Wednesday, September 30, 2009

St Jerome (340 - 420)


He was born in Strido, in Dalmatia. He studied in Rome and was baptised there. He was attracted by the ascetic life and travelled to the East, where he was (unwillingly) ordained a priest. He was recalled to Rome to act as secretary to Pope Damasus, but on the Pope’s death he returned to the East, to Bethlehem, where (with the aid of St Paula and others) he founded a monastery, a hospice, and a school, and settled down to the most important work of his life, the translation of the Bible into Latin, a translation which, with some revisions, is still in use today. He wrote many works of his own, including letters and commentaries on Holy Scripture. When a time of troubles came upon the world, through barbarian invasions, and to the Church, through internal dissension, he helped the refugees and those in need. He died at Bethlehem.

A commentary on Isaiah by St Jerome
Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ
I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.
Therefore, I will imitate the head of a household who brings out of his storehouse things both new and old, and says to his spouse in the Song of Songs: I have kept for you things new and old, my beloved. In this way permit me to explain Isaiah, showing that he was not only a prophet, but an evangelist and an apostle as well. For he says about himself and the other evangelists: How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news, of those who announce peace. And God speaks to him as if he were an apostle: Whom shall I send, who will go to my people? And he answers: Here I am; send me.
No one should think that I mean to explain the entire subject matter of this great book of Scripture in one brief sermon, since it contains all the mysteries of the Lord. It prophesies that Emmanuel is to be born of a virgin and accomplish marvellous works and signs. It predicts his death, burial and resurrection from the dead as the Saviour of all men. I need say nothing about the natural sciences, ethics and logic. Whatever is proper to holy Scripture, whatever can be expressed in human language and understood by the human mind, is contained in the book of Isaiah. Of these mysteries the author himself testifies when he writes: You will be given a vision of all things, like words in a sealed scroll. When they give the writings to a wise man, they will say: Read this. And he will reply: I cannot, for it is sealed. And when the scroll is given to an uneducated man and he is told: Read this, he will reply: I do not know how to read.
Should this argument appear weak to anyone, let him listen to the Apostle: Let two or three prophets speak, and let others interpret; if, however, a revelation should come to one of those who are seated there, let the first one be quiet. How can they be silent, since it depends on the Spirit who speaks through his prophets whether they remain silent or speak? If they understood what they were saying, all things would be full of wisdom and knowledge. But it was not the air vibrating with the human voice that reached their ears , but rather it was God speaking within the soul of the prophets, just as another prophet says: It is an angel who spoke in me; and again, Crying out in our hearts, Abba, Father’, and I shall listen to what the Lord God says within me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian

Today I have included a short Biography of St. Cosmas and Saint Damian as well as the first reading for today's Mass and the second reading from the Office of Readings by St. Augustine on the Psalms .

Cosmas the physician and Damian the apothecary were twin brothers born in the third century AD in the Middle East. They were called anargyroi, “the silverless” or “the unmercenaries” because they treated patients free of charge. These two martyrs were twin brothers from Arabia who later studied in Syria. They lived in the fourth century. They were very famous students of science and both became excellent members of the medical profession. According to biographies, Cosmas was a Doctor and Damian was a pharmacist (apothocary). Cosmas and Damien saw in every patient a brother or sister in Christ. For this reason, they showed great charity to all and treated their patients to the best of their ability. Yet no matter how much care a patient required, neither Cosmas nor Damien ever accepted any money for their services. For this reason, they were called by a name in Greek which means "the penniless ones."
Every chance they had, the two saints told their patients about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because the people all loved these twin doctors, they listened to them willingly. Cosmas and Damien often brought health back to both the bodies and the souls of those who came to them for help.
When Diocletian's persecution of Christians began in their city, the saints were arrested at once. They had never tried to hide their great love for their Christian faith. They were tortured, but nothing could make them give up their belief in Christ. They had lived for him and had brought so many people to his love. So at last, they were put to death in the year 303. These holy martyrs are named in the First Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass.
In honor of St. Cosmas and St. Damien, we can perform a work of mercy today--either spiritual or material.
God bless you.
Please pray for all the sick that come to Nazareth Hermitage for help and for those who have need of prayers for illnesses.

Todays first reading from the Mass
Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15
Raising my eyes, I saw a vision. It was this: there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked him, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out her breadth and her length.’ And then, while the angel who was talking to me stood still, another angel came forward to meet him. He said to him, ‘Run, and tell that young man this, “Jerusalem is to remain unwalled, because of the great number of men and cattle there will be in her. But I – it is the Lord who speaks – I will be a wall of fire for her all round her, and I will be her glory in the midst of her.”’

