|Devotion to Our Lady||
WHO IS FR. WENINGER?
The 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia lists Fr. Francis Xavier as Jesuit missionary and author, who was born at Wildhaus, Styria, Austria, 31 October, 1805; died at Cincinnati, Ohio, 29 June, 1888. When already a priest and doctor of theology, he joined the Society of Jesus in 1832 and in 1841 was sent to Innsbruck, where he taught theology, history, and Hebrew.
As the Revolution of 1848 impeded his further usefulness at home, he left Europe and went to the United States. During his forty years he visited almost every state of the Union, preaching to vast multitudes in English, French, or German, as best suited the nationality of his hearers.
In the year 1854 alone he delivered nearly a thousand sermons, and in 1864 he preached about forty-five missions. His zeal also prompted Father Weninger to win souls with the pen and he published forty works in German, Sixteen in English, eight in French, three in Latin. Among his principal works are: “Manual of the Catholic Religion” (Ratisbon, 1858); “Easter in Heaven” (Cincinnati, 1862); “Sermons” (Mainz, 1881-86).
The Jesuit webiste, www.jesuitsmissouri.org, has this to say about Fr. Weninger:
Francis Xavier Weninger (1805-1888) was born in Marburg, Styria, a province in southern Austria, to a prominent Catholic family. He had connections to the old aristocracy of Austria through his mother, Barbara von Mendelstein, and lived for a time on a large estate with his family.
Weninger spent much of his youth in Vienna, where he attended the local high school and dreamed of enlisting in the military. However, his father disapproved of this goal, and instead sent the young Weninger to work as an apprentice at a pharmacy in Laybach.
With the permission of his guardian and the director of his high school, Weninger continued his studies independently, and his progress in the academic world soon caught the attention of the Habsburg Court. In 1821, on the recommendation of the director, Empress Carolina Augusta of Austria agreed to sponsor Weninger's education, and he entered the Klinkowstöm Institute and the University of Vienna to continue his academic work.
At the age of seventeen, having spent two years studying philosophy and the classics, Weninger became convinced that he should become a priest. He began studying dogmatic and moral theology and was ordained a priest in 1827.
In 1829 he earned a doctorate of divinity at the Episcopal Seminary at Gratz, and began teaching dogmatic theology at the University of Gratz. For the first few years after his ordination, Weninger associated with the Benedictines, Camaldolese, and the Franciscans. He eventually entered the Society of Jesus in 1832.
Weninger worked for several years in Austria and Germany, teaching and preaching throughout the region, at one point even serving as confessor to the Duchess de Berri, the exiled queen of France. However, the 1848 expulsion of the Jesuits due to the revolution in Germany brought Weninger to the United States.
He landed in New York, preaching his first American sermon at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Williamsburg, and then traveled to Saint Louis to confer with the Superior of the Missouri Mission about his usefulness in the western territories.
Weninger traveled extensively throughout the country; an entry in Weninger's obituary notes that “nearly every part of the country was to feel the effects of his grace-laden mission-tours.” Between 1850 and 1860, Weninger preached in Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Virginia, Washington D.C., and various locations across Canada.
During this period, worshippers at a mission in the town of Guttenberg, Iowa, experienced, during a visit from Weninger, a vision of a white cross in the sky, which became a well-known event in the Society of Jesus.
The primary goal of these missions was conversion, but Weninger also spoke out forcefully against German radicals and the Know-Nothing political party, groups which were gaining popularity during the 1850s.
Weninger was residing in the Midwestern portion of the United States when the Civil War broke out in 1861. He spoke out against the politics of the situation, both the Republican bullying of the United States government and the permission of slave-holding in the Confederate states, which was a unique political position to hold at the time.
He continued his missionary work in the Union states of Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Iowa, and Minnesota, where he conducted retreats and gave sermons.
Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Weninger conducted over ninety-five missions and retreats, traveling to California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington Territory, Vancouver, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and Arkansas. He also conducted an examination of the relics of Peter Claver.
After returning to the Midwest in 1871, Weninger continued his routine of missionary work across the country, preaching in many states until, around 1880, his health forced him to limit the amount of traveling in which he could participate. However, he did not stop his work completely.
