Introduction

I am a privately vowed man who follows the spirituality of Blessed Charles de Foucauld. I live on my own, in the world, in Biloxi, MS. My goal with this site is to provide resources and reflections for others.
God bless you, Matthew Manint

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Holy Week Meditation

“But he passed through the midst of them, and so went on his way.”

The Gospel of St. Luke 4:30

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The Procession to Calvary
, Peter Bruegel the Elder – 1564
(high resolution image at https://upload.wikimedia.org)

            The gospel passage above from St. Luke occurs at the end of Jesus’s confrontation in the synagogue of Nazareth, where he had stated that no prophet is welcome in his hometown. The people in the synagogue had sought to hurl him off of the hill, but he “passed through the midst of them, and so went on his way.”

In the above painting by Peter Bruegel the Elder, we see a mass of people and activity. Animals are running freely, people are chatting and carrying possessions on their heads or backs, children seem to be playing. There is an atmosphere of festival, but a closer look reveals dark undertones. Crows are in the sky and darkness hangs in the distance to the right. Wheels in the air carry the remains of prior executions. A skull in the lower right is near three people who do not share in the festive mood. A closer look near the middle of the painting shows its theme – Christ is carrying his cross to Calvary.

Brueghel’s genius was to set the crucifixion in his contemporary time. Public executions were more like carnivals than scenes of horror, and large crowds came to watch. For many, the execution of the criminal was more an excuse to enjoy themselves than to be an object lesson for society. By setting God carrying his cross in a place of insignificance, setting his ashen mother off to the side, setting the redemptive location of Golgotha in the far, obscured distance, perhaps Brueghel is saying something about our own reaction to Christ.

Because God’s works are efficacious for all time and exist outside of time in eternity, the liturgical time of Holy Week is not just a remembrance or commemoration of events that happened in the dusty past. Through faith, we enter in to the events themselves – that is why the Mass actually brings us to Jesus’s sacrifice on Calvary, not as if he were sacrificed again and again, but so that we might enter into that event that rings forth for all time.

This Holy Week, the world will continue its riotous path as if nothing is happening. Wednesday evening, Judas will betray his Lord for the price of a slave, and the world will be indifferent. Thursday, Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples, suffers the extremes of agony at Gethsemane, and spends the night alone in prison, and the world will be indifferent. Friday, he dies on his cross, and the world will be indifferent. He sleeps in the tomb, tears asunder the gates of Hell, and rises triumphant, and the world will be indifferent.

I beg you, do not think I write these things from some position of superiority. I look within myself, and I see indifference. I get caught up in my own concerns and business, not noticing that Jesus passes through the midst of them. Jesus passes through the midst of my joys and my sufferings, and I barely look up to see that bloodied man carrying a cross off in the distance. Though I am indifferent, he still “goes on his way” to the cross for me, for he loves me. Each Lent is a time to identify and seek to root out those places within our hearts that keep us indifferent to our salvation so that we might, once again, witness the events of Holy Week in a new way. But this is not something that we can achieve on our own. We must recognize the indifference, but God must heal it. I pray that we all might be fearless enough to surrender to God’s desire to heal any indifference we might have to what he is about to do, so that this Easter we are truly witnessing his victory over death in a new, vivid way.

A very Holy Week and Triumphant Easter to you and yours!

Save A Life Today!

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This is from my good friend Sr. Clara, a member of the Apostles of the Interior Life. I have added a few further resources below her message:


Dear friends,

I heard today from our dear friends Little Sisters of the Lamb, that a man they know, who converted to Catholicism in prison, will be executed on January the 20th.

I ask you to write the Governor of Texas and ask for changing his death penalty into imprisonment.

While as soon as I started praying for him, I found in the Breviary of today this passage from Isaiah (61:1) who gave me hope and desire to get you involved: “The Lord has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners” Is 61:1, followed again by the responsory: “The Lord has sent me to proclaim that captivity is now ended and prisoners are set free”.

I entrust Richard to St Therese of Lisiueux, who prayed for people condemned to death, and to my holy friends Rossella, very devout to St Therese, who passed away one year ago on January 9th.

