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#1608 Oct 4, 2012
(ctd. from previous post)

Comment:
Francis of Assisi was poor only that he might be Christ-like. He recognized creation as another manifestation of the beauty of God. In 1979, he was named patron of ecology. He did great penance (apologizing to "Brother Body" later in life) that he might be totally disciplined for the will of God. His poverty had a sister, humility, by which he meant total dependence on the good God. But all this was, as it were, preliminary to the heart of his spirituality: living the gospel life, summed up in the charity of Jesus and perfectly expressed in the Eucharist.

Quote:
"We adore you and we bless you, Lord Jesus Christ, here and in all the churches which are in the whole world, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world" (St. Francis).

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#1609 Oct 5, 2012
Friday, October 05, 2012
St. Maria Faustina Kowalska
(1905-1938)

St. Maria Faustina's name is forever linked to the annual feast of the Divine Mercy (celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter), the divine mercy chaplet and the divine mercy prayer recited each day by many people at 3 p.m.
Born in what is now west-central Poland (part of Germany before World War I), Helena was the third of 10 children. She worked as a housekeeper in three cities before joining the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925. She worked as a cook, gardener and porter in three of their houses.

In addition to carrying out her work faithfully, generously serving the needs of the sisters and the local people, she also had a deep interior life. This included receiving revelations from the Lord Jesus, messages that she recorded in her diary at the request of Christ and of her confessors.

At a time when some Catholics had an image of God as such a strict judge that they might be tempted to despair about the possibility of being forgiven, Jesus chose to emphasize his mercy and forgiveness for sins acknowledged and confessed.“I do not want to punish aching mankind,” he once told St. Maria Faustina,“but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart”(Diary 1588). The two rays emanating from Christ's heart, she said, represent the blood and water poured out after Jesus' death (Gospel of John 19:34)

Because Sister Maria Faustina knew that the revelations she had already received did not constitute holiness itself, she wrote in her diary:“Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God”(Diary 1107).

Sister Maria Faustina died of tuberculosis in Krakow, Poland, on October 5, 1938. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993 and canonized her seven years later.

Comment:
Devotion to God's Divine Mercy bears some resemblance to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In both cases, sinners are encouraged not to despair, not to doubt God's willingness to forgive them if they repent. As Psalm 136 says in each of its 26 verses,“God's love [mercy] endures forever.”

Quote:
Four years after Faustina's beatification, Pope John Paul II visited the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy at Lagiewniki (near Krakow) and addressed members of her congregation. He said:“The message of divine mercy has always been very close and precious to me. It is as though history has written it in the tragic experience of World War II. In those difficult years, this message was a particular support and an inexhaustible source of hope, not only for those living in Krakow, but for the entire nation. This was also my personal experience, which I carried with me to the See of Peter and which, in a certain sense, forms the image of this pontificate. I thank divine providence because I was able to contribute personally to carrying out Christ's will, by instituting the feast of Divine Mercy. Here, close to the remains of Blessed Faustina, I thank God for the gift of her beatification. I pray unceasingly that God may have 'mercy on us and on the whole world' "(Quote from the Chaplet of Divine Mercy).

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#1610 Oct 7, 2012
Sunday, October 07, 2012
Our Lady of the Rosary


Pope St. Pius V established this feast in 1573. The purpose was to thank God for the victory of Christians over the Turks at Lepanto—a victory attributed to the praying of the rosary. Clement XI extended the feast to the universal Church in 1716.
The development of the rosary has a long history. First, a practice developed of praying 150 Our Fathers in imitation of the 150 Psalms. Then there was a parallel practice of praying 150 Hail Marys. Soon a mystery of Jesus' life was attached to each Hail Mary. Though Mary's giving the rosary to St. Dominic is recognized as a legend, the development of this prayer form owes much to the followers of St. Dominic. One of them, Alan de la Roche, was known as "the apostle of the rosary." He founded the first Confraternity of the Rosary in the 15th century. In the 16th century the rosary was developed to its present form—with the 15 mysteries (joyful, sorrowful and glorious). In 2002, Pope John Paul II added the Mysteries of Light to this devotion.

Comment:
The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—his birth, life, death and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus' Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glorys remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.
The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.

