John of the Cross, P & D

+Matthew 11:16-19

The Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the market place:

“We played the pipes for you,

and you wouldn’t dance;

we sang dirges,

and you wouldn’t be mourners.”

‘For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’


+Isaiah 48:17-19

If you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river

Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you,

I lead you in the way that you must go.

If only you had been alert to my commandments,

your happiness would have been like a river,

your integrity like the waves of the sea.

Your children would have been numbered like the sand,

your descendants as many as its grains.

Never would your name have been cut off or blotted out before me.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Faith

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”


Psalm 1

Those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life.

Happy indeed is the man

who follows not the counsel of the wicked;

nor lingers in the way of sinners

nor sits in the company of scorners,

but whose delight is the law of the Lord

and who ponders his law day and night.

Those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life.

He is like a tree that is planted

beside the flowing waters,

that yields its fruit in due season

and whose leaves shall never fade;

and all that he does shall prosper.

Those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life.

Not so are the wicked, not so!

For they like winnowed chaff

shall be driven away by the wind:

for the Lord guards the way of the just

but the way of the wicked leads to doom.

Those who prove victorious I will feed from the tree of life.

Source: The New American Bible


John of the Cross (Spanish: San Juan de la Cruz; 1542 – 14 December 1591) was a major figure of the Counter-Reformation, a Spanish mystic, a Roman Catholic saint, a Carmelite friar and a priest, who was born at Fontiveros, Old Castile.

John of the Cross is known for his writings. Both his poetry and his studies on the growth of the soul are considered the summit of mystical Spanish literature and one of the peaks of all Spanish literature. He was canonized as a saint in 1726 by Pope Benedict XIII. He is one of the thirty-six Doctors of the Church.

He was born Juan de Yepes y Álvarez into a converso family (descendents of Jewish converts to Christianity) in Fontiveros, near Ávila, a town of around 2,000 people. His father, Gonzalo, was an accountant to richer relatives who were silk merchants. However, when in 1529 he married John’s mother, Catalina, who was an orphan of a lower class, Gonzalo was rejected by his family and forced to work with his wife as a weaver. John’s father died in 1545, while John was still only around three years old. Two years later, John’s older brother Luis died, probably as a result of insufficient nourishment caused by the penury to which John’s family had been reduced. After this, John’s mother Catalina took John and his surviving brother Francisco, and moved first in 1548 to Arévalo, and then in 1551 to Medina del Campo, where she was able to find work weaving.

In Medina, John entered a school for around 160 poor children, usually orphans, receiving a basic education, mainly in Christian doctrine, as well as some food, clothing and lodging. While studying there, he was chosen to serve as acolyte at a nearby monastery of Augustinian nuns. Growing up, John worked at a hospital and studied the humanities at a Jesuit school from 1559 to 1563; the Society of Jesus was a new organization at the time, having been founded only a few years earlier by the Spaniard St. Ignatius of Loyola. In 1563 he entered the Carmelite Order, adopting the name John of St. Matthias.

The following year (1564) he professed his religious vows as a Carmelite and travelled to Salamanca, where he studied theology and philosophy at the prestigious University there (at the time one of the four biggest in Europe, alongside Paris, Oxford and Bologna) and at the Colegio de San Andrés. Some modern writers claim that this stay would influence all his later writings, as Fray Luis de León taught biblical studies (Exegesis, Hebrew and Aramaic) at the University: León was one of the foremost experts in Biblical Studies then and had written an important and controversial translation of the Song of Songs into Spanish. (Translation of the Bible into the vernacular was not allowed then in Spain, because of the possibility of mistranslation from Latin to Spanish which could create confusion.)

Joining the Reform of Teresa of Jesus

John was ordained a priest in 1567, and then indicated his intent to join the strict Carthusian Order, which appealed to him because of its encouragement of solitary and silent contemplation. A journey from Salamanca to Medina del Campo, probably in September 1567, changed this. In Medina he met the charismatic Carmelite nun Teresa of Jesus. She was in Medina to found the second of her convents for women. She immediately talked to him about her reformation projects for the Order: she was seeking to restore the purity of the Carmelite Order by restarting observance of its “Primitive Rule” of 1209, observance of which had been relaxed by Pope Eugene IV in 1432.

Under this Rule, much of the day and night was to be spent in the recitation of the choir offices, study and devotional reading, the celebration of Mass and times of solitude. For the friars, time was to be spent evangelizing the population around the monastery. Total abstinence from meat and lengthy fasting was to be observed from the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14) until Easter. There were to be long periods of silence, especially between Compline and Prime. Coarser, shorter habits, more simple than those worn since 1432, were to be worn. They were to follow the injunction against the wearing of shoes (also mitigated in 1432). It was from this last observance that the followers of Teresa among the Carmelites were becoming known as “discalced”, i.e., barefoot, differentiating themselves from the non-reformed friars and nuns.

