Catholic Tradition Newsletter A29: Holy Eucharist, Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Saint Praxedes

Vol 12 Issue 29 ~ Editor: Rev. Fr. Courtney Edward Krier
July 20, 2019 ~ Saint Jerome Emiliani

1.      What is the Holy Eucharist
2.      Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
3.      Saint Praxedes
4.      Family and Marriage
5.      Articles and notices

Dear Reader:

If one were to return to an event about two thousand years ago it would have seemed radical to those living then, but it was a change that impacted all of humanity where it was adopted. The adoption only seemed natural, but it was a struggle that took centuries to fully transform society into accepting. This event one reads in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark:

And the Pharisees coming to him asked him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him. But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you? Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away. To whom Jesus answering, said: Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you that precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother; and shall cleave to his wife. And they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing. And he saith to them: Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery. (Mark 10:2-12; cf. Matt. 19:3ff)

Matthew (14:3), Mark (6:18) and Luke (3:19) already infer adultery is prohibited regarding Herod’s living with Herodias, as also John in the case of the woman caught in adultery (8:3ff)—and this is not, therefore, what is so radical; what is radical is the command, one man and one woman and the two in one flesh. In other words, Christ restored monogamous marriage by taking the command not to commit adultery (Exod. 20:14) two steps further—first, no divorce, and second, marriage being only between a man and a woman. He restored the institution of marriage as His Father willed it in the creation of male and female (Gen. 1:27). Woman was to be a help like unto himself (2:18). Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they shall be two in one flesh (2:24). Woman was to bring forth children (cf. Gen. 3:16). Man was to labour and toil (3:17).

The order God established in accomplishing His design in the creation of man was a battle-cry the Church took up, forbidding divorce, adultery, and imposing monogamous marriages. As was said earlier, it took centuries but the Church was able to show the fruit as families were constituted as the foundation upon which society was to be built according to the Gospel principles. Guided by the Holy Ghost, the Soul of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church made the woman no longer a chattel, bought and sold. Nor was the woman to be of less value than the man, but the heart of the family, the seat of wisdom, the handmaid of the Lord—all reflected in the dignity in which the Church set Mary, Christ’s mother, before her children. She knew the role of the woman was, as she, Holy Mother Church, was: the means of salvation for the world. The woman’s role was to be the same as the Church: to teach, to sanctify and to govern her children so they could obtain the purpose for which God created them.

The wicked one knows a well-ordered house patterned after the Holy Family is the guarantee of the salvation of the world and the attacks against the family have been and continue to be his focus. His greatest victory was the re-introduction of divorce during the Protestant revolt. The next was that of taking the woman out of the house during the French Revolution. This was soon followed by the state taking over the role of the education of all youth—for all governments are now anti-Catholic and insist on rejecting Catholic morality. The twentieth century rapidly saw, then, the end of all morality as the great wars and society demanded the woman forsake her dignity of womanhood and lower herself to becoming a slave to the state work force—or enticed her through her vanity that she should at least publicly display her wares and reject staying at home to care for her children. Now that we are in the twenty-first century, the children—neglected by their mothers—are being turned into Frankensteins or Jekyll and Hydes by the state social engineers in their labs innocuously called public schools; and not only turning them into sex objects but also making boys into girls and girls into boys. The following link gives some insight to what your children, if they attend one of these laboratories called a public school, are indoctrinated, though they do not want you to know because you might become shocked:

Beyond, as always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor



By Rev. Courtney Edward Krier

Martin Luther and Consubstantiation

Luther explained that Christ was present just as God is present to everyone by the fact that the glorified Body of Christ being united to the Divinity through the Hypostatic Union made the Body of Christ all-present (so-called Ubiquity Doctrine). This would mean that Christ was just as present with the bread and wine as He would be with cheese and sausage—though he would explain it differently: Impanationin the same sense as the Incarnation.

