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St. Lawrence of Brindisi

Thu, 07/21/2011 - 00:00

St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619) was a Capuchin priest known for his great scholarship and powerful preaching. His parents died when he was a child, and his uncle arranged for him to study at the College of St. Mark in Venice. At the age of sixteen Lawrence joined the Capuchins (a branch of the Franciscan Order), and in his studies at the University of Padua he showed a remarkable facility for languages, becoming fluent in seven of them. Lawrence was ordained a priest at the age of twenty-three.

His linguistic abilities made it possible for him to study the Bible in the original texts, and he gained a reputation as a Scripture scholar. At the request of the pope, he spent much time preaching to the Jews in Italy, and his knowledge of Hebrew greatly impressed the Jewish rabbis. Though a scholar, Lawrence was also a man of action; he held a number of important positions in the Capuchin order, and was entrusted with various diplomatic and political missions. He preached throughout Europe, particularly to Jews and Lutherans; in 1601 Lawrence gave advice to European generals fighting the Turks in Hungary, and even led troops into battle, armed with a crucifix. However, Lawrence is better known as a peacemaker; he had a great sensitivity to the needs of others, and served as a papal emissary, attempting to negotiate peace treaties between warring kingdoms. While on such a mission to the king of Spain, St. Lawrence contracted a serious illness and died on his sixtieth birthday.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Praxedes (2nd Century): Virgin; assisted Christians during the persecution of the Church under Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180); sister of St. Pudentiana

Blesseds Rita Dolores Pujalte and Francisca Aldea

Wed, 07/20/2011 - 00:00

These two nuns, martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, were beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 10, 1998. The following is excerpted from L’Osservatore Romano, published on the day of their beatification:

Rita Dolores Pujalte Sanchez was born in Aspe, Spain, on February 19, 1853. Her parents, Antonio Pujalte and Luisa Sanchez, gave her and her four siblings a deeply Christian upbringing. As a young girl she was a model of piety and apostolic activity: she belonged to the Daughters of Mary, the Third Order of St. Francis, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and was a catechist as well.

In 1888 she entered the Sisters of Charity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and took her temporary vows two years later. Highly esteemed by her community, she was given positions of increasing responsibility; the foundress, before dying in 1899, recommended that Rita be elected Superior General, which the community did in 1900. Mother Rita served as Superior until 1928, when she retired to devote herself to prayer and contemplation at St. Susanna’s College in Madrid.

Francisca Aldea Araujo was born in Somolinos, Spain, on December 17, 1881. Orphaned at an early age, she was accepted as a boarding student at St. Susanna’s College. At the age of 18 she entered the institute’s novitiate and made her temporary vows in 1903. She was assigned to teaching and fulfilled this task with great dedication until 1916, when she was elected assistant and, later, general secretary. She was at St. Susanna’s College when the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War began.

Their Martyrdom

On July 20, 1936, the revolutionaries attacked St. Susanna’s College, battering the doors and firing shots. All the sisters, aware of the danger, were praying in the chapel; they had recited the Rosary and were commending their souls to God. The superior asked the soldiers to allow Mother Rita, aged 83, blind and infirm, and Sr. Francisca, who was also ill, to leave. The two religious took refuge in a nearby apartment. Two hours later a group of armed revolutionaries dragged the two frail sisters down the stairs, put them in a car and took them to a Madrid suburb, near the town of Canillejas, where they made them get out of the car and then shot them.

The next day the doctors performing the autopsies were astonished that the bodies were not stiff and were emitting an indescribable perfume. When the bodies were exhumed in 1940 to be taken to the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, the doctors and other witnesses said that the bodies were still flexible and retained the color of a living person. Given their reputation for holiness, in 1954 their still-uncorrupted bodies were taken to Villaverde, near Madrid, and placed in a chapel of their institute’s college.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Apollonaris (of Ravenna) (79), Bishop and Martyr, disciple of St. Peter

St. Jerome Emiliani (1537) – Patron Saint of orphans and abandoned children

St. Margaret of Antioch (304) – Virgin and martyr; Patroness of those suffering from kidney disease

St. Arsenius

Tue, 07/19/2011 - 00:00

Although there is some question about his early life, it seems that St. Arsenius was born in Rome around the year 354, became a deacon, and later tutor to the sons of the Emperor Theodosius I of Constantinople. He lived at court amid great wealth and pomp, had splendid apartments, rich clothes, and a host of servants. After ten years of this kind of life, Arsenius began to feel the need to renounce the world and flee to the desert. It is said that he heard a voice saying, “Arsenius, flee the company of men, and thou shalt be saved.”

Around the year 400, Arsenius joined the desert monks at Skete; later he went to Canopus and Troe. He lived the most austere of lives, performed penances, and prayed unceasingly. When told that he had been left a legacy by a relative who was a senator, he refused it saying, “I died eleven years ago and cannot be his heir.” When Arsenius did indeed die, he was 95 years old.

