Monthly Archives: October 2020

The Martyrs of Nice, France

On October 29, three churchgoers at the Basilica of Notre Dame de l’Assomption were attacked and killed by an Islamic jihadi, in hatred for our Faith. They’re not even the first modern martyrs killed by jihadis in Nice, but their case is even clearer than usual.

Vincent Loques, layman, sacristan, 55, was a devoted husband and the father of two children. He was known for his “friendly face,” and for being available at the basilica all day, every day, for the last ten years.

Brahim Aossaoui, his killer, had waited outside the basilica all night, according to his mother who had received a text in Tunisia that did not reveal his other plans. Loques unlocked the basilica doors at 8:30 AM and let Aossauoi in, as he would let anyone enter in the morning. Once the doors were open, Aossauoi slit Loques’ throat. It is a gesture of contempt associated with halal animal slaughter.

Nadine Devillers, laywoman, 60, was happily married and known for her “strong and pure heart” and her “kindness.” She was from Draguignan but moved to Nice at age 18. She was a regular at the basilica, a daily Massgoer. She died close to the baptismal font, stabbed and nearly beheaded.

Simone Barreto Silva, laywoman, 44, was a Brazilian immigrant to France who had lived there for 30 years, and was the mother of two children. She broke away from her attacker, despite her wounds, and made it all the way across the street to a cafe, where she asked for help. As she died, she asked those around her to tell her children that she loved them.

(It is worth saying the owner of the cafe, Brahim Jelloule, was also a Muslim, but he dragged Barreto Silva inside his cafe and tried to save her.)

Those who die martyrs for Jesus’ sake will go straight to Heaven. These people are now with God, and they are our friends.

Martyrs of Nice, pray for us!

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A Whole Month for Helping the Dead!!!

Pope Francis and the Curia actually listened to the world’s bishops, and they have reinstituted Pope Benedict’s generous grant, adding the entire month of November to the Halloween through November 8 octave for visiting cemeteries and praying for the dead.

So from October 31 through November 30, you can visit any cemetery (not just Catholic ones), pray for the dead, and earn them a partial or plenary indulgence.

“The usual conditions” apply. Which means that to get the dead their full plenary indulgence, you need to go to Confession and receive Communion at some point before, during, or after the month. (Usually it’s a period within about 21 days. So you could go in October, go in December, and still cover the entire month of November. You also have to maintain a state of not being attached to sins, even if you happen to sin, and you have to pray for the pope’s intentions on the day you go to Communion and/or Confession.

But what if you don’t? What if you mess up or leave out some of the conditions?

Partial indulgence. Still good for the Poor Souls or any other dead person.

Basically, the Church wants you to pray for the dead, an.d to have a good excuse for calling on the Church’s treasury of prayers and other good things. So the idea is to make it super-easy and generous.

But you have to go in person.

There’s another plenary indulgence for praying for the dead in a church or oratory, which is normally available only on All Soul’s Day, but which has also been extended to the entire month of November. Homebound or vulnerable people can pray at home before a picture or statue of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, or they can offer up their own sufferings as an act of mercy.

So you can grab either of the two indulgences every day in November, for the dead!

NOTE: Jesus said that people would not just be subject to justice for their sins, or mercy and forgiveness of their sins, after they died and were judged. He said that there were earthly consequences to our sins, and that we have to pay those back in some way after we die, “to the very last penny.” (Lk. 12:59)

An “indulgence” is basically a promise, on the authority of the Church as Christ’s Bride, that this payback part of Purgatory would be taken care of, by Christ and the members of His Body. Most of the time, we are encouraged to acknowledge our own sinfulness, and to do various prayerful activities that provide partial and plenary indulgences for ourselves. This month, we do it for the dead, whether those we know or those we don’t.

You can seek an indulgence for “one of the souls in Purgatory,” or name a specific person. If the person you name is already in bliss in Heaven, or sadly is in Hell instead of Heaven/Purgatory, some other soul will get helped.

When you help those in Purgatory, they will help you with their prayers. Ask them for intercession if you have special intentions that you need help with. This is a beautiful manifestation of the Communion of Saints, and someday you will meet up with these folks in Heaven and on the New Earth.

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Free Unmercenary Physicians Book for Kids!

I don’t know why this didn’t show up on my previous web searches, but the Orthodox Church in America has a nice coloring and activity book PDF, talking about the stories of various doctor saints.

