pope Francis, whose eternal fate is going to surprise him, and not pleasantly, if he fails to feed Christ’s sheep, as is his sacred duty.
Mother of the Church, pray for us.
October is devoted to the Holy Rosary (a sacramental and devotion that has been called the spiritual weapon of our times by saints and popes). Last year at this time our priest asked me to write something for the bulletin (the front page of our bulletin usually has a letter or short essay from our deacon, priest, or some other leader of ministry…none of which describes me, but okay) about the rosary, knowing that I pray it daily, and that I write. Gentle reader, you can be sure that I was quite happy to comply, since promoting this devotion pleases Our Lady, the Queen of the Rosary. This year, I’d like to share that little essay here:
Surely you’ve seen them, hanging at Mother Mary’s waist, or from her hand, stretched out in a giving gesture: those beads, so precious to some Catholics: the rosary. It’s been described by many a Catholic Knight as the weapon of our time, and indeed it is. But if you’re not the type to see yourself wielding a sword, let me suggest that this great gift from the Holy Mother can be seen also as a spade, a tool with which to work. There’s no sacramental with which one can more efficiently contribute to the economy of grace. After she’s used it to muck out her own depths, a soul’s supererogatory grace will overflow to the benefit of others. And if we say the Fatima prayer after each decade, then with each chaplet we perform five acts of a much neglected spiritual work of mercy, that of praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. Who knows how many of our relatives languish in those flames, longing for God’s face, because praying the rosary fell out of fashion? Let us get to work.
Some people (especially if they’ve been harassed out of the practice by their Protestant companions or coworkers) hesitate to say the rosary because scripture admonishes us to avoid “vain repetitions” in prayer. But that referred to a practice of the pagans, chanting a short phrase or “divine” name to the point of distraction. And there is nothing vain about the Our Father, given to us by Christ Himself, or the Hail Mary, combining words spoken by Gabriel to the Holy Mother at the Annunciation and those addressed to her by Elizabeth, inspired by the Holy Ghost, at the Visitation, when the Blessed Virgin carried our unborn Lord to visit her so that He could sanctify John the Baptist in the womb. No wonder he lept for joy!
If you already pray the rosary, Glory be to God! And his Holy Mother. Consider making your intention during the Prayer for Life campaign the end of abortion, or that any woman faced with that “choice” choose life, and that the abortionists’ hearts be softened and their eyes opened to the reality of what it is that they do. If you have not been saying the rosary, now’s a great time to start, and that’s a great reason. There are guides online, or you can pick up a brochure with instructions at the parish office. Because meditating on the mysteries (Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, or Glorious, depending on the day of the week) is an important aspect of how to pray it, your knowledge of the lives of Jesus and Mary will deepen, and their stories, in a mysterious fashion, will perform their wondrous work: the transformation of ourselves and the world. There’s much more I’d like to say. Each mystery deserves its own essay. Let this suffice, and may the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of God’s grace, shower you with mercy, through the rosary or whatever avenue you open to her.
I’ve got a deadline approaching for a book review in the parish newsletter (that’s a quarterly gig I’m happy to have), and I’ve been waffling about which book to recommend. I had in mind one book, but for reasons I’m not willing to go into, I thought better of it. I didn’t have time to finish Cardinal Sarah’s book after I thought of it (definitely not one to rush through). The Proustian narrative of our Holy Mother’s life, the Ven. Mary of Agreda’s Mystical City of God, which I’m always reading, while something I long to share with people, exceeds most modern readers’ capacity for complex sentence structure (not to mention its rigorous theology). I thought of St. Louis de Montfort’s Secret of the Rosary, and reread half of it, before admitting that it’s style is simply too arch for today’s literary palette (I value it for its content, not its literary qualities), as much as I do long to promote that most important devotion.
But there’s another devotion, one even more important than the Holy Rosary, and that’s devotion to Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and His Most Sacred Heart. After all, we meditate on the Mysteries in order to come to a deeper understanding of Christ’s love, as signified by His Heart, and of the Eucharist as a means for seeking refuge there. And seeing as June is the month devoted to that Heart inflamed with love for us, that fire of charity that burned so strongly that it enabled Him to suffer so for us, and even to imprison Himself in our tabernacles under the veil of bread. Oh magnificent and magnanimous condescension! It was just such condescension that caused Him to incarnate, to take on flesh from the Blessed Virgin and become human. How much more magnanimous to deign to come when our priests summon Him to the altar, enacting the sacrifice again and offering Himself to us to consume and adore, so that we can become more and more like Him, taking in His flesh so that He can become our flesh. Inflaming our own hearts with the charity of His.
And so I thought of a book I read several months back, and which so deepened my reverence for Our Sacramental Lord that I had to start taking communion not just on my tongue, but on my knees (which would be so much nicer with an altar rail, which our church actually still has, though the Eucharist is distributed several feet in front of it). And which also impacted me in another way: it added five prayers to my daily devotions. I’m going to share them here, but first let me tell you a little about to the book.
