Catholic devotions for the 23rd September

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Saint of the Day
Reading of the Martyrology
Dedication of the Month
Dedication of the Day
Five Wounds Rosary in Latin
Seven Sorrows Rosary in English
Latin Monastic Office
Reading of the Rule of Saint Benedict
Celebration of Mass
Reading from the School of Jesus Crucified

Today is the Third September Ember Day

Ember days (corruption from Lat. Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after 13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding; hence their feriae sementivae, feriae messis, and feri vindimiales. The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose. At first the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests. The "Liber Pontificalis" ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week--these were formerly given only at Easter. Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine; into Gaul and Germany by the Carlovingians. Spain adopted them with the Roman Liturgy in the eleventh century. They were introduced by St. Charles Borromeo into Milan. The Eastern Church does not know them. The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God.

Feast of Saint Thecla

The reputed pupil of the Apostle Paul, who is the heroine of the Apocryphal "Acta Pauli et Theclae" . Our knowledge of her is derived exclusively from these Acts, which appeared about 180. According to this narrative Thecla was a virgin of Iconium who was converted to Christianity and led to dedicate herself to perpetual virginity by the preaching of the Apostle Paul. Miraculously saved from death at the stake to which she had been condemned, she went with St. Paul to Antioch in Pisidia where she was thrown to the wild beasts and was again saved from death by a miracle. After this she went to Myra where the Apostle was, and finally to Seleucia where she died. With the consent of St. Paul she had acted as a "female Apostle" in proclaiming the Gospel. Notwithstanding the purely legendary character of the entire story, it is not impossible that it is connected with an historical person. It is easy to believe that a virgin of this name who was a native of Iconium was actually converted by St. Paul and then, like many other women of the Apostolic and later times, laboured in the work of Christian missions (cf. Harnack, "Die Mission und die Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten", 2nd ed., I, 295; II, 58). In the Eastern Church the wide circulation of the Acts led to a great veneration of Thecla. She was called "Apostle and protomartyr among women". Her veneration was especially great in a number of Oriental cities, as Seleucia where she was buried, Iconium, and Nicomedia. Her cult appeared very early also in Western Europe, particularly in those districts where the Gallican Liturgy prevailed; there is direct proof of this in the fourth century. Her name is given with various topographical comments (Nicomedia, Seleucia, Asia) on several days in the "Martyrologium Hieronymianum". Thus Thecla is mentioned in this martyrology on 22 February, 25 February, 12 September, 23 September, and 17 November ("Mart. Hieron.". ed. de Rossi-Duchesne, 24, 36, 120, 124, 144). It seems certain that on all these dates, and probably also on 20 and 21 December, the same St. Thecla, the pupil of St. Paul, is meant. In Bede's Martyrology (cf. Quentin, "Martyrologes historiques du moyen âge", 93) her name is mentioned with a brief notice taken from the Acts on 23 September, the same date as that on which her feast is given in the present Roman Martyrology. The Greek Church celebrates her feast on 24 September and gives her the title of "Protomartyr among women and equal to the Apostles" (cf. Nilles, "Calendarium utriusque ecclesiae", 

I, 283 sq.). See bibliography of APOCRYPHA; HOLZHEY, Die Thecla-Akten, ihre Verbreitung u. Beurteilung in der Kirche (Munich, 1905). 
II. We possess historically accurate accounts of the martyrdom of a Christian of Gaza in Palestine named Thecla. According to Eusebius ("De martyribus Palestinen.", 3) she was condemned to death in the second year of the great persecution (304-05) together with a Christian named Agapius and was torn to pieces in a horrible manner by the wild beasts to which she was thrown. The present Roman Martyrology gives the feast of this saint under the date of 19 August. 
III. The "Martyrologium Hieronymianum mentions a Thecla in connection with a Zosimus among the martyrs whose feast was celebrated on 1 June; these two saints were commemorated at Antioch. Whether this Thecla was a local saint of the Oriental metropolis is not known. 
IV. A catacomb of St. Thecla on the Via Ostiensis, not far from the burial place of St. Paul, is mentioned in the seventh-century itineraries to the graves of the Roman martyrs. A church stood on this spot on a hill over the catacomb where the body of the saint rested. St. Thecla must be regarded as a Roman martyr. Armellini believes that he has found the cemetery of St. Thecla (cf. Marucchi, Les catacombes romaines", Rome, 1903, p. 91 sqq.).

