Monday, June 30, 2014

Hail, First Martyrs of the See of Rome

"St. Pantaleon and St. Cyriacus," Pfarrkirche, Weitnau, Bavaria

Today's feast honors the martyrs who were thrown to the beasts, soaked in tar and lit as torches, or put to death in some less theatrical manner by Nero in 64 AD.  Nero was hoping to shift the blame for the Great Fire of Rome to Christians, a powerless minority in Rome, even though Nero himself had ordered the fire in order to clear land for his Domus Aurea ("Golden House") on the Palatine Hill.   Why Christians would want to burn down the capital of the most powerful empire on earth wasn't obvious, nor was it ever explained very convincingly, and in any event Romans saw through Nero's lie.   Nero committed suicide in 68 AD to avoid being executed as a public enemy.

Although the martyrdoms it commemorates took place long ago, this feast is practically brand new, having entered the Roman Calendar as part of the calendar reforms of 1969.  The pre-reform calendar was crowded with feasts of early martyrs, and the idea behind this new feast was to combine those individual commemorations into a single feast, so that many of the individual feasts could then be dropped.  However, not all of the early martyrs' whose feasts were dropped were martyred in Rome, so that part of the rationale doesn't make sense.  One suspects that the reformers themselves were more troubled by the crowded calendar than ordinary Catholics were.  In any event, many individual feasts of early martyrs were removed from the calendar, and this feast was inserted in their place.

It's sort of like the way Presidents Day replaced the federal holiday of Washington's Birthday and the state holiday of Lincoln's Birthday.   A single bland and somewhat ridiculous holiday (do Warren G. Harding and Franklin Pierce really deserve to be celebrated equally with Washington and Lincoln?) takes the place of multiple but more sensible and interesting holidays.  One difference is that the new martyrs' feast honors fewer martyrs than deserve it, whereas the new presidential holiday honors more presidents than deserve it.

It is certainly true that the pre-reform calendar included many feasts of early martyrs, though it's not clear why that's a problem.   Here's a not necessarily comprehensive or entirely accurate list of the martyrs whose feasts were dropped.    The names are pretty exotic ("St. Symphorosa and her seven Sons," "Ss. Cyriacus, Largus and Smaragdus"), but that just makes me curious to know their edifying and probably very entertaining stories: 

St. Telesphorus;
St. Hyginus;
St. Felix;
St. Prisca;
Ss. Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachum;
St. Emerentiana
St. Martina;
Ss. Faustinus and Jovita;
St. Lucius;
The Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste;
St. Anicetus;
St. Cletus;
St. Marcellinus;
Ss. Alexander, Pope, Eventius and Theodulus;
Ss. Gordian and Epimachus;
St. Venantius;
Ss. Primus and Felician;
Ss. Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia;
Ss. Gervase and Protase;
Ss. Mark and Marcellianus ;
The Seven Holy Brothers;
Ss. Rufina and Secunda;
Ss. Nabor and Felix;
St. Anacletus;
St. Symphorosa and her seven Sons;
St. Christina of Bolsena;
Ss. Nazarius and Celsus;
St. Pantaleon;
Ss. Simplicius, Faustinus, and Beatrice;
Ss. Abdon and Sennen;
Ss. Cyriacus, Largus and Smaragdus;
St. Romanus;
Ss. Tiburtius and Susanna;
St. Agapitus;
St. Zephyrinus;
Ss. Felix and Adauctus;
St. Gorgonius;
Ss. Protus and Hyacinth;
Ss. Lucy and Geminian;
St. Eustace and Companions;
St. Thecla;
St. Placid and companions;
Ss. Chrysanthus and Daria;
St. Evaristus;
St. Bibiana.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The most painful of Jesus' wounds

"The Deposition from the Cross", Gerard David 15th century AD

The wounds of Christ seem a long-settled subject.  We all know about the Five Holy Wounds: the piercing by nails in both hands and feet, and the wound of the lance to Jesus's side.  However, over the centuries mystics and stigmatics have mentioned that the most painful of all Jesus's wounds was none of these, but a hidden wound which is unmentioned in scripture and unknown to all but these few visionaries and stigmatics.  

