The Eyes of the Beholder

The VerbumQUO for today is "pulchritudo", Latin for "beauty" taken from the Introit of Thursday in Ember Week of Lent as well as the Epistle and Tract for the Mass of today's saint, the holy widow Saint Frances of Rome whose beauty was known only to her husband of 40 years and God.
Michael Cain
Editor, The Daily Catholic

      Editor's Note: This series highlights one word from the Proper of the day's Mass. Taking the Latin Verbum and Quotidianum, which mean respectively "Word" and "Daily", we we have coined the word "Verbumquo" by contracting quotidianum to quo and running it together as VerbumQUO for this feature series, thus "The Daily Word," as in the sum of the message, the 'quotient', if you will. It is also our hope that in choosing the Latin word with its meaning and etimology more will be attuned to hearing the word read at the altar and better comprehend the beauty of the Mother tongue. Hopefully in this Time of Lent we can gain a higher appreciation and contemplation on how the Daily Proper of the Holy Mass applies in our lives in alignment with the will of Christ and His Blessed Immaculate Mother and His Mystical Bride, His Holy Roman Catholic Church.

    The VerbumQUO for today's feast of Saint Frances of Rome is pulchritudo, the Latin word for "beauty" or "loveliness" and is taken from Psalm 95: 6:

      Conféssio et pulchritúdo in conspéctu Ejus: sánctitas, et magnificéntia in sanctificatióne Ejus.
      Praise and beauty are before Him: holiness and majesty in His sanctuary.

    In the Mass Cognovi for a holy woman, which St. Frances of Rome truly was, we see her life depicted so well in the Epistle taken from Proverbs 31: 10-31. The St. Andrew Daily Missal prefaces it thus:

      All the necessary duties and virtues of women are set forth in this Epistle: The valiant woman loves her husband and merits his trust: she is a good housewife, is prudent and industrious, manages cleverly, handles the spindle, the needle and scissors; she possesses wisdom, is charitable in here actions and in her words, and fears God: there is also bestowed upon her the praise of her children and of her husband.
We see this in today's Epistle:
      Mulierem fortem quis inveniet? Procul, et de ultimis finibus pretium ejus. Confidit in ea cor viri sui, et spoliis non indigebit. Reddet ei bonum, vitae suae. Quaesivit lanam et manum suarum. Facta est quasi navis institoris, de longe portans panem suum. Et de nocte surrexit, deditque praeancillis suis. Consideravit argum, et emit eum : de fructum manuum suarum plantavit vineam. Accinxit fortitudine lumbos suos, et roboravit brachium suum. Gustavit, et vidit, quia bona est negotiation ejus : non exstinguetur in nocte lucerna ejus. Manum suam misit ad fortia, et digiti ejus apprehenderunt fusum. Manum suam aperuit inopi, et palmas suas extendit ad pauperem. Non timebit domui suae a frigoribus nivis : omnes enim comestici ejus vestiti sunt duplicibus. Stragulatam vestem fecit sibi : byssus et purpura indumentum ejus. Nobilis in portis vir ejus, Quando sederit cum senatoribus terrae. Sindonem fecit, et vendidit, et cingulum tradidit Chananaeo. Fortitudo et décor indumentum ejus, et riddebit in die novissima. Os suum aperuit sapientiae, et lex clementiae in lingua ejus. Consideravit semitas domus suae, et panem otiose non comedit. Surrexerunt fillii ejus, et beatissimam praedicaverunt : vir ejus, et laudavit eam. Multae filiae congregaveerunt divitas : tu supergressa es universa. Fallax gratia, et vana est pulchritudo : mulier timens Dominum, ipsa laudabitur suarum : et laudent eam in portis opera ejus.
      Who shall find a valiant woman? Far and from the uttermost coasts is the price of her. The heart of her husband trusteth in her, and he shall have no need of spoils. She will render him good, and not evil, all the days of her life. She hath sought wool and flax, and hath wrought by the counsel of her hands. She is like the merchant's ship, she bringeth her bread from afar. And she hath risen in the night, and given a prey to her household, and victuals to her maidens. She hath considered a field, and bought it : with the fruit of her hand she hath planted a vineyard. She hath girded her lions with strength, and hath strengthened her arm. She hath tasted and seen that her traffic is good : her lamp shall not be put out in the night. She hath put out her hand to strong things, and her fingers have taken hold of the spindle. She hath opened her hand to the needy, and stretched out her hands to the poor. She shall not fear for her house in the cold of snow : for all her domestics are clothed with double garments. She hath made for herself clothing of tapestry : fine linen, and purple is her covering. Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land. She made fine linen and sold it, and delivered a girdle to the Chananite. Strength and beauty are her clothing, and she shall laugh in the latter day. She hath opened her mouth to wisdom, and the law of clemency is on her tongue. She hath looked well to the paths of her house, and hath not eaten of her bread idle. Her children rose up, and called her blessed : her husband, and he praised her. Many daughters have gathered together riches : thou hast surpassed them all. Favor is deceitful, and beauty if vain : the woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands : and let her works praise her in the gates.

