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Updated: 5 years 42 weeks ago

Blessed Junípero Serra

Fri, 07/01/2011 - 00:00

Miguel José Serra was born November 24, 1713 on the Spanish island of Majorca. At 17, he joined the Franciscans and took the name Junípero after St. Francis’ much-loved friend. He was ordained a priest in 1737 and became a well-known theologian and professor of philosophy when, at the age of 36, he decided to join the Franciscan mission to the New World in 1749. At this time, Spanish cultural and religious influence was widespread throughout the urban areas of Mexico (called “New Spain”), but the outlying areas were still uncharted and wild and considered missionary territory.

On his arrival in the New World, Fray Serra’s first assignment was to the rugged, mountainous region of Sierra Gorda. Here he remained for nine years, preaching to the Indians and strengthening the two missions already established in the area. His second assignment was to journey out from Mexico City into coastal villages and mining camps. In those eight years, despite severe asthma and a leg chronically infected and ulcerated after an insect bite, he walked over 6,000 miles on foot, preaching retreats and administering the sacraments.

In 1767 when the King of Spain banished the Jesuit Society from his dominions, the thirteen Jesuit missions in Baja California were suddenly left unstaffed. Junípero Serra, now 54, was appointed the new Superior of Baja California, and within several years he was requested to move into Alta California (the current State of California). Serra joined the expedition of Don Gaspar de Portola who had been ordered by the Spanish king to explore and occupy new territory. Fray Serra reached San Diego on June 27, 1769 and founded there the first mission, today known as Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá. In the next fifteen years, Junípero Serra established nine of the 21 missions of California, each a one-day walk apart (about 30 miles), and linked by a dirt road called El Camino Real (The King’s Road).

Junípero Serra personally oversaw the planning, construction, and staffing of each mission from his headquarters at Mission San Carlos Borromeo in Carmel. From Carmel he traveled on foot to the other missions along the California coast to supervise mission work and to confer the sacrament of Confirmation. Biographers estimate that, still bothered by his infected leg, Serra walked more than 24,000 miles in California alone — more than the journeys of Marco Polo and Lewis and Clark combined. He kept with determination to his motto, “Always to go forward and never to turn back.”

Fray Serra’s first concern was always for his missionary flock, California’s native Americans. He introduced them to efficient agricultural and irrigation systems as well as to a system of trade between the various missions; he pressed the Spanish government for a system of law to protect them against the abuses of Spanish soldiers; and he created a network of roads, making trade and transportation easier for them.

Junípero Serra’s devotion to his mission did not end with his death at Carmel, August 28, 1784. A few hours before he died, he said, “I promise that if the Lord in His Infinite mercy grants me eternal happiness — which I do not deserve because of my faults — that I shall pray for all and for the conversion of so many pagans whom I leave unconverted.”

Junípero Serra, who is known as the “Apostle of California” was beatified by Pope John Paul II in September 1988. A statue of his likeness stands in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., and his body lies beneath the sanctuary at Mission San Carlos Borromeo, Carmel. Many of his letters and other writings have survived, and the diary of his travels was published in the early 20th century. He is also the namesake of the Serra Club, an international Catholic organization dedicated to the promotion of vocations.

Lessons

1. Despite the intense suffering he endured from his asthma and infected leg, Blessed Junípero still practiced mortifications and various forms of self-denial. In this day when we run from any kind of suffering, let us ask the Holy Spirit for an understanding of the great value of suffering both for our own souls and for the entire Body of Christ.

2. We live in an age of indifference in which Blessed Junípero’s missionary zeal must seem not only incomprehensible, but completely uncalled for. But it is this very lack of comprehension, this indifference, that makes it so necessary for every one of us to become missionaries, to spread the Word of God throughout this world that seems to have forgotten Him.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Oliver Plunket, Bishop and Martyr (1681)


First Martyrs of Rome

Thu, 06/30/2011 - 00:00

In the first few decades after the death and resurrection of Jesus in 30 A.D., Christianity began spreading throughout the Roman Empire, and before long reached the city of Rome itself. Because Christians were at first considered by the Romans to be merely a sect of Judaism, they were tolerated, but the mysterious nature of the Christians’ beliefs and practices made them a target for prejudice and suspicion.

In 64 a major fire devastated the city of Rome, and the rumor quickly spread that the Emperor Nero had himself ordered it so as to make room for the expansion of his palace. To divert attention from himself, Nero accused the Christians. According to the contemporary historian Tacitus, few Romans actually believed the Christians to be guilty of arson; nevertheless, large numbers of them were arrested, mocked, and cruelly tortured before being executed. Some were dressed as animals and then thrown to wild dogs for the entertainment of the crowd in the amphitheater; others were covered with flammable material, impaled on stakes, and set afire to provide light for the evening feasts Nero held in the imperial gardens; still others were crucified.

Lessons

1. Even when Christians are innocent of sin or illegality, they may still be subject to persecution or mistreatment by state authorities.

2. Those who, by following Christ, reject the ultimate authority and values of this world, may easily find themselves resented, misunderstood, and persecuted (Mt 24:9-10; Jn 15:18-19).

3. Innocence often brings out the worst in persons inclined toward evil; they may go out of their way to oppose true followers of Christ, treating them with extreme cruelty. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit will strengthen and sustain those who are committed to Christian discipleship.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Commemoration of St. Paul (65), Apostle

Saints Peter and Paul

Wed, 06/29/2011 - 00:00

Saints Peter and Paul were the two greatest Apostles, and the two most important leaders of the early Church. Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen, and followed Jesus throughout His public ministry. Saul of Tarsus (who changed his name to Paul upon becoming a Christian) was originally a Pharisee who persecuted the early Church before his conversion. Peter was largely uneducated; Paul’s careful education helped him become one of the greatest religious thinkers of all history, as his numerous New Testament writings attest.