Teresa asked John to delay his entry into the Carthusians and to follow her. Having spent a final year studying in Salamanca, in August 1568 John traveled with Teresa from Medina to Valladolid, where Teresa intended to found another monastery of nuns. Having spent some time with Teresa in Valladolid, learning more about this new form of Carmelite life, in October 1568, accompanied by Friar Antonio de Jesús de Heredia, John left Valladolid to found a new monastery for friars, the first for men following Teresa’s principles. They were given the use of a derelict house at Duruelo (midway between Ávila and Salamanca), which had been donated to Teresa. On 28 November 1568, the monastery was established, and on that same day John changed his name to “John of the Cross”.

Soon after, in June 1570, the friars found the house at Duruelo too small, and so moved to the nearby town of Mancera de Abajo. After moving on from this community, John set up a new community at Pastrana (October 1570), and a community at Alcalá de Henares, which was to be a house of studies for the academic training of the friars. In 1572 he arrived in Ávila, at the invitation of Teresa, who had been appointed prioress of the Monastery of the Incarnation there in 1571. John became the spiritual director and confessor for Teresa and the other 130 nuns there, as well as for a wide range of laypeople in the city. In 1574, John accompanied Teresa in the foundation of a new monastery in Segovia, returning to Avila after staying there a week. Beyond this, though, John seems to have remained in Ávila between 1572 and 1577.

At some point between 1574 and 1577, while praying in the Monastery of the Incarnation in Ávila in a loft overlooking the sanctuary, John had a vision of the crucified Christ, which led him to create his famous drawing of Christ “from above”. In 1641, this drawing was placed in a small monstrance and kept in Ávila. This drawing inspired the artist Salvador Dalí’s 1951 work Christ of Saint John of the Cross.

The height of Carmelite tensions

The years 1575–77, however, saw a great increase in the tensions among the Spanish Carmelite friars over the reforms of Teresa and John. Since 1566 the reforms had been overseen by Canonical Visitors from the Dominican Order, with one appointed to Castile and a second to Andalusia. These Visitors had substantial powers: they could move the members of religious communities from house to house and even province to province. They could assist religious superiors in their office, and could depute other superiors from either the Dominicans or Carmelites. In Castile, the Visitor was Pedro Fernández, who prudently balanced the interests of the Discalced Carmelites against those of the friars and nuns who did not desire reform.

In Andalusia to the south, however, where the Visitor was Francisco Vargas, tensions rose due to his clear preference for the Discalced friars. Vargas asked them to make foundations in various cities, in explicit contradiction of orders from the Carmelite Prior General against their expansion in Andalusia. As a result, a General Chapter of the Carmelite Order was convened at Piacenza in Italy in May 1576, out of concern that events in Spain were getting out of hand, which concluded by ordering the total suppression of the Discalced houses.

This measure was not immediately enforced. King Philip II of Spain was supportive of some of Teresa’s reforms, and so was not immediately willing to grant the necessary permission to enforce this ordinance. The Discalced friars also found support from the papal nuncio to King Philip II, Nicolò Ormaneto (it), Bishop of Padua, who still had ultimate power as nuncio to visit and reform religious Orders. When asked by the Discalced friars to intervene, Ormaneto replaced Vargas as Visitor of the Carmelites in Andalusia (where the troubles had begun) with Jerónimo Gracián, a priest from the University of Alcalá, who was in fact a Discalced Carmelite friar himself. The nuncio’s protection helped John himself avoid problems for a time. In January 1576, John was arrested in Medina del Campo by some Carmelite friars. However, through the nuncio’s intervention, John was soon released. When Ormaneto died on 18 June 1577, however, John was left without protection, and the friars opposing his reforms gained the upper hand.

