Saint of the Day
In 1381, St. Rita was born in Spoleto, Italy, to elderly parents who were such examples of Christian charity that they were known as “Peacemakers of Jesus Christ.” As devout as they were, however, they seem to have been somewhat misguided when they insisted on St. Rita’s marriage, at the age of 12, to a man well known for his violent temper, despite her pleas to be allowed to enter a convent.
St. Rita, obedient to her parents’ wishes, entered into the marriage and became a model wife and mother, although she suffered much from her husband’s cruel treatment. She bore him two sons, and although she tried to set them an example by her devotion to prayer and to the sacraments, the boys seemed destined to follow in their father’s violent footsteps.
After 18 years of ceaseless prayer, St. Rita was rewarded with the penitent conversion of her husband. He begged her forgiveness and became a considerate, God-fearing man. But her joy was short-lived, for soon afterward her husband was murdered in a vendetta. When St. Rita learned that her sons planned to avenge their father’s murder, she prayed to God to take them from this world before they committed such a grievous sin. Almost immediately, both boys fell ill. She nursed them lovingly, and they both died, reconciled with God.
Now a widow and childless, St. Rita applied for admission to the Augustinian convent in Cascia, but was refused because its rule only permitted virgins. After much prayer and entreaty, an exception was finally granted to her and she was allowed to enter in 1413. The story is told that St. Rita was miraculously transported into the monastery itself, despite its locked doors; when the nuns found her there in the morning, they allowed her to stay, taking it as the will of God.
In the same way that St. Rita had been a model mother and wife, now she became an exemplary religious, becoming known for her great charity and severe penances. Her prayers were effective in obtaining for others remarkable cures and other favors from God, and she also worked to bring about a return to the Faith by those who had left it.
In 1441, St. Rita heard a sermon by St. James della Marca on the Crown of Thorns. Wishing to share in our Lord’s passion, she prayed fervently until one day she felt her forehead being pierced, as if by a thorn. The pain was extreme and the wound gave off an unpleasant odor, but St. Rita considered it a great grace. She prayed, “O loving Jesus, increase my patience accordingly as my sufferings increase.” The wound, which remained with her for the rest of her life, became gaping and so unattractive to those around her that she was eventually forced to live in seclusion. The wound did heal enough, however, for St. Rita to make a pilgrimage to Rome, but it returned the moment she returned to her convent.
St. Rita died on May 22, 1457, at the age of 76. Her body remained incorrupt for several centuries, at times giving off a sweet fragrance. It is said that at her beatification, the body of the saint raised itself up and opened its eyes. St. Rita is called “The Saint of the Impossible” and is particularly invoked in cases of matrimonial difficulties.
1. Saint Rita can certainly be considered a saint for our time when people — both married and religious — have such great difficulty remaining faithful to their vows. Today, when divorce is so common, let us look to St. Rita’s example of patience and fortitude which eventually brought about the conversion of not only her husband, but her two sons as well.
2. Padre Pio, when asked if his stigmata hurt, once snapped in reply, “They’re not decorations!” Saints like Padre Pio and Rita of Cascia, who were allowed to experience physically a portion of our Lord’s passion, had to endure extreme pain daily. They never asked for these pains to be removed from them; they understood too well the redemptive nature of suffering. May we, too, make an effort to join our sufferings, great or small, with Jesus’ death on the cross. Then we may say with St. Paul, “In my body I complete what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Col 1:24).
Godric was born in the tenth century at Walpole, in Norfolk. As a young boy he peddled wares throughout the neighboring villages. Later, as he made more money at his trade, he was able to frequent fairs in other cities to sell his merchandise. Since he was very diligent and careful with his money, he was occasionally able to make voyages by sea. Often he would carry his wares to Scotland. Once while in Scotland, he went to Lindisfarne Monastery where he became very interested in the lives of the monks there, and he was enthralled by the accounts that they gave him concerning St. Cuthbert. Godric was so impressed with the wonderful life of St. Cuthbert, that one day he fell to his knees and begged God for the grace to be able to be like this saint. Soon afterward, he went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and on his way back, stopped at Compostella.