Lessons

St. Arsenius left us with forty-four maxims and moral anecdotes. His sayings give us much food for thought:

Asked one day why he, a learned man, sought the advice of a monk who had no education, he replied, “I am not unacquainted with the learning of the Greeks and the Romans; but I have not yet learned the alphabet of the science of the saints, whereof this seemingly ignorant Egyptian is master.”

Again, when asked why many uneducated Egyptians seemed to make more progress in the ways of virtue than educated men, Arsenius answered, “We make no progress because we dwell in that exterior learning which puffs up the mind; but these illiterate Egyptians have a true sense of their own weakness, blindness, and insufficiency; and by that very thing they are qualified to labor successfully in the pursuit of virtue.”

Employed as many of the monks were in making mats of palm leaves, Arsenius never changed the water in which he moistened the leaves, allowing it to become fetid. He claimed, “I ought to be punished by this smell for the self-indulgence with which I formerly used perfumes.”

His abbot once asked him why he so much shunned the company of the other monks. The saint answered, “God knows how dearly I love you all; but I find I cannot be both with God and with men at the same time; nor can I think of leaving God to converse with men.”

Although St. Arsenius did give spiritual instruction to many of his brethren, he often said, “I have always something to repent for after having talked, but have never been sorry for having been silent.”

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Vincent de Paul (1660), Priest and Founder of the Vincentians, Patron of all charitable societies

St. Frederick (Bishop)

Mon, 07/18/2011 - 00:00

St. Frederick, grandson of King Radbon of the Frisians, was educated by the clergy of the church of Utrecht, and later became a priest known for his great piety and learning. He was placed in charge of instructing catechumens and was eventually elected Bishop of Utrecht around the year 825.

The new bishop at once began to put his diocese in order and sent St. Odulf and other missionaries into the northern parts to dispel the paganism which still existed there. For himself, Frederick reserved the most difficult territory, Walcheren, an island belonging to the Netherlands which was rampant with incestuous marriages. He worked unceasingly to eradicate this evil and brought countless penitents back to God.

During this same period, Frederick was told of immoralities committed by the Empress Judith. The saintly bishop went to the court with the purpose of admonishing her with charity, but only succeeded in incurring the Empress’ ill will.

On July 18, 838, after Frederick had celebrated Mass and was about to make his thanksgiving in a side chapel, he was stabbed by two assassins. He died a few minutes later, reciting the psalm “I will praise the Lord in the land of the living.” One theory claims that the assassins were sent by the Empress in revenge; more likely, however, is that they were sent by some inhabitants of Walcheren who deeply resented the bishop’s evangelization efforts in their territory.

St. Frederick composed a prayer to the Blessed Trinity which for centuries was used in the Netherlands. The reputation of his sanctity appears in a poem in praise of his virtues by Blessed Rabanus Maurus, his contemporary.

Lessons

1. Correcting others with charity is not something most people enjoy doing; however we have our Lord’s admonition to do so in the Gospel of Matthew: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault….” Let us ask Christ for the grace to know when to speak and when to keep silent, and like St. Frederick, not to be afraid of possible retribution when we do speak the truth.

2. Paganism and incest sound like sins of the past that have no bearing today. While they may not worship gods of stone and wood, many today still worship the gods of fame, power, and wealth. Incest may not be as common, but unspeakable sins of the flesh are still rampant. Let us pray to St. Frederick for help in eradicating these evils from our lives and the lives of those around us.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Camillus de Lellis (1614), Priest, Founder, Patron of the sick and nurses

St. Symphorosa and her 7 sons (120), Martyrs

The Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne

Sun, 07/17/2011 - 00:00

In September of 1792, by decree of the French Revolution’s National Assembly, the Carmelites of Compiègne, France, had been cast out of their convent and forced to live as private citizens. Though they had been required to give up their religious habits and wear lay clothes, the nuns bravely continued to follow their Rule and to meet daily to recite communal prayers. This insistence on living out their vows coupled with their refusal to take the oath of allegiance to the new constitution ultimately led to their arrest and imprisonment on June 22, 1794.

Convicted of crimes against the state on July 17, 1794, the sixteen Carmelite nuns met their deaths by the guillotine in Paris. The usually raucous Parisian crowd was utterly silent as the nuns mounted the scaffold singing the Salve Regina and the Veni Creator after having first renewed their vows of baptism and religious profession. The first to go to her death was the novice, Sister Constance (Marie-Geneviève Meunier); the last to die was the Prioress, Mother Teresa of St. Augustine (Madeleine-Claudine Ledoine). The oldest of the nuns at the age of 79 was Sister of Jesus Crucified (Marie-Anne Piedcourt), who said to her executioners, “I forgive you as heartily as I wish God to forgive me.”