Quote:
“The rosary, though clearly Marian in character, is at heart a Christ-centered prayer. It has all the depth of the gospel messge in its entirety. It is an echo of the prayer of Mary, her perennial Magnificat for the work of the redemptive Incarnation which began in her virginal womb.... It can be said that the rosary is, in some sense, a prayer-commentary on the final chapter of the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium, a chapter that discusses the wondrous presence of the Mother of God in the mystery of Christ and the Church" (Pope John Paul II, apostolic letter The Rosary of the Virgin Mary).

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#1611 Oct 11, 2012
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Blessed Angela Truszkowska
(1825-1899)

Today we honor a woman who submitted to God's will throughout her life—a life filled with pain and suffering.
Born in 1825 in central Poland and baptized Sophia, she contracted tuberculosis as a young girl. The forced period of convalescence gave her ample time for reflection. Sophia felt called to serve God by working with the poor, including street children and the elderly homeless in Warsaw's slums. In time, her cousin joined her in the work.

In 1855, the two women made private vows and consecrated themselves to the Blessed Mother. New followers joined them. Within two years they formed a new congregation, which came to be known as the Felician Sisters. As their numbers grew, so did their work, and so did the pressures on Mother Angela (the new name Sophia took in religious life).

Mother Angela served as superior for many years until ill health forced her to resign at the age of 44. She watched the order grow and expand, including missions to the United States among the sons and daughters of Polish immigrants.

Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993.


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#1612 Oct 12, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
St. Seraphin of Montegranaro
(1540-1604)

Born into a poor Italian family, young Seraphin lived the life of a shepherd and spent much of his time in prayer. Mistreated for a time by his older brother after the two of them had been orphaned, Seraphin became a Capuchin Franciscan at age 16 and impressed everyone with his humility and generosity.
Serving as a lay brother, Seraphin imitated St. Francis in fasting, clothing and courtesy to all. He even mirrored Francis' missionary zeal, but Seraphin's superiors did not judge him to be a candidate for the missions.

Faithful to the core, Seraphin spent three hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament daily. The poor who begged at the friary door came to hold a special love for him. Despite his uneventful life, he reached impressive spiritual heights and has had miracles attributed to him.

Seraphin died on October 12, 1604, and was canonized in 1767.

Comment:
For many people these days, work has no significance beyond providing the money they need to live. How many share the belief expressed in the Book of Genesis that we are to cooperate with God in caring for the earth? The kind of work Seraphin did may not strike us as earth-shattering. The work was ordinary; the spirit in which he did it was not.

Quote:
In Brothers of Men, Rene Voillaume of the Little Brothers of Jesus speaks about ordinary work and holiness: "Now this holiness [of Jesus] became a reality in the most ordinary circumstances of life, those of work, of the family and the social life of a village, and this is an emphatic affirmation of the fact that the most obscure and humdrum human activities are entirely compatible with the perfection of the Son of God." Christians are convinced, he says, "that the evangelical holiness proper to a child of God is possible in the ordinary circumstances of a man who is poor and obliged to work for his living."

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#1613 Oct 13, 2012
Saturday, October 13, 2012
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
(1647-1690)

Margaret Mary was chosen by Christ to arouse the Church to a realization of the love of God symbolized by the heart of Jesus.
Her early years were marked by sickness and a painful home situation. "The heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering." After considering marriage for some time, Margaret entered the Order of Visitation nuns at the age of 24.

A Visitation nun was "not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary," but the young nun was not to enjoy this anonymity. A fellow novice (shrewdest of critics) termed Margaret humble, simple and frank, but above all kind and patient under sharp criticism and correction. She could not meditate in the formal way expected, though she tried her best to give up her "prayer of simplicity." Slow, quiet and clumsy, she was assigned to help an infirmarian who was a bundle of energy.

On December 21, 1674, three years a nun, she received the first of her revelations. She felt "invested" with the presence of God, though always afraid of deceiving herself in such matters. The request of Christ was that his love for humankind be made evident through her. During the next 13 months he appeared to her at intervals. His human heart was to be the symbol of his divine-human love. By her own love she was to make up for the coldness and ingratitude of the world—by frequent and loving Holy Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour's vigil of prayer every Thursday night in memory of his agony and isolation in Gethsemane. He also asked that a feast of reparation be instituted.