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 AD - 1153 AD) while in ecstasy asked Christ which of his wounds was most painful, and Our Lord replied: "I had on My Shoulder, . . . a grievous Wound which was more painful than the others and which is not recorded by men."   Likewise, St. Catherine Emmerich (1774 AD - 1824 AD) observed in a vision that Jesus had "a frightful wound on the shoulder which had borne the weight of the Cross."  And while still a young priest, the future St. John Paul II asked the future St. Pio from which of his stigmatic wounds did Padre Pio suffer the most.  Padre Pio answered: "It is my shoulder wound, which no one knows about and has never been cured or treated."  The future pope is the only person to whom Padre Pio ever revealed the existence of this secret wound.

Recently, while making a general investigation of the Shroud of Turin, four doctors and scientists   confirmed the testimony of these saints regarding the all but unknown yet extremely painful wound which Jesus bore on his shoulder.   In the words of their study, published in the medical journal Injury (the study is behind a paywall):

The man whose body appears on the shroud  “underwent an under glenoidal dislocation of the humerus on the right side and lowering of the shoulder, and has a flattened hand and enophthalmos; conditions that have not been described before, despite several studies on the subject. These injuries indicate that the Man suffered a violent blunt trauma to the neck, chest and shoulder from behind, causing neuromuscular damage and lesions of the entire brachial plexus.”

According to the study, these injuries are consistent with a "a heavy object hitting the back between the neck and shoulder."   The heavy object in this case would have been the cross itself, which would have hit Jesus's back as a result of one of his three falls.  The physical damage was substantial, as "the nerves of the upper brachial plexus (particularly branches C5 and C6) are violently stretched resulting in an Erb-Duchenne paralysis (as occurs in dystocia) because of loss of motor innervation to the deltoid, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, biceps, supinator, brachioradialis and rhomboid muscles.”   After such an injury, carrying the cross would have been impossible , which brings to mind Simon of Cyrene who, according to the Gospel, was forced by the soldiers to pick up Jesus’ cross.

The shroud of Turin may be fake (the Church has refrained from officially asserting its authenticity), but as we learn more about the complexity required of the fakery, and that the fakery is consistent with little known testimony of mystics and stigmatics, some of whom lived long after 1390, when the shroud's history begins to be well documented, Occam's razor argues for taking the shroud for what it claims to be.

h/t Creative Minority Report

Best Rosary beads on the web

Although you may have to save up to buy them.   You can build your own rosary, which seems to be cheaper than the pre-made type.   They're sold by the Sisters of Carmel in Colorado Springs.  I haven't bought a rosary from them yet, but their scapulars are awesome.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hail, St. John the Baptist, greatest man born of women

"St. John the Baptist," El Greco 1606 AD

Today is the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, who was descended, on his mother's side, from Aaron, the very first priest, and who was born to herald the new high priest, Jesus.  In this way, John the Baptist is the meeting point between the Old and New Covenants.   As St. Augustine says:

John . . . has been inserted as a kind of boundary between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. That he is somehow or other a boundary is something that the Lord himself indicates when he says, The Law and the prophets were until John. So he represents the old and heralds the new. Because he represents the old, he is born of an elderly couple; because he represents the new, he is revealed as a prophet in his mother’s womb. You will remember that, before he was born, at Mary’s arrival he leapt in his mother’s womb. Already he had been marked out there, designated before he was born; it was already shown whose forerunner he would be, even before he saw him. These are divine matters, and exceed the measure of human frailty.

Since the significance of St. John exceeds human measure, maybe it's best to close with a poem.