The heads and bodies of the martyrs were thrown into a deep sandpit in a cemetery at Picpus. Because this pit contains over 1300 victims of the Revolution, there seems to be no hope of their relics being recovered; however the Benedictine nuns of Stanbrook Abbey, Worcestershire, England, have five articles of the Carmelites’ clothing which was given to members of their order who had been imprisoned with the Carmelites in Paris.

The martyrs of Compiègne have been models of inspiration for all Carmelites, including Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Saint Julie Billiart, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Blessed Titus Brandsma, and Saint Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein). Their story has been the subject of numerous articles, books, a film, and even an opera, Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Alexis the Beggar (5th Century)

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Sat, 07/16/2011 - 00:00

The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the patronal feast of the Carmelite order. Following is an excerpt from the Carmelite Constitutions of 1995:

Mary, overshadowed by the Spirit of God, is the Virgin of the new heart, who gave a human face to the Word made flesh. She is the Virgin of wise and contemplative listening who kept and pondered in her heart the events and the words of the Lord. She is the faithful disciple of wisdom, who sought Jesus, God’s Wisdom and allowed herself to be formed and molded by his Spirit, so that in faith she might be conformed to his ways and choices. Thus enlightened, Mary is presented to us as one able to read “the great wonders” which God accomplished in her for the salvation of the humble and of the poor.

Mary was not only the Mother of Our Lord; she also became his perfect disciple, the woman of faith. She followed Jesus, walking with the disciples, sharing their demanding and wearisome journey — a journey which required, above all, fraternal love and mutual service.

At the marriage feast in Cana, Mary taught us to believe in her Son; at the foot of the Cross, she became Mother to all who believe; with them she experiences the joy of the Resurrection. United with the other disciples “in constant prayer,” she received the first gifts of the Spirit, who filled the earliest Christian community with apostolic zeal.

Mary brings the good news of salvation to all men and women. She is the woman who built relationships, not only within the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, but, beyond that, with the people: with Elizabeth, with the bride and bridegroom in Cana, with the other women, and with Jesus’ “brothers.”

Carmelites see in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and archetype of the Church, the perfect image of all that they want and hope to be. For this reason, Carmelites have always thought of Mary as the Patron of the Order, its Mother and Splendor; she is constantly before their eyes and in their hearts as “the Virgin Most Pure.” Looking to her, and living in spiritual intimacy with her, we learn to stand before God, and with one another, as the Lord’s brothers. Mary lives among us, as mother and sister, attentive to our needs; along with us she waits and hopes, suffers and rejoices.

The scapular is a sign of Mary’s permanent and constant motherly love for Carmelite brothers and sisters. By their devotion to the scapular, faithful to a tradition in the Order, especially since the 16th century, Carmelites express the loving closeness of Mary to the people of God; it is a sign of consecration to Mary, a means of uniting the faithful to the Order, and an effective and popular means of evangelization.

St. Bonaventure (Bishop and Doctor)

Fri, 07/15/2011 - 00:00

St. Bonaventure (1221-1274) was a great Franciscan bishop and theologian. He was born in the town of Bagnorea in central Italy, and as a youth was cured of a serious illness through the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi. This, and the fact that one of his teachers at the University of Paris was a Franciscan, prompted Bonaventure to join the Franciscan order.

He remained in Paris for many years, preaching and teaching theology and Scripture; in 1257 both he and St. Thomas Aquinas (the great Dominican theologian) received the degree of Doctor of Theology. Some opponents of the Franciscans attacked the lifestyle of the monks; along with Aquinas, Bonaventure defended them, and in 1257 he was chosen general minister, or head, of the order. Bonaventure implemented many reforms during his seventeen years of leadership, and became known as the “second founder” of the order (after St. Francis himself).

In 1265 Bonaventure was nominated as bishop of York by the pope, but declined the position. Eight years later he was appointed cardinal of Albano; his humility is illustrated by the story that, when the pope’s messengers brought the red cardinal’s hat to him, he asked them to hang it on a nearby tree, as his hands were still wet and greasy from doing the dishes. St. Bonaventure wrote many works of theology, philosophy, and mysticism, and died in 1274.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Henry II (1024), Emperor

Blessed Simon of Lipnicza (1482), Priest and Religious

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Thu, 07/14/2011 - 00:00

Known as the “Lily of the Mohawks,” the American Indian Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) was born near the banks of the Mohawk River in modern-day New York State (close to the spot where the French Jesuit missionaries Saints René Goupil, Isaac Jogues, and Jean de la Lande had been martyred a few years earlier). When Kateri was four, her parents and brother died from smallpox; she survived the disease, but it left her with a pock-marked face and partial blindness. Kateri became skilled at sewing and decorating leather moccasins and clothing, but the relatives who raised her treated her little better than a slave girl.

When three Jesuit missionaries visited her village, Kateri was assigned to care for one of them. She herself was too shy to ask for religious instruction, but one of the priests, noticing her piety, came to her and spoke of Jesus. Kateri was delighted; she took instruction, and was baptized in 1676. Because she thereafter refused to work on Sundays, her relatives accused her of laziness and disrespect, and treated her severely. This, and the harsh penances she practiced, seriously affected Kateri’s health, but she responded to every difficulty with love and patience.