The second reading from the Office of Readings

A sermon of St Augustine on the Psalms

The martyrs' deaths are made precious by the death of Christ
Through such glorious deeds of the holy martyrs, with which the Church blossoms everywhere, we prove with our own eyes how true it is, as we have just been singing, that precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints; seeing that it is precious both in our sight and in the sight of him for the sake of whose name it was undertaken. But the price of these deaths is the death of one man. How many deaths were bought with one dying man, who was the grain of wheat that would not have been multiplied if he had not died! You have heard his words when he was drawing near to our passion, that is, when he was drawing near to our redemption: Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
On the cross, you see, Christ transacted a grand exchange; it was there that the purse containing our price was untied; when his side was laid open by the lance of the executioner, there poured out from it the price of the whole wide world. The faithful were bought, and the martyrs; but the faith of the martyrs has been proved, and their blood is the witness to it. The martyrs have paid back what was spent for them, and they have fulfilled what Saint John says: Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we too should lay down our lives for the brethren. And in another place it says, You have sat down at a great table; consider carefully what is set before you, since you ought to prepare the same kind of thing yourself. It is certainly a great table, where the Lord of the table is himself the banquet. No-one feeds his guests on himself; that is what the Lord Christ did, being himself the host, himself the food and drink. Therefore the martyrs recognised what they ate and drank, so that they could give back the same kind of thing.
But from where could they give back the same kind of thing, if the one who made the first payment had not given them the means of giving something back? What shall I pay back to the Lord for all the things he has paid back to me? I will receive the cup of salvation. What is this cup? The bitter but salutary cup of suffering, the cup which the invalid would fear to touch if the doctor did not drink it first. That is what this cup is; we can recognise this cup on the lips of Christ, when he says, Father, if it can be so, let this cup pass from me. It is about this cup that the martyrs said, I will receive the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.
So are you not afraid of failing at this point? No? Why not? Because I will call upon the name of the Lord. How could the martyrs ever conquer, unless that one conquered in them who said Rejoice, since I have conquered the world? The emperor of the heavens was governing their minds and tongues, and through them overcoming the devil on earth and crowning the martyrs in heaven. O, how blessed are those who drank this cup thus! They have finished with suffering and have received honour instead.

Friday, September 25, 2009

St. Albert of Jerusalem - Bishop and Lawgiver of Carmel

Albert Avogadro was born in the middle of the twelfth century in Castel Gualteri in Italy. He became a Canon Regular of the Holy Cross at Mortara and was elected their prior in 1180. Named Bishop of Bobbio in 1184 and of Vercelli in 1185, he was made Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem in 1205 where, in word and example, he was the model of a good pastor and peace-maker. While he was Patriarch (1206-1214) he united the hermits of Carmel into one community and wrote a Rule for them. He was murdered at Acre on September 14th, 1214.
Let us pray.
Lord God,through St. Albert of Jerusalemyou have given us a Rule of lifeaccording to your Gospelto help us attain perfect love.Through his prayersmay we always live in allegiance to Jesus Christand serve faithfully until deathhim who lives and reignswith you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,One God, for ever and ever.Amen.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


ST GERARD, sometimes surnamed Sagredo, the apostle of a large district in Hungary, was a Venetian, born about the beginning of the eleventh century. At an early age he consecrated himself to the service of God in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore at Venice, but after some time left it to undertake a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. While passing through Hungary he became known to the king, St Stephen, who made him tutor to his son, Bd Emeric, and Gerard began as well to preach with success. When St Stephen established the episcopal see of Csanad he appointed Gerard to be its first bishop. The greater part of the people were heathen, and those that bore the name of Christian were ignorant, brutish and savage, but St Gerard laboured among them with much fruit. He always so far as possible joined to the perfection of the episcopal state that of the contemplative life, which gave him fresh vigour in the discharge of his pastoral duties. But Gerard was also a scholar, and wrote an unfinished dissertation on the Hymn of the Three Young Men (Daniel iii), as well as other works which are lost.
King Stephen seconded the zeal of the good bishop so long as he lived, but on his death in 1038 the realm was plunged into anarchy by competing claimants to the crown, and a revolt against Christianity began. Things went from bad to worse, and eventually, when celebrating Mass at a little place on the Danube called Giod, Gerard had prevision that he would on that day receive the crown of martyrdom. His party arrived at Buda and were going to cross the river, when they were set upon by some soldiers under the command of an obstinate upholder of idolatry and enemy of the memory of King St Stephen. They attacked St Gerard with a shower of stones, overturned his conveyance, and dragged him to the ground. Whilst in their hands the saint raised himself on his knees and prayed with St Stephen, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. They know not what they do." He had scarcely spoken these words when he was run through the body with a lance; the insurgents then hauled him to the edge of the cliff called the Blocksberg, on which they were, and dashed his body headlong into the Danube below. It was September 24, 1046. The heroic death of St Gerard had a profound effect, he was revered as a martyr, and his relics were enshrined in 1083 at the same time as those of St Stephen and his pupil Bd Emeric. In 1333 the republic of Venice obtained the greater part of his relics from the king of Hungary, and with great solemnity translated them to the church of our Lady of Murano, wherein St Gerard is venerated as the protomartyr of Venice, the place of his birth

