Sunday, August 09, 2009

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The "Sweet Mother" of Birnau

Birnau, Gnadenbild der "lieblichen Mutter"

Since 1790 the statue of the Mother of God, especially highlighted as a focal point of the shrine and as the mediatrix of all grace, has been shining like a pearl in an oyster at the center of this classical monument which is the high altar. According to experts and admirers this image of Our Lady of Birnau, which is part of the group of "beautiful Madonnas", merits the title of "most beautiful enthroned statue of Mary in upper southern Bavaria". The great fresco overhanging the church nave is also devoted to this image. Angels can be seen introducing the miraculous statue into the new sanctuary in order to heighten its prestige and perpetuate the tradition of Marian devotion in Old-Birnau.
The sculpture measures roughly one meter in height. The soft drape of the clothing and the deep folds between the feet indicate a Gothic work of about 1430. According to the research of Jurgen Michler the Birnau statue is comparable to statues which came into being in Ulm during the years 1420-1436. Crafted and decorative stone sculptures of the façade of the cathedral of Ulm help to establish stylistic kinships (both in terms of decorative technique and plastic beauty) between the Virgin of Birnau and the Ulm school, especially the "master of the Dornstadt altar". Since, furthermore, a written source from 1430 testifies to the activity in Uberlingen of a "master of Ulm", it is not difficult to situate the style of our statue in the same period of the history of art. What, on the other hand, remains obscure is the reason why a new statue of the Virgin was made around 1430 for the pilgrimage of Old-Birnau. What had happened to the first miraculous statue? It seems that, if the "mellow style" of the present work bears without a doubt the mark of Gothic art, the sculptor was probably inspired by a seated model of a Romanesque Madonna. One naturally thinks of the previous statue from Birnau. In addition, the typological features of the old miraculous statue from the hermitage, often imitated, show through in the Gothic Birnau copy. What was new in the region around Lake Constance around 1430 was the use of the crescent moon motif at the feet of sculptures representing the Virgin (cf. the Madonna of Eriskirch, 1410). This half moon fitted around the face of the woman of the Apocalypse has to be seen in parallel with the radiating nimbus placed behind the seated figure, which has now disappeared (cf. the representation of the miraculous statue by Christopher Lienhard, 1708). The rays of sunlight (light and warmth of God) and the moon help us to recognize in Mary this woman of the Apocalypse who has existed from time immemorial in the plan of salvation of God as mother of the Savior and mediatrix of all grace (Ap 12:1-5). In the footsteps of Christian Antiquity the Middle Ages readily used the sun and the crescent moon as symbols of the royalty of Christ. In the Baroque era this allegory was also applied to Mary, due to the fact that the moon reflects the light of the sun.
In 1746 the miraculous statue of Old-Birnau was transferred, with a subterfuge, to the abbey of Salem, whence in 1750 it reached its place in the new sanctuary beside the lake. "Our Lady" holds her son, the Word of God made man, majestically on her knees. She presents her son for the salvation of the world. Around 1900 two restoration artists from Uberlingen, the Mezger brothers, replaced the hands and the lost attributes of the two figures and gave them a new coloring. Similarly the gestural symbols were added at the beginning of the 20th century according to ancient models: the bitten apple as an allusion to the original sin as well as the little cross of the child Jesus represent the symbols of the salvation wrought by Christ.

Marienheiligtum Birnau, Altarraum

Mary, star of the sea

"You who feel far from firm ground, carried off by the waves of this world amidst the storms and tempests, if you do not wish to founder, do not let your gaze waver from the light of this star. If the winds of temptation rise up, if you run into the rocks of tribulation, look at the star, invoke Mary. If you are shaken about by the waves of pride, ambition, betrayal or jealousy, look at the star, invoke Mary. If anger or avarice or impure desires toss about the little boat of your soul, look at Mary. If you are troubled by the enormity of your crimes, ashamed of the grubbiness of your conscience, frozen with terror at the thought of judgment, or if you begin to be engulfed by the abyss of sadness, by the depths of despair, think of Mary. In danger, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, invoke Mary."

(Extract of a sermon of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux)

Marienheiligtum Birnau, Innenansicht

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Confession of the Integral Holy Catholic Faith

We, Priests of the Holy Catholic Church, truly convinced that the integrity of the Faith takes precedence over an opening up to the world or oecumenism, declare publicly our Faith, and we urge you, brethren, to keep yours intact, to live it completely and, if God gives you the grace, to profess it publicly, without arrogance, but with pride.