St. John, strong Baptist,
Angel before the face of the Messiah
Desert-dweller, knowing the solitudes that lie
Beyond anxiety and doubt,
Eagle whose flight is higher than our atmosphere
Of hesitation and surmise,
You are the first Cistercian and the greatest Trappist:
Never abandon us, your few but faithful children,
For we remember your amazing life,
Where you laid down for us the form and pattern of
Our love for Christ,
Being so close to Him you were His twin.
Oh buy us, by your intercession, in your mighty heaven,
Not your great name, St. John, or ministry,
But oh, your solitude and death:
And most of all, gain us your great command of graces,
Making our poor hands also fountains full of life and wonder
Spending, in endless rivers, to the universe,
Christ, in secret, and His Father, and His sanctifying Spirit.

(from "St. John the Baptist", by Thomas Merton)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hail St. Romuald, Abbot, and preserver of his own father's monastic vocation

St. Romuald 
(from Camaldolese monastery in Majk, Hungary.  
It's now a museum, having been nationalized by Communists in 1950)

St. Romuald (951 AD - 1027 AD) was born near Ravenna to an aristocratic family, and during his youth and young manhood Romuald lived as a typical nobleman of his time.    Which means he was not a very holy guy.   When Romuald was 20, his father, Sergius, quarrelled with a relative over land.   To settle the quarrel, the two fought a duel in which Sergius slew his relative.   Romuald witnessed the slaying, and, deeply distressed, fled to the Benedictine monastery in Ravenna to do 40 days of penance for his father's sin.  After the 40 days were up, and against his father's wishes, Romuald decided to remain at the monastery.  Romuald lived in that monastery for 7 years, driving all the other monks crazy with his fervor and austerities.  A few of the crazier monks were even plotting to kill Romuald when he decided to leave the monastery and live as a hermit near Venice.

Under the guidance of a holy hermit named Maurinus, Romuald prayed and practiced many austerities.   Romuald eventually moved with Maurinus to a monastery in Catalonia, where Romuald was soon made superior.  Romuald's reputation for sanctity spread far and wide.   Romuald's example of holiness even inspired his own father, Sergius to enter monastic life.  However, after living as a monk for a while, Sergius started thinking about returning to the world.   When Romuald heard about this, he travelled to his father's monastery and by "exhortations, tears, and prayers" managed to persuade Sergius to remain a monk, which Sergius did until he died "with the reputation of sanctity."

Although Romuald again retired to a hermetic life, his great sanctity caused people to seek him out.   For instance, monks from a monastery near Romuald's hermitage elected Romuald abbot of their monastery.   When Romuald refused this honor, the Holy Roman Emperor Otho III himself travelled to Romuald's hermitage to persuade him to take the job.  The emperor stayed in Romuald's cell overnight, and even slept in Romuald's rude bed, but it didn't do any good - Romuald still refused to serve as abbot.  Only after a synod of bishops threatened to excommunicate Romuald did he agree to serve.  The monks and Romuald quickly regretted this.   Romuald sought to reform the monks with such zeal that they mutinied.   This time, it was Romuald who went to the Emperor.   When he met Otho, Romuald flung his crozier at Otho's feet.   This was Romuald's way of saying "I quit that stupid abbot job you made me take."

Otho' s successor, the Holy Roman Emperor St. Henry II, also heard of Romuald's holiness and wished to meet him.  St. Henry invited Romuald to his court, and Romuald reluctantly complied.  At their meeting, the Emperor had to do all the talking, since Romuald observed a strict silence the whole time.  However, the Emperor understood that Romuald's silence proceeded from humility rather than disdain, and wasn't offended.   The Emperor even told Romuald that "I wish my soul was like yours."  This was high praise, since the Emperor was himself a saint.

St. Romuald died at a monastery in Ancona.  Five years after his death, and again in 1466, the saint's body was examined and found to be incorrupt.  However, St. Romuald's body was stolen in 1480, and afterwards it turned to dust.

St. Romuald founded the order of Camaldolese monks.  These monks have a monastery called New Camaldolese in Big Sur, California which is worth a visit if you have the nerve to drive up the monastery's steep, winding driveway.   Here is the view from the top.

A saying of St. Romuald:

"Realize above all that you are in God's presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor."