During the late 1870s and early1880s, he began working toward the improvement of the religious practices of African Americans and began pushing for the canonization of Saint Peter Claver. He retired to Cincinnati around 1882, where he died in 1888 at the age of 82.
Weninger's writings during his life time were extensive and varied across a wide spectrum of topics, including, but not limited to, scripture commentaries, works on canon law, sermons, mission techniques, and musical compositions. These works had a great impact their readers, as shown in a letter that was sent in memoriam by a Jewish man from New Orleans. In the letter, he writes:
"To my sincere sorrow, I read in to-day's paper of the demise of Fr. Weninger of Cincinnati. Not having had the pleasure of knowing him personally, I have learned to love him from studying some of his works, and it was for some time a favorite idea of mine, when passing through Cincinnati, to call on him and that him for the great spiritual benefit I derived by perusing his books. His picture is hanging over my desk, and if the prayers of a poor sinful Hebrew convert, whom by his writings he has helped by to find again the true and only way that leads to salvation, are acceptable toward the repose of his soul, I will thus try and show him my gratitude."
"Father Weninger," Woodstock Letters 18, no. 1 (1889): 123.
Today's festival is called the Presentation of Mary, because on this day Joachim and Anna, the holy parents of the Blessed Virgin, consecrated their little daughter to the divine service in the temple at Jerusalem, and Mary consecrated herself to the Almighty. At that time, there were two ways of consecrating children: one was ordained by the law, which required every male child to be offered to God, forty days, and every female child, eighty days after its birth. This ceremony was called the consecration of the child and the purification of the mother. The second kind of consecration was a voluntary self-oblation by which some persons devoted themselves to the Almighty.
There were also many parents who either before, or immediately after their child's birth, consecrated it to the service of the Lord, sometimes for a few years, sometimes for life. To this end several separate dwellings had been erected in connection with the Temple, for men, women, youths and maidens, where they remained for the time which had been fixed by themselves or their parents. Their occupations consisted in decorating the temple, and in making the garments which the priests and levites wore during their sacred functions.
Thus we read in the first book of Kings, that Anne the spouse of Elkana, made a vow that if she gave birth to a male child, she would consecrate it to the Lord. The Lord blessed her and she brought forth a son, whom she named Samuel, and afterwards consecrated to the Most High, through the hands of the High Priest, Heli. In the second book of the Maccabees, we find mention of virgins, who lived and were educated in the Temple, that is, in a building annexed to it.
It is the belief of several holy Fathers, that Joachim and Anna, being already advanced in years and having no issue, made a vow to God that if He would bless them with a child, and thus take from them the dishonor of being barren, they would consecrate their offspring to His service in the Temple. God heard their prayer and blessed them so greatly that they became the parents of the most holy of all human beings, Mary, the ever Blessed Virgin. For three years they kept this sacred treasure at home, after which time, although Mary was their only comfort, they resigned her with pious fortitude, in fulfilment of their vow. Hence they went, with their daughter, to Jerusalem, presented her to the priest in the Temple and consecrated her, through his hands, to the service of the Almighty.
But who can worthily describe the devotion and veneration which Mary manifested at the consecration! She had not only consented cheerfully, but as, notwithstanding her tender years, she was already possessed of her full reason, and knew better than any one else, in Heaven or on earth, the Majesty of Him to whom she was consecrated, she had longed for the moment when she was to be given to Him. She went therefore most joyfully to the Temple, her heart full of devotion and love towards God and a fervent desire to serve Him. The priest was at first greatly astonished, not only at the unusual beauty of the little child, but still more at the devotion she showed in such extreme youth.
When her parents had given her in charge to the priest, the latter took her to the Altar, to which there was an ascent of fifteen steps on the first of which he placed her. Having in a few words bade her parents farewell, the little maiden went joyfully and unaided, from the lowest step to the highest, and casting herself down before the Altar, she consecrated herself to the Almighty with such humility and reverence, that all present were deeply moved. Her consecration differed greatly from that of all other children. Many were brought to the temple only because their parents desired it, and without their own knowledge of the reasons for which it was done. Others wept bitterly at parting with their parents. No other at that tender age, had understood the ceremony, and none had made the consecration with such entire devotion to the Lord.