Peter was directly appointed by Christ in the presence of the other Apostles (Mt 16:18-19); Paul received his authority from Christ during a personal conversion and spiritual experience (Acts 22:6-10, 14-16). Both men considered themselves to be profoundly unworthy (Lk 5:8; 1 Cor 15:9). Each was capable of fulfilling his mission only through Christ’s grace (Lk 22:31-32; 2 Cor 12:7-10).

Peter and especially Paul helped the Church realize that the gospel was to be shared not only with the Jews, but with the whole world. According to legend, Peter was crucified upside-down in Rome during Nero’s persecution about the year 64; Paul, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded around the year 67.

St. Irenaeus (Bishop and Martyr)

Tue, 06/28/2011 - 00:00

St. Irenaeus (130?-202) was one of the most important theologians in the early Church. He was born in the city of Smyrna (in modern-day Turkey) and, as a youth, became a disciple of St. Polycarp. He went to Gaul (modern-day France) and, during the persecution of the Church by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, became a priest in the city of Lyons.

After becoming Bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus was instrumental in leading the fight against the heresy of Gnosticism. The Gnostics claimed that only those who had secret knowledge, and who renounced all material things as evil (including the human body), could be saved. Irenaeus opposed them by developing the concept of apostolic succession (in which Church teaching is guaranteed to be authentic when Church leaders can trace their authority back to the Apostles), and by emphasizing the incarnational principle (which states that God’s creation is good, and that He can use physical or material items as a source of grace).

Though he vigorously opposed heresy, Irenaeus remained gentle and personally concerned for the spiritual well-being of his opponents. He is said to have been martyred during the persecution of the Emperor Septimus Severus, though details are unknown.

Lessons

1. As St. Irenaeus realized, submission to the legitimate authority of the Church is an important way of knowing the truth and conforming ourselves to God’s will.

2. According to Irenaeus, material and earthly things (money, power, authority, etc.) are not necessarily bad; they can be morally neutral, and even a source of blessing and grace when used for God’s glory.

3. Even as we oppose error by correcting those who practice it and limiting their power to promote it, we must remain personally concerned with our opponents’ spiritual well-being, seeking their conversion above all else, as St. Irenaeus did with the Gnostics of his day.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Vigil of Saints Peter and Paul

St. Cyril of Alexandria

Mon, 06/27/2011 - 00:00

St. Cyril of Alexandria (376?-444) was a very strong-willed and controversial bishop and theologian. He was the nephew of the Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt (an important religious center), and in 412 he succeeded his uncle in this position. The early part of Cyril’s episcopacy was impulsive and often violent; in his zeal for orthodoxy Cyril closed the churches of schismatics, drove Jews out of the city and confiscated their property, quarreled with the imperial prefect, and antagonized local monastic groups.

However, Cyril gradually learned to control his volatile but well-meaning temper, and as he modified his abrupt ways, he provided important leadership to the Church, particularly during the Nestorian controversy. The heretical teaching of Nestorianism claimed that Mary is not the Mother of God, but only the Mother of Christ.

At the Council of Ephesus in 431, Cyril presided as the pope’s representative; Nestorianism was condemned, and — because Jesus is equally God and man — Mary was solemnly declared to be the Mother of God. St. Cyril died in 444; he is best known for his many writings on scripture and theology, and it was in recognition of these that Pope Leo XIII in 1882 declared him to be a Doctor (an eminent and reliable teacher) of the Church.

Lessons

1. Even persons with great faults or weaknesses — such as a fierce temper — are called to holiness. St. Cyril had to change his harsh and overly-zealous style; once he did so, with the help of divine grace, he became a worthy and valuable servant of God and the Church.

2. Cyril recognized that honoring Mary is also a way of honoring her Son, and claiming Mary as the Mother of God acknowledges Jesus’ divinity; this insight has always been preserved by the Church.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Our Lady of Perpetual Help (13th Century)

St. Ladislaus (1095), King of Hungary

St. Josemaría Escrivá

Sun, 06/26/2011 - 00:00

Josemaría Escrivá was born in Barbastro, Spain, on January 9, 1902. At a young age, he felt a calling to the priesthood and to some other unknown work that the Lord had planned for him. After his ordination in 1925, he went to Madrid where, while on retreat in 1928, he finally realized what God wanted him to do: To bring about the sanctification of the laity through their ordinary duties of everyday life. And so, with the permission of his bishop, he founded the organization, Opus Dei (which means “the Work of God”), and for the rest of his life devoted all his energies to the fulfillment of his mission.

As he worked to carry out his apostolate to the laity, Fr. Escrivá continued his priestly ministry and was particularly active in caring for the poor and sick of Madrid. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he had to work clandestinely until he was finally able to escape across the Pyrenees. At the end of the war he returned to Madrid and received his doctorate in law, at the same preaching widely to the clergy, religious, and laity throughout Spain. He later founded the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, which is united to the work of Opus Dei. This society made possible the ordination of lay members of Opus Dei and also allowed priests to share in the spirituality of the Opus Dei movement.

In 1946 Fr. Escrivá moved to Rome where he obtained a doctorate in Theology from the Lateran University. From Rome, he traveled widely throughout the world to spur the growth of Opus Dei. When he died in Rome in 1975, thousands of lay people as well as numerous bishops requested that the Holy See open his cause for canonization, which it did in 1981. He was beatified by John Paul II on May 17, 1992 after the necessary miracles were approved by the Church. In his homily, the pope told the faithful, “With supernatural intuition, Blessed Josemaría untiringly preached the universal call to holiness and apostolate. Christ calls everyone to become holy in the realities of everyday life. Hence work too is a means of personal holiness and apostolate, when it is done in union with Jesus Christ.”