This heretical doctrine is an attempt to hold the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist without admitting Transubstantiation. According to it, the substance of Christ’s Body exists together with the substance of bread, and in like manner the substance of His Blood together with the substance of wine. Hence the word Consubstantiation. How the two substances can coexist is variously explained. The most subtle theory is that, just as God the Son took to Himself a human body without in any way destroying its substance, so does He in the Blessed Sacrament assume the nature of bread. Hence the theory is also called “Impanation”, a term founded on the analogy of Incarnation. (Scanell, Consubstantiation, CE)

The attempt by Luther to reject Transubstantiation and interpret the words of Christ, This is my body, etc., comes on his rejection of Church authority and turning to rationalism. But all rational efforts failed to provide an adequate explanation without absurdity.  The only argument against Transubstantiation was that there was no use of the word Transubstantiation in the early Church. It is true that clarity was not brought out until Paschasius Radbert (785-859) wrote:

Indeed, “all that the Lord wills he does in heaven and on earth” (Ps 135:6). And because he willed it this figure of bread and wine is permitted to be such that, after the Consecration, it must be believed to be none other than the Flesh and Blood of Christ. Therefore Truth himself said to his disciples, “This is my Flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). And—as I speak more wondrously—it is clearly no other Flesh than that which was born of Mary and suffered on the Cross and rose from the tomb. (De Corp., 1, 45-52, pp. 14-15.)

And, continuing, Radbert wrote:

But truly, if anyone should not believe this, [then I ask] what if he should see Christ on the Cross in the appearance [Lat. in speciem] of a slave? How would he know him to be God unless he had first believed through faith? Likewise in respect to this Body, where another appearance presents itself. How will he see the Flesh of Christ unless he first believes more truly through faith? (Ibid., 15, lines 61-65.)

This setting a clear understanding also brought in, as mentioned above, a sequence of opposition started by Ratramnus (+868). Ratramnus was also a monk at the same Monastery of Corbie (France). He even used the same title of De Corpore et Sanguine Domini, in which he wrote:

Figure is a kind of hiding . . . of what is meant to be shown. For example, . . . when Christ in the Gospel says, “I am the living Bread who have come down from heaven”, or when he calls himself the vine and his disciples the branches . . . all these things say one thing but imply another.

Truth is the manifest setting forth of a reality such that it is not hidden by any images or shadows, or, to speak more clearly, it is the setting forth of things in their pure, open, and natural signification, as is the case when one says that Christ was born of the Virgin, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried. In these cases nothing is hidden by figures that are obscure; the truth of the reality is set forth by the significance of the natural words; nothing other than what is said is to be understood. But in the cases mentioned above [when speaking of “figure”] it is not thus. Substantially the bread is not Christ or the vine Christ or the branches Apostles. Therefore these are a figure. (De Corpore, 7-8, PL, 121, 130)

This denial that Christ was substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament was rejected and his work was forgotten until a century later when John Scotus Erigena (815-877) resurrected the work of Ratramnus. The works of John Scotus Erigena being also rejected, it would be two centuries later when Berengarius (999-1088) would then take the idea of Christ being figuratively present only and deny Christ was substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine. John Wycliffe (1330-1384) then took all these writings of past heretics to reject the Catholic teaching and adopted their same arguments that the Church had already refuted with the twist that the Church came up with something new and that a return to the past was needed but could only be done by rejecting the authority of the Church through her Popes and Councils. The followers of John Hus (1369-1415) adopted the same arguments. The Church had accepted only one faith in what happened at the consecration:

[T]hat the bread and wine that are placed on the altar, after the consecration, are not only a sacrament, but also the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and that they are sensibly, not only in sacrament but in truth, touched and broken by the hands of priests and ground by the teeth of the faithful, . . . (Profession of Faith in the Eucharist Prescribed for Berengar, DBH 690)

But Martin Luther also took up the same arguments against Transubstantiation as his condemned predecessors in a pronounced rejection of Church authority. In rejecting the Church Magisterium and her authority, there came a purifying in his sect of anything he felt was introduced by the Roman Catholic Church—including the Books of Sacred Scripture. For to acknowledge the authority of the pope or council on any issue would require him to recognize he would need to submit in all.