The Blessed Virgin, however, already gifted with reason, not only consented to the sacrifice thus made by her parents to God, but consecrated herself, entirely and with a happy heart, to His service. How pleasing this sacrifice must have been to the Lord, words are unable to express. It is quite certain that, from the creation of the world until that time, no sacrifice had been so pleasing to Him as that which Mary offered in her own person. Abel, Noah, Aaron, and many more, had sacrificed to the Lord the fruits of the Earth, or dumb brutes; but Mary offered herself. Many parents had consecrated their children to the service of God, but Mary surpassed them all in innocence and grace, in heavenly virtues and gifts; hence it cannot be doubted that her sacrifice surpassed all others, and was more agreeable to the Almighty. After the consecration. Mary was taken into the dwelling of the maidens destined to serve the Most High, and was numbered among them. There she remained until her marriage with St. Joseph.
Her conduct during this period can be more easily imagined than described; but it is certain that it was more like an angel's than like that of a human being. Her occupation was prayer, reading, meditation and work. In the works of St. Jerome there is a sermon on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, in which the life she led in the Temple is thus described: "She endeavored to surpass in goodness all those with whom she dwelt; to be the first in the nightly vigils; to understand Holy Writ most thoroughly; to be the most humble; to sing the Pslams of David most devoutly; to love God most fervently; to be the most chaste; in a word, to be the first in all virtues, in order to honor the Almighty, and to prove her love to Him. God was the only subject of her conversation. She prayed without ceasing and meditated on the law of the Lord."
St. Ambrose, in his instructions to those who had vowed perpetual chastity, gives them Mary as an example, saying emphatically, that her life had been such that it might serve as a model to all. "Mary," he writes "was virgin, not only in body, but also in heart and mind. She was modest in her speech, and humble of heart. She offended no one, had every one's welfare at heart, avoided pride and loved virtue. Nothing bold was in her gaze, nothing frivolous in words, nothing that was in the least immodest in all her manners. Her body was the index of her mind, a model of piety. She went not to rest until necessity required it, and when her body rested, her soul remained awake." This and much more, the above mentioned Father writes, in praise of the Blessed Virgin.
St. Bonaventure relates a vision in which the Divine Mother said to a holy person: "I arose always in the middle of the night, went to the Altar of the Temple, and presented my homage and desires to the Almighty." These desires were for the grace of loving God above all things and with her whole heart; of her neighbor for God's sake; of keeping the Commandments of the Lord, and of hating everything that was displeasing to Him. The same holy teacher says also: "Mary was very solicitous that none of her companions should in the least offend the Lord, but that they should always praise Him and never indulge in idle words." He writes further, that Mary occupied her thoughts with holy contemplations, her mouth with devout prayers; but, at the same time used her hands in sacred work, and admonished others to do the same. S
everal Holy Fathers write that the Blessed Virgin, soon after entering the Temple, consecrated her virginity to the Lord. Others, with greater reason, maintain that this had been done before, and as soon as she had been conceived, since she was gifted even then with the full use of her reason. The Holy Fathers Ambrose, Jerome, Rupert, Bernard, and many others, think that the Blessed Virgin was the first who made a vow of chastity, and thus set an example, which many thousands, desiring to serve the Lord more perfectly, have followed and are still following.
It is quite certain that the Blessed Virgin, from the first use of her reason until the end of her life, always endeavored to do what she knew would make her more perfect, and thus unite her more closely with the Almighty. Hence it is easy to conclude, that she gathered such a treasure of merits, as no Saint ever did or will possess. St. Bonaventure and St. Bernardine of Sienna apply to her the words of the Proverbs of Solomon: "Many daughters have gathered riches, but thou hast surpassed them all." Many daughters, they say, means, many souls, many Saints have gathered riches in merits; but Mary surpasses them all, as well in grace, as in virtues and merits. Hence it follows that her glory in Heaven is above that of all other Saints; for which reason she is called by the Catholic Church Queen of All Saints. Nothing is more just than that we duly honor so great a Queen, and invoke her with confidence; for the higher she stands above all other Saints, the more powerful is her intercession with God.