Also, the Pope wants this Jubilee Year of Mercy, which by definitions is about setting prisoners free: According to Leviticus, slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven, and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.(Leviticus)25:8-13

Please, follow the instructions on the attachments. (I have added PDFs of the attachments below – ed.) The first letter is for Catholics, and the other one for all.
Please, send this to your contacts.
Please, pray for Richard and governor Abbott

Thank you and God bless!

Sister Clara Remartini AVI
Dear families
1st version – Letter to Governor Abbott
2nd version – Letter to Governor Abbott


The death penalty is a very controversial subject. A society has a duty to protect its citizens and to punish wrongdoers, but it also has to ensure that the justice it enacts takes into account the dignity of the offender, even when the offender did not afford his victim their dignity. The teaching of the Catholic Church, found in paragraph 2267 of the Catechism, is a summary of this balance:

Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”

All of us have committed sin, and all of us are called to repentance and conversion that leads, ultimately, to union with God. No matter the sin, God is ready and willing to forgive it. This “folly of mercy” may strike us as unfair, especially for those who have committed horrible sins. And yet, all sin is an offense against God’s perfect purity, and is deserving of death. Thankfully, it appears that Richard has found this forgiveness before the date of his execution, but others on death row may not. Even if you do not agree that the state should stay its hand in his death, please pray for his final perseverance and for the souls of all those who will die in the coming weeks. Pray for the conversion of all hearts, especially for those on death row. 

I would also encourage you to ask for Claude Newman’s intercession for Richard. He was also a murderer who found Jesus before his execution date: 
https://coastcaritas.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/the-search-for-the-grave-of-claude-newman/


February, 2016 – update from the little brothers and sisters of the Community of the Lamb:

January 21st, 2016

Dear families and friends,

This Wednesday, 20th January, Richard, our « brother », has entered into Life that no one can now take away from him. Up to the end, until the last minute, we hoped with a great hope for clemency from men…

We all prayed with faith and fervor, called, sent letters and emails to the Governor of Texas…some little brothers and sisters went to Texas to be close to Richard and his family, and two hours before the execution, our little sister Marie managed to speak to him by telephone: it was a beautiful moment of light in the heart of these unbelievably harsh events. Of course, she transmitted to him the support and prayer of Pope Francis, of so many friends and of each one of you…

One hour after the execution, Richard’s body was laid out in a Baptist Church – as his family are Baptist – and each one could spend a moment with him. The prayer and singing of the little brothers and sisters present consoled his family. On Thursday and Friday, there will be a vigil of prayer in the evening; and on Saturday the funeral will take place in Livingstone, in a Catholic Church – since Richard became Catholic during his years in prison. What a beautiful sign of communion in this week of prayer for Christian unity!

An immense thank you to each and everyone for your prayer, your help, and acts of solidarity. This event allowed us to experience communion and friendship: it is a very great grace! Richard himself wrote to little sister Marie a few days ago: « Please, tell everybody that I’m thankful for the letters and that I’m very moved that they have sent me so much love and prayers. Tell them that that counts a lot for me. Tell them that I embrace them all…I had some pretty difficult moments these last few months, but I’m pretty good now. I’m ready for whatever happens, one way or another… »

Let us pray for the repose of Richard,

and, in communion with all those who wait in “death row”, with him, let us ask for the grace to persevere in this battle to put an end to the death penalty (the next execution is planned for this coming Wednesday!)

the little brothers and sisters of the Community of the Lamb


 

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Mounting Print Icons to Wood

A few months back, I ordered a random set of icons during Legacy Icons’ moving sale (www.legacyicons.com). A packet of unmounted icon prints came with the other icons. According to the site, they are the same quality prints that Legacy Icons uses, so I began researching how to mount them to wood. It was easier than I thought it would be, so I decided to share how to do it.

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First, decide what type of backing you would like to use. Many icon producers use MDF (a type of dense particle board) because it is very uniform, smooth, and cuts easily. I decided to try some birch plywood, because I wanted to see the grain on the back of the icons.