    Also in today's Tract this is reinforced with Psalm 44: 5 in which the prophet David briefly describes the reward of this innocent beauty dedicated to God's holy will:

      Veni, sponsa Christi, acipe coronam, quam tibi Dominus praepravit in aeternum. V. (Psalm 44: 8, 5) Dilexisti justitiam, et odisti iniquitatem : propterea unxit te Deus, Deus tuus oleolaetitiae prae consortibus tuis. (Psalm 44: 5) Specia tua, et pulchritudine tua intende, prospere procede, et regna.
      Come, spouse of Christ, receive the crown which the Lord hath prepared for thee for ever. V.( Psalm 44: 8, 5) Thou hast loved justice and hated iniquity : therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. V. (Psalm 44: 5) With thy comeliness and thy beauty set out, proceed prosperously and reign.

    Saint Frances of Rome realized her beauty in body, mind and soul came from God and must be directed back to her Creator. That is done through grace - Gratia - and the Gradual and Offertory point this out clearly as does the Epistle today which also calls "beauty" - decor.

    You'll note that from the Latin word pulchritudo we get the English "pulchritude" and "pulchritudinous". Let us look at its etimology and definition by Webster's:

    "pulchritude" - noun "[From the Latin pulchritudo from pulcher beautiful.] Beauty; loveliness." "pulchritudinous" adj. "Endowed with physical beauty."

    The fact that the word "beauty" per se is derived from the Latin bellus which, in effect, is "pretty", shows that the word inspired by the Holy Ghost was more than skin deep prettiness or physical beauty but a "beauty, a loveliness" that sparkled in the eyes of God and in the eyes of those whom one served as a faithful spouse. That is another reason Latin is so important to retain as the Mother tongue for when the vulgar vernacular takes over, misinterpretations seep in so readily as here. The beauty the Scriptures are referring to is both the inner beauty of the person's heart and soul and the outer beauty of that person as perceived by those being served.

   St. Frances of Rome, the mother of nine children, wrote that one time a parish priest berated her for coming late to Mass or not showing up. Respectfully, she replied that the Holy Mass was the most treasured thing in her life and from it came the graces to sustain and strengthen her, but would God be more pleased if she ignored her duties as wife and mother and went to Mass, or would He rather she fulfilled her God-given duties all for the love of Him. "I give God more pleasure and gain more merit by attending my duties for love of Him and offer that as a prayer which the angels take to the holy altar, for were I to neglect my state of life and those I've been entrusted with, I would be cheating God and my family."

    The esteemed Benedictine Abbot Dom Gueranger writes in The Liturgical Year in volume 4 for this feast on St. Frances of why this wonderful holy widow is so perfectly placed in the Church's liturgy during Lent:

    "Her whole life had been spent in the exercise of the highest Christian perfection, and she had ever received from our Lord the sublimest spiritual favors. Her amiable disposition had won for her the love and admiration of her husband and children: the rich venerated here as their model, the poor respected her as their devoted benefactress and mother. God recompensed her angelic virtues by these two special graces: the almost uninterrupted sight of her guardian angel, and the most sublime revelations. But there is one trait of her life, which is particularly striking, and reminds us forcibly of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and of St. Jane Frances Chantal: her austere practices of penance. Such an innocent, and yet such a mortified, life is full of instruction for us. How can we think of murmuring against the obligation of mortification, when we find a saint like this practicing it during her whole life? True, we are not bound to imitate her in the manner of her penance; but penance we must do, if we would confidently approach that God Who readily pardons the sinner when he repents, but whose justice requires atonement and satisfaction."