On returning to Norfolk, he worked briefly as a steward for a wealthy man, but left this position to travel again, making a pilgrimage to St. Giles in France and to Rome. For a while, Godric spent time in the wilderness, living the monastic life with another devout soul named Godwin. They had met while on pilgrimage. Both being devoted to God and desiring to lead the life of hermits, they retired to the wilderness where they spent their days praying and living austere lives. After a brief illness, Godwin died and so Godric again traveled to Jerusalem. He then retired to the desert of Finchale near the Wear River. There he practiced daily devotions, praying the psalms and other prayers. For sixty-three years he remained in the desert, but spent the last several years prior to his death confined to bed by illness and old age. On May 21, 1170, the Lord took the humble and pious St. Godric to be with Him.
Saint Godric was buried in the chapel that he had built in honor of St. John the Baptist. Many miracles took place that confirmed his sainthood. Later Richard, brother to the bishop of Durham, built a chapel in honor of St. Godric.
Lord Jesus, help us to not only admire the spiritual values of others, but to seek the same values in our own lives. Forgive us for the time that we waste pursuing worldly pleasure. May we always remember that our goal is heaven and not the things of this world and live our lives seeking Your Kingdom. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Christopher Magallanes, Priest and Companions (1915-1928), Martyrs
St. Andrew Bobola (1657), Priest, Martyr
The Italian priest St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) was known for his preaching and his popularity with ordinary people. As a young man, he cared for an elderly woman on her deathbed; she constantly pronounced the name “Jesus” with great devotion. Bernardine was profoundly affected, and decided to make the name of Jesus the theme of his own life.
When Siena was struck by a plague, Bernardine nursed the sick until he himself became ill. After recovering, he became a Franciscan monk, and was ordained a priest in 1404. Bernardine spent a dozen years in solitude and prayer, and was then sent forth as a preacher. For many years he traveled on foot throughout Italy, preaching to crowds as large as 30,000 — accomplishing all this with a weak and hoarse voice (though, according to legend, it later miraculously improved because of his devotion to Mary).
Bernardine was especially known for his devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, and he devised a symbol — IHS (the first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek) — to represent it. As this devotion spread, the symbol began to replace the superstitious signs and symbols of the day. When a manufacturer of playing cards complained that the saint’s preaching against gambling was depriving him of his livelihood, Bernardine told him to start making medallions with the symbol IHS. The man took this advice — and ended up making more money than ever.
Some of Bernardine’s teachings were criticized, and three attempts were made to have the pope discipline him, but the saint’s obvious faith and holiness overcame all opposition. St. Bernardine helped strengthen the Franciscan Order, and he contributed to a great increase of piety among the laity. He died soon after attending the Council of Florence in 1444, and was canonized only six years later.
1. As St. Paul stated, “God bestowed upon Jesus the Name that is above every other name” (Philippians 2:9). As St. Bernardine realized, honoring the Holy Name of Jesus is the sign of a true Christian.
2. God will provide for those who, even at financial cost to themselves, seek to do what’s right; St. Bernardine helped the maker of gambling equipment find a better and holier way to make a living.
3. Bernardine followed the advice of St. Francis of Assisi to preach about “vice and virtue, punishment and glory.” His success shows that many people are willing to listen to the proclamation of the truth.
Peter was born in 1210 in Isernia in the Abruzzi, Italy, the eleventh of twelve children of peasant parents. At the age of 20, he became a hermit on Monte Morrone in the Abruzzi hills. He left his hermitage to study for the priesthood and was ordained in Rome and later became a Benedictine monk. In 1251 he was permitted to return to his hermit’s life in the mountains, but his holiness eventually attracted great crowds. Seeking further solitude, he retired with two companions to Monte Majella, but was persuaded to return to Monte Morrone where he organized the hermits into a community and eventually a monastery with a strict rule. In 1274, he received papal approval of his order, which he called the Celestines.
Peter would have been happy to spend the rest of his life with his religious community in the mountains, but an extraordinary occurrence took place in the history of the Church, and his relatively peaceful life was disrupted, never to be the same again. After the death of Pope Nicholas IV, more than two years passed with the papacy remaining vacant because of political rivalry in the college of cardinals. Peter, 84 years old at this time, reputedly sent the cardinals a message telling them that God was not pleased with the delay and that they must elect a successor quickly or the wrath of God would be upon them. To his horror, the cardinals immediately decided upon the elderly hermit himself.