It’s a narrative, arranged and edited by her Mother Superior, and taken from her diaries kept under obedience, of the visions and experiences of a shy Spanish nun in France, at a convent of the Society of The Sacred Heart, at the beginning of the last century, Sr. Josefa Mendendez. Her extraordinary encounters with the Holy Mother, Our Lord Jesus, saints and demons, and her intense sufferings (wearing His crown of thorns, carrying His cross, spending time in Hell), make a gripping and moving tale. And one gets a picture not only of the reality of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, but also of how hard both Christ and His Holy Mother continue to work for the sanctification and salvation of souls. How sin matters, as do penance and sacrifice. How precious and loved by God is each and every eternal human soul.
So these prayers are scattered throughout the book. The one to the Holy Mother was given to Sr. Josefa by Christ. It’s a joy to praise her in the words of her Divine Son. Some of the other prayers are given by Mother Mary, some by Christ. The first two exist as prayers outside of the book but were included in it. I hope you find them of value. I know I do.
Act of Conformity with the Divine Will
My Lord and my God, behold me here
in company with Thy Divine Son,
who in spite of my unworthiness
is also my Bridegroom.
I submit my will to Thine
and I deliver myself over to do and to suffer
whatsoever Thou wilt ask of me,
with the one intent of giving glory to Thy infinite Majesty
and cooperating in the salvation and sanctification of souls.
Receive then for this intention
the merits of the Heart of Jesus Christ Thy Son
who is my Saviour, my Father and my Beloved.
Prayer of St. Madeleine Sophie to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
O Sacred Heart of Jesus,
I hasten, I come to Thee,
throwing myself into the arms of Thy tender mercy!
Thou art my sure refuge,
my unfailing and only hope.
Thou hast a remedy for all my evils,
relief for all my miseries,
reparation for all my faults.
Thou canst supply for what is wanting to me
in order to obtain fully the graces that I ask
for myself and others. Thou art for me
the infallible, inexhaustible Source of light,
of strength, of perseverance, peace
and consolation. I am certain, too,
that Thou wilt never cease to aid, to protect,
to love me, because Thy love for me,
O Divine Heart, is infinite.
Have mercy on me then, O Heart of Jesus,
and on all that I recommend to Thee,
according to Thine own mercy;
and do with me, in me and for me, whatsoever Thou wilt,
for I abandon myself to Thee
with the full, entire confidence and conviction
that Thou wilt never abandon me either in time or eternity.
Prayer to Our Holy Mother from The Way of Divine Love
O tender and loving Mother,
most prudent Virgin,
Mother of my Redeemer,
I come to salute you today
with all the love that a child can feel for its mother.
Yes, I am indeed your child,
and because I am so helpless
I will take the fervor of the Heart of your Divine Son;
with Him I will salute you as the purest of creatures,
for you were framed according to the wishes and desires
of the thrice-holy God.
Conceived without sin, exempt from all corruption,
you were ever faithful to the impulses of grace,
and so your soul accumulated such merit
that it was raised above all other creatures.
Chosen to be the Mother of Jesus Christ,
you kept Him as in a most pure sanctuary,
and He who came to give life to souls,
Himself took life from you,
and received nourishment from you.
O incomparable Virgin! Immaculate Virgin!
Delight of the Blessed Trinity,
admiration of all angels and saints,
you are the joy of Heaven.
Morning Star, Rose blossoming in springtime,
Immaculate Lily, tall and graceful Iris,
Garden enclosed kept for the delight of the King of Heaven . . .
you are my Mother, Virgin most prudent,
Ark most precious containing every virtue!
you are my Mother, most powerful Virgin,
Virgin clement and faithful!
you are my Mother, O Refuge of sinners!
I salute you and rejoice at the sight of the gifts
bestowed on you by the Almighty,
and of the prerogatives with which He has crowned you!
Be blessed and praised, Mother of my Redeemer,
Mother of poor sinners! Have pity on us
and cover us with your motherly protection.
I salute you in the name of all men, of all saints and all angels.
Would that I could love you with the love and fire of the Seraphim,
and this is too little to satisfy my desires . . .
and to render you filial homage constant and pure for all eternity.
O incomparable Virgin, bless me, since I am your child.
Bless all men! Protect them and pray for them
to Him who is almighty and can refuse you nothing.
Adieu, tender and sweet Mother;
day and night I salute you,
in time and for eternity.
Prayers to Jesus Christ from The Way of Divine Love
O Thou who knewest all my misery
before Thine eyes were fixed on me—
Thou didst not turn away from my wretchedness . . .
but because of it Thou didst love me
with a love more sweet and tender.
I beg pardon for having corresponded so little to Thy love. . .
I beg of Thee to forgive me, and to purify my actions in Thy Divine Blood.
I am deeply grieved at having offended Thee,
because Thou art infinitely Holy.
