Two thumbs up for Fr. Gary LeMoine from Assumption Church in Barnesville, MN. He apparently delayed the Sacrament of Confirmation for a 17-year-old boy who posted this photo on Facebook. More may be seen here...
"It is necessary to try to surpass one's self always; this occupation ought to last as long as life."
Queen of Sweden, child of Gustavus Adolphhus II of Sweden, born at Stockholm, 8 December, 1626; d. at Rome, 19 April, 1689. Her father was the famous soldier whose interposition in the Thirty Years' Was wrought so much harm to Catholicism. Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, her mother, had hoped for a son, and was so disappointed at the birth of a daughter that she had little love for the child, who was left to the care of nurses. Gustavus Adolphus, however, was tenderly attached to his daughter; in 1630, when he sailed for Germany, he recommended Christina to the loyalty of his people and put his sister Catherine, who held her court at Stegeborg, in charge of the child's education.
Three years later, Maria Eleonora brought back the body of her husband, Gustavus Adolphus, to Sweden. For a while after this her love seemed to be transferred to the child, but this affectionate relation did not last long. In obedience to the command of her father, Christina was brought up like a boy, and received instruction in the various branches of learning from distinguished men, among whom was the learned Dr. Matthiæ, Bishop of Strengès. The princess was an indefatigable student, and a great reader of good books.
Feminine occupations and amusements had no attraction for her, and she was indifferent to dress and finery of all kinds. The mother wished rather to see he daughter lead a life of pleasure, and encouraged her in the enjoyment of wine and other stimulating drinks, so that the country was alarmed for the mortals of the heir to the throne, and Christina was sent again to her aunt. When the aunt died she was put under the care of the sister of the celebrated chancellor Axel Oxenstiern. In her new surroundings the great talents of Christina rapidly developed. She soon mastered several languages, gained a comprehensive knowledge of history and politics, and showed in particular a strong liking for theologico-political speculations. At the same time the masculine qualities of her character grew steadily more evident. Her favorite amusement was bear-hunting, and she could outride most men. At 18 (8 December, 1644) she was of age and entered on the duties of government with a strong hand. It was not, however, until two years later she was crowned, the ceremony taking place with great pomp at Stockholm.
At first Christina devoted herself to the affairs of state with most laudable zeal. It was owing to her interventions that the peace negotiations at Münster and Osnabrück were more quickly concluded than expected. Christina strove to raise her people to a higher plane of civilization, to promote their welfare in every way, and to insure their prosperity. Without lowering the dignity suitable to her station she treated all her subjects with dignity and condescension. She drew to Sweden artists and scholars, among whom were the philosopher Descartes and Hugo Grotius, the expounder of international law; by the payment of large pensions she kept these men attached to her court. The praise with which these scholars repaid their royal patron was often immoderate. As time went on Christina gradually lost interest in the task of government and developed an intense desire for new and exciting pleasures, often for those of a most costly character. The health of the queen suffered from the changed method of her life, and it was with great difficulty that her French physician, Dr. Bourdelot, effected a cure. In the mean time the debts thus incurred, rose to a large amount.
The Swedish people wished the queen to marry and to give them an heir to the throne, but Christina was not willing to hear of this as she desired to preserve her personal independence. She was much more inclined to abdicate her position and to become a ruler in the realm of genius and learning. At the same time she showed a continually growing inclination to the Catholic Church, for she took no pleasure in the simple forms of Lutheran belief which was all-powerful in Sweden. It is not possible to prove positive whether Dr. Bourdelot or the Spanish ambassador, Pimentelli, influence Christina's change of religious views. It is certain however, that several members of the Society of Jesus, Fathers Macedo, Francken, Malines, and Casati, succeeded in removing her last doubts as to the truth of Catholicism. Christina perceived that she could not continue to reign in Sweden as a convert to Catholicism, and resigned her throne in favour of her cousin, Charles Gustavus of Pfalz-Zweibrücken, a member of the Wittelsbach family.
