“Come, follow me” – Following in the footsteps of Our Lord

January 31, 2008

“The Way of the Cross”

The devotion of the Way of the Cross, followed in different ways and called by many names – the Stations of the Cross, Via Dolorosa, or Via Crucis – is not a modern devotion at all. In fact, early Christian tradition as well as visions received by mystics such as Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich bear witness that the earliest Christians and even the Blessed Virgin Mary visited the scenes of Christ’s Passion thus making this one of the oldest and most venerable of all Catholic devotions. The Via Dolorosa of Jerusalem became a goal of pious pilgrims from the time of Constantine and a desire to reproduce these holy places for those who were unable to travel to the actual sites became common at an early date. Over the centuries, different ways of practicing the devotion formed and the number of stations varied from 7 to 14, with the number of stations being officially fixed at 14 by Pope Clement XII in 1731.

Today, the two most popular methods of following the Way of the Cross, are those of St. Francis of Assisi and of St. Alphonsus Liguori. After St. Francis’ pilgirmages to the Holy Land in the early 1200’s, and his observing Christians following the Way of the Cross there, the devotion was spread across Europe by the saint and his friars minor. St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote of the devotion in 1761, “The pious exercise of the Way of the Cross represents the sorrowful journey that Christ made with the cross on His shoulders, to die on Calvary for the love of us. We should, therefore, practice this devotion with the greatest possible fervor, placing ourselves beside our savior as He walked this sorrowful way, uniting our tears with His, and offering to Him both our compassion and our gratitude.”

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When was your last Confession?

Lent is the traditional season when the Church teaches us to turn our thoughts towards Reconciliation and Penance – strengthening our relationship with the Lord.

To browse our complete selection of books on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) please click here.

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Some thoughts on following Our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconciliation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right, by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffering, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.”

“In Jesus Christ, the whole of God’s truth has been made manifest. ‘Full of grace and truth,’ he came as the ‘light of the world,’ he is the Truth. ‘Whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’ The disciple of Jesus continues in his word so as to know ‘the truth that will make you free’ and that sanctifies. To follow Jesus is to live in ‘the Spirit of truth’ whom the Father sends in his name and who leads ‘into all the truth.’ To his disciples Jesus teaches the unconditional love of truth: ‘Let what you say be simply ‘yes or no.’

– from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1435 and 2466

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“No devotion is more richly endowed … or enables us more literally to obey Our Lord’s injunction to take up our cross and follow Him”
– The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Way of the Cross
“We adore you, O Christ, and we bless You. Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world.”
– from the Way of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Liguori
We hope your Lenten season is an especially blessed and faith-filled one.
– the staff at Aquinas and More Catholic Goods

The Dumb Ox and the Angelic Doctor

January 28, 2008

Today, January 28, is the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas was born early in the year 1225 in the castle of Roccasecca, near Naples, his father being the Count of Aquino. When he was about 5 years old his parents placed him in the Abbey school at Monte Cassino, where the future Saint and Doctor of the Church began his studies. In 1239 the monks at Monte Cassino were expelled and young Thomas went to the University at Naples to continue his studies. While there, he was attracted to the life of the Dominican friars who maintained a convent in the city. In 1244 Thomas entered the Dominican order. His family was not pleased as they had other plans for him, so two of his brothers were sent to kidnap him and the family kept him prisoner at Aquino for over a year. Thomas remained true to his vocation while being held and his family eventually relented, allowing him to return to the Dominicans and continue his studies and make his vows.

Early in his studies with the Dominicans, due to his quiet nature and his large size, his fellow students nicknamed him “the dumb ox” – surely one of the greatest ironies in the history of the Church.

St. Thomas continued, and completed, his studies at the University of Paris under the esteemed tutelage of St. Albert Magnus (the Great). After completing his studies at Paris, Thomas received Holy Orders. By his mid-twenties Thomas had begun his life’s work as a teacher in Paris. His fame as a teacher and philosopher grew widely and St. Thomas toured the great cities of Europe, giving lectures and preaching on Christian doctrine. So renowned was he as an elucidator of Christian doctrine the Pope Clement IV accepted that this was indeed his true calling and allowed Thomas to decline a papal appointment as archbishop of Naples.