Cut the wood to shape (I measured for 1/4″ of extra space on each side of the print. My neighbor has a router, so I decided to add some bevels on the edges. Sand everything.

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Unlike MDF, plywood may have some imperfections. I found regular latex caulk to work well at filling them.

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Next, paint the edges and border of the wood. I had a can of red paint that I also used to paint my “heart and cross” carved wood panel near my door, so I decided to use it on the icons.

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Now comes the fun part – gluing the icon to the wood. I highly recommend Sennelier’s “Acrylique Lacquer” in a matte finish. I cut it with an equal part of water as it is quite thick, and just keep it in a covered jar. A little goes a very long way.

Coat the board’s top and sides with a good coat, and also coat the back of the icon print. On smaller prints, you may need to curl the side edges back so that they will lay flat. Then, place the icon on the board, trying to minimize any air bubbles.

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I found a wallpaper seam roller works very well at pressing the edges of the print and working out any bubbles that may have formed. On one large print, I had to use a small syringe to inject some adhesive into a large bubble and then press it with a board overnight; it still turned out great.

Let the coat of lacquer dry for at least a few hours, and then add several more light coats. I normally apply 4 coats.

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Finally, I make a note on the back with permanent marker, apply a coat of linseed oil to the wood, and add some “bumpers” and a saw tooth hanger.

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While it is a fun project to mount your own icon prints, it would be very hard to beat the quality of Legacy Icons’ production icons. In addition, they offer many other categories of products (and they’re just very nice people.) Please look them up.

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One-Page Catechism on Prayer Using Quotes from the Saints

For my parish’s men’s group this coming week, I will be giving a short presentation on prayer. I prepared a handout for them that is a brief Catechism on Prayer from the saints:

A Catechism on Prayer from the Saints

What is prayer?

“Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” – St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney

“For me prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

“Mental prayer is nothing else but being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Is prayer necessary?

“Without prayer we have neither light nor strength to advance in the way which leads to God.” – St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori

“It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life.”
– St. John Chrysostom

“Let him never cease from prayer who has once begun it, be his life ever so wicked; for prayer is the way to amend it, and without prayer such amendment will be much more difficult.” – St. Teresa of Avila

How should we pray?

“Pray with great confidence, with confidence based upon the goodness and infinite generosity of God and upon the promises of Jesus Christ. God is a spring of living water which flows unceasingly into the hearts of those who pray.” – St. Louis de Montfort

“As far as possible, you should pray in quiet silent devotion. Try to have a favorite topic of prayer, such as a devotion to the passion of Jesus, the Blessed Sacrament, awareness of the divine presence: go directly to Jesus without too much fuss.” – St. Peter Julian Eymard

“Much more is accomplished by a single word of the Our Father said, now and then, from our heart, than by the whole prayer repeated many times in haste and without attention.” – St. Teresa of Avila

Final thoughts

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” – St. (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcino

“You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all.” – St. Therese of Lisieux

A Reflection on Pilgrimage

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I recently returned from a young adult pilgrimage to Italy with the Apostles of the Interior Life in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their founding in Rome (I was given a waiver since I’m no longer a young adult.) While I had lived in Italy for several months and had visited it a few other times, this pilgrimage was especially meaningful. Like Dante in the opening line of his great pilgrimage, the “Divine Comedy,” I found myself “midway upon the journey of (my) life,” having just turned 39.

After several days, I soon began to see that being immersed in the physical locations of pilgrimage, and even viewing the physical remains of the saints, brought home that they, just like me, had to choose the good each and every day, no matter what happened. And yet, the pilgrimage of life is not walked alone, for all of these saints are alive in the Body of Christ, offering support and encouragement.

Before speaking about this physicality, it’s important to know that in both Catholicism and Orthodoxy there is an ancient practice of displaying the bodies and bones of the saints for the purpose of veneration and remembrance. In the United States, largely formed by the philosophies and practices of post-Enlightenment Protestantism, this practice of veneration might seem strange. The purpose of this little essay is not so much to explain the reasons the ancient apostolic churches do this, but to reveal its effect on me in my pilgrimage. However, for those wanting to know more about the history of this veneration, especially in the very early Church, this link is quite good: https://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/RELICS.HTM.