Martin Luther would die at Eisleben, 18 February, 1546. Though his teachings remained confined chiefly to the German and Scandinavian regions, his revolt against the Church spread throughout Christendom and the mark of this revolt was the rejection of Church authority and the Holy Eucharist being the Sacrament of Christ’s true Body and Blood offered in Sacrifice and received as participating in that Sacrifice.

Ulrich Zwingli accepted the figurative sense and Mass as a confession of faith in Christ’s death as an act of redemption. He would not accept Luther’s idea of Consubstantiation.

We, therefore, now understand from the very name what the Eucharist, that is, the Lord’s Supper, is: namely, the thanksgiving and common rejoicing of those who declare the death of Christ, that is, trumpet, praise, confess, and exalt his name above all others. But since that most significant discourse of Christ’s which is embraced in the sixth chapter of John is not correctly understood by the great majority, though they boldly distort it into other meanings, I have determined above all things to declare the primary sense of this passage, that those who force all Scripture willy-nilly to serve their own view may not be able to get here weapons to defend their error. (Zwingli, Commentary, p. 200.)

Zwingli compared the Mass with the Jewish Passover, but in so doing neglected to take into consideration that in the Passover previous to the destruction of Jerusalem a lamb was literally sacrificed. Today, just as in his time, the Passover became a mere ceremony of an historical event: We are compelled to confess that the words ‘this is my body’, should not be understood naturally but figuratively, just as the words ‘this is Jehovah’s Passover’ [cf. Ex 12:11 (An Account of the Faith, in On Providence, p. 52)].

This figurative interpretation is further expressed in his likening the “possession” of the “Lord’s Supper” to a wife possessing the ring her husband gave her—a pledge and reminder:

Thus, I say, we have the Lord’s Supper distinguished by the presence of Christ. But in all this is not the presence of the body of Christ sacramentally to the eye of faith, as I have always said, the gist of the whole matter? For as a husband’s ring is no common gold to the wife but more than all the gems of the Indies, so to us is this sacrament, the food and drink of the Lord’s Supper, sweeter than the flavor of the finest viands. And as the ring, though not itself the husband, has a touch of the husband’s value because it was given by him as a sign of undying love, and because it recalls his form whenever it is looked upon, so the repast of the Supper, though not Christ’s material body, rises to high value because it was given and instituted as an everlasting sign of the love of Christ. . . .  (Zwingli, Letter to the Princes of Germany, in On Providence, p. 123. The letter was written in 1530—as quoted in HM, 144-45.)

For John Calvin, the Presence of Christ was to be interpreted as a spiritual power Christ gave to those who were predestined:

Hence proceeded that fictitious transubstantiation for which they fight more fiercely in the present day than for all the other articles of their faith. For the first architects of local presence could not explain, how the body of Christ could be mixed with the substance of bread, without forthwith meeting with many absurdities. Hence it was necessary to have recourse to the fiction, that there is a conversion of the bread into body, not that properly instead of bread it becomes body, but that Christ, in order to conceal himself under the figure, reduces the substance to nothing. It is strange that they have fallen into such a degree of ignorance, nay, of stupor, as to produce this monstrous fiction not only against Scripture, but also against the consent of the ancient Church. I admit, indeed, that some of the ancients occasionally used the term conversion, not that they meant to do away with the substance in the external signs, but to teach that the bread devoted to the sacrament was widely different from ordinary bread, and was now something else. All clearly and uniformly teach that the sacred Supper consists of two parts, an earthly and a heavenly. The earthly they without dispute interpret to be bread and wine. Certainly, whatever they may pretend, it is plain that antiquity, which they often dare to oppose to the clear word of God, gives no countenance to that dogma. It is not so long since it was devised; indeed, it was unknown not only to the better ages, in which a purer doctrine still flourished, but after that purity was considerably impaired. There is no early Christian writer who does not admit in distinct terms that the sacred symbols of the Supper are bread and wine, although, as has been said, they sometimes distinguish them by various epithets, in order to recommend the dignity of the mystery. For when they say that a secret conversion takes place at consecration, so that it is now something else than bread and wine, their meaning, as I already observed, is, not that these are annihilated, but that they are to be considered in a different light from common food, which is only intended to feed the body, whereas in the former the spiritual food and drink of the mind are exhibited. This we deny not. . . .