Also the Feast of Saint Padre Pio

The Reading from the Martyrology

September is the Month of Our Lady of Sorrows

Meditation of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri on the Fifth Sorrow

Fifth Sorrow – Individual Meditation & Prayer

Of the Death of Jesus

We have now to witness a new kind of martyrdom—a Mother condemned to see an innocent Son, and one whom she loves with the whole affection of her soul, cruelly tormented and put to death before her own eyes: “There stood by the cross of Jesus His Mother.” Saint John believed that in these words he had said enough of Mary’s martyrdom.

Consider her at the foot of the cross in the presence of her dying Son, and then see if there be sorrow like unto her sorrow. Let us remain for a while this day on Calvary, and consider the fifth sword which, in the death of Jesus, transfixed the heart of Mary. As soon as our agonized Redeemer had reached the Mount of Calvary, the executioners stripped Him of His clothes, and piercing His hands and feet “not with sharp but with blunt nails,” as Saint Bernard says, to torment Him more, they fastened Him on the cross. Having crucified Him, they planted the cross, and thus left Him to die.

The executioners left Him; but not so Mary. She then drew nearer to the cross, to be present at His death: “I did not leave Him” (thus the Blessed Virgin revealed to Saint Bridget), “but stood nearer to the cross.”

“But what did it avail thee, O Lady,” says Saint Bonaventure, “to go to Calvary, and see this Son expire? Shame should have prevented thee; for His disgrace was thine, since thou wert His Mother. At least, horror of witnessing such a crime as the crucifixion of a God by His own creatures, should have prevented thee from going there.”

But the same Saint answers, “Ah, thy heart did not then think of its own sorrows, but of the sufferings and death of thy dear Son,” and therefore thou wouldst thyself be present, at least to compassionate Him. “Ah, true Mother,” says the Abbot William, “most loving Mother, whom not even the fear of death could separate from thy beloved Son.”

But, O God, what a cruel sight was it there to behold this Son in agony on the cross, and at its foot this Mother in agony, suffering all the torments endured by her Son!

Listen to the words in which Mary revealed to Saint Bridget the sorrowful state in which she saw her dying Son on the cross: “My dear Jesus was breathless, exhausted, and in His last agony on the cross; His eyes were sunk, half-closed, and lifeless; His lips hanging, and His mouth open; His cheeks hollow and drawn in; His face elongated; His nose sharp; His countenance sad: His head had fallen on His breast, His hair was black with blood, His stomach collapsed, His arms and legs stiff, and His whole body covered with wounds and blood.”

All these sufferings of Jesus were also those of Mary: “Every torture inflicted on the body of Jesus,” says Saint Jerome, “was a wound in the heart of the Mother.” “Whoever then was present on the Mount of Calvary,” says Saint John Chrysostom, “might see two altars, on which two great sacrifices were consummated; the one in the body of Jesus, the other in the heart of Mary.” Nay, better still may we say with Saint Bonaventure, “there was but one altar-that of the cross of the Son, on which, together with this Divine Lamb, the victim, the Mother was also sacrificed.”

Therefore the Saint asks this Mother, “O Lady, where art thou? Near the cross? Nay, rather, thou art on the cross, crucified, sacrificing thyself with thy Son.” Saint Augustine assures us of the same thing: “The cross and nails of the Son were also those of His Mother; with Christ crucified the Mother was also crucified.” Yes; for, as Saint Bernard says, “Love inflicted on the heart of Mary the tortures caused by the nails in the body of Jesus.” So much so that, as Saint Bernardine writes, “At the same time that the Son sacrificed His body, the Mother sacrificed her soul.”

Mothers ordinarily fly from the presence of their dying children; but when a mother is obliged to witness such a scene, she procures all possible relief for her child; she arranges his bed, that he may be more at east; she administers refreshments to him; and thus the poor mother soothes her own grief.