In the homily of his canonization Mass on October 6, 2003, Pope John Paul II said, “St. Josemaría was a master in the practice of prayer, which he considered to be an extraordinary ‘weapon’ to redeem the world. He always recommended: ‘in the first place prayer; then expiation; in the third place, but very much in third place, action’ (The Way, n. 82). It is not a paradox but a perennial truth: the fruitfulness of the apostolate lies above all in prayer and in intense and constant sacramental life. This, in essence, is the secret of the holiness and the true success of the saints.”

Lessons

1. For those of us who think sainthood is beyond the grasp of the ordinary person, consider the words of Saint Josemaría Escrivá: “Your duty is to become a saint. Yes, even you…. To everyone, without exception, our Lord has said, ‘Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect’” (The Way, 291).

2. From the decree on the Cause of Canonization for Saint Josemaría we find these words: “His task was to open to the faithful of all walks of life a sure way of sanctification in the midst of the world, through the practice of one’s professional work or job and the fulfillment of the ordinary duties of every day, without changing one’s state in life, doing everything out of love for God.” Whether active members of Opus Dei or not, may we all endeavor to sanctify our daily lives in order to bring about the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints John and Paul (362), Martyrs

St. Pelagius (925), Martyr

St. Anthelm (1178), Bishop, Abbot

St. William of Vercelli (Abbot)

Sat, 06/25/2011 - 00:00

Born in Vercelli, Italy in 1085, William was orphaned at an early age and raised by relatives. At the age of 14 or 15, he went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. After his return, he decided to become a hermit and so retreated to Monte Vergine, where his holiness of life and many miracles attracted so many followers that he eventually built a monastery and wrote a rule based on the Rule of St. Benedict. After a time, however, the monks began to grumble against the strictness of the rule; in order to maintain harmony, William himself left with a small band of followers, including his friend, St. John of Matera, to found a second community on Monte Laceno, a most inhospitable place. When fire eventually destroyed the hermitages, William and his monks were again forced to move.

King Roger I of Naples greatly respected William and took him under his patronage, aiding him in founding many monasteries for both men and women in his kingdom. The king was so edified by William’s saintly life that he had a monastery built directly across from his palace in Salerno in order that William could serve as his advisor.

William, like so many saints, had a special premonition that his death was approaching, so he retired to his monastery at Guglietto where he died June 25, 1142. Although his other foundations did not survive, the monastery at Monte Vergine still exists today.

Lessons

1. William’s friend, St. John of Matera, served to warn William about two apparent mistakes he was making. First, William had wanted to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem after returning from Compostela. He set out despite his friend’s advice that God wanted him to serve in Italy and was promptly set upon by robbers, which forced him to turn back and reconsider. Second was the move to Monte Laceno, a harsh, barren place where nothing would grow and the monks could barely survive. Despite John’s counsels that they should move, William refused — until their hermitages burned down. Apparently, it took some time before William learned to hear the voice of the Lord in the counsel of his holy friend. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for the wisdom to hear His voice in the advice and encouragement of the holy people He puts in our way.

2. From the time of his youth, William practiced severe mortifications, and it seemed that nothing was too difficult for him to bear in the name of Christ. When the monks of Monte Vergine found his way of life too taxing, rather than impose his will upon them, William appointed a prior over the monastery and then left to found a new one. In that same spirit of humility, may we not look with disdain on those who do not seem to do as much or accomplish as much as we do, but remember the story of the widow who, though it was only two small coins, gave all she had to give (Lk 21:1-4).

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Prosper of Reggio (466), Bishop

The Birth of John the Baptist

Fri, 06/24/2011 - 00:00

The feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist is one of the oldest feasts in the liturgy of the Church. Unlike other saints whose feast days are usually celebrated on the anniversary of their deaths — considered the day they entered into final glory — St. John’s feast day is the day of his birth, as he was born without the stain of original sin. The angel Gabriel declared of him, “He will be filled with Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). Since the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in the presence of sin, it is concluded that he was therefore freed from original sin while still in Elizabeth’s womb. Therefore we celebrate the date of his birth, as we do our Blessed Mother, born free of original sin from the moment of her conception.

The miraculous birth of John the Baptist is recounted in Luke’s Gospel where we learn of the elderly priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who was barren. While Zechariah was performing his priestly duties in the temple, the angel Gabriel came to him and prophesied the birth of a son. Because Zechariah doubted the word of the angel, he was struck dumb until the day of the birth, at which time, filled with the Holy Spirit, he proclaimed his prophetic canticle (Lk 1:68-79).

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel made his announcement to Mary; after her humble fiat, she “went with haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The gospel tells us:

And she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:40-44).

Thus, from the womb John served as the precursor, the forerunner of Jesus, the Messiah. Some thirty years later our Lord said of him, “This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee’” (Lk 7:27).

St. John is considered the last of the prophets of the Old Covenant. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of him, “In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of the prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the ‘voice’ of the Consoler who is coming” (CCC 719).

As Gabriel announced that John’s birth would bring joy to many (Lk 1:14), this feast of St. John’s birth is ranked as one of the most joyous feasts of the year. In days past, it was marked with great solemnity and rejoicing: on the eve of the feast “St. John’s fires” were lighted on the hills and mountains of many countries. Of these celebrations Dom Gueranger tells us, “Scarce had the last rays of the setting sun died away, when all the world over, immense columns of flame arose from every mountain top, and in an instant every town and village and hamlet was lighted up.”