In the third year of her life, Mary, the Blessed Virgin, consecrated herself to the service of the Almighty, and this, not for days or years only, but for ever; for, as long as she lived, she ceased not to serve the Lord. How is it with you? Did you also begin in your tender years to serve the Lord. Or to whom did you dedicate the years of your life? Ah! confess it with weeping eyes and repentant heart, not to the Lord, but to world, to the flesh, to Satan, you gave the years of your youth; and perhaps you have not even made the resolution to serve your God; or it may be, you think it will be time enough when you are old, though it is unknown to you, whether you will ever count many years.
But even had you been assured of this, tell me, do you not deserve to be disowned by the Almighty as a second Cain, since like him, you sacrificed only what was a less value, and not, like the pious Abel, what was the best? God cursed him who took from his flock the meanest for his offering. This Curse you also deserve for not having given to the Lord your first and best years, but reserving your old age for Him. Oh! truly you have reason to weep over this wickedness as long as you live. Humbly beg God to pardon you, and resolve, at the same time, to serve Him from this hour most fervently and without ceasing until your end, as the Blessed Virgin did. You have perhaps but a short time more: hence employ ever moment in the service of God. The benefit will be yours, and will last through all eternity.
In consecrating herself to the Almighty, the Blessed Virgin gave herself entirely to Him without any reservation. Soul and body, every power of her soul, ever member of her body, her whole heart and life, all was given for evermore to the service of the Most High. Without doubt, you resolve today to serve your Lord most fervently for the future. Consecrate yourself, then, today to His service, but without any reservation, your whole heart, your entire life, your soul with all its powers, your entire body with all its members, sacrifice all willingly and for evermore to the Lord.
God Who desires the whole heart and not a part of it, wishes also your whole soul, your whole body, your entire life. Do you wish to divide your heart and to give one part of it to the Almighty the other to the world and Satan? To serve God with one member of your body, and to offend Him with another? Do you wish to employ your memory to honor God with good thoughts, but to soil your will with wicked desires? Oh, then do not imagine that your sacrifice will be acceptable to God! It will rather be a horror in the eyes of Him Who commands us to serve Him alone, and to sacrifice everythying to His service. Make today, a perfect sacrifice, so that you may, at least in something, follow the Blessed Virgin. And take care that you do not, after the lapse of some time, retract your sacrifice.
You consecrate, today, your eyes, your tongue, and your hands, with the intention to use them only in God's service. Guard yourself, lest, after some hours or days, you misuse them in offending the Lord, for, this would be as mush robbing the Altar of what you have given to the Most High. Mary did not act thus. It is written: "I am the Lord that hate robbery in a holocaust” (Isaias, ch. 51)
Prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary
O blessed Virgin Mary! Who can duly thank thee, or herald forth thy praises, who, by the assent of thy single will, didst rescue a fallen world? What honor can be paid to thee by our weak human nature, which, by thy intervention alone, hath found the way to return to grace and life? Accept then, such poor thanks as we have here to offer, unequal to thy merits though they be; and, accepting our good desires, obtain by thy prayers the remission of our offenses. Graciously hear our prayers, and obtain for us the remedy of reconciliation.
May the offering we make to God through thee, through thee be acceptable in his sight; and may that be granted which we ask with trustful heart. Accept our offerings, grant us our petitions, banish our fears; for thou art the sole hope of sinners. Through thee we hope for forgiveness of our sins; and in thee, most blessed Lady, is the hope of our reward.
Holy Mary, succor the wretched, help the fainthearted, comfort the sorrowful, pray for the people, shield the clergy, intercede for holy women; let all who celebrate thy holy commemoration feel thy protection. Be thou at hand, ready to aid our prayers, and obtain for us what we desire. Make it thy care, blessed Lady, to intercede ever for the people of God--thou who didst deserve to bear the Redeemer of the world, who liveth and reigneth, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Indulgence of 50 days each time, His Holiness, Pius IX., May 19, 1854)
The feast of tday, November 21, commemorates the presentation of the Blessed Virgin as a child in the Temple. Tradition holds that all young Jewish girls were left in the care of the temple for a period of time, during which they were educated.