They could not have been so shamefully deluded by the impostures of Satan had they not been fascinated by the erroneous idea, that the body of Christ included under the bread is transmitted by the bodily mouth into the belly. The cause of this brutish imagination was, that consecration had the same effect with them as magical incantation. [Note: Hocus, Pocus—Author] They overlooked the principle, that bread is a sacrament to none but those to whom the word is addressed, just as the water of baptism is not changed in itself, but begins to be to us what it formerly was not, as soon as the promise is annexed. This will better appear from the example of a similar sacrament. The water gushing from the rock in the desert was to the Israelites a badge and sign of the same thing that is figured to us in the Supper by wine. For Paul declares that they drank the same spiritual drink (1 Cor. 10:4). But the water was common to the herds and flocks of the people. Hence it is easy to infer, that in the earthly elements, when employed for a spiritual use, no other conversion takes place than in respect of men, inasmuch as they are to them seals of promises. . . .  (Calvin, Christian Institutions, bk. IV, chap. 17, 14-15.)

Most Protestants would adopt the Calvinist view point that, according to the faith of the one participating, there would be a spiritual benefit—but not a true reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. What was universally denied by all Protestants was the real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, Who offers Himself to the Eternal Father and is received by the priest and the faithful.


The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers

M. F. Toal


MARK viii. 1-9

At that time: when there was a great multitude with Jesus, and they had nothing to eat; calling his disciples together, he saith to them: I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat. And if I shall send them away fasting to their home, they will faint in the way; for some of them came from afar off.

And his disciples answered him: From whence can any one fill them with bread here in the wilderness? And he asked them: How many loaves have ye? Who said: Seven. And he commanded the multitude to sit down upon the ground. And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, he broke, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they set them before the people. And they had a few little fishes; and he blessed them, and commanded them to be set before them.

And they did eat and were filled; and they took up that which was left of the fragments, seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand; and he sent them away.


V. 1. When there was a great multitude, and had nothing to eat.

THEOPHYLACTUS: Following on the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes which the Lord had wrought some time before, a fitting occasion now presenting itself, He is moved to work a similar miracle. Hence we have: In those days when there was a great multitude, and had nothing to eat. He did not in all circumstances work miracles to feed the people, lest they should follow Him for the sake of food. He works this wonder now only because He sees the multitude in danger. Hence we read: If I shall send them fasting etc.

BEDE: How it was that those who had come from afar off should wait for three days Matthew tells us more fully: And going up into a mountain, he sat there. And there came to him great multitudes, having with them the dumb, the blind, the lame, the maimed, and many others: and they cast them down at his feet, and he healed them (Mt. xv. 29, 30).

THEOPHYLACTUS: The Disciples did not yet understand Him; nor did they yet believe in His power, after the miracles He had wrought. So we read:

V. 4. And his disciples answered him: From whence can any one etc.

But the Lord did not rebuke them; teaching us that we should not be really angry with men who are ignorant and with those who do not understand, but that we should have compassion on their ignorance. Hence we read:

V. 5. And he asked them: How many loaves have ye?

REMIGIUS on Matthew: He did not ask them as though not knowing what they had; but that they might answer seven: for the fewer there were, the more would the miracle be spoken of, and the more known it would, become. Then follows:

V. 6. And he commanded the multitude to sit down upon the ground.

In the previous feeding of the multitude they are said to have sat down upon grass, but here upon the ground. And taking the seven loaves, giving thanks, he broke. In that He gives thanks He left us an example; that we are to give thanks to Him for all the gifts He has bestowed on us from heaven. And we should note that the Lord did not give the bread to the people, but to His Disciples; and the Disciples gave it to the people. For we read: And gave to his disciples to set before them. And blessing, not alone the loaves, but also the little fishes, He commands that they be set before the people. For we read:

V. 7. And they had a few little fishes; and he blessed them.

BEDE: Therefore, in this lesson, we are to contemplate in the one and the same Redeemer the separate action of His Divinity and Humanity. And the error of Eutychus, which dared to lay down as Christian teaching that in Christ there is but one operation, must be driven from Christian lands. For who is there does not see in His having compassion on the multitude, the sympathy and pity of human tenderness; that He fed four thousand men with seven loaves and a few fishes, the effect of divine power?

