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Retreat Conference given by Mr. David Williams
(Easter Retreat 2001 Holy Saturday)

Great Saints of the Church

The Dominican Priest, Father John Arintero, explains the following:

"....The Church has always had men and women Saints of every condition, and always will have. It is also certain that these Saints will be in greater abundance as they are more necessary to arrest the growing wave of evil. The Graces of that sovereign spirit who through nations conveys himself into Holy souls and makes friends of God and Prophets, will never be exhausted, and never can be......"

And in our state of the world - you are all being called up!

I will make reference to three Saints who grew up to be great Saints of the Church, as adults - but I am talking about them in childhood and youth, because they became great Saints even back then. Later I will discuss two reasons why they became great Saints, and how we can follow that same path to become great Saints as well. I will begin with Saint Dominic.

Saint Dominic

Before Saint Dominic was born his mother, Jane, received a vision of a hound which fled through the whole world, igniting everything from a flaming torch held in its mouth. At his baptism his grandmother saw a bright star shining on his forehead, as water was poured over him. Saint Dominic is depicted in pictures with the star above his head.

From his childhood, to youth, through to adult-hood, he was always unfailingly kind. He had great reverence for study, and he divided his time equally between prayer and study - and for this outstanding work ethic God rewarded him with the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, making it easier for him to solve most difficult questions. He also had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, as you know, instituted the most Holy Rosary.

Saint Thomas Aquinas

Before Saint Thomas Aquinas was even born, a Holy hermit appeared in one of the rooms of the castle where Saint Thomas' parents lived when his mother was pregnant with him. Speaking to Theodora, his mother - and pointing to a picture of Saint Dominic which hung from a statue of Our Lady - he said: "Rejoice, O lady, for thou art about to have a son whom thou shalt call Thomas. Thou and thy husband will think to make him a monk of the monastery of Monte Casino, where reposes the body of the Blessed Benedict, in the hope that your son will attain the honours and riches of that monastery, But God has ordained otherwise, because he will be a brother of the Order of Preachers. Such will be his learning and holiness that his equal will not be found throughout the world".

So you can see some of them were become great Saints even before they were born.

One time while Saint Thomas was still an infant, he was taken to the baths at Naples. As he was being prepared to bathe, a roll of paper appeared in his hand. His nurse tried to take it from him but he held it fast, and resisted with sobs and tears. His mother at last opened his hand - and finding the words "Ave Maria" written on the scroll, instantly gave it back. The child seized it eagerly, and swallowed it. So even then he had a great devotion to Our Lady - before he could speak!.

From Saint Thomas' early childhood his angelic beauty and sweetness of temper perceptibly increased; it developed so much that he charmed, irresistibly, all who saw him. Saint Thomas main-tained the holiness and purity of a young child, all his life. As a youth at the University of Naples, he was an example of angelic life to all his associates in the pursuit of knowledge, love of prayer, and study.

Saint Vincent Ferrer

Saint Vincent had a happy disposition for learning and piety, which were improved from his cradle by study and a good education. In order to subdue his passions he fasted, rigorously, from his early child-hood every Wednesday and Friday. The Passion of Christ was always the object of his most tender devotion. The Blessed Virgin Mary he ever honour-ed as his Spiritual Mother. Looking on the poor as members of Christ he treated them with the greatest affection and charity which, being observed by his parents, they made him the dispenser of all their bountiful alms (that was when he was a child).

Two Themes that Stand Out

What are the two themes that stand out after discussing these three great Saints that are models for us to become Saints ourselves?

(1) Their strong work ethic and attitude towards study, education and work.

(2) Their deep devotion towards the Blessed Virgin Mary.

I always say to my children in my classroom - and I am sure they get sick of hearing it, but I have heard that some of them repeat it to each other, so I know it is working: "'I can' is a hundred times more important than 'IQ'". So that looks at ability verses effort. You don't have to be a rocket scientist, or a brain surgeon; you don't have to be an intellectual giant - all that is required is "effort". And I explained to the children that if you are a "slug" in the small things, and you can't do the simplest things that are required - and it becomes a habit - then you will become a "slug" in big things. What I am trying to do is to establish a good work ethic at a young age; that of putting in a good effort - and you will find that this becomes habitual as well. God uses education as a tool because He has a vocation and a plan for every single person, and He provides you with all the Graces that are necessary to reach that vocation. So I explained to the children that education is one of those tools: if you put the effort in, then God will do the rest.