Lesson

1. In these days when we are faced with the scourge of abortion, the circumstances of the birth of John the Baptist provide us with a profoundly pro-life message. At the stage of merely six months in the womb of Elizabeth, he leaped with joy in the presence of our Lord who Himself had only just been conceived in Mary’s womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. He not only acknowledges the presence our Lord, but he affirms the presence of life, that great gift from God, from the moment of conception.

2. Many of us are grieved by the apathy and irreverence we see all around us, not only in the secular world but in our churches as well. Rather than becoming depressed, let us take a lesson from the baby John who leaped with joy in the presence of Christ so that, by our joyful example, we may change hearts and bring others to know “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).

St. Joseph Cafasso

Thu, 06/23/2011 - 00:00

Most of our information on Joseph Cafasso comes from his protégé, Don Bosco, who wrote the saint’s biography. Joseph had served as Don Bosco’s teacher, advisor, spiritual director, and faithful friend since they met in 1827 when Don Bosco was only 12 and Joseph was a young cleric, just a few years older.

Joseph had been born in Castelnuova d’Asti in the province of Piedmont, Italy, in 1811. A devout and docile child, he was diminutive in stature, somewhat weak in constitution, and had a deformity of his spine. However, none of these physical limitations ever held him back in his future work for the Church and for the salvation of souls.

Deciding at the age of 15 to become a priest, Joseph studied at the seminary in Turin and was ordained in 1833. He continued his theological studies at the seminary and then at the Institute of St. Francis and became a brilliant lecturer on moral theology. Ten years later he was appointed superior of the college and he remained so until his death. He made a profound impression on all his students — young priests — often helping those in poor circumstances to finish their studies by providing them with the necessary books and money.

Don Cafasso was a popular preacher and confessor, seeming to have a special gift for discerning exactly what each penitent needed. He also had the ability to change hearts; Don Bosco said of him, “A single word from him — a look, a smile, his very presence — sufficed to dispel melancholy, drive away temptation and produce holy resolution in the soul.”

In addition, Don Cafasso had a special charism towards prisoners and spent a great deal of his time hearing their confessions and helping them in any way he could. He was called the “Priest of the Gallows” because he attended 68 condemned prisoners at their deaths, hearing their confessions, encouraging them, listening to them, staying with them the entire night before their executions, even accompanying them in the cart to the place of execution. He offered up penances and mortifications for the salvation of their souls and spent time before the Blessed Sacrament praying for each one of them, that none might be lost.

As well as his own life of service, the Church must be grateful to Don Cafasso for guiding and supporting Don Bosco in his vocation of working with the youth of Italy, which Don Bosco became drawn to after assisting his mentor in his ministry to prisoners. After each visit to the prisons, Don Bosco’s heart would be heavy with the thought of so many young men who had gone astray because they had no one to care for them or take an interest in them. With Don Cafasso’s encouragement, he began the Salesian order (named for St. Francis de Sales) to aid boys and later the Daughters of Our Lady, Help of Christians to care for poor and neglected girls.

Don Cafasso, after seeming to have a premonition of his death, died at the age of 49 from multiple ailments, including a stomach hemorrhage. Despite the intense pain he must have experienced, he made no complaints but received Holy Communion and went to confession several times during his last days, which ended June 23, 1860. He was greatly mourned, and his funeral, at which Don Bosco preached, drew great crowds. He was canonized in 1947.

Lessons

1. St. Joseph Cafasso worked devotedly in the training of young priests, and his life of charity and mortification inspired them in their vocations. Let us pray that all our priests and seminarians will find inspiring, holy mentors as did the students of Don Cafasso.

2. Tireless in his duties towards his students, to preaching and hearing confessions, to his prisoners, and to writing, John Bosco concluded that Don Cafasso was able to do so much by a special gift of the Holy Spirit: “Such a priest may in a certain sense be omnipotent, according to the expression of St. Paul, ‘I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.’”

3. Don Bosco also testified to the fact that St. Joseph Cafasso never once indulged himself in amusements or sought to satisfy any personal desires. Despite his physical handicaps, he never sought comfort but said, “The body is insatiable; the more we give in to it, the more it demands.” Let us pray to this saint who said “Our rest will be in Heaven” and ask him to help us overcome our cravings for comfort, rest, and idle amusements which do nothing to further the Kingdom of God here on earth or bring us to heaven to be with Him.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Vigil of St. John the Baptist

St. Ethelreda (Audrey) (679), Virgin

St. Paulinus of Nola (Bishop)

Wed, 06/22/2011 - 00:00

The fifth century bishop and poet St. Paulinus of Nola (354?-431) was the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul (modern-day France). His family’s wealth insured his rapid rise in Roman society; Paulinus became a distinguished lawyer and held several public offices, before retiring at an early age.

Paulinus and his wife Therasia, a wealthy Spanish woman, were baptized in 390, and then moved to her estate in Spain. After many childless years, their prayers for a son were briefly answered, but the child died a week later. Profoundly moved by this tragedy, they dedicated their lives to God and gave away most of their property, while devoting themselves to the care of the poor. Paulinus was ordained a priest by popular demand (celibacy was not yet a requirement), and in 395 he and Therasia established a small community near the Italian town of Nola.

In 409, he was chosen as bishop of Nola. During this time, the Roman Empire was under increasing pressure from barbarian tribes such as the Vandals. After one of their raids, Paulinus voluntarily exchanged himself for one of his parishioners who had been enslaved. When the Vandals discovered his identity, they were amazed by such charity, and released him and all the other townspeople of Nola who had been captured.

