Tag Archives: Saints

The Saint Who Taught Me to Worship: The Feast of Augustine

Tim-OMalley-e1375811311325-137x150Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Editor, Oblation:  Catechesis, Liturgy, and the New Evangelization

Editor, Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization

Contact Author

Like many of those involved in liturgical scholarship, my own interest in the liturgy began at any early age. I remember being highly aware as a seven year old that worship of God in the Eucharist was the sort of activity that might change what it meant to be alive in the first place. I was the strange second grader who longed each Sunday for Mass. In high school, my desire for worship turned to the contemporary praise songs that played over Praiseand over again on the local Christian radio station in Knoxville. This music, and the accompanying affections, were essential to my life of faith. As I grew older, slowly turning away from this praise music, I discovered the rich hymnody and poetry of the Anglo-Catholic world–once again coming to know the reality of God through a new, poetic form of praise. Worship, the act of praise and adoration, was integral to my life as a believer–until the fall semester of my junior year when I was studying in London. In the midst of loneliness, as well as a parish choir that was less than spectacular, I noticed that my feelings in worship dried up. The disappearance of these affections during Mass slowly led me to doubt whether God existed at all. I attended Mass but felt nothing. In the spring semester on campus, I found myself in a joint theology/philosophy seminar on Augustine taught by John Cavadini (my current boss) and Fr. John Jenkins (the now president of Notre Dame). Early in the semester, we turned our attention to that magisterial work of Augustine–De civitate dei (a text that I find quickly becoming my favorite work by Augustine in my middle years). As we reached Book X, that book which treats the theme of worship and sacrifice, I found myself face-to-face with the following passage:

Our heart is his altar when it is lifted up to him [sursum est]; we plead to him by his Only-begotten priest; we offer bleeding victims to him, when we strive for his truth even to shedding blood [ad sanguinem]; we burn the sweetest incense to him when we are aflame with holy and pious love in his sight; we consecrate and we return his gifts in us and our own person; by solemn feasts and dedicated days, we render sacred and proclaim the memory [dicamus sacramusque memoriam] of his benefits, lest, by the passing of time ingrate forgetfulness might creep upon us; we sacrifice to him a victim of humility and of praise on the altar of our heart kindled by the fire of love.[1]

This account of worship did not emphasize how Augustine felt in the act of worship. Rather, it treated authentic worship as nothing less than the gift of ourselves to God. True worship was not about generating the right emotions so that we can “feel” God’s presence in our lives. Rather, true worship, formative worship changes what it means for us to be human in the first place. Our memory, our understanding, and our will are to become sacrifices of divine praise to God–gifts offered to the God who first loved us. Worship was not about what I felt. Instead, it was about who I was to become: one who praises God in all that I do. AugustineofHippoElsewhere in this same work, Augustine writes:  “God will be the end of all our desires, he who will be seen without end, loved without weariness, praised without fatigue.  This work, this desire, this motion, will be truly common to all, like eternal life itself.”[2]

The destiny of the human vocation is nothing less than total praise, a common gift of our humanity to God in love without any effort except the duty of delight. This treatment of sacrifice forever changed how I would think about worship. Liturgy is not dependent upon the kind of feelings that are generated in the act of worship. Divine praise is an objective action, one in which we practice giving our wills over to God. We practice that vocation of total praise, which is the destiny for those of us who desire eternal membership in the city of God. This task is never easy. It is not without a formation of our desires, a form of practice that requires the Christian to learn not only to feel but to love. As Augustine comments in his Enarrationes in Psalmos:

What about you?  Do you too want to sing and play psalms?  Then not only must your voice sing God’s praises but your actions must keep in tune with your voice.  After you have been singing with your voice you will have to be quiet for a while, but sing with your life in such a way that you never fall silent.  Suppose you are engaged in business and you are contemplating some dishonest deal:  you have allowed your praise of God to be silenced and, worse still, you have not only smothered your praise but have committed blasphemy; for since God is praised by your good works you are praising him simply by performing them, whereas your evil deeds are a blasphemy, and so you blaspheme as you commit them.[3]

The vocation of humanity is this kind of praise, a perfect praise in which every form of worship finds its end not in better, more sophisticated (and novel) worship that generates more and more emotion. But in that gift of self, which Christians call love. Worship is not about us, it is not about our affections. Instead, it is about becoming who God intended us to be: members of a symphony of perfect praise of the voice and the will alike. On this feast of St. Augustine, I’m grateful to this member of the choir of the saints, who taught me to praise aright.