St. Thomas taught in Paris until 1272 when he was sent to Naples to erect a Dominican house of studies and he continued his work there until 1274, when Pope Gregory X summoned him to Lyons to take part in the Council. The journey was begun but never completed as St. Thomas died on the way, at the Cistercian monastery of Fossanuova, after an illness lasting a few weeks. He was only 49 years old, leaving behind him a remarkable life devoted to study, teaching and writing and a legacy to every Catholic until the end of this age.

His life had not been one of much external activity or excitement, except for the more or less frequent journeys to teach and preach and the controversies in which the Saint was engaged in preaching against, but it was most definitely a life devoted to the pursuit and defense of truth, a life also permeated and motivated by a deep spirituality. In some ways St. Thomas was like the professor of legend (there are many stories concerning his fits of abstraction, or deep concentration, which made him oblivious to his surroundings) but he was a great deal more than a professor or theologian, for he was a Saint, and even if his devotion and love do not necessarily manifest themselves in his academic works, the ecstasies and mystical union with God of his later years bear witness to the fact that the truths of which he wrote were the realities by which this great man lived. 

In 1319 the Church began proceedings for the cause of sainthood of St. Thomas Aquinas. On July 18, 1323, Pope John XXII canonized St. Thomas. In 1567 the name “Doctor Angelicas” or Angelic Doctor was given to St. Thomas Aquinas when Pope Pius V named him the fifth Doctor of the Church and his feast day was elevated to the rank of the other four great Latin fathers: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Gregory.

Would you like to know more about this remarkable Saint and intellectual giant? We recommend Josef Pieper’s “Guide to Thomas Aquinas” and we also recommend Peter Kreeft’s “A Summa of the Summa.”

St. Thomas’s magnum opus, the “Summa Theologica” is also available in both paperback and hardcover 5 volume sets.

This being the first day of National Catholic Schools Week, its only appropriate to mention and recommend “The Philosophy of Teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas” to teachers and to anyone else involved in education.

Finally, Lent begins next week and St. Thomas has left us many wonderful mediations and thoughts on this upcoming holy season in the book “Meditations for Lent.”

Sources for this short article on St. Thomas Aquinas are: Fr. Frederick Copleston’s superb “History of Philosophy” series, H. W. Crocker’s wonderful book “Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church” and finally, the classic that every Catholic should have in his or her library, “Butler’s Lives of the Saints.”

Funny, This Wasn’t the Tone Taken During the Priest Abuse Scandal

January 27, 2008

But, then again, this is the public school system, not the Catholic Church.

Here are some choice quotes from the article:

Though small statistically, the number of abusive teachers is too high, South Carolina Education Superintendent Jim Rex wrote after reading the AP report.

Heeding a steady drumbeat of sexual misconduct cases involving teachers, at least 15 states are now considering stronger oversight and tougher punishment for educators who take advantage of their students.

When abuse happens, administrators too often fail to let others know about it, and too many legal loopholes let offenders stay in the classroom.

Several states are tackling a major problem — the loopholes that allow problem teachers to move from one school district to another, or from one state to another.

The AP investigation found that what education officials commonly call “passing the trash” happens when districts allow a teacher to quietly leave a school, or fail to report problems to state authorities, or fail to check with state authorities before hiring a teacher, among other glitches.

Fortunately, states are considering allowing teachers to marry so that should fix the problem.

The Greatest Conversion Story Ever Told?

January 25, 2008

Today is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle.

In honor of this feast day, here are two readings – one from one of St. Paul’s letters and the other from St. John Chrysostom – from the Liturgy of the Hours.

A Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians 1:11 – 24 –

The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realize this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learned only through a revelation of Jesus Christ. You must have heard of my career as a practicing Jew, how merciless I was in persecuting the Church of God, how much damage I did to it, how I stood out among other Jews of my generation, and how enthusiastic I was for the traditions of my ancestors.

Then God, who had specially chosen me while I was still in my mother’s womb, called me through his grace and chose to reveal his Son in me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the pagans. I did not stop to discuss this with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were already apostles before me, but I went off to Arabia at once and later went straight back from there to Damascus. Even when after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him for fifteen days, I did not see any of the other apostles; I only saw James, the brother of the Lord, and I swear before God that what I have just written is the literal truth. After that I went to Syria and Cilicia, and was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judaea, who had heard nothing except that their one-time persecutor was now preaching the faith he had previously tried to destroy; and they gave glory to God for me.”