On 6 June, 1654, at Upsala, she transferred her authority to him with much ceremony, and in the following day started on her travels. She bade farewell to her mother at Nyköping, then hastened to Halmstad, where she dismissed her retinue, and went to Brussels by way of Hamburg and Antwerp. At Brussels she made private confession of her belief in Catholicism; her public entrance into the Church took place in the beginning of November 1655, in the parish church of Innsbruck.
It was from Innsbruck that the European Courts were officially informed of her change of faith. On 23 December, she reached the capital of Christendom, which was decorated in her honour. The Pope came personally to meet her, administered the sacrament of Confirmation, and added Alexandra to her name.
In Rome, Christina's home was in the Palazzo Farnese; and during her residence here she sought to satisfy her intellectual ambitions as well as the longings of her devout and loving heart. She visited the sacred places to pray, went as a ministering angel into the hovels of the poor, and devoted herself to the study of the collections of art and the libraries. She drew into the circle of her fascinations the leading families of the Eternal City, arranged concerts and plays, and knew how to delight everyone by her acuteness and learning. She was not willing, however, to drop rough Swedish customs, and allowed herself to display various peculiarities of dress and manner, so that many people avoided her.
In 1656 and 1657, Christina went to France, the first time with a retinue, the second time incognito. On the latter trip her conduct excited much displeasure as, among other eccentricities she dressed as a man. Much more severe censure was aroused by the trial, without proper legal forms, of an old servant, Monaldeschi, and his subsequent execution, although as sovereign she had the right to pronounce sentence of death, or at least believed herself entitled to this authority.
Returning to Rome she gradually fell under the displeasure of the pope, for like a true daughter of Gustavus Adolphus she at times defied foreign laws and customs in too arrogant a fashion. Christina suffered much annoyance from the failure to receive with regularity from Sweden the income to which she was entitled; sometimes no money came at all. Moreover a woman so active intellectually had not taste or time for keeping accounts. Dishonesty in the management of her money affairs naturally followed, and the disorder in her finances were not overcome until the Curia through Cardinal Azzolini provided her with a competent bookkeeper.
After the death of Charles Gustavus (1660) she returned to Sweden to have her rights again legally confirmed. A second visit home (1667) was not of long duration as, in the pettiest manner, difficulties were thrown in the way of her exercise of her religion.
After this for a time she lived in Hamburg, but she made her continued stay in that city, then very rigidly Lutheran, impossible by organizing festivities in honour of the newly-elected pope, which ended in tumult and bloodshed.
In 1668 she returned to Rome and never again left the Eternal City. Her new home was the Palazzo Riario, and she filled her residence with great collections of books and objects of art. Her palace became a centre both for the learned world and for artists and sculptors; to the latter, Christina gave both aid and generously paid commissions. Her forethought and care were not limited to her acquaintances and members of her household, the poor of Rome also found in her a charitable mother.
As she grew older she fulfilled her religious duties with increasing intelligence and zeal, and the approach of her death had no longer any terrors for her. Piously and bravely she prepared herself for the end; after arranging her worldly affairs she received the sacraments with humble devotion and died a true child of the Catholic Church. Against her express wishes the Pope had her body embalmed and brought to St. Peter's where it was buried under the high altar. Her ostentatious but not prepossessing monument is the work of Carlo Fontana.
Christina made Cardinal Azzolini her principal heir, while the papal See and various Catholic sovereigns also received legacies. Unfortunately, after the death of Azzolini much of her valuable art collection passed into the hands of strangers; the greater part of her very rich library, however, is in the Vatican. Pictures and plastic art of various kinds have preserved the knowledge of Christina's features. Although not beautiful, in her youth her appearance must have been interesting. In later years she grew too stout to retain any trace of good looks. Only the flashing piercing eyes give any evidence of the fiery spirit which the exterior concealed.