We believe and profess all the truths which the Church believes and teaches. In particular:
We believe in the existence of one God in three Persons equal and distinct, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, consubstantial with the Father, took a human nature exactly like ours, with the exception of sin, and that He possesses two natures in one person, the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
We believe in the Holy Ghost, Who is also God, and proceeds from the Father and the Son.
We believe in the birth in time of Christ, of a Mother always a Virgin and full of grace, Immaculate in her Conception and glorious in Heaven in her body and soul.
We believe that the triune God made everything which exists for man, but that He created man for Himself: so that man might know Him, love Him, serve Him and by this means merit the eternal happiness of Heaven.
We believe that the human race descended from a single couple: the first man and woman whom we call Adam and Eve.
We believe that Adam, the head of mankind committed a real sin which deprived him of God's friendship. This sin, "which is the death of the soul", is transmitted by generation to all the children of Adam who, because of this, the Blessed Virgin Mary excepted, are born in a state of sin, that is to say "spiritually dead." This is original sin.
We believe that little children, even though born of Christian parents, must be baptised to obtain Eternal Life, and that they should be baptised as soon as possible.
We believe in the sorrowful Passion, the Death and the bodily Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who ascended to the right hand of the Father, from whence He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.
We believe that at the coming of the Glorious Christ, all men will rise from the dead with their bodies, and that each one will render an account of his own acts. Those who have done good will enter eternal Life and those who have done evil will go into eternal fire.
We believe in the existence of Angels and we believe that they watch over the Church and over every man. We believe also that the unfaithful angels, Satan and the demons, personal beings, prowl in the world and against the Church for the ruin of souls.
We believe in the existence of eternal Hell which was made for Satan and his angels, where those who die whilst not in a state of grace, are punished.
We believe that the evil in the world does not come from unexplained antagonisms but, in truth, from original sin and our own sins.
We believe that man possesses a spiritual and immortal soul which continues to exist after the destruction of the body and which, whilst awaiting the resurrection of the body, will go either to Heaven, Purgatory or Hell, according to what it has merited.
We believe all the truths contained in the Holy Scriptures and in Tradition, including the historical character of the accounts of the hidden life of Jesus (the Gospels recording His infancy) and of His miracles.
We believe that we must venerate the Saints and honour their images, and we believe in their intercession.
We believe in the reality of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in which Jesus Christ, really and substantially present with His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, offers Himself to God the Father, as He did on the Cross, for our sins.
We believe that the term "transubstantiation" is so perfectly fitted to describe the transformation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, that there is no need to look for a new formula for this mystery of Faith. (Cf. Pope Paul's Encyclical Mysterium Fidei.)

