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Few saints were more revered than Saint Thomas Aquinas a learned Dominican who contributed so much to Holy Mother Church in writings and songs. He is best known for the great theology tome "Summa Theologica", which incorporates three parts covering the entire teaching of the Church in regards Faith and Morals. He also penned the awe-inspiring Benediction hymns of "O Salutaris Hostia" and "Tantum Ergo". He was born of noble heritage in Aquino, Italy in 1226 five years after the death of the founder of the Dominicans Saint Dominic. Though Thomas studied at the Dominican University in Naples, his brother kidnapped him on his way from Naples to the Order's University in Paris. This absconding was ordered by Thomas' own mother, so incensed was she that Thomas was considering the priesthood. Thomas was forcefully taken to the family's castle of Rocca-Secca and kept there against his will for two years, often being coerced by his own brothers to abandon his holy vow of chastity. But Pope Innocent IV intervened, ordering Thomas be brought to Rome. From there Thomas, also an expert chemistry scholor, was free to go on to Paris to study. In France he studied under Saint Albert the Great who had joined the Dominicans in 1223.
Albert was eighteen years older than Thomas and, yet, would go on to outlive his younger counterpart by six years. It was Albert, the pioneer of the Scholastic method, who first recognized Thomas' brilliance as a theologian and, with Louis' help, convinced the Holy See of his potential. It was Albert also who served Pope Alexander IV and who had a hand in convincing the supreme pontiff to canonize Saint Clare as well as confirming the reality of the stigmata given to Saint Francis. It was also Albert's steady hand and brilliant mind which aided the Holy Father in composing several tomes of popular jurisprudence. And finally, it was Albert, at the age of seventy-one, who staunchly defended his fellow Dominican Aquinas and his theological position against the attacks of Paris' Bishop Stephen Tempier and a cadre of upstart theologians at the University of Paris in 1977, three years after Thomas' death. His argument played a significant role in furthering the works of Aquinas and expediting his cause for canonization. For Albert it would be a much longer time after his death in Cologne, Germany on November 15, 1280. He would not officially be declared a saint until 1931 by Pope Pius XII at which time he received the well-deserved title also of Doctor of the Church.
As for Thomas, one of his close classmates was Saint Bonaventure and therein reveals the close ties between Dominican and Franciscan. Just as Dominic and Francis were so intricately aligned at the same time in history, thirty years later Thomas and Bonaventure were also. Bonaventure was four years older, yet they were classmates and died the same year. Known as the "Seraphic Doctor," Saint Bonaventure, was born near Viterbo in Tuscany, Italy in 1221 five years before Saint Francis of Assisi died. As a child Bonaventure had contracted a mortal sickness and Francis came to his deathbead. There little Bonaventure was miraculously cured. So overcome was Francis with thankfulness to God for this wondrous event that he proclaimed "O bona ventura!" - Italian for "goodness goes with you wherever you go." From that moment on the child became Bonaventure. The fruits of Francis' zeal touched Bonaventure so much he entered the Franciscans in 1240 and was assigned to the University of Paris. There he met Thomas. After graduating and being ordained, he became a professor there where he teamed with Thomas to defend the Franciscan friars who were being pressured to resign from teaching by the Diocesan priests. Bonaventure had the full support of his friend who he advised - the king -Saint Louis. Thomas was greatly moved by Bonaventure's tact and intelligence and asked him how he had acquired such great learning in so little time. Bonaventure answered simply by pointing to his crucifix. Thomas knew intuitively what he meant. Bonaventure also compiled the biography on the life of St. Francis during this time and once, while writing it, was discovered by Thomas to be in total ecstacy. Thomas remarked to his fellow teachers, "Let us leave a Saint to write of a Saint." Shortly thereafter in 1257 Bonaventure was selected Superior General of the Franciscans at the unusually early age of 35. In this position he promulgated the revision of the Franciscan constitution so that it would be more in line with what Francis intended. Yet he was prudent in keeping a peaceful balance between those who sought to observe the rule in the strictest sense and those who were more relaxed in the interpretation of the rule. He wrote, "look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love." He was offered the position of archbishop of York but respectfully declined in order to give his attention to his order and the people. Eventually, however, Blessed Pope Gregory X, through Albert's counsel, convinced him he should become cardinal and head the diocese of Albano. In obedience he complied and the Holy Father commissioned him to prepare everything for the Second Council of Lyons where he also spoke, winning over the Greeks as they came back in union with Rome. It was there a few weeks after the Council that Bonaventure died in 1274 with Blessed Gregory, most of the bishops assembled for the Council, and numerous loyal Franciscans at his bedside.