V. 8. And they did eat and were filled; and they took up . . .

THEOPHYLACTUS: The multitude which had eaten, and were all fed, did not take away with them what remained of the loaves. The Disciples took up what was left, in baskets, as on the previous occasion. In which we learn, through this account, that we should be content with what suffices for our needs, and not seek for anything more. Then we are told the number of those who ate; where it is said:

V. 9. And they that had eaten were about four thousand.

Wherein we are to reflect that Christ sends no one away hungry; since He wishes all should be nourished with His grace.

BEDE: The difference as Figures between this eating, and that of the five loaves and two fishes is this: that there the letter of the Old Testament, full of spiritual grace, is signified; here was shown the reality and grace of the New Testament, which is to be ministered to the faithful. And the multitude remains with the Lord for three days, for the healing of their sick, as Matthew tells us, when the Elect, with persevering earnestness, plead in the faith of the Holy Trinity for the forgiveness of their sins. Or, because they turn to the Lord in thought, word, and deed.

THEOPHYLACTUS: Or, those who remained with him for three days signify those who are baptized. For baptism is called illumination, and is administered by a threefold immersion.

GREGORY, Morals, I, 19: He does not wish them to go away hungry, lest they faint by the wayside. For men should receive the word of consolation through preaching, lest, hungering for the Food of truth, they perish in the hardships of this life.

AMBROSE: The good Lord, though He requires that men be zealous, will yet give them strength; and He will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way, that is, in the course of this life, or before they come to the Source of Life; that is, to the Father, and learn that Christ is from the Father, lest being told He was born of the Virgin, they may begin to believe that His power is not that of God, but of man. The Lord Jesus therefore divides the food among them; and it is His will, as the Dispenser of all things, to give it to all, and He denies it to no one. But when He breaks the loaves to give them to His Disciples, if you do not put out your hands, that you may receive food, you will faint by the way; nor can you place the blame on Him who has had compassion on you, and apportions you food.

BEDE: They however who, after crimes, after robberies, after violence and murder, come to repent, come to the Lord from afar off. For the more anyone has gone astray in evil doing, the farther off has he strayed from Almighty God. They who believed from the Gentiles came from afar off to Christ; but the Jews, who had been taught about Him in the writings of the Law and the Prophets came from near at hand.

On the former occasion the multitude sat down upon green grass when they ate of the five loaves. Here they sit upon the ground. For in the Scripture of the Law they were commanded to crush the desires of the flesh; but in the New Testament we are commanded to abandon temporal things, and even earth itself.

THEOPHYLACTUS: The seven loaves are the seven spiritual words; for the number seven signifies the Holy Ghost, Who perfects all things. For our life is completed in a sevenfold number of days (or ages).

JEROME (pseudo): Or the seven loaves are the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The fragments of the loaves are the mystical understanding of these seven.

BEDE: That the Lord breaks the loaves signifies the making known to us of the seven sacraments. That He gives thanks shows how greatly He rejoices over the salvation of men. That He gives the loaves to His Disciples to set before the people means that He has given the gifts of spiritual knowledge to the Apostles; and that He wills that by their ministry the Food of spiritual life shall be distributed to the Church.

JEROME (pseudo): The little fishes He blessed are the books of the New Testament; for the Lord on rising from the dead asks for a piece of broiled fish. Or, in the little fishes we receive the saints whose faith, life and sufferings are contained in the writings of the New Testament, and who, caught up from the waves of this troubled world, have provided us with inward food through their example.

BEDE: The Apostles gather up what remains after the people are filled, because the higher precepts of perfection, to which the multitude cannot reach, relate to those whose way of life is above that of most of the people of God. And yet we must keep in mind that the multitude is fed: for though they cannot leave all things, nor fulfil what is required of virgins, nevertheless, obeying the commandments of God’s law, they attain to eternal life.