We believe that the Real Corporal Presence of Jesus Christ remains in the Eucharist as long as the sacramental species remain after Communion, or in the Host reserved in the Tabernacle.
We believe that the Sacrament of Penance blots out our sins by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, provided that the required dispositions are present.
We believe in the reality of the divine action through the seven sacraments, the rites of which have been entrusted to the Church.
We believe that Jesus Christ, Our Lord, founded a Church which He called "My Church", to distinguish it from the churches which are not "His." It is "the House of God, the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the Truth." (Matt. XVI, 18; 1 Tim III, 15)
This Church God has provided with certain marks of her institution by which she can be recognized as the Guardian and Mistress of the Revealed Word. And we believe that the Roman Catholic Church alone possesses these wonderful marks which indicate her origin: unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity.
We believe that the Church of Christ is visible and hierarchical and that she teaches with God's authority, all that Jesus has revealed to us (see Matt. XXVIII, 20). At the summit of the hierarchy Christ has established Peter and his successors, Bishops of Rome, with direct jurisdiction over the whole universal Church, over all the Bishops, Priests, and faithful and over each one of them.
We believe that the unity of the Church is not something yet to be achieved: it has existed from the beginning and will never cease to exist. It is a mark which distinguishes her from other churches and is one of the Truths of our Credo. "Credo ... et UNAM Ecclesiam."
We believe that those who are separated from her, have objectively the obligation, in order to ensure their salvation, to come back into the sole Church of Jesus Christ, and that we have the duty to facilitate their return but without changing thereby the Catholic Faith.
We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ, although composed of sinners, is a HOLY Church. Holy in her Head, Jesus Christ, Holy in her doctrine, Holy in her Sacraments, Holy in her members: those in Heaven, those in Purgatory, and those on earth who are in a state of grace.
We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is APOSTOLIC
because the Priesthood, and the jurisdiction of her Hierarchy comes from the Apostles by a direct and unbroken succession.
We believe that the Church of Jesus Christ was founded on Peter. She was entrusted to the care of Peter and to the Bishops united with him. This is the Roman Catholic Church, because only the Bishop of Rome is the successor of Peter.
We believe in the permanence of the traditional doctrine taught by the Church, in the objective meaning of the formulas which express her Dogmas, and in the Truth which she teaches.
We believe that the truths of Faith remain absolutely independent of the way men think or live, because Truth comes from God, by tradition through the Church, and not from the religious instinct of the masses.
We reject also that spirit of inquiry which, under the pretext of a better formulation of doctrine, ends by changing the Truths which we have believed until now.
With the Apostle we think that "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is sick about questions and strifes of words; from which arise envies, contentions, blasphemies, evil suspicions." (I Tim VI, 3 and 4)
There, Brethren, is what we believe and what we profess: EVERYTHING WHICH THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH BELIEVES AND TEACHES. And we believe it and hold it to be true because God has revealed it to us and He, and the Church which teaches us through her infallible Magisterium, can neither be deceived nor deceive.
We have been baptized in this Catholic Faith.
It is this Catholic Faith which we professed on the day of our Confirmation.
It is this Catholic Faith which the Church, our Mother, made us promise to preserve before imposing her hands on us.

May God preserve us from being perjurers. May Mary, Mother of the Church, and Mother of God, and all the Angels and Saints obtain for us the grace to live and die in and for the Catholic Faith. Amen.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem - Sing forth, O Sion, sweetly sing

O Salutaris Hostia

Sing forth, O Sion, sweetly sing
The praises of thy Shepherd-King,
In hymns and caticles divine;
Dare all thou canst, thou hast no song
Worthy his praises to prolong,
So far surpassing powers like thine.

To-day no theme of common praise
Forms the sweet burden of thy lays –
The living, life-dispensing food –
That food which at the sacred board
Unto the brethren twelve our Lord
His parting legacy bestowed.

Then be the anthem clear and strong,
Thy fullest note, thy sweetest song,
The very music of the breast:
For now shines forth the day sublime
That brings remembrance of the time
When Jesus first his table blessed.

Within our new King's banquet-hall
They meet to keep the festival
That closed the ancient paschal rite:
The old is by the new replaced;
The substance hath the shadow chased;
And rising day dispels the night.

Christ willed what he himself had done
Should be renewed while time should run,
In memory of his parting hour:
Thus, tutored in his school divine,
We consecrate the bread and wine;
And lo – a Host of saving power.

This faith to Christian men is given –
Bread is made flesh by words from heaven:
Into his blood the wine is turned:
What though it baffles nature's powers
Of sense and sight? This faith of ours
Proves more than nature e'er discerned.

Concealed beneath the twofold sign,
Meet symbols of the gifts divine,
There lie the mysteries adored:
The living body is our food;
Our drink the ever-precious blood
In each, one undivided Lord.

Not he that eateth it divides
The sacred food, which whole abides
Unbroken still, nor knows decay;
Be one, or be a thousand fed,
They eat alike that living bread
Which, still received, ne'er wastes away.

The good, the guilty share therein,
With sure increase of grace or sin.
The ghostly life, or ghostly death:
Death to the guilty; to the good
Immortal life. See how one food
Man's joy or woe accomplisheth.

We break the Sacrament; but bold
And firm thy faith shall keep its hold;
Deem not the whole doth more enfold
Than in the fractured part resides:
Deem not that Christ doth broken lie;
'Tis but the sight that meets the eye;
The hidden deep reality
In all its fulness still abides.

Behold the bread of angels, sent
For pilgrims in their banishment,
The bread for God's true children meant,
That may not unto dogs be given;
Oft in the olden types foreshowed;
In Isaac on the altar bowed,
And in the ancient paschal food,
And in the manna sent from heaven.

