Monday, November 01, 2010

All Saints

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

Moses the Black of Ethiopia

In the fourth century Moses was for a short while an almost legendary bandit and murderer terrorizing travelers in Egypt and Ethiopia. A powerfully built man with a cunning mind, he had quickly become the leader of a very dangerous criminal gang. Once while hiding from local authorities near Alexandria, he stayed the night with a group of monks at Scetis, and was awed at their peace and moral strength. He never left: he was baptized and became known as a man of extraordinary prayer and gentleness.

Once, however, he was traveling to Mass with his desert brothers, a distance of several miles. A group of three bandits surrounded him, threatening to tie him up with rope and leave him in the desert sun. Thus it happened that a while later, while the brothers were just beginning to celebrate Mass that Moses came over the horizon carrying the three bandits over his shoulder. They were tied up with their own rope. He dropped them down in the midst of the surprised brothers saying, "These men attempted to waylay me; I don't know what to do with them, so I leave it to your judgment, brothers." The brothers didn't think it appropriate to have men tired up during the Mass, so, reasoning that they now outnumbered the bandits quite a bit, they untied the bandits and continued on. The bandits stayed; they very much recognized Moses now, and were astonished that he was now devoting himself to a life of poverty and prayer. They stayed and joined the brothers.

He's often portrayed in iconography holding a bag (sometimes a basket) with a hole in it, from which sand pours. It is said that once one of the brothers was accused of wrongdoing, and a council was held to determine what to do with him. Moses came with a large bag or basket of sand carried on his shoulder; it was leaking, and sand was trickling out. Asked why he was doing it, he replied, "My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but apparently I am coming here to judge the sins of another." The brothers took the point and forgave the errant monk.

St. Moses became the head of a community of monks. When he was in the seventies, his community was attacked by bandits. They had had forewarning of the attack, and some of the brothers wanted to prepare to fight, but Moses forebade it. Instead he evacuated most of the monks and then went out with seven companions to greet the bandits and offer them hospitality, as monks were supposed to offer travelers; and so died Moses and his companions. His feast is August 28.

Micae Hồ Đình Hy

Micae, or Michael, was a wealthy Vietnamese silk trader who eventually was put in charge of the royal silk mill. He became notable for helping the poor, and also for helping French and Portuguese missionaries travel safely. At one point, when a ship carrying a bishop accidentally hit another ship, causing damage, he sold his own silk robe in order to pay for the damages himself. At this time, in the Nguyen dynasty, it was illegal to engage in Christian activities, but it eventually became clear that Micae was a Christian and that he was protecting the Christian community. When he denied a local magistrate access to the royal silk mill, the magistrate brought charges of Christian activity against him, and he was beheaded in 1857. His feast is May 22.

Katherine Mary Drexel

Katherine Drexel was born into an extraordinarily wealthy family; her father was an important banker. She became interested in helping the plight of Native Americans and blacks; she began by making donations out of her trust-fund income, but came to the conclusion that this was simply not enough. So she founded a religious order, known today as the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, whose mission was to create schools for Native Americans and blacks. All of her income for the rest of her life went to the order (the trust fund was set up so that if Katherine had no children, which she never did, all of the money would at her death be donated to various institutions determined by her father, so it no longer exists). By the time of her death in 1955 the order had founded over sixty schools, tangled with the Ku Klux Klan on more than one occasion, and created Xavier University in New Orleans. St. Katherine's feast is March 3.

Robert Southwell

Robert Southwell was a Jesuit in the time of Queen Elizabeth I. At the time there was a law that forbade any of Queen Elizabeth's subjects who had been ordained as a Catholic priest from spending more than forty days on English soil. Despite this he voluntarily became a Jesuit missionary to England, where he went in secret from Catholic family to Catholic family, providing the sacraments. During this time he wrote a number of tracts and poetry to comfort and encourage Catholics under the reign of Elizabeth. His mission lasted for six years until he was finally arrested. He was in prison for several years, first at the gatehouse at Westminster and then at the Tower of London; he was tortured several times in an attempt to get him to divulge further information about Catholic priests in England. He was then tried for and convicted of treason in 1595, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered at Tyburn.

Life is but Loss
by Robert Southwell

By force I live, in will I wish to die;
In plaints I pass the length of ling'ring days;
Free would my soul from mortal body fly,
And tread the track of death's desired ways:
Life is but loss where death is deemed gain,
And loathed pleasures breed displeasing pain.

Who would not die to kill all murd'ring griefs?
Or who would live in never-dying fears?
Who would not wish his treasure safe from thieves,
And quit his heart from pangs, his eyes from tears?
Death parteth but two ever-fighting foes,
Whose civil strife doth work our endless woes.

Life is a wandering course to doubtful rest;
As oft a cursed rise to damning leap,
As happy race to win a heavenly crest;
None being sure what final fruits to reap:
And who can like in such a life to dwell,
Whose ways are strict to heaven, but wide to hell?

Come, cruel death, why lingerest thou so long?
What doth withhold thy dint from fatal stroke?
Now prest I am, alas! thou dost me wrong,
To let me live, more anger to provoke:
Thy right is had when thou hast stopp'd my breath,
Why shouldst thou stay to work my double death ?

If Saul's attempt in falling on his blade
As lawful were as eth to put in ure,
If Samson's lean a common law were made,
Of Abel's lot if all that would were sure,
Then, cruel death, thou shouldst the tyrant play
With none but such as wished for delay.

Where life is loved thou ready art to kill,
And to abridge with sudden pangs their joys ;
Where life is loathed thou wilt not work their will,
But dost adjourn their death to their annoy.
To some thou art a fierce unbidden guest,
But those that crave thy help thou helpest least.

Avaunt, O viper! I thy spite defy:
There is a God that overrules thy force,
Who can thy weapons to His will apply,
And shorten or prolong our brittle course.
I on His mercy, not thy might, rely;
To Him I live, for Him I hope to die.

Robert Southwell is celebrated as one of the Forty Martyrs of England Wales who were executed at Tyburn; the feast of the Forty Martyrs is October 25.

Lojze Grozde

Lojze Grozde was a young man in Slovenia. He became an excellent student, but as his studies were ending, World War II overtook his part of the world. He attempted to travel home in 1943; the train would only go so far because the rails had been destroyed, so he attempted to go the rest of the way by foot; after a while a cart overtook him, and he rode in the cart. The cart was confiscated at Mirna by communist guards; they found on him a copy of the Imitation of Christ and a tract on Fatima. Suspecting him to be an anti-communist spy in league with the White Guard, they detained, interrogated; he died at their hands at the age of nineteen. His feast is May 27.

Andrew Kim Tae Gon

Andrew was born into a Christian family under the Joseon dynasty; because of severe persecution against Christians at the time, many of his relatives died while he was young, with the result that they became so poor that his mother had to beg in order to bring in enought to eat. At 15 he traveled to Macao to study theology and eventually became the first Korean-born priest. He returned to Korea to spread the gospel. On his journey he designed maps to make it easier for missionaries to find Korea; some of these still survive. He was caught trying to smuggle missionaries past the Korean border in 1846. He was tortured and killed beside the Han river. Andrew Kim Tae Gon is celebrated with the Holy Korean Martyrs on September 20.