But don't fling your crozier at Him.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

If a father is a model of prayer to his son

 Pope Saint John Paul II's parents, Emilia and Karol Wojtyła
Emilia died when JP II was just 8 years old
The son might become a priest, pope and saint, which is what happened with John Paul II, as Francis Phillips relates here.   John Paul II's dad, Karol, taught by his example of "deep yet unselfconscious piety," praying the rosary with his family, and praying often at other times throughout the day.  And not only during the day; John Paul II would sometimes awaken in the night to find his father praying silently on his knees.

A lesson from a good father can sometimes become unexpectedly deep rooted.  Once, when the young John Paul II was worried about an upcoming exam, Karol taught his son a prayer to the Holy Spirit, instructing him to say it every day.   John Paul II did so, every day, for the rest of his life.

Of course, not every son is meant to become a priest or a pope like John Paul II.  But all children are meant to be saints, and by teaching the habit of prayer every father guides his children along the road to sanctity. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Red Card for you, Padre Luiz

Fr Luiz Carlos Magalhães

The World Cup induces a sort of madness in many, which is sometimes endearing, but in this case is not.

On the other hand, a priest once wore a cheesehead at Mass, and he went on to become archbishop of NY, so maybe Fr Luiz is on to something.

Archbishop Timothy "Cheap Laugh" Dolan

Thursday, June 12, 2014

After 1800 years, church in Nineveh snuffed out

"Jonah Arrives at Nineveh,"  Albert Herbert, 2004 AD

The Christian population in the city of Nineveh, known today as Mosul, had already dropped from 30,000 before the US led invasion in 2003 to just 3,000.   In the wake of the city's recent seizure by  jihadists, the Christian population of Nineveh has now fallen to 0

We are living in an age of historic disasters for ancient Christian places.   Other ancient churches in the eastern Mediterranean, for instance Homs and Damascus in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt, are also under threat or on the point of disappearing.

The Book of Jonah tells of disaster averted through repentance.   In the time of Jonah, Nineveh was a great city, but a very wicked one.  God told Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh that in 40 days the city would be destroyed.   Jonah was not exactly eager to do this, but he finally went and preached repentance in Nineveh.   If you look at a map you will see that Jonah had a long way to go after that fish vomited him onto the dry land.   As soon as he heard Jonah's short warning of disaster, Nineveh's king dressed in sackcloth, and sat in ashes.   He also proclaimed a great penance:

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:

But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.

Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?

Everybody in Nineveh joined the king in penance and repentance.  The very reluctant Jonah turned out to be one of the most effective preachers ever - he converted a whole city by saying less than 10 words.  God saw that the people of Nineveh repented, and he didn't destroy the city.

Penance and repentance worked for the people of Nineveh nearly 3000 years ago.   Might be too late this time, but, on the other hand, it couldn't hurt.

UPDATE:  Even dead prophets aren't safe in Nineveh today.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The iniquities of the fathers shall be visited upon the children

Home babies, circa 1940 AD

Between 1925 and 1961, thousands of unmarried women and their children resided temporarily at the Children's Home in Tuam, Ireland, which was run by the Bon Secours sisters.  Often, after giving birth, the mothers would leave the Home, while their children remained behind to await adoption.  These children, called "Home babies," were unwanted and unloved, and frequently received inadequate food and care within the Home.  On average, about 20 of them died every year.   Their story is undeniably a very sad one, and the Irish Government has announced an investigation, but a recent report in the Washington Post misrepresented the facts substantially.  For one thing, no one ever found the bones of 800 children in a septic tank at the Tuam Home, as the WaPo story claims, and as stories like it in the New York Daily News, and on ABC News and al Jazeera have reported. 

During my brief career as a high school history teacher, I once asked the class if the purpose of studying history was to understand the people of the past, or to judge them.   "To judge them!" came the enthusiastic response.  The people at the Washington Post, and elsewhere in the news media, seem to share this unseemly eagerness to pronounce judgment, at least where the Catholic Church is concerned.

UPDATE:  Forbes magazine does a thorough takedown of the original story here.  Don't hold your breath waiting for the mainstream media to correct itself, though.