Like all saints, Margaret had to pay for her gift of holiness. Some of her own sisters were hostile. Theologians who were called in declared her visions delusions and suggested that she eat more heartily. Later, parents of children she taught called her an impostor, an unorthodox innovator. A new confessor, St. Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit, recognized her genuineness and supported her. Against her great resistance, Christ called her to be a sacrificial victim for the shortcomings of her own sisters, and to make this known.

After serving as novice mistress and assistant superior, she died at the age of 43 while being anointed. "I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the heart of Jesus."

Comment:
Our scientific-materialistic age cannot "prove" private revelations. Theologians, if pressed, admit that we do not have to believe in them. But it is impossible to deny the message Margaret Mary heralded: that God loves us with a passionate love. Her insistence on reparation and prayer and the reminder of final judgment should be sufficient to ward off superstition and superficiality in devotion to the Sacred Heart while preserving its deep Christian meaning.

Quote:
Christ speaks to St. Margaret Mary: "Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love.... I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament" (Third apparition).

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#1614 Oct 14, 2012
Sunday, October 14, 2012
St. Callistus I
(d. 223?)

The most reliable information about this saint comes from his enemy St. Hippolytus, an early antipope, later a martyr for the Church. A negative principle is used: If some worse things had happened, Hippolytus would surely have mentioned them.
Callistus was a slave in the imperial Roman household. Put in charge of the bank by his master, he lost the money deposited, fled and was caught. After serving time for a while, he was released to make some attempt to recover the money. Apparently he carried his zeal too far, being arrested for brawling in a Jewish synagogue. This time he was condemned to work in the mines of Sardinia. He was released through the influence of the emperor's mistress and lived at Anzio (site of a famous World War II beachhead).

After winning his freedom, Callistus was made superintendent of the public Christian burial ground in Rome (still called the cemetery of St. Callistus), probably the first land owned by the Church. The pope ordained him a deacon and made him his friend and adviser.

He was elected pope by a majority vote of the clergy and laity of Rome, and thereafter was bitterly attacked by the losing candidate, St. Hippolytus, who let himself be set up as the first antipope in the history of the Church. The schism lasted about 18 years.

Hippolytus is venerated as a saint. He was banished during the persecution of 235 and was reconciled to the Church. He died from his sufferings in Sardinia. He attacked Callistus on two fronts—doctrine and discipline. Hippolytus seems to have exaggerated the distinction between Father and Son (almost making two gods) possibly because theological language had not yet been refined. He also accused Callistus of being too lenient, for reasons we may find surprising:(1) Callistus admitted to Holy Communion those who had already done public penance for murder, adultery, fornication; (2) he held marriages between free women and slaves to be valid—contrary to Roman law; (3) he authorized the ordination of men who had been married two or three times; (4) he held that mortal sin was not a sufficient reason to depose a bishop; (5) he held to a policy of leniency toward those who had temporarily denied their faith during persecution.

Callistus was martyred during a local disturbance in Trastevere, Rome, and is the first pope (except for Peter) to be commemorated as a martyr in the earliest martyrology of the Church.

Comment:
The life of this man is another reminder that the course of Church history, like that of true love, never did run smooth. The Church had to (and still must) go through the agonizing struggle to state the mysteries of the faith in language that, at the very least, sets up definite barriers to error. On the disciplinary side, the Church had to preserve the mercy of Christ against rigorism while still upholding the gospel ideal of radical conversion and self-discipline. Every pope—indeed every Christian—must walk the difficult path between "reasonable" indulgence and "reasonable" rigorism.

Quote:
His contemporaries, Jesus said, were "like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.' For John [the Baptist] came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'" (Matthew 11:16b-19a).

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#1615 Oct 15, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
St. Teresa of Avila
(1515-1582)

Teresa lived in an age of exploration as well as political, social and religious upheaval. It was the 16th century, a time of turmoil and reform. She was born before the Protestant Reformation and died almost 20 years after the closing of the Council of Trent.
The gift of God to Teresa in and through which she became holy and left her mark on the Church and the world is threefold: She was a woman; she was a contemplative; she was an active reformer.

As a woman, Teresa stood on her own two feet, even in the man's world of her time. She was "her own woman," entering the Carmelites despite strong opposition from her father. She is a person wrapped not so much in silence as in mystery. Beautiful, talented, outgoing, adaptable, affectionate, courageous, enthusiastic, she was totally human. Like Jesus, she was a mystery of paradoxes: wise, yet practical; intelligent, yet much in tune with her experience; a mystic, yet an energetic reformer. A holy woman, a womanly woman.