Imprisonment, writings, torture, death and recognition

On the night of 2 December 1577, a group of Carmelites opposed to reform broke into John’s dwelling in Ávila and took him prisoner. John had received an order from some of his superiors, opposed to reform, ordering him to leave Ávila and return to his original house, but John had refused on the basis that his reform work had been approved by the Spanish nuncio, a higher authority than these superiors. The Carmelites therefore took John captive. John was taken from Ávila to the Carmelite monastery in Toledo, at that time the Order’s most important monastery in Castile, where perhaps 40 friars lived. John was brought before a court of friars, accused of disobeying the ordinances of Piacenza. Despite John’s argument that he had not disobeyed the ordinances, he received a punishment of imprisonment. He was jailed in the monastery, where he was kept under a brutal regimen that included public lashing before the community at least weekly, and severe isolation in a tiny stifling cell measuring ten feet by six feet, barely large enough for his body. Except when rarely permitted an oil lamp, he had to stand on a bench to read his breviary by the light through the hole into the adjoining room. He had no change of clothing and a penitential diet of water, bread and scraps of salt fish. During this imprisonment, he composed a great part of his most famous poem Spiritual Canticle, as well as a few shorter poems. The paper was passed to him by the friar who guarded his cell. He managed to escape nine months later, on 15 August 1578, through a small window in a room adjoining his cell. (He had managed to pry the cell door off its hinges earlier that day.)

After being nursed back to health, first with Teresa’s nuns in Toledo, and then during six weeks at the Hospital of Santa Cruz,John continued with reform. In October 1578 he joined a meeting at Almodóvar del Campo of the supporters of reform, increasingly known as the Discalced Carmelites. There, in part as a result of the opposition faced from other Carmelites in recent years, they decided to demand from the Pope their formal separation from the rest of the Carmelite Order.

At this meeting John was appointed superior of El Calvario, an isolated monastery of around thirty friars in the mountains about 6 miles away from Beas in Andalusia. During this time he befriended the nun Ana de Jesús, superior of the Discalced nuns at Beas, through his visits every Saturday to the town. While at El Calvario he composed his first version of his commentary on his poem, The Spiritual Canticle, perhaps at the request of the nuns in Beas.

In 1579 he moved to Baeza, a town of around 50,000 people, to serve as rector of a new college, the Colegio de San Basilio, to support the studies of Discalced friars in Andalusia. This opened on 13 June 1579. He remained in post there until 1582, spending much of his time as a spiritual director for the friars and townspeople.

1580 was an important year in the resolution of the disputes within the Carmelites. On 22 June, Pope Gregory XIII signed a decree, titled Pia Consideratione, which authorised a separation between the Calced and Discalced Carmelites. The Dominican friar Juan Velázquez de las Cuevas was appointed to carry out the decisions. At the first General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites, in Alcalá de Henares on 3 March 1581, John of the Cross was elected one of the “Definitors” of the community, and wrote a set of constitutions for them. By the time of the Provincial Chapter at Alcalá in 1581, there were 22 houses, some 300 friars and 200 nuns in the Discalced Carmelites.

In November 1581, John was sent by Teresa to help Ana de Jesus in founding a convent in Granada. Arriving in January 1582, she set up a monastery of nuns, while John stayed in the friars’ monastery of Los Martires, beside the Alhambra, becoming its prior in March 1582. While here, he learned of the death of Teresa in October of that year.

In February 1585, John travelled to Málaga and established a monastery of Discalced nuns there. In May 1585, at the General Chapter of the Discalced Carmelites in Lisbon, John was elected Provincial Vicar of Andalusia, a post which required him to travel frequently, making annual visitations of the houses of friars and nuns in Andalusia. During this time he founded seven new monasteries in the region, and is estimated to have travelled around 25,000 km.

In June 1588, he was elected third Councillor to the Vicar General for the Discalced Carmelites, Father Nicolas Doria. To fulfill this role, he had to return to Segovia in Castile, where in this capacity he was also prior of the monastery. After disagreeing in 1590–1 with some of Doria’s remodeling of the leadership of the Discalced Carmelite Order, though, John was removed from his post in Segovia, and sent by Doria in June 1591 to an isolated monastery in Andalusia called La Peñuela. There he fell ill, and traveled to the monastery at Úbeda for treatment. His condition worsened, however, and he died there on 14 December 1591, of erysipelas.

Veneration

The morning after John’s death huge numbers of the townspeople of Úbeda entered the monastery to view his body; in the crush, many were able to take home parts of his habit. He was initially buried at Úbeda, but, at the request of the monastery in Segovia, his body was secretly moved there in 1593. The people of Úbeda, however, unhappy at this change, sent representative to petition the pope to move the body back to its original resting place. Pope Clement VIII, impressed by the petition, issued a Brief on 15 October 1596 ordering the return of the body to Ubeda. Eventually, in a compromise, the superiors of the Discalced Carmelites decided that the monastery at Úbeda would receive one leg and one arm of the corpse from Segovia (the monastery at Úbeda had already kept one leg in 1593, and the other arm had been removed as the corpse passed through Madrid in 1593, to form a relic there). A hand and a leg remain visible in a reliquary at the Oratory of San Juan de la Cruz in Úbeda, a monastery built in 1627 though connected to the original Discalced monastery in the town founded in 1587.