The character the northern sovereign remained very much the same through life. Receptive for everything good and great, she unfalteringly pursued her quest after knowledge of the truth and after many wanderings found it in the bosom of the Catholic Church. She had a tender, sympathetic heart, yet was subject at times to fits of temper, even cruelty. She was no saint, but was probably better than the members of her former confession pictured her. Any objective portrait of her will always bear out the judgment of Axel Oxenstiern, "After all she was the daughter of the Great Adolphus", both in her faults and in her virtues.
My husband can attest to the fact that I haven’t a single green appendage, i.e. green thumb; however, I’ve planted rose bushes at every house we’ve shared. Planting them was easy, but the rest I left to nature. Typically, my minimal efforts had produced results to match.
When we moved here four years ago, I again planted some new rose bushes just beside our front porch and relocated a resident climbing rose bush to the Marian garden. Last year, having purchased two apple trees, I felt compelled to try a little harder and so I rummaged through the shed and found a container of plant food. Food in hand, I circled my way around the yard sprinkling here and there our azaleas, apple trees, and my rose bushes.
I’m not really sure why I have this affinity for rose bushes, but just the thought of them brings three beloved people to mind. My mother had some roses planted just across the driveway from the side door (the door we actually used to go in and out as opposed to the front door that only strangers entered through). I think they were peach in color and I have a picture in my head that my mom took of my sister posing beside them. Then there is the story of St. Therese, the Little Flower, dropping roses to those who ask for her intercession. A grammar school teacher first taught me about her and my college roommate renewed my interest in this dear saint years later. In fact, I offered a novena to the little saint in those hours after our first child, Dimitri, was born when the details of his illness began to unfold. And, of course, roses always evince a connection to my Blessed Mother. Most of the time when I bring blooms in, I offer them to our Lady by placing the vase on our kitchen shrine.
This spring those rose bushes decided to reward my little efforts in so many more ways than I understood at first. Each in turn, the tall, thorny, green stalks began to produce tiny buds that erupted into beautiful flowers of yellow and then red. The timing of this was something of a gift in and of itself. I began to spy the changes during the weeks surrounding the loss of my husband’s job and the loss of our dear expected baby, who was still cradled in my womb. That is when my secret, daily ritual started. Waking up each morning, I would walk through the house opening windows and doors before stepping out onto the front porch which I’d cross in order to peer over the railing to see what those bushes had in store for me that day. Simple and perhaps a bit silly, but those bushes filled me with an inexplicable hope and peace. The dilemma for me then was in deciding whether I wanted to cut those blooms and carry them inside to enjoy or allow them to remain on the stem, where their beauty might last a bit longer.
At the end of April when the roses first made their appearance, we had the privilege of being godparents to our friends' son. In thanksgiving for this blessing and that of our expected little one, I carried those first blooms to Our Lady of Czestochowa and placed them at her shrine in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. It was an easy offering on my behalf. Although I admit, I was humbled measuring my tiny bouquet against the two matching arrangements that decorated the table. To the eye, my gift looked unimpressive, but I knew that I hadn’t retained a single blossom for myself. My satisfaction was derived in knowing that I gave everything I had.
During the next few weeks, our personal trials increased and so did my daily ritual. Then, one particular Thursday came. We’d discovered the baby’s death some days before, but I was still clinging to the hope of a miracle. Knowing that Lazarus had been raised and so too had Jarius’ daughter been woken from her eternal slumber, I was praying that death would not win again. Since my husband was home, we had the rare opportunity of attending Thursday morning Mass as a family. As we rushed around preparing nine people to leave by 7:30am, I’d not had time for my peaceful ritual. But, the thought washed over me that I needed bring today’s blooms to my Mother. I headed out to quickly clip and plant today’s bounty into a vase for transport when I was overcome by sadness and then anger. There they were in all their splendor, five roses. Five, I counted them again, five. In an instant, without a moment’s hesitation, I realized there was one bloom for each of our five heavenly children. One for Dimitri, one for Mary, one for Simeon, one for Philomena and now one for Matthew, too, how could this be? “No, no,” I wanted to scream, “You can’t have five from us. You have four already, you don’t need this fifth soul.” I wanted to pretend it didn’t mean anything, but I knew better. I wanted to leave those roses home because surely Our Lady didn’t need those stupid flowers anyway, but I knew better. So, holding fast to my unspoken anger and searing sorrow, I grabbed the scissors and I cut all five of those opened roses. Hurriedly, I stuck them into a vase as the family waited in the van. It was an internal tug-of-war for me, but I knew I had to give them all, so silently I did.
