Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Saint John Vianney

The body of St. John Mary Vianney is still exposed incorrupt in the Basilica of Ars.

As a priest, Saint John Mary Vianney took upon himself many of the projects parish priests take on. He set about to restore the parish church, he founded an orphanage and did acts of charity for the poor. He also did some pretty extraordinary things. He had supernatural knowledge of the future and the past, and he performed healing miracles, particularly on children. But it was in the basic duties of parish life that he excelled, namely preaching, offering spiritual direction, and, most notably, hearing confessions.

John Mary Vianney was born in Dardilly, near Leon, in 1786. His early faith formation took place within the context of the French Revolution, which pushed the practice of the Catholic faith underground. Later in his ministry, he would deal with the consequences of the revolution, which led many of the faithful to leave the Church.

The road to the priesthood wasn’t an easy path for Vianney. After finally getting his father’s permission to pursue his calling, he still needed to get caught up on his studies, as the revolution had interrupted his education. If he wanted to be a priest, he’d have to go back to school with children half his age to learn the basics of reading, writing, and Latin.

Almost nine years later, in 1815, Vianney was ordained. He was 29. Less than three years later, in 1818, the young priest was assigned as the assistant pastor of the church in Ars, a small country village located about 25 miles from Lyon in eastern France. This is where he would spend the rest of his priestly life.

Arriving in Ars, the young priest noticed the loss of Christian faith and morals around him, a lingering by-product of the French Revolution. Father Vianney soon began to awaken the faith of his parishioners through his preaching, but most of all by his prayer and his way of life. His notoriety as a holy priest grew slowly, and Father Vianney soon became known as, simply, the Curé d’Ars (parish priest of Ars).

By the 1830s, his popularity swelled to the extent that the holy priest became somewhat of a prisoner in the confessional, held there by the hundreds of faithful arriving daily to the village to see the holy curé. Between 1830 and 1845, sometimes as many as 300 people a day would pass through Ars for a chance to confess with Father Vianney.

Overwhelmed with his own sense of unworthiness and weakness in the face of such a great mission, the holy priest tried three times to escape, but all attempts failed. On the third attempt his parishioners actually sent out a search crew in the middle of the night to find him and put him back in the confessional. He stayed there until the wee hours of the morning – hearing confessions.

In 1853, a group of diocesan missionaries came to the aid of the overworked parish priest, who couldn’t seem to get out of his confessional, let alone out of his own parish to take a holiday. His own bishop even told him not to attend diocesan retreats, as Father Vianney had too many souls to attend to in Ars.

By 1855, the number of pilgrims had reached 20,000 a year, and some 100,000 in 1858. There are reports that during the last 10 years of his life, he spent as many as 18 hours a day in the confessional, and that toward the end of his life, he confessed up to 80,000 penitents a year.

Father Vianney spent the last five days of his life hearing his confessions from his deathbed. Exhausted, the Curé d’Ars died Aug. 4, 1859. He was 73.

The parish priest was beatified in 1905, and declared the patron of the priests of France that same year. He was canonized 20 years later in 1925, and declared the patron saint of all parish priests in 1929.

Taken from an article of Karna Swanson, editor of the English edition of zenit.org (June 19, 2009)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Macau pilgrimage - Cathedral Square

Situated near Rua de S. Domingos, the Cathedral is located on the top of the nearby paved hill. Here, Midnight Mass is held at Christmas and the Procession of the Passion of Our Lord is enacted every year. Next to the Cathedral stands the timelessly beautiful Bishop's Palace. Although the Cathedral is not the biggest church in Macau, it is certainly one of the grandest.

In 1575, the Catholic church was established in Macau - named the City of the Name of God - and promptly became the centre of Catholicism in Asia. In 1576, the Cathedral was built and many important relics of the 16th & 17th Century are stored here.

The Cathedral square has recently been refurbished, and an imposing fountain added, providing a convenient spot for residents and visitors to relax in comfort. Less than 2 minutes walk from the Cathedral lie the major thoroughfares of Rua de S. Domingos, Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro and Avenida de Praia Grande.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Macau Pilgrimage -Saint Dominic's Church

Standing on the site of a chapel and convent built by the Dominicans in the 1590's St. Dominic's Church dates from the early 17th century. It has an imposing facade of cream-coloured stone with white stucco mouldings and green-shutted windows. Inside, white pillars support a flat ceiling and apron balconies trim the walls. The great baroque altar contains a cream and white statue of the Virgin and Child and a painting of Christ. The church has a fine collection of exquisitely-carved ivory and wood saints.

