March 1, 2015

The terror that stalks our world now is diabolic. The time has come to ring the Turkish Bell...

By Father George Rutler

The Transfiguration is celebrated on the sixth of August, but an account of it is also proclaimed as the liturgical Gospel in Lent, because it was a way that the Lord prepared Peter, James and John for the Crucifixion. These were the same apostles who would be with the Lord as he sweat blood the night before his death. Immediately after Christ’s transfiguration, he would cure an epileptic suffering a violent seizure at the foot of the mountain: glory and agony within a few hours.

The unearthly light that shone from Christ on the mountaintop strengthened the apostles for when they would watch the sky grow dark on Good Friday. Even so, the apostles still would not fully understand why Christ had to die: when our Lord told them that he must go to Jerusalem and “be lifted up,” Peter said he would not allow it. What the Fisherman meant as a brave act of love, Jesus said was the work of the Evil One using Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.”

Satan uses people in attempts to block God’s plan, fooling and flattering them to use their power and talent to obscure the radiance of God. Sometimes he does this through individuals, and other times through political movements and false religions. One vivid example was the Siege of Belgrade in 1456.

Following the fall of Constantinople to the Muslims and the desecration of the world’s largest church, Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”), the Ottoman Turks had worked their way into Europe, hoping to conquer Rome. Pope Callixtus III saw the Devil’s work here, and summoned the brilliant Franciscan, Saint John of Capistrano, seventy years old, to crusade against the foe. At a meeting in Frankfurt, the friar found the Germans and Austrians too indifferent to take up arms, so he enlisted the Hungarian general, John Hunyadi, and both of them, riding into battle against great odds, lifted the siege of Belgrade and delayed Muslim progress into Europe by about 60 years.

Hunyadi brandished a sword and Capistrano a more powerful crucifix. These great crusaders died shortly after from contagion. The Pope had ordered church bells to be rung at noon before the start of the conflict. News of victory reached Rome on the Feast of the Transfiguration, so the Holy Father made it a universal feast. Moreover, he ordered that church bells be rung at every noonday.

In 1956, Pope Pius XII evoked the “Turkish Bell” as a summons to a crusade of prayer for oppressed Christians in Communist East Europe and China. The terror that stalks our world now, and would seek to block Christ, is diabolic, and can only be attributed by the naïve or cynical to poor social conditions and economic deprivation. Christ knew his enemy when he said, “Get behind me, Satan.” Today there is great need for the bell to ring and move us to prayer and action.

Father Rutler is pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City.

Spectacular drone video of Mont Saint-Michel being cut off by the sea

We can't embed the video here, but you can see it by clicking clicking here.

After the construction of a raised causeway in 1859, Mont Saint-Michel was permanently connected to the adjoining land. That all changed in 2013, when the construction of a bridge allowed the fortified abbey to become an island once again.

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From the Catholic Encyclopedia article "Mont St-Michel":

Mont St-Michel is a Benedictine Abbey, in the Diocese of Avranches, Normandy, France.

Description. It is unquestionably the finest example both of French medieval architecture and of a fortified abbey. The buildings of the monastery are piled round a conical mass of rock which rises abruptly out of the waters of the Atlantic to the height of 300 feet, on the summit of which stands the great church. This rock is nearly a mile from the shore, but in 1880 a causeway was built across the dangerous quicksand that occupies this space and is exposed at low water, so that there is now no danger in approaching the abbey.

History. The monastery was founded about the year 708 by St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, and according to the legend, by direct command of the Archangel Michael himself, who appeared to the bishop in a dream on three separate occasions. About 966, Richard the Fearless, third Duke of Normandy, finding the community in a relaxed condition, installed Benedictines from Monte Cassino at Mont-St-Michel. A few years later, in 1017, Abbot Hildebert II began the colossal scheme of buildings all round the rock which should form a huge platform level with the summit, on which the abbey church might stand. In spite of the enormous difficulties involved in the design, difficulties increased by fire and the collapse of portions of the edifice, the great scheme was persevered in during five centuries and crowned by the completion of the flamboyant choir in 1520.