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Feast of St. Maurice

Maurice was an officer of the Theban Legion of Emperor Maximian Herculius' army, which was composed of Christians from Upper Egypt. He and his fellow legionnaires refused to sacrifice to the gods as ordered by the Emperor to insure victory over rebelling Bagaudae. When they refused to obey repeated orders to do so and withdrew from the army encamped at Octodurum (Martigny) near Lake Geneva to Agaunum (St. Maurice-en-Valais), Maximian had the entire Legion of over six thousand men put to death. To the end they were encouraged in their constancy by Maurice and two fellow officers, Exuperius and Candidus. Also executed was Victor (October 10th), who refused to accept any of the belongings of the dead soldiers. In a follow-up action, other Christians put to death were Ursus and another Victor at Solothurin (September 30th); Alexander at Bergamo; Octavius, Innocent, Adventor, and Solutar at Turin; and Gereon (October 10th) at Cologne. Their story was told by St. Eucherius, who became Bishop of Lyons about 434, but scholars doubt that an entire Legion was massacred; but there is no doubt that Maurice and some of his comrades did suffer martyrdom at Agaunum. Feast day - September 22nd.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Feast of Saint Matthew

Matthew 9:9-13
As Jesus was walking on he saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs house, and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.
While he was at dinner in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.’

A sermon by St Bede the Venerable
Jesus saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him
Jesus saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me. Jesus saw Matthew, not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men.
He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: Follow me. This following meant imitating the pattern of his life – not just walking after him. St. John tells us: Whoever says he abides in Christ ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
And he rose and followed him. There is no reason for surprise that the tax collector abandoned earthly wealth as soon as the Lord commanded him. Nor should one be amazed that neglecting his wealth, he joined a band of men whose leader had, on Matthew’s assessment, no riches at all. Our Lord summoned Matthew by speaking to him in words. By an invisible, interior impulse flooding his mind with the light of grace, he instructed him to walk in his footsteps. In this way Matthew could understand that Christ, who was summoning him away from earthly possessions, had incorruptible treasures of heaven in his gift.
As he sat at table in the house, behold many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. This conversion of one tax collector gave many men, those from his own profession and other sinners, an example of repentance and pardon. Notice also the happy and true anticipation of his future status as apostle and teacher of the nations. No sooner was he converted than Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation. He took up his appointed duties while still taking his first steps in the faith, and from that hour he fulfilled his obligation and thus grew in merit. To see a deeper understanding of the great celebration Matthew held at his house, we must realise that he not only gave a banquet for the Lord at his earthly residence, but far more pleasing was the banquet set in his own heart which he provided through faith and love. Our Saviour attests to this: Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
On hearing Christ’s voice, we open the door to receive him, as it were, when we freely assent to his promptings and when we give ourselves over to doing what must be done. Christ, since he dwells in the hearts of his chosen ones through the grace of his love, enters so that he might eat with us and we with him. He ever refreshes us by the light of his presence insofar as we progress in our devotion to and longing for the things of heaven. He himself is delighted by such a pleasing banquet.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Can you help Lauson de Silva????

A plea for Lauson de Silva

Dear Friends,
This young man is Lauson De Silva and is an 'A' student at St. Francis School which is a Catholic school in a far village. He has cycled or walked to school which is about an hour away. Lausan is also the translator and leader for all the religious services at Nazareth Hermitage. I have watched him growing up over the past 5 years and all that time he has been the most devout and faithful member of the Catholic community in Tanje. He always walks or cycles to the nearby villages to announce time for Masses when they are held here or any other service )stations, prayer meetings, rosary, bible reading, etc.) and he is always in attendance. Only last year did he finally receive his first Communion and Confirmation (he is now 19 years old). Now he needs to begin high school in the Capitol City, Banjul but his grandmother, who had been previously paying for his schooling, has told him that she cannot afford to pay any more. The Grandmother is getting old and is basically a subsistence farmer. For Lau not to get into school would be a real sad thing as he is brilliant and has high hopes of becoming a Doctor or Priest. I suggested he do both...He is smart enough and may have a vocation, but time will tell. So what I am asking for is someone to help with his school fees in order for him to attend Gambia High School (The only good science program is at Gambia High) which is approximately 5000 Gambian Dalasis or $251.00 US dollars per school year.
Unless he finds someone to help him he remain out of school and take up work as a farmer ekeing out his existence as his family has for generations. This would be a real loss to the country and to the church. He has been told if he converts to a "born again" church that they would sponsor him but he told them he would never leave the Catholic Church.
This is the first time I have ever asked for a donation for schooling but I feel it is so necessary, I told him I would do it. If you can't donate, please pray that someone will help.
Lauson is a young man of principles and I woleheartedly recommend him to you. If you feel you want to help, drop me an e-mail and let me know. I will pass the information on to him. Lau will be very grateful and will be happy to write to you and tell you all about himself and I can take pics of him to send along.
School opens next month so there is a rush about this.
God bless you and thanks for reading this plea.