Besides studying under Albert and with Bonaventure, France was where Thomas was reunited with a distant relative of his: Louis IX. Though it is not documented that Thomas counseled Louis, there is strong suspicion that Louis, a humble and holy man, could see the sanctity in this Dominican and submitted to his teaching because of Bonaventure's holy influence. It was Louis who confirmed Thomas and Bonaventure's extraordinary talent at the university in his country to Rome. Because of that, after graduating summa cum laude, Thomas landed teaching dockets at universities in Paris, Rome and Naples. So great was his tutelage that Pope Urban IV summoned Thomas to personally advise the pontiff in 1261. Thomas stayed on for three years. There in Rome, he composed the Mass and office for the feast of Corpus Christi as well as writing the hymns "Pange Lingua" and "Adoro Te". It was through Thomas' steady influence that Urban IV declared the feast of Corpus Christi and became forever after known as the "Corpus Christi Pope". Though Thomas was an extremely learned man, he was also humble enough to realize his vital need for God. Once, while in prayer, he heard Jesus say to him from the crucifix, "Thomas, thou has written well of Me. What reward dost thou wish?" The holy preacher didn't hesitate in his response, "No other reward, Lord, except Thyself." Besides St. Albert, Thomas remained a close confidant to St. Bonaventure. He became such a counselor to the papacy that Pope Blessed Gregory X personally invited him to participate in the General Council of Lyons in 1274, along with Bonaventure and Albert, but the great Thomas died on his way there at Fossa Nuova near Terracina, Italy on March 7, 1274. He was only 49 when he was called home to Heaven and exactly 49 years later he was canonized by Pope John XXII. Thomas was officially declared a "Doctor of the Church" in 1567 by Pope Saint Pius V, whose feast we celebrate in two days, and Thomas' feast day had always been celebrated on March 7th until after Vatican II when it was changed to January 28th.
In a time when German domination and Italian in-fighting curtailed many of the efforts of the Vatican, Thomas, Albert and Bonaventure were a breath of fresh air as they strove to be obedient to Rome and to the ideals of their founders, constantly staving off attacks against their solid teachings and styles and a desire to soften the rules. All three held firm and for their efforts the Church was strengthened. The thirteenth century was truly a time of quality saints and because of their efforts, Holy Mother Church would grow stronger and more influential in carrying out Christ's mission on earth. In the next installment we will leave the saints and continue our journey with the Popes of the thirteenth century, picking up where we left off a few installments ago on Pope Clement IV the "interim pontiff" between Urban IV and Blessed Gregory X who would launch the Eighth Crusade and Louis IX's last hurrah.