    As I write this on a day designated as "International Women's Day", I am struck by the beauty of the unsung heroes who bolster the Traditional Catholic movement and that is the wives and mothers who do penance and sacrifice in private, suffer humilities and remarks in silence, mortify themselves for the sake of others, dress their children, care for their physical needs and nourish them in the true Faith, balancing meals, household duties and tending to their husbands who strive with all their might to appreciate the jewels they have in their wives. At every Mass I marvel at the fortitude and beauty of the wives and mothers who accompany their husbands to the Traditional Latin Mass and can juggle so many motherly tasks at once while still devoutly following the Holy Mass; whether they are keeping an eye on the more rambunctious ones in the family who might be so inclined to squirm, while making sure the youngest stays quiet and the older ones are focused on the Mass and not daydreaming. All this and yet the Traditional Catholic mom is still attentive at Mass, and exemplifies to her children how important the Faith is. Children in traditional circles are so much more well behaved and one doesn't have to go far to find out why. It is the harmony of the parish culture with the family unit. Each backs the other in word, deed and purpose. This is something rarely found in Novus Ordo circles where dedicated husbands and wives, fathers and mothers are undermined by the church of leniency and tolerance and the result is a clash of cultures, a clash of values, an embrace of the devil's doings.

    Before I conclude today's VerbumQUO, I want to share from my heart how blessed I have been with a valiant woman of great beauty in the manner of a St. Frances of Rome. I am speaking of my bride of nearly 30 years, my Cyndi who has been my rock in thick and thin, and has exhibited all the virtues described in today's Epistle above. There is no human I trust more for she has my heart, I have no need of spoils or temporal comforts for she is my all. She has always rendered me good and never evil all the days of our lives. By the counsel of her hands she has made a home a home, has cleaned, has baked, cooked and even burned a few things, but always nutritious and delicious and not enough appreciation shown by her husband and children for her tireless efforts of selfless love for her family. I fear many times she has been mortified by me, and yet silence has excelled in her as a virtue. She has been garbed in strength of spirit and heart when the impatience of yours truly or the impetuousness of our sons would tax a lesser human. She stands vigil night and day to comfort and console her family in good times and bad, always in prayer; and, though Parkinson's is beginning to set in, and she suffers greatly with her chronic fibromyalgia which is often "off the charts", still she manages to steady her fingers to sew that loose seam or replace a button, or write a letter of comfort to someone even though her hand aches so. She dresses so modestly and takes great care never to scandalize or use a word that would offend Jesus or Mary, never willingly wanting to tempt anyone but her betrothed and that only enhances her ravishing beauty of great pulchritude in my heart. She stands as the delicate daffodil (her favorite flower), fragile and frail, but with a strength of character that puts those wearing Roman collars and purple to shame for she is simple in her Faith and can explain it so well to others in her quest to bring more to the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church, for her mouth is opened to wisdom, and when she rebukes, charity holds first place out of love for God. While I wait and pray for the day our children will indeed call her blessed rather than, 'hey, Mom, can I have...', I realize it takes grace to appreciate what one has in their midst given by God for His honor and glory. That is why we both never cease our prayers that they will be guided to that grace in God's time and so we plod on in this valley of tears as I realize more each day that all the riches of the world cannot measure up to the treasure I have in my beloved, my wife. No perfect body or coquette wink can distract me from the apple of my eye. To pursue or look at another is vain and dangerous for when one has what God intended, cling to her and never stop thanking God for her works and her loyalty to God and her spouse. Pray for the young men and women that they can find the same caliber of person their parents are in their future spouses. No greater compliment could our sons give us than choosing a wife in the same precious mold as their mother.

    I dare say what I have shared above would also be echoed by every Traditional Catholic husband and father for they, too, realize the prize they have been given and their wives, like St. Frances of Rome, have unbelievable beauty that others may not always see, but to those who know and love with an undying love of God and His divine will, that beauty is more beautiful than anything else one can humanly imagine for the spouse, through the harmony of mind, heart, body and soul, can gain a glimpse of what God sees, for to Him beauty reflects God's grace in the Eyes of the Beholder.

Michael Cain, editor, The Daily Catholic

VerbumQUO for the Feast of St. Frances of Rome