In 1677, helped by other sympathetic Indians, she escaped to a Catholic settlement near Montreal; two years later she made a vow of perpetual virginity — something unheard of for an Indian maiden. Though only twenty-four, Kateri became very weak, and died on April 17, 1680 during Holy Week. Immediately afterwards, her pock-marked face took on a new beauty, and she was buried on Holy Thursday.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Bonaventure (1274), Bishop and Doctor of the Church

St. Francis Solano (1610), Priest, Franciscan Missionary

St. Henry II (Emperor)

Wed, 07/13/2011 - 00:00

The son of the Duke of Bavaria (a region of southern Germany), St. Henry (973-1024) was educated by the Bishop of Ratisbon, St. Wolfgang, and in 995 he succeeded his father as duke. Otto III, the Holy Roman Emperor (ruler of Germany and northern Italy), was his cousin, and upon Otto’s death in 1002, Henry was elected to succeed him (though he wasn’t officially crowned as emperor by the pope until 1014).

Throughout his reign Henry sought to strengthen the German monarchy and to help reform and reorganize the Church. He built a cathedral in Bamberg, which later became an important religious site; he established monasteries, arranged for the care of the poor, and supported the religious reforms of his friend St. Odilo of Cluny and the other monks of the monastery at Cluny in France. Henry was particularly active in promoting Benedictine monasticism following his miraculous cure from illness at the Benedictine abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy. In all these activities Henry was supported by his wife, St. Cunegund. St. Henry was a great ruler and an example of a Christian statesman and soldier; he died in 1024, and was canonized in 1146.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Mildred (700), Abbess

St. John Gualbert

Tue, 07/12/2011 - 00:00

John Gualbert (or Gualberto) was born in Florence around the year 993. Born into a noble family, John lived a life of leisure and amusement while he trained to be a soldier. Tragedy struck while he was still a young man: His older brother Hugo was murdered, and John made it his mission to avenge the murder. His chance came on a Good Friday when he came face to face with the man he had been seeking. He drew his sword to cut him down, but the murderer threw himself on his knees and begged for mercy in the name of our Lord’s passion. As John hesitated, he was reminded of the forgiveness our Lord showed to His enemies. He sheathed his sword, embraced the man, and forgave him.

After this life-changing incident, John continued to the Benedictine monastery of San Miniato del Monte to pray. While praying before a crucifix, he was suddenly filled with divine grace, and asked the abbot for permission to enter. Despite the abbot’s misgivings over the anger of John’s parents, he allowed John to enter the order, and soon John was making great progress in virtue.

After a few years, however, John left the monastery to become a hermit at Camaldoli, later founding his own order, the Vallumbrosans, following the primitive rule of St. Benedict. He stressed charity and poverty, and for the first time a monastic order admitted lay brothers to take on the manual labor and free the choir monks for contemplation and prayer.

John never became a priest or even took minor orders. He founded several more monasteries, reformed others, and succeeded in eradicating the vice of simony from his part of the country. He died July 12, 1073, at around 80 years of age. He is considered the patron of park rangers because the land on which the original monastery was located had been barren and wild until John and his monks turned it into a veritable parkland by planting numerous trees and shrubs.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Nabor and Felix (303), Martyrs

St. Veronica of the Veil (1st Century)

St. Benedict

Mon, 07/11/2011 - 00:00

The founder of the Benedictine Order, St. Benedict (ca. 480-547) came from a distinguished Italian family (his sister was St. Scholastica). He studied in Rome as a young man, but disturbed by the city’s sinful and chaotic nature, he chose to live as a hermit at the age of twenty. Soon afterward some monks asked Benedict to be their leader; though this initial experiment failed (as the monks were upset by Benedict’s high standards, and even tried to poison him), the saint was enthusiastic over the idea of monasticism: hermits or monks living together in a community, combining contemplation, work, and shared prayer.

Benedict organized twelve small communities, and in 529 established the famous monastery of Monte Cassino (with his sister establishing a religious community for women nearby). The Benedictine Rule emphasizes ora et labora (“pray and work”); under Benedict’s version of monastic life, a religious community devoted itself to prayer, study, and manual labor, living together under the leadership of an abbot. Benedict’s rule is characterized by moderation (unlike some early Christian movements, which stressed severe acts of self-discipline), and Benedict himself, in spite of his high standards, was a gentle and peaceable man. The saint performed many miracles, and when he died, he was buried in the same grave as his sister St. Scholastica. The monasteries established under his influence played a vital role in preserving learning and culture during the Dark Ages, and the Rule of Benedict has guided many monks and religious up to the present day.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Pius I (167), Pope and Martyr

Saints Antony and Theodosius

Sun, 07/10/2011 - 00:00

Antony and his successor, Theodosius, are credited with being the founders of Russian monasticism. The monastery they founded in Kiev was not the first monastery in Russia, but it was the first established by Russians for Russians.

