Tuesday, April 28, 2009

St Peter Canisius and the Sacred Heart

Delighted to learn of Br Paul's impending solemn profession, to be held on the feast of the Sacred Heart, I recalled that St Peter Canisius, yesterday's saint in the traditional calendar, had had a glorious vision of the Sacred Heart which the modern Office (celebrating him on the 21st of December) movingly recounts in his very own words as the second reading for his feast:

Before Saint Peter Canisius, who is deservedly called the second apostle of Germany, set out on his mission to that country, he received the Pope's apostolic blessing.  This was the occasion of an intense spiritual experience, which he describes in the following words:

'Eternal High Priest, in your immense goodness you moved me to seek confirmation of the papal blessing and success in carrying it out, from your holy apostles Peter and Paul... in the Vatican... [where] I felt your gracious presence and consolation, granted to me through their prayers.

'They gave me your blessing and confirmed my mission in Germany.  They seemed indeed to be promising their assistance to me as though to the apostle of Germany.  ... Lord,... you commended Germany to me... My desire was to live and die for Germany.

'Then it was as if you opened the heart in your most holy body to me, so that I could look right inside of it there before me.  You commanded me to drink from that source.  You invited me to draw the waters of my salvation from your fountains, you, my Saviour.  How strong at that moment was my desire that streams of faith, hope and charity might overflow from it into me.  I thirsted after poverty, chastity and obedience.  I begged to be washed clean all over and to be clothed and adorned by you.  After I had dared to approach your heart, so full of sweetness, there to satisfy my thirst, you promised me a robe to cover the nakedness of my soul.  It was to be a robe woven of three strands - peace, love and perseverance - qualities so fitting for this occasion of my vows.  With this garment of salvation to protect me, I grew confident that I would lack for nothing and all would turn out for your glory.'

If only we too would drink from the fountains of everlasting life welling up from the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus, being washed clean, and bedecked with the garment of righteousness!  But of course this is our very gift in the Sacraments of our salvation, our enduring and we pray increasing benefit from the prodigal outpouring of Divine grace that God sends down to renew the face of the earth, that is, our souls and bodies made temples of the Holy Ghost.  Confirm in us, Lord, what Thou hast wrought in us, and not as our sins deserve but as Thou hast promised!


The wonderful efficacy of the preaching of St Peter, being made fruitful by God's grace, is abundantly proven by the great numbers of Protestants that he confuted and converted, gently drawing back from error into the family of the Church even whole towns and districts.  Likewise, his Catechism benefitted many by confirming them in their grasp of our Holy Faith.  Graced by the Lord's Divine Love, his conciliatory tone, patience and joy in expounding the truths of religion, and avoidance of polemical attacks against the Protestant Reformers (since he considered that such harsh condemnations simply alienated Germans, who in most cases had been led astray without malice out of simple openness to the new ideas) endowed his work with appealing sweetness and unction.  Even the Church's stubborn opponents were compelled to acknowledge his role as the foremost agent of Catholic recovery and true reform in Germany, which he may almost be said to have saved from entire ruin and apostasy from the Faith.  Jungmann notes that down to the eve of Vatican II the 'general prayer' (Allgemeine Gebet) composed in 1560 by St Peter Canisius, "one single all-embracing and theologically excellent prayer" (The Mass of the Roman Rite, I, 490) was read by custom at all Masses in the majority of Germany, Austria and Switzerland:

Allmächtiger, ewiger Gott, Herr, himmlischer Vater! Sieh an mit den Augen Deiner grundlosen Barmherzigkeit unsern Jammer, Elend und Not. Erbarme Dich über alle Christgläubigen, für welche Dein eingeborener Sohn, unser lieber Herr und Heiland, Jesus Christus, in die Hände der Sünder freiwillig gekommen ist und sein kostbares Blut am Stamme des heiligen Kreuzes vergossen hat. Durch diesen Herrn Jesus wende ab, gnädigster Vater, die wohlverdienten Strafen, gegenwärtige und zukünftige Gefahren, schädliche Empörungen, Kriegsrüstungen, Teuerung, Krankheiten, betrübte, armselige Zeiten. Erleuchte auch und stärke in allem Guten geistliche und weltliche Vorsteher und Regenten, damit sie alles befördern, was zu Deiner göttlichen Ehre, zu unserm Heile, zum allgemeinen Frieden und zur Wohlfahrt der ganzen Christenheit gedeihen mag. Verleihe uns, o Gott des Friedens, eine rechte Vereinigung im Glauben, ohne alle Spaltung und Trennung; bekehre unsere Herzen zur wahren Buße und Besserung unseres Lebens; zünde an in uns das Feuer Deiner Liebe; gib uns einen Hunger und Eifer zu aller Gerechtigkeit, damit wir als gehorsame Kinder im Leben und Sterben Dir angenehm und wohlgefällig seien. Wir bitten auch, wie Du willst, o Gott, dass wir bitten sollen, für unsere Freunde und Feinde, für Gesunde und Kranke, für alle betrübten und elenden Christen, für Lebendige und Abgestorbene. Dir, o Herr, sei empfohlen all unser Tun und Lassen, unser Handel und Wandel, unser Leben und Sterben. Lass uns Deine Gnade hier genießen und dort mit allen Auserwählten erlangen, dass wir in ewiger Freude und Seligkeit Dich loben, ehren und preisen mögen! Das verleihe uns, o Herr, himmlischer Vater! Durch Jesus Christus, Deinen lieben Sohn, welcher mit Dir und dem Heiligen Geiste als gleicher Gott lebt und regiert von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit.

Here is an automatic translation I've tried to improve a little:

Almighty, eternal God, Lord, heavenly Father! Look with your eyes of gratuitous mercy at our sadness, misery and distress; have mercy on all Christian believers, for which your only-begotten Son, our dear Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, into the hands of sinners came voluntarily, and shed his precious blood on the wood of the Holy Cross. On account of the Lord Jesus, gracious Father, turn from us well-deserved punishment, current and future threats, malicious outrage, war, arms, inflation, disease, affliction, miserable times. Also enlighten and strengthen for all, good spiritual and secular rulers and regents, so that everything they carry out, may lead to your divine glory, for our salvation, that the general peace and welfare of all Christendom might thrive. Grant us, O God of peace, a right association in the faith, without any division and separation; convert our hearts to true repentance and improvement of our life, kindle in us the fire of your love, give us a hunger and zeal for justice for all, so that we, as obedient children in life and death you were pleasant and wohlgefällig. We also pray as you desire, O God, that we should pray, for our friends and enemies, for the healthy and sick, for all saddened and miserable Christians, for the living and the dead.  To you, O Lord, be recommended all our activities and our trade  and our lives and dying. Let your mercy be here and by it grant that with all the elect we may enjoy in eternal joy and happiness to praise, honor and laud you! Grant this, O Lord, heavenly Father! Through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, who with you and the Holy Spirit the same God lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen. 

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