Come then, good Shepherd, bread divine,
Still show to us thy mercy sign;
Oh, feed us still, still keep us thine;
So we may see thy glories shine
In fields of immortality;

O thou, the wisest, mightiest, best,
Our present good, our future rest,
Come, make us each thy chosen guest,
Co-heirs of thine, and comrades blest
With saints whose dwelling is with thee.
Amen. Alleluia.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Teresa Helena Higginson

Teresa HigginsonHere is the complete text of Teresa's biography by Lady Cecil Kerr, first published in 1926:

Haupt Christi - The Sacred Head of ChristServant of God, The Spouse of the Crucified, 1944-1905,
by Cecil Kerr

Teresa Higginson's great mission was to promote devotion to the Sacred Head of Our Lord as the Seat of Divine Wisdom, not as a substitute for devotion to the Sacred Heart, but as its perfection. At first this sounds a little strange! But it only takes some reflection to recognise the extraordinary sense it makes. It is the head that controls and directs the heart; wisdom guides love.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Prayer to the Holy Spirit by St. Antiochus

Saint Esprit - Holy Spirit - Heiliger GeistO Holy Spirit, most merciful Comforter: You proceed from the Father in a manner beyond our understanding. Come, I beseech You, and take up your abode in my heart. Purify and cleanse me from all sin, and sanctify my soul. Cleanse it from every impurity, water its dryness, melt its coldness, and save it from sinful ways. Make me truly humble and resigned, that I may be pleasing to You, and that You abide with me forever. Most blessed Light, most amiable Light, enlighten me. O rapturous Joy of Paradise, Fount of purest delight, my God, give yourself to me, and kindle in my innermost soul the fire of your love. My Lord, instruct, direct, and defend me in all things. Give me strength against all immoderate fears and against despondency. Bestow upon me a true faith, a firm hope, and a sincere and perfect love. Grant that I always do your most gracious will. Amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Prayer commending ourselves to God

Heilig Geist, DreifaltigkeitO Lord, into your most merciful hands I commend my body and soul, thoughts and acts, desires and intentions. I commend the needs of my body and soul, future and past, my faith and hope, the end of my life, the day and hour of my death, the burial and resurrection of my body. O most merciful God, whose clemency the sins of the world can never transcend, take me, a sinner, under the wings of your protection and deliver me from every evil. Cleanse my iniquities, grant me a reformation of my life, and protect me against future transgressions, that I may in no manner ever anger You. Shelter my weakness from passions and evil persons, guard me against my visible and invisible enemies, lead me on the road of salvation and to Yourself, the safe harbor and haven of my desires. Grant me a happy, peaceful, Christian death, and protect me from evil spirits. Be merciful to me, your servant, at the great judgment, and number me among the blessed flock who stand on your right, that, together with them, I may forever glorify You, my Creator. Amen.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Stabat Mater

Stabat Mater dolorosa juxta crucemIn the shadow of the rood,
Broken-hearted there she stood
Near her Son and Lord:
While her soul, His doom lamenting,
Yet in sacrifice consenting
Felt the cleaving sword.

Came there ever to another
Grief like thine, O wounded Mother,
As thou looked'st upon
Him, the Son of God, all holy,
And of thee, a Virgin lowly,
Sole-begotten Son?

Who so lost of human feeling
As to hide his tears revealing
Sympathy with thine?
Who that e'er was born of woman,
In a tenderness so human
Sees not love Divine?

To the lash, for sin atoning,
Lo! He bows! and thou, O moaning
Mother, now must see
Limb from limb His spirit languish
And His latest look of anguish
Turned in love to thee!

Let me near the fountain growing
Of thy tenderness o'erflowing,
Drink my fill thereof;
Let the fervent flames illuming
All thy soul a fire consuming,
Kindle mine to love.

Thou alone no ransom needing,
Let thy Son, the Victim bleeding
For my sin atone:
What for me my God and Brother
Deigns to bear, O sinless Mother,
Learn not thou alone.

One with thee, thy vigil keeping,
One with thee, the Mourner, weeping
Near His sacred side,
Where thy soul in desolation
Waits of woe the consummation,
Let my soul abide.

Virgin, Earth's divinest blossom,
Spurn not from thy fragrant bosom
Dews that fall for thee!
Make me near thy Son remaining,
Simon-like, His cross sustaining,
One in sympathy!