[1] Augustine, ciu. 10.3 (CCL 47A:  275.14-23; Dyson 394-95):  Cum ad illum sursum est, eius est altare cor nostrum; eius Vnigenito eum sacerdote placamus; ei cruentas uictimas caedimus, quando usque ad sanguinem pro eius ueritate certamus; eum suauissimo adolemus incenso, cum in eius conspectu pio sanctoque amore flagramus; ei dona eius in nobis nosque ipsos uouemus et reddimus; ei beneficiorum eius sollemnitatibus festis et diebus statutis dicamus sacramusque memoriam, ne uolumine temporum ingrata subrepat obliuio; ei sacrificamus hostiam humilitatis et laudis in ara cordis igne feruidam caritatis.

[2] Augustine, ciu. 22.30 (47B:  863.33-36; Dyson, 1179):  Ipse finis erit desideriorum nostrorum, qui sine fine uidebitur, sine fastidio amabitur, sine fatigatione laudaitur.  Hoc munus, hic affectus, hic actus profecto erit omnibus, sicut ipsa uita aeterna, communis.

[3] Augustine, en. Ps. 146.2 (CCL 40:  2122.6-14; Boulding, 421).

A Few (More) Good Men and Women

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

The Church has many reasons to celebrate, but this week, there are seven new ones: on October 21, Pope Benedict XVI canonized seven men and women saints at a ceremony in Rome attended by more than 80,000 people from across the world. What struck me about this particular group of men and women is how diverse they are: although some of them are from the same time period or the same geographic region, each life story is a unique, beautiful example of how God’s grace can make even the most seemingly ordinary person an extraordinary witness to the Good News of Christ. Here are brief(ish) biographies of each of our seven new heroes and heroines in the faith. May the examples of these, our brothers and sisters in Christ, inspire us all to seek and follow the unique path of holiness that God has designed for each of us.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, known affectionately as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” was born in 1656 in what is now upstate New York. Her mother, an Algonquin, was a Christian; her father, an Iroquois, was not. Both parents and her brother died of smallpox when Kateri was only four; she herself suffered facial scarring and impaired vision from the disease, which generally weakened her health for the rest of her life. Kateri’s uncle, a member of the Mohawk tribe, took her in after her parents died. As a child, she encountered the teachings of Jesuit missionaries and decided to become a Christian when she was eighteen years old. Baptized at the age of twenty, Kateri subsequently suffered persecution from her tribe, who ostracized her so intently that she left for a Jesuit mission located south of present-day Montreal, where she lived among other Christian converts until her death at the age of 24. Known for her purity, Kateri vowed a life of virginity and penance. She is the first Native American to be canonized a saint, and the patroness of ecologists and environmentalists, as well as those who have lost their parents and those ridiculed for their piety. Her feast day is July 14.

St. Marianne Cope was born in Germany in 1838; her family emigrated to upstate New York in 1839 and became American citizens in the 1850s. Upon completing 8th grade, she went to work at a factory to support her eight younger siblings and her invalid father. She continued to work until her siblings were old enough to care for themselves, and entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1862, a year after her father died. After professing her vows in 1863, Sr. Marianne taught and served as principal for several schools in New York. A gifted administrator, Sr. Marianne assisted in the establishment of two hospitals noted for providing medical care regardless of race or religion. By 1883, she had become mother general of her congregation. That year, Mother Marianne received a request from Hawaii for someone who could administrate the hospitals and educate people there who were afflicted with Hansen’s disease, or leprosy. Mother Marianne accepted the challenge before her and moved to Hawaii with six of her fellow sisters. In 1884, she met Fr. Damien (also a saint), and when he was diagnosed with Hansen’s in 1886, Mother Marianne ensured that he received compassionate treatment. Following his death in 1889, she was chosen to be Fr. Damien’s successor as the administrator of Boy’s Home, a facility at Kalawao that provided care for patients with Hansen’s. She remained in Hawaii for the rest of her life, establishing and expanding facilities for the care of the sick and the outcast. She died in 1918, and is the patroness of outcasts, those afflicted with leprosy, as well as those with HIV/AIDS. Her feast day is January 23.