Despite grave misgivings, Peter, deciding that it must be God’s will, accepted and was consecrated Bishop of Rome in August of 1294, taking the name of Celestine. The results were disastrous because Peter was completely unfit for the office of pope in every respect except for his holiness. He immediately fell prey to the schemes of King Charles II of Naples who took advantage of Peter’s simplicity, otherworldliness, and naiveté. He committed many serious blunders in his short time in office; we do not have detailed records of all of his mistakes because his official acts were annulled by his successor.
Heartbroken and overwhelmed by the burden of the office he had not sought and was incapable of filling, Peter abdicated his office in December 1294. He had been pope for less than five months.
Boniface VIII was immediately elected as pope. Because he feared that the popularity of his predecessor might lead some plotters to attempt to put Peter back on the papal throne and cause a further split in the Church, he ordered Peter to be confined to the castle of Fumone. St. Peter is said to have declared, “I wanted nothing in the world but a cell, and a cell they have given me.”
After nine months of fasting and prayer, closely watched by guards but attended by two of his own religious, he died at the age of 86.
1. Some consider Peter Celestine the most pathetic figure in the history of the papacy, but we should look at his failure as pope as yet another proof of Jesus’ promise to Peter concerning the Church: “The gates of hell will never prevail against it.” No matter how imperfect or incompetent a pope may be, Christ will always protect His bride, the Church.
2. Peter may have failed as a pope, but he certainly cannot be faulted for his love of God and the Church. When the cardinals elected him pope, he was known to have wept at the news, but after prayer felt that this was indeed a call from God to leave behind the monastic community he had spent his life building and nurturing. How many of us would be willing to give up our seemingly established lives to take on a what appears to be an impossible burden? Let us pray to St. Peter Celestine for the grace to do as our Blessed Mother Mary instructs: “Do whatever He tells you.”
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Prudentiana (160), Virgin
St. Ivo (Yves) (1303), Priest, Patron of lawyers
St. John I was a sixth-century pope and martyr. John was born in the Italian province of Tuscany, and was elected Bishop of Rome (that is, pope) in 523. The Mediterranean world was, by this time, divided into the Eastern and Western Empires, each having a separate emperor.
Christianity was also divided (though not in a geographic sense) by the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ. King Theodoric, the German chieftain who was in effect the Western emperor, was himself an Arian, though he was initially tolerant of the Catholics in his kingdom. Soon after John was elected pope, Justin, the Eastern emperor, began repressing the Arians in the East. Theodoric was upset by this, and he forced John and other religious leaders from the West to visit Justin in Constantinople (capital of the Eastern empire) for the purpose of lessening the restrictions placed upon the Arians. (Because religious questions had political implications, it was not uncommon for kings to involve themselves in religion, and for bishops to find themselves involved in politics.)
Little is known about the outcome of the negotiations Pope John conducted with Emperor Justin, but because the two leaders got along well together, a paranoid Theodoric assumed they were plotting against him. When John returned to Italy in 526, Theodoric had him arrested. Pope John died soon after he was imprisoned, perhaps as a result of the treatment he received, thus earning a martyr’s crown. John was the first of twenty-three popes of that name, and the only one to be canonized a saint.
Sometimes religion is inescapably involved in politics. As St. John knew, when this happens, our primary loyalty must be to Christ, not to the rulers of this world.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Venatius of Camerino (257), Martyr
St. Eric (1160), Martyr, King and Patron of Sweden
St. Pascal Baylon was born in Spain in May of 1540. His parents, who were virtuous peasants, named him Pascal because he was born on the Feast of Pentecost, which in Spain is called “the Pasch of the Holy Ghost.”
In order to help support his family, Pascal worked as a shepherd from the time he was 7 years old until he was 24. During this time, he not only taught himself to read, but he also advanced greatly in perfection through meditation, prayer, and spiritual reading.
In 1564 he sought entrance into a Franciscan friary but insisted upon remaining a simple lay brother. For the rest of his life he served primarily as a doorkeeper for various friaries in Spain, but his counsel was much sought after by people of every station in life. His prayers proved efficacious, and there are many stories of miraculous healings through his intercession.
Pascal was once sent by his friary to France to deliver a message to the minister general of his order. Even though religious persecution was widespread, Pascal courageously wore his habit on the trip. At one point, he fearlessly defended the dogma of the Real Presence to a Calvinist preacher, but narrowly escaped death at the hands of the mob that had gathered. He was also stoned by a party of Huguenots, and the injuries he suffered as a result plagued him for the rest of his life.