A Reading From a homily by Saint John Chrysostom, bishop (347-407 AD) –

For love of Christ, Paul bore every burden . . .

Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardor and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead. When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.

Thus, amid the traps set for him by his enemies, with exultant heart he turned their every attack into a victory for himself; constantly beaten, abused and cursed, he boasted of it as though he were celebrating a triumphal procession and taking trophies home, and offered thanks to God for it all: Thanks be to God who is always victorious in us! This is why he was far more eager for the shameful abuse that his zeal in preaching brought upon him than we are for the most pleasing honours, more eager for death than we are for life, for poverty than we are for wealth; he yearned for toil far more than others yearn for rest after toil. The one thing he feared, indeed dreaded, was to offend God; nothing else could sway him. Therefore, the only thing he really wanted was always to please God.

The most important thing of all to him, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else; were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, than to be without that love and be among the great and honored.

To be separated from that love was, in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture.

So too, in being loved by Christ he thought of himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet.

Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers or the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats. Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.”

Are you interested in finding out more about the remarkable life and teachings of St. Paul? After reading his letters in the New Testament, try watching this DVD “Paul: Contender of the Faith” from the Footprints of God series. You might also want to read this excellent biography “Paul: Least of the Apostles.”

St. Paul, Great Apostle and Martyr, pray for us.

A Gentleman and a Hero of Our Faith

January 24, 2008

Today, January 24, is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales 

The Gentleman Saint . . .

St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva and Doctor of the Church, was born in 1567 to a wealthy family in Savoy, the area around where modern France and Switzerland meet, in the years following the Protestant Revolution in Europe. Many people in the area had not been able to hear Catholic teachings or attend Mass for 60 years, but St. Francis De Sales brought many people back to the Catholic faith through his gentle ways, earning him the nicknames “The Gentle Christ of Geneva” and “The Gentleman Saint.”

Before taking religious vows, Francis had studied law as his parents had always intended. However, after being freed from a prolonged temptation to despair, when he looked on a miraculous image of Our Lady at St. Etienne-des-Grès, Francis made a vow of chastity and consecrated himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He heard a message to “Leave all and follow me,” which he discerned as a call to the priesthood. De Sales’ father, who had secured a position in the senate for his son, and had selected a noble heiress for him to marry, initially opposed Francis’ intention to embrace ecclesiastical life. However, when the position of Provost of Geneva (located in Annecy in Savoy due to Calvinist rule in Geneva) was obtained for Francis, his father yielded and Francis received holy orders in 1593.

St. Francis de Sales then devoted himself to preaching, hearing confessions and then the next year, volunteered to evangelize the True Faith in La Chablais, where the Genevan Protestants had imposed the “reformed” faith. He risked his life to travel the district and preached constantly, and over the course of 4 years, brought 72,000 French Calvinists back to the Catholic faith. In fact, in 1596 on Christmas day, Francis offered the first public Mass in the city of Thonon in over 60 years.

In 1602, Francis de Sales was consecrated Bishop of Geneva and his first acts were to institute catechetical instructions for the faithful and regulations for the guidance of clergy. He visited the parishes of the diocese and became well known for his kindness and for his love of the poor. He wrote numerous letters and published many works, including the spiritual classics – An Introduction to the Devout Life,” and the “Treatise on the Love of God” and the saint delivered many zealous sermons that remain famous to this day – many of the greatest of his sermons are collected in two volumes: “Sermons on Our Lady” and “Sermons on Prayer.” St. Francis lived humbly, and his food and clothes were plain. He did not disregard the value of penance, but emphasized practicing penance and all acts of faith with a motive of love for God and for neighbor.

In addition to the two great spiritual classics that he wrote, St. Francis de Sales also wrote a series of apologetic pamphlets which have been complied into a single volume entitled The Catholic Controversy” and he also has left us an important collection of correspondence on spiritual direction with St. Jane de Chantal entitled “The Letters of Spiritual Direction.”

St. Francis de Sales founded the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary for women, with St. Jane Frances de Chantal. The Order today numbers 3,000 women in 168 monasteries throughout the world.