Monday, June 9, 2014

"Greater love hath no man . . ."

HMT Lancastria

On June 17, 1940, while evacuating troops from France, and loaded well past her official capacity of 2,200 souls plus crew, the HMT Lancastria was attacked by Luftwaffe bombers off St. Nazaire.  She received three direct hits, and turned over and sank in twenty minutes, taking an unknown number with her (estimates range from 4,000 to 9,000).  The actor David Niven was aboard, having left Hollywood at the outbreak of war to rejoin the British Army.  Niven related the following account of the Lancastria's sinking to William F. Buckley:
"[O]ne bomb hit, went down the funnel and blew a huge hole in the side, and she quickly took on a terrible list. In the hold there were several hundred soldiers. Now there was no way they could ever get out because of the list, and she was sinking. And along came my own favorite Good Samaritan, a Roman Catholic priest, a young man in Royal Air Force uniform. He got a rope and lowered himself into the hold to give encouragement and help to those hundreds of men in their last fateful hour.’
‘Knowing he couldn’t get out?’ ‘Knowing he could never get out, nor could they. The ship sank and all in that hold died. The remainder were picked up by the destroyers and came back to England to the regiment I was in, and we had to look after them, and many of them told me that they were giving up even then, in the oil and struggle, and the one thing that kept them going was the sound of the soldiers in the hold singing hymns.’”
By itself, the sinking of the Lancastria accounted for about a third of all British casualties in France during that phase of the war.  The loss of life was so immense that the British government kept the sinking secret; by the 17th of June France's surrender to the Nazis was imminent, and Churchill is said to have remarked 'The newspapers have got quite enough disaster for today, at least.'  The story was broken in the US by the NYT five weeks later, and then reported in the UK, but since the survivors, as well as all who came to the aid of the Lancastria, faced court martial if they discussed the disaster, the full story did not come out until after the war.

h/t Creative Minority Report

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Telegraph breaks 500 year old news

 "Sorry, but King Henry says your religion, 
which until very recently was King Henry's religion,
as well as our religion,
as it had been for 9 centuries,
is alien and un-English"

Now that no one cares anymore, the English newspaper the Telegraph informs its readers that the Protestant Reformation in England was an unpopular, top-down affair, a sort of religious coup d'etat, which succeeded through violence, bribery and a steady issue of government lies, the Catholic church in England having been a vibrant and very popular institution until Henry VIII and his ministers determined they needed to destroy it for their own purposes. 

Well, better late than never.

Hail, St. Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist brothers

Marist brother making Jesus known and loved in Briarwood, Queens, circa 1967 AD

Today is the feast of St. Marcellin Champagnat (1789 AD - 1840 AD), founder of the Institute of the Little Brothers of Mary, known as the Marist Brothers.  Marcellin was the ninth child born to very religious parents in Marlhes, a town in the mountains of central France.   When Marcellin was 14, a priest passing through his village helped Marcellin recognize his vocation to the priesthood.   Marcellin, though illiterate and uneducated, used money earned from herding sheep to enter the minor seminary in Verrieres in 1805.   There he endured a massive struggle just to avoid flunking out immediately.  Indeed, after his first year in Verrieres Marcellin was expelled for academic failure, but his mother, his parish priest and the superior of the seminary succeeded in getting Marcellin re-admitted.

At the major seminary in Lyons, Marcellin was part of a remarkable class which included Jean-Marie Vianney, who would later serve as the Cure  of Ars, and who was canonized in 1925.  The class also included Jean-Claude Colin, who would found the Marist Fathers.   Knowing from his own experience of the desperate need among children in the French countryside for education, and particularly spiritual education, Marcellin felt a strong desire to create a society of brothers for the Christian education of young people.   As Marcellin often would say, "I cannot see a child without wanting to tell him how much Jesus loves him." Less than six months after his ordination, Marcellin had already gathered his first two disciples.   Despite much adversity the Marists grew rapidly, and Pope Pius IX approved the Institute of the Marist Brothers in 1863.  At their most numerous, there were 10,000 Marist Brothers in the world; today there are 5,000 brothers working in 74 countries.