So how can this be applied to all of us in our place in the Order of Saint Charbel? If you are putting the effort in you will achieve the results: the path to sanctity. If you are being a "slug", feeding off the hard work of others, and being a burden to the Order, then don't expect to become a Saint if you continue down that path. You need to ask yourself: "why am I here"?

Consider these words of Saint John Vianney when approaching any form of work in your daily life - whether it is sweeping a floor, or designing a building: "Do your work, not in order to grow rich or to win the approval of men, but for God's sake."

So let us consider how these three great Saints developed such a positive attitude and work ethic. We need to introduce another element to help answer that. Who do children learn from first in life? - their mother! So to answer the first question: how did they develop this attitude and work ethic? - through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why? - because, Mary the Mother of God, is also the Mother of all of us. God has desired it to be so. We know this is the truth for a particular reason.

Saint Alphonsus de Liguori in his beautiful work - 'The Glories of Mary' - has stated, and shown us on two occasions, how Mary became our Spiritual Mother.

(1) According to Saint Albert the Great, it was when She merited to conceive in Her Virgin Womb the Son of God. Saint Bernadine of Sienna explains it more distinctly, "....when at the Annunciation the Most Blessed Virgin gave the consent which was expected by the Eternal Word before becoming Her Son, She from that moment asked our salvation of God with intense ardour, and took it to heart in such a way, that from that moment, as a loving Mother, She bore us in Her Womb".

* Also, in the 2nd Chapter of Saint Luke, he mentions that Mary brought forth Her first Son This is where the Protestants get really excited, because they make out that Our Lady had lots of children.

* Saint Gertrude, while meditating on this text, had difficulty understanding it one day because, as you know, Mary physically had only Our Lord. So when it says: "...brought forth Her first-born Son..." - it could be taken to imply that She had other children. God explained to her saying that Jesus was Her first-born according to the flesh, but that all mankind were Her second-born, according to the spirit.

(2) Now the second time that Our Lady become our Spiritual Mother was at the foot of the Cross, where Our Lord hung, Crucified.

* Our Lord said to the Disciple: "Behold Thy Mother"!

* Saint John uses the word 'Disciple', which is a word common to all, because we are all Disciples of Our Lord.

Therefore, these three great Saints were of the Blessed Virgin Mary Who, of course, was the mould for Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We, too, can become the image of Christ through devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by allowing Her to mould us in Her Immaculate Heart. The most effective devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and means of become a Saint, is through total consecration to Her Immaculate Heart, according to the spirituality of Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.

Now we all know that consecrating ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary involves abandoning our-selves to Her, as Her own possession, to do with as She pleases. But how can we live this devotion, daily, in order to deepen our understanding of total consecration to Mary? By living as Saint Maximilian Kolbe did: by imitating the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation, 'Marialis Cultus', offered the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model for the Church in Divine Worship. He out-lined four attitudes of Mary, presenting Her as the:

Attentive Virgin - The Virgin in Prayer - The Virgin Mother - The Virgin Presenting Offerings

* The Attentive Virgin: Makes reference to listening to Divine Inspirations and Obedience.

* The Virgin in Prayer: Makes reference to interior life.

* The Virgin Mother: Makes reference to love and charity.

* The Virgin Presenting Offerings: Makes reference to sufferings and sacrifice.

Father Luigi Faccenda, in his book 'One More Gift': the total consecration to the Immaculata according to the spirituality of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, presents us with four realities of the total consecration he calls the 'Four Pillars of Total Consecration' - and that fits in exactly with Pope John Paul's writings, that I have just mentioned.

1. Interior Life:

Jesus said: "I am the Vine, you are the branches". Father Luigi explains in this wonderful and mysterious statement that we discover the vital relationship between man and god which does not consist merely in the passage of sap from the vine into the branch, but requires an intense union and communication in order that the fruit might be abundant and lasting.