Teresa was a woman "for God," a woman of prayer, discipline and compassion. Her heart belonged to God. Her ongoing conversion was an arduous lifelong struggle, involving ongoing purification and suffering. She was misunderstood, misjudged, opposed in her efforts at reform. Yet she struggled on, courageous and faithful; she struggled with her own mediocrity, her illness, her opposition. And in the midst of all this she clung to God in life and in prayer. Her writings on prayer and contemplation are drawn from her experience: powerful, practical and graceful. A woman of prayer; a woman for God.

Teresa was a woman "for others." Though a contemplative, she spent much of her time and energy seeking to reform herself and the Carmelites, to lead them back to the full observance of the primitive Rule. She founded over a half-dozen new monasteries. She traveled, wrote, fought—always to renew, to reform. In her self, in her prayer, in her life, in her efforts to reform, in all the people she touched, she was a woman for others, a woman who inspired and gave life.

Her writings, especially the Way of Perfection and The Interior Castle, have helped generations of believers.

In 1970, the Church gave her the title she had long held in the popular mind: doctor of the Church. She and St. Catherine of Siena were the first women so honored.

Comment:
Ours is a time of turmoil, a time of reform and a time of liberation. Modern women have in Teresa a challenging example. Promoters of renewal, promoters of prayer, all have in Teresa a woman to reckon with, one whom they can admire and imitate.

Quote:
Teresa knew well the continued presence and value of suffering (physical illness, opposition to reform, difficulties in prayer), but she grew to be able to embrace suffering, even desire it: "Lord, either to suffer or to die." Toward the end of her life she exclaimed: "Oh, my Lord! How true it is that whoever works for you is paid in troubles! And what a precious price to those who love you if we understand its value."


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#1616 Oct 16, 2012
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
St. Marguerite d’Youville
(1701-1771)

We learn compassion from allowing our lives to be influenced by compassionate people, by seeing life from their perspective and reconsidering our own values.
Born in Varennes, Canada, Marie Marguerite Dufrost de Lajemmerais had to interrupt her schooling at the age of 12 to help her widowed mother. Eight years later she married Francois d'Youville; they had six children, four of whom died young. Despite the fact that her husband gambled, sold liquor illegally to Native Americans and treated her indifferently, she cared for him compassionately before his death in 1730.

Even though she was caring for two small children and running a store to help pay off her husband's debts, Marguerite still helped the poor. Once her children were grown, she and several companions rescued a Quebec hospital that was in danger of failing. She called her community the Institute of the Sisters of Charity of Montreal; the people called them the "Grey Nuns" because of the color of their habit. In time, a proverb arose among the poor people of Montreal, "Go to the Grey Nuns; they never refuse to serve." In time, five other religious communities traced their roots to the Grey Nuns.

The General Hospital in Montreal became known as the Hotel Dieu (House of God) and set a standard for medical care and Christian compassion. When the hospital was destroyed by fire in 1766, she knelt in the ashes, led the Te Deum (a hymn to God's providence in all circumstances) and began the rebuilding process. She fought the attempts of government officials to restrain her charity and established the first foundling home in North America.

Pope John XXIII, who beatified her in 1959, called her the "Mother of Universal Charity." She was canonized in 1990.

Comment:
Saints deal with plenty of discouragement, plenty of reasons to say, "Life isn't fair" and wonder where God is in the rubble of their lives. We honor saints like Marguerite because they show us that, with God's grace and their cooperation, suffering can lead to compassion rather than to bitterness.

Quote:
"More than once the work which Marguerite undertook was hindered by nature or people. In order to work to bring that new world of justice and love closer, she had to fight some hard and difficult battles" (John Paul II, canonization homily).

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#1617 Oct 17, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
St. Ignatius of Antioch
(d. 107?)

Born in Syria, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became bishop of Antioch. In the year 107, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to choose between death and apostasy. Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome.
Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from Antioch to Rome. Five of these letters are to Churches in Asia Minor; they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors. He warns them against heretical doctrines, providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith.

The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith. The final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom. "The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ."

Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus.

Comment:
Ignatius's great concern was for the unity and order of the Church. Even greater was his willingness to suffer martyrdom rather than deny his Lord Jesus Christ. Not to his own suffering did Ignatius draw attention, but to the love of God which strengthened him. He knew the price of commitment and would not deny Christ, even to save his own life.

Quote:
"I greet you from Smyrna together with the Churches of God present here with me. They comfort me in every way, both in body and in soul. My chains, which I carry about on me for Jesus Christ, begging that I may happily make my way to God, exhort you: persevere in your concord and in your community prayers" (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Church at Tralles).

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#1618 Oct 18, 2012
Thursday, October 18, 2012
St. Luke


Luke wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospel writers. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him "our beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). His Gospel was probably written between A.D. 70 and 85.
Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion. "Only Luke is with me," Paul writes (2 Timothy 4:11).

Comment:
Luke wrote as a Gentile for Gentile Christians. This Gospel reveals Luke's expertise in classic Greek style as well as his knowledge of Jewish sources.
The character of Luke may best be seen by the emphases of his Gospel, which has been given a number of subtitles:(1) The Gospel of Mercy: Luke emphasizes Jesus' compassion and patience with the sinners and the suffering. He has a broadminded openness to all, showing concern for Samaritans, lepers, publicans, soldiers, public sinners, unlettered shepherds, the poor. Luke alone records the stories of the sinful woman, the lost sheep and coin, the prodigal son, the good thief.(2) The Gospel of Universal Salvation: Jesus died for all. He is the son of Adam, not just of David, and Gentiles are his friends too.(3) The Gospel of the Poor: "Little people" are prominent—Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, Simeon and the elderly widow, Anna. He is also concerned with what we now call "evangelical poverty." (4) The Gospel of Absolute Renunciation: He stresses the need for total dedication to Christ.(5) The Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit: He shows Jesus at prayer before every important step of his ministry. The Spirit is bringing the Church to its final perfection.(6) The Gospel of Joy: Luke succeeds in portraying the joy of salvation that permeated the primitive Church.

Quote:
"Then [Jesus] led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24:50-53).

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#1619 Oct 19, 2012
Friday, October 19, 2012
St. Isaac Jogues, John de Brébeuf and Companions


Isaac Jogues (1607-1646): Isaac Jogues and his companions were the first martyrs of the North American continent officially recognized by the Church. As a young Jesuit, Isaac Jogues, a man of learning and culture, taught literature in France. He gave up that career to work among the Huron Indians in the New World, and in 1636 he and his companions, under the leadership of John de Brébeuf, arrived in Quebec. The Hurons were constantly warred upon by the Iroquois, and in a few years Father Jogues was captured by the Iroquois and imprisoned for 13 months. His letters and journals tell how he and his companions were led from village to village, how they were beaten, tortured and forced to watch as their Huron converts were mangled and killed.
An unexpected chance for escape came to Isaac Jogues through the Dutch, and he returned to France, bearing the marks of his sufferings. Several fingers had been cut, chewed or burnt off. Pope Urban VIII gave him permission to offer Mass with his mutilated hands: "It would be shameful that a martyr of Christ be not allowed to drink the Blood of Christ." Welcomed home as a hero, Father Jogues might have sat back, thanked God for his safe return and died peacefully in his homeland. But his zeal led him back once more to the fulfillment of his dreams. In a few months he sailed for his missions among the Hurons.

In 1646 he and Jean de Lalande, who had offered his services to the missioners, set out for Iroquois country in the belief that a recently signed peace treaty would be observed. They were captured by a Mohawk war party, and on October 18 Father Jogues was tomahawked and beheaded. Jean de Lalande was killed the next day at Ossernenon, a village near Albany, New York.

The first of the Jesuit missionaries to be martyred was René Goupil who, with Lalande, had offered his services as an oblate. He was tortured along with Isaac Jogues in 1642, and was tomahawked for having made the Sign of the Cross on the brow of some children.

Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649): Jean de Brébeuf was a French Jesuit who came to Canada at the age of 32 and labored there for 24 years. He went back to France when the English captured Quebec (1629) and expelled the Jesuits, but returned to his missions four years later. Although medicine men blamed the Jesuits for a smallpox epidemic among the Hurons, Jean remained with them.

