The Value of Love: St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Describes the Reward of St. Aloysius

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“A SINGLE ACT OF LOVE is more pleasing to God and of more value than the whole material universe, as a diamond is more precious than a huge rock.”
– Fr. Lukas Etlin, OSB

“Oh! how much glory Louis [Aloysius], the son of Ignatius, possesses! I would never have believed it, unless Thou, O my Jesus, had shown him to me… It seems to me in a certain manner that there could scarcely be so much glory in Heaven as that which Louis enjoys… I say that Louis is a great Saint… I would like to be able to go through the whole world, and say that Louis, son of Ignatius, is a great Saint; and I would like to be able to show his glory to everyone, that God might be glorified… He possesses so much glory
because of his interior work… Who could ever relate the value and the merit of interior works? There is no comparison between the interior and the exterior. . . . Louis, whilst on earth, kept his mouth open to the Word (she meant to say that this Saint loved the interior inspirations of the Word and tried to fulfill them)… Louis was a hidden martyr; because he who loves Thee, my God, knows that Thou art so great and infinitely amiable, that it is a great martyrdom to him to see that he does not love Thee as much as he wishes to love Thee; and that Thou art not loved, but rather offended by creatures… He made himself a martyr also… Oh! how much he loved Thee on earth! hence he now rejoices in Heaven in great fullness of love!” (‘The Life of St. Mary Magdalen De-Pazzi,’ Fabrini)

“Ah! God does not account of things as men do; of very slight weight are their appreciations, in His Judgment! Even in the case of the Saints themselves, the mere fractional number of years, or brilliant deeds, goes far less to the filling up of a life-time, in His view, than does LOVE. The usefulness of a human existence ought surely to be measured, as a matter of fact, by the amount produced in it, of WHAT IS LASTING.”
– Dom Gueranger

Jesus Lives On in the Church (Pt. 1): The Theological Tradition

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St. Peter of Alcantara, in ecstasy, being drawn to Christ, the ‘Sun of Justice’ (Mal. 4:2)


The Church: An Infinite Treasure to Men

The Catholic Church, cleansed and adorned with ‘the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled’ (1 Pt. 1:19), is ‘an infinite treasure to men’ (Wis. 7:14); she is ‘the body of Christ’ (1 Cor. 12:27), redeemed out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation’ (Apoc. 5:9). United to Jesus Christ, the ‘Head over all the Church’ (Eph. 1:22), ‘we are members of His body, of his flesh, and of his bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is ‘our Everlasting Saviour’ (Bar. 4:22), Who, having loved us ‘with an everlasting love’ (Jer. 31:3), is ‘always living to make intercession for us’ (Heb. 7:25).

Christ: The Life of the Church
If we seek to be saved; if we seek the grace of God in abundance, we have but one thing to do: we have but to cling to the Church, our Mother. We must understand that the prayer of Christ, Who ardently prayed ‘that they may be ONE’ (Jn. 17:11), is not something vague or remote; on the contrary, Jesus continues to live in and through His Church; He continues to offer Himself on its Altars, drawing all men to Himself (Jn. 12:32).

The Eucharist: The Sacrament of Love and Union
In His “unwearying, unconquerable love” (St. John Henry Newman), Christ ‘loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it’ (Eph. 5:25). And why? To the end that He might espouse Himself to the Church in the eternal nuptials of Paradise, of which the Holy Eucharist is both a sign and a pledge: ‘THIS IS MY BODY (Mt. 26:26)… I WILL ESPOUSE THEE TO ME FOR EVER’ (Osee 2:19).

The Prayer of the Bride
We cannot measure His love for His Bride, which lives by His very life (cf. 1 Jn. 4:9). The more intimately we are united with the Church, which is animated by His Spirit, the more surely will our prayers be heard. “The Prayer of the Church,” writes Dom Gueranger, on account of its intimate union with Jesus Christ, is “… the most pleasing to the ear and heart of God, and therefore the most efficacious of all prayers. Happy, then, is he who prays with the Church, and unites his own petitions with those of this Spouse, who is so dear to her Lord, that he gives her all she asks…

‘… shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.’
– Cant. 2:14

It is… Jesus Christ himself who is the source as well as the object of the Liturgy; and hence the Ecclesiastical Year… is neither more nor less than the manifestation of Jesus Christ, and his Mysteries, in the Church and the faithful soul.