"He who lives in me and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing". To do this Father Luigi advises, in imitation of the Virgin in Prayer, that "each Christian should strive to nurture his interior life with a truly prayerful and sacramental life, including meditation, silence and recollection, and even pauses from his daily activity. Above all he should strive to live and work with great purity of intention which permits him to see God in every action from the most sublime to the most menial. In such a way all things are directed to Him (through the Immaculata) with love and accepted as a sign of His immense Love".

2. Obedience:

Since the total offering to the Immaculata means "to belong to Her as Her own property", obedience becomes the virtue most recommended by Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Obedience, in fact, means total conformity to the salvific Will of God and consists in allowing the Immaculata to guide your lives, freely. How do we recognise Her Will? The only certain way is by obedience to God's representatives.

Saint Luke mentions in Chapter 10:16: "He who listens to you listens to Me". Thus, important means by which we may live this spirit of obedience are the attentive and docile listening to the Word of God, the Holy Father and the Church's Magisterium, and also the events, situations, and obligations of our daily life. This is where work ethic comes in.

3. Heroic Charity: Readiness to Give One's Life to One's Brethren.

Father Luigi says: "Though our consecration to Her we are called to share in Her unlimited charity. This attitude of self-giving, however - such as the supreme offering of Saint Maximilian in the concentration camp implies a daily effort. It requires a continual giving of ourselves so as to become instruments of love and communion. This attitude must be the focus of our relationship with friends, relatives, and all our brothers and sisters, within the Church, and with all mankind, without distinction of race and culture. In order to realise a genuine mutual love, we need to live in an attitude of interior poverty and humility; we must always be ready to extend our hand to others and to forgive one another.

Let me remind you of the good Samaritan parable - this also applies to souls who injure themselves by causing disease in their souls through poor decisions, bad actions and a sinful lifestyle. We need to have the courage to correct our brothers in a charitable way rather than turning a blind eye - for if we turn a blind eye we are like the Priest in the parable who pretends not to see and just walks on. This lack of act-ion is a lack of charity, for we leave our brother on the side of the road in a pitiful state, needing help. The consequences of no action is that the sin could take root in the soul and - even worse - spread and infect other souls. So it is important to correct with charity, forgive, and then guide and assist those in need.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe explains forgive-ness beautifully: "The essence of mutual love does NOT consist in the fact that no one causes us grief, which is impossible in living together with other people, BUT that we learn to forgive one another immediately, and always more perfectly. Then we shall have great confidence in reciting the invocation contained in the Lord's Prayer: 'And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'... If we had nothing, or very little to forgive others, we would be in great trouble, indeed. Let us use every opportunity to exercise patience, humility...

Let us prove through our actions that with the Immaculata's help we can do every-thing, since that is what we proclaim. Let us put in Her our confidence; let us pray and go ahead in life with peace and serenity".

4. Supreme Offering: Suffering Willed out of Love.

Father Luigi explains that "Suffering willed out of love" means to accept and love sorrows and sufferings in our life, and to make a total offering of ourselves to God for the redemption of the world through Mary.

Those who consecrate themselves to the Immaculata, the Virgin Presenting Offerings, should not ask for any special suffering, like sickness, trials, or martyrdom. Instead they, serenely, should leave her the total freedom to us themselves in the attitude of embracing everything with a humble spirit of faith and love in union with Christ Crucified.

From examples of Jesus, Mary and Saint Maximilian, we learn that suffering lived out of love, little by little, enables us to become more attentive to others' needs and to share in their sufferings. Therefore, I can conclude by safely saying that if you build your life in the Order through a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, living the total consecration solidly built with the Four Pillars, you will:

* Give all;

* You will have the right attitude;

* Possess a good work ethic;

* You will recognise the truth and stand up for it and become a great Saint for God, just like Saint Dominic, Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Vincent Ferrer!!

Saint Thomas Aquinas: "The knowledge of what is true is given by the fervour of love".

Saint Maximilian Kolbe: "Such souls will come to love the Sacred Heart of Jesus much better than they have ever done up to now. Like Mary, Herself, they will come to penetrate into the very depths of love, to understand the Cross, the Eucharist, much better than before. Through Her, Divine Love will set the world on fire and will consume it; then will the assumption of souls in love take place".

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