Signs that we are closer to this time foretold by Our Lady are revealed almost daily and in order to properly discern them we must all be rooted in the Sacraments and, like the Holy Father - Totus Tuus - totally dedicated to the Mother of God as He would want us to be. That is why the Consecration of Louis de Montfort is so vital in these times. And these times are getting desperate as the persecutions intensify. If you don't think so, just read the headlines in today's paper or the articles in our News & Views section where we see the Guatamalan bishop was killed, where countless Mexican women are being coerced to accept sterilization, where China continues to remain obstinate about allowing the bishops loyal to Rome to attend the Asian Synod currently underway at the Vatican, and where Catholic Croats are being pelted and attacked by radical Serbs in Bosnia. Then there is the unrest in Northern Ireland where two Catholics were killed by Protestant rebels this past weekend as the British Isles looks warily to a May vote on the proposed Peace Agreement. Besides this the deteriorating situation in Chiapas, Mexico and various provinces in Africa from Sudan to Rwanda where Catholics are being persecuted sets the stage for more trouble ahead. Then there is the volatile abortion issue where both sides are entrenched. In Australia a skirmish was avoided when pro-lifers altered their parade route to avoid the militant pro-abortionists lying in wait. And in America the situation worsens after the Chicago trial which opened pandora's box for advocates of the "culture of death." Add to this the amoral administration that openly promotes abortion and the gay lifestyle while vetoing anything that would preserve or enhance life.
Yes, the chastisement is upon us and it will only get worse if we allow it to. But there is an antidote and that antidote is the Consecration, composed by the holy servant de Montfort, which consists of thirty-three intensifying prayers over the span of thirty-three days. What a fitting number. There are numerous times one can begin the Consecration and complete the Final Consecration such as today, then the feast of the Visitation on May 31 in the month of Mary, followed by the Solemnity of the Assumption on August 15, on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, the feast of the Purification on February 2 and the feast of the Annunciation on March 25. Most Consecration days are culminated on a special feast of Our Lady. The words of the Consecration are contained in our PRAYERS & DEVOTION section today. While this Consecration is so important in growing closer to being totally consecrated to Jesus through His Blessed Mother, it is in emulating Mary's total consecration to her Divine Son that we must follow. It is through a special grace that God imparts which allows us to live this consecration fully and gain a greater discernment of God's Will for each one of us by giving of ourselves totally and completely. It is not a "get-well spiritually-quick cure-all" but rather a formula that, if we exercise it daily in our lives, we will grow and mature spiritually and be able to cope with whatever God's adversary throws at us. If one thinks this is a "quick fix" consider that de Montfort's work True Devotion was suppressed for a century and a quarter after his death in 1716. But since 1842 when his works were rediscovered, devotion to Our Lady has intensified. It is no coincidence that this came after Rue de Bac and before La Salette, the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and Lourdes. It is no coincidence that Our Lady's appearances have paralleled and intensified as the devotion and Consecration gained steam through the decades. Today it is practically a must for our own spiritual welfare as well as the world's.
And the world is in desperate need of any kind of help today as satan intensifies his efforts against God's children. The enemy lashes at the hull of the good ship Holy Mother Church and there is only one way to secure safe harbor for the vessel - moored securely between the Two Pillars envisioned by Saint John Bosco. These Two Pillars consist of Devotion to the Eucharist, and Devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. There can be no better devotion than the Consecration of St. Louis de Montfort for it is the proven formula for expediting the Triumph!
On this Sunday, which I ask, nay command, all to give to Me in honor and worship, I will help you to open your hearts more fully so that, receiving My grace, you shall fulfill that Spiritual Work of Mercy which demands that you "Pray for the living and the dead."
O! How shallow is your faith, how weak your trust, how superficial your love because you do not pray!
For so many years at Medjugorje and in many countless places My Holy Mother has urged you to pray and to do so from your heart, for the heart and soul must be so intertwined as to be of only The Holy Spirit. Prayer from the heart is pure. It does not seek itself, it trusts Me, Loves Me, acknowledges Me as Creator of all.
If you are to fulfill this Spiritual Work of Mercy to pray for the living and the dead, first you must be guided by the Holy Spirit to pray from and with your heart.
Dear children, My covenant with you is Eternal. I Who Am keep My promises, and how many I give, and still you do not make use of the spiritual tools I give to you.
This final Spiritual Work of Mercy is of absolute necessity for it encompasses the full Mystical Body of which I Am the Head. If you are part of the true Mystical Body, the full Communion of Saints, you can do no less than pray for all your brothers and sisters, those living and all who have passed into Eternity.