Feast of St. Joseph of Cupertino and more from St. Augustine on Pastors

St. Joseph of Cupertino

St. Augustines Sermon on Pastors

Prepare your soul for temptation

You have already been told about the wicked things shepherds desire. Let us now consider what they neglect. You have failed to strengthen what was weak, to heal what was sick, and to bind up what was injured (that is, what was broken). You did not call back the straying sheep, nor seek out the lost. What was strong you have destroyed. Yes, you have cut it down and killed it. The sheep is weak, that is to say, its heart is weak, and so, incautious and unprepared, it may give in to temptations.
The negligent shepherd fails to say to the believer: My son, come to the service of God. stand fast in fear and in righteousness, and prepare your soul for temptation. A shepherd who does say this strengthens the one who is weak and makes him strong. Such a believer will then not hope for the prosperity of this world. For if he has been taught to hope for worldly gain, he will be corrupted by prosperity. When adversity comes, he will be wounded or perhaps destroyed.
The builder who builds in such manner is not building the believer on a rock but upon sand. But the rock was Christ. Christians must imitate Christ’s sufferings, not set their hearts on pleasures. He who is weak will be strengthened when told: “Yes, expect the temptations of this world, but the Lord will deliver you from them all if your heart has not abandoned him. For it was to strengthen your heart that he came to suffer and die, came to be spit upon and crowned with thorns, came to be accused of shameful things, yes, came to be fastened to the wood of the cross. All these things he did for you, and you did nothing. He did them not for himself, but for you.”
But what sort of shepherds are they who for fear of giving offence not only fail to prepare the sheep for the temptations that threaten, but even promise them worldly happiness? God himself made no such promise to this world. On the contrary, God foretold hardship upon hardship in this world until the end of time. And you want the Christian to be exempt from these troubles? Precisely because he is a Christian, he is destined to suffer more in this world.
For the Apostle says: All who desire to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. But you, shepherd, seek what is yours and not what is Christ’s, you disregard what the Apostle says: All who want to live a holy life in Christ will suffer persecution. You say instead: “If you live a holy life in Christ, all good things will be yours in abundance. If you do not have children, you will embrace and nourish all men, and none of them shall die.” Is this the way you build up the believer? Take note of what you are doing and where you are placing him. You have built him on sand. The rains will come, the river will overflow and rush in, the winds will blow, and the elements will dash against that house of yours. It will fall, and its ruin will be great.
Lift him up from the sand and put him on the rock. Let him be in Christ, if you wish him to be a Christian. Let him turn his thoughts to sufferings, however unworthy they may be in comparison to Christ’s. Let him centre his attention on Christ, who was without sin, and yet made restitution for what he had not done. Let him consider Scripture, which says to him: He chastises every son whom he acknowledges. Let him prepare to be chastised, or else not seek to be acknowledged as a son.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Feast of St. Robert Bellarmine

Saint Robert Bellarmine

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors

Be a model for the faithful
When the Lord had explained what these bad shepherds seek, he also said what they neglect. The defects of the sheep are widespread. There are a very few healthy, fat sheep – that is, those that are made strong by feeding on the truth, by God’s gift making good use of the pastures – but they are not safe from the bad shepherds. Those shepherds not only do not look after the sick, the weak, the wandering and the lost, but they do as much harm as they can to the strong and sleek among the flock. Those sheep survive – by the mercy of God they survive – but the bad shepherds do what they can to kill them.
You may ask how they do this. By living badly, by setting a bad example. There was a reason why the servants of God, eminent among shepherds, were told In everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good, and Be a model for the faithful. Often even a strong sheep, seeing its leader living a wicked life, will turn from contemplation of the laws of the Lord to the behaviour of the man and say to itself, “if my leader lives thus, who am I that I should do things differently?” In that way the shepherd is killing the strong sheep: and if the strong, then what of the rest? Even if their strength did not come from his care – even if they were strong and healthy before he saw them – still he is killing him by his evil life.
I say this to your loving kindness, I say it again: even if the sheep are living strong in the word of the Lord, even if they follow what their Lord has told them: Do what they say; but what they do, do not do yourselves, whoever lives wickedly in the sight of the people is a murderer in so far as he is able. Let him not flatter himself that his victim is not dead. The victim is not dead but the man is still a murderer. When a man lusts after a woman then even if she remains chaste he is still an adulterer. The Lord’s judgement is clear and true: If a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. He has not come to her in his bedroom but in the interior bedroom of his heart he is already in the throes of passion with her.
And so it is that anyone who lives wickedly in the sight of those over whom he has authority is killing them, even the strong ones, as far as he is able. Whoever imitates him dies and whoever does not imitate him lives, but as far as he himself is concerned he is killing them all. As the Lord says, You are killing the fattest sheep but you do not feed my flock.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Feast of Saint Cornelius and Saint Cyprian

