CONSIDERATION FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY.
St. Thomas and the Most Blessed Sacrament.
FIRST POINT.—Consider the first words quoted above taken from St. Thomas’s “Pange Lingua”—“Tantum ergo Sacramentum,” “The great Sacrament.”— No doctor has ever spoken or written in language so clear, so precise, or so beautiful of that holiest mystery of Jesus Christ’s love as St. Thomas has done. No one has ever shown forth the magnificent greatness of that astonishing miracle as he has done. No one has ever succeeded as he in treating of the Most Blessed Sacrament of our Holy Church in expressions so exact, so intelligible, and so circumstantial. His words are like sunbeams revealing to the mind the truth that most of all redounds to the honor of that highest of all gifts; viz., that It is in very deed the “Tantum Sacramentum,” the “Great Sacrament,” so great as to be beyond the reach of human intellect or human praise. St. Thomas is the Doctor of the Most Blessed Sacrament. With what accuracy and keenness of expression, with what reverence and dignity of speech does he discourse on the wonderful mystery of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ! He cooperated with Pope Urban IV., in 1264, in the institution of the feast of Corpus Christi, and was commissioned by the same Pontiff to compose the Mass and Office for the solemnity. He acquitted himself in such a manner as to lead us to believe that he had thrown into human words an angel’s song.”—J. B. Canteuil, a celebrated writer of sacred canticles of the sixteenth century, uttered no exaggeration when he openly declared that he would give all his productions for the following strophe of one of St. Thomas’s hymns:—
Se nascens dedit socium,
Convescens in edulium,
Se moriens in pretium,
Se regnans dat in praemium.
“At birth, our brother He became;
At board, Himself as food He gives;
To ransom us He died in shame;
As our reward, in bliss He lives.”
The eighty-four articles of the Summa which treat of the Most Blessed Sacrament, are the most thorough of anything that has ever been written upon It in so narrow a space. Its title; the need men have of It; Its matter and Its transubstantiation; the manner of Jesus presence in It; the words of holy consecration; the effects of the Most Holy Mystery; the receiver and the dispenser, together with the ceremonies made use of at the Holy Sacrifice,—all are considered, and that with a dignity and calm security, as if the great Doctor held the Holy of Holies in his hands, as if every word were an act of reverential adoration. How sublime the whole signification, the grandeur, the power, the beneficent workings of the Holy Eucharist, as summed up by St. Thomas in the simple Antiphon: “O sacrum convivium!”—“O sacred banquet, wherein Christ is received; the memorial of His Passion is celebrated; the mind is filled with grace; and a pledge of future glory is given unto us!”
The holy Master had even as a child sought God alone, had been intent upon God alone; consequently, he found Him everywhere, and treated Him as worthily as a weak creature could treat his God. It would, indeed, have been a miracle if he had not found God, especially in that Mystery of Love, in which Jesus abides in order to be “Our God with us.”
Is this great Sacrament the sun around which thy life revolves? Are thy thoughts often turned toward Him who thinks of thee by day and night? His joy is to be with the children of men—is it the special privilege of thy life to tarry in His presence? Holy Mother Church, in the jubilation of her heart, finds the highest expression of her rejoicing in the sacred songs of St. Thomas; and annually on the recurrence of the feast of Corpus Christi does she enkindle by them the fire of holy enthusiasm in the breast of her children, for it was partly to his efforts that the feast owes its origin.
Art thou, also, intent upon grasping the teachings of Holy Church upon the Adorable Eucharist, that thou mayest honor It, not through custom, but from the deep conviction that God Himself is hidden therein? Tantum ergo, Sacramentum. Hast thou treated God as God during the Holy Mass? when in the church? when passing the tabernacle? Art thou reverent during Holy Communion, maintaining a respectful silence is His presence, as the Holy Scripture enjoins: “The Lord is in His temple. Let the whole earth be silent before Him.” In thy preparation for Holy Communion, dost thou reflect that God is coming to thee, God, whose sanctity can brook no sin? In thy thanksgiving, hast thou not treated the “Great Sacrament” slightingly? And when at a distance, far from the church, do thy thoughts go back to thy God in the tabernacle before which burns the perpetual light, to remind thee of His uninterrupted presence there and to stand before Him as a symbol of thine own true love for Him?