Ah, most afflicted of all Mothers! O Mary, thou hast to witness the agony of the dying Jesus; but thou canst administer Him no relief. Mary heard her Son exclaim, “I thirst,” but she could not even give Him a drop of water to refresh Him in that great thirst. She could only say, as Saint Vincent Ferrer remarks, “My Son, I have only the water of tears.”

She saw that on that bed of torture her Son, suspended by three nails, could find no repose; she would have clasped Him in her arms to give Him relief, or that at least He might there have expired; but she could not. “In vain,” says Saint Bernard, “did she extend her arms; they sank back empty on her breast.”

She beheld that poor Son, who in His sea of grief sought consolation, as it was foretold by the prophet, but in vain: “I have trodden the winepress alone; I looked about, and there was none to help; I sought, and there was none to give aid.”

But who amongst men would console Him, since all were enemies? Even on the cross He was taunted and blasphemed on all sides: “and they that passed by, blasphemed Him, wagging their heads.” Some said in His face, “If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Others, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save.” Again, “If He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross.”

Our Blessed Lady herself said to St. Bridget, “I heard some say that my Son was a thief; others, that He was an impostor; others, that no one deserved death more than He did; and every word was a new sword of grief to my heart.”

But that which the most increased the sorrows which Mary endured through compassion for her Son, was hearing Him complain on the cross that even His Eternal Father had abandoned Him: “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Words which the Divine Mother told the same Saint Bridget, could never, during her whole life, depart from her mind.

So that the afflicted Mother saw her Jesus suffering on every side; she desired to comfort Him, but could not. And that which grieved her the most was to see that she herself, by her presence and sorrow, increased the sufferings of her Son. “The grief,” says Saint Bernard, “which filled Mary’s heart, as a torrent flowed into and embittered the heart of Jesus.” “So much so,” says the same Saint, “that Jesus on the cross suffered more from compassion for His Mother than from His own torments.”

He thus speaks in the name of our Blessed Lady: “I stood with my eyes fixed on Him, and His on me, and He grieved more for me than for Himself.” And then, speaking of Mary beside her dying Son, he says, “that she lived dying without being able to die:” “Near the cross of Christ His Mother stood half-dead; she spoke not; dying she lived, and living she died; nor could she die, for death was her very life.”

Passino writes that Jesus Christ Himself one day, speaking to blessed Baptista Varani of Camerino, assured her that when on the cross, so great was His affliction at seeing His Mother at His feet in such bitter anguish, that compassion for her caused Him to die without consolation; so much so, that the blessed Baptista, being supernaturally enlightened as to the greatness of this suffering of Jesus, exclaimed, “O Lord, tell me no more of this Thy sorrow, for I can no longer bear it.”

“All,” says Simon of Cassia, “who then saw this Mother silent, and not uttering a complaint in the midst of such great suffering, were filled with astonishment.” But if Mary’s lips were silent, her heart was not so, for she incessantly offered the life of her Son to the Divine Justice for our salvation.

Therefore we know that by the merits of her dolours she cooperated in our birth to the life of grace; and hence we are the children of her sorrows. “Christ,” says Lanspergius, “was pleased that she, the cooperatress in our redemption, and whom He had determined to give us for our Mother, should be there present; for it was at the foot of the cross that she was to bring us, her children, forth.”

If any consolation entered that sea of bitterness, the heart of Mary, the only one was this, that she knew that by her sorrows she was leading us to eternal salvation, as Jesus Himself revealed to Saint Bridget: “My Mother Mary, on account of her compassion and love, was made the Mother of all in heaven and on earth.”

And indeed these were the last words with which Jesus bid her farewell before His death: this was His last recommendation, leaving us to her for her children in the person of Saint John: “Woman, behold thy son.”

From that time Mary began to perform this good office of a Mother for us; for Saint Peter Damian attests, “that by the prayers of Mary, who stood between the cross of the good thief and that of her Son, the thief was converted and saved, and thereby she repaid a former service. For, as other authors also relate, this thief had been kind to Jesus and Mary on their journey to Egypt; and this same office the Blessed Virgin has ever continued, and still continues, to perform.