Let me from His life-distilling
Wounds, mine empty chalice filling,
Quaff the crimson wine.
Lest the flames, devouring end me,
In thy chastity defend me
From the wrath Divine.

Lord, through her who brought
Thee hither,
Let me hence departing whither
Thou the way hast found,
Come, through Death's opposing portal,
To the Victor's palm immortal,
With Thy glory crowned.

Rev. John B. Tabb.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Prayer to St. Joseph

Josef_Sankt_11-1To thee, O Blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our affliction, and, having implored the help of thy thrice-holy Spouse, we now, with hearts filled with confidence, earnestly beg thee also to take us under thy protection. By that charity, wherewith thou wert united to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and by that fatherly love with which thou didst cherish the Child Jesus, we beseech thee and we humbly pray that thou wilt look down with gracious eyes upon that inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His Blood, and wilt succor us in our need by thy power and strength.

DEFEND, O most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen offspring of Jesus Christ. Keep from us, O most loving father, all blight of error and corruption. Aid us from on high, most valiant defender in this conflict with the powers of darkness. And even as of old thou didst rescue the Child Jesus from the peril of His life, so now defend God's holy Church from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Shield us ever under thy patronage, that imitating thy example and strengthened by thy help, we may live a holy life, die a happy death and attain to everlasting bliss in heaven. Amen.


Monday, March 09, 2009

The Mother of the Saviour Mother of God

Jungfrau der Armen, BanneuxMary has identified herself in some way in all her visits. She made herself known to Catherine Labouré by the inscription she wished placed on the Miraculous Medal: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." Our Lady of La Salette gave herself no name but spoke of her Son, as she did at Pontmain. At Lourdes, Mary said: "I am the Immaculate Conception." And at Fatima she called herself Queen of the Rosary. At Banneux, Our Lady first said she was the Virgin of the Poor and this, together with her clothing, her rosary and the supernatural manner of her apperarance naturally inclined a few people to believe she was Our Lady. But many othes were skeptical because of this very title. They saw politcal implications in it and even thought that Mariette, the daughter of a poverty-stricken family, had invented it. They certainly knew nothing of Mariette, who was quite incapable of such flights of fancy. It was, though, not long before Our Lady swept these doubts away by presenting herself in the name that sets her above the angels and marks her off from all other creatures.
Mariette insisted that Our Lady called herself by this title: "The Mother of the Saviour Mother of God", and that she did not say she was: "The Mother of the Saviour and the Mother of God", which is what one would expect her to say. Does it matter? It does. The truth is always important and, in this particular case, Our Lady's title, as she herself gave it, carries an emphasis which makes it subtly different from that which she might have used by did not. "Mother of the Saviour" and "Mother of God" are both traditional names of Our Lady, but here they become one title, indissolubly welded together. Never before had the two names been joined in this manner until she herself did so at Banneux, and this union stresses how intimately she is involved in our salvation: "no single individual can even be imagined who has ever contributed or ever will contribute so much towards reconciling man with God." This the Church, the Fathers and the general faithful have always known, but at Banneux we are reminded again that she is indeed "a worthy and acceptable Mediatrix to the absolute Mediator - who is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. By disclosing herself in the plenitude of her power at this, her last appearance (at Banneux), she makes it clear that the Mother of the Saviour Mother of God does not descend among us solely to heal the sick; her purpose is to lead us to a greater knowledge and love of her Son.
Our Lady's third and final exhortation: "Pray a lot" gains an even greater force and urgency coming, as it did, immediately after she had gravely announced that she was in truth the woman chosen by God to be His Mother and given by Him to be ours.

Looking back over Our Lady's words at Banneux we see that:
She wishes to be honored as the Virgin of the Poor.
She presents a gift to the people of every race and nation - a spring.
She expresses a wish: for a little chapel.
She makes a promise: to comfort and relieve the sick and to relieve all suffering.
She demands from us: confidence and constant prayer.
She fulfills her mission as Mother of the Saviour.
She reveals the greatness of her power as Mother of God.
She will pray for us, protect us, blss us and lead us to her Son, our Saviour and our God.

From: Virgin of the Poor - The Apparitions of Our Lady at Banneux - by John Beevers - Abbey Press, St. Meinrad, Indiana 47577 - 1972