“Indeed, although Christ is no longer upon earth, although the historical reality of His mysteries has gone by, He ever remains our Head and the virtue of His actions and of His life is ever fruitful.”
– Bl. Columba Marmion

It is the divine Cycle, in which appear all the works of God, each in its turn; the Seven Days of the Creation; the Pasch and Pentecost of the Jewish people; the ineffable Visit of the Incarnate Word; His Sacrifice and His Victory; the Descent of the Holy Ghost; the Holy Eucharist*; the surpassing glories of the Mother of God, ever a Virgin; the magnificence of the Angels; the merits and triumphs of the Saints.

*“This Sacrament embraces the entire mystery of our salvation.”
St. Thomas Aquinas

… Happy indeed should we deem ourselves, if we could make the faithful understand the grand glory which is given to the Blessed Trinity, to our Saviour, to Mary, to the Angels, and to the Saints, by this annual commemoration of the wondrous works of our God!

‘He hath made a remembrance of His wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord.’ (Ps. 110:4)

If, every year, the Church renews her youth as that of the eagle, she does so because, by means of the Cycle of the Liturgy, she is visited by her divine Spouse, who supplies all her wants. Each year she again sees him an Infant in the manger, fasting in the desert, offering himself on the Cross, rising from the grave, founding his Church, instituting the Sacraments, ascending to the right hand of his Father, and sending the Holy Ghost upon men. The graces of all these divine mysteries are renewed in her; so that, being made fruitful in every good thing, the mystic Garden yields to the Spouse, in every season, under the influence of the spirit he breathes into her, the sweet perfume of aromatic spices.

“… Jesus lives the reality of His mysteries in us, and when we have faith, and rest lovingly united to Him, He draws us with Him, making us partakers of the virtue proper to each of these states. Each year, as the soul follows the Liturgical cycle, it shares ever more intimately in these mysteries, and is identified more and more with Christ, with His thoughts, His feelings, His life.”
– Bl. Columba Marmion (p. 319, ‘Christ the Ideal of the Monk’)

… Now, what the Liturgical Year does for the Church at large, it does also for the soul of each one of the faithful that is careful to receive the gift of God. This succession of mystic seasons imparts to the Christian the elements of that supernatural life, without which every other life is but a sort of death, more or less disguised.” (Dom Gueranger, ‘The Liturgical Year,’ vol. I)

 

The Devil’s Greatest Enemy (Pt. 2): Mary, the New Judith

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‘Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O thou most mighty.’
– Ps. 44:4

“Judith is one of the types of Mary, who crushed the head of the serpent.”
– Dom Gueranger, OSB

Our portrait of the Mother of God – not to mention our portrait of the Church, of which she is Mother – will be radically incomplete if we lack knowledge of the Old Testament types/figures of Mary. The book of Judith, for instance, as with the book of Esther, will be of little use to us if we do not see in them a mirror of Mary. Let us look, then, at some central passages in the book of Judith, bearing in mind that Mary, the true Judith, surpasses all her types: ‘Many daughters have gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all’ (Prov. 31:29). “She has surpassed all the daughters (Saints) in nature, in grace, in glory. She has surpassed all the souls of men, all the intelligences of Angels” (St. Bonaventure).

N.B. Under each subheading below, the first verse is taken from the book of Judith, while the second (relevant) verse is taken from another Book of the Scriptures. Pay close attention to the clear connections with Mary’s Magnificat (in red).

THE BOOK OF JUDITH: A FORESHADOWING OF MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS

+ CHAPTER 13

Leads Us Into the Church
Judith: ‘Open the gates, for God is with us, Who hath shown His power in Israel.’ (v. 13)
‘Blessed is the man that heareth me, and that watcheth daily at my gates…’. (Prov. 8:34)

Loved and Honoured by All
‘And all ran to meet her from the least to the greatest…’ (v. 15)
‘And in the midst of her own people she shall be exalted…’ (Ecclus. 24:3; cf. Prov. 31:28)

The Spouse of Mercy Incarnate
Judith: ‘And by me His handmaid He hath fulfilled His mercy, which He promised to the house of Israel: and He hath killed the enemy of His people by my hand this night.’ (v. 18)
Mary: ‘He hath received Israel His servant, being mindful of His mercy.’ (Lk. 1:54)

