Eighth Session of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism Project

Fr. Robert Barron’s Catholicism Project: Lesson 8 – A Vast Company of Witnesses

Tonight at Our Lady of Lourdes School, the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes & St. Joseph, Leigh-on-Sea will be presenting the 8th Session of Fr. Robert Barron's excellent and epic Catholicism Project. This fantastic series of documentaries attempt to redress the modern situation that we encounter of other people telling the Catholic story, and telling it wrong! Instead, we need to tell our own story, we need to re-invigorate ourselves with all the beauty, colour and texture of our incredible faith. This series sets out to do that, it is our story told by us.
This week, we are looking at the Vast Company of Witnesses~ The body of Saints which constitute an extraordinary and indefatigable proof of the Catholic faith for many people.

This is an overview of the session:

I. St. Katharine Drexel 
A. Birth, childhood, family: devout Catholic

B. As a teenager, developed a detailed program for growth in holiness

C. Katharine and two sisters left with large estate

D. Supported Indian missions; struggled with spiritual turmoil

E. Travelled to Europe and met Pope Leo XIII

F. Decided to become a nun and found an order to reach "Indians and Coloured people"

G. Established outposts, schools, a university, houses throughout the U.S.

H. Died on March 3, 1955, at the age of 97

I. Justice: heart and soul of the ethical life

1. Justice is the virtue by which each is given his due

2. Justice is the only cardinal virtue directed to the other

II. St. Therese of Lisieux

A. Therese: one of the strangest, most fascinating of all the saints

B. Praise from Pope John Paul II, on the centenary of her death. She was canonized in 1925

C. The significant influence of her autobiography

D. Difficult childhood: physical illness, psychological disturbances

E. Seeking, at fifteen, to enter the convent, she went to Rome and spoke to Pope Leo XIII

F. A month later, Therese was given permission to enter Carmel

G. She called her spiritual path "the little way"; she was the Little Flower

H. "My vocation is love!"

I. Intense physical and spiritual suffering in her final months

J. Therese viewed her struggle as a participation in the pain experienced by nonbelievers

K. Prudence: the queen of the virtues in the classical tradition

L. Supernatural prudence is "a moral sensibility radically in service of the love of God"

III. St. Edith Stein

A. Stein: Born in 1891, seventh child of pious Jewish parents

B. Possessed precocious literary gift, attracted to rituals of Judaism

C. Becomes fascinated with philosopher Edmund Husserl, phenomenology

D. In 1913, begins study with Husserl, works on doctorate

E. Her conversion: gradual, interior, with much intellectual wrestling

F. Read St. Teresa of Avila's autobiography and said, "That is the truth':

G. Entered the Church on January 1, 1922

H. Entered the convent at Carmel in June of 1933; final vows in 1938

I. Stein and her sister arrested in August of 1942 by Gestapo: "Come Rosa, we're going for our people"

J. August 9, 1942: Arrived in Auschwitz, where they are murdered in the gas chambers

K. John Paul II: "We bow down before the testimony of the life and death of Edith Stein ... "

L. Courage/fortitude: "constancy in the pursuit of the good" (CCC, par. 1808)

M. Transfigured by grace, it becomes a moral resistance of fear, informed by the love of Christ

IV: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

A. Born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on August 26, 1910 in Skopje, Serbia

B. Felt called to religious life at a young age

C. Joined the Loreto Sisters

D. Learned English in Ireland and went to India to teach

E. This encounter with poverty stirred her compassion for the poor

F. On the train to Darjeeling, she felt called to devote herself to serve the poor

G. Founded the Missionaries of Charity

H. Missionaries of Charity formed in Jesuit and Franciscan spirituality

I. Lived a life of radical poverty, service and prayer

J. Noble Peace Price in 1979

K. Experienced aching sense of God's absence

L. Participation in Christ's Passion

M. M. Elevated Temperance: disciplining of the desires to serve the demand to love

Here is a clip from the programme to inspire you:

"I wish to give all to Jesus, since He makes me understand that He alone is perfect happiness. All!--all shall be for Him! And even when I have nothing, as is the case tonight, I will give Him this nothing..." from Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux.

One of the issues that came up from this session was a sense of disquiet about the accounts of the loss of faith suffered by St. Therese and Mother Teresa. I took the time to consult my Professor at Cambridge, Fr. Robert Letellier (MA, MLitt, Ph.D, SSL, STD) about this and he offered this to reflect on:
About the Dark Night. I am afraid that I do understand the disquiet of the ladies, who think that the 'closer' one gets to Jesus the more consoling life will become. The lives of many saints suggest something different for some chosen for a special ministry. This is modelled on that of Jesus himself, and is a serious invitation to walk the Via Dolorosa with him (cf the Patriarchs Abraham and Joseph; Ps 22; the Suffering Servant of Isaiah and Wis 2; the prophets Elijah and Jeremiah; John the Baptist; the record of Paul in 2 Cor; 2 Pet 2:18-25; Jesus' teaching on discipleship of the Cross after the Transfiguration). Not all are asked to accept this ministry, but some are, and this can be frightening to contemplate. I cannot say more: it is a mystery of discipleship. It relates also to the stigmata of, say, St Francis of Assisi and Bl Katherina Emmerich who were almost at one with the Lord. See also Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross who tried to articulate some of this.

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