O Jesus, Holy Host, wonderful Sacrament! up to the present much of all this has been wanting to me! To facilitate my access to Thee, Thou didst become little, Thou didst conceal Thy majesty; therefore did I, in my wretchedness, forget that Thou art the great God, my Judge! I hear sung, “Tantum ergo Sacramentum”—“The Great Sacrament,” and my ears have grown accustomed to their sound. I sing, I repeat listlessly those words that should act as reminders. But it shall be so no more! I will choose St. Thomas as my special patron in all that concerns the Most Holy Eucharist; for he who excelled all others in so many particulars, has even excelled himself in his praise, his reverence, and his love toward the Holy Mystery.
SECOND POINT.—Consider St. Thomas in his love and devotion to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. He is not only the Doctor, he is also the adorer of this great miracle: “Tantum ergo Sacramentum, Veneremur cernui.” His conviction of the greatness of this divine Gift was not sterile; it was deep, living, and effective.
Daily, when not prevented by illness, he celebrated the Holy Mass, and assisted at a second, at which he frequently served. Often during the Holy Sacrifice, his devotion glowed with such fervor as to draw from him streams of tears. Once on Passion Sunday whilst devoutly celebrating in the monastery of his Order at Naples, he became enraptured in presence of many of the nobility and, for a long time, remained motionless, until his astonished brethren, by gently pushing and touching him, recalled him from his deep contemplation. His devotion at the Holy Sacrifice was attested on oath by many of the witnesses at the process of his canonization. Some affirmed that, on the days upon which he could not himself celebrate, he assisted at two Masses. It was during the Holy Sacrifice that his approaching death was revealed to him. In all his doubts, he went to the altar and there remained in tearful prayer until light came to him. When on his death-bed, he requested the most holy Viaticum as his end drew near. When the Abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nova, where Thomas lay ill on his journey to the Council of Lyons, brought him the Blessed Sacrament, he arose in spite of his weakness and hastened in tears to meet his Lord. He threw himself on his knees, saluted Him, and prayed in words that inspired the listeners with wonder. To the customary question as to whether he believed present in the Host the true Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, and who for us had suffered, he answered with tears: “If in this life there were given greater certainty upon the Blessed Sacrament than that which the faith affords, yet would I answer with the latter that I believe as true and hold as certain this to be the true God and Man, Son of the Eternal Father and the Virgin Mary. And so I believe in heart and confess in words, as has just been said by the priest of this Most Holy Sacrament.”—Then before receiving he exclaimed: “I receive Thee, the price of my soul’s redemption, for love of whom I have studied, I have watched, and I have labored! Thee have I preached, Thee have I taught! Against Thee never have I breathed a word, neither am I wedded to my own opinion. If I have held aught that is untrue regarding this Blessed Sacrament, I subject it to the judgment of the Holy Roman Church, in whose obedience I now pass out of life.”
Doubtless, thou, too, wouldst wish to speak thus beautifully of the Blessed Sacrament at the close of thy career upon earth.—And that thou canst do if, during thy life, thy love for It has been like unto that of St. Thomas. Think not that thine eye will be able to gaze into eternal light, if thou dost not exercise it now behind the veil that conceals the Divinity; or that thy heart can be warm in death, if in life thou hast stood afar from the furnace. The general laws of nature repeat themselves in the sphere of the spirit, corresponding however still more perfectly and with greater security to the province in which they work. As the forces of nature cannot influence one another without some degree of proximity; so must nearness to God increase love for Him, and removal from Him weaken the same, the effect produced being greater or less in proportion to our ardor in His service. The nearer the iron approaches the magnet, the more powerful is the influence of the latter upon it. Could it be possible that I should draw near to the Magnet of hearts, should often be found in Its presence, without experiencing Its powerful effects?—Ah, the future must find me quite changed with regard to the Holy Eucharist! The words of St. Thomas on his deathbed have brought light to my soul: “I receive Thee, Thou Consoler of my pilgrimage, Thou for whom I have studied, labored, watched, preached, and taught.”—I receive Thee before whom my whole life should be one uninterrupted adoration, one everlasting “Tanturn ergo Sacramentum, Veneremur cernui.”—Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament should be the desire of our heart, the motive power of all our actions, the centre around which should circle all our aspirations and longings, the beneficent sun of our labor by day, the gently beaming moon of our rest or dangers by night. Jesus in the Divine Eucharist should ever be our dearest Friend, to Him should we take joy and sorrow, from Him seek strength and courage, at His feet lay gain and honor, in Him alone find all our happiness. The lamp before His tabernacle should be the brightest and dearest star in life, that He whom it symbolizes may fill us with what Holy Mother Church will ask for each one of us after death: “And may perpetual light shine upon him!”