How do you do this, little ones?
First, you must grow in faith, believing that I hear all prayers and I answer all, even if it appears to you that I do not.
You must be on guard in your prayer from over-burdening your heart with a ceaseless litany of purposes, intentions and names of individuals you wish to pray for. This causes your prayer to leave your heart and become a totally mental process.
I solemnly tell you it is better for you to trustingly, lovingly give to Me your whole heart-all that it contains-believing in My Infinite Merits, Graces and Power to come to the aid of all your intentions. When you pray invoke the Holy Spirit, your guardian angel and My Holy Mother, along with all the heavenly hosts, to help you. Make an act of your human will to pray fervently from your heart.
Your heart must love with My love which therefore embraces all the world, and all who have fallen asleep in Me. It is not possible for you to know by name every person, or their individual needs. It is sufficient that I know and I look down with tender Mercy upon My children and reach down to help them in accordance with your prayers. My little children, I do solemnly tell you that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most perfect prayer, and at every Holy Mass you should surrender yourself totally to Me, Who Am Truly Present. In this act of total surrender all of your intentions are centered on Me, enter the Refuge of My Sacred Heart and are recipient of My Merits. Pray, then, for all that your surrendered heart contains in trust and confidence. Offer every Mass for both the living and the dead. I solemnly tell you that one Mass worthily attended while you are alive is worth more than hundreds upon hundreds offered for you after I have called you home.
Implore all of My children to seek true prayer from the heart, and to find in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass their true Food and True Drink for all who seek Me.
By your act of self-surrender you make a mystical heroic act of selflessness which so appeases My Sorrowing Heart that I can not help but pour out torrents of Mercy upon all My children.
At rising, make an offering of your entire day to Me - every thought, word and deed, every joy and sorrow. Invite Me to assist, accompany and help you in all that you do, be it ever so simple or so difficult. This then becomes prayer, for it is done for Me, with Me, in Me and through Me.
Recall the holy souls in purgatory. Yes, they are holy but their sufferings are of such intensity that if you could feel their spiritual pain for one instant, you would never cease praying and making sacrifice for them for Love of Me.
Call upon St. Michael the Archangel, to whom My Most Precious Blood is commended. Beseech this mighty warrior to pour out My Most Precious Blood upon all the holy souls in purgatory, upon sinners throughout the world, sinners in My One True Church, sinners in your home and in your family. This is a very good, holy and honest way to fulfill the Spiritual Work of Mercy to pray for the Living and the Dead. You will not fully realize in your earthly life the eternal merits you gain by this work of Mercy, but in the next I solemnly tell you that every single prayer will have attained merit, and I will exchange your merit for My Infinite Merits. All the souls you bring to Me shall be as shining stars in your eternal crown, while they whom you have brought unto Me shall entreat for you before the Throne of the Triune Divinity, and great shall be the graces given to you in your earthly life.
My children, please ponder well upon this Spiritual Work of Mercy, for you cannot conceive of its importance in this life, but it shall be revealed in the next. As the days become ever more critical I stand ready to hear your prayers and to pour out My help. Will I hear you, o, my children? Or shall you misuse the time allotted you, squandering it only for yourself?
Know that I Come and thus you must be prepared!
NEXT INSTALLMENT: #84 THE CARDINAL VIRTUES: UPON WHICH ALL VIRTUES HINGE
The cornerstone is laid for the Cathedral of Salisbury in England.
The papal troops of Pope Martin IV are defeated as the Sicilian garrisons reach Romagna.
A papal bull which guaranteed protection of the old Roman ruins is issued by Pope Pius II, 210th successor of Peter.
Birth of Edward IV to the Tutor King Henry VI and his wife Margaret of Anjou. Edward would go on to rule as King of England from 1461 until his death in 1483.
The Spanish Conqueror Hernando Cortez captures the Aztec city of Tenochtitian.