Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blessed Isidore Bakanja

Blessed Isidore Bakanja
martyr, 1887-1909
August 12

Isidore Bakanja worked as an assistant mason for white colonists in what was then the Belgian Congo and later known as Zaire. Convert, baptized 6 May 1906 at age 18 after receiving instruction from Trappists missionaries. Rosary in hand, he used any chance to share his faith; though untrained, many thought of him as a catechist. He left his native village because there were no fellow Christians.

He further worked as a domestic on a Belgian rubber plantation. Many of the Belgian agents were atheists who hated missionaries due to their fight for native rights and justice; the agents used the term "mon pere" for anyone associated with religion. Isidore encountered their hatred when he asked leave to go home. The agents refused, and he was ordered to stop teaching fellow workers how to pray: "You'll have the whole village praying and no one will work!" He was told to discard his scapular, and when he didn't, he was flogged twice. The second time the agent tore the scapular from Isidore's neck, had him pinned to the ground, and then beaten with over 100 blows with a whip of elephant hide with nails on the end. He was then chained to a single spot 24 hours a day.

When an inspector came to the plantation, Isidore was sent to another village. He managed to hide in the forest, then dragged himself to the inspector. "I saw a man," wrote the horrified inspector, "come from the forest with his back torn apart by deep, festering, malodorous wounds, covered with filth, assaulted by flies. He leaned on two sticks in order to get near me - he wasn't walking; he was dragging himself". The agent tried to kill "that animal of mon pere", but the inspector prevented him. He took Isidore home to heal, but Isidore knew better. "If you see my mother, or if you go to the judge, or if you meet a priest, tell them that I am dying because I am a Christian."

Two missionaries who spent several days with him reported that he devoutly received the last sacraments. The missionaries urged Isidore to forgive the agent; he assured them that he already had. "I shall pray for him. When I am in heaven, I shall pray for him very much." After six months of prayer and suffering, he died, rosary in hand and scapular around his neck.

Taytay Mission

On July 25, Feast of St. James, the Council for Formation, Bro. Ruel Santos, TOC , and the Regional Formator of NCR - North, Sis. Rossana Garcia, TOC, visited the "Church in the Sky": the Parish of Christ the King in Muzon, Taytay, Rizal. They went to the church upon the invitation of Rev. Fr. Eymard Balatbat, TOC who is the parish priest. Rev. Fr. Eymard wants to establish a TOC community in his parish so Bro. Ruel and Sis. Rossana gave an intial talk of what the Third Order is about and what are the requirements in taking this way of life.

After the talk, the relics of the Carmelite saints were venerated by the partcipants. If the mission pushes through, this will be the replanting of the Carmelite Third Order in the Diocese of Antipolo.

Sis. Rossana sharing her life on the TOC

Some of the participants/inquirers

Bro. Ruel together with the partcipants

Rev. Fr. Eymard encouraging the inquirers to join the Third Order of Carmel

The Altar of the Church

The "Church in the Sky": Christ the King Parish

Going down from the Church. A nice view of Manila.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

St. Albert of Trapani

St. Albert of Trapani
Feast; Confessor
August 07

The discussion regarding the birthplace of St. Albert has been long and plentiful: Trapani or the Mount of Trapani, that is, Erice? On the basis of official documents, however, the controversy must be decided in favor of Trapani /Sicily/. A Life of the saint, composed in the second half of the XIV century, has come down to us in many copies or revisions of the XV cent. According to a base common to the various redactions, the biographical data can be reduced to the following.

Albert was born (after twenty-six years of sterile marriage) of Benedict degli Abati and Joan Palizi, both of whom promised to consecrate him to the Lord. While the boy was still of a tender age, his father thought of arranging an honorable marriage for him; but his mother was able to make her husband keep their vow. After Albert had joined the Carmelites of Trapani, he spent his period of formation growing in virtue and was ordained a priest. His superiors sent him to Messina, which he freed from the famine caused by a siege: some ships loaded with provisions miraculously passed through the besiegers.

Albert was a famous preacher in various places on the island, and for a certain time provincial superior of the Carmelites of Sicily. He died at Messina on Aug. 7 in an undetermined year, probably in 1307 (as J. B. Lezana, O. Carm., with others, suggests). Heaven itself, it is narrated, wished to decide the controversy that arose between the clergy and the people about the kind of Mass to be celebrated on that occasion: two angels appeared and intoned the Os justi /The mouth of the just man/, the introit of the Mass of Confessors.

The presence of Albert in the convent of Trapani on Aug. 8, 1280, April 4 and Oct. 8, 1289, is attested by several parchments of the same convent, now in the Fardelliana library of the same city. Here is also found a parchment in the date of May 10, 1296 from which his office as provincial superior is ascertained.