And since pretty much all the pre-conciliar saints and the saints accepted by the Byzantine Rite and other Catholic rites are the same, this is something Catholic kids can (mostly) use too.

(Subject to parental review. And St. Luke of Simferopol and St. Matrona of Moscow seem like good recent folks, but they’re not in any Catholic calendars that I know about. Let’s pray for an end to schisms and divisions among Christians.)

The saints are listed in alphabetical order, not in chronological order. Some of the saints have coloring pages, designed to look like icons.

Unfortunately, some of the activities are not amazing, and the colors and layout are much more like fliers than a book. But I think the PDF “ebook” was really intended as a source for church bulletin inserts, and for printouts for catechetical classes. The maps are a really good thing, and the coloring pages too.

A few of the saints are not physicians, per se, but rather are popular healing saints and/or wonderworkers in the various Eastern churches. For example, St. Artemios of Antioch (Flavius Artemius, who served as dux Aegypti under Constantius II, and was martyred by Emperor Julian the Apostate) was a general and politician. But he’s popular as a saint for intercession in cases of men’s diseases, hernias, gut problems, and psychiatric disorders. (Apparently there were lots of later miracles at his tomb in St. John the Forerunning’s church, in Constantinople.)

(Flavius Artemius was an interesting guy. He actually was a supporter of the Arian bishop of Alexandria, George of Cappadocia, and he did a lot of stuff that would be the work of a villain or a bad official. But at the end, he stood up to Julian when others would not. So he’s probably a good intercessor for any politicians whose soul you worry about.)

Anyway, I don’t know anybody else who’s done a book like this, although saint coloring books are pretty common. It might be a good idea for other Christian churches!

The OCA has similar resources about Orthodox saints with animal friends, and so on. Most of the others are more Orthodox-oriented, although some parts of the books may be suitable for Catholic kids.

Kudos to the artist of the coloring pages!

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The Good Borgia Pope

Yup, there was one. Pope Callixtus III, aka Alfons de Borja. He was a nobleman who became a law professor and a clergyman, and then was asked to tutor King Alfonso V of Aragon’s illegitimate son, Ferrante. The king was so impressed that he had Fr. de Borja appointed bishop of Valencia; and then as a diplomat for Aragon, he impressed Pope Eugenius IV enough to be named a cardinal and asked to serve in Rome. He managed to reconcile his king and his pope, and participated in two papal conclaves, being elected the second time he did so.

He lived an austere and prayerful life, and was much concerned with defending Europe against the Turks, while also promoting spiritual life and the saints. He granted and ran Joan of Arc’s posthumous retrial and acquittal, canonized St. Vincent Ferrer, and called for churches to ring their bells at noon so that people would remember to pray for the crusaders defending Belgrade. After victory over the Turkish siege was achieved on August 6, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Pope Callixtus III declared that it was to be celebrated universally in the West, instead of just here and there in places.

He was a good pope. His worst mistake was naming his nephew a cardinal. It was Rodrigo de Borgia who would become the shady Pope Alexander VI, and whose kindred would make a great deal of trouble in Italy.

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The Deal with St. Francis Borgia

Finally I got some good gen on St. Francis Borgia, the good guy of the Borgia family. He’s an interesting figure, but a lot of Catholic books don’t really tell you much about him.

First thing: He was from the Borgia family (Borja in Spanish), and he was a great-grandson of Bad Pope Alexander VI. But frankly, the rest of his family on the Spanish side was no great shakes, either — illegitimate sons of kings getting appointed to be bishops of Zaragoza, getting quietly allowed to have pseudo-wives and tons of illegitimate kids in exchange for not messing with Spain and Portugal’s ridiculously tangled successions, and then having to get stuck into royal power as regents for legitimate heirs. (Yes, yes, they were in a big war against Muslims, but that’s no excuse.)

But Francis was a good kid, and the kings of Spain had finally decided it was more appropriate to give his family a dukedom than all these bishoprics. (His paternal granddad and grandma may have come from bad homes, but they made a good one and set a good example.) So all he had to do was have a good career at court, marry a good woman, succeed to his father’s duchy of Gandia, and enjoy his nice Valencian town and his totally legitimate kids.

Step One worked out fine. He was well-regarded at the Spanish court. The empress regent, Isabella of Portugal, set him up in 1529 with her close friend and chief lady-in-waiting, Leonor de Castro Mello y Menezes, the daughter of the Portuguese King Manuel I’s captain-general of Africa. (He was nineteen, she was seventeen.) She was known for being unpretentious, pious, and humble, despite her high birth; and like St. Catherine of Siena, she made it her practice to get her prayers done mentally during her work.