St. Pedro Calungsod was born around 1654; his exact birthplace is unknown, and few historical details of his childhood exist. What is known, however, is that he encountered Jesuit missionaries and was baptized Christian. Calungsod excelled as a catechist and altar server, and around the age of 14, he accompanied the Jesuits to the Ladrones Islands in order to assist their mission of evangelization. The missionaries converted many of the local natives to Christianity, but they began to encounter hostility when rumors began circulating that the missionaries were responsible for the illnesses and deaths of several infants in the villages. In 1672, Calungsod and his companion, Diego Luis de San Vitores (now beatified), arrived at the village of Tumon, Guam. They learned that the wife of the chief had given birth to a daughter, and they went to baptize her, but encountered fierce opposition from the chief himself. The chief left the village to recruit help in killing the missionaries, and during his absence, Calungsod and San Vitores baptized the baby girl with the consent of her mother, also a Christian. When the chief returned, he was enraged. He attacked and killed both Calungsod and San Vitores with spears. Calungsod was only 17 years old. He is now invoked as the patron of Filipino youth, catechists, and altar servers, and his feast day is April 2.

St. Jacques Berthieu was born in 1838 in France to devout Christian parents. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1864, and after spending nine years as a diocesan priest, he obtained permission from his bishop to enter the Jesuit order in 1873. Two years later, his request to become a missionary was granted, and he arrived at Madagascar in December of 1875. For the remaining 21 years of his life he traveled around Madagascar and the surrounding islands, serving as a missionary to various territories in the midst of two consecutive wars, suffering exile and difficult living conditions. By 1895 a peace treaty had been signed; however, a local rebellion spread to various parts of Madagascar, in which the rebels claimed that the recent devastation of the war had really been caused because they had abandoned ancestor worship for the ways of the foreigners. Berthieu refused to abandon his flock to preserve his own life, and by 1896, the rebellion had made its way to his mission. He was captured by the rebels, who demanded that he renounce his faith upon pain of death. Berthieu refused, and was shot and killed by the rebel forces. He is the first martyr of Madagascar to be canonized a saint, and his feast day is June 8.

St. Giovanni Battista Piamarta was born to a poor family in Brescia, Italy, in 1841. His mother died when he was but nine years old, and his adolescence was made difficult by the presence of various gangs in the town. He sought refuge in the Church by entering the diocesan seminary, and was ordained a priest in 1865.  Fr. Piamarta’s ministry was marked by a special concern for young people who struggled to live good lives amidst the harsh living and working conditions of Brescia. He founded several organizations to assist the youth spiritually and professionally, offering religious catechesis as well as training in various technical skills. In 1900, Fr. Piamarta established the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth in order to assist him in his apostolate. Today, the Congregation is found in Europe, Africa, and South America, where its members minister to the poor and the unemployed. Fr. Piamarta died in 1913 after spending his life in service of the underprivileged. He is the patron of those seeking employment, and his feast is April 26.

St. Carmen Sallés y Barangueras was born in 1848 in Barcelona, Spain. She was the second of ten children, and her parents were devout Catholics. In 1858, the same year in which St. Bernadette Subirous received her miraculous visions of the Blessed Mother, Carmen and her family went on pilgrimage to Montserrat, where Carmen received her First Communion. During that journey, the ten-year-old Carmen, whose devotion to Our Lady had been strengthened by the events at Lourdes, vowed to devote her life to Jesus through Mary, and became convinced that God was calling her to religious life. Upon returning to Spain, Carmen asked her parents to release her from a betrothal to a young Spaniard. They granted permission, and she entered the order of the Adores Sisters, whose mission was to serve young women who were former prostitutes or criminals by providing shelter and education. Sr. Carmen worked with such women for 22 years, helping them rediscover their dignity by treating them with love and compassion. In 1892, Sr. Carmen founded the order of Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching. Throughout her life she was an advocate for women, defending their dignity and insisting upon their equal treatment with that of men. She died in Madrid in 1911. Her feast is July 25.

St. Anna Schäffer was born in 1882 in Bavaria. From an early age she exhibited a devout piety, and felt called to life as a missionary sister. She set about trying to earn the dowry necessary to pursue her religious vocation; however, in February 1901, while working as a laundress, she slipped into a boiling vat of lye, which significantly scalded both of her legs to above the knee. Treatment proved ineffective, and in May 1902, she was released from the hospital, forced to spend the rest of her life as a bed-ridden invalid, while her injuries continued to cause her daily pain. After struggling against her condition, she resigned herself to accept her sufferings with joy, offering them in imitation of Christ’s sufferings on the Cross. She wrote letters to all who sought spiritual advice or consolation in suffering. In 1910, she experienced what she called “dreams,” visions of St. Francis and of the Lord. Later that year, she received the stigmata, although she prayed that the visible wounds be hidden so that she might suffer in secret. In 1923, her legs became completely paralyzed and her spinal cord stiffened due to rectal cancer; nevertheless, she continued to write and to pray. In 1925, she fell from her bed, injuring her brain, which resulted in the loss of her voice. For the last five weeks of her life she suffered silently, continuing her practice of intense prayer and devotion to the Eucharist. She died in 1925, and the anniversary of her passing, October 5, is now her feast day.