A young man in Perugia promised the devil, that if he would enable him to attain a sinful object he had in view, he would give him his soul; and he gave him a written contract to this effect, signed in his own blood. When the crime had been committed, the devil demanded the performance of the promise; and for this purpose led him to the brink of a well, at the same time threatening, that if he did not throw himself in, he would drag him, body and soul, to hell. The wretched youth, thinking that it would be impossible to escape from his hands, got on the little parapet to cast himself in; but terrified at the idea of death, he told the devil that he had not courage to take the leap, but that if he was determined on his death, he must push him in. The young man wore a scapular of the Dolours of Mary; the devil therefore said, “Take off that scapular, and then I will push thee in.” But the youth, discovering in the scapular the protection still vouchsafed to him by the Divine Mother, refused to do so, and at length, after much altercation, the devil, filled with confusion, departed; and the sinner, grateful to the sorrowful Mother, went to thank her, and, penitent for his sins, presented as a votive offering to her altar, in the church of Santa Maria la Nuova in Perugia, a picture of what had taken place.


Ah, Mother the most sorrowful of all mothers, thy Son is, then, dead; that Son so amiable, and who loved thee so much! Weep, then, for thou hast reason to weep. Who can ever console thee? The thought alone, that Jesus by His death conquered hell, opened heaven until then closed to men, and gained so many souls, can console thee. From that throne of the cross He will reign in so many hearts, which, conquered by His love, will serve Him with love.

Disdain not, in the meantime, O my Mother, to keep me near thee, to weep with thee, since I have so much reason to weep for the crimes by which I have offended Him. Ah, Mother of Mercy, I hope, first, through the death of my Redeemer, and then through thy sorrows, to obtain pardon and eternal salvation.

Saturday is the Day dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and Her Immaculate Heart

Saturdays are, traditionally, the days Catholics go to Confession in preparation for receiving the Eucharist on Sundays (some Catholics might make a habit of going to Confession on Saturdays; other might go before Mass on Sunday, and, of course, as always, whenever needed). Also on Saturdays, many Catholics make what is called the "First Saturdays Devotion" which entails going to Mass and receiving Communion on the first Saturday of the month for 5 consecutive months in reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary are prayed on Saturday
The Rosary in Latin

Chaplet of the Five Holy Wounds of Christ in Latin 

Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady in English

The Reading of the Rule of Saint Benedict for September 23
V. De oboedientia
14 Sed haec ipsa oboedientia tunc acceptabilis erit Deo et dulcis hominibus, si quod iubetur non trepide, non tarde, non tepide, aut cum murmurio vel cum responso nolentis efficiatur, 
15 quia oboedientia quae maioribus praebetur Deo exhibetur -  ipse enim dixit: Qui vos audit me audit.  16 Et cum bono animo a discipulis praeberi oportet, quia hilarem datorem diligit Deus.
17 Nam, cum malo animo si oboedit discipulus et non solum ore sed etiam in corde si murmuraverit, 
18 etiam si impleat iussionem, tamen acceptum iam non erit Deo qui cor eius respicit murmurantem, 
19 et pro tali facto nullam consequitur gratiam; immo poenam murmurantium incurrit, si non cum satisfactione emendaverit.

Chapter 5 Obedience 
14 But this very obedience will be acceptable to God and sweet to men only if what is commanded is not done fearfully, sluggishly, or lukewarmly, and neither with murmuring, nor with an answer showing unwillingness: 
15 for the obedience offered to superiors is given to God, just as He Himself said: He who hears you hears me (Luke 10:16). 
16 And this obedience ought to be offered with good will, because God loves a cheerful giver (II Cor 9:7).
17 For if the disciple obeys with ill will and murmurs not only with his lips but also in his heart, 
18 even if he fulfills the command he will not be acceptable to God,  who sees the heart of the murmurer: 
19 and from this no favor will follow; rather he will incur the punishment due to murmurers, unless he amends by making satisfaction.

Today's Celebration of the Mass

Jesus XPI Passio sit semper in cordibus nostris
May the Passion of Jesus Christ be always in our hearts


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