The marriage was suggested by the queen, agreed to by Francis and Leonor, and then proposed by way of a letter from the king to the Duke of Gandia. But then it almost collapsed, because the Duke said he was looking for a Spanish princess for his boy, and he had reason. So the Duke got a lot of royal concessions, the barony of Llombay became a marquisate, the Spanish succession got a little less tangled, and young love ensued.

They had eight kids, and everything was great. Francis was made Chief Equerry to the Empress, and he got to use his famous horse knowledge and riding skills for his work.

He was also a pretty darned good amateur musician and composer, btw. In fact, he was so good that he could have been a professional; and he wrote a lot of sacred music that was well-regarded. Many of his motets, hymn tunes, and sequences are still around. He was also famed for falconry. (He found hunting to be a very philosophical and edifying pursuit, and he thought you could learn a lot about life from dogs and falcons.) Unlike most of the court, he sensibly refused to gamble, saying that he feared to lose four things: time, money, piety, and peace of mind.

He was strict but kind to his family and his servants and knights. He paid attention and gave praise when his kids did well. He took his marriage seriously, and his valet later testified that even before marriage, he wore a hairshirt any time that he thought he might be tempted at a party or other social occasion. (And boy, isn’t that a reflection on the Spanish court.)

He didn’t let anything slide in his household, and required daily prayer and Mass; and he always stopped to inspect the male servant quarters before going to bed, to make sure nobody was up to no good. (There’s another reflection on the Spanish court.) But he also paid well, minded his manners even to servants, and gave lots of bonuses for good service. People either left his service quickly or stayed for years. His wife and he both delighted in finding talented, trustworthy people without patrons, and getting them good posts; and in tactfully helping people in need, including those who had run into trouble through casual sex. He gave away a purse of alms every day. But he also found time to study higher math and military science, and to serve his lords in political matters. He displayed personal courage in war, as well as quick, correct, and decisive judgment.

Also, he was darned good-looking, rich, smart, popular, kindly, and had a happy marriage. What more could a man want from life?

During service in Africa when he was lent out to one of the princes of Portugal, Francis caught malaria and almost died. He used his many months of convalescence in the country to study the Bible and the saints. He went back to war in 1536 when Charles V invaded Provence, and again distinguished himself. But he also suffered the death of one of his best friends, the poet Garcilaso de la Vega, who died of concussion after leading an assault by siege ladder.

Not long after, Francis’ paternal grandmother died. She had joined the Poor Clares not long after Francis’ birth, where she lived unassumingly but did tons of penances and became a mystic, though her sisters mostly didn’t know this. She died in great sanctity after suffering a horrible fever, coming out of it with a perfectly clear mind, and giving true prophecies about her friends and family. Both the nuns and many of their visitors at the funeral heard angels singing from time to time, for days afterward.

(One of her daughters, Frances, was also a Poor Clare, and her granddaughter Dorotea (one of St. Francis’ kids) soon joined the order.)

On May 1, 1539, Isabella of Portugal died in Toledo at the age of 36. Francis Borgia organized and ran the procession that escorted her coffin to the royal tomb in Granada. Isabella was considered one of Europe’s most beautiful women (in an extended family that included some really unattractive and even deformed people). She was the grandchild of Ferdinand and Isabella, and niece to Catherine of Aragon, Queen of England, and Isabel of Asturias, Queen of Portugal (also her dad’s first wife – not kidding about that royal family).

According to Francis, the death of his wife’s friend (and his friend and benefactor at court) made a big change in him. He felt that her death was the occasion of his deepest conversion of heart, and he remembered and prayed for her every year in his diary “for what the Lord worked in me by her death.” He was saddened by seeing her face so decomposed at her burial that he could not really swear it was her beautiful self, and he told his diary that he could never again serve any lord who could die. (There are some famous historical paintings of this moment.)

But then Francis succeeded to the dukedom of Gandia while trying to negotiate a marriage between the Spanish and Portuguese courts, to unify the countries. Negotiations collapsed and he was blamed. He left court, occupied himself with his lands and family, and started to study religion more seriously on the side. He and his wife helped support the big Hieronymite monastery of San Jeroni de Cotalba near Gandia. They also took an interest in the Jesuits. He was a good duke to his subjects, and interested in developing his towns. He even put things in train to found a college in Gandia for his Jesuit friends.