Saint Pascal was deeply devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, and his love for the Eucharist was the focus of his entire life. For this reason, Pope Leo XIII, in the Apostolic Brief “Providentissimus Deus,” named Saint Pascal Baylon the patron of all Eucharistic Congresses and Eucharistic Associations, whether presently existing or to come in the future.
Pascal died on the same feast on which he had been born: Pentecost Sunday in 1592. It is said that the saint died at the exact moment the bells were tolling to announce the consecration at the high Mass. His tomb in the Royal Chapel in Valencia, Spain, immediately became a popular pilgrimage site, even by the King of Spain and his nobles. Because of the many miracles during his life and after his death, his cultus spread rapidly. He was canonized in 1690 and he is considered not only the patron of Eucharist Congresses and Associations, but also the patron of shepherds.
1. Like Pascal Baylon, we should all strive for devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, that awesome gift whereby God humbles Himself in order that we might share in His life. If our devotion is not what it could be, let us pray to St. Pascal to help us increase our love for the Eucharist. In addition, we should make every effort to spend time in the presence of the Lord at our local Catholic Church.
2. Pascal’s life of humility and love should encourage us when we feel unnoticed and alone. He spent 17 years in the solitary life of a shepherd and 28 years as a simple Franciscan brother, performing the most menial tasks. But God used him to accomplish extraordinary healings — physical and spiritual — in the lives of those who sought his help. Before God can use us, though, we must learn to truly, humbly love Him and seek His will in all things, “then all the rest will be added unto you.”
Born John Wölflein or Welflin, in Nepomuk, Bohemia, in 1340, Saint John used the name of his native town for his surname instead of his family name. He studied theology and law at the University of Prague and was eventually ordained a priest. In time, he became vicar general of Archbishop John of Genzenstein at Prague.
In 1393, King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, wishing to found a new bishopric for one of his favorites, ordered that at the death of the present abbot of Kladrau Abbey, no new abbot should be elected and that the abbey church should be turned into a cathedral. The archbishop and John thwarted the king’s plan by approving the election of a new abbot immediately on the death of the old one. Upon hearing this, Wenceslaus fell into a violent rage and had the vicar-general and several cathedral officials thrown into prison. John was tortured by having his sides burnt with torches, but even this could not move him. Finally, on March 20, 1393, the king ordered him to be put in chains and led through the city with a block of wood in his mouth. His martyrdom was complete when he was then thrown from a bridge into the Moldau River at Prague. A strange brightness is said to have appeared above the spot where he drowned; because of this John of Nepomucene is often portrayed in art with seven stars above his head.
An additional reason for John’s violent death may be because of the tale that is traditionally told about him: as the queen’s confessor, John was once ordered by King Wenceslaus to tell him what the queen had said in confession, but John vehemently refused to break the seal of the confessional. For this reason, St. John is also called the “Martyr of the Confessional” and is sometimes pictured with his finger to his lips.
1. St. John’s refusal to reveal what the queen told him in confession is a lesson for our times when the seal of confession is under siege. Let us pray for our priests today that they, like St. John, may be firm in withstanding the pressure of the courts and the media to reveal what they have heard in the confessional.
2. Standing up for what is right may not result in a painful martyrdom like St. John’s. Nonetheless, it can prove to be painful in other ways: we may lose friends, the support of our family, we may even lose our jobs or be thrown into jail. But we should take courage by Jesus’ reminder: “Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul…. If anyone declares himself for Me in the presence of men, I will declare Myself for him in the presence of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:28,32).
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Ubaldus (1160), Bishop
St. Brendan the Navigator (578), Abbot, Patron of sailors
St. Simon of Stock (1265), Religious, received the brown scapular
St. Isidore the Farmer (1070-1130) is considered the patron saint of farmers and rural communities. (He is not to be confused with another Spanish saint, St. Isidore of Seville [April 4]. Isidore was born in Madrid; as a young boy, he went to work on the estate of John de Vergas, a wealthy landowner from the nearby town of Torrelaguanna.
Isidore labored on John’s farm for the remainder of his life. He was a model worker, a simple and caring person, and a very devout Christian. Every day he rose early in the morning to attend Mass at a nearby church, sometimes, according to fellow workers, showing up late for work because he spent too much time in prayer.
