At Mass and other liturgical services we see the altar servers and priests swinging censers, sending clouds of incense wafting through the air. In Catholic liturgy, everything symbolizes a theological truth. So, what does incense symbolize?
Church & Faith
Most Catholics can rattle off a list of who they consider to be the ten most popular saints. The lists would vary, of course, but would most likely contain many of the same names. There are some saints, however, who are so famous that they are known around the world—not only to Catholics, but to people of all beliefs (or no particular beliefs at all). This is a beautiful example of how holiness draws souls who are fascinated by it, even if they don’t understand why.
Jesus declared that in Bartholomew there was “no deceit.” Other translations render this as “without guile” and “no duplicity.” This high praise stands in contrast to many unflattering things Scripture records about the other Apostles. We can ponder how much Bartholomew’s honesty and purity must have increased after he began to follow Christ; we can imagine his soul becoming almost angelic.
After reading about St. Catherine of Siena, St. Rose considered her a worthy model. She would fast at least three times a week and would secretly add severe penances. When she was admired for her beauty she cut her hair or disfigured her face in order to avoid the temptation to vanity. She received the Blessed Sacrament daily and would spend much of her time alone in a grotto in her family’s garden.
St. John Eudes (feast day August 19th) was a priest and parish missionary in 17th century France, the most renowned and effective preacher of his day. At the age of 14 he consecrated his life to the Blessed Virgin Mary, his segueway into the priesthood. His life mission was twofold. The first was to combat the widespread loss faith in the hearts and souls of the French people. For this end he promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary among the laity. He was instrumental in getting the Church to adopt these feasts on the liturgical calendar, and he also composed the propers for their Mass and Divine Office. The second part of his life mission was to combat the weakened fervor of priests.
St. Roch was born with an unusual and deep red mark on his chest in the shape of a cross, a sign that the Blessed Virgin Mary had heard and answered his mother’s prayers for her barrenness to be healed. As a child St. Roch was deeply religious, fasting twice a week after the example of his pious mother. His parents died when he was twenty years of age, after which he gave his inheritance to the poor, handed the government of the city over to his uncle, and began a new life as a poor mendicant pilgrim.
Prior to my conversion to Catholicism and becoming a parent, I had not really thought much about angels except when I saw them portrayed in art or in knick-knacks at a Hallmark store. It’s not that I didn’t believe in them, but I thought of them as I think of other things that are mysterious… that they are beyond my reach in terms of knowing any
A deaf, mute, and blind boy led the Emperor Charlemagne into the long-lost underground crypt in southern France where the relics of St. Anne were buried and hidden away. The story is remarkable! Listen here for the miraculous manner in which her relics arrived in southern France, and the great saints who brought them there.
Saint Camillus de Lellis is an example how God often plants the seeds of your life’s mission among the ordinary, even sinful, circumstances in which you find yourself. It is never too late to amend your life and endeavor to become a saint; in the end, by the grace of God, all things truly will work together for your good and His glory.
Many faithful men went to Mt. Carmel to live as hermits in imitation of the Prophet Elijah. Over time a community developed informally. By the 1200’s this group desired to order their lives around a structured Rule. At the direction of St. Albert, then Patriarch of Jerusalem, they were given a Rule of Life. They lived in general solitude as they prayed and fasted, but they built a church and came together for prayer during the day. They named the church after Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.