The mission of the Marist Brothers is "To make Jesus Christ known and loved." 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Hail St. Boniface, Apostle to Germany and writer of riddles

 St. Boniface baptizing (top)
St. Boniface being martyred (bottom)
From a Fulda Sacramentary

Today is the feast of St. Boniface (martyred 754 AD), learned monk, reformer of the Frankish church, Apostle to Germany and Holland, and writer of riddles.  Originally named Wynfrith or Winfred (he either took the name Boniface at his religious profession or received it from Pope Gregory II), from a noble family in the southeast of England, Wynfrith was educated by monks and showed great ability as a student.  His parents, and especially his father, desired that Wynfrith would pursue a secular career, but Wynfrith felt called to the religious life.  Eventually, Wynfrith's father gave his permission, and Wynfrith entered a Benedictine monastery on the site of the present city of Exeter.

Boniface became famous for his sanctity and learning, and many opportunities for advancement were open to him.  However, Boniface, a Saxon, desired more than anything else to bring the Gospel to his distant kinmen, the Old Saxons, a pagan people who lived beyond the Rhine in Germany.  His abbot approved this project, and so Boniface left England for Germany, never to return.  Boniface achieved great success in Germany, baptizing many and establishing many dioceses and monasteries which still exist today.   Boniface also reformed the Frankish church, which in many places had returned to paganism.  Boniface also anointed and crowned Pepin as king of the Franks, and thus was instrumental in establishing the Carolingian dynasty, which would provide a religious, cultural and governmental framework for much of Europe for many centuries.

Having accomplished many of his original goals, as a very old man Boniface undertook to convert the Frisians, who lived in what is today Holland.  When Boniface and his 52 companions were set upon by a band of war-like Frisians, Boniface counseled his companions to lay down their arms, saying "we are told in Scripture not to render evil for good but to overcome evil by good."   Perhaps not surprisingly, the Frisians thereupon killed Boniface and his companions.  When the Frisians broke open the great wooden chests Boniface and his companions brought with them, they were disappointed to find not treasure but books.   One of these books is still kept at a monastery founded by Boniface in Fulda; it bears incisions from a sword or ax.

When Boniface was a young monk in England he wrote several books, including a book of riddles, called "Enigmata" in Latin.   Many of these are not riddles as we understand the term.   Here is Boniface's enigmata "Misericordia Ait" (Mercy Said) in the original Latin.   The poem is an acrostic, its title can be read in the first letter of each line along the left hand margin. 

Misericordia ait.

Moribus en geminae variis et jure sorores
Instamus domini cunctis in callibus una.
Sed soror in tenebras mortales mergeret atras,
Et poenas Erebi lustrent per devia Ditis.
Regmina si seculi tenuisset sola per orbem,
Illius adversas vires infrangere nitor,
Clamans atque, "soror," dicens "carissima, parce."
O genus est superum felix me virgine nancta,
Regmine nempe meo perdono piacula terris,
Do vitae tempus superis, do lumen Olympi,
Ingentem mundi variis cum floribus arum,
Aurea gens hominum scandat quod culmine coeli.
Ast tame Altithroni non sacris sinibus absum,
Impetrans miseris veniam mortalibus aevi,
Trahendo jugiter Christi per saecla ministra

My Latin is rusty, so I put this into Google translate, which provided the following fractured gibberish:
Mercy said.