Saint Antony, born in the Ukraine, was a hermit at Mount Athos around 1028 when his abbot sent him back to Russia where he built a hermitage at Kiev on the Dnieper River. His wisdom and holiness attracted followers and eventually the Caves of Kiev were built on land granted by Prince Syaslav. Antony established another monastery at Chernigov but returned to his cave at Kiev and lived there for the rest of his life.

Antony’s work was continued by Theodosius, the son of well-to-do parents, who had become a monk at the Caves of Kiev in 1032. When he became abbot, he replaced Antony’s austere way of monastic life with a more moderate approach and stressed the need for corporal works of mercy as well as prayer and mortification. He expanded the monastery, adding a hospital and hostel, and the Caves of Kiev eventually developed into a great monastery.

Other Saints We Remember Today

The 7 Holy Brothers (2nd Century) and Saints Rufina and Secunda (257), Martyrs

St. Ulric (973), Bishop of Augsburg

The 19 Martyrs of Gorkum

Sat, 07/09/2011 - 00:00

On July 9, 1572, nineteen priests and religious were put to death by hanging at Briel, the Netherlands. They had been captured in Gorkum on June 26 by a band of Calvinist pirates called the Watergeuzen (sea-beggars) who were opposed to the Catholicism of the Spanish princes of the country.

During their imprisonment, the priests were tortured, subjected to countless indignities, and offered their freedom if they would deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the primacy of the pope. Despite a letter from Prince William of Orange ordering their release and protests from the magistrates of Gorkum, the men were thrown half-naked into the hold of a ship on July 6, and taken to Briel to be killed in the presence of a Protestant nobleman, Admiral Lumey, who was noted for his hatred of Catholicism. Their bodies, mutilated both before and after death, were callously thrown into a ditch.

The scene of the martyrdom soon became a place of pilgrimage. Accounts of several miracles, performed through the martyrs’ intercession and relics, were used for their beatification. Most of their relics are kept in the Franciscan church at Brussels to which they were secretly conveyed from Briel in 1616.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Augustine Zhao Rong , Priest, Martyr, and Companions, (1815) Chinese Martyrs

St. Maria Goretti (1902), Virgin and Martyr [This is her traditional feast day in some areas.]

St. John Fisher (1535), Bishop and Martyr

St. Thomas More (1535), Martyr

Blessed Adrian Fortescue

Fri, 07/08/2011 - 00:00

Adrian Fortescue was born in 1476 to an old, respected Devonshire family at Punbourne, England, and was a cousin of Anne Boleyn. A country gentleman, he was married twice and had two daughters by his first marriage and three sons by the second. He became a Dominican tertiary at Oxford, was a knight of the Bath, and was in frequent attendance at the royal court. He also served as a justice of the peace for Oxford County, fought in France in 1513 and 1523, was in Queen Catherine’s retinue on her trip to Calais, and attended Anne Boleyn at her coronation, even though he opposed Henry VIII’s divorce and remarriage. For all his honors, however, he lived for the most part a quiet life in the country, thrifty in business, careful with his accounts, and a collector of homely wit and wisdom. He was also deeply religious.

His orderly, peaceful life ended when, by a whim of King Henry VIII, Sir Adrian was arrested on August 29, 1534, with no reason being given for the arrest. He was released in the spring of the following year but was again arrested February 3, 1539, after he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy, which declared the King of England the “Supreme Head of the Church of England.” He was sent to the Tower of London and condemned in April for treason, but what the treason was never was stated. The decree against him, however, went on to call for the death of Cardinal Pole and several others because they “adhered themselves to the Bishop of Rome” and it is a commonly held belief that Sir Adrian died for the same reason. He was beheaded in July 1539 along with Venerable Thomas Dingley at Tower Hill, London. He was beatified in 1895 and has always had a following by the Knights of St. John, the order of which Sir Adrian was a member.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Elizabeth of Portugal (1336), Queen

St. Grimbald (903), Abbot of Newminster

St. Kilian (689), Bishop and Martyr

Blessed Ralph Milner and Roger Dickenson

Thu, 07/07/2011 - 00:00

These two men lived in England at a time when the practice of one’s Catholic faith meant imprisonment and possible execution. Ralph Milner was an elderly, illiterate farmer, the father of eight children, from Flacstead, Hampshire. He was brought up as a Protestant but was so impressed by the lives of his Catholic neighbors that he took instructions and was received into the Catholic Faith. On the very day of his First Communion, he was arrested for having changed his religion and imprisoned in the Winchester jail.