The head and torso were retained by the monastery at Segovia. There, they were venerated until 1647, when on orders from Rome designed to prevent the veneration of remains without official approval, the remains were buried in the ground. In the 1930s they were disinterred, and now sit in a side chapel in a marble case above a special altar built in that decade.

Proceedings to beatify John began with the gathering of information on his life between 1614 and 1616, although he was only beatified in 1675 by Pope Clement X, and was canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. When his feast day was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1738, it was assigned to 24 November, since his date of death was impeded by the then-existing octave of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This obstacle was removed in 1955 and in 1969 Pope Paul VI moved it to the dies natalis (birthday to heaven) of the saint, 14 December. The Church of England commemorates him as a “Teacher of the Faith” on the same date. In 1926, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI after the definitive consultation of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P., professor of philosophy and theology at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome.

Literary works

Saint John of the Cross is considered one of the foremost poets in the Spanish language. Although his complete poems add up to fewer than 2500 verses, two of them—the Spiritual Canticle and the Dark Night of the Soul—are widely considered masterpieces of Spanish poetry, both for their formal stylistic point of view and their rich symbolism and imagery. His theological works often consist of commentaries on these poems. All the works were written between 1578 and his death in 1591, meaning there is great consistency in the views presented in them.

The Spiritual Canticle is an eclogue in which the bride (representing the soul) searches for the bridegroom (representing Jesus Christ), and is anxious at having lost him; both are filled with joy upon reuniting. It can be seen as a free-form Spanish version of the Song of Songs at a time when translations of the Bible into the vernacular were forbidden. The first 31 stanzas of the poem were composed in 1578 while John was imprisoned in Toledo. It was read after his escape by the nuns at Beas, who made copies of these stanzas. Over the following years, John added some extra stanzas. Today, two versions exist: one with 39 stanzas and one with 40, although with some of the stanzas ordered differently. The first redaction of the commentary on the poem was written in 1584, at the request of Madre Ana de Jesus, when she was prioress of the Discalced Carmelite nuns in Granada. A second redaction, which contains more detail, was written in 1585–6.

The Dark Night (from which the spiritual term takes its name) narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to union with God. It happens during the night, which represents the hardships and difficulties met in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. There are several steps in this night, which are related in successive stanzas. The main idea of the poem can be seen as the painful experience that people endure as they seek to grow in spiritual maturity and union with God. The poem of this title was likely written in 1578 or 1579. In 1584-5, John wrote a commentary on the first two stanzas and first line of the third stanza of the poem.

The Ascent of Mount Carmel is a more systematic study of the ascetical endeavour of a soul looking for perfect union, God and the mystical events happening along the way. Although it begins as a commentary on the poem The Dark Night, it rapidly drops this format, having commented on the first two stanzas of the poem, and becomes a treatise. It was composed sometime between 1581 and 1585.

A four-stanza work, Living Flame of Love, describes a greater intimacy, as the soul responds to God’s love. It was written in a first redaction at Granada between 1585-6, apparently in two weeks,and in a mostly identical second redaction at La Peñuela in 1591.

These, together with his Dichos de Luz y Amor (or “Sayings of Light and Love”) and Saint Teresa’s writings, are the most important mystical works in Spanish, and have deeply influenced later spiritual writers all around the world. Among these are T. S. Eliot, Thérèse de Lisieux, Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) and Thomas Merton. John has also influenced philosophers (Jacques Maritain), theologians (Hans Urs von Balthasar), pacifists (Dorothy Day, Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan) and artists (Salvador Dalí). Pope John Paul II wrote his theological dissertation on the mystical theology of Saint John of the Cross.

Source: Wikipedia

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Janurius, B & M

+Luke 7:31-35

‘We played the pipes, and you wouldn’t dance’

Jesus said to the people:

‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,

and you wouldn’t dance;

we sang dirges,

and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Faith

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”


Psalm 32(33):2-5,12,22

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,

with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs.

O sing him a song that is new,

play loudly, with all your skill.

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

For the word of the Lord is faithful

and all his works to be trusted.

The Lord loves justice and right

and fills the earth with his love.

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

They are happy, whose God is the Lord,

the people he has chosen as his own.

May your love be upon us, O Lord,

as we place all our hope in you.

Happy the people the Lord has chosen as his own.