Paulinus corresponded with many of the leading Christians of the day (including Saints Augustine, Jerome, Martin, and Ambrose), and spent much time composing religious poems and hymns. He showed special concern for the poor, even arranging to give alms while on his deathbed. Soon afterwards, while lamps were being lighted for evening prayers, Paulinus said, “I have prepared a lamp for Christ,” and died.

Lessons

1. Jesus spoke of the need to “let your light shine before all” (Mt 5:16), and St. Paulinus did this through his generosity, humility, and concern for the poor.

2. Tragedies can bring us closer to God. Paulinus and Therasia grieved over the death of their son, but also used this event as an opportunity to deepen their commitment as Christians.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. John Fisher (1535), Bishop, Martyr

St. Thomas More (1535), Martyr, Patron of Lawyers

St. Aloysius Gonzaga (Religious)

Tue, 06/21/2011 - 00:00

St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591) was a young man who experienced his faith as something more important than the worldly concerns of life. He lived in Renaissance Italy, a time noted for its high cultural achievements and low moral standards.

Because he was born of a noble family, Aloysius was very familiar with court life, serving for a time as a page to King Philip II of Spain. The more he saw of such life, however, the less he appreciated its violent and licentious aspects. His father desired him to be a great military leader, but Aloysius, inspired by a book describing the work of Jesuit missionaries in India, decided to enter the Society of Jesus. His appalled father forbade this, and had eminent churchmen attempt to convince his son to follow a “normal” lifestyle, but Aloysius was not to be deterred.

After a four-year struggle of wills between father and son, the youth was allowed to enter the Jesuit novitiate in Rome. Aloysius had to adapt himself to Jesuit discipline, which was less rigorous than that which he was already observing on his own (for instance, he was now obliged to eat and recreate more, and pray less often than was his custom). Nonetheless, Aloysius was a model novice; he studied philosophy and had St. Robert Bellarmine as his spiritual director. The Jesuits established a hospital in Rome when a plague broke out in 1591; Aloysius was very active there in caring for the patients. He himself caught a lingering fever, but he continued his great discipline of prayer until his death at age twenty-three several months later.

Lessons

1. Jesus said, “What profit does a man show who gains the whole world at the cost of his soul?” (Lk 9:25). St. Aloysius Gonzaga took these words to heart, and rejected the allurements of the world in order to follow Christ.

2. Sometimes parents’ desires for their children are contrary to God’s will; as Aloysius’ life shows, a holy persistence (combined with respect for those in authority) can eventually bear fruit.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Terence (1st Century), Bishop

St. Silverius (Pope and Martyr)

Mon, 06/20/2011 - 00:00

Born in Frosinone, Campania, Italy, Silverius was a subdeacon, when, on the death of Pope St. Agapetus, he was named pope in 536 by Ostrogoth King Theodehad of Italy. By the time he was consecrated, he had been formally accepted by the Roman clergy.

Silverius soon incurred the wrath of the Empress Theodora when he refused to accept the heretical monophysites Anthimus of Constantinople and Severus of Antioch who had already been excommunicated and deposed by the previous pope. (The monophysites denied the human nature of Christ.) Silverius knew what it meant to oppose the strong-willed empress and is said to have remarked that by signing the letter of refusal to her request, he was also signing his own death warrant.

In an attempt to save Rome from further destruction by the Ostrogoth General Vitiges, Silverius invited the Byzantine commander Belisaurus into the city. Unfortunately, Belisaurus’ wife Antonina was as much a scheming woman as Theodora, and in order to gain the Empress’s favor, Antonina urged Belisaurus to depose Silverius on the false accusation that he had conspired with the Goths. Silverius was kidnapped and taken to Patara in Lycia, Asia Minor, and Theodora’s favorite, the Archdeacon Vigilius, was wrongly named the new pope.

When the Emperor Justinian received a message from the bishop of Patara telling him what had happened, he immediately gave orders that Silverius be returned to Rome and reinstated in the Holy See. But soon after his return to Italy, Silverius was captured by Vigilius’s supporters and imprisoned on the island of Palmaria. He did not survive long in prison and was either murdered by one of Antonina’s hired assassins or was left to die of starvation. The year was 537, and Silverius had served less than two years in office.

On the death of Silverius, Vigilius was now legitimately named the new pope. But if the Empress Theodora had hopes for her monophysites, the Holy Spirit had other plans: once Vigilius became pope, he ceased to support the heresy and in fact became a strong defender of orthodoxy, condemning the heretics in letters to both the Emperor Justinian and to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Lessons

1. The life and death of Pope St. Silverius should encourage all Catholics in the truth of papal infallibility. Despite the irregularities regarding his election and the outright treachery that lead to his death and Vigilius’ subsequent election, both men became firm defenders of the Faith and condemned heresy, despite the cost to themselves. We are reminded of Christ’s words to St. Peter concerning the Church: “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt 16:18).

2. Silverius was described as a humble man, a “lamb among wolves” caught in the middle of political ploys and falsely accused of treason. When we find ourselves the victims of false accusations, may we, like St. Silverius, put our trust in the Lord and say with the psalmist: “When evildoers assail me, uttering slanders against me, my adversaries and foes, they shall stumble and fall” (Psalm 27:2).

Other Saints We Remember Today

Our Lady of Consolation

St. Romuald (Abbot)

Sun, 06/19/2011 - 00:00

The Italian monk and abbot St. Romuald (950?-1027) was very influential in reforming monastic life in the eleventh century. When, as a young man, Romuald witnessed his father kill a relative in a property dispute, he fled to a nearby monastery and adopted a life of penance and prayer. His example of piety, however, put the other monks to shame, and they forced him to leave — an event which helped convince him of the need for monastic reform.