Immaculate
Judith: ‘And the Lord hath not suffered me His handmaid to be defiled: but hath brought me back to you without pollution of sin, rejoicing for His victory, for my escape, and for your deliverance.’ (v. 20)
‘Thou art all fair, O My love, and there is not a spot in thee.’ (Cant. 4:7)

The Instrument by Which Hell is Conquered
‘The Lord hath blessed thee by His power, because by thee He hath brought our enemies to nought.’ (v. 22)
Mary: ‘He hath showed might in His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble.’ (Lk. 1:51-52)

Greater than All Those Who Prefigured Her
‘Blessed art thou, O daughter, by the Lord the most high God, above all women upon the earth.’ (v. 23)
‘Many daughters have gathered together riches: thou hast surpassed them all.’ (Prov. 31:29)

Always to be Praised
‘Because He hath so magnified thy name this day, that thy praise shall not depart out of the mouth of men who shall be mindful of the power of the Lord, for ever…’ (v. 25)
Mary: ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord… behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.’ (Lk. 1:46, 48)

Laid Down Her Life for Us
‘… thou hast not spared thy life, by reason of the distress and tribulations of thy people; but hast prevented our ruin in the presence of our God.’ (v. 25)
Prophecy of Simeon: ‘And thy own soul a sword shall pierce…’ (Lk. 2:35)

Deserving of Reverence
‘… he [Achior] fell down at her feet, and reverenced her…’ (v. 30)
‘And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.’ (Lk. 1:41)

Gives Life to the Elect
‘Blessed art thou by thy God in every tabernacle of Jacob…’ (v. 31)
‘Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in My elect.’ (Ecclus. 24:13)

Her Soul Magnifies The Lord
‘… in every nation which shall hear thy name, the God of Israel shall be magnified on occasion of thee.’ (v. 31)
‘My soul doth magnify the Lord… O magnify the Lord with me: and let us extol His Name together.’ (Lk. 1:46; Ps. 33:4)

+ CHAPTER 14

Leads Us Into Battle
Judith: ‘… let every man take his arms: and rush ye out, not as going down beneath, but as making an assault.’ (v. 2)
‘Thy neck is as the tower of David, which is built with bulwarks: a thousand bucklers hang upon it, all the armour of valiant men.’ (Cant. 4:4)

+ CHAPTER 15

The Glory of the Heavenly Jerusalem
‘… they all blessed her with one voice saying: Thou art the glory of Jerusalem…’ (v. 10)
‘God is wonderful (gloriosus) in His Saints: the God of Israel is He Who will give strength and power to His people.’ (Ps. 67:36)

The Joy of the Church
‘… thou art the joy of Israel…’ (v. 10)
‘The dwelling in thee is as it were of all rejoicing.’ (Ps. 86:7)

The Honour of Our Race
‘… thou art the honour of our people.’ (v. 10)
Mary: ‘Because He that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is His Name.’ (Lk. 1:49)

Ever-Blessed
‘… the Lord hath strengthened thee, and therefore thou shalt be blessed for ever.’ (v. 11)
‘And among the blessed she shall be blessed…’ (Ecclus. 24:4; cf. Prov. 31:28)

+ CHAPTER 16

Glorifies the Holy Name of God
Judith: ‘… extol and call upon His Name.’ (v. 2)
‘… let us extol His Name together.’ (Ps. 33:4)

Visits Us With Her Divine Son
‘He hath set His camp in the midst of His people, to deliver us from the hand of all our enemies.’ (v. 4)
Zachary: ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because He hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people… Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us.’ (Lk. 1:68, 71)

The First to Intone the New Canticle*
Judith: ‘… let us sing a new hymn to our God.’ (v. 15)
‘Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: because He hath done wonderful things.’ (Ps. 97:1)
* This fact deserves a post of its own. Given time, I will write something brief at some stage.