Source: Jerusalem Bible


Januarius (Latin: Ianuarius; Italian: Gennaro), also known as Januarius I of Benevento, was Bishop of Benevento and is a martyr and saint of the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. While no contemporary sources on his life are preserved, later sources and legends claim that he died during the Great Persecution which ended with Diocletian’s retirement in 305.

Januarius is the patron saint of Naples, where the faithful gather three times a year in Naples Cathedral to witness the liquefaction of what is claimed to be a sample of his blood kept in a sealed glass ampoule.

Life

Little is known of the life of Januarius, and what follows is mostly derived from later Christian sources, such as the Acta Bononensia (BHL 4132, not earlier than 6th century) and the Acta Vaticana (BHL 4115, 9th century), and from later-developing folk tradition.

Legend

According to various hagiographies, Januarius was born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites. At a young age of 15, he became local priest of his parish in Benevento, which at the time was relatively pagan. When Januarius was 20, he became Bishop of Naples and befriended Juliana of Nicomedia and Saint Sossius whom he met during his priestly studies. During the ​1 1⁄2-year-long persecution of Christians by Emperor Diocletian, he hid his fellow Christians and prevented them from being caught. Unfortunately, while visiting Sossius in jail, he too was arrested. He and his colleagues were condemned to be thrown to wild bears in the Flavian Amphitheater at Pozzuoli, but the sentence was changed due to fear of public disturbances, and they were instead beheaded at the Solfatara crater near Pozzuoli.Other legends state either that the wild beasts refused to eat them, or that he was thrown into a furnace but came out unscathed.

History

The earliest extant mention of him is contained in a 432 letter by Uranius, bishop of Nola, on the death of his mentor Saint Paulinus of Nola, where it is stated that the ghosts of Januarius and Saint Martin appeared to Paulinus three days before the latter’s death in 431. About Januarius, the account says only that he was “bishop as well as martyr, an illustrious member of the Neapolitan church”. The Acta Bononensia says that “At Pozzuoli in Campania [is honored the memory] of the holy martyrs Januarius, Bishop of Beneventum, Festus his deacon, and Desiderius lector, together with Sossius deacon of the church of Misenum, Proculus, deacon of Pozzuoli, Eutyches, and Acutius, who after chains and imprisonment were beheaded under the emperor Diocletian”.

Legacy

Celebrations

The Feast of St Januarius or San Gennaro is celebrated on 19 September in the calendar of the Catholic Church. In the Eastern Church, it is celebrated on 21 April. The city of Naples has more than fifty official patron saints, although its principal patron is Saint Januarius.

In the United States, the “Feast of San Gennaro” is also a highlight of the year for New York’s Little Italy, with the saint’s polychrome statue carried through the middle of a street fair stretching for blocks.

Relics

According to an early hagiography, Januarius’s relics were transferred by order of Saint Severus, Bishop of Naples, to the Neapolitan catacombs “outside the walls” (extra moenia). In the early ninth century the body was moved to Beneventum by Sico, prince of Benevento, with the head remaining in Naples. Subsequently, during the turmoil at the time of Frederick Barbarossa, his body was moved again, this time to the Territorial Abbey of Montevergine where it was rediscovered in 1480.

At the instigation of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, his body was finally transferred in 1497 to Naples, where he is the city’s patron saint. Carafa commissioned a richly decorated crypt, the Succorpo, beneath the cathedral to house the reunited body and head properly. The Succorpo was finished in 1506 and is considered one of the prominent monuments of the High Renaissance in the city.

Blood

Saint Januarius is famous for the alleged miracle of the annual liquefaction of his blood, which, according to legend, was saved by a woman called Eusebia just after the saint’s death. A chronicle of Naples written in 1382 describes the cult of Saint Januarius in detail, but mentions neither the relic nor the miracle.The first certain date is 1389, when it was found to have melted. Then, over the following two and a half centuries official reports began to appear declaring that the blood spontaneously melted, at first once a year, then twice, and finally three times a year. While the report of the very first incidence of liquefaction did not make any explicit reference to the skull of the saint, soon afterwards assertions began to appear that this relic was activating the melting process, as if the blood, recognizing a part of the body to which it belonged, “were impatient while waiting for its resurrection”. This explanation was definitively abandoned only in the eighteenth century.

Thousands of people assemble to witness this event in Naples Cathedral three times a year: on September 19 (Saint Januarius’s Day, commemorating his martyrdom), on December 16 (celebrating his patronage of Naples and its archdiocese), and on the Saturday before the first Sunday of May (commemorating the reunification of his relics).