In his seminal work Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.” In the stories of these seven men and women – laypersons, clergy, religious, missionaries, invalids, youth, elderly – we see our own stories. More importantly, we see the story of Christ reflected and refracted as light through a prism, shining with a brilliance that is unique to them and yet universal to all of us, for we are all called to holiness. We are all called to embody the Gospel with the same single-hearted fidelity shown by these men and women in the daily joys and struggles of their lives.  May they be our companions on the journey of faith, spurring us on to faithful witness, so that we might one day join their company, “Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven.”
All you holy men and women, pray for us.

Saint Luke: Faithful Servant of God’s Word

Jem Sullivan, PhD

Adjunct Professor in the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies, Washington, DC.

Staff to the USCCB Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis and the Subcommittee on the Catechism

Contact Author

Each year the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Luke during the month of October. This liturgical feast takes us back to early Christian times when Luke was revered as one of the four writers of the Gospel, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, and patron saint of physicians and surgeons.

While few details are known about the life of this Gospel writer, it is generally held that Luke was born into a pagan family. He is identified with the person described by Saint Paul as “Luke, the beloved physician: (Colossians 4:14). Other Christian historians and theologians, including the historian Eusebius, Saint Jerome, and Saint Irenaeus also refer to Luke’s profession as a physician.

We know that he was a traveling companion of Saint Paul in his ministry of preaching and teaching.

But it is Saint Luke’s writings – his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles – that give us the deepest insight into the life and mission of this early Christian saint. A 15th century century drawing entitled Saint Luke from the Rosenwald Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC., offers us a beautiful artistic image to accompany our celebration of Saint Luke’s feast day.

Inspired writer of God’s word

At the center of the manuscript drawing we see a haloed Saint Luke in an interior space, holding a pen in his hand. Two stained glass windows let a warm and colorful light into the scene. Saint Luke is seated at a wooden desk on which a small bookstand holds an open book. We see Saint Luke while he writes the sacred books that form part of the canon of Sacred Scripture.

Saint Luke, c. 1425/1435

French 15th century, Rosenwald Collection

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

At the left hand corner of the room we see an ox, one of the traditional artistic attributes of this saint. According to legend, early Christian scholars gave Saint Luke this symbolic attribute because the ox, a sacrificial animal, recalls the redeeming oblation of Jesus on the Cross, as well as the temple sacrifice of Zechariah in the opening verses of the Gospel of Luke.

A unique Gospel

The Gospel of Luke contains six miracles and eighteen parables that are not found in the other Gospels. Biblical scholars note that in his sacred writings Saint Luke stresses the dignity of the poor and the duty of followers of Jesus to care for them. For Luke, care for the poor is a constitutive element of true Christian discipleship. Luke, for instance, is the only Gospel auth

or to include the story of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man who fails to help him in his need.

Saint Luke also gives a special place to Mary, the Mother of God, in his sacred writings. It is in Luke’s Gospel that we read the Magnificat, the Virgin Mary’s perfect hymn of praise to God. In addition, it is in the Gospel of Luke that we read of the Annunciation to Mary, the visitation of Mary and Elizabeth, the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the temple, and the story of Jesus’ disappearance in Jerusalem. Luke also includes these words of the Archangel Gabriel, “Hail Mary, full of grace,” and the acclamation of Elizabeth who rejoices in the gift of the Incarnation by saying, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

Finally, Saint Luke is the one to remind us, time and time again, of God’s unrelenting mercy and forgiveness. Luke is the Gospel writer who recounts the parable of the Prodigal Son, welcomed back by a merciful father, as well as the account of the forgiven woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. On every page of Luke’s Gospel radiates the image of Jesus in his encounters with the poor, those in both material and spiritual poverty.

