Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Entertaining Saints: St. Bernadino of Siena

God has sent me a friend, I think.  He showed up about a week ago, and I’m not sure how long he’s going to stay.

He’s a Franciscan, a preacher, a theologian, and a canonist.  And he lived 600 years ago.

St. Bernadino of Siena arrived on my scene last week through his bio in the Magnificat.  I’ve quickly fallen in love with the Holy Name ever since reading Fr. Paul O’Sullivan’s book The Wonders of the Holy Name some weeks ago, and it was striking to me that the saint featured in this month’s Magnficat would be someone who was so totally devoted to the Holy Name that he carried a staff with the initials IHS on top and who indeed worked many wonders in the Name of Jesus.  The timing caught my attention and my heart and I felt an instant connection with and affection for him, despite the years between us and our many differences.  I’ve felt him in our house ever since, close at hand, in my thoughts, pointing out ways that the Holy Name is glorified, bringing me to today when my husband called from work to wish me a happy Feast of St. Bernadino and my heart inexplicably leapt. 

What I’ve learned about our guest is that in 1417 he began preaching in Milan and Lombardy and later travelled to other parts of Italy, always on foot.  (He had to practice extensively to train his weak voice to become strong enough to be heard in churches and open-air pulpits.)  He preached on the person of Christ and focused on the common sins of his day: witchcraft, usury, gambling, and superstition, advocating for penance and voluntary poverty to help ward off these evils (Butlers Lives of the Saints, May, pg. 107).

St. Bernadino preached that “speech ought to be a holy activity free of salaciousness and vulgarity” and that “malicious gossip…triggered warfare”. 

Of all words he most cherished the Holy Name, saying:
The name of Jesus is the glory of preachers, because the shining splendor of that name causes his word to be proclaimed and heard.  And how do you think such an immense, sudden, and dazzling light of faith came into the world, if not because Jesus was preached?  Was it not through the brilliance and sweet savor of this name that God called us into His marvelous light? (Magnficat, Vol. 15, No.3)

And so this good mendicant friar from the middle ages is with us for the time being.  I’m not quite sure what he wants or why the Lord has sent him in particular.  With a typical house guest (okay, so really only a grandparent or brother has been willing/brave enough to stay with us overnight), I’d be concerned about what to feed him, how to entertain him, and making sure no tiny people were wandering into his room at 5:30 in the morning to see what were in his bags and to find out if maybe he’d like to play stuffed animals right now.  But how to ensure that a saintly visitor is pleased with the hospitality?  I’m not sure.  I suppose I could ask him, but I’m a little nervous about what he’ll say.  Despite his endlessly-good nature, he might prove the most difficult to please. 

Do you have any ideas?  Have you had any saintly visitors lately and how have you cared for them in your home?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Whatever You Do: The Saints and the Holy Name

“Whatever you do in word or work, do all in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, O.P. in The Wonders of the Holy Name reminds the reader of the strong relationship between the saints and the Holy Name.  He writes, “All the Saints had an immense love for and trust in the Name of Jesus.  They saw in this name, as in a clear vision, all the love of Our Lord, all His Power, all the beautiful things He said and did when on earth….They did all their wonderful works in the Name of Jesus.  They worked miracles, cast out devils, cured the sick and gave comfort to everyone, using and recommending to all the habit of invoking the Holy Name.  St. Peter and the Apostles converted the world with this all-powerful Name.” (p.19)

Fr. O’Sullivan offers a lengthy list of saints who rose to great heights of sanctity due to their love of the Name of Jesus.  Noting Fr. O’Sullivan’s caveat—that to list all the miracles wrought through the Holy Name would be impossible because, of course, every miracle is performed through it—he cites some exceptional examples of saintly devotion to the Name of Jesus.

We read about “St. Vincent Ferrer, one of the most famous preachers that the world has ever heard” who “converted 80,000 Jews and 70,000 Moors…This great Saint burned with love for the Name of Jesus and with this Divine Name worked extraordinary wonders.” (26)

We learn about St. Frances of Rome who “enjoyed the extraordinary privilege of constantly seeing and speaking to her Angel Guardian.  When she pronounced the Name of Jesus, the Angel was radiant with happiness and bent down in loving adoration.  Sometimes the devil appeared to her, seeking to frighten her and do her harm.  But when she pronounced the Holy Name, he was filled with rage and hatred and fled in terror from her presence.” (28)

And then there’s St. Gemma Galgani:  “Almost in our own day this dear girl Saint also had the privilege of frequent and intimate converse with her Angel Guardian.  Sometimes the Angel and Gemma entered into a holy contest as to which of them could say more lovingly the Name of Jesus. (29)

Or St. Edmund, to whom the Christ Child appeared, instructing him to making the Sign of the Cross before bed while saying, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” to be delivered from an unprovided-for death” (28).