The blood is also said to spontaneously liquefy at certain other times, such as papal visits. It liquefied in the presence of Pope Pius IX in 1848, but not that of John Paul II in 1979 or Benedict XVI in 2007. On March 21, 2015, Pope Francis venerated the dried blood during a visit to Naples Cathedral, saying the Lord’s Prayer over it and kissing it. Archbishop Sepe then declared that “The blood has half liquefied, which shows that Saint Januarius loves our pope and Naples.” Francis replied, “The bishop just announced that the blood half liquefied. We can see the saint only half loves us. We must all spread the Word, so that he loves us more!”

Ritual of liquefaction

The blood is stored in two hermetically sealed small ampoules, held since the 17th century in a silver reliquary between two round glass plates about 12 cm wide. The smaller ampoule (of cylindrical shape) contains only a few reddish spots on its walls, the bulk having allegedly been removed and taken to Spain by Charles III. The larger ampoule, with capacity of about 60 ml and almond-shaped, is about 60% filled with a dark reddish substance. Separate reliquaries hold bone fragments believed to belong to Saint Januarius.

For most of the time, the ampoules are kept in a bank vault, whose keys are held by a commission of local notables, including the Mayor of Naples; while the bones are kept in a crypt under the main altar of Naples Cathedral. On feast days, all these relics are taken in procession from the cathedral to the Monastery of Santa Chiara, where the archbishop holds the reliquary up and tilts it to show that the contents are solid, and places it on the high altar next to the saint’s other relics. After intense prayers by the faithful, including the so-called “relatives of Saint Januarius” (parenti di San Gennaro), the content of the larger vial typically liquefies. The archbishop then holds up the vial and tilts it again to demonstrate that liquefaction has taken place. The announcement of the liquefaction is greeted with a 21-gun salute at the 13th-century Castel Nuovo. The ampoules remain exposed on the altar for eight days, while the priests move or turn them periodically to show that the contents remain liquid.Sir Francis Ronalds gives a detailed description of the May 1819 ritual in his travel journal.

The liquefaction sometimes takes place almost immediately, but can take hours or even days. Records kept at the Duomo tell that on rare occasions the contents fail to liquefy, are found already liquefied when the ampoules are taken from the safe, or liquefy outside the usual dates.

Scientific studies

While the Catholic Church has always supported the celebrations, it has never formulated an official statement on the phenomenon and maintains a neutral stance about scientific investigations. It does not permit the vials to be opened, for fear that doing so may cause irreparable damage. This makes close analysis impossible. Nevertheless, a spectroscopic analysis performed in 1902 by Gennaro Sperindeo claimed that the spectrum was consistent with hemoglobin. A later analysis, with similar conclusions, was carried out by a team in 1989. However, the reliability of these observations has been questioned. While clotted blood can be liquefied by mechanical stirring, the resulting suspension cannot solidify again.

Measurements made in 1900 and 1904 claimed that the ampoules’ weight increased by up to 28 grams during liquefaction. However, later measurements with a precision balance, performed over five years, failed to detect any variation.

Various suggestions for the content’s composition have been advanced, such as a material that is photosensitive, hygroscopic, or has a low melting point. However, these explanations run into technical difficulties, such as the variability of the phenomenon and its lack of correlation to ambient temperature.

A recent hypothesis by Garlaschelli & al. is that the vial contains a thixotropic gel, In such a substance viscosity increases if left unstirred and decreases if stirred or moved. Researchers have proposed specifically a suspension of hydrated iron oxide, FeO(OH), which reproduces the color and behavior of the ‘blood’ in the ampoule. The suspension can be prepared from simple chemicals that would have been easily available locally since antiquity.

In 2010, Giuseppe Geraci, a professor in the Department of Molecular Biology at Naples’s Frederick II University, conducted an experiment on a vial containing old blood—a relic dating back to the 18th century from the Eremo di Camaldoli near Arezzo in Tuscany—having the same characteristics of the blood of St. Januarius. Prof. Geraci showed that the Camaldoli relic also contains blood that can change its solid-liquid phase by shaking. He further reproduced the phenomenon with his own blood stored in the same conditions as the Camaldoli relic. He stated that, “There is no univocal scientific fact that explains why these changes take place. It is not enough to attribute to the movement the ability to dissolve the blood, the liquid contained in the Treasure case changes state for reasons still to be identified.” He ultimately argued that “there’s blood, no miracle”.