Servant of God’s word

Finally, another dimension of Saint Luke’s writings is the inspiration he drew from his close association with Saint Paul, apostle to the Gentiles. In the opening verse of his Gospel Saint Luke explains the origin of his own ministry when he writes: “Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1: 1-3).

In the Church’s liturgical celebration of the feast day of Saint Luke we recall this “servant of God’s word,” whose Gospel invites us to encounter the love of God for all, especially the poor. The witness of this saint also serves as a reminder of the daily vocation of every Christian to ponder on and to live by the word of God.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPhiVT53JP0

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo1x-62WmrI

The Vocation to Sainthood: The Transfiguration of Our Humanity

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Editor, Oblation:  Liturgy and Evangelization

Contact Author

“But, we’re only human.”  So, I often heard this phrase while giving presentations to groups affiliated with the Church, ranging from junior high confirmation groups to adults studying the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.  The phrase is innocent enough.  And on one level it is correct.  To be only human is to recognize that we are in via, on the way to what we will one day be.  That we are limited in what we can know, in how our actions might affect other people.  Yet, on another level, the phrase is patently false, an excuse for an unexamined life:  we’re only human.  That is, because we’re only human, we can’t live the life of perfect love.  Of perfect self-gift.  Of perfect discipleship.  And if we can’t live this way, then what is the use of trying?

Indeed, the beauty of the feast of All Saints is that it stretches our imaginations to what we can one day be.  That we are never only human.  Rather, through the instrument of our humanity, God has performed marvelous deeds throughout history.  Certain men and women throughout time have learned the logic of love at the heart of Christianity.  They have come to see the fullness of love revealed in the Father’s love for his Son, the Son’s total self-gift to the Father, and the Holy Spirit that comes to dwell in love upon the Church.  And once you’ve received this love, you have to give it away.  And the only way to give such love away is through our humanity.  It is the gift of our body to the world.  As the liturgical-sacramental theologian, Louis-Marie Chauvet writes regarding the corporality of faith itself:

“…corporality is the very meditation where faith takes on flesh and makes real the truth that inhabits it.  It [The Church's sacramental life] says this to us with all the pragmatic force of a ritual expression that speaks by its actions and works through the word, the word-as-body.  It tells us that the body, which is the whole word of humankind is the unavoidable meditation where the Word of a God involved in the most human dimension of our humanity demands to be inscribed in order to make itself understood.  Thus, it tells us that faith requires a consent to the body, to history, to the world which makes it a fully human reality” (Symbol and Sacrament, 376).

Thus, it is our very humanity that makes it possible for us to become saints.  It is the lay person, who becomes leaven within the body of the world.  It is the priest, who comes to embody Christ’s self-giving love for his particular parish, the body of Christ in this geographic area, at the corner of these streets.  It is the contemplative monk, whose sacrifice of silence, of prayer, of praise and thanksgiving in this monastery becomes a sign of our heavenly destiny.  It is the mother and the father in this home, who love their own children to the end, who teach them that they are not made to consume or to produce but to give totally of oneself.  It is the lawyer in this particular firm, who fights against all injustice, all attempts to disfigure the humanity of a person.  It is the scholar in this college or university, whose study seeks to assist the Church to know more deeply the God who calls, that such knowledge might transform the Church’s prayer.

Sainthood, thus, operates as a kind of Eucharistic logic.  We bring the gift of a particular human life, offering it to God.  And through the Holy Spirit’s dwelling upon this life, coming to transform it into an icon of love, the life becomes “holy.”  We become the artwork of God’s own sanctity.  And others notice.  You see, sainthood isn’t for the saint.  It’s for the Church, it’s for the world.  We see what’s possible when our lives mirror faithfully the Gospel of love to the very end.  And others see it.  This life becomes evangelical, a leaven for all the world.  Behold the joy of the saint.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiM9uJIN64g

So, this All Saints Day, stop using the phrase:  we’re only human.  Instead, start saying, we’re not human enough.  Because in the saints, just as in Jesus Christ, we come to learn what a human life could actually look like.  We come to notice what happens if we let every part of our lives become an experiment in incarnating the Gospel, in this place, in this time, in this way.  Develop a holy longing that our humanity might be as human as that of the saints.  For, indeed, All Saints Day celebrates the whole communion of saints.  And yet, it also acknowledges our own destiny:  that we are all called to sainthood.  That our vocation is ultimately the perfection of our humanity, not according to the logic of the world, but of Christ’s own self-gift.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

When the Saints Go Marching In

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0w_arBzuXo