A letter of St Cyprian

A faith that is alert and unshaken

Cyprian to his brother Cornelius.
My very dear brother, we have heard of the glorious witness given by your courageous faith. On learning of the honour you had won by your witness, we were filled with such joy that we felt ourselves sharers and companions in your praiseworthy achievements. After all, we have the same Church, the same mind, the same unbroken harmony. Why then should a priest not take pride in the praise given to a fellow priest as though it were given to him? What brotherhood fails to rejoice in the happiness of its brothers wherever they are?
Words cannot express how great was the exultation and delight here when we heard of your good fortune and brave deeds: how you stood out as leader of your brothers in their declaration of faith, while the leader’s confession was enhanced as they declared their faith. You led the way to glory, but you gained many companions in that glory; being foremost in your readiness to bear witness on behalf of all, you prevailed on your people to become a single witness. We cannot decode which we ought to praise, your own ready and unshaken faith or the love of your brothers who would not leave you. While the courage of the bishop who thus led the way has been demonstrated, at the same time the unity of the brotherhood who followed has been manifested. Since you have one heart and one voice, it is the Roman Church as a whole that has thus born witness. Dearest brother bright and shining is the faith which the blessed Apostle praised in your community. He foresaw in the spirit the praise your courage deserves and the strength that could not be broken; he was heralding the future when he testified to your achievements; his praise of the fathers was a challenge to the sons. Your unity, your strength have become shining examples of these virtues to the rest of the brethren. Divine providence has now prepared us. God’s merciful design has warned us that the day of our own struggle, our own contest, is at hand. By that shared love which binds us close together, we are doing all we can to exhort our congregation, to give ourselves unceasingly to fastings, vigils and prayers in common. These are the heavenly weapons which give us the strength to stand firm and endure; they are the spiritual defences, the God-given armaments that protect us.
Let us then remember one another, united in mind and heart. Let us pray without ceasing, you for us, we for you; by the love we share we shall thus relieve the strain of these great trials.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows

A sermon of St Bernard
His mother stood by the cross

The martyrdom of the Virgin is set forth both in the prophecy of Simeon and in the actual story of our Lord’s passion. The holy old man said of the infant Jesus: He has been established as a sign which will be contradicted. He went on to say to Mary: And your own heart will be pierced by a sword.
Truly, O blessed Mother, a sword has pierced your heart. For only by passing through your heart could the sword enter the flesh of your Son. Indeed, after your Jesus – who belongs to everyone, but is especially yours – gave up his life, the cruel spear, which was not withheld from his lifeless body, tore open his side. Clearly it did not touch his soul and could not harm him, but it did pierce your heart. For surely his soul was no longer there, but yours could not be torn away. Thus the violence of sorrow has cut through your heart, and we rightly call you more than martyr, since the effect of compassion in you has gone beyond the endurance of physical suffering.
Or were those words, Woman, behold your Son, not more than a word to you, truly piercing your heart, cutting through to the division between soul and spirit? What an exchange! John is given to you in place of Jesus, the servant in place of the Lord, the disciple in place of the master; the son of Zebedee replaces the Son of God, a mere man replaces God himself. How could these words not pierce your most loving heart, when the mere remembrance of them breaks ours, hearts of iron and stone though they are!
Do not be surprised, brothers, that Mary is said to be a martyr in spirit. Let him be surprised who does not remember the words of Paul, that one of the greatest crimes of the Gentiles was that they were without love. That was far from the heart of Mary; let it be far from her servants.
Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A discourse of St Andrew of Crete

The cross is Christ's glory and triumph
We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.
Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.
Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honourable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation – very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honourable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.
The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his his triumph. We recognise it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

St Augustine's sermon On Pastors

We are Christians as well as leaders

You have often learned that all our hope is in Christ and that he is our true glory and our salvation. You are members of the flock of the Good Shepherd, who watches over Israel and nourishes his people. Yet there are shepherds who want to have the title of shepherd without wanting to fulfil a pastor’s duties; let us then recall what God says to his shepherds through the prophet. You must listen attentively; I must listen with fear and trembling.
The word of the Lord came to me and said: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel and speak to the shepherds of Israel. We just heard this reading a moment ago, my brothers, and I have decided to speak to you on this passage. The Lord will help me to speak the truth if I do not speak on my own authority. For if I speak on my own authority, I will be a shepherd nourishing myself and not the sheep. However, if my words are the Lord’s, then he is nourishing you no matter who speaks. Thus says the Lord God: Shepherds of Israel, who have been nourishing only themselves! Should not the shepherds nourish the sheep? In other words, true shepherds take care of their sheep, not themselves. This is the principle reason why God condemns those shepherds: they took care of themselves rather than their sheep. Who are they who nourish themselves? They are the shepherds the Apostle described when he said: They all seek what is theirs and not what is Christ’s.
I must distinguish carefully between two aspects of the role the lord has given me, a role that demands a rigorous accountability, a role based on the Lord’s greatness rather than on my own merit. The first aspect is that I am a Christian; the second, that I am a leader. I am a Christian for my own sake, whereas I am a leader for your sake; the fact that I am a Christian is to my own advantage, but I am a leader for your advantage.
Many persons come to God as Christians but not as leaders. Perhaps they travel by an easier road and are less hindered since they bear a lighter burden. In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