Farmer Milner’s behavior in prison was such that he gained the respect and trust of the prison guards and so was granted frequent parole during which he could come and go at will. He made use of these times to see to the spiritual and temporal needs of his fellow prisoners and to aid and escort undercover Catholic priests. This is how he came into contact with the secular priest, Father Roger Dickenson (sometimes spelled Dicconsen).

Father Dickenson was a native of Lincoln who had studied for the priesthood in Rheims, France. In 1583 he was sent on a mission to England and was imprisoned soon afterwards but managed to escape when his guards got drunk. He was not so fortunate the second time he was arrested, this time with Ralph Milner who had been escorting him around the local villages. The two men were put under close confinement at the Winchester jail; Father Dickenson was charged with the crime of being a Catholic priest, Ralph Milner for aiding him.

At their trial, the judge took pity on the elderly farmer and made several attempts to set him free, urging him to merely visit a Protestant church as a matter of form. Since to Ralph Milner this would have been tantamount to renouncing his new-found Faith, he refused, saying that he could not “embrace a counsel so disagreeable to the maxims of the gospel.”

On July 7, 1591, the day of execution, Ralph Milner’s children were escorted to the gallows, begging him to renounce his Faith and so save his life, but again he refused. He gave them his final blessing, declaring that “he could wish them no greater happiness than to die for the like cause.” The two men were hanged, drawn, and quartered; it is said that they faced their deaths calmly and with great courage.

Lessons

1. We may think that the days of dying for one’s faith are over, but a look at the news from around the world shows that it’s as much a reality today as it was in Ralph Milner and Roger Dickenson’s time. Let us pray fervently for the priests, religious, and lay people throughout the world who are suffering and dying for their Catholic Faith.

2. Ralph Milner was a simple, uneducated man who offered his help wherever he saw the need. Think of the wonderful example he set for his children, not only in his aid to his fellow prisoners and to priests, but in the inspiring example of his steadfastness in his Faith, in his loyalty to God. May all fathers today follow in his footsteps and teach their children by their own example of living always in the Truth.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Cyril and Methodius (885), Bishops, brothers, Apostoles of Moravia, Bohemia, and Bulgaria

St. Willibald (786), Bishop

St. Maria Goretti

Wed, 07/06/2011 - 00:00

Maria Goretti was born on October 16, 1890 in Corinaldo, Italy, to Luigi Goretti and Assunta Carlini. The Gorettis were a poor family who worked as sharecroppers in the Pontine marshes. Along with their six children, they lived with Luigi’s partner Signor Serenelli and his teen aged son Allesandro, whose mother had died.

Maria’s father died when she was just nine, so she assumed many of the household responsibilities while her mother worked in the fields. She cared for her siblings and the Serenellis, all in perfect charity. Her cheerful nature was well-known in Pontine, where most children her age would play in the dusty streets. Though unable to read and write, Maria knew and loved Jesus and Mary, and one of the most important events of her life was her First Holy Communion, for which she diligently prepared.

Because Allesandro had worked with sailors on the waterfront of Ancona, he was very worldly. His worldly outlook led to many inappropriate comments to Maria, as well as a sinful desire to be with her physically, though she was only eleven years old. On July 5, 1902, Maria was alone at the house. Allesandro propositioned her once more, and Maria bravely told him, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” and pleaded, for his salvation, that he would let her go. In his rage, Allesandro instead stabbed Maria 14 times. She lived for 20 hours in great pain, forgiving her attacker before she breathed her last.

Allesandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison. During his prison sentence, he fully repented of the crime after seeing a vision of Maria surrounded by lilies and forgiving him.

Allesandro and Maria’s mother, Assunta, were together almost fifty years later on June 24, 1950, when Pope Pius XII pronounced Maria Goretti a Saint and Martyr of the Universal Church to half a million people at St. Peter’s in Rome. He proposed her as the Patroness of Modern Youth and set July 6th as her feast Day, making her the youngest officially canonized Roman Catholic saint.

Lessons

When Allesandro was released from prison, he went to live in the Capuchin convent of Macerata. He left the following testimony , dated May 5, 1961, which bears witness to the importance of avoiding pornography and the negative impact of much of the media, so prevalent in our times:

I’m nearly 80 years old. I’m about to depart.

Looking back at my past, I can see that in my early youth, I chose a bad path which led me to ruin myself.

My behavior was influenced by print, mass-media and bad examples which are followed by the majority of young people without even thinking. And I did the same. I was not worried.

There were a lot of generous and devoted people who surrounded me, but I paid no attention to them because a violent force blinded me and pushed me toward a wrong way of life.

When I was 20 years-old, I committed a crime of passion. Now, that memory represents something horrible for me. Maria Goretti, now a Saint, was my good Angel, sent to me through Providence to guide and save me. I still have impressed upon my heart her words of rebuke and of pardon. She prayed for me, she interceded for her murderer. Thirty years of prison followed.

If I had been of age, I would have spent all my life in prison. I accepted to be condemned because it was my own fault.