Even among religious communities, such an instance of steadfast purpose and continuity of plan stands unrivalled; but the completion was only just in time. In 1523 the abbey was granted in commendam to Cardinal Le Veneur and the series of commendatory Abbots continued until 1622 when the abbey, its community reduced almost to the vanishing point, was united to the famous Congregation of St-Maur.

At the French Revolution the Maurist monks were ejected and the splendid building became a prison for political offenders while, with unconscious irony, the name of the place was changed from Mont St-Michel to Mont Libre. In 1863 the prison was closed and for a few years the abbey was leased to the Bishop of Avranches, but in 1872 the French Government took it over as a national monument and undertook, none too soon, the task of restoration. The work has gone on almost continually ever since, and the restorers must be praised for the skill with which the great pile has been saved from ruin, and the good taste with which the whole has been done.

Architecture. This vast group of buildings has been the subject of several important monographs. Speaking generally, the monastic buildings consist of three main stories. Of these, the two lower take the form of vast irregular rings completely enclosing the natural rock, which forms a core to the whole edifice. The third story rests partly on the two lower stories and partly on the apex of the rock which is found immediately beneath the pavement of the church.

The most remarkable part of all is the mass of buildings known as "la merveille" (the marvel) on the north side of the rock facing the ocean. This vast structure, half military, half monastic, is built wholly of granite quarried on the mainland, and was entirely constructed between the years 1203 and 1228. Its foundations are one hundred and sixty feet above the sea level, and it consists of three stories of which two are vaulted. The lowest contains the almonry and cellar; above these come the refectory and "hall of the knights", on which again rest the dormitory and the cloister. The last named building, which is perhaps the finest gem of all, has a double arcade so planned that the columns in one row are opposite the centre of the arches in the other--a unique arrangement of wonderful beauty.

The church is cruciform with a Norman nave which was formerly seven bays in length, but the three western bays were destroyed in 1776. The central tower has lately been restored and crowned with a copper-covered spire surmounted by a gilded statue of St. Michael by M. Frémiet. The choir is apsidal and has a chevet of chapels with a crypt or lower church beneath.

Legacy. The position of the abbey rendered it of the highest strategic importance especially during the wars with England, and both it and the little town that had grown up at the foot of the rock on the land side, were enclosed by strong fortifications during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. So impregnable was the rock made in this way that, although frequently attacked by superior forces, it was never captured. The abbot was also commandant of the place by appointment of the King of France, and he was empowered to bestow feoffs on the nobles of the province who bound themselves in return to guard the abbey in time of war. In 1469 King Louis XI founded the Order of St. Michael, and held the first chapter of its knights in the "salle des chevaliers."

It is said that the cockle shell, horn, and staff, which became the recognized insignia of a pilgrim from the thirteenth century onwards, take their origin from Mont-St-Michel. The staff was used to test the path across the treacherous quicksand, the horn served to summon aid should tide or fog surprise the pilgrim; while the cockle shell was fixed in the hat as a souvenir to show that the pilgrim had accomplished his journey in safety. The abbey bore as its arms a cockle shell and fleurs-de-lis with the significant motto "Tremor immensi Oceani".

February 28, 2015

What happens in the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent is shocking

Say a Simple “Yes” | Real Life Catholic: Engaging a GenerationSTEFANICK: In C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Mr. Beaver describes the Christ-figure, Aslan the Lion, in these words to Susan: “Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

We like to tame Jesus with images that make him so approachable, so tame, so mild, it’s almost boring. I think we do that because we prefer a Jesus who doesn’t get in our business. Who stays in his place. Who doesn’t really challenge us.

"A shepherd has to be someone who is afraid of nothing"

An Italian shepherd talks about the qualities required in his job.

February 18, 2015