In the 19th century, several associations, of both laymen and clergy, were founded under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales, including the Salesians of Don Bosco, originally called the Society of St. Francis de Sales. It was founded in by St. John Bosco in Italy, inspired by St. Francis’ witness and love for the poor, with the mission to care for the young and poor children of the industrial revolution and to educate boys to the priesthood. The order was approved definitively by Pope Pius IX in 1874 and by 1911 had grown to be established worldwide, with houses through Europe, the United States, South Africa, India and China. The Salesian order continues to operate today, and as of 1995, the order counted over 17,000 members in 1,616 houses worldwide. The order is also the third largest Catholic missionary organization in the world.

This article has been compiled from several sources – the Patron Saints Index, The Salesians Website, and the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Magnificat Lenten Companion Special

January 24, 2008

Magnificat Lenten Companion 2008We put in an order for several hundred Magnificat Lenten Companions this year. The order was large enough to prompt a call from our supplier asking us if we really meant to place an order that large.

Each issue costs $3.95. We have decided to run a special offer for people interested in the magazine. Here is how this works:

If you are the purchaser of the last copy of the magazine we are capable of shipping, whether in our physical store or on the web,  your entire order that includes that copy will be free up to $200.

There is a little twist: We don’t actually know how many we can ship because it is anyone’s guess when Magnificat will run out of copies. We might be able to ship 200 more. We may be able to ship 500 more. No one knows.

Even if you don’t get the last issue, you will still have a great resource for daily Lenten reading that will help you on your spiritual journey to Easter.

Here’s the fine print:

  1. The winning order will be the most recent order placed that gets a copy of the Magnificat Lenten Companion in its shipment.
  2. The winning order can contain more than one Companion and may possibly only get a partial shipment if no more are available.
  3. The winning order can be for an amount greater than $200 but only $200 of the order will be free.
  4. If the winning order is less than $200 including shipping and tax then the entire order will be free including shipping and tax.
  5. Canceled or partially canceled orders will not be eligible for the prize.
  6. Final determination of the winner will be solely at the discretion of Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.

Love endures all things . . and never fails. St. Valentine’s Day is February 14.

January 19, 2008

St. Valentine’s Day is February 14th.

Do you know the story behind this holiday?

St. Valentine of Rome, a martyr, was a priest, or possibly bishop, in 3rd century Rome. Little is known about St. Valentine, but he is believed to have been a physician, imprisoned for giving aid to jailed martyrs, and while there, converting the jailer to Christianity by restoring sight to the jailer’s daughter. He was beaten and beheaded around the year 269 A.D. and initially buried on the Flaminian Way. Some sources list St. Valentine of Rome and St. Valentine of Terni as separate men, but most scholars believe them to have been the same person.

The romantic nature of February 14th seems to have been attached to the date long after it was recognized as the feast day of St. Valentine. It was a popular belief in the middle ages that birds would choose their mates half-way through the second month of the year – the 14th of February – and that day was seen as consecrated to lovers. French and English literature of the 14th and 15th century alludes to the practice of sending love letters and tokens on St. Valentines day as well as people addressing the one they loved as ‘Valentine.’

– excerpted from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia and Catholic Forum’s Patron Saint Index


Author: Hans Urs Von Balthasar
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Author: Peter Kreeft
Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s Encylical Deus Caritas Est
Author: The John Paul II Institute
Author: Pope Benedict XVI
A Key to the Catechism
Author: Augustine DiNoia O.P.
Author: St. Francis de Sales
Author: Pope John Paul II
Three Keys to Living a Holy Life
Author: Angela Burrin
A Modern Teenager Meets
A Legendary Saint . . . and
Learns a Lesson in Love
Presenter: Dr. Scott Hahn

Catholic jewelry is always a wonderful – and certainly a classic – gift idea for your loved ones for St. Valentine’s Day.

To browse our huge selection of necklaces, medals, pins, bracelets, unique items from theVatican Library Collection and much more in our jewelery category, please click here.

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“God who created man out of love also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator’s eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: “And God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.”
Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” The woman, “flesh of his flesh,” his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a “helpmate”; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been “in the beginning”: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”
– from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1604, 1605
Featured items for the New Year:
20 Minute Daily Readings!
January through December

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“Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered,
it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
Love never fails.”

– St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 13:4

A Simple Prayer to Saint Valentine

Dear Saint and glorious martyr, teach us to love unselfishly and to find great joy in giving. Enable all true lovers to bring out the best in each other. Let them love each other in God and in God each other. Amen.