Little Maria was really my light, my protectress; with her help, I behaved well during the 27 years of prison and tried to live honestly when I was again accepted among the members of society. The Brothers of St. Francis, Capuchins from Marche, welcomed me with angelic charity into their monastery as a brother, not as a servant. I’ve been living with their community for 24 years, and now I am serenely waiting to witness the vision of God, to hug my loved ones again, and to be next to my Guardian Angel and her dear mother, Assunta.

I hope this letter that I wrote can teach others the happy lesson of avoiding evil and of always following the right path, like little children. I feel that religion with its precepts is not something we can live without, but rather it is the real comfort, the real strength in life and the only safe way in every circumstance, even the most painful ones of life.

Signature,

Alessandro Serenelli

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Godleva (1070), Martyr

St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria

Tue, 07/05/2011 - 00:00

St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria was born in Cremona, Italy, in 1502. His father died while Anthony was an infant, leaving his education and upbringing to his young mother, a widow at 18. By age 22, Anthony completed his studies in Padua earning a medical doctorate. However, the medical practice was not to be his calling. He was instead called to heal souls. Anthony received Holy Orders in 1528, and worked with the poor and the sick.  He was also a spiritual director and reformer. As a contemporary of Martin Luther, his reformations instead focused to build up the Body of Christ rather than to cause division and strife.

One means to reform was his founding of the Clerks Regular of St. Paul, commonly known as the Barnabites. This Religious Order was the first named after Paul the Apostle. Through his order, St. Anthony promoted a reformation program involving the combined strengths and experiences of Priests — The Clerics Regular of St. Paul, Uncloistered nuns — The Angelics of St. Paul, and Married people — The Marrieds of St. Paul (laity). Though the Laity of St. Paul diminished after St. Anthony’s death, the order experienced resurgence in the 1990s.

St. Anthony’s reforms included special devotion to the Eucharist and Christ Crucified. According to the Barnabite’s website ,

To promote devotion to Christ Crucified Anthony Mary instituted the practice of the tolling of church bells at 3 p.m. every Friday in remembrance of Christ’s death on the cross.

He also advised people to make the cross of Christ the object of constant meditation, reflecting often on “the book that records the sweet memory of the cross of Christ ” (Letter XI ).

Anthony Mary promoted devotion to the Eucharistic Christ in the form of the Forty Hours devotion, public and solemn adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by turn in various city churches, which he first celebrated in Milan in 1537. He also promoted frequent Holy Communion.

Severe voluntary penances and continual labors of charity took their toll, and St. Anthony died at age 37. His body was found incorrupt 27 years after his death in 1539; however, due to changes in the canonization process, his solemn canonization was delayed until 1897 when Pope Leo XIII canonized him in St. Peter’s in Rome.

Lessons

Like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria recognized the importance and ability of all people, religious and laity, to build up the Body of Christ. Let each of us strive to follow Christ, like St. Paul, St. Barnabas, and St. Anthony Mary Zaccaria, while recognizing our need for continual reform and renewal.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Anthanasius the Anthonite (1003), Abbot

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

Mon, 07/04/2011 - 00:00

St. Elizabeth of Portugal was born in 1271, the daughter of Pedro III who would become king of Aragon. Isabel, the Spanish version of her name by which she is known in Portuguese history, was named for her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Like St. Elizabeth of Hungary, she followed the rule of life as a Third Order Franciscan after the death of her husband, living near a convent of Poor Clares she had founded at Coimbra.

From her youth, Elizabeth was a devout child who attended daily mass, prayed regularly, and fasted. These practices of piety and devotion equipped her with the strength and fortitude she would need when she was married at age 12 to Denis, King of Portugal. Though Denis was fond of his young wife, he did not share her piety and often strayed into sin, resulting in several illegitimate children. These children were lovingly cared for by Elizabeth along with her own two children, her daughter Constantia and son Affonso. This fact caused strife when Affonso felt slighted for the illegitimate children. Elizabeth served as peacemaker between her son and husband, resulting in their ultimate reconciliation.

This mediation was just one of many times Elizabeth was called upon for her ability to help feuding parties come to peace and resolution. The final time would be when her son, now king, headed for a battle he should not wage. The target of Affonso’s wrath this time was his own son-in-law. Elizabeth successfully reconciled the two parties, but as she was aged and suffering illness, the exertion took its toll on her physically. She died peacefully in 1336, urging her son to love holiness and peace.

Lessons

One miraculous event in St. Elizabeth’s life involved gossip and two pages. The first page was jealous of the second, so he lied to the king and accused the latter of having a relationship with the queen. King Denis was infuriated, and ordered the death of the innocent page. The king instructed the lime-burner to throw into his furnace the first page that came to him. The innocent page was sent to the lime-burner, but he regularly attended daily mass and stopped for mass along the way. However, he arrived late, so stayed on for the next mass. When the king sent the dishonest page to confirm the death of the innocent page, he was instead the first to arrive, and was thrown into the furnace. Denis realized the err in his judgment, sought his wife’s forgiveness, and began a new life of holiness before his death.