Isidore married Maria de la Cabeza, a simple and devout woman who herself became a canonized saint. The couple had one child, who died at an early age. They were both known for their piety and concern for the poor; legends exist about Isidore miraculously supplying them with food on occasion, and the saint had a great concern that animals be treated properly. Isidore would pray while plowing in the fields, and it’s even said that angels would sometimes help him with his work.
St. Isidore the Farmer died in 1130. Along with Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier, Teresa of Avila, and Philip Neri, he is known in Spain as one of the “Five Saints.”
1. Many Americans have a desire to build a successful career, changing jobs when better opportunities arise and perhaps even starting their own businesses and becoming their own bosses. God’s grace can be experienced in such a lifestyle, but this measure of success is not required for holiness. St. Isidore worked for the same landowner for over fifty years; he had no need to become independent, for he realized that he was ultimately working for Christ.
2. Work and prayer can be and are meant to be combined. This might mean, if circumstances allow, arranging our schedule so as to attend daily Mass before or after work; it also quite frequently means praying or meditating while working (especially in the case of manual labor). St. Isidore worshipped God in both these manners, thereby sanctifying his work and influencing those around him.
All our knowledge of St. Matthias comes from the Acts of the Apostles, which describes his election as an Apostle (1:15-26). Because of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and subsequent suicide, our Lord’s original and closest followers — the Apostles — numbered eleven, rather than twelve (though by this time there were many other followers of Christ, and their numbers were constantly growing).
Since the Apostles held the role of elders or leaders in the early Church, St. Peter suggested that a replacement for Judas be selected from among those who had known Jesus during His earthly ministry. Two such disciples were nominated: Joseph (known as Barsabbas) and Matthias. After praying over them, the Apostles chose by lot — and Matthias was thus selected. From that time on he was numbered among the Twelve Apostles.
Apart from this description in Acts, St. Matthias is nowhere else mentioned in the New Testament. However, an ancient tradition plausibly claims that Matthias was one of Jesus’ seventy-two disciples, and another tradition states that he suffered martyrdom in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), along the shore of the Black Sea.
1. Sometimes we may feel we don’t “fit in,” especially when it comes to taking on important responsibilities or working with influential people in the Church or in society. However, if God is calling us to such a role, He will also make it possible for us to achieve it. St. Matthias, though too humble to consider himself equal to the other apostles, was nonetheless able to exercise this office.
2. The Church has the authority to make binding decisions in response to particular issues or questions that may arise. Jesus is nowhere recorded as having told the Apostles to replace Judas; St. Peter and the others themselves decided that this should be done, and the Holy Spirit ratified this decision.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Boniface of Tarsus (306), Martyr
On May 13, 1917, ten year old Lúcia Santos and her younger cousins, siblings Jacinta and Francisco Marto, were tending sheep at a location known as the Cova da Iria near their home village of Fátima in Portugal. Lúcia described seeing a woman “brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun.” Further appearances took place on the thirteenth day of the month in June and July. In these, Our Lady of Fatima exhorted the children to do penance and Acts of Reparation, and to make sacrifices to save sinners. Most important, Lúcia said that the lady had asked them to pray the rosary every day, repeating many times that the rosary was the key to personal and world peace.
As early as July 1917 it was claimed that the Virgin Mary had promised a miracle for the last of her apparitions on 13 October, so that all would believe. What transpired became known as “Miracle of the Sun”. A crowd believed to be approximately 70,000 in number, including newspaper reporters and photographers, gathered at the Cova da Iria. The incessant rain had finally ceased and a thin layer of clouds cloaked the silver disc of the sun such that witnesses later said it could be looked upon without hurting the eyes. Lúcia, moved by what she said was an interior impulse, called out to the crowd to look at the sun. Witnesses later spoke of the sun appearing to change colors and rotate like a wheel.
Our Lady of Fatima emphasized Acts of Reparation and prayers to console Jesus for the sins of the world. Lucia said that Mary’s words were “When you make some sacrifice, say ‘O Jesus, it is for your love, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’” At the first apparition, Lucia wrote, the children were so moved by the radiance they perceived that they involuntarily said “Most Holy Trinity, I adore you! My God, my God, I love you in the Most Blessed Sacrament.” Lucia also said that she heard Mary ask for these words to be added to the Rosary after the Glory Be prayer: “O my Jesus, pardon us, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
Other Saints we remember on this day
St. Robert Bellarmine (1621)
Our Lady of the Most Blessed Sacrament
St. Andrew Hubert Fournet
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.