Romuald spent the next thirty years traveling throughout Italy, establishing monasteries and promoting the virtues of a solitary life. He had a great desire to be a martyr, and, with the pope’s permission, set out to preach the gospel in Hungary, but was struck by a serious illness. This condition ended as soon as he halted his journey, but immediately returned every time he tried to continue.

Accepting this as a sign, Romuald returned to his efforts to reform monastic life, sometimes encountering great opposition. On one occasion he was falsely accused of a scandalous crime; his fellow monks believed the accusation, and Romuald humbly accepted the punishment he was given. When a prince gave him a fine horse, the monk exchanged it for a donkey, remarking that he would feel closer to Christ on such a mount.

Romuald’s own father eventually became a monk in one of his monasteries; when he later wavered in his vows, his son’s encouragement helped him remain faithful. St. Romuald died in 1027, and was canonized in 1595.

Lessons

1. Sometimes, as shown by St. Romuald’s mysterious illness, God gives us very clear signs that a proposed course of action — even a commendable one — is against His will for us.

2. Humility is not only essential for true holiness, but it can also help us influence others. St. Romuald’s humble nature aided his efforts to reform monasticism, and even encouraged his own father to repent.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Juliana Falconieri (1340), Virgin, “Saint of the Holy Eucharist”

Saints Gervase and Protase (165), brothers, Martyrs

St. Emily de Vialar

Sat, 06/18/2011 - 00:00

Emily, born in Gaillac, France, in 1797, was the daughter of Baron James de Vialar and Antoinette de Portal. She was educated in Paris, but returned home when she was 15 after the death of her mother. Life with her domineering father was extremely difficult, particularly when she refused to marry, and it is said that he even went so far as to throw a wine decanter at her when she persisted in her refusal. His anger and ill-temper were further fueled when she began to teach poor children and care for the sick from their home.

In 1832, when Emily was 35 years old, her grandfather died and left her his considerable fortune. With this money Emily purchased a large house in Gaillac, and with the help of her spiritual director, Abbé Mercier, she and three companions began the congregation which became known as the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Apparition (Mt 1:18-20). By 1835, they numbered 18 and their rule was formally approved. They dedicated themselves to the care of the sick and the needy and to the education of young children.

Emily’s congregation soon spread to Algeria, Tunisia, Greece, Malta, Jerusalem, and the Balkans, although a jurisdictional dispute with the bishop of Algiers forced the closing of the house there. Traveling constantly among her new foundations, when she finally returned to Gaillac in 1845, she found the organization in chaos and its existence threatened by lawsuits and quarrels among the nuns. But by the time of her death in 1856, 22 years after she founded the order, she had established 40 houses around the world, from Europe to Burma to Australia. She was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1951.

Lessons

1. Mother Emily’s last words to her spiritual daughters were, "Love one another." Love isn’t just a matter of thinking good thoughts or wishing good wishes: love requires action. As our Lord pointed out in Matthew 25:31-46 and as Emily illustrated with her own life, real love requires feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, welcoming the stranger. May we, like St. Emily de Vialar, spend our lives loving Christ in our neighbor.

2. "Quietly to trust in God is better than trying to safeguard material interests: I learned that by bitter experience." Despite the great difficulties Mother Emily encountered in her life, she accepted all of it as God’s will and relied on Him to sustain her throughout. Let us pray to St. Emily for an increase in trust in God’s Divine Providence so that, despite the daily slings and arrows, our hearts will never be troubled.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Ephrem of Syria (373), Deacon, Doctor of the Church

Saints Mark and Marcellianus (286), twin brothers, Martyrs

St. Gregory Barbarigo (Bishop)

Fri, 06/17/2011 - 00:00

Gregory was born in Venice to a noble family on September 16, 1625. At the age of 23, he accompanied the Venetian ambassador to Munster for the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia, ending the Thirty Years’ War. While there, he met the apostolic nuncio, Fabio Chigi, who found Gregory to be an exceptional young man, and the two became friends.

In 1655, Gregory was ordained a priest and worked heroically during the plague of 1657. When Fabio Chigi was consecrated as Pope Alexander VII, he did not forget the favorable impression Gregory had made on him in Munster: he appointed him bishop of Bergamo, then three years later named him cardinal, and eventually transferred him to Padua, where Gregory remained for 33 years.

Gregory was famous for his charity. He encouraged learning and founded a seminary for priests, endowing it with an excellent library and its own printing press. Some of the works which were published on this press were sent to Christians in Islamic countries to encourage them in their faith. Gregory also worked diligently towards a reunion with the Greek church and towards carrying out the reforms set forth by the Council of Trent.

As a cardinal, Gregory participated in five conclaves and at one point was considered a serious candidate for the papacy. He died at Padua in 1697 and was canonized in 1960 by Pope John XXIII.

Lessons

1. Gregory was known for his charity and compassion for the poor. May we never forget the words of Sacred Scripture: “It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have fullness of life” (Tobit 12:8-9).

2. Gregory used what means were available in his day for spreading the Word of God. Let us support and utilize the myriad means of communication that we have available today, using it to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all parts of the world.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Harvey (Herve) (6th Century), Abbot, invoked against eye troubles

St. Botolph (680), Religious

St. John Francis Regis, SJ

Thu, 06/16/2011 - 00:00

Born in Fontcouverte, France, on January 31, 1597, John was the son of a rich merchant. He studied at the Jesuit college of Béziers, joined the order in 1615, and was ordained in 1631. He was assigned to missionary work in southeastern France and became renowned for his fervor, preaching ability, and as a confessor.

He brought thousands back to their faith, and everywhere he went he was followed by large crowds. He also ministered to the sick in hospitals and to prisoners, organized groups to help the needy, and founded a refuge for prostitutes called “Daughters of Refuge.” He performed numerous miracles, but humbly commented, “Every time that God converts a hardened sinner He is working a far greater miracle.”