St. Dominic's Church has a violently dramatic past. In 1644 a military officer who supported the Spanish against the Portuguese was murdered at the altar during Mass. In 1707 the Dominicans sided with the Pope against Macau's bishop in the Rites Controversy. When local soldiers tried to enforce an excommunication order on them, the friars locked themselves in the church for three days and pelted the soldiers with stones. In 1834 the monastic orders were suppressed and for a time the church was used by the government as barracks, stable and public works office.

St. Dominic's Church was renovated in 1997 and opened to the public with a museum, on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor. The museum shows paintings, sculptures and liturgical ornaments that illustrate the history of the Roman Catholic church in Asia.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pilgrimage in Macau-Ruins of Saint Paul

All that remains of the greatest of Macau's churches is its magnificent stone facade and grand staircase. The church was built in 1602 adjoining the Jesuit College of St. Paul's, the first Western college in the Far East where missionaries such as Matteo Ricci and Adam Schall studied Chinese before serving at the Ming Court in Beijing as astronomers and mathematicians. The church, made of taipa and wood, was brilliantly decorated and furnished, according to early travelers. The facade of carved stone was built in 1620-27 by Japanese Christian exiles and local craftsmen under the direction of Italian Jesuit Carlo Spinola.

After the expulsion of the Jesuits, the college was used as an army barracks and in 1835 a fire started in the kitchens and destroyed the college and the body of the church. The surviving facade rised in 4 colonnaded tiers, and is covered with carvings and statues which eloquently illustrate the early days of the Church in Asia. There are statues of the Virgin and saints, symbols of the Garden of Eden and the Crucifixion, angels and the devil, a Chinese dragon and a Japanese chrysanthemum, a Portuguese sailing ship and pious warnings inscribed in Chinese.

After restoration work, lasting from 1990 to 1995, the back side of the Ruins of St. Paul's was turned into a museum. The ruins are regarded as the symbol of Macau and now offer visitors a new site where they can view the remains of the former Church of the Mother of God, visit a Crypt where the relics of the Martyrs of Japan and Vietnam rest, and a museum of Sacred Art where there are exhibits of paintings, sculptures and liturgical objects from churches and monasteries in the City.

Painting by unknown artist depicting the matrys of Nagasaki

The crpyt contains skeletons of the matrys of Nagasaki

Monday, March 9, 2009

Feast day of Saint Frances of Rome

FRANCES was born at Rome in 1384. Her parents were of high rank. They overruled her desire to become a nun, and at twelve years of age married her to Lorenzo Ponziano, a Roman noble. During the forty years of their married life they never had a disagreement. While spending her days in retirement and prayer, she attended promptly to every household duty, saying, "A married woman must leave God at the altar to find Him in her domestic cares;" and she once found the verse of a psalm in which she had been four times thus interrupted completed for her in letters of gold. Her ordinary food was dry bread. Secretly she would exchange with beggars good food for their hard crusts; her drink was water, and her cup a human skull. During the invasion of Rome, in 1418, Ponziano was banished, his estates confiscated, his house destroyed, and his eldest son taken as a hostage. Frances saw in these losses only the finger of God, and blessed His holy name. When peace was restored Ponziano recovered his estates, and Frances founded the Oblates. After her husband's death, barefoot and with a cord about her neck she begged admission to the community, and was soon elected Superioress. She lived always in the presence of God, and amongst many visions , was given constant sight of her angel guardian, who shed such a brightness around him that the Saint could read her midnight Office by this light alone. He shielded her in the hour of temptation, and directed her in every good act. But when she was betrayed into some defect, he faded from her sight; and when some light words were spoken before her, he covered his face in shame. She died on the day she had foretold, March 9, 1440.On 9 May 1608 she was canonized by Pope Paul V, and in the following decades a diligent search was made for her remains. They were found on 2 April 1638 and reburied on 9 March 1649, which since then is her feast day. Again, in 1869, her body was exhumed and has since then been exposed to the veneration of the faithful in a crystal coffin. The church of Santa Maria Nova is usually now referred to as the church of Santa Francesca Romana.In 1925 Pope Pius XI declared her the patron saint of automobile drivers because of a legend that an angel used to light the road in front of her with a lantern when she travelled, keeping her safe from hazards.

Reflection.--God has appointed an angel to guard each one of us, to whose warnings we are bound to attend. Let us listen to his voice here, and we shall see him hereafter, when he leads us before the throne of God.