The feast originated in the Orient probably about the 7th century, and is found in the constitution of Manuel Comnenus (1166) as a recognized festival. It was introduced into the Western Church in the 14th century. Pope Pius V then struck it from the calendar. Pope Sixtus V later reestablished the feast in 1585.
Below, we have a commentary by Fr. Goffiné on the Presentation of Mary. Fr. Leonard Goffiné was born in Cologne in 1648 and lived out his 71 years preaching and teaching in parishes and abbeys across the region and among Catholics and Protestants alike. Whereas so many had been led astray as a result of the Protestant Reformation, Goffiné wrote ten books of catechesis, mostly commentaries on the Mass and epistles and gospel for the daily readings. The first printing was in 1690. Widely read, it required an additional printing. It is said that aside from Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis, (and the bible, of course) Goffiné’s books are the most widely translated writings in the Church. The reflection below comes from Goffiné’s Devout Instructions on the Epistles and the Gospels.
The Blessed Virgin was presented in the temple at Jerusalem by her pious parents, Joachim and Ann, there to be educated in the service and the law of the Lord in order that she might be guarded against the defilements of the world. From this we learn:
• Joachim and Ann offered to the Lord their only and most beloved child, and gave her up entirely to His service. Great as the sacrifice was, they yet made it. The preservation of the innocence of their daughter was to them above all else. Parents, God requires of you that you should not merely offer your children to Him in the temple, but that you should take care to keep them pure and holy, as living temples which have been consecrated in Baptism.
•Mary gives and dedicates herself to God as soon as she is capable of serving Him, and that without any reservation, for all time, and irrevocably. When, then, shall we give ourselves in earnest to God? True, we have been given to Him in holy Baptism, we have been consecrated as His temples, we have renounced the devil and the world, we have vowed to live only for God, and this vow we have, perhaps, often renewed; but have we kept it? What we gave with one hand, have we not taken it away with the other? Have we not defiled the temple of our hearts by shameful lusts, lived for the world and vanity more than for God? Ah, when shall we give ourselves up to God sincerely and forever? Perhaps when we are old! But will God accept our offering then? Will He be pleased that we begin to serve Him only when we can no longer serve the world? that we first begin to live for Him when our life is soon to cease? No; God is a jealous Lord, and is not pleased with a heart divided between Him and creatures. He requires us to love Him with all our heart and all our soul, and to serve Him with all our powers. Let us, then, do this, and do it from our youth; let us keep ourselves in body and soul undefiled for the Lord; such love, and such love only, will He reward as perfect.
As the time approached when Mary was to be taken to the Temple, St. Anne often gave her lessons, teaching her various prayers and rules of religion. She already knew how to read. Though only three and a half years old and very delicate, Mary seemed like a girl of five or six. Her long, dark hair hung straight down with curls at the end.
One day, three old priests came from Nazareth to give her an examination, in order to determine whether she was worthy of being accepted for service in the Temple. This was a very solemn proceeding. After explaining to her the different duties she would fulfill, they asked her some questions. Her replies were so filled with naive wisdom that the priests could not help smiling their approval, while her parents wept tears of joy. Then during a meal the oldest priest said to her:
"In consecrating you to God, your father and mother promised that you would give up wine, vinegar, grapes and figs. What other sacrifice do you wish freely to add to those. Think it over and tell us later."
The three years’ time decreed by the Lord having been completed, Joachim and Anne set out from Nazareth, accompanied by a few kindred and bringing with them the true living Ark of the covenant, the most holy Mary, borne on the arms of her mother in order to be deposited in the holy temple of Jerusalem. The beautiful child, by her fervent and loving aspirations, hastened after the ointments of her Beloved, seeking in the temple Him, whom she bore in her heart.
This humble procession was scarcely noticed by earthly creatures, but it was invisibly accompanied by the angelic spirits, who, in order to celebrate this event, had hastened from Heaven in greater numbers than ordinary as her bodyguard, and were singing in heavenly strains the glory and praise of the Most High. The Princess of Heaven heard and saw them as she hastened her beautiful steps along in the sight of the highest and the true Solomon. Thus they pursued their journey from Nazareth to the holy city of Jerusalem, and also the parents of the holy child Mary felt in their hearts great joy and consolation of spirit.