There is something to be said about walking in the footsteps of the saints, but it is something else entirely to see them face to face. The picture above was taken at The Hermitage of St. Catherine on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. It was founded by a merchant named Alberto Besozzi of Arolo, who in the 12th century found himself in a violent storm while he was in a boat on Lake Maggiore. Seeing his situation was desperate, he vowed to God that, should he live, he would spend the rest of his life in solitude and prayer. His lifestyle soon attracted others, and a complex of buildings was built on the shore of the lake, including an atmospheric, frescoed church. Within that church, his body lies within a glass casket, dressed in the habit of a religious.

Standing before his remains, I looked upon the thin, desiccated lips that had, nearly 900 years ago, sputtered and gasped out his vow in the midst of the storm. His feet and his hands carried his work and his prayer in fidelity to his promise each day of his life. “He was a real man; he truly existed,” I thought. He had to face temptation and struggle, and he had to choose to be faithful to God every day.

This physicality of pilgrimage can reveal lessons and feed meditation in nearly every circumstance. On the last day of the group pilgrimage, I was able to help out by giving some commentary and history on such sights in Rome as the Coliseum, the Forum, and various churches. Standing near the Roman Forum, I said, “This is the very heart of ancient Rome. If we walked towards that arch you see, the Arch of Titus, you would find reliefs showing the Romans carrying away the riches of the Temple of Jerusalem after they sacked the city in AD 70. Their empire was the most powerful in the known world, powerful enough to spare the time, money, and men to utterly crush the last remnants of the Jewish rebellion at Masada. At the time, it was inconceivable that anything would bring the Roman Empire to its knees. And what do you see now?”

“Nothing…ruins,” they answered.

In my last 2 days of solo pilgrimage in Rome, I meditated on how soon earthly nations and empires crumble and that even the most powerful men fade into the past. Walking rather aimlessly towards the Tiber River, I happened to go into St. Agnes’s Church at Piazza Navona. The piazza is built on the former Stadium of Domitian, which was used for such events as footraces and gladiatorial combats. It was a smaller stadium, and seated perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 spectators. The arcades around the stadium were often used as brothels, and it was to one of these that the young St. Agnes was condemned in the reign of Diocletian for being a Christian. Preserved by God from being raped at the brothel, the exasperated Romans finally killed her by the sword.

I walked into her church and went into a side chapel. There, I was stunned to see the small, delicate skull of a girl of perhaps 12 years of age – St. Agnes. Her skull rested in a rectangular silver reliquary. At the center was a wreath of green enamel that recalled the evergreen wreaths that were often laid at the graves of virgin martyrs in the early Church. The wreath framed the clear, circular portal through which her little skull could be seen.

It was a moment of such tenderness, intimacy, and beauty. Her life and witness seemed to echo there with her mortal remains. This pure, brave girl, condemned by Rome to be murdered in obscurity before her life had even bloomed, was still alive, still known. Even though she died over 1,700 years ago, she was alive in the same Body of Christ as myself, and there did not seem to be any barrier of time or death to keep us from each other. In the presence of this “dead bone,” there was a torrent of life that would never fade into a lifeless, forgotten past.

Seeing this skull of a mere child who gave her life because of her faith, I meditated on the contrast of Agnes and the Empire that murdered her in the days that followed. When I was speaking to the pilgrims at the Forum, I said, “Yes, only the ruins of the Roman Empire remain. And yet, look at what is still alive and here today—the Church and the witness of the saints. This mighty empire, like all others, did not last. But Christ remains.”

The saints, even those who perished over a millennia ago, have a freshness, a newness that transcends the dust of the years to inspire us to imitation. It is this newness that I experienced in the ability of St. Agnes to transfix my heart and speak across the centuries, seeming to say, “You can do this! I will pray for you and walk with you the rest of your pilgrimage.”