I repent with heartfelt sorrow
and I promise to do all in my power
to avoid these faults in the future.
O sweet and dearly loved Jesus,
wert Thou not my Saviour,
I should not dare to come to Thee,
but Thou art both my Saviour and my Bridegroom,
and Thy Heart loves me with the most tender and burning love,
as no other Heart can love.
Would that I could correspond with this love of Thine for me.
Would that I had for Thee, who art my only love,
all the ardor of the Seraphim,
the purity of the angels and virgins,
the holiness of the Blessed
who possess Thee and glorify Thee in Heaven.
Were I able to offer Thee all this,
it would still be too little to honor Thy goodness and mercy.
That is why I offer Thee my poor heart such as it is,
with all its miseries, its weakness and good desires.
Deign to purify it in the blood of Thy Heart,
to transform and inflame it Thyself
with an ardent and pure love.
Thus the poor creature that I am,
who can do no good but is capable of every evil,
will love and glorify Thee as do the Seraphim
who in Heaven are consumed with adoring love.
Lastly, I ask of Thee, O gentle Jesus,
to give my heart the very sanctity of Thy Heart,
or rather to plunge it in Thy Divine Heart,
that in It I may love and serve and glorify Thee,
and lose myself in Thee for all eternity.
I beg this same grace for all those whom I love.
May they render Thee for me
the glory and honor of which my sins have deprived Thee.
O my Beloved, who art also my God,
make my heart a flame of pure love for Thee.
Prayers to the Almighty Father from The Way of Divine Love
Eternal Father, who out of love for mankind
gavest Thy Beloved Son up to death,
by His Blood, by His merits and by His Heart,
have pity on the whole world, and forgive
all the sins that are there committed.
Receive the humble reparation
offered Thee by Thy chosen souls.
Unite it to the merits of Thy Divine Son,
so that all they do may be very effective.
O Eternal Father, have pity on souls,
and remember that the time has not yet come
for strict justice, but for mercy.
O Heavenly Father!
look upon the wounds of Thy Son and deign to accept them,
that souls may accept Thy grace.
May the nails which pierced His hands and feet
pierce those hardened hearts,
and His blood touch them and lead them to repentance.
May the weight of the Cross
on the shoulders of Jesus Thy Divine Son
obtain for them the grace
to unload themselves of their sins in the confessional.
I offer Thee, O Heavenly Father, the Crown of Thorns of Thy beloved Son.
By the agony it caused Him, grant true contrition to souls for all their sins.
O Father! O God of mercies,
I offer Thee the abandonment of Thy Son on the Cross,
His thirst and all His pain,
that sinners may recover peace and consolation in sorrow for their sins.
Lastly, O God of all compassion,
in the name of the persevering prayer of Jesus Christ Thy Son
for the very men who were crucifying Him,
I beg and implore Thee to grant to souls
love of God and perseverance in well-doing.
And just as the torments of Thy beloved Son
ended gloriously in eternal bliss,
so may the sufferings of penitent souls
be crowned by the everlasting reward of your glory.
O most loving Father! God, infinitely good, look upon Thy Son Jesus Christ,
who placing Himself between Thy divine justice and sinners implores Thy pardon.
O God of Mercy, pity human frailty.
Send Thy light upon wandering souls that they may not be seduced and entrapped. . .
Strengthen souls that they may avoid the snares laid for them by the enemy of their salvation,
and with fresh fervor return once more to the paths of virtue.
O Eternal Father, look on the sufferings which Jesus Christ
Thy divine Son endured in His Passion.
Behold Him as a victim offered up to obtain for souls
light and vigor, pardon and mercy.
O all-holy God, in whose presence
the angels and saints are not worthy to stand,
forgive all the sins committed by thought and desire.
Receive in expiation of these sins the thorn-crowned Head of Thy Son.
Accept the blood that flows so copiously from His wounds.
Purify minds that are sullied . . . enlighten and illumine
the darkness of their understanding, and may this blood
be their strength, their light, and their life.
Receive, O Holy Father, the sufferings and the merits of all who,
united to the sufferings and merits of Jesus Christ,
offer themselves to Thee, with Him and by Him,
that Thou mayest extend Thy pardon to all mankind.
O God of mercy and love,
be the strength of the feeble,
the light of the blind,
and may all men love Thee.
That last short prayer to Christ can be said as an ejaculatory prayer, meaning no need to kneel or make the sign of the cross, but standing there washing the dishes, driving the car, or walking the dog, you can ask Our Lord to inflame your heart with love for Him. And the more our hearts are inflamed with love for Him, the more we are able to love our neighbors for His sake. And doesn’t the world need more of that? I also think that the final prayer to the Almighty Father is an excellent one to pray for all those sad and unfortunate people addicted to porn.
I hope to someday see Sr. Josefa canonized. I can attest that reading the book taken from her diaries has been a huge source of grace in my own life. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Now I’ve got to figure out how to say that in 250 words.