JEROME (pseudo): The seven baskets are the Seven Churches. The four thousand means the year of the New Dispensation, with its four seasons. And fittingly are they four thousand, that through this number they might teach they had been fed with the food of the Gospels.

THEOPHYLACTUS: Or they are four thousand, that is, made perfect by the four virtues; and through this being stronger as it were they eat more and leave fewer fragments. For in this miracle seven baskets remain; in the miracle of the five loaves twelve basketfuls remained. For there were five thousand men, that is, those who were the servants of the five senses, and because of this they were unable to eat, and, being satisfied with a little, much remained over of the fragments.



St. Praxedes

This Roman maiden came from a family of saints who had been converted by the great Apostles Peter and Paul. When she and her sister, St. Pudentiana, were left with a huge fortune by their holy father, Senator Pudens, they used it all for God. Together they prayed, read sacred books, helped the poor, and comforted the Christians suffering in prison for the Faith.

When St. Pudentiana died, Praxedes continued doing the same good deeds alone. Although the Christians were being persecuted terribly and she helped them in every way she could, the Saint herself was never arrested. Perhaps because she came from such a great family, she was left in peace. She hid Christians in her home, gave all her money away, and even buried the bodies of the martyrs.

Her heart broke to see how the Christians had to suffer, especially when she had nothing left to give away. It was then that she asked God to take her to Heaven, since she could not be of any service any more.

Today I will offer to Our Lord a few little sacrifices for the persecuted Christians in different parts of the world.

(Daughters of St Paul)



Planning the Family Activities for Christian Feasts and Seasons

By Mary Reed Newland (1956)




St. James the Less (May 11). This is the short James, sometimes called St. James the Small. It is said he spent so much time on his knees that the skin became as tough as a camel’s. His mother was a close relative to Our Lady, which would probably make Our Lady Aunt Mary to this James (only, since they were Jewish, she would be Aunt Miriam). He said in his Epistle that though our tongues are small, they are mighty, and capable of great evil. “How small the flame, yet how mighty the forest fire it kindles.” He was about ninety-five when they threw him off the temple parapet, probably A.D. 62, in Jerusalem where he was Bishop. But he was a tough old saint and didn’t die then; so they stoned him, then finished him off with a blow from a weaver’s bat. One of his symbols is a windmill, but we could never decide why. Perhaps because they pushed him off into mid-air; or could it have something to do with what he said about tongues and talking? An easier symbol is three stones which we could find in the driveway or fish bowl or Mother’s bowl of narcissus. Wash them well and stick to red frosting, and warn all present that they must be removed before biting. No broken front teeth at this feast, if you please.

St. Jude (October 28). Called Thaddeus, the “saint of the impossible.” He was brother to James the Less; so he is also a cousin to Jesus. He asked Our Lord at the Last Supper to tell them why He revealed Himself to only these few and not the whole world. Jesus seemed not to hear, but said: “If a man has love for Me, he will be true to My word, and then he will win My Father’s love and We will both come to him, and make our continual abode with him.” It hardly seems an answer at first glance. He speaks of the indwelling of Himself and His Father in our souls. But if you read it again: “If a man has love for Me . . . . ” Only a few—compared to the many who had seen Him day after day—loved Him. He said at other times that men have eyes to see, and do not see. It really was an answer. St. Jude is almost always in the company of St. Simon, and together with him is said to have been sent to preach Christ in Persia, where they both were martyred. The nicest of his symbols is a boat with a crossed mast. We cut a tiny boat of colored paper and stuck it on his cookie.

St. Simon (October 28). He is called the Zealot for his great zeal and, some say, because he may have been a member of a sect called the Zealots. This is debated. He is supposed to have been martyred by idolatrous priests who either crucified him or sawed him in two, like Isaias. Among his symbols we find a ship with a fish; so we put the same kind of little boat on his cookie as we put on St. Jude’s, and added a silver-foil fish because he was a fisher of men. He is the patron of curriers and pit sawyers (men who saw wood over a pit—one standing above wood, one below).