The date of a translation of his relics, said to have been made in the year 1309 or 1316, is uncertain. (This latter would seem more exact, if it is true that the provincial, who is said to have supervised the translation, died soon after, on his way to France to a general chapter — that held, in fact, at Bordeaux in l318.) Albert was among the first Carmelite saints venerated by the Order, of which he was later considered a patron and protector. Already in 1346 there was a chapel dedicated to him, in the convent of Palermo. At various general chapters, beginning with that of 1375, his papal canonisation was proposed In the chapter of 1411 it was said that his proper office was ready.

In 1457 Pope Callixtus III, by verbal consent (vivae vocis oracido); permitted his cult, which was consequently confirmed by Sixtus IV with a bull of May 31, 1476. In 1524 it was ordered that his image be found on the seal of the general chapter; moreover, the general of the Order, Nicholas Audet, wanted an altar dedicated to him in every Carmelite church. Even earlier, the chapter of 1420 had ordered that his image with a halo should be found in all the convents of the Order.
With this intense and extended cult, his abundant iconography is easily understood. In it he is represented (with or without a book), first, bearing a lily, a symbol of his victory over the senses at the beginning of his religious life; then, in the act of overcoming the devil, or also, from the XVII cent on, while he is working his miracles.

In 1623 one of the gates of the city of Messina was dedicated to him. He is the patron of Trapani, of Erice, of Palermo and of Revere (Mantua). St Teresa of Jesus and St Mary Magdalen de'Pazzi were especially devoted to him; the Bl. Baptist Spagnoli composed a sapphic ode in his honor. His relics are spread throughout Europe. They are necessary for the blessing of St Albert's water, much used, especially in the past, against fevers. The head of the Saint is in the Carmelite church of Trapani.

St Albert appears frequently in the legends and popular traditions of Sicily. Agrigento vaunted a well, the water of which Albert had purified; Corleone, the receptacle in which he preserved absinthe; Petralia Soprana, a stone on which he rested. The first chapel erected to him was claimed to have been at Piazza Armerina.

In the last liturgical reform the rank of feast was granted for St. Albert to the Carmelites, and of memorial to the Discalced of the same Order.

Carmelite and Prayer: Talk of Fr. Richard Copsey, OCarm

Last July 25, Fr. Richard Copsey gave a talk to the Carmelite Family at the Titus Brandsma Center, Quezon City.

Fr. Richard Copsey’s talk was about Carmel and Prayer. Like a former teacher that he was, he explained his topic methodically, used simple terms and related anecdotes – personal, biblical, historical - for everybody to understand his explanations.

Admitting that history was his specialization, he first touched on a little bit about the early settlers in Mt. Carmel, and what they did. He illustrated how prayer started. Those who lived at Mt. Carmel opened their hearts, listened and gazed at God in the silence of the caves of Mt. Carmel. Theirs was the prayer of quiet – a simple regard-looking or a yearning for God to come into their lives. Prayer is, therefore, choosing to live in God’s presence. This reminded me of what St. Teresa of Avila wrote about being in the presence of One Whom we know loves us. That He knows everything and we really don’t have to talk to Him too much about our concerns. Fr. Copsey added, “What God really wants is our love and attention.”

His next topic was about the problem of growing in prayer. He referred to the distractions which he defined as bright ideas that come at the wrong time. He advised us to use distractions as stepping stones to become more prayerful because they can teach us to be humble as they make us realize that we have not really gone so far in our prayer life. We can pray as a result: “I am not concentrated, God. Please accept my prayers however unconcentrated they are.”

Also, during those times when God seems to be absent and nothing seems to be happening like the “dark night” of St. John of the Cross, Fr. Copsey reminded us that we do not pray to enjoy ourselves but to praise God. If we imitate Bro. Lawrence, we could look back at the events of the day and if we offer whatever we do for God’s glory, “then at the end of our prayer we can say that we had given God something.”

Finally, Fr. Copsey explained how prayer can teach us to be less self-centered. God wants us to do something for others. “But how do we know what God wants us to do?”, he asked. “When we pray and open our hearts to God, He will speak to us and tell us what He wants us to do. We become more sensitive to the needs of the people around us and we are able to reach out and help them.” At this point, Fr. Copsey related the first miracle performed by our Lord Jesus Christ and the role played by the Blessed Virgin Mary in helping solve the predicament of the newly-wedded couple.

I think Fr. Copsey was talking about the mission that is given to us when we pray. His entire talk can be summarized in the following:

“Prayer makes myself present to the presence of the Lord within me so that I can make Him present and see Him present in everybody and everything around me.”

by Pat Holandez, TOCarm (Lord of Divine Mercy TOC Community)