O glorious bard of the Most Blessed Mystery of our altars, St. Thomas! How shall I praise thee and love thee as thou deservest for having placed before us, in all Its majesty and beauty, the great Mystery of the love of Jesus Christ, for having shown us in thine own life how to venerate that Miracle of God’s power! Thou thyself dost serve us as a model in this. From the glowing treasures of thine own heart, thou dost place upon our lips the words most fitting and most beautiful, with which we are to praise, to magnify, to adore, and to love this highest and holiest of all the Sacraments. Thy thoughts, thy words, thy labors, thy whole life, form one continuous “Pange Lingua,” one unbroken “Adoro Te.” Thou hast enabled us in those heavenly sounds to do homage to our God upon earth, to hail Him in songs of joy. They truly express the praises of the angelic throng, since they come to us from thy lips, O thou angel upon earth! O help me, Angelic Master, that the Bread of Angels, of which thou singest:
“Lo! upon the altar lies,
Hidden deep from human eyes,
Bread of angels from the skies,
Made the food of mortal man;
Children’s meat to dogs denied” . . . .
may be in very deed to me the “Children’s Bread!” Stand by me, teach me, and obtain for me the divine assistance, that I may not draw upon myself a refusal when I sing before the Most Blessed Sacrament thy words: “Sic nos tu visita, sicut te colimus,” “Do Thou visit us, even as we honor Thee.”—With heart and lips will I repeat the words, seeking day by day to understand them better, which Holy Church from thee learned and has already rehearsed innumerable times: O God, who hast left us in this wonderful Sacrament a perpetual memorial of Thy Passion: grant us, we beseech Thee, so to reverence the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, that we may continually find in our soul the fruit of Thy Redemption: Thou who livest and reignest, world without end. Amen.
Prayer of the Church for the Feast of St. Thomas of Aquin.
(To be repeated after every Consideration.)
O God, who by the wonderful learning of blessed Thomas, Thy confessor, hast illustrated Thy Church, and by his virtues hast enlarged it: grant, we beseech Thee, that we may understand what he taught and in our lives follow what he practised. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Trait from the Life of St. Thomas of Aquin.
The Angelic Doctor was about thirty-two years old when there arose in the University of Paris a dispute among the Doctors and Professors, upon the manner of Jesus’ presence in the Holy Eucharist. After long arguments for and against, they agreed to leave the solution of the debated question to the young Thomas whose mental ascendancy was already felt and acknowledged. The opinion of the several Doctors was handed him in writing and his decision awaited. Thomas, according to custom, became lost in contemplation, prayed ardently, and then exposed his own convictions on the question in words short, but strictly conclusive. But he would not submit the result of his labor to the University without high approbation. He approached the altar, laid there on his manuscripts, raised his eyes to the Lord, and prayed: “Lord Jesus Christ, Thou who art truly present in this wonderful Sacrament and who dost operate that which I am to declare, I implore Thee if what, with Thy help, I have written about Thee, is true, permit me to teach it openly but if I have written anything contrary to faith and not in conformity with its teachings upon Thy holy Sacraments, let it be condemned.” Then his confreres, who were closely watching him, saw Christ suddenly appear over the writing that Thomas had laid on the altar, and heard the words: “Well hast thou written, Thomas, concerning this Sacrament of My Body; and well hast thou solved the problem—that is to say, in as far as it is possible for one to do so who still is prisoner in the flesh.”—At the same time the observers beheld the holy Doctor hovering in the air, a whole yard above the floor. He remained so long in this position, that they had time to call the Prior of the monastery and many of the Brothers to witness the astonishing spectacle. After that divine approval, the holy Doctor went to the University where he spoke so fluently and lucidly upon the disputed point that all embraced his opinion. And well they might, since He whom it most nearly concerned had, first of all, given His approbation!
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Lourdes
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, thou knowest my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the grotto of Lourdes thou wert pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary from where thou dost dispense thy favors, and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence, to implore thy maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the granting of my requests. Through gratitude for thy favors, I will endeavor to imitate thy virtues, that I may one day share in thy glory. R. Amen.
V. O Mary, conceived without sin,
R. Pray for us who have recourse to thee.
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