In September 1640, John had a premonition of his death and spent the next three days in retreat, making a general confession. He continued on with his missionary work, however, and in December preached tirelessly in a remote mountain village throughout the Christmas season, despite the fact that he had developed pleurisy and pneumonia. He eventually collapsed after leaving the pulpit and died four days later, his last words being “Jesus, my Savior, I recommend my soul to You.”

On the occasion of a juridical deposition regarding two miracles St. John had performed, a man who had lodged with him declared before two bishops: “His whole behavior breathed sanctity. Men could neither see nor hear him without being inflamed with the love of God. He celebrated the divine mysteries with such devotion that he seemed like an angel at the altar. I have observed him in familiar intercourse become silent and recollected, and all on fire: then speaking of God with a fervor and rapidity that proved his heart to be carried away with an impulse from heaven.”

St. John’s tomb at La Louvesc became the site of many miracles, and remains to this day a popular site of pilgrimage.

Lessons

1. John’s enthusiastic zeal to help the poor and to save souls earned him the enmity and jealously of priests who had become lax in their duties. Despite their attempts to discredit him, John kept on unflaggingly. If in the exercise of charitable works we too find ourselves derided or under attack, let us pray to St. John Regis for the strength and courage to carry on, keeping our eyes always on Christ.

2. John’s delight was to help the poor, saying “the rich never lack confessors.” May we too be generous with our time, talent, and money, knowing that when we serve the least of our brethren, we serve Christ Himself.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Benno (1106), Bishop, Patron of Munich

St. Germaine Cousin

Wed, 06/15/2011 - 00:00

From the time of her birth in 1579 until her death at the age of 22 in 1601, Germaine Cousin’s life was filled with sickness and suffering. She was born with a deformed hand and later suffered from scrofula, a disease similar to tuberculosis that causes swelling of the lymph glands in the neck as well as inflammation of the joints. Her mother died when she was still an infant, and her father’s second wife constantly mistreated her while her father did nothing to protect her. She was forced to sleep in the stable, supposedly in order to shield her stepbrothers and sisters from her various illnesses, and her siblings soon learned to follow their mother’s example in mistreating her. From the age of nine, she was relegated to tending sheep in the area of Toulouse, France, and was practically forbidden to come into contact with the rest of the family.

Germaine, however, was extremely devout and became advanced in the virtues of humility and patience, as well as love of neighbor. She refused to miss daily Mass and would set her crook in the ground and leave her sheep in the care of her guardian angel while she attended Mass. Not once were any of her sheep lost, even though the meadow where they grazed was bordered by a forest full of ravenous wolves. The story is also told that one day she actually walked over flood waters in order to reach the church in time for Mass.

Even though her stepmother only gave her crusts of bread, Germaine would share what little she had with the village children whom she would gather around herself to teach what she knew of the catechism. The neighbors often treated her with derision, but eventually they and her parents came to realize that God was indeed favoring her, and she became an object of reverence and awe. One of the incidents that awoke them to her holiness took place on a winter’s day when her stepmother angrily accused Germaine of stealing bread and hiding it in her apron: when she forced Germaine to open her apron, out fell a bunch of beautiful summer flowers.

Her parents finally invited Germaine back into the house, but she begged to be allowed to continue living as before. At the age of 22, she was found dead on her straw pallet, worn out by a life of illness and suffering. About half a century after her death, her body was found to be still incorrupt and was exposed for a year, becoming an object of great veneration and the source of countless miracles.

Lessons

1. St. Germaine is considered by many to be the patron of abused children. May those of us who have suffered any kind of abuse look to St. Germaine for strength and charity towards our abusers, praying for healing and the grace to forgive.

2. In the same way, may we who find ourselves in the role of step-parent find it in ourselves to treat all the children in our care with love and tenderness, taking as our model St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus.

3. Germaine’s neighbors thought she was a hypocrite and called her “the little bigot.” Very often those who do not practice their faith are made uncomfortable by those who do and so feel they must deride any signs of devotion or piety. If we find ourselves being scorned for the practice of our faith, let us pray to St. Germaine for the courage and true humility to love God and practice our faith without fear of how we look to others.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Saints Vitus, Modestus, and Crescentia , (300) Martyrs, S. Vitus is the Patron against nervous diseases and epilepsy (St. Vitus’ dance)

Blessed Jolenta (Helena) (1299), Widow, Religious, Foundress

St. Basil the Great

Tue, 06/14/2011 - 00:00

Basil was born in Caesarea, Cappadocia — part of modern-day Turkey. An intellectual, Basil was initially led into the secular world as a young man. Through the influence of his sister St. Macrina, and the grace of the Holy Spirit, Basil left a promising law career to devote his life to the service of Christ. He began a monastic community in 364 which became the model of monastic living for centuries.

A good model of fidelity for today’s current crisis, Basil was a man of great personal holiness who fought against the heresies creeping through the Church during his time. Ordained a bishop in 370, he enabled the reform of priests and other religious, including a commitment to orthodoxy and a strong religious discipline among the clergy. He was responsible for the promulgation of the Nicene Creed to the faithful and the victory over Arianism at the Council of Constantinople.

Basil is the author of a great number of works left to the care of the Church, including a beautiful discourse on the Holy Spirit which helped form Catholic doctrine. His deep spirituality was signified in his great acts of charity including work with the poor, sick, hungry, and homeless.

He died in 379 and is the patron of hospital administrators. St. Basil earned the title of “Great” during his lifetime and was made a Doctor of the Church after his death.