Or Blessed Catherine of Racconigi, a spiritual daughter of St. Dominic, “who repeated frequently and lovingly the Name of Jesus, so that after her death, the Name of Jesus was found engraved in letters of gold on her heart” (29).

Fr. O’Sullivan encourages us in this devotion, and if we’re faithful to it “the Name of Jesus will be emblazoned on our souls for all Eternity in the sight of the Saints and Angels in Heaven,” which would be pretty awesome.  But it’d be enough to simply be able to do the dishes without descending into a black pit of discouragement.  Or to be able to smile while getting the children off to school.  Or not have such ugly thoughts while checking Facebook.  To be more courageous when everyone at home is being grouchy.  To happily rise above the petty annoyances of the day.  In short, to stop looking like a pickled pepper, like Pope Francis warned against.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Saved by the Holy Name

The children are downstairs dutifully picking up their toys as directed by their father.  I am supposedly clearing the table and putting away the dishes but what I’m really doing is silently lifting the lid off a tub of peanut butter Hershey kiss cookies that had been lovingly dropped off by an aunt.  I am going in for number six for the day when the thought occurs to me that, really, it’d be sinful to eat any more.

I wince and do the math again: am I really full?  Yes.  Could maybe this still count as a dessert because they’re so small?  No.  Darn it!  Maybe I’ll just have another one as I’m thinking about this.  No, it’s certain: if I eat any more, it’ll be sinful.  Oh, what’s the big deal, they’re so small—“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” comes back to mind, as I’ve been trying to pray His Name today.  I consider this: He’s been with me all day today and now confronted with the cookies, am I going to pretend that He’s not actually right beside me?  Cover my eyes like my preschooler?  My heart starts to pound: He is right here with me and I want to have another one.  Who am I going to choose?

I mouth “aargck” and shake my hands in frustration, backing away from the tub praying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” And it will be one more time that He’ll need to lead me away from that same dark corner of the kitchen—this time as I’m drinking the flavored coffee creamer from the same beloved aunt—to learn more about the strength of the Holy Name.

With my decaf in hand back at McDonald’s it’s the opening paragraph of Chapter 3 of Fr. Paul O’Sullivan’s The Wonders of the Holy Name that catches my attention:

“In the year 1274 great evils threatened the world.  The Church was assailed by fierce enemies from within and without.  So great was the danger that the Pope, Gregory X, who then reigned, called a council of Bishops in Lyons to determine on the best means of saving society from the ruin that menaced it.  Among the many means proposed, the Pope and Bishops chose what they considered the easiest and most efficacious of all, viz., the frequent repetition of the Holy Name of Jesus.” (6)

No history scholar I try to imagine what was plaguing the world at that time without going to the trouble of looking it up.  Plagues, probably, heresy…I imagine living in 1274 and get distracted thinking about what my hair would look like without shampoo and Cost Cutters.  Curiosity sets in and I look up what actually was the problem discussed at the council—the conquest of the Holy Land and union of the Churches, according to New Advent. 

“The Holy Father then begged the Bishops of the world and their priests to call on the Name of Jesus and to urge their peoples to place all their confidence in this all-powerful name, repeating it constantly with boundless trust.  The Pope entrusted the Dominicans especially with the glorious task of preaching the wonders of the Holy Name in every country, a work they accomplished with unbounded zeal…Their efforts were crowned with success so that the enemies of the Church were overthrown, the dangers that threatened society disappeared and peace once more reigned supreme” (7).

I feel the CNN ticker relentlessly crawling across the screen overhead, a veritable stream of bad news that seems to be picking up pace with each week.  Before I can question if my attempts to pray for my house and my nation in the Holy Name would really make any difference, though, I read:

“It is amazing what one person who prays can do to save his country and save society.  We read in Holy Scripture how Moses saved by his prayer the people of Israel from destruction, and how one pious woman, Judith of Betulia, saved her city and her people when the rulers were in despair and about to surrender themselves to their enemies.  Again, we know that the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed by fire for their sins and crimes, would have been pardoned had there been only ten good men to pray for them!” (8)  Later in the book is a chapter devoted to how the Holy Name drove out the plague in Portugal.

I can do that.  Because I can’t do anything else.  I can’t fly to Paris and take on the water canons.  I can’t drive to Washington and sit down for a heart-to-heart with the President.  I can’t plead with the heads of media.  I can’t even tear myself away from a tub of cookies on my own.  But I can pray the Holy Name.  And I trust that the power of His Name whispered in a kitchen is enough to repel evil of all kinds.