At the same time the roses were busy in the front yard, the climbers in the Marian garden were also joining in. The whole Marian garden was filled with the colors of red roses, orange Day Lilies and white Easter Lilies. During the time we were waiting for Matthew’s delivery, I remember thinking at least the garden was ready for his arrival. It brought me some solace to consider this tiny family graveyard would be well decorated when it came time for his funeral. Perhaps, even more fitting that after we laid Matthew’s hand-sized coffin in the ground, the blooms died, too and roses stopped appearing.
My memory is rather cloudy nowadays, so time seems to slip passed me and I cannot remember the exact sequence of days and weeks, but you might imagine my surprise and delight when beloved friends brought us a new rose bush in memory of Matthew. They had no idea of my rituals. And it wasn’t until days later when I asked my little ones to prepare a spot in the front yard, that I read the tag. This bush was a John Paul II commemorative rose bush, and we all know whom he had great devotion to. So, sometime in June we were gifted with this new plant that was nothing more, seemingly, than a stick with roots in a pot. I was thrilled to have a tangible, continuing sign of Matthew’s brief, earthly life and I figured that if I was lucky, or more rightly blessed, we might see Matthew’s roses in a year or two. Perhaps, I’m just garden-ignorant (okay, I am, there is no perhaps about it) but I didn’t understand when Greg told me that the bush was growing not even a month later. Finally, I saw those first tiny red leaves for myself, but still I didn’t believe.
When Greg mentioned that buds were appearing, I simply ignored what he was telling me.
In truth, I liked the idea of a bare stick jutting out of the ground. I wanted it to remain bare and to hide its growth from sight for a year or two. I wanted that rose bush to mirror the way I felt, ugly and unproductive. Time was necessary, lots of time, for that bush to bloom and for me to start the process of healing, but God had other plans again. He often does. Without my consent, that stump grew its leaves and then it had the temerity to produce a single white blossom. Unwilling to relinquish my denial, I allowed that pure, white flower to turn brown without much more than a fleeting glance from me. The bush, however, isn’t dependent on my will to make it grow or not, so it continues to defy me.
The course, of these many trials I have wrestled with what I perceived as an inability to pray and a test of my faith. In the weakest moments, I’ve cried out, “My God, why have you abandoned me?” Listening for the answer, I’ve heard nothing. Having given those five roses to Mother, I’ve felt unable to give her anything more or even to ask for her intercession. Adoration and Mass have brought me comfort and temporary peace, but inside an emptiness has remained. A small prayer formed from this loneliness, in which I simply say, “Here I am Lord, I am empty. I have nothing left to offer, but I am Your's. Fill up my emptiness with Yourself.” A recent gospel reading ended with the command, “Whoever has ears ought to hear” which might also include whoever has eyes ought to see. Today I realized that I have been watching God’s love bloom in my yard and in my empty places. He did not need my conscious consent. He was not dependent on me to feed Him. My soul is a rose bush planted in His Divine Marian garden and He has fed me with His word, nurtured me with His love and caused my heart to bloom with hope. He used my afinity for these simple creations of His to teach me. Like the parables He used to explain the kingdom to His disciples, so are the rose bushes He is using to help me to understand.
There is one tiny white rose in bloom right now on Matthew’s bush and another bud due to burst. The bushes that began my ritual have decided their rest is over and they, too, are ripe with buds. I’m not sure that my time of mourning has fully ended, but I understand that my roots are planted deeply in faith. And God’s love has the power to transform my ugly emptiness into something beautiful and fruitful.