Lessons

1. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once remarked that God does not call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful. Although a career as a lawyer may have brought Basil worldly success, he was able to discern his calling to serve Christ as a “faithful” success not measured by earthly standards.

2. Basil, who loved the priesthood and sought to preserve the Church from heresy, was passionate about bringing those who left the faith back home. His desire for their communion was balanced with a fraternal judgment for their offenses — a balance not easily understood nor achieved in modern evangelization efforts.

3. In our current political responsibilities, it is important to keep mindful of what our Lord expects of us: As St. Basil wrote, “It is right to submit to higher authority whenever a command of God would not be violated.”

St. Anthony of Padua (Priest and Doctor)

Mon, 06/13/2011 - 00:00

St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) was born in 1195 in Lisbon and given the name of Fernando. At the age of 15 he entered the religious order of St. Augustine. He would then spend nine years studying Augustinian theology.

The life of the young priest took a radical turn when the bodies of the first five Franciscan martyrs were returned from Morocco and carried in solemn procession to his monastery. He was so moved by the experience, Fernando decided that he wanted to be a Franciscan, go to Morocco and become a martyr himself. As a Franciscan, he took the name Anthony.

Despite his desire, he never made it to Morocco. He became sick and needed to return home. His ship ran into storms and high winds and was blown to the east coast of Sicily, where he was cared for by the friars in Messina.

Anthony might have lived a quiet life as an unknown friar if he hadn’t gone to an ordination of Dominicans and Franciscans in 1222. While he was there, Anthony was asked to give a “simple” sermon. When Anthony began to speak, his holiness and knowledge impressed everyone. St. Francis heard of Anthony’s previously hidden gifts, and assigned Anthony to preach in northern Italy. Eventually, he was asked to also teach other friars.

In Padua, Anthony preached his last and most famous Lenten sermons. As many as 30,000 people would crowd to hear him. He would sometimes hear confessions all day. He was exhausted and knew that he would die soon. He died in 1231 at age 36. The following year, his friend, Pope Gregory IX, moved by the many miracles that occurred at Anthony’s tomb, declared him a saint.

How did St. Anthony, most known for his skill at preaching, become associated with finding lost things? When he was teaching friars, Anthony had a book of psalms that was very important to him. This was before the advent of the printing press, so the book itself was extremely valuable, but more importantly, it also had his notes for teaching which were irreplaceable.

A disgruntled novice decided to leave the community and took Anthony’s psalter with him! Upon realizing it was missing, Anthony prayed it would be found or returned to him. The novice saw a vision which compelled him to return the psalter to Anthony and return to the Order which accepted him back. The stolen book is said to be preserved in the Franciscan friary in Bologna. Shortly after his death people began asking St. Anthony’s help to find or recover lost and stolen articles.

The following is a traditional prayer to St. Anthony:

Dear St. Anthony,
You are the patron of the poor and the helper of all who seek lost articles. Help me to find the object I have lost so that I will be able to make better use of the time I will gain for God’s greater honor and glory. Grant your gracious aid to all people who seek what they have lost – especially those who seek to regain God’s grace.

St. John of St. Facundo

Sun, 06/12/2011 - 00:00

John, the oldest of seven children, was born in 1419 in Sahagún, León, Spain. His parents, the pious and respected John Gonzalez de Castrillo and Sancia Martinez, had him educated by the Benedictine monks of San Fagondez Monastery in their town. According to the custom of the times, his father procured for him the benefice (an ecclesiastical post guaranteeing a fixed income) of a neighboring parish, but this caused John many qualms of conscience.

When John was 20 years old, he was introduced to the bishop of Burgos who took a liking to him and not only had him educated at his own residence, but also gave him several more benefices, and, after ordaining him priest in 1445, made him canon at the cathedral. Out of conscientious respect for the laws of the Church, John soon resigned all his benefices except for the chaplaincy of St. Agatha in Burgos, where he worked zealously for the salvation of souls.

John later sought permission to study theology at the University of Salamanca, and after four years received his degree in divinity and began to preach. In the next decade he achieved a great reputation as a preacher and spiritual director, but after recovering from a serious illness, he applied for admission to the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine and made his solemn profession in 1464.

Because of his swift progress in the way of spiritual perfection, John was appointed master of novices, and in 1471 prior of the community. He held a great devotion for the Blessed Sacrament, and at Mass was privileged to see the bodily form of Christ at the moment of consecration. He also had the gift of reading souls, so that it was impossible to deceive him, and sinners were almost forced to make good confessions.

John fearlessly preached the word of God and spoke harshly against the crimes and vices of the day, despite the fact that this greatly offended many who were rich and powerful. He soon made many enemies who went so far as to hire assassins to kill him, but the would-be murderers lost courage when confronted with John’s serenity and angelic sweetness. Some women of Salamanca, outraged by his strong denunciation of extravagance in dress, openly insulted him in the streets and pelted him with stones until stopped by a patrol of guards.

Like John the Baptist, John’s fearless speech against sin and corruption may have brought about his own death: He died at Sahagún in 1479, possibly poisoned by the mistress of a man he had convinced to leave her.

Lessons

1. John could have lead a very comfortable, somewhat protected life if he had kept the benefices given him by his father and the bishop. But John knew that this was not right and sought not only to be obedient to the laws of the Church, but also to live in Christ-like poverty. May we too always seek to be more like Jesus, even if it means having to give up a comfortable existence.

2. John also spoke against evil and vice despite the fact that he made dangerous enemies in the process. Let us strive to be courageous as he was, for as our Lord tells us, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:10).

Other Saints We Remember Today

Sts. Basildes, Cyrinus, Nabor, & Nazarius (3rd Century), Martyrs

St. Guy (Vignotelli) of Cortona (303), Priest

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.