Customs en twin sisters with different and right
Instant LORD do to all the trails should have a portion.
But the sister of men plunged into the darkness of the black,
The punishments of hell makes the detours Dis.
Government only if the world had held throughout the world,
The conflicting forces infrangere fading,
, And crying out, "sister", saying "you hold most precious, spare."
O species, is invested with a virgin, lucky me that leads on high,
Government that is my pardons to appease countries
Moreover I have given moment of his life the gods above, I give the light of Olympus,
The volume of the world with a variety of the flowers of this addition,
The golden race of men by little climax in the air.
But grateful, however, did not draw near the sacred,
Obtain permission human life miserable,
Drawing the time of Christ through the ages minister

Which shows that Google translate's Latin is pretty rusty also.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Joe Rosenthal, AP photographer and Catholic convert

US Marines Raising Flag on Mt. Suribachi, Feb. 23, 1943.  Photo taken by Joe Rosenthal, AP

The photo of the flag raising on Iwo Jima may be the most famous photo ever taken, and it won Joe Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.  Rosenthal was raised Jewish but converted to Catholicism during his youth.  Not surprisingly, he knew Fr. Charles Suver SJ, the Navy chaplain who celebrated Mass on the summit of Suribachi soon after the famous flag raising.  The battle for Iwo Jima would rage for another 31 days, so this was a pretty risky thing to do.

Marine receiving Communion from Fr. Suver on Mt. Suribachi

Rosenthal deeply respected Fr. Suver and the other Jesuit chaplains.   According to Rosenthal, “[t]he Jesuits were admired by all kinds of Marines. They would talk straight talk - ‘listen buddy, you can’t shock me with anything you can say’... If they found a dying Marine, they went right up there, as a matter of course.  They were as heroic as Marines...there was something about the manner of Jesuits.”

There are still plenty of chaplains doing heroic work on battlefields.  You can read the stories of a few of them here.

Joe Rosenthal

Rosenthal died in 2006 at the age of 94.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Albert Herbert, Catholic convert and painter

"Mary Magdalen" Albert Herbert, 2001 AD

I never heard of Albert Herbert before today.  I was listening to Paul Hillier on Spotify, and this very interesting album cover caught my attention:

Some internet searching revealed that the painter was an Englishman named Albert Herbert.  More internet searching revealed that Herbert was a Cockney, born in Bow in 1925, drafted into the English army in 1943, and landed at Normandy in June, 1944.   Although his regiment suffered 75% casualties, Herbert somehow survived the fighting unscathed all the way across the Rhine and into Germany.
"He Remembers Himself as a Soldier Aged 18,"  Albert Herbert 2003

When the fighting was over, a school friend, Bryan Forbes, who would later become a famous movie director, lied about Herbert's qualifications in order to get Herbert the job of assistant stage designer for armed forces productions.  This was the beginning of Herbert's artistic career.   After he was demobilized in 1947, Herbert won a series of art scholarships, including one to the British College in Rome.  While there, Herbert felt himself drawn to Catholicism, and soon converted.   Herbert treated religious subjects often, and some subjects, like Jonah and the whale, he painted many times.

"Jonah Arrives at Nineveh,"  Albert Herbert 2004

Herbert died in 2008.   Many of his paintings can be viewed here.   

Hail St. Kevin, founder of Glendalough monastery

St. Kevin and his blackbird
St. Kevin and his blackbird on a Poitin label

Today is the feast of St. Kevin, Abbot of Glendalough, Ireland, (ca. 498 - 618 AD).  From his youth St. Kevin was educated by monks, and eventually embraced the monastic state himself.   St. Kevin founded the famous monastery of Glendalough (the Valley of the Two Lakes), the parent of several other monastic foundations.  Once Glendalough was firmly established, St. Kevin retired for several years to a life of solitude and severe asceticism, until entreated by his Glendalough monks to return to the monastery.    A few small buildings of the Glendalough monastery still stand.

St. Kevin is usually depicted with a bird in his palm.  This story explains why:

The holy Kevin, while avoiding the society of his fellow men during the season of Lent, as his custom was, devoted his time to reading and prayers, in the desert, occupying a small hut which did nothing but keep out the sun and rain, giving himself up to contemplation only.

And while he was lifting up his hand to heaven through the window, as he used to do, a blackbird by chance alighted on it, and treating it as a nest, laid an egg there. And the Saint showed such compassion towards it, out of his patient and loving heart, that he neither closed his hand nor withdrew it, but indefatigably held it out and adapted it for the purpose until the young one was fully hatched.

St. Kevin, pray for us.