Invites us all to serve God
Judith: ‘Let all Thy creatures serve Thee…’ (v. 17)
Mary: ‘Whatsoever He shall say to you, do ye.’ (Jn. 2:4)

Invites us to Fear of the Lord
Judith: ‘But they that fear Thee, shall be great with Thee in all things.’ (v. 19; cf. Ps. 33:10)
Mary: ‘And His mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear Him.’ (Lk. 1:50)

The New Sanctuary
‘And the people were joyful in the site of the sanctuary: and for three months the joy of this victory was celebrated with Judith.’ (v. 24)
‘And Mary abode with her [Elizabeth] about three months.’ (Lk. 1:56)

Most Renowned
‘… she was most renowned in all the land of Israel.’ (v. 25)
‘And in the multitude of the elect she shall have praise.’ (Ecclus. 24:4)

Perpetual Virgin
‘And chastity was joined to her virtue, so that she knew no man all the days of her life…’ (v. 26)
Mary: ‘How shall this be done, because I know not man?’ (Lk. 1:34)

Honoured Above All Saints in the Church’s Liturgy
‘And on festival days she came forth with great glory.’ (v. 27)
‘And a great sign appeared in Heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.’ (Apoc. 12.1)

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‘… there is great delight in her friendship,
and inexhaustible riches in the works of her hands…
love her, and she shall preserve thee…

forget not the groaning of thy Mother.’
(Wis. 8:18; Prov. 4:6; Ecclus. 7:29; cf. Jn. 16:21, Apoc. 12:2)

‘Man Ate The Bread of Angels’ (Ps. 77:25): The Eucharist as Milk

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ECCE PANIS ANGELORUM: Behold the Bread of Angels!

As new-born babes, desire the rational milk without guile, that thereby you may grow unto salvation…’
– 1 Pt. 2:2

The Food of Little Ones
“Clement of Alexandria thus quotes the [aforementioned] passage: ‘As new-born babes, desire ye the word!’ Yes, it is the Word, the Milk of those who are converted and become little children, who are born again of the Holy Ghost; it prepares them for the solid food of the eternal feast, that is, for the Word unveiled.

Our Holy Mother, the Church
… It is that heavenly dew which fell from the bosom of the Father into the womb of the Virgin-Mother; and this same, the Word Incarnate, gives Himself to the Church, for she, too, is Virgin and Mother.

Pure as a virgin, and affectionate as a mother, she invites her children to come, and she feeds them on this rational milk, this Word, this most beautiful One among the sons of men; she gives her little ones the Body of Christ, and strengthens them with the Word of the Father.

Oh! let us run to this blessed Mother of ours, and drink of that Word, who turns all our evils away from us, making us forget, by correcting, them. The mother’s breast is everything to her child — life, joy, its whole world.

… And yet, a mother’s milk is but an image of the One I am speaking of. That other ceases, when the first few months are gone; but the one I partake of is an inexhaustible spring; it forms me into the perfect man, making me reach the age of the fulness of Christ.

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A Favourite Symbol of the Eucharist in the Early Church
… St. Perpetua relates, that, on the evening before she and her companions were to suffer martyrdom, Pastor put a delicious milk into her mouth: the details she gives of that touching scene, show us that she is speaking of the Blessed Sacrament.

… For, as St. Augustine so admirably explains this doctrine, ‘Man does not live on one food, and Angel on another: truth, divine Wisdom, is the one food of every intelligence. The Angels, the Powers, the heavenly spirits, feed on it; they eat of it; they grow upon it, and yet the mysterious food lessens not. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: take it, if you can; eat it; it is food.

Sublime and Consoling Wisdom from St. Augustine
Perhaps, you will say to me: ‘Oh! yes, it is verily food; but I — I am a babe; what I must have is milk; else I cannot reach that Word you tell me of.’ Well! since it is milk you require, and yet there is no other food for you save this of heaven (the Word), He will pass through the flesh, that he may thus be brought within reach of your lips, for food does not become milk, except by its passing through flesh. It is thus a mother does. What the mother eats is what her child drinks; but the little one not being, as yet, strong enough to take the bread as it is, the mother eats it, and then gives it to her child under a form that very sweetly suits the babe. He does not receive the food such as it lay upon the table, but after it has passed through the flesh, and so made suitable to the child.

Therefore was the Word made Flesh, and dwelt among us; and ‘man hath eaten, thus, the bread of Angels.’ Eternal Wisdom came down even to us, by the Flesh and Blood of Him that was our Saviour; he came as milk, which was full of all blessing to us.”

(Taken from Dom Gueranger’s, ‘The Liturgical Year,’ 1879, Tuesday within the Octave of Corpus Christi)

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“The Bread of Angels is Virginal Milk.”
– St. Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face