St Bruno's commentary on Psalm 83

If I forget you, Jerusalem
How delightful is your dwelling-place, Lord of hosts!
My soul is weak with longing for the courts of your palace
That is, for the broad spaces of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the city of God.
Blessed are they who dwell in your house:
they will praise you for ever.
Now the psalmist shows why he desires to enter the courts of the Lord: Lord, God of all powers in heaven, my king and my God, blessed are they who dwell in your house. It is as if he said, ‘Who would not wish to enter your courts, since you are God, that is, the Creator, the Lord of the powers, the King, and since all are blessed who live in your house?’ Because ‘courts’ and ‘house’ mean the same thing here. When he says ‘blessed’ he means that they have all conceivable blessedness. And they are surely blessed, because they will praise you with loving devotion for ever, that is, for all eternity. They would not be able to praise the Lord for all eternity unless they were blessed for all eternity.
Blessed the man whose help comes from you, who has set his heart on climbing to you.
But no-one can reach this blessedness on his own, even if he has hope, faith and love. Blessed is the man whose help comes from you – in other words, only the man whose help comes from you will attain the blessedness he has set his heart on. That is to say: the only people who will attain blessedness are those who set their hearts on climbing many steps of virtue and good works, but also receive the help of your grace. No-one can climb by himself, as the Lord himself has said: No-one has gone up to heaven except the Son of Man who is in heaven.
I say that he is climbing to you because he now lives in the valley of tears, that is, in this present life, which is lowly and filled with the tears of tribulation; as opposed to the other life, which can be called a mountain in comparison, a mountain full of joy.
Since the psalmist has said, Blessed the man whose help comes from you, one might ask, ‘Will God give his help?’ The answer is that help is truly offered by God to the blessed. For the lawgiver, that is, Christ, gave us the law and he gives us and will go on giving us blessings (that is, the many gifts of grace) by which he blesses his own people. This means he will raise them up to blessedness, and so they will go from strength to strength as they climb. In the future heavenly Zion Christ will be seen, the God of gods, and since he is God he will make his people divine also. Or, if you prefer, you can say that the God of gods, God the Trinity, will be visible in a spiritual sense in those who dwell in Zion. By the light of their understanding they will see God in themselves in a way that now they cannot, for God will be all in all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Feast of St. Peter Claver

St Peter Claver (1581 - 1654)
was born in Catalonia and studied at the University of Barcelona. He became a Jesuit; and while he was studying philosophy in Mallorca, the door-keeper of the college, Alfonso Rodríguez, saw that his true vocation was to evangelize the New World, and encouraged him to fulfil that vocation. (Rodríguez was later canonized on the same day as Peter Claver himself).
He arrived in Cartagena, in what is now Colombia, in 1610, and after his ordination six years later he became ‘the slave of the Negroes forever’, labouring on their behalf for 33 years, attending to both their spiritual and material needs. The slave trade was repeatedly condemned by the Popes; but it was too profitable to be stopped and on the whole the local church hierarchy kept quiet about it, much as they did in North America in the 19th century.
He brought fresh food to the slave-ships as they arrived, instructed the slaves and baptized them in the faith, followed their progress and kept track of them even when they were sent to the mines and plantations, defending them as well as he could from oppressive slave-owners. He organized teams of catechists who spoke the many languages spoken by the slaves. He worked in hospitals also, looking after lepers among others, and in prisons.
Naturally he made himself unpopular by his work: as his superior said, ‘unfortunately for himself he is a Catalan, pig-headed and difficult’. Opposition came from both within the Church and outside it, but there were always exceptions. For instance, while many fashionable ladies refused to enter his city churches because they had been profaned by the presence of the blacks, a few, such as Doña Isabel de Urbina, became his strong and lifelong supporters.
At the end of his life he fell ill with a degenerative disease and for four years he was treated neglectfully and brutally by the servant whose task it was to look after him. He did not complain but accepted his sufferings as a penance for his sins.


One of the readings from the Office of Readings today is From a sermon by St Bernard of Clairvaux;

On the stages of contemplation
Let us take our stand on the tower, leaning with all our strength on Christ, the most solid rock, as it is written: He has set my feet on a rock, he has guided my steps. Thus firmly established, let us begin to contemplate, to see what he is saying to us and what reply we ought to make to him.
The first stage of contemplation, my dear brothers, is to consider constantly what God wants, what is pleasing to him, and what is acceptable in his eyes. We all offend in many things; our strength cannot match the rightness of God’s will and cannot be joined to it or made to fit with it. So let us humble ourselves under the powerful hand of the most high God and make an effort to show ourselves unworthy before his merciful gaze, saying Heal me, Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved. And again, Lord, have mercy on me; heal my soul because I have sinned against you.
Once the eye of the soul has been purified by such considerations, we no longer abide within our spirit in a sense of sorrow, but abide rather in the Spirit of God with great delight. No longer do we consider what is the will of God for us, but rather what it is in itself.
For our life is in his will. Thus we are convinced that what is according to his will is in every way better for us, and more fitting. And so, if we are concerned to preserve the life of our soul, we must be equally concerned to deviate as little as possible from his will.
Thus having made some progress in our spiritual exercise under the guidance of the Spirit who gazes into the deep things of God, let us reflect how gracious the Lord is and how good he is in himself. Let us join the Prophet in praying that we may see the Lord’s will and frequent not our own hearts but the Lord’s temple; and let us also say, My soul is humbled within me, therefore I shall be mindful of you.
These two stages sum up the whole of the spiritual life: when we contemplate ourselves we are troubled, and our sadness saves us and brings us to contemplate God; that contemplation in turn gives us the consolation of the joy of the Holy Spirit. Contemplating ourselves brings fear and humility; contemplating God brings us hope and love.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Birth of Mary, Theotokos

