Tuesday, August 28, 2007



Temperance may remind one of abstaining from alcohol, but the Latin word's origin "to restrain" more properly refers to our bodily well-being in mind and body. St. John Vianney tells us in his Catechism on the Cardinal Virtues:

"Temperance is another cardinal virtue: we can be temperate in the use of our imagination, by not letting it gallop as fast as it would wish; we can be temperate with our eyes, temperate with our mouth -- some people constantly have something sweet and pleasant in their mouth; we can be temperate with our ears, not allowing them to listen to useless songs and conversation; temperate in smelling -- some people perfume themselves to such a degree as to make those about them sick; temperate with the hands -- some people are always washing them when it is hot, and handling things that are soft to the touch. . . . In short, we can practice temperance with our whole body, this poor machine, by not letting it run away like a horse without bit or bridle, but checking it and keeping it down. Some people lie buried there, in their beds; they are glad not to sleep, that they may the better feel how comfortable they are. The saints were not like that. I do not know how we are ever to get where they are. . . . Well! if we are saved, we shall stay infinitely long in Purgatory, while they will fly straight to Heaven to see the good God.

" That great saint, Saint Charles Borromeo (Editor's note: Feast Day is Nov.4), had in his apartment a fine cardinal's bed, which everybody saw; but, besides that, there was one which nobody could see, made of bundles of wood; and that was the one he made use of. He never warmed himself; when people came to see him, they remarked that he placed himself so as not to feel the fire. That is what the saints were like. They lived for Heaven, and not for earth; they were all heavenly; and as for us, we are all earthly. Oh, how I like those little mortifications that are seen by nobody, such as rising a quarter of an hour sooner, rising for a little while in the night to pray! but some people think of nothing but sleeping. There was once a solitary who had built himself a royal palace in the trunk of an oak tree; he had placed thorns inside of it, and he had fastened three stones over his head, so that when he raised himself or turned over he might feel the stones or the thorns. And we, we think of nothing but finding good beds, that we may sleep at our ease. We may refrain from warming ourselves; if we are sitting uncomfortably, we need not try to place ourselves better; if we are walking in our garden, we may deprive ourselves of some fruit that we should like; in preparing the food, we need not eat the little bits that offer themselves; we may deprive ourselves of seeing something pretty, which attracts our eyes, especially in the streets of great towns. There is a gentleman who sometimes comes here. He wears two pairs of spectacles, that he may see nothing. . . . But some heads are always in motion, some eyes are always looking about. . . . When we are going along the streets, let us fix our eyes on Our Lord carrying His Cross before us; on the Blessed Virgin, who is looking at us; on our guardian angel, who is by our side. How beautiful is this interior life! It unites us with the good God. . . . Therefore, when the devil sees a soul that is seeking to attain to it, he tries to turn him aside from it by filling his imagination with a thousand fancies. A good Christian does not listen to that; he goes always forward in perfection, like a fish plunging into the depths of the sea. . . . As for us, Alas! we drag ourselves along like a leech in the mud." (1)


Feast Day: September 1

Patron of Disabled Persons, Mentally Ill, Epileptics, Breast Cancer, and Edinburgh, Scotland

One of the 14 Holy Helpers

St. Giles lived a very ascetic life as a humble hermit in France in the 7th Century. He had left his native land of Greece and a well-to-do family, after he felt he was attracting too much attention to himself. He must have chosen this life as a hermit to better love and serve the Lord. St. Giles was known to have lived in a forest cave whose entrance was guarded by a thick thorn bush. Legend tells us that he dined only on herbs and milk, the latter was provided by a deer that appeared at stated times each day to nourish him.

His solitary life would have offered him little creature comforts, and he evidentally sought none. When he left Greece, he had already chosen this path. It is told that after his parents died, he gave away his wealth to the needy. Then in order not to receive adulation and rewards, he traveled to the Rhone River Valley where he would be completely unknown. (2)

"One day after he had lived there for several years in meditation, a royal hunting party chased the hind (deer) into Giles' cave. One hunter shot an arrow into the thorn bush, hoping to hit the deer, but hit Giles in the leg instead, crippling him. The king sent a doctor to care for saint's wound, and though Giles begged to be left alone, the king came often to see him. From this his fame as sage and miracle worker spread, and would-be followers gathered near the cave. The French king, Flavius, because of his admiration, built the monastery of Saint Gilles du Gard for these followers, and Giles became its first abbot, establishing his own discipline there. A small town grew up around the monastery.

"Upon Giles' death, his grave became a shrine and place of pilgrimage; the monastery later became a Benedictine house. The combination of the town, monastery, shrine and pilgrims led to many handicapped beggars hoping for alms; this and Giles' insistence that he wished to live outside the walls of the city, and his own damaged leg, led to his patronage of beggars, and to cripples since begging was the only source of income for many. Hospitals and safe houses for the poor, crippled, and leprous were constructed in England and Scotland and were built so crippled could reach them easily. On their passage to Tyburn for execution, convicts were allowed to stop at Saint Giles' Hospital where they were presented with a bowl of ale called Saint Giles' Bowl, 'thereof to drink at their pleasure, as their last refreshing in this life.' Once in Scotland during the 17th Century his relics were stolen from a church and a great riot occurred. In Spain, shepherds consider Giles the protector of rams. It was formerly the custom to wash the rams and color their wool a bright shade on Giles' feast day, tie lighted candles to their horns, and bring the animals down the mountain paths to the chapels andchurches to have them blessed. Among the Basques, the shepherds come down from the Pyrenees on 1 September, attired in full costume, sheepskin coats, staves, and crooks, to attend Mass with their best rams, an event that marks the beginning of autumn festivals, marked by processions and dancing in the fields." (3)

St. Giles sought obscurity; but, in the Lord's plan, St. Giles was to become so venerated that many places have been named after him. In France there are 15 such locations and at least one in Brussels. One hundred and sixty-two churches in England have been dedicated to him and 14 hospitals carry his name. He is invoked for assistance as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers by persons suffering from epilepsy, insanity, and sterility. (4)


Dearest Lord, teach me to make the most of what I have, to be grateful for who I am, to remind me each and every day that I am able in spirit, able in mind, able in love. Guide me in using my abilities so that I may serve you. Amen (5)


If anyone loves righteousness, Wisdom's labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage. Wisdom 8:7

Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart. Sirach 5:2

Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites. Sirach 18:30

The grace of God has appeared, offering salvation to all men. It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age as we await our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of the great God and of our Saviour Christ Jesus. Titus 2:11-13

1. Catechism on the Cardinal Virtues, John Mary Vianney

4. Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives (Group 1, Card 22)

5. Op Cit.