St. Matthias (February 24). His symbols refer to his martyrdom: a number of dreadful things like a sword, a scimitar, stones, a spear. Best of all, we thought, was to choose a broom-straw for him. After all, he had been chosen by lot. We washed one well and stuck it to him so that we’d never forget how they voted him in. He is the patron of carpenters, tailors, and repentant drunkards and is invoked against smallpox.

It’s a funny thing about St. Matthias. He would never have been an Apostle if Judas hadn’t done what he did to Our Lord. He would have remained a disciple, but not one of the Twelve. I suppose when he considered how he got to be one, he thought: “I’ve got to be a saint.”


St. John the Baptist has a birthday on June 24: one of the oldest feasts in the liturgy and, aside from the birthdays of Our Lord and His Mother—and Pentecost, if you will, the only saint’s birthday to be celebrated. All the others were born with original sin on their souls; so the day of their death, or their particular heroism, or the founding of their Order, is celebrated. How St. John came to be born without original sin on his soul is a story almost everyone knows, but fewer realize that there is mention of him seven centuries before in the prophecy of Isaias.

Isaias, the children must be reminded, is the prophet whose words are so prominent in the Advent liturgy, foretelling the coming of Christ. For example, he says something that they recognize immediately: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (7:14). His words are also used in all four Gospels to describe St. John the Baptist; in fact, St. John says them about himself: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready the way of the Lord” (40:3).

Learning all these things one at a time in our family, we finally came to Isaias, and in addition to discovering how and what he prophesied, we looked for some autobiographical facts about him. He came to a violent end, we discovered, sawed in half by his son-in-law, Manasses. “Sawed in half,” said one. “Heavens! Which way?”

This is a minor detail alongside his prophecies, I agree, but the children consider it one of the more interesting facts they have picked up about saints and martyrs.

The story of St. John the Baptist begins: “In the days of Herod, king of Judea.” So that sets the scene. The time was before the birth of Jesus, but the king was the same. Up in the hill country, in a town of Judea, there lived an old man and his wife, Zachary and Elizabeth, holy and good but with neither chick nor child, and this was their great sorrow. Zachary was a priest, and twice a year for a week at a time he went down to Jerusalem to serve in the temple. At the time the story begins, Zachary had been chosen by lot to offer incense on the altar of incense during the morning and evening sacrifices. One day when he went to the holy place alone, he saw an angel standing by the altar and was troubled and much afraid. But the angel told him not to be afraid. He had come to tell Zachary of a son God would send him, in whom he would have “joy and gladness. . . for he shall be great before the Lord. . . and shall be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.” (It was here foretold that the son would be born without original sin.)

But Zachary was old and his wife was old and it was uncommon for folks as old as they to start having babies; so he asked:

“How shall I know this? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”

Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God. . . and behold, thou shalt be dumb and unable to speak until the day when these things come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” And when Zachary came out of the temple and faced the wondering crowd outside, he made signs to them as best he could and they saw that he was dumb. (This is a marvelous episode for a charade. The first time we did it was one night in the middle of the kitchen when even the oldest was very small. I had been telling the story as we washed and wiped the dishes together. A charade suggested itself. By now they have acted it out so often that they automatically respond to any mention of Zachary by putting a finger to their lips.)

So Zachary went home and Elizabeth discovered soon that she was to have a child. She retired from public view, the Gospel says: to be quiet and prepared, and ponder her precious secret.

Six months went by, and the same angel appeared to Mary in a town of Galilee called Nazareth, and greeted her with words that will never be forgotten: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women.” Then, as he said to Zachary, he said to Mary: “Do not be afraid.” He told her that she would bring forth a son and call His name Jesus, and that “He shall be great and be called the Son of the Most High.” Then, after he had told her the child would be conceived of the Holy Spirit, he told her Elizabeth’s secret and explained as he did to Zachary that although Elizabeth was very old, it would come to pass—”for nothing shall be impossible with God.”

Then Mary, in words so simple it is hard to grasp that they were to change the history of the world—not merely change it, but stop it still, and startle time and space and fill eternity, said: “Be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

(To be continued)


Father Krier will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on July 20. He will be in Los Angeles on August 6. On August 8 he will be in Pahrump and Eureka, Nevada, on August 20.


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