From a discourse by Saint Andrew of Crete

The old has passed away: all things are made new
‘The fulfilment of the law is Christ himself, who does not so much lead us away from the letter as lift us up to its spirit. For the law’s consummation was this, that the very lawgiver accomplished his work and changed letter into spirit, summing everything up in himself and, though subject to the law, living by grace. He subordinated the law, yet harmoniously united grace with it, not confusing the distinctive characteristics of the one with the other, but effecting the transition in a way most fitting for God. He changed whatever was burdensome, servile and oppressive not what is light and liberating, so that we should be enslaved no longer under the elemental spirits of the world, as the Apostle says, nor held fast as bondservants under the letter of the law.
This is the highest, all-embracing benefit that Christ has bestowed on us. This is the revelation of the mystery, this is the emptying out of the divine nature, the union of God and man, and the deification of the manhood that was assumed. This radiant and manifest coming of God to men most certainly needed a joyful prelude to introduce the great gift of salvation to us. The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God, is the prelude, while the final act is the fore-ordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages.
Justly, then, do we celebrate this mystery since it signifies for us a double grace. We are led toward the truth, and we are led away from our condition of slavery to the letter of the law. How can this be? Darkness yields before the coming of the light, and grace exchanges legalism for freedom. But midway between the two stands today’s mystery, at the frontier where types and symbols give way to reality, and the old is replaced by the new. Therefore, let all creation sing and dance and unite to make worthy contribution to the celebration of this day. Let there be one common festival for saints in heaven and men on earth. Let everything, mundane things and those above, join in festive celebration. Today this created world is raised to the dignity of a holy place for him who made all things. The creature is newly prepared to be a divine dwelling place for the Creator.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Medical work makes the days go by quickly

Here is a picture of the medical table we work with. All medicines are kept inside the hermitage until they are needed. Your donations help to supply this table daily. Right now the hermitage is desperate for your help.

I am nearly out of the curative Malaria medicine as well as pediatric and adult antibiotics. Without your kind help I will not be able to help folks in need, like these people shown waiting for help last Thursday.

If you feel God is calling you to donate just drop me an e-mail

and I will tell you how you can send money donations via western union or Money Gram. I can only buy these medicines locally which is why I am looking for cah donations right now. Before God called me to this life I would have been so embarrased to beg like this but , in the service of the Lord, I feel no shame being a beggar hermit.

These people are the first arrivals at 10:00 AM and more keep arriving until I close at noon. The hermitage is open again at 4:00 PM until 6:00PM.

Meet Ibrima Jawo, he is a real help in this ministry. This young man helps me every day. He first began by helping to clean wounds of some of the sick and now he has learned so much more. Here is is shown taking the Blood pressure of one lady.

Ibrima just recently graduated from High School which is a wonderful thing as in the past most children were not able to go to school and there were only two High schools in the country. Now there are many more and all children, boys and girls, are able and encouraged to attend.


The rainy season began in June and now is really in full swing but it is wreaking havoc on all the countries around us with flooding. Many folks are homeless in these surrounding countries.

So far, The Gambia has been spared the floods and up to now the farmers are pleased with the amount of water.

I just pray it doesn't begin to cause trouble for all of us.

As you can see by these two pictures, the Hermitage has been adversly affected (mainly the roof over the chapel and my cell) but the corrugate roof is leaking everywhere. Moving buckets around has become a real challenge.

There are some days when I wonder if the strong wind will blow the entire roof off but fortunately God is taking care of the hermitage. On Sunday, early morning there was such a violent storm and I was certain there would be some terrific damage but the hermitage survived.

I could add more pictures of the damage but you can at least see some of the damage from these two pictures.

I am only showing you these pictures so you can get an idea of what the rains are like. Just imagine what other folks are going through when their roof's leak and flood their rooms, soak their beds, etc.

Please pray about donating for the important medicines I mentioned above and send me an e-mail if you are interested.
God bless you All


The Bishop has permitted me the use the Catholic Mission PO box however I sadly discovered today that in order to collect any packages sent to that PO address, it is necessary for the adressee to travel all the way to Banjul, The capital City, to collect the parcel. Banjul is over an hour away from here. I had imagined that all parcels would be collected by Mission staff and brought to the Catholic Mission office but I was mistaken. The Mission may only collect letters but anything else has to be picked up up in person. Since I am truly a beggar, I do not have funds to buy petrol to get to Banjul so now I would request anyone sending packages to begin sending them to the original Hermitage PO Address which is:
Brother Dismas
Nazareth Hermitage
PO Box 3197
Serrekunda, The Gambia,
West Africa.