He composed catechisms and a dictionary in Huron, and saw 7,000 converted before his death. He was captured by the Iroquois and died after four hours of extreme torture at Sainte Marie, near Georgian Bay, Canada.

Father Anthony Daniel, working among Hurons who were gradually becoming Christian, was killed by Iroquois on July 4, 1648. His body was thrown into his chapel, which was set on fire.

Gabriel Lalemant had taken a fourth vow—to sacrifice his life to the Indians. He was horribly tortured to death along with Father Brébeuf.

Father Charles Garnier was shot to death as he baptized children and catechumens during an Iroquois attack.

Father Noel Chabanel was killed before he could answer his recall to France. He had found it exceedingly hard to adapt to mission life. He could not learn the language, the food and life of the Indians revolted him, plus he suffered spiritual dryness during his whole stay in Canada. Yet he made a vow to remain until death in his mission.

These eight Jesuit martyrs of North America were canonized in 1930.

(ctd. on next post)

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#1620 Oct 19, 2012
(ctd. from previous post)

Comment:
Faith and heroism planted belief in Christ's cross deep in our land. The Church in North America sprang from the blood of martyrs. Are we as eager to keep that cross standing in our midst? Do we bear witness to deep-seated faith in us, the Good News of the cross (redemption) into our home, our work, our social world?

Quote:
"My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings" (from a letter of Isaac Jogues to a Jesuit friend in France, September 12, 1646, a month before he died).

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#1621 Oct 20, 2012
Saturday, October 20, 2012
St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin
(1888-1922)

If anyone knew rejection, ridicule and disappointment, it was today’s saint. But such trials only brought Maria Bertilla Boscardin closer to God and more determined to serve him.
Born in Italy in 1888, the young girl lived in fear of her father, a violent man prone to jealousy and drunkenness. Her schooling was limited so that she could spend more time helping at home and working in the fields. She showed few talents and was often the butt of jokes.

In 1904 she joined the Sisters of St. Dorothy and was assigned to work in the kitchen, bakery and laundry. After some time Maria received nurses’ training and began working in a hospital with children suffering from diphtheria. There the young nun seemed to find her true vocation: nursing very ill and disturbed children. Later, when the hospital was taken over by the military in World War I, Sister Maria Bertilla fearlessly cared for patients amidst the threat of constant air raids and bombings.

She died in 1922 after suffering for many years from a painful tumor. Some of the patients she had nursed many years before were present at her canonization in 1961.

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#1622 Oct 21, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
St. Hilarion
(c. 291-371)

Despite his best efforts to live in prayer and solitude, today’s saint found it difficult to achieve his deepest desire. People were naturally drawn to Hilarion as a source of spiritual wisdom and peace. He had reached such fame by the time of his death that his body had to be secretly removed so that a shrine would not be built in his honor. Instead, he was buried in his home village.
St. Hilarion the Great, as he is sometimes called, was born in Palestine. After his conversion to Christianity he spent some time with St. Anthony of Egypt, another holy man drawn to solitude. Hilarion lived a life of hardship and simplicity in the desert, where he also experienced spiritual dryness that included temptations to despair. At the same time, miracles were attributed to him.

As his fame grew, a small group of disciples wanted to follow Hilarion. He began a series of journeys to find a place where he could live away from the world. He finally settled on Cyprus, where he died in 371 at about age 80.

Hilarion is celebrated as the founder of monasticism in Palestine. Much of his fame flows from the biography of him written by St. Jerome.

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#1623 Oct 22, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012
Blessed Pope John Paul II
1920-2005

“Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978.

Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology.

Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin.

Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong!

He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Appointed as archbishop of Krakow in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later.

Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations.

He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria.

The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope.

“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, Redeemer of the Human Race. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.”

His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that.

One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier.

In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people.

In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities.

Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II on May 1, 2011, Divine Mercy Sunday.

(ctd. on next post)

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#1624 Oct 22, 2012
(ctd. from previous post)

Comment:
Before John Paul’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Square, hundreds of thousands of people had waited patiently for a brief moment to pray before his body, which lay in state inside St. Peter’s for several days. The media coverage of his funeral was unprecedented.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then dean of the College of Cardinals and later Pope Benedict XVI, presided at the funeral Mass and concluded his homily by saying:“None of us can ever forget how, in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi [‘to the city and to the world’].