Both the page and St. Elizabeth attended daily mass, and their constant devotion to Our Lord protected and sustained them in their respective stations in life. We, too, should try to attend mass as frequently as possible, since closeness to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament will give us the strength we need in our stations in life.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Commemoration of All Holy Popes

Our Lady of Refuge

St. Theodore (310), Bishop, Martyr

St. Thomas the Apostle

Sun, 07/03/2011 - 00:00

St. Thomas, Apostle and Martyr, is best known as “Doubting Thomas,” but his faith and personality were much deeper than his doubts.

In John’s Gospel, we learn more about Thomas’ character than we do about most of the other Twelve Apostles. Through Thomas’ outspoken nature, much is revealed about him, and about Our Lord. First, when Jesus announced His intention of returning to Judea to visit Lazarus, “Thomas” who is called Didymus [the twin], said to his fellow disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16).

During the conversation before the Last Supper, St. Thomas raised an objection: Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:5-7)

These words of Jesus, first directed to Thomas, are a major tenet of the Catholic Faith.

St. Thomas is most often associated with his skepticism when the other Apostles announced Christ’s Resurrection to him.

But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (John 20:24-29).

St. Thomas is also recognized as the apostle who baptized the Magi. After the Magi held the Holy Infant, the Blessed Mother gave them some of His baby clothes to bring back to the East as relics. The Magi returned to the East, to Persia, and in the year 40 A.D., were baptized there by Saint Thomas the Apostle. All three Magi, Saint Gaspar, Saint Melchior and Saint Balthasar, were martyred for the Catholic Faith.

St. Thomas, too, died as a martyr, stabbed with a spear in India, 72 A.D. He is the patron of architects; blind people; construction workers; Ceylon; East Indies; geometricians; India; masons; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; stone masons; stonecutters; surveyors; theologians; and against doubt.

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,

Let our prayer today be that of St. Thomas, upon seeing you truly present in our midst in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, may we proclaim in our hearts and on our lips, “My Lord and my God.”

Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Irenaeus (203), Bishop, Martyr

St. Leo II (683), Pope

St. Bernardino Realino

Sat, 07/02/2011 - 00:00

Bernardino Realino was born into a noble family of Capri, Italy, in 1530. After an excellent Christian education received at home from his mother, he went on to study medicine and law at the University of Bologna, receiving his doctorate in law in 1556. A brilliant young man, Bernardino was soon on the road to success: at the tender age of 26, he was elected mayor as well as judge of the town of Felizzano. From there he became head tax collector in Alessandria, then elected mayor of Cassine, followed by his election as mayor of Castellone. Word of his learning, dedication, and legal brilliance spread throughout Italy, and the marquis of Naples named him superintendent of all his fiefs.

While in Naples, Bernardino, now 34 years old, met some priests of the relatively new Society of Jesus and made an eight-day retreat with them. During this retreat he felt a strong call to the religious life and asked the Jesuits for admittance into their Society. He was accepted and ordained a priest in 1567.

From that time on Bernardino devoted his life to the care of the poor and sick, to teaching the Faith to young people, and to ministering to galley slaves. He was appointed novice master while in Naples and remained in that city for ten years until he was sent to the south of Italy to the town of Lecci where he had been requested to found a college. He spent the rest of his life in Lecci where he was hailed as a saint during his lifetime, not only because of his powerful example as a preacher, confessor, and teacher, but also because of the many miracles he performed by the power of God. One of the miracles attributed to Bernardino was in regard to a small pitcher of wine which did not give out until everyone present had had their fill.

Six years before his death at the age of 86, Bernardino fell and sustained two wounds which never healed. During his final illness, blood was taken from one of the leg wounds and placed in glass vials. After his death, the blood appeared to boil and foam and retained its liquid state until well into the mid-nineteenth century.

So devoted were the people of Lecci to their saint, the magistrates of the town visited Bernardino on his deathbed and formally requested that he take the city under his patronage after his death. Unable to speak, Bernardino nodded his head, dying soon afterwards with the names of Jesus and Mary on his lips. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947 and is to this day considered the Patron of Lecci.

Lessons

1. In his late twenties, Bernardino Realino was already a mover and shaker of his time with everything going for him in the way of success. He gave it all up, however, the moment he heard the call from God to become a priest. Here we have an example of a rich young man who this time made the right decision, who gave it all up to follow Jesus, finding his treasure in heaven rather than in the world.

2. St. Bernardino Realino dedicated much of his life to teaching young people the Faith. Remembering that young people are the future of the Church, let us pray to St. Bernardino that all those who teach the young will do so under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit and so lead our youth to a true understanding and love of their Catholic faith.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth

Saints Processus and Matinian (67), Martyrs

St. Peter (304), Exorcist, Martyr

The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.