Similar rites

Although Naples became known as “City of Blood” (urbs sanguinum), legends of blood liquefaction are not a unique phenomenon. Other examples include vials of the blood of Saint Patricia, of St John the Baptist in the monastery of San Gregorio Armeno, and of Saint Pantaleon in Ravello. In all, the church has recognized claims of miraculous liquefying blood for seven or about twenty saints from Campania and virtually nowhere else. The blood cults of the other saints have been discontinued since the 16th century, which Randi takes as evidence that local artisans or alchemists had a secret recipe for manufacturing this type of relic. A team of three Italian chemistsmanaged to create a liquid that reproduces all the characteristics and behavior of the liquid in the vial, using only local materials and techniques that were known to medieval workers. Jordan Lancaster leaves open the possibility that the practice was a Christian survival of a pagan ritual intended to protect the locals from unexpected eruptions from Vesuvius.

Museum of the Treasure of St. Januarius

The Treasure of St Januarius is composed of magnificent works and donations collected in seven centuries of Popes, Kings, Emperors, famous and ordinary people. According to studies done by a pool of experts who have analyzed all the pieces of the collection, the Treasure of St Januarius would be even richer than the crown of England’s Queen Elizabeth II and the Czars of Russia. The Treasure is a unique collection of art masterpieces, kept untouched thanks to the Deputation of the Chapel of St Januarius, an ancient secular institution founded in 1527 by a vote of the city of Naples, still existing. Today, the Treasure is exhibited in the Museum of the Treasure of St Januarius, whose entrance is located on the right side of the Dome of Naples, under the arcades. By visiting the Museum, you can access the Chapel of St. Gennaro even during the closing hours of the Cathedral.

Source: Wikipedia

Augustine Zhao Rong, P & M, and Companions,

+Matthew 9:18-26

‘Your faith has restored you to health’

While Jesus was speaking, up came one of the officials, who bowed low in front of him and said, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and her life will be saved.’ Jesus rose and, with his disciples, followed him. Then from behind him came a woman, who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and she touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his cloak I shall be well again.’ Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has restored you to health.’ And from that moment the woman was well again.

When Jesus reached the official’s house and saw the flute-players, with the crowd making a commotion he said, ‘Get out of here; the little girl is not dead, she is asleep.’ And they laughed at him. But when the people had been turned out he went inside and took the little girl by the hand; and she stood up. And the news spread all round the countryside.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

222 Believing in God, the only One, and loving him with all our being has enormous consequences for our whole life.

223 It means coming to know God’s greatness and majesty: “Behold, God is great, and we know him not.” Therefore, we must “serve God first”.

224 It means living in thanksgiving: if God is the only One, everything we are and have comes from him: “What have you that you did not receive?” “What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?”

225 It means knowing the unity and true dignity of all men: everyone is made in the image and likeness of God.

226 It means making good use of created things: faith in God, the only One, leads us to use everything that is not God only insofar as it brings us closer to him, and to detach ourselves from it insofar as it turns us away from him:

My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.

My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.

My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.

227 It means trusting God in every circumstance, even in adversity. A prayer of St. Teresa of Jesus wonderfully expresses this trust:

Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you

Everything passes / God never changes

Patience / Obtains all

Whoever has God / Wants for nothing

God alone is enough.


Psalm 144

I will bless you day after day

The Lord is kind and full of compassion.

and praise your name for ever.

The Lord is great, highly to be praised,

his greatness cannot be measured.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion.

Age to age shall proclaim your works,

shall declare your mighty deeds,

shall speak of your splendour and glory,

tell the tale of your wonderful works.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion.

They will speak of your terrible deeds,

recount your greatness and might.

They will recall your abundant goodness;

age to age shall ring out your justice.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion,

slow to anger, abounding in love.

How good is the Lord to all,

compassionate to all his creatures.

The Lord is kind and full of compassion.


Martyr Saints of China

The Martyr Saints of China, or Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions, are saints of the Roman Catholic Church. The 87 Chinese Catholics and 33 Western missionaries, from the mid-17th century to 1930, were martyred because of their ministry and, in some cases, for their refusal to apostatize.

Many died in the Boxer Rebellion, in which xenophobic peasants slaughtered 30,000 Chinese converts to Christianity along with missionaries and other foreigners.

In the ordinary form of the Latin Rite they are remembered with an optional memorial on July 9.

Source: Wikipedia

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter

+John 6:16-21

They saw Jesus walking on the lake

In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Faith

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”


Psalm 32

Of David. A maskil. 1 Happy the sinner whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven.

Happy those to whom the LORD imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit.

As long as I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all the day.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Selah

Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. Selah

Thus should all your faithful pray in time of distress. Though flood waters threaten, they will never reach them.

You are my shelter; from distress you keep me; with safety you ring me round. Selah

I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you.

Do not be senseless like horses or mules; with bit and bridle their temper is curbed, else they will not come to you.

Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just; exult, all you upright of heart.

Source: The New American Bible

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

+Matthew 11:16-19

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘What description can I find for this generation? It is like children shouting to each other as they sit in the market place:

“We played the pipes for you,

and you wouldn’t dance;

we sang dirges,

and you wouldn’t be mourners.”

‘For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions.’

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Faith

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”


Psalm 1:1

Happy those who do not follow the counsel of the wicked, Nor go the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.

Rather, the law of the LORD is their joy; God’s law they study day and night.

They are like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season; Its leaves never wither; whatever they do prospers.

But not the wicked! They are like chaff driven by the wind.

Therefore the wicked will not survive judgment, nor will sinners in the assembly of the just.

The LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Source: The New American Bible


 

Andrew Kim Taegon, P & M, Paul Chong Hasang, M, & companions, Mm

+Luke 7:31-35

Jesus said to the people:

‘What description can I find for the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market-place:

‘“We played the pipes for you,

and you wouldn’t dance;

we sang dirges,

and you wouldn’t cry.”

‘For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.” The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.’

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

Faith

2087 Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” as our first obligation. He shows that “ignorance of God” is the principle and explanation of all moral deviations. Our duty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.

2088 The first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. There are various ways of sinning against faith:

Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.

2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. “Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”


Psalm 110

A psalm of David.  The LORD says to you, my lord: “Take your throne at my righthand, while I make your enemies your footstool.”

The scepter of your sovereign might the LORD will extend from Zion. The LORD says: “Rule over your enemies!

Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor before the daystar, like the dew I begot you.”

The LORD has sworn and will not waver: “Like Melchizedek you are a priest forever.”

At your right hand is the Lord, who crushes kings on the day of wrath,

Who, robed in splendor, judges nations, crushes heads across the wide earth,

Who drinks from the brook by the wayside and thus holds high the head.

Source: The New American Bible


Saint Kim Taegon Andrea (Hangul: 김대건 안드레아, Hanja: 金大建) (1821–1846), generally referred to as Saint Andrew Kim Taegon in English, was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is the patron saint of Korea. In the late 18th century, Roman Catholicism began to take root slowly in Korea and was introduced by scholars who visited China and brought back Western books translated into Chinese. In 1836 Korea saw its first consecrated missionaries (members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society) arrive, only to find out that the people there were already practicing Korean Catholics.

Born of yangban, Kim’s parents were converts and his father was subsequently martyred for practising Christianity, a prohibited activity in heavily Confucian Korea. After being baptized at age 15, Kim studied at a seminary in the Portuguese colony of Macau. He also spent time in study at Lolomboy, Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines, where today he is also venerated. He was ordained a priest in Shanghai after nine years (1844) by the French bishop Jean-Joseph-Jean-Baptiste Ferréol. He then returned to Korea to preach and evangelize. During the Joseon Dynasty, Christianity was suppressed and many Christians were persecuted and executed. Catholics had to covertly practise their faith. Kim was one of several thousand Christians who were executed during this time. In 1846, at the age of 25, he was tortured and beheaded near Seoul on the Han River. His last words were:

“              “This is my last hour of life, listen to me attentively: if I have held communication with foreigners, it has been for my religion and for my God. It is for Him that I die. My immortal life is on the point of beginning. Become Christians if you wish to be happy after death, because God has eternal chastisements in store for those who have refused to know Him.”   ”

Before Ferréol, the first bishop of Korea, died from exhaustion on 3 February 1853, he wanted to be buried beside Kim, stating, “You will never know how sad I was to lose this young native priest. I have loved him as a father loved his son; it is a consolation for me to think of his eternal happiness.”

On May 6, 1984, Pope John Paul II canonized Kim along with 102 other Korean Martyrs, including Paul Chong Hasang, during his trip to Korea. Their memorial is September 20.

Source: Wikipedia


Thursday of the Second Week of Easter

+Jn 3: 31-36

The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven (is above all).

He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.

Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.

For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.

The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

The New American Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

160 To be human, “man’s response to God by faith must be free, and. . . therefore nobody is to be forced to embrace the faith against his will. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act.” “God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth. Consequently they are bound to him in conscience, but not coerced. . . This fact received its fullest manifestation in Christ Jesus.” Indeed, Christ invited people to faith and conversion, but never coerced them. “For he bore witness to the truth but refused to use force to impose it on those who spoke against it. His kingdom. . . grows by the love with which Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws men to himself.”

 

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. “Since “without faith it is impossible to please God” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.'”

162 Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: “Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.” To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; it must be “working through charity,” abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.