“We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the Father’s house, that sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”

Quote:
In his 1999 Letter to the Elderly, Pope John Paul II wrote:“Grant, O Lord of life,...when the moment of our definitive ‘passage’ comes, that we may face it with serenity, without regret for what we shall leave behind. For in meeting you, after having sought you for so long, we shall find once more every authentic good which we have known here on earth, in the company of all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith and hope....Amen.”

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#1625 Oct 23, 2012
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
St. John of Capistrano
(1386-1456)

It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events.
Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times.

John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later.

His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion.

The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance.

He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement.

When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to the infection bred by the refuse of battle. He died October 23, 1456.

Comment:
John Hofer, a biographer of John Capistrano, recalls a Brussels organization named after the saint. Seeking to solve life problems in a fully Christian spirit, its motto was: "Initiative, Organization, Activity." These three words characterized John's life. He was not one to sit around, ever. His deep Christian optimism drove him to battle problems at all levels with the confidence engendered by a deep faith in Christ.

Quote:
On the saint's tomb in the Austrian town of Villach, the governor had this message inscribed: "This tomb holds John, by birth of Capistrano, a man worthy of all praise, defender and promoter of the faith, guardian of the Church, zealous protector of his Order, an ornament to all the world, lover of truth and religious justice, mirror of life, surest guide in doctrine; praised by countless tongues, he reigns blessed in heaven." That is a fitting epitaph for a real and successful optimist.

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#1626 Oct 24, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
St. Anthony Claret
(1807-1870)

The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council.
In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers.

He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians.

He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for stamping out concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: Reflections on Agriculture and Country Delights.

He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony.

All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets.

At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.

Comment:
Jesus foretold that those who are truly his representatives would suffer the same persecution as he did. Besides 14 attempts on his life, Anthony had to undergo such a barrage of the ugliest slander that the very name Claret became a byword for humiliation and misfortune. The powers of evil do not easily give up their prey. No one needs to go looking for persecution. All we need to do is be sure we suffer because of our genuine faith in Christ, not for our own whims and imprudences.

Quote:
Queen Isabella II once said to Anthony, "No one tells me things as clearly and frankly as you do." Later she told her chaplain, "Everybody is always asking me for favors, but you never do. Isn't there something you would like for yourself?" He replied, "Yes, that you let me resign." The queen made no more offers.

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#1627 Oct 25, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
St. Antônio de Sant’Anna Galvão
(1739-1822)

God’s plan in a person’s life often takes unexpected turns which become life-giving through cooperation with God’s grace.
Born in Guarantingueta near São Paulo (Brazil), Antônio attended the Jesuit seminary in Belem but later decided to become a Franciscan friar. Invested in 1760, he made final profession the following year and was ordained in 1762.

In São Paulo, he served as preacher, confessor and porter. Within a few years he was appointed confessor to the Recollects of St. Teresa, a group of nuns in that city. He and Sister Helena Maria of the Holy Spirit founded a new community of sisters under the patronage of Our Lady of the Conception of Divine Providence. Sister Helena Maria’s premature death the next year left Father Antônio responsible for the new congregation, especially for building a convent and church adequate for their growing numbers.

He served as novice master for the friars in Macacu and as guardian of St. Francis Friary in São Paulo. He founded St. Clare Friary in Sorocaba. With the permission of his provincial and the bishop, he spent his last days at the Recolhimento de Nossa Senhora da Luz, the convent of the sisters’ congregation he had helped establish.

He was beatified in Rome on October 25, 1998, and canonized in 2007.

Comment:
Holy women and men cannot help calling our attention to God, to God’s creation and to all the people whom God loves. The lives of holy people are so oriented toward God that this has become their definition of "normal." Do people see my life or yours as a living sign of God’s steadfast love? What might have to change for that to happen?

Quote:
During the beatification homily, Pope John Paul II quoted from the Second Letter to Timothy (4:17), "The Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully," and then said that Antônio "fulfilled his religious consecration by dedicating himself with love and devotion to the afflicted, the suffering and the slaves of his era in Brazil." The pope continued, "His authentically Franciscan faith, evangelically lived and apostolically spent in serving his neighbor, will be an encouragement to imitate this ‘man of peace and charity.’"

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