The Post office in Serrekunda is much closer and will be a lot easier to collect parcels. Please be sure to make a note of this. If there are any further changes, I will let you know.
If you have already sent packages to the Catholic Mission address, I will certainly collect them but using the old PO address above is more practical and saves money on petrol.
God bless you

Brother dismas

Saturday, September 5, 2009

St Leo the Great on the Beatitudes

This is the second reading from the office of Readings for today

The blessedness of Christ's kingdom

After pronouncing his blessing on poverty, the Lord added Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Dearly beloved, this mourning that is promised eternal comfort has nothing in common with the afflictions of this world. No-one is made blessed by the kind of lamentation that the whole human race indulges in. The sighs and blessed tears of the saints have another cause. Holy sorrow comes from contemplating one’s own sins and the sins of others. It does not weep at the actions of divine justice but at the sins committed by human wickedness. It is the one who does evil here who is to be pitied, not the one who suffers it: for what the evil man has done thrusts him down to punishment, while what the just man has put up with leads him up into glory.
Then the Lord added Blessed are the meek, for they shall have the earth for their inheritance. To the meek and gentle, to the lowly and unassuming, to all who are prepared to endure injury – to these the earth is promised. This is not a small or unimportant inheritance, as if “the earth” were somehow distinct from a dwelling-place in heaven: in fact, you must understand it as meaning that only the meek will enter the kingdom of heaven. This earth that is promised to the meek, that is to be given to the gentle to possess, is the body of the saints, whose humility will raise them up and clothe them in the glory of immortality, united at last with the Spirit of unity. Then the outer self will belong to the inner self at last, a peaceful and secure possession.
The meek will possess this inheritance in everlasting peace and their right to it will never grow less. Our present perishable nature must put on imperishability and this mortal nature must put on immortality, so that a danger to the soul becomes a reward and what was onerous becomes an honour.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Blue Hermit Rustic Rosary's

Serving the sick is a real joy for me however it means that I must beg for your help with medicines/medical supplies since the folks here are treated free of charge and there is no charge for medicines.
One way I try to supplement finances is by making cord rosaries and offering them for sale. They are real sturdy and have a great feel to them. I pray with one myself every day.
These Rosaries, like all 5 decade rosaries, can be used to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet.

Below you can view some of the beads I have made. All beads are wood and the cord is synthetic twine.
In the 5 years I have been making these beads, I have never had one break or received any complaints from buyers.

I also make many other types of devotional chaplets you might wish to order. Just let me know if you have a special request.
If you would like to place an order just send me an e-mail and I will answer you the same day (if the network is functioning and there is petrol in the generator since the hermitage has no electricity).

The wooden beads are 10 mm beads and very convenient for everyone especially for the bedridden and folks with arthritis.

Bead colors presently in stock are brown, black, antique white, ivory, blue and green.

I also make first communion rosaries in white and brown using 8mm beads which are smaller for the children.

In the last two years I've donated many of these beads to many of the little ones in The Gambia making their first communion and I would like to continue doing this but need your support to be able to replenish the beads and cord.

The crosses for the rosaries vary from plain wooden to simple metal. Whatever is in stock will be put on your rosary.

The price for all adult rosaries is $23.00 which includes packaging and mailing via registered mail.

Since they are mailed from the Gambia it can take from two weeks to a month to receive your order. I know that is a lot slower than most other shops that sell rosaries but there is no other way to send them out unless someone happens to be traveling to the US from here. Then I can send them along with the traveler and your waiting time would be shorter. If the beads seem to be expensive please consider that they are hand knotted by myself and all proceeds are used for the sick poor. One exception is when I must use some of the proceeds to restock rosary making supplies.
Your purchase of these beads would be such a great help in this work that the Lord has blessed me with.

If you would like to order a rosary or several just drop me an e-mail:

and I will send you the ordering information.

Your purchase of these rosary beads also makes you a helper in this work of caring for the sick.

If you do not want to purchase a rosary but care to send OTC medicines, supplies or a donation just let me know via e-mail.

God bless you
Brother dismas
Nazareth Hermitage
Catholic Mission
PO Box 165
Banjul, The Gambia
West Africa

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feast of Pope St. Gregory the Great

This reading below is taken from the office of readings for the feast of St. Gregory. Prior to becoming a Pope, Gregory had been a simple monk. One can read from this homily the humilty of this great man. I would venture to say that he would have preferred to remain a simple monk but was obedient to Gods call. A true man of God. I hope you will read this as I think it is such a humble piece of writing.

From a homily on Ezekiel by Pope St. Gregory the Great

"Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel." Note that a man whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight.
How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.
I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgment of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. Indeed when I was in the monastery I could curb by idle talk and usually be absorbed in my prayers. Since I assumed the burden of pastoral care, my mind can no longer be collected; it is concerned with so many matters.
I am forced to consider the affairs of the Church and of the monasteries. I must weigh the lives and acts of individuals. I am responsible for the concerns of our citizens. I must worry about the invasions of roving bands of barbarians, and beware of the wolves who lie in wait for my flock. I must become an administrator lest the religious go in want. I must put up with certain robbers without losing patience and at times I must deal with them in all charity.
With my mind divided and torn to pieces by so many problems, how can I meditate or preach wholeheartedly without neglecting the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel? Moreover, in my position I must often communicate with worldly men. At times I let my tongue run, for if I am always sever in my judgments, the worldly will avoid me, and I can never attack them as I would. As a result I often listen patiently to chatter. And because I too am weak, I find myself drawn little by little into idle conversation, and I begin to talk freely about matters which once I would have avoided. What once I found tedious I now enjoy.
So who am I to be a watchman, for I do not stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weakness? Truly the all-powerful Creator and Redeemer of mankind can give me in spite of my weaknesses a higher life and effective speech; because I love him, I do not spare myself in speaking of him.