And this is when his life abruptly changed.

In 1546, Leonor died while trying to rest and recover at Cotalba. Francis was heartbroken. He found new meaning in his love of God, and decided that it was time to turn his back on worldly things and start working harder for God. With royal permission, he gave his duchy to his sixteen-year-old son, and joined the Jesuits.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was still alive. He apparently knew or knew about Borgia, and he ended up meeting with him. Like the commander of any early modern army, he was delighted to grab a general- or colonel-level recruit for his company, already trained and ready to go. So obviously the thing to do was to process his paperwork and put him in charge of something.

Unfortunately this was not obvious to a lot of Jesuits. He was not trained by lots of boot camp time with us! How can he understand the spirit of the order if we don’t make him go through seven zillion years of training? Isn’t this favoritism? When the local university in Gandia granted their duke a doctorate of theology in three months, the whining increased. (Even though Borgia was known to be very learned, and had been studying for years on the side, as well as founding the college.)

Of course, he was an older man with a closer expiration date, and so it only made sense to Loyola to put him to work right away. As it was, he only gave the Jesuits 26 more years. And Loyola himself was very aware of having started out the Jesuits as the old guy, playing catch up. Why would he make life harder for someone in the same position?

There was more trouble. Various popes thought Borgia would make a great bishop or cardinal, as well as drawing the Jesuits into a traditional pattern of big religious orders providing bishops. Loyola wanted to avoid that, and keep the Jesuits mobile. There was also a heretical book that came out in Spain under the duke’s now-trendy name, but which actually was by an unknown author who had grabbed a short essay by the duke and put a bunch of crazy stuff on top of it.

So for a while, Loyola had Borgia hiding out in a small Jesuit group in his own Basque stomping grounds. Borgia got a little bit hazed by doing scutwork, and by being told to apologize for his clumsiness in playing waiter at the refectory. But Borgia put up with it cheerfully, and had probably had it worse as a royal page or a young knight.

And then, just to make things crazier, Loyola appointed Borgia to be some kind of roaming troubleshooter, with authority separate from various Jesuit superiors. He didn’t tell the Jesuit superiors about this. So of course people were all whiny about him being disobedient or uppity, and about him having been assigned a separate staff full of other Jesuits.

In 1554, Borgia was made commissary-general in Spain for the Jesuits, and founded a dozen colleges to deal with Jesuit educational needs. In 1556, he was put in charge of the Jesuit missions in the East and West Indies, in his copious spare time.

Things eventually settled down a bit, and then he was elected the third superior general of the whole Society of Jesus in 1565, for the last seven years of his life. And he changed things, like giving people a general idea of how Jesuits should dress instead of having no particular habit. He didn’t actually impose a habit, mind you, but it still didn’t go over well. He also had Jesuits living in houses start saying the Office in the morning, but only if it didn’t interfere with other assignments. Since St. Ignatius de Loyola had deliberately not imposed the Office on his people, this caused bad feeling, even though it wasn’t mandatory and was in response to a papal request.

The other factor was that there was a big stink in the 1920’s when a German Jesuit wrote a hostile-ish biography of Borgia. His idea was that Borgia didn’t understand Loyola and the Society, and so that everything he had done was not really Jesuit, and that he had helped ruin everything. The bio came out at the same time that the Jesuits had a really strict superior general, and a big stink ensued which ended in the biographer leaving the Jesuits. He came back on his deathbed in 1976. This was also part of why some Jesuits were all about “Pedro Arrupe becoming superior general saved the order!” So this also damped some of the devotional enthusiasm to him that you would otherwise expect.

Nowadays, the way Loyola had Borgia avoid becoming a cardinal or bishop is bound to be a litte tad bit inconvenient… when we have a Jesuit bishop and cardinal who has become a Jesuit pope…. So yeah, there’s that too. But religious orders are allowed to change if they want; it’s not like Loyola was God Himself. The Franciscans and Dominicans got their members grabbed for bishops, too, and within the first couple “generations” of members. St. Albert the Great, for example.

(And if you really want to support a religious order that never has let its members become bishops or popes… well, that’s every female religious order, heh heh.)

St. Francis Borgia died at midnight on Sept. 30, 1572, so his feastday was originally on Sept. 30. But after Vatican II it was moved to October 10 — today!

So happy St. Borgia Day!


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